Wednesday, 31 July 2013

La Janda News

A healthy job?

Good news that aerial crop spraying is now limited to only a few specific controls for health and agriculture. Natural sprays are used against mosquito control in La Janda although to be honest the problem with such insects is the same in the pine forests.
Most of the fertiliser spraying that takes place is showering the rice-fields with small pellets of fertilisers like nitrate/urea.
Banned is aerial spraying with organophosphates, pesticides or weedkillers.
The more powerful aircraft like this Boeing Stearman can cover larger areas like the Piper Pawnees can land in a very short space on the many tracks around the area.

I'm still horrified and extremely concerned about the reports of the on-going slaughter of migratory birds such as the fragile Turtle Dove photographed here in La Janda, Spain. 
Turtle Doves, Quail and hundreds of other migrant species are being systematically killed in nets, traps, glued branches and sticks as well as being shot throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean coastline
In Egypt over seventy kilometres of nets are already in place to catch southbound migratory birds that winter in Africa. (Please take time to click on the links, read the stories and watch the videos)

A Purple Heron takes off

A lot of the breeding birds around the periphery of La Janda are now flying around the vast complex of rice fields. This year was a particularly good breeding year for Eurasian Spoonbills with over forty pairs  successfully raised broods this year at Las Lomas. None bred there last year as it was probably too dry.

The increase in breeding populations of Glossy Ibis in Cadiz, Huelva and many other areas in AndalucĂ­a continues. Again this year there were over a dozen pairs in La Janda at the huge Cattle Egret roost. There may have been many more within La Lomas.

Some of the newly fledged Glossy Ibis have a distinct orange, pink and black bill. They soon lose these black markings.

This was a good year for Collared Pratincoles and here we see two recently fledged birds that are still being fed by their parents. Good numbers successfully bred at Barbate Marismas and at La Janda and beyond.

The Northern Bald Ibis colony raised a total of twenty-seven chicks at La Barca de Vejer this year. There is still one remaining chick there, looking a bit lonely but it's being visited and fed by it's parents each day and it's bound to fly off soon and join the young birds that have been feeding on Montenmedio, the military zone (above) and over at the golf courses of Sancti Petri.

 Northern Bald Ibis near Barbate

A male Spanish Sparrow

A Squacco Heron flies across the rice-fields

Hundreds of Griffon Vultures are being killed by wind turbines. Over two-hundred and forty are know to have died in a single year and this does not take into account the bird carcasses that are removed by foxes, genet, mongoose and other mammals that clearly profit from the high number of casualties. The reality about wind farms is quite simple. Birds, bats, dragonflies and wind turbines don't mix.
Why would you site one of the largest wind farms in Europe along the length of The Strait of Gibraltar?
I don't know of any bird casualties from the siting of solar farms here in Cadiz province.

It's good to see Little Egrets doing well within the Cattle Egret colony. There were a few Purple Heron nests too with some Squacco's breeding.

 Little-Ringed Plovers are always good to see and they seem to have a good population in our area with  lots of young birds and adults around La Janda

A Melodious Warbler watches a darter

A few Montagu's Harriers are feeding in La Janda but there will be more young birds and adults to see as the summer comes to an end and the migration starts. Many Black Kites and White Storks are already crossing to Morocco and this will continue as thousands of birds arrive on The Strait.

I photographed this tiny Praying Mantis nymph that was in our garden this week. Holding the camera in my right hand and keeping the mantis in focus on one of my fingers on the left hand was a bit tricky but I managed to pop off one or two reasonable shots. 
The Tamron lens that I use on my older Canon 50D is really great for macro photography and I'm so pleased with it's performance. 
For the techies it's is a Tamron SP DI AF 90mm f/1:2.8 Macro1:1

Here's another shot with the same lens of a close view of the head, proboscis and antennae of a Scarce Swallowtail butterfly.

A good view of a Short-toed Eagle

and a beautiful Turtle Dove

A Stripeless Tree Frog hiding in our garden amongst a Black-eyed Susan climbing plant

 Huge numbers of Red-veined Darters are around. Heres a female with the male below

Here are a few photos of newly fledged Woodchat Shrikes that have been plentiful this last week

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Rufous Bush Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)

The Rufous Bush Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) is one of my own personal favourite summer visitors. Over the last twelve years living on The Strait of Gibraltar I've often had  the opportunity to watch and photograph this very special passerine. These birds are often difficult to find and do require some patience to wait and listen for that lovely loud call. 

Quite often they'll be in the company of Woodchat Shrikes and can even have a nest in  the next tree. The two species assist each other in the art of survival where rearing chicks can be costly if predators are not spotted early enough and are distracted away from their nest sites. Woodchat Shrikes use their superb eyesight scanning out in the distance for Sparrowhawks, buzzards and any other aerial threat. They are more akin to raptors, mini ones at that and can spot a threat or danger a long way off with those large eyes. They perch on a favourable viewing point on the top edges of trees scanning the surrounding skies and vegetation taking care of the upper level. 
Each bird knows all the alarm calls of all the other nesting birds which are usually in the same area like Melodious and Sardinian Warblers but Rufous Bush Robins are tuned into the sounds and antics of their closest neighbours the Woodchat Shrikes. This symbioses works well with the Rufous Bush Robin taking care of garden defence as it were. Scanning the lower areas, particularly the ground cover, watching through the vines looking closely at surrounding rough land where there are thistles, grasses and ground palms, continually listening and watching checking for unwanted movement that could come from Snakes, Weasel, Fox, Genets and other creatures, even Ocellated lizards out searching for food and what could be better than a nest with eggs or chicks.
Both birds have great ability to fly  quickly and accurately through tight spaces and can distract a predator by flying towards them at speed then veering off for cover, weaving their way through a labyrinth of vegetation and taking any predator away from their nest site.

Spanish: Alzacola
German:   Heckensänger
French:   Agrobate roux
Dutch:    Rosse Waaierstaart

Field Description. 16 cm. A warbler-like thrush with a long tail. Similar at first glance to a Nightingale. Upperparts rufous-grey, supercilium whitish, long, bordered below by dark eye-stripe, underparts whitish. Most obvious field character is the long, rufous, black- and white- tipped tail, which is often cocked, fanned and moved from side to side. Strong long legs and upright chat-like stance. Usually not shy, but remains in dense cover. Song performed from cover, but also from exposed song-post and in fluttery display flight. During displays often shows tail flexibility by bringing the long tail up into a position behind the head.
Voice. Call 'tjuut', 'trr'. Song loud, musical and varied, often thrush-like and imitative.

Distribution. Local and rather rare summer visitor in region.

Habitat. Densely vegetated places mixed with open sandy or loamy areas, like vineyards,  olive groves, orchards and especially around Acebuche (wild olive trees) and cactus (Prickly Pear) .

Food. Invertebrates and small vertebrates (eg. lizards geckos), some fruits.

Looking around using an artichoke flower as it's observation platform

Scanning from a vineyard post

On a song post

That wonderful tail display with tips of white with those black spots

Some views of the bird feeding

Wing 'fanning'

Displaying with an open fluttering of the wings

Typical erect stance on those long legs

Not forgetting their friend and neighbour the Woodchat Shrike