Thursday, February 26, 2015

Last day in Extremadura - and back home

The closest I got to Spanish Imperial Eagle this trip - some injured birds at the rehabilitation and education center at Sierra del Fuentes in Extremadura. Will try again in late March.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Nice day in Extremadura

Spent a nice day birding and working in Extremadura (the perfect combination?). I met up with two local birders from Merida, Carlos and Angel, with whom I will be doing fieldwork later on in spring. They courteously took me around in the morning to some nice sites south of Merida. We first checked an agro-steppe site - Finca Palacio Kemado. It was very cold but pretty good with 6 Little Bustards, several Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Black-winged Kite, many Calandra Larks and few Short-toed Larks, and in nearby open woods we had some early migrants. Highlight for me was a Western Orphean Warbler, and we also had Cuckoo and Whitethroat.
Our next stop was the mountains near Matachel and Hornachos Mts. We kept our eyes up to the sky most of the time as this is a good area for raptors. We had Golden and Bonelli's Eagles, and about 15 Black Vultures, but we didn't find the hoped-for Spanish Imperial Eagle. We had a few Lesser Kestrels as well.

Black Vulture

Pretty scruffy

Thekla Lark

Lots of eagle-food around - Red-legged Partridge

After saying goodbye to the guys, I followed their advice and headed over to Castilla Alange, to look for Black Wheatear. I hiked up the rocky hill to the castle, and walked and searched all over the place, but no bloody wheatear was to be seen. There were some other typical mountain species - 1 Alpine Accentor, 1 Rock Bunting, some Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Sparrows and Crag Martins. 

Blue Rock Thrush

When I reached back down there was again some good raptor action low overhead. Nice to see an adult male Bonelli's Eagle with a 2cy female (his daughter from last year?).

Bonelli's Eagle - adult male

With Crag Martin

Bonelli's Eagle - 2cy female. Interesting how immaculate the plumage is, no wear at all.

And then they interacted a bit - the juvenile chased after the adult: 

 Very close size comparison

Eurasian Griffon

Castilla Alange

How I missed flowering almond trees

Monday, February 23, 2015

Portugal - Peniche

I am in Portugal now for a few days of meetings. Had a very long day today - drove from Campo Maior in the east all the way to Peniche in the NW. I met one of Portugal's Great Bustard experts who lives there. Managed half an hour of driving along the coast after lunch. Very impressive, wild coastline. Quite many birds around - many gulls (mainly yellow-legged, 1 med), some Cory's Shearwaters, a few Shags, Gannets etc. 

Yellow-legged Gulls

I was very pleased with myself for finding a Glaucous Gull at the fish harbour - in fact a much-desired WP tick. Later on I found out from local birders that there are three there...

Glaucous Gull

Peniche beach. In reality the horizon was straight - this is a panoramic artifact...

Not far from Cabo Carvoeiro, the westernmost point of continental Europe, Berlenga Island in the back:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

No glauc no glory

At last managed to get out this morning after two very busy weeks indoors. My main target was to see Glaucous Gull - the last remaining easy WP tick for me in the UK. There have been several reported over the last few days, but I was slow and failed to connect with the easier ones at Sheingham, Cromer, Cley etc. Today I followed up reports from yesterday and birder along the east coast - Horsey, Winterton etc. Of course there was no sign of a gingery brute gull (will have to wait for another occasion), and in fact not too much at all. One Black-throated Diver off Horsey, 4 flyover Snow Buntings at Winterton, some geese and that's it.

Sanderlings among lazy seals