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Peter
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« on: November 29, 2008, 10:47:10 pm »

As summer bids a fond farewell

As I sit down in front of my computer to write my take on things for the past three months it is raining outside and temperatures are feeling decidedly cool. My local Spanish friends are jumping for joy as the last five years have been officially labeled ‘drought’ years, so these rains are much needed and already you can see the lush pale greens of vegetation renewed, emerging beneath orchard canopies and in fallow fields. I had intended writing this note some two weeks earlier, but as good luck would have it, short tours to Morocco, the Doñana and local day trips have kept me away from my administrative duties! Now with these rains I am confined to the office and putting my time to good use writing various project reports, updating web pages and of course doing my autumn update here on the forum.

August produced some spectacular raptor migration with the most notable movements appearing towards the end of the month. Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Booted and Short-toed Eagles came through in big numbers with the odd Red Kite adding spice to the occasion. A single Marsh Harrier on the Rio Guadiaro was complemented by my first Squacco Heron for what seems like an age. Montagu’s Harrier became more frequent and by the end of the month it was rare not to see them making their way leisurely southwards. During the month I discovered a great area for Roller and Collared Pratincole with both Short-toed and Calandra Larks giving further reasons for visiting the area next spring. Apparently the area also has a small number of Great Bustard and judging by the sightings of both adult and juvenile Black-shouldered Kite, then this area will definitely be on my daily excursions next year! The month also produced a good number of Rüppell’s Vulture on coastal areas around Tarifa and later in September there were also sightings of White-backed Vulture (about time too!).

September started where August had left-off with raptor migration taking centre stage. Honey Buzzard and Black Kite numbers built rapidly through the first half and Booted Eagle numbers also increased. Of course, not to be out-done, Short-toed Eagles joined the party travelling south and their haunting calls became a feature of a birding day. The high meadow of the Sierra de Libar was now an excellent site to visit, not only were warblers abundant together with flycatchers and Common Redstart, but the area was now being visited daily by a pair of Golden Eagle and their fledged youngster. On one occasion we had the pleasure of watching the resident pair chase another adult from their hunting ground, whilst at the same time the juvenile was attracting the mobbing and playful attention of around 40 Chough! My ringing (banding) session for the month gave me the reward of many Sub-alpine and Bonelli’s Warbler, mostly juveniles and a few Firecrest, but one of my trainees managed to release an adult Hawfinch before it was ringed so a big black mark there, although considering its bill can crack a cherry stone, then I guess fear may have loosened the ringer’s grip!

I had been leading a group tour down to Jimena, Tarifa and the Doñana for the first week (trip report to follow soon in case members of the tour party were getting worried) and apart from enjoying a good bag of species it was pleasing to find the track at La Janda had been repaired and thereby making the area both accessible and more enjoyable. Being away leading a group in Morocco for twelve days meant a large slice of my autumn birding in my local area was impossible. However, life has its compensations such as seeing literally dozens of Eleonora’s Falcon hunting migrants, watching Black-crowned Tchagra and seeing several Bald Ibis – life can be tough sometimes.

I think that whilst the autumn migration is a great time to be out and about birding, it also has an almost depressing affect on me. All winter I long for the return of Bee-eaters with their beautiful plumage and distinctive calls, now I watch them flocking and departing Europe for the warmer climates of Africa knowing I will not have the pleasure of their company for at least another six months, sad. As if to brighten my mood a Merlin put in an appearance towards the end of the month, I think this is my earliest sighting as I am almost certain I have not seen them in my area before sometime in October! I had been watching a couple of Lesser Kestrel and a flock of Spotless Starling hawk flying Ants, when the Merlin suddenly joined these species and appeared to be hawking along with the rest of them. After a minute the Merlin, tired of Ants, made a dash for one of the Spotless Starling only to be thwarted by mobbing Lesser Kestrels! The whole episode made for great viewing and spectacular flight displays by all three falcons.

