Thursday, 31 January 2013

More Movement on The Strait

Common Crane, adult
Across La Janda the Common Cranes are getting restless and have been flying around in the warm air getting onto thermals that have been rising across the flat landscape. Family groups have been calling noisily as they exercise their flight muscles and prepare for the long flight home. More cranes arrived this week from Morocco, some even flying in during the night their passage across The Strait assisted by the light of the full moon. Wakening up in the middle of the night and listening to their haunting calls isn't so bad really...

Back to warm sunshine
Northern Bald Ibis
We had the first of the adult Northern Bald Ibis visit their small colonial nesting site below Vejer the other day. It won't be long now until the resident group starts nest building. Good news is that we now have a high-definition observation camera watching the colony and  keeping an eye on this special site.

The adult plumage of the ibis is quite stunning, especially well lit up in the soft morning light, complemented by the colour of the compressed ancient sand dunes that are common in this area.

Short-toed Eagle
One or two young Short-toed Eagles arrived back from their winter in Africa this week. The local eagles were also heard calling along the ridges of the Sierra de Retin.

Booted Eagle

Griffon Vulture
Griffon Vultures are still bringing in bits of twigs and branches to their nest sites. Most of the nest builds are complete and egg laying won't be long now.

Griffon Vulture
Penduline Tit
Some of the passerine presence around La Janda and Barbate Marismas has increased with some species arriving back from Morocco and others that have been here for months departing north. White Wagtails were low in numbers at the weekend when we had quite a lot of rain then high pressure kicked back in bringing more White Wagtails from Morocco. Penduline Tits were absent in one area last week but yesterday a group arrived in La Janda from another area. Birdsong has increased dramatically this week and of course sunshine brings out the best in most species...

I'm off to Fuerteventura on Sunday tour leading. We hope to see some great birds on this very special island in the Canary Island group which are about 80kms off the west coast of Africa.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Senegal Raptors

Lizard Buzzard
Our January trip to Senegal went extremely well and as a keen photographer I always come back from any tour with lots of images. This time in Africa the choice and variety of subjects was mind-blowing and as well as my beloved birds, the mammals, insects plants, people and vivid scenes of this colourful country formed many happy memories that will last a lifetime. 
A huge thank you goes to Yeray, Carlos, Manolo and Gonzalo for their happy camaraderie.

Scissor-tailed Kite

Next year Yeray and myself plan to run a birding and wildlife tour to Senegal. (Full itinerary and costings to follow) 
I'm still looking through and editing some of the best from thousands of photos. I thought I'd post some raptor photos in this first blog about the Senegal trip and interestingly we managed to see 285 different species of birds, 35 of them were raptors. Here are just some of these fantastic birds...

Grasshopper Buzzard
African Fish Eagle, adult
African Fish Eagle, juvenile
Grey Kestrel
African Harrier Hawk, juvenile
African Harrier Hawk, adult
Wahlberg's Eagle
Brown Snake Eagle
Red-necked Falcon attacking a Lanner Falcon
Lanner Falcon
Red-necked Falcon
Martial Eagle
Pallid Harrier, young male
Yellow-billed Kite
Rüppell's Vulture (L) with White-backed Vulture
White-backed Vulture
Rüppell's Vulture, adult
From the left - White-backed, Hooded, Rüppell's and (one) GriffonVulture
White-backed Vulture

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Exhibition opening at the Grazalema Visitor Centre.

Sue Eatock and Clive Muir have put together an exhibition of photographs of the flora and fauna of the Sierra Grazalema, this along with other events including a mini birding marathon and craft demonstrations should make this an interesting place to be this Saturday and Sunday. The photographic exhibition continues until the 21st February.

How To Get there

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

We had a very confiding Golden Eagle yesterday afternoon close to Tahivilla. The bird circled over our heads when we stopped the car and watched it, obviously curious at what we were doing. After a few circles it headed towards the Sierra de La Plata and The Strait.

The moult on the eagle was fairly extensive and a good few new feathers are visible. My friend Javi Elorriaga estimates that this is a fourth calendar year bird (3rd plumage) and that it is unusual to see such moult on this species in winter

The pvc color ring looks yellow in colour but it is more likely to be a very faded white color that has the alphanumeric code '2R'.

