Wednesday, 15 October 2014

SW Spain in October - More Migration Photos


Booted Eagle

Short-toed Eagle hunting

Short-toed Eagle
Eurasian Spoonbill, juvenile
Hundreds of Glossy Ibis at La Janda
Cattle Egret
Crested Tit
Firecrest in the Alcornocales Forest

Kentish Plovers
Northern Wheatear
Osprey with Black Stork
Red-veined Darters
Ruddy Turnstone doing what they do best...

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Short-toed Treecreeper
Thekla Lark
Woodchat Shrike, juvenile
Eurofighter Typhoon pilot oblivious to mass bird migration on The Strait
Presently the UK's largest Royal Naval ship, HMS Ocean sails out into the Atlantic Ocean

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Melanistic Montagu's Harrier and other Raptors

A melanistic form of Montagu's Harrier at La Janda, Spain

Some shots of a first calendar year bird (1cy) hunting at La Janda
Here are some of the photos I took of raptors last week with my Swiss birding group from Arcotour.
The wind direction swung around during the week to give us moderate to strong easterlies (Levante) for five days and only died down on our last two days. Still, knowing what migrating raptors do and where they will be are key factors in getting your group to see the birds close at hand.

On some of the smaller tracks along The Strait we walked to different vantage points and watched hundreds of raptors and Black & White Storks fly overhead along the coast. We had exceptional views of Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Sparrowhawks, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Griffon, Egyptian and the rarer visiting Rüppell’s vultures as well as Montagu’s Harrier, Honey Buzzard and Common Buzzard. 

Our last days were spend mainly on The Strait although we did have visits to Barbate for Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Stone Curlew, Osprey, Caspian Tern, Audouin’s Gull, Calandra Lark, Kingfisher, Kentish Plover and of course Northern Bald Ibis. 
Scratch that itch...

A late migrating Honey Buzzard near Tarifa
Adult Egyptian Vulture

Juvenile Egyptian Vulture
Back on the ground on the southernmost point of the European coast
Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed at Guadalmesi
Mediterranean Chameleon at Algaida
Rüppell's Vulture near Facinas
Griffon Vulture at the Sierra de La Plata
A calm day at Cape Trafalgar sea-watching, gave us Puffin and Razorbill in rafts on the sea as well as many Northern Gannet, Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters. Several dolphins were also seen but too far to correctly identify.
La Janda was dusty with very strong winds but we did see some great birds that included masses of White Storks feeding low in the rice fields with good numbers of Marsh Harriers and Lesser Kestrel over the cut maize fields on the other side of the main canal. Black-winged Kite, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat and huge flocks of mixed House and Spanish Sparrows were around with Green Sandpiper and Common Snipe.  
A Short-toed Eagle passes low at Tarifa
A young Short-toed Eagle takes a look at us
A Booted Eagle on a low pass during the Levante winds last week in Spain
At Sanlucar de Barrameda, the Algaida and Bonanza salinas we watched Slender-billed Gull, Marbled Teal, Black-necked and Little Grebes, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black Stork, Red Kite, Osprey, Caspian Tern and many different waders. We also caught up with not one but two Mediterranean Chameleons!
It was a good trip and all the members of the group gelled well and we had a very happy time together.

I'm back home in Germany again and will try and post some other photos of wildlife from this latest migration tour in Spain in the next ten days before leading another tour with Limosa Holidays. This time it's across to eastern Germany to the Brandenburg area west of Berlin to see the cranes, geese, Great Bustards, Rough-legged Buzzards and White-tailed Eagles. I heard yesterday that the first flocks of cranes have already started to arrive.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Southern Spain. Leaving raptors aside...

Great Spotted Woodpecker on a cork-oak tree
I thought I'd share some other birds and wildlife as the raptors keep arriving here in Spain. I'm leading a group of Swiss birders from Arcatour and as well as seeing fantastic raptor movement we have also been taking in the sights of other places, different beautiful birds and other wildlife during our last four days. Here are some recent photos.

Audouin's Gull
Black-crowned Night Heron
Lesser Emperor Dragonfly
Young Yellow-legged Gulls fight over a fish that was stolen from a Cormorant
Stone Curlews at Barbate
This bird is called 'Bubble'
Bubble is a German White Stork that flew down from southern Germany using muscle power as I took a plane from nearby Baden-Baden. 
It seems that Bubble and I are neighbours, living not that far from each other in Baden-Württemberg and it was great to see Bubble and take such an interesting photo. The route the bird took is below.

La Janda is full of White Storks 
A little Owl watches us as we study those fascinating eyes.
Birds have no eyes muscles and positioning of the eyes in the birds skull tell you a lot about their behavior, especially the way they hunt. Doing away with eye muscles means that birds have to turn their heads to see, unless you are a Woodcock or another bird that has pretty much such all round vision.
Facial expressions too require muscles and again to save weight for flight in compensation for those large liquid filled orbs called eyes, the Little Owl uses it's wonderful sight and hearing to focus in on its prey or watch for any passing danger or threat. During the overhead passing of thousands of migratory birds of prey that can and often will take an unsuspecting Little Owl, they tend to keep a low profile and blend in well with their brown plumage set against a backdrop of the arid landscape of the coast.

Eurasian Spoonbills crossing over from Barbate
La Janda. Rice with clouds
A birds-eye view of Algeciras
Migrating birds are curious creatures especially the young birds born this year and may have never seen such a concentrated sight of human habitation before. The noise of traffic, the throng of people in the street and all kinds of noised that drift upwards from Spain's largest and busiest port must be be both fascinating but daunting to a young eagle born for example in the foothills of The Pyrenees and passing over such a complex city.

Moroccan coastline from Spain
On an extremely clear day you can see for miles across The Strait and into the distant high peaks of the Riff Mountains of Morocco. A change in the weather to easterlies now makes the coastline almost impossible to see during most of the day although late afternoon you can start to make out a faint outline or shadows of the landscape which is tantalizingly close for southbound birds.
With such a persistent and strong wind we will now see a build up of 'traffic' as each day more birds arrive in the southern most tip of Europe and cannot physically continue their journey down through Africa for winter.
I'm still in Tarifa leading a group tour and the easterlies or 'Levante' wind is set to blow for another five days…