October can always be a bit of a damp squib in more ways than one; rain and periods of hard to find birds! Certainly this year the month so far has produced a fair amount of rain, but has also been warm. It has been hard work finding raptors with virtually all our Booted and Short-toed Eagles having departed to Africa. Bonelli’s Eagle and Golden Eagle are still around in expanded winter territories and in family groups, but during the course of November they usually reject the juveniles and these can disperse over vast distances. I again had a period in the first week of the month when I accompanied a small group on one of our short break tours to Morocco. Later I also had a two day tour in the Doñana. Both trips were extremely rewarding and the birds obliged for these tours including such species as Marsh Owl, Caspian Tern, Great White Egret, Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gull, Great Skua, Cory’s and Balearic Shearwater, Marbled Teal, Black Stork and a whole host of other great birds. Locally we have had the arrival recently of wintering Song Thrush and so far a singleton Redwing, Alpine Accentor and Ring Ouzel. We have also had Long-legged Buzzard, but this has been eclipsed by a couple of firsts for the local patch i.e. Pochard (no laughing, these ducks have never been recorded here before) and the star of the show Wallcreeper just up the track behind Montejaque going towards Libar. In addition we are now seeing very large numbers of Black Redstart, some of which will remain through the winter, but most will continue southwards.

Black Vulture has been seen around a feeding area near to Old Ronda, whilst a small number of Stone Curlew and Little Bustard were seen near to Torres Alaquim. So I guess I shouldn’t complain despite loosing our Bee-eaters and getting wet, we still live in an incredible area for birds.

Peter
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Peter
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2008, 05:09:17 pm »

With the autumn slowly, but surely, passing into winter, many of our lingering migrants have ventured further south seeking warmer climes. Now our winter visitors are increasing in number as temperatures in the northern and middle reaches of Spain begin to fall. As in northern parts of Europe, the first bird to bring news of winter’s cold front is the beautifully coloured and elegant looking Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. The Spanish call this wader Avefria and loosely translates to ‘bird of the cold’. Hopefully I won’t be seeing many Lapwings then! In Andalucia we are lucky to avoid the worst of the cold fronts and generally enjoy moderate temperatures during winter. Taking advantage of these warmer temperatures, our resident birds have now been joined by Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel, Siskin, Brambling and odd Black Vulture and Long-legged Buzzard. It seems that in the case of Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, sightings are becoming regular and this species has gone from being a distinct rarity to a scarce autumn and winter visitor. There are even reports of breeding near to the Tarifa area!

I am still managing the odd day’s work and visit my ‘favourite’ local area behind the white village of Montejaque as often as time allows. Here the hawthorn bushes are now frequented by good numbers of Ring Ouzel. These winter visitors arrive with a wave of migrants during October and although most pass-on to northern Africa, many stay to winter in this area. The large majority of those choosing to stay are of the race Turdus torquatus (originating from north Europe), but we also have the sub species Turdus torquatus alpestris (an alpine bird that also breeds in northern Spain), which winter in small numbers. It is remarkable that any T.t.alpestris winter here as the great majority winter mainly in north-west Africa, especially in the Atlas Saharien regions on dry and bare slopes or crests with juniper woodland. Joining these handsome birds this year are unusually high numbers of Redwing, certainly more than I have previously witnessed. The area high on this route behind Montejaque, known as Sierra de Libar, has been frequented by a family of Golden Eagle during autumn and the calls of the juvenile could often be heard resounding from the steep sided mountains that surround this high valley. More recently, and for a second time, I thought I was witnessing the pair of adults driving away another encroaching adult, but as the birds approached me, I could see the ‘other’ bird was a pale juvenile Imperial Eagle. Amazing, my first local sighting of this species for a couple of years!

I always find Black Wheatear a lot easier to observe at this time of year and reaffirming my idea on resident pairs is always a task I look forward to during this season. It is amusing to watch the antics of territorial pairs of Black Wheatear confirming their feeding rights by constantly chasing away Black Redstart, Stonechat and Blue Rock Thrush from favoured areas. Equally, a joy to the ears (cold as they might be) is the song and song flight of Blue Rock Thrush. These magnificent thrushes seem to sing at all times of year and, despite the best efforts of Black Wheatears, they can be frequently observed proclaiming their territories during winter.