I looked on the database for ringed/tagged Golden Eagles and I've asked colleagues and friends if anyone knows the bird's origin but as yet I've had no positive identification. I had confirmation that it isn't a French bird. More emails have been sent and I'm awaiting replies.

Last year at the Algorrobo watchpoint near Tarifa a similar bird with a white pvc ring was seen but it's identity is still a mystery. 
Large eagles on migration often roost around Torre de La Peña or above Facinas on the track to La Semilla. Both sites have large Eucalyptus which attracts them as a secure roosting site.
Thanks to all who have been helping with the search. 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A Morning's Birding in January

Black Stork 
First of all a Happy New Year to all my readers! 

We were away for quite a while this holiday period and I was in need of some birding at my local patch, La Janda. Every month of the year there is continual migration through our area and change is apparent almost on a weekly basis.
The farmers are still ploughing, or should I say 'mashing' the rice-fields which attracts thousands of White Stork, Cattle Egret, Black-headed Gull and Grey Heron. Other species of note are Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin's Gull, Little Egret, Great Bittern, Purple Swamphen, Moorhen, Black Stork, Eurasian Spoonbill, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Spanish Sparrow, Greenfinch, Serin, Goldfinch , Linnet, Bluethroat, Penduline Tit, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting, Northern Lapwing, Golden Plover and Short-eared Owl.

Bar-tailed Godwit
You can find Black-tailed Godwits with Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Redshank and Greenshank but Bar-tailed Godwits are not so common. Sometimes you get one that may be sick or injured.

Black-crowned Night Heron
These lovely herons are mainly nocturnal but a few juveniles like the one above are roosting along the canal banks and are pretty easy to see.

Black-winged Kite
Black-winged Kites were plentiful yesterday with over ten birds seen without too much effort.

Bluethroats?...Hmm...Skulking, hiding, slinking about in the undergrowth along the rice-field edges and canal banks are many wintering Bluethroats. If you want to see them, you need a lot of patience or good luck!

Bonelli's Eagle
Keep looking up! There are two juvenile Bonelli's Eagles around La Janda at present. Neither have been tagged or ringed and again with patience and luck you can get reasonable views. Here's one that showed off above my head... 

Booted Eagle
I saw a few distant Booted Eagles as well and here are a few shots of two different birds that are of the lighter and more common form.

Booted Eagle

Common Cranes

There were not so many Common Cranes around but then again they do move to different areas through La Janda as well as across to the Coto Doñana and beyond.

We have a few Chiffchaffs wintering with us and this little chap has been roosting in our Yellow Tacoma bush which is in a sheltered and sunny spot at our outside staircase. The bird has a tumour on it's foot but what caused it or what the outcome will be isn't clear. It seems to be feeding very well and looks otherwise in good condition.

This was one of the La Janda Chiffchaffs of which there are thousands!
Dartford Warbler
 Not such a common bird to see and also another skulker is the Dartford Warbler

Hen Harrier
I took this shot yesterday of a lovely male Hen Harrier. He was hunting along the main collector canal some distance away and I waited until he passed by. It's always difficult taking a flight shot against a complicated background but I was fortunate to capture the bird which shows a very distinct dark trailing edge on the underwing, certainly broader than normal.

Grey Heron

Marsh Harrier

Penduline Tit
Penduline Tits can give away their presence in the reed beds by their plaintive high pitched contact call. During winter you can find them in small groups feeding on the Phragmites or Bullrushes seed heads.

Purple Swamphen

 This was just to show you that the Blue Chicken can indeed fly!

Sardinian Warbler
Sardinian Warblers are a fairly common resident sylvia warbler with Blackcaps and Dartford being the only other non migrating sylvia warblers we have here. Of course we do have lots of Blackcaps from the North that join our local birds during winter.

Short-eared Owl
 Now is the best time to come and watch these lovely wintering birds.

Short-toed Eagle
Our local pair have been calling yesterday. At first their call can be dismissed as a gull call but they are starting to bond and flying around and calling to each other will increase over the coming weeks.

Wind turbines in the mist
It looks an atmospheric photo but they still kill birds and are sited much too close together in such a sensitive area.