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Thursday, 24 December 2020

2020 VISION

This year 2020

We hope you are well and that you and yours have not suffered first-hand the horrible effects of Covid.  Alfonso and I are well, our privileged seclusion in the depths of rural Salamanca having had many benefits, not least a most remarkable spring with birds coming close to the house and the surrounding countryside free of the influence of sheep and cows eating up all the amazing wild flowers including fields of orchids.. (see last blog).

The wet spring and early summer brought bumper cereal crops and plenty of good breeding places for the Hen and Montagu’s harriers, so many hours were spent in the field locating nests, but lack of support from the authorities meant once again spending valuable time finding and convincing local farmers not to harvest before the chicks fledged - the Montagu’s in particular as they are late breeders – and in some cases to no avail: some farmers failed to notify in time and nests were lost to the harvester. 

Looking for the harriers

About to find a Montagu's nest
Four Monty eggs
Partridge
Marsh harrier hunting
Hen harrier
Montagu's harrier
Kestrel
Female Montagu's harrier
Iberian hare
Male Montagu's harrier
Male Montagu's harrier
Black kite
Spanish yellow wagtail Motecilla flava iberiae
Three Montagu's chicks

The heat of July and August and the influx of unmasked visitors to the villages from Spain’s capital cities kept us indoors most of the summer, avoiding the crowds, and venturing out for people-less walks in some of our favourite spots.


Bee-eaters
Hoopoe
Black vulture
Black-eared wheatear
Black-eared wheatear

Little and Great egrets and black storks
Black storks
Banks of the Yeltes river

Ocelated lizard
Short-toed or Snake eagle
During July David Lindo came over to resume the Fam trip which had to be suspended in March because of Lockdown.  I took him to the Sierra de Francia and Arribes area, and I’m sure he was pretty impressed..
At Miranda del Castañar
At Hotel Porta Coeli, San Martin del Castañar
In Arribes del Duero
With co-guide Carol (second left) and Clara and Mila from Hotel Mesa del Conde

By mid July the Montagu’s chicks were almost ready to fledge, but the farmers wanted to harvest, so it was time to go in and fence off the nesting area to protect them..
Soon to fledge Montagu's chicks

Fenced in to keep out terrestrial predators
Alerted by a birder friend we went to see a large group of stone-curlew as they gathered near a pool.  These pools, often artificially made for the cattle to drink, are a great place to watch as they can attract Sandpipers and Kingfisher amongst many other birds..

King fisher
Iberian magpie
Green sandpiper

Stone curlews
Woodchat shrike with young

In September we resumed some of our outings with people from the region - travel restrictions falling into place after a second wave of post summer infections – with strict safety protocols in place such as hand cleaning with gel, facemask, distancing and disinfected binoculars. We overcame the problem of shared telescopes with a simple but handy eyepiece cover for individual use, made out of plastic bottles, dismantled and disinfected after each outing but reusable except for a small piece of cling-film which is discarded. Did the trick and avoided having to use nasty sprays.



Home-made safety cover for scope

In November we had a lovely long weekend away in the Sierra de Francia, with long walks on moors and in chestnut and arbutus forests, not far from home but just what was needed.
Fly agaric




Now the Cranes are back though in lower numbers, having had an unsuccessful breeding year due I believe to drought in the north.  Many couples are without chicks.  We saw one individual which was ringed: it turns out it’s from the Czech Republic. 
Chick with adult

Ringed crane

This has been a difficult year for all: let’s hope that in 2021 we can put this behind us and work to heal the planet enjoy living in harmony with its inhabitants.

Alfonso and Vega
Stay well and have a happy festive season!









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