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The Andalucia Bird Society  |  ABS Birding forum  |  General Information Wanted  |  Topic: La Janda - When The Rains Stop, The Raptors Fly « previous next »
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Author Topic: La Janda - When The Rains Stop, The Raptors Fly  (Read 4813 times)
« on: December 11, 2008, 06:09:45 pm »

Tuesday 9th Dec. 2008.
We had another few days of rain and by winter standards and saw some unusually prolonged torrential downpours. Birds of prey, needless to say have an urgency and huge desire to get up into the clear sunny air, look for things to kill and eat is at its greatest after such long periods of fasting and sheltering.
Hunger motivates and drives all living creatures and you can be assured that aerial activity by raptors is no different and needs no explanation. It's always at its best after a few days rain has past and typically a high pressure system kicks in and sits over the Iberian peninsula.
During winter we have good numbers of Bonelli's Eagles hunting in SW Iberia. Most of these will be juvenile birds, 'learning by doing' throughout the vast agricultural areas like La Janda and beyond. This is my home patch and where I have managed to get some good photographs of such special eagles. Although persecuted for generations, there is now much more information and awareness about the role birds of prey play in an essential part of the food chain, even although they are at the top!

In helping to maintain the balance of nature, birds of prey play an essential part in this process and have been proven to be extremely sensitive to many forms of environmental change including chemical pollution, which can provide an early warning for humans. This makes them excellent subjects to study for understanding ecological processes and environmental health.

To take the Bonelli's Eagles as a bird that I have had a personal interest in for seven years, I see a slight increas in the wintering numbers. This could be due to various factors including climate change, less pesticides, and an acceptance from land owners, that losses of Red-legged Partidges, various duck species and the odd Norther Blad Ibis are in fact inevitable and completely natural. The number of people actively out in the field birding has also increased, so blatant incidents of poisoning has reduced and the Guardia Civil's nature branch, called Seprona, have been much more active in the last few years in bringing prosecutions for such illegal incidents, especially with Eagles.
Smaller raptor or birds of prey like Buzzards, Harriers and Kestrels actually reduce the number of rodents or large insects that reduce crops yields. In central Europe Common Buzzards are greatly encouraged to feed amongst the fields in the countryside and local farmers erect 'T' shaped poles for them to sit on and watch for rodent activity - in fact the German name for the Common Buzzard is the Mouse Buzzard (Mäusebussard) and also the same in Spanish (Ratonero común).
The increase in Common Buzzards in the UK it testament to increased awareness by the bird-loving public and education of those previously from the old school of 'If it's as big as a crow, shoot it!" Certainly the principle reason for the Hen Harrier's continued absence from vast swathes of northern England is illegal killing. More people in the UK should be watching those who are blatently active in this wanton destruction. Photograph them and report incidents to the Police!
Awareness and understanding are great and probably the most powerful tools we can work with to change the way people in Mediterranean countries percieve bird of prey. If we cannot change the mentality of some, for example the ridiculous superstitious belief they have in Scicily, that if you don't manage to shoot your first eagle by Easter, then your wife or girlfriend will be unfaithful to you. Perhaps if you didn't spend so much time out with the lads hunting and drinking, then there would be no reason for her to look for someone else.....

The inspiration that people get when they watch large birds of prey in the sky is quite magical and something that you remember. I never get tired of having such great opportunities on my very doorstepp and feel quite humbled by their beauty and agility. Approximately 390,000 people enjoy watching birds of prey at the RSPB’s Aren’t Birds Brilliant! sites each year.

The UK is still by far the Number One (pro capita) European - if not in the World, where individuals participating in birding is massive. The presence of UK birders does have an effect on the way peoples of southern European countries now think, particularly amongst hunters. The more of us out there with our binoculars and telescopes the better.
Legal awareness has certainly increased in the last ten years although you'll always have the 'cowboy' element playing with shotguns and taking pot-shots at anything that moves.
Stories appear regularly in the Spanish press about various re-introduction schemes here in Spain, such as the Iberian Lynx, Brown Bears and Wolves. Some are well recieved, others arrouse suspicion and ignorant comment.
Spanish TV is full of programmes about the richness and divesity of this wonderful and vast country. This interest flows over to reports of the success of Red Kite introductions in the UK and this undoubtably inspires the peoples of Europe to think more about their part in conservation and maintaining environmental balance as well as the whole question of cause and effect.
Here's what Nature England have to say about Red Kites:

"Northern Kites is the project that has returned red kites to the northeast of England after an absence of 150 years. It is part of a UK programme of re-introductions. The initiative, centred on Gateshead’s Derwent Valley, claimed a world-first in re-introducing kites to an urban fringe location. The project is managed by the RSPB and Natural England, in partnership with Gateshead Council, Northumbrian Water, The National Trust and the Forestry Commission, with additional funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and SITA Trust. Between 2004 and 2006, 94 red kites were released less than six miles from Newcastle City Centre. Birds first bred in 2006 and a self-sustaining population is now established. In the last three years, tens of thousands of people have enjoyed the kites and they are supporting local tourism initiatives."

It's the local tourism part that makes people look up and take notice. Using phrases like "Eco-tourism" and "Sustainable Tourism" seem to be the ones to use.

I don't mind the use of such over-used phrases at all or even being hi-jacked by the unscrupulous, as long as the environmental education continues and is supported positively by local and national governments.

Stephen Daly

* Bonelli's Eagle P.jpg (56.97 kB, 200x233 - viewed 1086 times.)

* Northern-Bald-Ibis-01-juv-0508.jpg (39.24 kB, 700x500 - viewed 1095 times.)
« Last Edit: December 11, 2008, 06:15:05 pm by Stephen » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2008, 01:59:08 pm »

A good read, Stephen, with lots of interest.  I'm glad to hear it's raining this winter as the reservoirs must be getting rather low. I particularly liked your comments about Italian hunters!

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The Andalucia Bird Society  |  ABS Birding forum  |  General Information Wanted  |  Topic: La Janda - When The Rains Stop, The Raptors Fly « previous next »

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