Wednesday 3 December 2014

November - a watery month.

The cranes finally did arrive, in dribs and drabs, and can now be spotted grazing placidly amongst the Holm oaks or flying noisily in circles as they decide which spot to head for next. As the sun sets more and more of them start arriving on the banks of the reservoir and occasionally you can see a skirmish between this years' youngsters as they jump and flap and honk at one another. We'll be doing regular birding walks in Salvatierra de Tormes to see them coming in to roost throughout the winter. All this through a telescope from the opposite bank or well camouflaged of course: they won't accept the presence of humans and can all rise up and fly off within seconds if they're disturbed.

Cranes are not all we see in Salvatierra. As most of the village is in ruins, it's a fantastic place for Blue Rock Thrush and various types of finch that feed on all the thistle heads which grow there.

The strange insect we found (see last blog) is a male nymph of Thyreonotus bidens, the Two-toothed Bush Cricket.  It was identified thanks to Biodiversidad Virtual, a fantastic citizen science blog which identifies just about anything you can come up with within minutes, experts giving their precious time to educate neophytes like myself. I can't find a description of where these two teeth are: whether they're front teeth and if in that case they're one-up one-down or if in fact there are two on both jaws which should make it the Four-toothed Bush cricket. I also can't seem to find what an adult looks like. Any photos welcome.Apart from a few days with surprisimgly high temperatures November was a fairly rainy month. So not surprisingly we've were attracted to watery places. We spent one evening with a fellow birder at the south hide of the Laguna del Oso in Ávila. It was fairly dark with huge clouds looming but we were able to see large groups of Greylag geese, dozens of Shovellers and of course hundreds of Crane coming in to roost. And on top of a post an interesting Peregrine Falcon with a white patch on the back of its head.

Greylag geese

Another day we visited some old gravel pits towards the west which have been taken over by ducks, egrets, herons and various Marsh harriers, and watched two youngsters flying low over the wetlands, showing their yellow heads.

Little Egret

And I spent a couple of days with our co-guide Carol and dog Lisa birding around the village of Monleras near the Almendra reservoir, after which the Tormes river flows into the Duero. A truly gorgeous place.

There are some lovely drystone walls made from the local granite and there's lots of broom and mediterranean scrub as well as a stunning mix of Holm oak and Oak - an excellent place for seeing Dartford Warbler, Stonechat and at this time of year Rock Bunting, and where you can see Corn Bunting decorating the tops of trees like so many oak apples. 

Corn Bunting tree

Good open space for raptor watching too – Red Kite abundant right now and the resident Buzzard and Griffon Vulture very easy to see.  At the reservoir there were Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Common and Green Sandpiper and a very elegant Grey Heron, and in the summer I'm told it's a good place to see Black Stork.  


Great Crested Grebe
Green Sandpiper

Carol also runs the charming Albergue la Cabañuela there: a very welcoming, comfortable and economical hostel so it's a great place to be based for a nature holiday and there's also some fabulous local beaches and bathing spots....and at 30€ per night full board -yes, you read right: breakfast, lunch and supper included - you really can't go wrong.

And closer to home I was really pleased to see a small gathering of Greylag Geese on a local pond with a pair of Shelduck and several Shovellers.

Yesterday I watched a couple of Red Kite circling and doing acrobatics together..wonder if this is the beginning of a beautiful romance. There was a Kestrel in their flight path but nobody seemed to mind. 

Red Kites

And meanwhile the local sparrows gather for their meals at our bird-table. Check out the beak on the left: it's more like a raptor's! 

Waiting for breakfast.

Lastly I've got a new toy: a Canon PowerShot SX50 and I'm really excited about it. I expect it'll take a while for me to learn how to handle it but it'll be fun finding out and there's no shortage of subjects to photograph out there! 

No comments:

Post a Comment