Monday, September 14, 2009

Frustrating birding in Spain!

Hi guys! Now I'm sitting on La Palma airport on Mallorca again, waiting for my flight to Lisbon and from there to Terceira later this afternoon. Had a few days hard birding in southern Spain...

Vulture food

Griffon Vulture

7th September
Left Sevilla around midnight between 6th and 7th and immediately drove the 2½ hours to Bolonia, once again accompanied by a nice DJ on the radio. Totally exhausted I managed to sleep until 10:00 after finding the utlimate sleeping position in my little Seat Ibiza. During the drive and night very strong easterly winds were blowing, and they would continue... for my three days it was practicly blowing something like 8-12 m/s all the time, except in the mountains where it was even worse. This of course made birding a little bit harder then I had expected. Started by checking the cave at nearby Sierra de la Plata but in vain. Observers on the site told me that only Little Swifts could be seen, while another observer I met told me that also White-rumped use the cave to sleep in. Continued to the Ojen Valley where I spent pretty much the rest of the day searching for Griffon Vultures, but had a hard time finding any on decent distances. Found some on a crag though and with them an interesting looking practicly all dark bird. Of course it didn't move at all during the hour I watched it - crap! :( Had a nice adult Bonelli's Eagle there though. Ended the day at a Griffon roost in Sierra de la Plata after a birder told med he'd seen a subadult Rüppell's Griffon there a few days ago. Around 50 Griffons came to the roost and gave wonderful views, but no Rüppell's...

Roosting Griffon Vultures
8th September
Checked the cave again early morning and had two Little Swifts leaving at dawn from the sole breeding site in Europe for this species! After that continued to the El Algarrobo watchpoint west of Algeceiras where there was absolute massive raptor migration! In a few hours I must have seen almost a thousand Booted Eagles, several hundred Short-toed Eagles and scattered pieces of Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Griffons, Marsh Harriers, both Kestrel Species, Sparrowhawks, Marsh Harriers, a Peregrine and an odd looking Griffon of some kind at rather close range! Characters pointing towards a subadult Rüppell's but the bird disappeared after only a few seconds never more to be seen. Crap again! Left the place after a few hours and went into the Ojen Valley again continuing my Rüppell's quest. Found a place with good movement of Griffons over the valley. Again saw two different possible Rüppell's but views weren't the best so I had to leave them unid'd. Frustration was growing inside me! Why couldn't I just get good views of a certain Rüppell's!? After this tried the agricultural plains at La Janda, but it was pretty quiet. A melanistic Montague's Harrier among good numbers of harriers was really nice though and a bird I had wanted to see for quite some time! Spent the evening in Sierra de la Plata, first at the Griffon roost and then at the cave again and had a lone Little Swift entering the cave at dusk, but again no Rüppell's Vulture or White-rumped Swift... Later that evening I ate at the Dogville Restaurant in Bolonia, and after seeing the waitress there I understood why Ola Elleström thought one of the highlights of Birdfare this year was the Andalucian girls. She was NAJS!

A bunch of turtle doves.

Montague's Harrier

Booted Eagle
9th September
Slept until 8:30 due to a minor disturbance during the night. I had obviously parked my car in a natural reserve and was forced to move by some guards, which cost me one or two hours of sleep... Visited El Algarrobo again and the first thing I saw when I came there was about a hundred Griffons jumping around on the ground about two kilometers away, probably feeding on a carcass. After a minute or so I picked out a small, dark Griffon with apparently plain dark upperwings among them and alerted nearby birders. A second later the bird jumped into the densest part of the flock and went out of sight. Moments later a cow ran across the flock and all Griffons went into the air. Panic! Where's my small dark Griffon!? Took me about five minutes to find it in the air, soaring far away in bad light. Still apparently smaller than the Griffons and lacking their striking contrast on the upperwing. The bird was coming closer and my pulse was going up a bit. It was actually gliding right at us when it... disappeared into a low cloud never more to be seen. ")/¤"%&"!(!"=?!!!! Now I was REALLY frustrated! This was just not my species apparently! A bit irritated I stayed on site for a while, once again enjoying good migration of mainly Booted and Short-toed Eagles. Took a short drive in the Jara Valley and in the Ojen Valley again in the afternoon, but without finding any concentrations of Griffons. Decided to try the watchpoint north of the ornithological centre at La Pena in the afternoon since there was also a feeding station for vultures next to the watchpoint. However, there was no fresh meet at the feeding point. Not many raptors were moving but suddenly about 40 Griffons came from the cliffs right towards me! They had spotted a carcass in the slope behind me and came in allowing really good views in flight. Once again, no Rüppell's... During late afternoon some good flocks of Black Kite were moving by and also a nice group of 17 Black Storks, while a local Peregrine was hunting over the nearby ridge. Suddenly I spotted a close all dark brown Griffon with a really striking white bar over the forewing, completely different to any other Griffon I'd seen. Or was it just light that made the bird dark? A second later it was joined by a Griffon and I could make good direct comparison between the two of them. This bird was the real shit!Apart from the underside coloration and the wing pattern, the size was really striking in this individual. A mini-me of Griffons! The birds soon glided north east and began soaring a kilometer or two away. The Rüppell's showed a practicly all dark upperwings while the other Griffons all showed contrasting upper wings in the good light. Even at that distance the smaller size was really easy to see compared to the other Griffons. YES! I felt I really earned this! Being happy of course, I decided to give the cave another try at dusk. Once again a lone Little Swift came to roost, but nothing else. After that drove to Sevilla where I spent a short night in the car before checking in to my flight and here I am now, waiting to go to the Azores.

Egyptian Vulture

Audouin's Gull and his amigo

Red-legged Partridges

Apart from the wind and the difficulties I had seeing Rüppell's Vulture, Spain was a really nice country to bird in. It was my first visit here and I will for sure be back, probably in spring next time when things aren't so hot, dry, dusty and windy.

Windmills were EVERYWHERE in Andalucia, about 100 only in this image. Will it look like this in Sweden soon?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Olof

    Nice blog and congratulation on the Ruppell's!
    It seems White-rumped swift is really difficult (if possible at all) at the Bolonia cave now (never saw them there) but they're usually easier in the plain, especially river and river mouth where checking through flocks of feeding swifts can be rewarding (that's how we found one on our last visit there).
    Also, there are other colonies of Little Swift in S Spain so the Bolonia cave is not the only (or even the largest) colony in Europe...
    Can't wait until corvo! will be fun to meet at last. Don't find to many mega until we arrive (October 9th).
    Pierre-André Crochet