Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Late Ortolans



Black-winged Kite
The wet weather continued north and southern Spain was once again bathed in sunshine. Saying that though, rain is forecast for the coming weekend. 



Back out in the field, La Janda's tracks are passable with care and you can get through to Benalup from the main N340 road. There are a few sticky bits with mud run-off from the deluge but the farmers were clearing it off the tracks.


Eurasian Spoonbill, juvenile
A lot of the birds have migrated further south across The Strait to Morocco. Thousands are of course still here and more will arrive from the north to winter with us if weather conditions are fair.
There have been some late migrants passing though including two Ortolan Buntings. This was the latest recorded sighting I have had and usually the birds are through to Africa long before November! Perhaps this pair of juveniles came from an Eastern European group.


Ortolan Bunting with Northern Wheatear and Chiffchaff

Ortolan Bunting
Rain on The Strait
Clouds over the Acantilado de Barbate
Chiffchaff eating a spider 


Common Cranes at La Janda
Green Sandpiper
Flooded  La Janda - just the way it should be!
Beautiful sky over the main canal at La Janda
Libreros, Vejer de La Frontera 
Some Short-eared Owls came in, then kept on going...
Marsh Harriers hunting at La Janda 
Staring competition with a Northern Bald Ibis at Barbate
Feathers and Acorns
In a week's time I'm off again leading another tour. I'll fly up to Madrid and meet a group from the UK and together we'll be exploring the steppe and dehesa areas in Extremadura for eight days. Here we'll be looking at Common Cranes and Great Bustards and lots of other wildlife too.

The photo above shows brown and ochre colored feathers from Great Bustards and the long grey one is from a Common Crane. The acorns are from local Cork Oaks - strictly speaking most of the oaks in the Extremadura area are Holm Oaks.

There are a few tours for 2013 displayed on my website. Some may be of interest, so please feel free to download any of the pdf's. We'd be happy to have you on board for another Andalucian Guides adventure!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Arrival Of Wintering Cranes

The Flowering Mandrake plant (Mandragora autumnalis)



The last week has been pretty good bird-wise. The weather, as predicted let loose an enormous amount of water in Cadiz province just as I was returning from Eastern Germany & Poland. My flight from Berlin to Barcelona was delayed while they found a slot around more autumnal storms that were creeping up from the southern Atlantic and Mediterranean areas. When I finally got on the flight from Barcelona to Seville the storm down our way was pretty bad. Around 2am I was passing La Barca de Vejer and was slowly driving through the flooding and damage which was pretty extensive.

Autumn Snowflake (Leucojum autumnale)

I had been away for less than a week and in the next morning you could see that the rainwater and had changed the colour of the landscape and that Andalucía was once again rich green. During the following daylight hours we found some lovely flowering plants and migrating birds.

Autumn Crocus (Colchicum lusitanum)

During two days I showed Joanna, from Washington DC and Carmen from Sevilla some of the delights of the coastline of The Strait of Gibraltar and the Alcornocales. A few Monarch butterflies were around some of the Milkweed plants and close by we were attracted by Griffon Vultures flying in to feed on a dead cow carcass. It's always a wonderful sight to see, even although it looks, sounds and smells a bit chaotic.
A great day out with a lovely family from New Zealand 

The Common Cranes had arrived in Cadiz province by the 28th of November and hundreds of birds were here at the end of last week, with more and more flying in to join the others already feeding on the remnants of the harvested rice, maize and sunflower fields.

Jess has a look through my telescope at a Black-winged Kite
I had a lovely half-day tour with the Riddell-Pitt's-Brown's family from New Zealand and travelling through Barbate, La Janda and Benalup we managed to see lots of close views of rare and commoner birds, plants and flowers and other wildlife including Egyptian Mongoose. They have their own blog about their travels and posted an article about their time with me here.

Ben's Binoculars

Great Egret

Common Cranes arriving for winter


Common Cranes in flight

Short-toed Eagle

Spanish Imperial Eagle
I had a  great day out with Paco and Pilar from Madrid. They were showing Nito Paniagua, a guide from Costa Rica who has his own company there, the delights of Spanish birding and had booked Andalucian Guides for a few days. All three were great company and we saw a lot of birds including the Northern Bald Ibis, Purple Herons and Spanish Imperial Eagle. Other birds included Sparrowhawk, Black-winged Kite (12), Griffon Vulture, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Hen, Marsh and one distant Pallid Harrier. Black Stork was also picked up by sharp-eyed Nito and Pilar spotted four Short-eared Owls. Thanks for your appreciative good company and sharp eyes!

Flooding at La Janda

Floods at La Barca de Vejer
Eurasian Hoopoe

Catching worms

Northern Bald Ibis at Barbate
Marsh Harrier, one of hundreds at La Janda

Glossy Ibis

All this rain turns everything lush and green...

Three Purple Herons (juveniles) at La Janda this week





White Wagtail

Purple Swamphen

Ploughing in the harvested rice stubble

Pallid Harrier, juvenile at La Janda

Pallid Harrier hunting near Benalup



Here's another chance to see the ID points of juvenile Pallid Harriers. These photos were taken of a Pallid that Andy Paterson and myself found earlier this year at La Janda. 

There was also a good comparative photo ID and article on Juvenile Harriers by Andy Stoddart in the October issue of Birdwatch Magazine. I contributed with some of my Montagu's Harrier photos on this six page article.
Short-eared Owl at La Janda
I'ts always great to see Short-eared Owls and the sight of these lovely creatures hunting in La Janda is fascinating to witness. I just hope that many will stop here for winter but as always these nomads depend on vole populations which are often themselves dominated by weather conditions. Last winter was dry and so far we've had a really wet autumn. Let's wait and see what happens this winter.


Rice harvest. I put the speed of this shot to 1/8000th of a second to see if I could freeze the rice grains coming out of the combine harvester.


Late Alpine Swifts in still passing over in November

Audouin's Gulls at Barbate



Barbate cliffs, the start of The Strait. Patty and I did a lovely walk from Barbate to Los Caños de Meca with with Liz and Keith from the UK. They had been with me before some years back for a day's birding and for the walk we organized a vehicle at the other end of this fabulous stretch of coastline.
If you haven't done this walk before then we can thoroughly recommend it. Start in the morning from Barbate and you'll have the sun on your back as you walk. If you need a guided tour then Patty will show you this and many other routes filled with birds, plants and stunning scenery. Morning walks details can be found here.
Griffon Vultures feeding at a cow carcass

Sunset at Barbate

Booted Eagle in November

Lots of Common Buzzards around. Some even look like the 'Gibraltar' buzzards or
Long-legged Buzzards

Chiffchaff

Distant Gibraltar

Black-winged Kite roosting with Common Kestrel

Common Cranes arriving this week at La Janda

Great Egret






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