Friday 29 April 2016

Bee Eaters and Vultures

Never in a month of Sundays did I ever imagine that I would ever write a heading like the one above. The Bee Eaters are charming birds, their calls heard long before they turn up and when they arrive you are suddenly amongst a flock of swooping colour. On the other hand the Griffon Vultures are impressive in a different way, they seemed to be everywhere and because of their sheer size, dominate the skies. During our week's holiday they became the bird that was taken for granted, even Liz, who scanned the skies whilst I was snapping away got to the point where the response on finding another bird was - "Grifffon"  - meaning just another GV and we would like something different - please.


The Griffon Vultures were "Big Brutes" that made no sound and threaded their way through the myriad of wind turbines with ease. Finally some came frame-filling close so I put the camera down for a while and watched them.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Purple, Night and Squacco Herons plus Swampies

We managed to find four species of Heron, none of them as numerous as I expected and the Purples were pretty difficult to capture as they were so flighty. Stopping the car was enough to put them on high alert, any movement and they were off.

Not the best of shots but definitely better than none!

With the water levels dropping rapidly the herons were more visible, I think that in the earlier part of the week they were in the reeds feeding, now they had to come out to get to the grub.

This chap stuck out like a sore thumb and I never expected him to hang around once we had drawn up opposite him. He never moved for ages but he was definitely on the hunt, finally managing a catch - not sure what it was - frog or fish. Rather than digest it there he flew to a tree close by on our bank. I crept up on him and,as normal he was right inside, well covered, with another two Night Herons for company.

We had just one Squacco Heron and this is all I managed - perhaps better luck next time.

The Purple Swamphens were great fun, as long as they had a couple of reeds as cover then they totally ignored you. If you came upon them when they were out in the open then they became extremely nervous.



Tuesday 26 April 2016

Spoonbills, Cattle Egrets and Glossy Ibis.

Having never been birding in Spain before I was totally unprepared for the numbers of each species present. At home a Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret and even a Spoonbill causes something of a stir locally. Here, on the marsh at La Janda were literally hundreds of each species, Cattle Egrets especially so, there must be many thousands present throughout the whole of Southern AndalucĂ­a.

Of course the key is the marsh itself, well what remains of the marsh. It was drained for agriculture over a period of a hundred years, an activity that was completed back in the sixties. If there is a wet winter or spring the birds turn up. Whilst our holiday was damp and the old marsh was flooded in parts, the human inhabitants of this area fear that climate change will bring the dry desert environment of northern Africa to Spain, not a pleasant prospect.

The Spoonbills preferred the mud in the canals and the drowned rice fields, flocks of 40+ birds were numerous but oddly enough difficult to get close to. Individual birds on the banks of the irrigation ditches were much more obliging. One bird that we approached in the car just stood and watched as I pointed the lens at him and then promptly tucked his bill between his wings and went to sleep.

This adult showing the shift into breeding plumage, bushy crest, ochre breast patch, red throat patch and yellow tip to bill.

This juvenile far too busy feeding to pay any attention to the photographer

Getting out of the car or any attempt to get closer usually resulted in this behaviour.
The Cattle Egrets were truly ubiquitous but the breeding colony on La Janda was something special, really close quarters, in fact too close for 300mm lens. The noise was something else and I guess later in the season the smell might be a factor not to be ignored. Within the space of three days the size of the colony increased dramatically and was also swelled by the presence of good numbers of Glossy Ibis. Locals estimate 600 breeding pairs use the colony - can't argue with that as they were literally everywhere.


Glossy Ibis were numerous and often in flocks up to 20 strong, however they were just pairing up and selecting nest sites. Watching these two exchanging twigs was very entertaining.

As the water levels dropped on the rice paddies more birds came in and seemed to be finding plenty to eat.

Nice to see the glossy plumage, most of the birds I have seen in the UK have lacked this quality.