Wednesday 26 October 2016

House martins leave and Cranes arrive.

After a four month drought it’s finally started to rain, sadly too late for many southbound birds who missed the winged ants, and had to make do with other insects fortunately plentiful because of the remaining ponds from our very wet spring.  So the Flycatchers stayed very little this year, mainly pied, Spotted flycatcher only spotted a couple of times.  There were lots of  Whinchats and Redstarts around from mid-September but most appear to have moved on.  The Wheatear have held on until mid-October, which goes to show there must still have been plenty of food for them.
Our village was filled with House martins for several days on their southerly migration, stopping off to rest and refuel, catching small insects in flight with superb agility.  What a privilege it was to be able to watch them from my window!
Upstream at Puente del Congosto on the River Tormes we were treated to hundreds of Housemartin feeding on the church wall and later mobbing a Hobby who tried in vain to gain height over them. The Blue Rock thrush showed itself peeping from the castle tower and later on a rooftop: such a special bird, so very beautiful with it’s fine vermiculated feathers.  

Blue Rock thrush
You never know what you might see looking down from the medieval bridge to the river: Common sandpiper, Cormorant, Grey and white wagtail, Kingfisher and Crag martin were just a few of the locals recently.

And around there are the usual residents such as Black Redstart, Corn bunting and Chaffinch.
On a walk nearby we came across two interesting creatures: Eresus kollari the Ladybird spider and the Iberian or Bosca’s newt Lissitriton boscai. A tiny creature, and endemic to Western Iberia.
Eresus kollari
Lissitriton boscai
During the summer one hot evening there I saw a strange looking Melodious warbler, with a very big beak and bright orange legs.  Having showed the photo to my ringer friends and other birders some feel it isn’t a Melodious and  others that it is.  Anyone out there have an idea?

 The surprise recently has been the early arrival of the Cranes, which obviously didn’t stop off to feed in the maize fields of France as in other years: possibly because, like here, the crops have come late and are have not yet been harvested?  We were invited out for a ride on a boat on our local reservoir, to test the viability of taking people out birdwatching from a different perspective.  A very gentle speed and the possibility to stay more or less still in the water makes for a great platform from which to watch the birds on the shoreline or floating from a safe distance without disturbing them. 

Cranes on the shore
Little Egret
Here was someone in the middle of lunch: a tasty grasshopper.

We’ve had some interesting visitors on our local reservoir shoreline recently: Dunlin and Curlew sandpiper together with the more usual Little ringed plover.

The muddy surface also witnesses countless prints of mammals: wild boar, fox and badger all making an appearance.

wild boar tracks
We had a look under a nest of the now absent Black Kite to see if there were traces of their food.  Not surprisingly, we found mainly fish bones.  They are such good fishers!  We were more surprised to see that in the same tree, above and to the side of the nest and actually hanging from the underside of it were several Spanish sparrow nests.  Taking advantage of the protection they might gain from close vecinity to such a redoubtable hunter?  It would be interesting to observe them and see if they actually do coincide in their breeding.

A garden warbler flew into the house through an open window and took a few bumps trying to get out through the closed ones.  Eventually I managed to scoop it up and set it on the window sill to recover.  At first I was quite concerned for it but after about 15 minutes it perked up and flew off.
Songthrush and meadow pipits have arrived and the ‘quita meriendas’ or Colchicum montanum is out in full bloom.  Its local name (meaning snack remover) relates to it coming out at the beginning of autumn, when the days shorten, and so for the shepherds and farmers the late afternoon snack (merienda) is replaced by an early evening meal.
Colchicum montanum
The local vultures are back after breeding and can often be seen  circling or waiting patiently to feed on a cow carcass.

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