Other birds which appear more confiding during this period are Rock and Cirl Bunting, although their habit of flocking outside of the breeding season obviously means you spot them more readily. Huge flocks of mixed finches are now common, feeding on fallow fields and the area near to Acinipo (old Ronda) allow close views of these and large numbers of Corn Bunting. This same area offers great chances to see Crested and Thekla Lark feeding alongside of each other. Another species which I managed to find in the almost down-land like habitat which surrounds Acinipo is Hen Harrier. The male of the species is spectacularly coloured and against an ink coloured sky, with its clear white under parts contrasting with black wing tips, can give an impression of an enormous gull species. It is also a very good time to find large flocks of Rock Sparrow, together with the huge flocks of finches; they also feed on open and fallow ground. These birds can be surprisingly difficult in the breeding season, as they tend to feed amongst Karst type habitats and you need them to pop-up on any prominent rock to see them clearly.

With further sightings of Wallcreeper behind Montejaque, this species has truly added itself to our winter bird list. Of course the bird is in winter’s dull overcoat, only joking, but you have to admit they look far more attractive in their summer’s breeding attire! I now wander the mountains here looking-up at every cliff face just to see if these super birds are present elsewhere. Apart from anything else, I now go around with a permanent neck ache!

Peter
www.spanishbirds.com


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Peter
For great birding and wildlife tours.
www.worldwidebirdingtours.com

Articles are published on my blog: http://spanishnature.blogspot.com/
For day tours in 'my' area see: http://spanishnature.com/serrania-de-ronda.html
john
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« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2008, 11:14:44 am »

Great stuff, Peter.  Your ‘favourite’ area behind Montejaque is really coming up tumps for you - I'm particularly pleased about that Wallcreeper as I've always suspected that they might be more frequent than records suggest.  I'm really looking forward to getting back there in mid-February and again in April - the latter trip with an old university friend who's never been to Spain,
John
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mike in Jerez
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2009, 07:14:55 pm »

Bee-eaters also migrate over Jerez at the back end of August. Sometimes you can see them , other times just hear that whirring noise and wonder why you can`t spot them! I`ve seen them perching on wires sometimes, and , after further investigation, discovered beehives not far away. Again, the place to hear/see them is my jogging route behind the Croft bodega.
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« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2009, 02:25:07 pm »

Life in the Freezer

Okay, maybe it isn’t quite so cold down here in deepest south Andalucia, but if you are used to higher temperatures, then the weather so far in January has been decidedly cool. In fact, up here in my mountains, we had one night of -5, so that has to qualify as ruddy cold.

One of the great incentives to get out and about during these early months is the territorial and displaying raptors. Wandering the track at Libar the Griffon Vultures fly-by in syncronised display and those perched on ledges get excited by the performance and accompany the fly pass with noises not dissimilar to honking donkeys! Both Golden and Bonelli’s Eagle are engrossed in re-establishing their territories and pair bonding. As in all things, the Bonelli’s appear to be acting aggressively, but after a time they separate and the male stoops and dives calling to his partner and you realise this is love in the fast lane. On Monday 12th of January, accompanied by the new ABS assistant newsletter editor (Robert Luecke), we counted no less than 4 Bonelli’s Eagle, over 100 Griffon Vulture, a Golden Eagle and a Long-legged Buzzard. Near to Serrato we managed a fine female Peregrine sunbathing on a nearby limestone peak. The previous week, Robert had Black Vulture here. On the Wednesday (14th) Robert headed to the Canete area and during the course of his travels he managed no less than 5 Bonelli’s and a pair of displaying Golden Eagle!

I ventured up to Sierra de Libar in the forlorn hope of seeing Wallcreeper, but I did manage Bonelli’s Eagle, Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel, Rock Bunting, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Lesser Kestrel, Black Redstart and Thekla Lark. Accompanied by friends it was good to be able to point-out a stunning showy male Dartford Warbler, normally confined to skulking in low scrub, this bird sat very obligingly on top of a rock. Crag Martins skimmed the cliff tops and several flocks of mixed finches were feeding amongst the hawthorn and field layer of dried thistles.

A notable aspect of birding here at the moment is the reduced numbers of both Meadow Pipit and White Wagtail. Certainly numbers are well down on the seasonal norm and I wonder if the recent cold front has moved birds further south? I am leading a group to Morocco for 3 days next week, so it will be interesting to see if numbers there are significantly increased.

