Thursday 29 March 2018

Iceland Gull

The 2nd Winter Iceland Gull at Goring Gap prefers to be "Billy no mates". Spending most of the time apart from the other gulls and thus being easy to spot. Though I have to say he goes missing quite a lot.

Nice to be out birding locally, the female Brambling at Pagham Visitor Centre and the Purple Sandpipers at Selsey providing some photographic opportunities.

Now back to sorting out some photographs from our Spanish trip.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Azure-winged Magpie

Every year, in the depths of winter, I sit and produce a list of the top ten birds that I would like to see, and photograph. Previous targets have been the Houbara Bustard and the Blue Chaffinch, amongst others. The list is prepared with a degree of reality, in that there has to be a fair probability that I can get to the location, the high Andes is not a place I am ever likely to visit. So, when I came across the Azure-winged Magpie I was taken in and it immediately went on the list. After two aborted attempts to visit the Coto Donana I finally made it and as Martin and I drove down from Seville towards El Rocio, amidst the Umbrella Pines on the Villamanrique road, three specimens appeared briefly. The cheer I let out was probably heard back in Seville.

I chose the title for this blog very deliberately, as the Iberian population of this stunning bird have been split off from the main population that stretches to the Far East. Back in 2003, taxonomists declared that the Iberian population would be henceforth known as Cyanopica cooki not Cyanopica cyanus, all based on a DNA difference of 6%. All very well, but no-one has come up with a common name yet. As Collins Bird Guide is my "go to" reference book for avian identification and in there it remains as Azure-winged Magpie  and so it is for me.

Now I wasn't leaving the photography of this bird to chance, there is a well known population of these charming birds at the visitor centre at El Acebuche. Furthermore they are fairly confiding, especially around the picnic area adjacent to the car park. So, armed with several loaves of bread we duly took station  at a picnic table and scattered some delicious morsels around - this resulted in - nothing, not a bird in sight. Somewhat disappointed we ventured into the reserve and the first birds we saw - AwMs, gliding through the trees, we gave chase and managed to get some reasonable records.  I commented to Martin that there must be at least ten birds present and at that very moment they took to the the air and I reckon they numbered thirty. Never was much good at estimating numbers.

Just admire that tail

We continued round what is a magnificent reserve, lots of hides and boardwalks, until lunchtime when the sun came out, an ideal time to return to the car park. This time a result, as our bread throwing attracted what can only be described as a voracious horde. Oddly enough "our magpies" meaning Pica pica - the black and white ones, weren't so successful as the AwMs were more than capable of driving them off.

Confident enough to come within a few feet - but lightning quick.

When food was available they constantly called to each other.

A voracious horde

The public drinking water taps were popular too.