Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius), Críalo Europeo - and other News

Early migrant Great Spotted Cuckoos seen on the 31st Jan!

The two birds were seen north of La Janda late in the afternoon after I took a long drive into the hinterlands behind La Janda. As I was watching a distant Bonelli's Eagle over the treeline, I noticed a light form of what seemed to be a bird hiding in a far off acebuche or wild olive tree. Quickly organising my scope from the back of the mini-bus, I found to my delight that the bird in question was a Great Spotted Cuckoo and another one was lower down near the base of the tree.

This was not the earliest time I'd seen these spectacular birds come back across The Strait but it was unusual to see two together.

One of the birds took off and I managed to get some flight shots. It's always been a bit of a jinx bird with me to get decent shots of it in the air.

We've been having really cold nights this week and crisp sunny days giving us fantastic views across The Strait to the Riff Mountains in Morocco. If the cuckoos travelled this route they would have experienced very cold temperatures and snow, so the warmer lower areas around La Janda would feel quite welcoming to early migrating birds.
We had some more Barn Swallows and the Little Swifts are still around in the Chipiona area and the mouth of the Guadalquivir River at Sanlucar de Barrameda.

One of our local Eagle Owls was watched at one of the roosts close to our home. Always a great bird to see and I'm fortunate that I have permission to go onto this private estate to show people this lovely creature.

Our Jackdaws were again mobbing some Short-eared Owls at different roosts and I was able to take some more shots of these lovely birds. The sad thing is that Eagle Owls hunt them as well...

Yellow eyes and broadly banded tail with less streaking on the flanks compared to that of Long-eared.

It was a case of driving in the wrong direction that I took this photo. Going the only way home along the track parallel to the main collector canal, I spotted this Short-eared Owl on a post, lit up brilliantly from behind by the setting sun. Inching at a snail's pace forward in the car, then switching off the engine and steadily raising the camera on the owl, I waited for the sun to drop to give me a less dazzling angle. If you know the area and the width of the track there isn't much room for manoeuvre and to go past the bird would have meant flushing it.
I could see that the owl was becoming less interested in me and started listening again to voles running along their grassy tunnels in the open grazing land between the track and the canal. The sun was getting lower but as the bird was becoming more interested in food, I took my chance with the sun and clicked off a few shots. The owl's head flicked round towards me directing it's eyes and ears straight in my direction, focusing with that wonderfu disc shaped face that always has an expression of astonishment, then dived right along the grass and into the blaze of golden light from the descending sun. This photo was the result!

Looking across Las Lomas towards the hillside of Vejer and the plateau of La Muela.

I've always considered Black-winged Kites more like owls and you see them content to share the voles with the Short-eared Owls and come to think of it, both are true nomads, heading off wherever they find a good supply of voles or other small rodents, never sticking to one area, just going with the flow.

One last shot of my sun-lit owl.

Lots of fishermen hate cormorants but I find them really attractive birds with that wonderful iridescence on their plumage and bright green eyes.

Corn Buntings are plentiful and it's always lovely to hear their 'jangling keys' call.

There has been a Southern Grey Shrike arond the north side of the La Janda area most of the winter. It seems to disappear for a few weeks then comes back again. When I do see it, it's always on the same bush, facing the same direction. It then flies off to another bush, the same one it always flies on to!

Black Storks at Brazo del Este on the Guadalquivir River

Lesser Kestrels pairing up and feeling cozy in the morning sun

There are less Marsh Harriers around the rice-field areas

But more Ospeys are to be seen which shows how rich and diverse this area is.
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