Peter


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Peter
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« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2009, 03:51:35 pm »

Do you ever get one of those days, when sitting quietly and surrounded by the sheer beauty of nature, that a feeling wells from inside and creates a feeling of such tranquillity as to be almost spiritual? I had this experience today. Deciding to forsake the million things to do on the dreaded computer, I set-off for a tour via the Sevilla road to Montejaque, Benaojan and then to Indiana on the Rio Guadiaro. Prior to Montejaque, near to the famous ‘I don’t work’ dam I had a small herd of Ibex and tumbling through the blue skies above were passing flocks of Black Kite. On top of the pyramid shaped monte corto sat two Short-toed Eagles, looking strangely out of place perched as they were amongst at least fifty Griffon Vultures. Lesser Kestrel were calling and busy hawking insects just above the defunct dam with Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear sat in the gallery watching their mastery of the air. Crag Martins seemed more intent on playfully skipping across the contours of the many rock faces than seriously looking for food. After a brief, but highly satisfying lunch at the Bar Stop at Benaojan Station, I arrived at Indiana. Here, accompanied by the sound of water tumbling over the crafted round stones that form the riverbed, the bright sunshine reflected like jewels in the crown of the Rio Guadiaro and after some minutes I felt the hair on my neck prickle from a sensation of bliss. Little Egrets danced after fish in the backdrop of my view and Green Sandpipers ran comically along the water’s edge. From the rock outcrops of the riverbed, White Wagtails and a solitary Grey Wagtail hopped and jumped after insects  as they passed over their heads. It seemed that every overhanging bush or reed had its own Chiffchaff, that would dart from their perches and join the wagtails gorging on a most perfect day for insects. Occasionally a Cetti’s Warbler would burst into song and for a brief moment drown the sound from the rushing river. A flash of blue and a Kingfisher cut through my vision and awakened me from my slumbering watch. Probably just as well as I wanted to go further up river and check for a few more birds!

Parking the car after the second bridge on the river track I unloaded the scope and focused on a nearby bluff and managed to locate a pair of Bonelli’s Eagle sat lazily on a protruding bush, looking totally disinterested in any activity. Just by this parking area a stream flows into the main river and I watched my first Red-rumped Swallows casually inspecting the under parts of the bridge. They are such an attractive bird, more glide than flap than we notice in the more common Barn Swallow. They, or at least what I take to have been the male, were calling and singing, a comical sound that is more like musical notes created electronically on a computer keyboard! I also saw half a dozen Sand Martins (again a first for my patch this year) doing a fly-by with several Barn Swallows. Feeling the sun and a tiredness induced by a more than sufficient lunch, I made my way back to park beside the river. A Water Pipit, getting its first signs of a pink blush, sat on an exposed part of the riverbed midstream. Whilst watching this fine Pipit I noticed that it kept flapping and moving around as if avoiding some unseen phantom. Training my binoculars on the bird I saw a very large Carpenter Bee literally buzzing the Pipit. It made for a highly amusing interlude and definitely a case of the ‘insect bites back’. My final sighting before heading home was a pair of Little-ringed Plover. Now here I have to admit to a very serious shortcoming. In my advanced years and after birding for more fifty of them, then I am prone to bouts of laziness and not writing things down. This deficiency brings me to a question. Little-ringed Plover breed on this river, but isn’t it a tad early for them to be back?

All in all a good day and reassuring that all is well in my mountains. 8)

Peter


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Peter
For great birding and wildlife tours.
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Articles are published on my blog: http://spanishnature.blogspot.com/
For day tours in 'my' area see: http://spanishnature.com/serrania-de-ronda.html
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« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2009, 08:41:48 am »

Peter, it's a sheer pleasure reading your musings on this little outing.
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« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2009, 04:46:07 pm »

Time flies or is it my age?

A great plus to living and working around the Serranía de Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema is to know where the birds are at any given time and where to go according to local weather conditions. The area and its surrounds have to be one of the best birding hot spots in southern Spain. The choice of sites and species, at all times of the year, make it one of the most popular sites visited by nature tour operators and individuals (with an eye for bird) in Spain. My knowledge of the area, and in particular the variable weather conditions, helped several people get the best out of their time here during the beginning of May 2009. As with April the month has, so far, not really settled and we are still getting the odd day of low cloud and rain (much to the joy of the locals). A feature of the spring migration this year has been the on and off arrival of many of our summer residents. It has been strange to watch Bee Eaters Merops apiaster going through for almost 6 weeks, but only see the occupation of breeding sites take place over the last fortnight. Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus has been very late to arrive at traditional sites and at least one star turn for the summer, Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica, has failed to occupy many known and favoured areas. After six years officially declared drought years, we had substantial rainfall this winter and the consequence has been luxuriant growth to our vegetation, great for the wildflower enthusiast, but not so good if you are a Black-eared Wheatear requiring low field layers and bare areas.

