Friday 11 July 2014

A Stormy Start to July

July began with thunderstorms and torrential rains. We had rivers running through the streets of the village, bringing stones and sand and earth from the 'caminos' above. We spent three hours baling water out of the front hallway: it poured through a hole in the adobe and stone wall made by a family of crickets, who like to move in in winter.   

The rain has meant a reprieve for many of the Harrier chicks that haven't been found and protected, as it stalled the harvesting for another few days giving them time to learn to fly and leave the nest. As long as they can get out of the way of the machines they'll be safe and their parents will still be able to feed them until they can hunt for themselves. 

And our Stork chicks are now flying and the rain means they'll be able to gorge on plenty of insects and amphibians before their long trip back to Africa at the end of the month.

This year's three White Storks
We wondered if the Short-toed or Booted eagles were nesting close by here, as we often see them in the area, so we went for a walk up over the hill and down into a wooded valley of Holm oaks. Sure enough, at a distance of about 1 kilometre we spotted something white in a tree: it was a booted eagle chick, though we had to wait for a while before we spotted the parent eagle and could identify it.
Holm Oak forest
Booted eagle nest
After the storms and as soon as the sun came out again we went back to see how it was progressing. This time we saw two chicks, now no longer white and stretching out their little wings, no doubt eager to use them soon. We keep at a safe distance and watch from the other side of the valley, under the shade of a Holm Oak, but nevertheless the parent eagle is perfectly aware of our presence, always vigilant it appeared rapidly as soon as a Black Vulture came within range: it soon saw it off and almost knocked it out of the sky! We were surprised because the vulture is hardly a threat, but obviously the eagle was taking no chances.

Booted Eagle chick
Watching from across the valley
Last Sunday we celebrated Alfonso's birthday with an excursion to the Sierra de Gata, the mountain range dividing southwest Salamanca from Extremadura and reaching across to Portugal. We skirted south around the Sierra de Francia crossing the river Alagón, where we spotted a Spanish Sparrow nest hanging from the side of the bridge.  

Spanish Sparrow nest seen from above

We then went over into the province of Cáceres, stopping for a stroll through the pretty village of Robledillo de Gata, with its narrow streets and stone and wooden architecture.

Robledillo de Gata, Cáceres

It was cloudy and rained on the Extremadura side, but we drove through forests of Pine, Cork Oak, Broom and Tree Heather, and crossed back over into Salamanca where we stopped by the River Águeda to see the canyon. Perched on a rock overlooking the valley was the Golden Eagle. Majestic.
Cork Oaks
North side Sierra de Gata

River Águeda
Alfonso the birthday boy.
Below from the bridge we saw it again, and down in the valley below we watched a Dipper fly upstream, and Crag Martins flying constantly to and fro from their nests in the crevices.

Finally on our way home we stopped at the Laguna grande. Here we saw hundreds of Great Crested Grebes with chicks, some of them hitching a ride on mum's back...

Great Crested Grebe with chicks


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