Thursday 30 January 2014

Sierra de Tonda and a Red Kite survey

Over the last week we've been busy checking out new routes and participating in a national survey of Red Kite for the Spanish Ornithological Society SEO.

We had a walk through the Sierra De Tonda and the first 40 minutes we began to wonder what had happened: not a bird in site, not even a twitter could be heard. As we topped the hill we started to hear and see Blue Tits, GreatTits and Log-tailed Tits, and the Short-toed Treecreeper entertained us as it worked its way up various oaks. Then suddenly we saw a Hawfinch perched on a dead tree - it stayed long enough for us to get a good look but unfortunately not to get a good photograph. We don't see too many of those around here so it's always a nice surprise.
Where are all the birds?

Sierra de Tonda with Gredos mountain range

On Friday we got up early to do a count of Red Kite in a roost we'd identified in the area. At home it was a crisp winter morning. As we got to the trees in question we were enveloped by thick fog. Couldn't see a thing!
Invisible Red Kite roost
Rustic trailer
Cranes in fog

We spent the day doing the local population census which meant driving around very slowly and taking GPS readings whenever we spotted a bird. We covered over 40km but a lot of our area is difficult to access at this time of year unless you happen to have a tractor or a four-wheel drive which we don't, so it's a bit of a lop-sided census. We spotted 24 Red Kites during the day (actually we often see over a dozen just on our way to market at Guijuelo!) and to be honest I'm not sure how scientific it is to count birds that may well be the same ones you saw five minutes before.
Pico MambrĂș
Sta. Teresa Reservoir with sheep
On Sunday evening we went out with a group in Salvatierra to watch the cranes arriving at the Santa Teresa reservoir for the night. There's a perfect viewing platform under the ruins of the castle where you can set up telescopes or just watch with binoculars. We also took the group around the village to see the great variety of finches which are attracted to village life in winter: groups of Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Serin, Chaffinch and Linnet. The inevitable Black Redstarts bobbed up and down right on cue and the Stonechat delighted all by returning over and over to it's post. As we wandered a little out amongst fields we saw a group of Rock Sparrow on some electrical wire: their stripey heads showed well but you had to guess at the little yellow square below their chins. Suddenly we were rewarded by several cranes flying right above us, which was a reminder to us to head back to the reservoir and focus the scope on the shores as they started to come in. We stayed long enough for a lovely sunset but the falling temperature obliged us to return to the hotel for a cup of hot chocolate and some local cakes....

Overhead cranes
Cranes gathering on the shore

On Monday we went back to the Red Kite roost and watched 30 arrive and settle for the night. For a while they were joined by a pair of Black Vulture who circled overhead with the Kites before veering off no doubt to their own roost. Seeing them there makes me hopeful that they might be preparing to nest in the area. Will have to keep a close watch...

Red Kites begin to settle
Black Vulture overhead

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