Sunday, 27 May 2012

Birds of Extremadura, Spain, VI

I took over 1000 photographs of birds in Spain, so rather unsurprisingly, I've still got more to share with you. Don't worry, I won't be posting 1000 photographs as most of them have been or will be deleted. Here is a mix species I saw less than a handful of times and a couple that were much more common.

Above: A Melodious Warbler (Zarcero común). This was my first time seeing this species and was glad I got a photograph as identification of warblers can be tricky.

Above: Another and very obliging Melodious Warbler (Zarcero común) at Saucedilla. I only saw these 2 during the whole holiday.

Above: A Black-Kite (Milano negro). This species was very common across the region, by far outnumbering Red Kites (Milano real). One day, driving past a house/farm near Trujillo with goats in the back yard, I counted more than 20 circling very low down - perhaps they were waiting for a goat to keel over!

Above: A Black-winged Kite (Elanio azul). Definitely on the 'must see' list. I was very happy when, whilst driving along, I shouted "Black-winged kite, STOP THE CAR!" Two were on a telegraph pole & line.

On the second to last day, we saw another near Saucedilla. Observing it, I noticed it can hover almost like a kestrel and it has a glide resembling that of a harrier.

Above: Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo). These were very common across the region. A highly mobile species that always stayed at a distance.

Above: Booted Eagle (Águila calzada). The lighting wasn't good but inbetween rain showers, this bird flew past us. If you look at the photograph carefully, you will see the diagnostic white patches (also known as 'landing lights') either side of the neck. Only 2 or 3 were seen during the holiday.

Before going to Spain, I read a couple of reports that said migration and bird numbers were significantly down compared to normal, strong winds and unfavourable wind directions meaning migratory birds were being held up or being diverted elsewhere. Since coming back, I spoke to someone who was there at the same time as me (and who had been 3 years previously) and he confirmed numbers were significantly down. I certainly can't complain as it was fantastic to see over 100 species, a quarter of which I'd not seen before. I may return in future and if it's a good year, it should be well worth going again!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Birds of Extremadura, Spain V

Another post, another dose of birds from Spain. As usual, the Spanish names for the birds are in brackets.

Above: Collared Pratincole (Canastera). We were told a road going west from Campo Lugar would be good for bird species. Upon arrival we met Spanish Birder - Antonio Calvo. My dad being fluent in Spanish got talking to him and soon he was showing us where to see the Collared Pratincoles on the ground.

Apparently they like ploughed, fallow fields. Not really knowing where we were or weren't allowed to stray off the roads to view birds, it was nice to have somebody who knew.

Above: A flock of about 50 Collared Pratincoles. I'd already seen a couple of singles and probably the same flock as above and suspected they were Collared Pratincoles but with Antonio's help, we got good views.

Whilst watching the Pratincoles, a nice adult male Montagu's Harrier passed through - the second and last one we saw during the holiday. I was too slow with the camera to get anything in focus.

Above: Great Bustard (Avutarda). Unfortunately, Antonio was only able to get us very distant views (ruined by heat haze) of this species, other than 2 birds in flight. It has been a bad year for birds in Extremadura with droughts lasting 2 years and much much reduced numbers of birds on migration. It has been hard to find even the resident species in great numbers. Antonio will be greatly relieved to know shorly after leaving him, we found this individual.

Antonio is starting his own accomodation/bird guide business. For those of you who can speak Spanish and would like some eco-friendly (walking) bird tours of Extremadura, visit his web site (you can read in Spanish or English).

Above & below: Gull-billed Tern (Pagaza piconegra). I find some Tern species difficult to distinguish between - especially at a distance. However, this Gull-billed Tern came quite close whilst I was standing on a bridge and you can see from the photograph it is has an all black bill (short & stout) and a black bar along the ends of the primary feathers - these are the identification features. It's call - remarkably non-tern like also gave it away.

This was a species on the 'want to see' list for the holiday and if it weren't for this one stop at the bridge I wouldn't have been able to say I'd seen one. I'd seen 4 Tern's previously at Merida but too distant to ID.

We went to many lakes/reservoirs in Extremadura but found very little in the way of water birds (e.g. ducks etc.). They can be awash with birds during the winter and very worth visiting, but apparently not during the spring/summer. More interest came from the surrounding habitat (although there were very few reed beds at all).

Above: Black Wheatear (Collalba negra). Not being able to get close enough for a good photograph (it consistantly stayed out of range for a good photo - normal behaviour I'm told!) I was delighted with being able to add it to the seen list.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Birds of Extremadura, Spain IV

It's another day and I've got more photographs from Extremadura to show you. 

Above: White Stork nests - I don't know how the lower one has managed to stay there! Apparently, it is unusual to find them nesting on rocks like this as they normally can be found on chimneys and other man made structures (pylons for example). Unfortunately we missed out on Black Stork.

Above: A Griffon Vulture. We visited Monfrague National Park where there was a breeding colony of close to 100 pairs!

Above: Those of you who are eagle eyed may be able to see an owl chick on the ledge - a second one is tucked just behind the other. We waited about an hour to see if the adult Eagle Owl would show itself, but alas no.

We did see Blue Rock Thrush here, Red-rumped Swallow (see previous post for photograph), Blackcap, Crag Martin and a pair of Black Redstarts.

Above: A Spotless Starling.

Above: The Sardinian Warbler is a classic skulker - I tried hard to get photographs but they were always mobile and behind a lot of vegetation. This was the best shot.

Above: A Serin. I found these to be quite common around extremadura and I found that their 'jangling' song is very much like the Corn Bunting.

Above: Another common species to be found was Stonechat. I saw several juveniles of this species (as pictured).

