Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Surrounded by Rich Nature

Latest:The first of the Honey Buzzards have been seen migrating northwards this week...

As the avian migration across The Strait of Gibraltar continues with thousands of swift pecies whizzing across the blue skies, the first of our passerines, like this little Common Stonechat (above) are already fledged and starting to search for insects on their own, while their parents start a second brood

Pallid Common and Alpine Swifts have been seen almost every day. The clouds of insects, particularly flying ants that emerged after last weekends heavy storms have been a great source of food for lots of migrating and resident birds alike. Lesser Kestrels have been seen feeding on flying ants and hunting in the open meadows for crickets and grasshoppers, sheling them en route to their nests in the white villages or pueblos blancos in Andalucia

Megarian Banded Centipedes (Scolopendra cingulata), seen here in the grip of a Woodchat Shrike, are one of the more unpleasant and venemous of insects that we can encounter in SW Spain. Although most people are not seriously affected by this species, some people may be allergic to the venom, or just more sensitive, making it a dangerous situation. This is one of the reasons that people should not handle this centipede. They are mainly a burrowing insect although they can be found under stones and large logs and feed on emerging insects like pinhead crickets or other small insects

The sound of migrating Bee-eaters has almost stopped now and it's just the 'locals' we are hearing as they continue their courtships, displays and active burrowing and nest building in softer earth or sand banks

Iberian Hares are such lovely creatures to watch, when you get a chance. Like most wild animals patience is required and of course they are extremely wary of man. In our area they are still permitted to hunt these beautiful creatures with dogs. There are many established and legal clubs in Spain where they have the right during certain times of the year to hunt. I've seen perhaps thirty people each with at least two or three dogs, sweeping the bare fields hunting Iberian Hares. It's barbaric, positvely Mediaeval and is simply destroying the populations of an already sensitive and declining European species.

'The Aphid Cleaner' - a totally 100% natural product brought to you by Ladybird Industries

Time spent on courtship and display is always disproportionate to love making ...
for most living creatures

Cattle Egrets look wonderful at this time of the year.....

...and posing between lush spring flowers on a warm morning makes them look so stunning. Although very common they are such an enterprising and opportunistic species

A Montagu's Harrier, here a sub-adult male flies through the La Janda area. There are quite a few birds already nesting

An Alpine Swift migrating north, photographed last week over La Janda

Ocellated Lizard (
Timon lepidus). Europe's largest lizard
This lovely adult male shows off the powerful large head in the male of the species. These fantastic lizards can live for more than twenty-five years!

Ocellated Lizards can be close to one meter long. Females are slightly smaller and have a much smaller head then males, other differences are the lack of blue spots on the females flanks, sometimes even having none.
They feed on large insects, but if the individual is large enough they usually eat small birds, other lizards and small mammals (up to the size of small rabbits!), they also eat fruit.

A Large Psammodromus
(Psammodromus algirus hispanicus) basks in the sun
They are fairly common and found over most of the Iberian peninsula excluding the north coast and the Pyrenees.

Short-toed Eagles of course, hunt most reptiles and even some amphibians. The Ocellated Lizard is often on it's menu!

I was returning from a meeting a few days ago when I saw a Booted Eagle stooping at speed to the ground. I pulled the car over and crept slowly forwards, watching this raptor that had just caught a young rabbit

The eagle then started eating the head, which is something I've often seen Booted Eagles do. Peregrines and other falcons for exaple, dispatch their prey by decapitating it then tear into the breast muscle. There must be something about rabbit brain that Booted's love...

I had a passing Osprey last week as well...

A few more Booted Eagle photos from the last few days, this time of darker forms of this lovely bird

This is one of the Lesser Kestrels from Vejer de La Frontera. I wanted to show the tail wear of this female caused by nesting. Even with this damage you can see that the central tail feather is longer on Leesers, in both sexes

Some pics of the male Lesser Kestrel

A spring view to the town of Medina Sidonia

Griffon Vultures near Los Naveros, Cadiz


Sun-bathing and preening!

....and to finish off this blog report, a beautiful Red Kite passed overhead Hoopoe Cottage, heading north yesterday...

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Montagu's or Pallid Harrier - (Page 2)

Here are some more photos taken today of what I first took to be a Pallid Harrier but is in fact a Montagu's Harrier.

With most of her primary wing feathers gone, she has to work fairly hard at hunting across the fields

Montagu's or Pallid Harrier ?

This could have been a rare Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) but closer inspection revealed that it is in fact a Montagu's Harrier (Circuc pygargus).
It's certainly a young bird and with typical heavy moult. A few of the primaries have gone with new growth coming through as well as some secondary loss. Colour change is quite subtle and this juvenile's underside wing has lightened somewhat although still showing charecteristic very slightly more bulbous inner wing

The trailing edge colour shows a slightly light colour and you can see the inner wing width here

Here are some distant pics on La Janda. The bird was uspsetting quite a few pairs of Collared Pratincoles that swooped down fast, attempting to see it off.

There is no real discernible light coloured 'boa' or collar

As a bonus we saw some mixed terns on Los Lances beach earlier yesterday morning that included Sandwich, Common and Little as well as two Lesser Crested Terns and a juvenile Roseate Tern

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Extremadura in April

French Lavender

Booted Eagle, light form

Extremaduran dehesa in springtime

Spanish Imperial Eagle

Castillo de Monfragüe

Red-billed Chough nesting in the castle

Pintailed Sandgrouse on the steppe land near Trujillo

Spanish Sparrows

Wild Lupins

White Stork colony at a ruin opposite Las Canteras Casa Rural, Trujillo

Golden Eagle juvenile

Egyptian Vulture

Black Stork

Short-toed Eagle

House in the country with rock


Blue Rock Thrush male, Peña Falcon, Monfragüe National Park


Red-rumped Swallows at Monfragüe


Lesser Kestrel male

Griffon Vulture from Castillo de Monfragüe

Black Vulture

Nettle Tree Butterfly

Little Bustard male near Zorita

House entrance near Santa Marta de Magasca

Little Owl on Belen Plain

Red-rumped Swallow at Las Canteras

Great Spotted Cuckoos at Belen

Black-bellied Sandgrouse at Vegas Altas

Black Vulture at Zafra

Azure-winged Magpie

Montagu's Harrier juv female at Monroy

Male Montagu's Harrier out on the steppe

Black Vultures

Male Montagu's Harrier at Monroy

Calandra Lark singing

adult female Montagu's Harrier

Great Bustard (with Calandra Lark!)

Great Bustards flying

More Great Bustard photos

Hoopoe at Trujillo

Melanistic Montagu's Harrier at La Cumbre, Caceres

Woodchat Shrike peering at us

Greater Short-toed Lark at Belen