During days when conditions have made birding difficult in the high Sierras I have tended to go to a couple of lowland sites. It is so good to report here how good Fuente de Piedra has been this spring after such a disaster last year. The spring of this year has seen the lagoon and surrounding scrapes with plenty of water producing great relief for the breeding Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus (some 20/25,000 are currently there) and migrating waders. Some notable birds seen there this year are White-winged Black Tern Chlidonias leucopterus, Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotus, several Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii and up to 7 Lesser Flamingos Phoenicopterus minor (reported to be breeding this year). It has been great to watch several wader species pass through in their full breeding plumage none more colourful than the many (brick red) Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea and watching displaying Ruff Philomachus pugnax has been both amusing and a privilege. Even the gull enthusiast could find solace so far from the coast with both Mediterranean Larus melanocephalus and Slender-billed Gull Larus genei putting in appearances. A solitary drake White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala has remained at one of the lagoons for a few months now and seems to like the company of the Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, often in the company of the males perhaps it prefers blonds! I have also managed a few excursions off the Sierras to the Jimena area and this month has been extremely good for the elusive Rufous Bush Chat Cercotrichas galactotes, always difficult I now have the perfect spot for them. In the same area I had high numbers of Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris, Melodious Warbler Hippolias polyglotta and some tremendous views of Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus wheeling their way northwards.

By now most of the summer residents are back on their familiar territories, whilst late northern migrants such as Whinchat Saxicola rubetra, Honey Buzzard and straggling Black Kites Milvus migrans continue to make their long journey to higher latitudes. A surprise sighting for me on the Rio Guadiaro was 3 Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides and all this whilst watching Wryneck Jynx torquilla, Melodious and Olivaceous Warbler Hippolias opaca! Little-ringed Plover Charadrius dubius are sat tight on their eggs and our Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila pennata are all very busy feeding young, although they continue to be easily distracted by Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus and any other raptor that has the bare cheek to wander too close to their nest. It was amusing for me to watch a male Bonelli’s Eagle getting some of his own medicine near to Cueavas by receiving the unwanted and persistent attention of 2 Raven Corvus corax. Higher in the uppermost reaches of the Llanus de Libar Woodlark Lullula arborea are now being accompanied by fledged young as too are Stonechats Saxicola rubicola. Around the villages young Swallow Hirundo rustica can be seen flying around the rooftops with both Pallid Apus pallidus and Common Swift Apus apus as company. Cuevo de Gato is always an attraction at this time of year with its large colony of Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba and large numbers of Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris, strangely absent but present further down river is Golden Oriole. Apart from the ever present Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea, it has also been a feature of this site to see Dipper Cinclus cinclus and I guess this is due to the recent cleaning of the river (the sewerage plant in Ronda is at last functioning). The high area of the Alta Genal has produced great days out this month with the discovery of a pair of sub-adult Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos attempting to breed. Whether these two youngsters will be successful remains to be seen, but they certainly add to the many reasons for visiting this wonderful route. Along the rocky areas of this route is good for Blue Rock Monticola solitarius and Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis, Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura, Black-eared Wheatear, Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax and many raptors.

It will soon be time for me to get to grip once more with ringing adult Subalpine Sylvia cantillans and Bonelli’s Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli and before I know it (age has this affect) I will be concentrating on autumn migration!

Peter  8)


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Peter
For great birding and wildlife tours.
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Articles are published on my blog: http://spanishnature.blogspot.com/
For day tours in 'my' area see: http://spanishnature.com/serrania-de-ronda.html
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« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2009, 08:19:01 pm »

Hi Peter

It's always a pleasure reading your pieces.  I passed you on the road yesterday and only realised it was you when I was alngside.  Sorry about that but I wouldn't have wanted to intrude anyway as it looked as if you had customers with you.

This morning, I saw a male Golden Oriole in the almond tree in the Hotel Cueva del Gato car park.  It didn't stay long, of course, but it's a good sign, further evidenced by calls from at least two others in the immediate vicinity just to the left of the car park as you face the cave.

