Monday, 29 April 2013

Migrating Over a Carpet of Flowers

Pink Mallow and Purple Viper's Bugloss
The last few weeks have been pretty busy for me with lots of tours and finding lots of migratory birds. This year's early rain through the month of March was extreme but all along we knew that it would be a spectacular spring and hence have been rewarded with carpets of amazing multicoloured blooms covering the Cadiz landscape.

Our day trips took us to all corners of Cadiz province and every cove and headland along The Strait of Gibraltar. We headed inland through the agricultural plains of La Janda and through the edge of the mighty Alcornocales Natural Park and into the Campo de Gibraltar. Mixed weather did slow down some bird species arrival but on the whole we had some excellent views of rare birds with many photographers managing to take stunning shots of birds and spectacular scenery.
April is such a lovely month and this year I arranged to do less tours abroad in order to keep in touch with what was happening on our own doorstep. It's always a great month for birds and we do get a lot of enquiries from raptor enthusiasts and photographers who are always interested in watching birds in flight.

Male Peregrine Falcon
We made some walks through the pine forest of La Breñas above Barbate to watch the Peregrine Falcons that beed there on the 100 m sandstone cliffs. It's a fantastic place to get an overview of the The Strait of Gibraltar and it's prominent position down  to Barbate and across to Tangier in Morocco. Some times if you are lucky you can watch the birds in flight or see them sitting on the cliffs.
One one ocassion during April we travelled to Gibraltar to look at a pair of nesting Peregrines. We had closer views and managed to take some photos. Watching Northern Gannets from the eastern side of Gibralar is worthwhile although at this time of year most birds have left the Mediterranean Sea and The Strait.

Bee-eaters arriving in spring add to the colour of the landscape
The first of the Bee-eaters arrived early this year at the end of March and it took another few weeks for the bulk of this species to come across to Europe. Hearing their loud chirping call as they fly high across the open sky is such a lovely sound.
There are a few Bee-eater colonies where you can take photos like this as the birds return to their tunneled nests. Incidentally, Bee-eaters arrive in spring with quite a long bill but by the end of tunnelling new nest chambers they can loose 2-3cms in bill length. It grows back though...

The mouth of the Barbate River in spring
 The Barbate River flows past the edge of this famous tuna fishing port with the same name. Barbate was put on the map, so to speak by General Franco's love for the area and the passion he had for big game fishing like Marlin and Blue-Fin Tuna. The port was developed and the canning industry was an important factor in developing this beautiful coastline as a Spanish holiday resort in the 1960's and 70's.

Swaying Purple Bugloss, Yellow Margaritas and Red Vetch in the wind...

The Roman Ruins of Baleo Claudia on the coast beside the village of Bolonia, Cadiz

Wild Carrots and thistles


Swallowing insects

Cattle swathed in Purple Viper's Bugloss
A male Common Stonechat braces itself in the high winds

A pair of migrating Whinchats at Barbate Marismas

Migrating male Hobby
Cattle outnumber humans most of the year on the beach between Barbate and Zahara de los Atunas

Corn Bunting feeding
Honey Buzzard

Short-toed Eagle
A male Montagu's Harrier hunts low in the levante across broom and gorse

Red-rumped Swallow collecting mud close to it's nest site

Spring Thistle

Tawny Pipit nest very close to our house in the marismas

Pink Field Scabious
Turtle Dove's have sublime beauty and to think that 'sport' hunters fly down to Morocco from Europe to kill them, not to eat them... it's just 'sport'!
The Strait of Gibraltar - So different with astounding natural beauty!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Passerines so far in April

Bonelli's Warbler
In the dictionary the word passerine is described thus:

passerine |ˈpasərin,
of, relating to, or denoting birds of a large order distinguished by feet that are adapted for perching, including all songbirds.
a passerine bird; a perching bird.
The order Passeriformes comprises more than half of all bird species, the remainder being known informally as the nonpasserines. All passerines in Europe belong to the suborder Oscines (the oscine passerines), so that the term is effectively synonymous with ‘songbird’ there (see songbird). Those of the suborder Deutero-Oscines (the suboscine passerines) are found mainly in America.
ORIGIN late 18th cent.: from Latin passer ‘sparrow’ + -ine1.

Subalpine Warbler
Subalpine Warbler
Cirl Bunting, female
Common Cuckoo

Common Redstart

Common Stonechat male taking on a Banded Centipide

Common Stonechar male

Corn Bunting in flight

When passerines arrive at dawn...


Melodious Warbler

Northern Wheatear male

Spectacled Warbler

Spectacled Warbler collecting nesting material

Tawny Pipit

Turtle Dove
This lovely bird arrived this week with not a feather out of place, surviving hundreds of 'sport' hunters from many N European countries who go to Morocco, Tunisia & Senegal to shoot birds on migration as a personal challenge and for the sheer fun of it. There are very few breeding Turtle Doves left in France and Italy these days and by annihilating the numbers travelling north through Morocco just shows what a pathetic species we are.

What beautiful and gentle creatures Turtle Doves are

Woodchat Shrike takes on a Banded Centipede as well...

A Yellow Wagtai of the Iberian race

Apologies for this short photo report but time is against me as I continue to lead more tours and enjoy my own back-yard!