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Birds of Extremadura, Spain III

I could not keep you in suspense for long, so without delay here are some of the more 'exotic' species I saw in Extremadura.

Above: A Cattle Egret (Garcilla bueyera). We were wandering around a park in Merida located on an island in the river not very far at all from the town centre. Although I couldn't get really close to them before they moved away, I knew I would regret it if I didn't take a photograph!

Above: See all those white dots in the trees? Click on the photograph to enlarge, count them (c. 50 I make it) - what are they? Mostly Cattle Egrets (Garcilla bueyera) with some Little Egrets (Garceta común) - again on an isolated island in the middle of the river at Merida. This is just one photograph of the nesting colony and I took several of different areas - there must have been 100's of Egrets there.

Above: A Purple Swamphen (Calamón común). We couldn't connect with this species at first, but with persistance I found a pair (with 2 chicks) in Merida. Moorhen and coot were more common. One species I was supposed to be able to see in Merida was the Penduline Tit. Apparently they are more likely to be seen when it is not windy - either they weren't there or it was too windy as I didn't see one. I'll have to wait until another time now.

Above: A Great White Egret (Garceta grande). The long protruding legs and yellow beak make this all white egret a great one!

Above: A Little Bittern (Avetorillo común). It gave frustratingly short views (again in Merida) as it skulks around the reeds most of the time, but it popped out, flew to a different area of reeds for long enough to get a few photographs before dissapearing quickly. Having not seen one before, it was definitely high on the 'to see' priority list. Definitely a highlight of the holiday.

Above: A Grey Heron (Garza real). Ok, so not so exotic but nice to compare to the heron in the photograph below:

Above: A Purple Heron (Garza imperial). Have seen them before - this was the best photograph I've managed so far.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Birds of Extremadura, Spain II

As I was saying in my last post, about a quarter of the species I saw on the holiday were new to me. I hadn't done much research on what to expect as I like seeing them unexpectedly. I saw some species I had expected to, missed others and found some unexpected - a good mix. Again, it is worth clicking on the photographs to see them in higher resolution.

Having whetted your appetite in my previous post I take great delight in posting more photographs of the species I saw on holiday...

Above: A Jackdaw (Grajilla).

Above: A Goldfinch (Jilguero).

Birds in trees are a particularly difficult subject to photograph. The main problems being light and interfering vegetation. Not to mention distance. This one came out well - many didn't. The contrast of vegetation, sky, branches and the bird provides interest.

Above: A female Chaffinch (Pinzón del Hierro).

Above: A nice find and the only one I saw on holiday - a Nuthatch (Trepador azul).

Above: The countryside all around Extremadura was literally dripping with Corn Buntings (Triguero) like the one here. They were jangling from almost every fence post, bush and prominent position available! Driving along, I could hear them from inside the moving car!

Green 'the elder' kept on asking what I'd seen. Corn Bunting was a standard response! They were second only to House Sparrows as the most often seen on the holiday. Juding by my experiences of Southern Europe over my last few Holidays, I would postulate that Sparrows in Sardina, Menorca and Spain have not undergone the same kind of decline as we have seen in Britain over recent decades.

FYI, the great delight I took in posting more photographs was taken in not posting photographs of the more 'exotic' species! Those of you who know me better will not be surprised! You also won't be surprised to find that I will be kinder next time... maybe...!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Birds from Extremadura, Spain

Having had problems with my internet connection, I have been unable to post any of my photographs taken on a recent holiday to Extremadura, Spain. Though I have been able to edit them in preparation. The situation has improved... slightly... so here you go (do click on the photographs to see larger versions & the species names below are also given in Spanish for Antonio Calvo):

Above: A party of House Martins (Avíon común) collecting mud for their nest building. This species is common in Spain. There were many places where I found them and there were large colonies - under bridges/dams especially. One very long bridge had hundreds of nests under various stages of constant construction - on both sides!

Above: Gulp! A swallow, but not the Barn Swallow type that we see in Britain regularly during the spring/summer but a Red-rumped swallow (Golondrina daurica). N.B. Britain sees a handfull of the red-rumped type each year. Smaller than a Barn Swallow, the red/white rump and the red neck also make this bird stand out. This bird was photographed at Monfrague National Park.

Not too widespread but not too hard to find in Extremadura.

Above: Up the crag without a paddle? Well these Crag Martins (Avíon roquero) seemed to be doing ok! Presumably taking a rest from feeding (they weren't nesting on this ledge), I was able to get fairly close from a bridge above them. I saw some in Sardinia last year but I got better views this time!

Above: Having now seen these photographs up close, I am struck by how similar they are to swifts (in their wing feathers and beak structure), at least sitting - they look different in flight. They are built for catching insects on the wing.

The holiday itself was good. Though you won't want to hear it, the weather was better in Spain than in the UK! It did rain quite a bit towards the end (snow on the top of the mountains) but overall we did well. Over 100 species were seen and about a quarter were species I'd never seen before.

For those of you who might be interested, the bird photographs from Spain posted here (and in future posts) will have been taken with a Cannon EOS 1000D and a Cannon EF 400mm 1:5.6L lens.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


A little taster of some of the photographs I took of Spanish birds from my recent trip there (Extremadura).
Above: A Swallow - one of the parents of the juvenile below.
Above: A Juvenile Swallow, begging for food from the nearby parents. It is warmer in Spain at this time of year and some migrant species will no doubt arrive in Spain before they do in Britain, though I was surprised to find a fledged juvenile Swallow so early (20th April). Other swallows I had seen were still nest building! It may take a while to organise the photographs and post them especially as the phone/internet at home are down at the moment. Most of the photographs to come aren't as clear as these, but you will get to see a range of more exciting species. I'm not giving you any clues yet though!