(Pssst.  Thanks for the tip about the H2O Bushnells in Ronda.  Bought a pair of 8x42 last week for €120.)
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« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2009, 10:06:16 am »

Pleased you are happy with the binos Tony. I wll be posting here soon with various updates on my local patch, although with excursions outside to the Osuna and Marchena areas it now covers a huge area!!  ;D

Peter
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« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2009, 06:45:52 pm »

Cold, wet, hot and sticky!

June has certainly been a month of contrasts regarding our local weather, from cold days and thunderstorms to hot days and balmy nights. It has been unusual for the month to be so unsettled. The landscape underwent its normal changes in colour going from vibrant greens, interspersed with dazzling patchworks of multi coloured flowering plants, to dry and crisp browns and beige. Harvest of the cereal crops is well underway and a hush has descended upon the normally vociferous male birds of our mountains. Many adult birds can now be seen foraging in earnest to keep pace with the demands of their broods, whilst any standing water attracts insect and bird to quench a thirst induced by warmer days. It is a time of year when you can feel the urgency in nature to procreate and take full advantage during a time of plenty.

For different people there will have been differing highlights to the month here, but certainly for me the discovery of a fine pair of adult Egyptian Vultures in the higher reaches of Llanos de Libar will remain a moment to treasure. I even had a sub-adult in the same area and it is such a good feeling to know they remain in the area and are hanging-on despite so many pressures on their very existence. The pair of young breeding Golden Eagles seem to have been unsuccessful and I have not seen them in the area of the nest for a couple of weeks now, hopefully with another year’s experience they will try again next year. Whilst both Northern and Black Wheatears seem to be enjoying a good year the very low numbers of Black-eared Wheatear in their normal breeding grounds is cause for concern. Another bird that seems to be down in numbers is Rock Thrush. Birding always seems to produce surprises and this year is no exception, I discovered a new site for the locally very rare Spanish Sparrow and after no early arrivals Western Olivaceous Warbler is back in apparently greater numbers than last year. White-rumped Swifts have obliged me more this year than any other and Lesser Kestrels are showing signs of an increase. It is heartening to be able to report the safe fledging of Bonelli’s Eagle at 4 of the nest sites I kept watch over.

June keeps me pretty busy guiding folk in the area and this year has seen most days spent out and around in my local patch. I am sure most will have enjoyed not only the birds, but also the huge variety of butterflies seen this month. We have also had many a day with good sightings of Ibex, Red Deer and an exceptional view of Mongoose. Friends have had the pleasure on most days of seeing the magnificent Ocellated Lizard, a fearsome reptile that can grow to very large proportions! Colour and high value has figured highly among the birding during the month with Roller, Golden Oriole, Kingfisher and Bee eater providing the Oooo-Aahs among fellow travellers. Elusive or more correctly skulking birds such as Dartford, Sub-alpine and Spectacled Warbler have been very obliging of late and Iberian Chiffchaff seems to be more conspicuous or plentiful this year. Thekla and Woodlark seem to have had a good year with Orphean and Fan-tailed Warblers holding their own. An area full of surprises has been the eastern end of the Zahara reservoir where both Reed Warbler and Whitethroat have colonised the luxuriant growth of Tamarisk, but the greatest surprise has been the sighting of a Rufous Bush Robin.

Peter  8)


* Orphean-Warbler.jpg (48.74 kB, 240x164 - viewed 1009 times.)

* Rufous-Bush-Robin1.jpg (53.13 kB, 240x164 - viewed 957 times.)
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Peter
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« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2009, 11:53:13 am »

Always a great read Peter and beautifully written. Like the photographs very jealous.

Derek  ;D
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gerry oneill
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« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2009, 04:12:52 pm »

Hello,
I am an Irish birder who will be spending 2 weeks aug 30 to sep 13, ba migrsed in Mijas  mountain area at Alhaurin Golf apartments.I am looking for info on any sites for the following birds otherwise my wish list....
red necked nightjar,ring ouzel,bluethroat,little swift,white rumped swift,eagle owl,lesser spotted woodpecker,woodlark,bailons or little crake?,duponts lark,pin tailed sandgrouse,rufous bushrobin
orphean warbler,trumpeter finch
alpiine accentor??
Any info on an of the above would be of great help,I will be doing day trips south to Tafira for migration etc..
All the best Gerry o neill
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harryabbott
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« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2009, 01:40:26 pm »

