Wednesday 11 June 2014

Where Vultures, Harriers and Bee-eaters live

I've been busy organising a stand at the first Birdfair to be held in Madrid next week. I got together a group of seven birding guides and eleven rural hotels and cottages to share a stand under the name of Goyarcyl: acronym in Spanish for Birding Guides and Rural Accommodation Castilla y León. The crisis has been hitting everybody hard so I reckoned that joining forces might be a good way to get good publicity without crippling costs.

So if you happen to be in Madrid between the 13th and 15th June, check us out at the Madbird fair.

Had a walk the other day to see if I could spot the Black Vultures. They're local and I'm hoping they might breed in the area. I didn't see any signs of nesting but I did see thirteen Griffons and three Black Vultures roosting in some Holm Oaks.
Two Black Vultures and one Griffon

On the way there were large gangs of juvenile Starlings, a Corn Bunting and a Thekla lark unwilling to move away.
Thekla Lark
Young Starlings
Corn Bunting
Sunday morning I set out to try and find more Montague's and Hen Harriers.

As there's an arable area just northeast of here I decided it would be a good place to start. Sure enough, I saw a male Montague hunting just next to a wheat field. A bit further on I saw a male Hen harrier make several swoops into some yellow brooms, but he came away empty clawed.  
The Montagu's fields

Unfortunately I didn't see them with food, so was unable to establish if they were breeding or not. I'll have to go back soon or any nests may run the risk of disappearing: many of the fields have already been reaped, and it won't be long before the others are too. Couldn't get a photo of them, but there was an obliging Lesser Kestrel on a cable...

Lesser Kestrel
There were lots of Lesser Kestrels, Kestrels, Black and Red Kites and a Short-toed eagle made an appearance.

Lots of white storks too.
Stork stalks prey
On my journey I came across several Short-toed larks on the dirt track: one seemed curious but not at all worried by me, and another two joined it, these had a much more rufous head colouring than the first. I also saw Calandria and Crested larks.
Very relaxed Short-toed Larks
It's a fairly treeless area, with cereal crops reaching for miles against a backdrop of the Gredos mountain range, still snowy on top.

In a small 'oasis' with Bulrush along a stream I saw Linnets, Stonechats and a Subalpine Warbler perched on a clump of rushes.

Male Linnet

Female Linnet
Subalpine Warbler
There was an adobe ruin, with lots of resident sparrows.

On my way home I saw over 50 Griffon Vultures in a field, calmly waiting and watching. 
Griffon Vultures
I made one final stop close to our village to see if the Bee-eaters were around and to my delight I was able to confirm a small breeding colony. They dig holes in sandy banks often very close to the ground.

They are a joy to watch.

Bee-eater palace

Colours of the Bee-eater
The flight of the Bee-eater

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