Wednesday, 22 April 2015

SPAIN 2015- PART 2: Raptors

It time for the second instalment of my three-part blog on the recent trip to Spain which I took part in. This particular post is focussed on raptors- a family of species which featured quite widely in our travels within the country. Several of our raptor sightings and experienced were actually the highlights of the trip for many. Here

Lesser Kestrel
This species was relatively common over a variety of different locations. For a start, there was a large breeding population in the village that we were staying in- every morning there would be a flock of as many as 60 birds flying around, and many would do low fly-bys over the top of our villa roofs. We could see several nesting holes, and witnessed some cool behaviour such as copulations. Aside the village, we saw many in open farmland areas, and old abandoned buildings. We also saw a few passage birds, such as our day at Tarifa on the coast, when over 10 birds came in off the sea with a few Common Kestrels.

Griffon Vulture
This was another fairly common species on our trip, with birds appearing virtually all over the place. Our first morning in the country was particularly memorable, when we discovered that there was a carcass about 3 kilmoetres from our village, and during the space of an hour or so, we saw tens of birds flocking from all over to gather at a carcass not far from the motorway. There were about 200 birds in this gathering, with over 70 alone squabbling over the meal. Elsewhere, we had plenty of birds up in mountainous area such as Alcorocales (a scattering of flocks amounting toc. 210 birds), Sorcio and Llanos de Libar (movement of birds overhead of about 45 birds). We also visited a rocky outcrop of cliffs called Cierra de la Plata, where there were several birds on nests. On our last day in Spain, our visit to Tarifa produced a few migrant birds coming in off the straits. In the space of about 30 minutes, we saw a flock of 65 birds head north east along the cliffs, followed by a further 18.

Montagu's Harrier
When we travelled inland towards the rolling fields of barley, we discovered quite a few of these handsome circuses. The best place for this species during our trip was at Osuna, where we had perhaps 5 males and 5 females all flying around together in a small area, where it seemed likely that they were nesting. On our day at Tarfia, we also had two birds come in off the straits and head inland.

Booted Eagle
By far the commonest eagle around, we had birds all over the place during our travels. Partcilarly good places for this species included Tarifa, where it was a numerous migrant coming in off the sea (a total of around 150 were noted during our day at this site); Llanos de Libar in the mountains was a great place, where a passage of birds took place high over the peaks, amounting to some 50 birds; many birds were also seen over the coastal areas of pine trees, such as Cerro del Aguila.

Black Kite
This was arguably the most common raptor we saw- which fits into its global status as being one of the most numerous species of birds of prey worldwide, occurring on all but the Antarctic continent. We saw these birds at virtually every one of our sites, but the top locations are as follows: 
Tarifa: somewhere in the region of 150 birds came in off the straits during our time at this place, which roughly translates to about three hours of raptor-watching
Llanos del Libar: this mountainous area was good for the species, which was seen passing quite high overhead with the following South-easterly wind. We counted about 53 birds in 30 minutes.
Bonanza dry marsh and lagoons: over 30 individuals passed over this area, which were particularly numerous over the pine woodland

Short-toed Eagle
We saw this species in a whole different variety of locations, although usually records were of single birds. La Canada (1), Alcaidessa Alto (2), Alcorocales (3), Llanos del Libar (2) and TARIFA (about 72 passed through in the space of a couple of hours). A very smart bird which was great to see at point blank range at Tarifa, where there large size was particularly noticeable.

Bonelli's Eagle
We had this large raptor at a select few sites, one of which will have to be kept quiet for now due to a breeding attempt. It was good to see a pair from the balcony of our villa in Alcala de los Gazules, and we had further sightings of two birds at Sorcio.