Hi Gerry,
This is one of the disappeared postings so I'll redo it in brief as you may already have read it.
Basically RN nightjars right beside where you are staying, I see them regularly late at night, when there is no other traffic, on the tarmac road from Alhaurin to Mijas.
Also know they are at Los llanos ...a heathland type area close to the Hotel Cine (this is the old BBC studio complex for the filming of El Dorado) which is towards Coin from where you are staying, also very close to you, only about 3 miles or so from your golf complex. From the Hotel Cine walk downhill and you will come to the area of macquis at the edge of the pine forest, also lots of wild boar there if you are interested.
Harry
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Peter
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« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2009, 09:28:48 am »

Autumn Shadows

It’s amazing just how quickly time seems to flyby. It was only yesterday when summer’s visit painted our skies in the deepest of blue and softened the rough hues of our mountains with shimmering haze. It was only yesterday when Black Kite, Honey Buzzard wheeled high in their thousands gathering to make their southwards pilgrimage to Africa. But now our autumn has abruptly cast her door wide open and the days seem grey, trees baring their skeletal shapes, where once they had been adorned in many hues of green. It’s a time where nature takes a rest, where life seems to move along at a leisurely pace and prepare itself for the harshness of winter.

A lazy sun casts deep shadows on the hills and mountains of my landscape giving a velvet texture to the high slopes, but Bonelli’s Eagle are already pledging themselves to their partners, ignoring the message of winter and preparing already to reaffirm their bonds of parents to be. Late departing Barn Swallows still chatter and busy themselves over our local river, whilst newly arrived Chiffchaffs hawk insects from every vantage point aligning the river’s edge. It is here where winter will first be felt with the cooling waters spreading their mist and clinging to all that are unable to escape its reach. Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper use this river as a highway to warmer climes, but some are attracted to spend winter here and lend character to a day’s foray by birders, their constant bobbing and strutting combining to perform a dance to entertain the observer, a performance enhanced by a watery reflection.

In the higher reaches of the surrounding mountains, Ring Ouzel have at last arrived in good numbers and are busy raiding the horde of Hawthorn berries that are so bountiful this year. Song Thrush and an occasional Redwing join the harvest, whilst Alpine Accentor put in brief appearances before vanishing behind the rock strewn slopes beneath high mountain crags. A Mistle Thrush performs a forlorn defence of its chosen fruit tree and is distracted; overwhelmed by sheer numbers of marauding Ring Ouzels, whilst large flocks of Spotless Starlings join-in the sacking of the bird’s chosen cache. And all played out beneath the ever watchful eye of a Sparrowhawk, that has taken to the valley as a likely winter’s retreat. Crag Martins skip the rock face and mock the Sparrowhawk with twists and turns unmatched by their would-be foe. In the high grasslands, Meadow Pipits tiptoe and are joined by ever increasing numbers of White Wagtail, where Water Pipits have recently arrived to feast on various larva in the soft grounds surrounding small pools of the Llanos de Libar.

With an optimistic gaze, my eyes are always drawn skywards for autumn and winter raptors. The area can have an attraction, even a mystical lure, not just for me, but for the wanderings of such species as Black Vulture and Imperial Spanish Eagle. For the most part, these scarce birds tend to be juveniles, displaced by the sudden chastening of their parents. Lost souls searching for their place in an unforgiving world, they must find a niche and wander far on a journey of discovery. Merlin and Hen Harrier put in fleeting appearances, whilst individuals can also take-up winter residence. Small populations of resident Lesser Kestrel inhabit the rocky crags of the Montejaque area and their numbers appear to have increased, no doubt milder winters having assisted them with finding food. Golden Eagle is another species increasing and often rewards my diligence, whilst scrutinising the circling clusters of Griffon Vulture, a practise regularly enacted when looking for raptors, many birds of prey seem attracted by circling Griffon Vultures and normally these take the high space above these large and apparently intimidating vultures.

Peter  ;)
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Peter
For great birding and wildlife tours.
www.worldwidebirdingtours.com

Articles are published on my blog: http://spanishnature.blogspot.com/
For day tours in 'my' area see: http://spanishnature.com/serrania-de-ronda.html
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