Saturday, May 6, 2017

La Serena birds

We spent four days working in La Serena in southeastern Badajoz. It was actually pretty good. Good numbers of sandgrouse and larks, monty's and pratincoles, but few bustards sadly. Here are some photos I took during the days we were there. Quite many photos actually. Yes, I do work!
Let's start with some steppe birds for which I came to Iberia. First things first. King of the steppe, male Great Bustard:

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse are a new feature in our counts - they are absent from Portugal. Noisy flocks are seen flying to drink in the morning and evening too.

Calandra and Short-toed Larks were present in high densities in areas of short grass. This is a singing male Short-toed Lark:

Thekla Larks are found here on the rough rocky hillsides, away from dehesa / montado:

Zitting Cisticolas were present in much lower densities in dry La Serena compared to lush Alentejo. This is the first one I bothered to photograph this trip, a baby:

We found Collared Pratincoles breeding in several sites, in dry fields not far from water. Always a treat to watch and photograph.

Group photo with Little Ringed Plover and Crested Lark

One species that seems to be in BIG trouble is European Roller. We have been a month in Iberia now, and have seen a total of 6 birds! Something seems to be terribly wrong. What has happened to them so quickly? Eurpean Roller was recently downlisted from NT to Least Concern. My gut feelings is that this listing is horribly wrong. I photographed a pair I found breeding in an old house north of Castuera. Rockin' and rollin'.

Stunning birds

Red-billed Choughs are funny birds. They are found here is small numbers, are were surprisingly shy and difficult to photograph.

Now to some raptors. There are lots of raptors in La Serena. Especially vultures, which is not surprising given the incredible livestock density.

Sheep grazing with Castillo de Puebla de Alcocer in the background - see below

We saw only two Egyptian Vultures in La Serena, which is worrying too, but Griffons and Black Vultures were present in good numbers. Fences every direction you look...

Black Vulture

Eurasian Griffons

Short-toed Eagle - quite a few of them

Montagu's Harriers were seen everywhere, really important work done by ANSER to protect their nests. I didn't photograph any in La Serena. But this Marsh Harrier just insisted to get papped. I am actually not sure about its age and sex, need to do some homework. Not straightforward.

On 3rd May I finished work late. When I drove out of the field, I noticed this male Little Bustard singing in soft light post sunset. I loved the pastel colours of the dry grass and stopped to photograph him. Have I said before that I can't get enough of them?

Little Bustard

After I was done, I was sure it's the end of my day and returned the camera to its bag on the back seat. After a few minutes I was surprised to flush a harrier in half darkness. A quick look showed the distinctive boa of a Pallid Harrier! A rarity in Spain, I knew I had to get a record shot. The harrier flew away in haste, mobbed by a local breeding pair of Montys. I frantically grabbed my camera and fired off some shots in wrong settings. Most photos came out completely blurry or dark, but few are just about enough for identification. Sweet.

Pallid Harrier - 2cy female. Looking up towards the aggressive monty

It had a good meal apparently - full crotch

Diagnostic pattern to primaries - very pale wingtip compared to monty

And then it was gone, never to be seen again

After dark action didn't end. We found several singing Red-necked Nightjars in funny habitat here. We also saw several Eagle Owls sitting above the road north of Castuera. One night when we drove back we found a large chick (or 'chicken' as some locals call chicks) sat in the middle of the road. I slammed the brakes, and we relocated him to a safer spot away from the road. The ginormous parents watched us from above. Incredible experience.

One afternoon after work we visited Castillo de Puebla de Alcocer. I was told that White-rumped Swifts may occur there. Not yet. But the view from up top is breathtaking. 

There was a constant movement of local raptors, often at eye level, including this Black Vulture:

Lots of nice little birds were seen around the castle. Rock Buntings are lovely, aren't they?

A pair of Blue Rock Thrush breeds in the deserted cafe up there. The azure male brought to the nest a young, but still pretty big, Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus):

This leads me to my next post, that a-typically will be dedicated to non-birds!

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