Showing posts from January, 2010

Five days of brilliant birding

Even by Extremadura standards, the last five days have been hard to beat in terms of sheer birding excellence. It has involved some very different approaches to the art: two days of Winter Atlas survey work meaning walking and recording the number of individuals of every species encountered, two days of guiding where success is measured by the "wow" factor from one's clients and a few hours on the fifth day of simple birding - in this case going through a flock of wintering geese. The systematic atlas fieldwork yielded no fewer than eleven wintering Bluethroats in the space of an hour and a half, including some very smart males. There were interesting records of waders such as ten Curlew, 70 Avocet, 700+ Dunlin, raptors like Merlin, Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier and fascinating totals like 98 different Chiffchaff seen on my walk through the rice fields. In the woodland, on a bitterly cold morning, the very first bird seen was a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, followed by a

Murmurings of spring

Although spring is not really deemed to have started until mid-February around here, there are the first clear signs of its forthcoming arrival. I did see some House Martins and Barn Swallows at the turn of the year, feeding alongside Crag Martins at the reservoir of Arrocampo, but these may have been overwintering individuals. But the Swallows that I have seen over the last few days, both over the garden as well as in nearby Trujillo are much more likely to be new arrivals. Our guests saw a Great Spotted Cuckoo yesterday, which is always one of the first species to return from Africa. In sheltered, sunny spots the first wild narcissus should be in flower and so should the almond trees (although the ones in our garden are always a little late). What clinched it for me happened last night. Patrick and I were looking at Mars through the telescope: very bright in the eastern sky. Whilst outside in the dark, we could hear the Nightjar-like churring of Natterjack the evenings cha

Rain galore but still some good birds

Normally in mid-winter here we can expect some rain, but also long periods of settled fine weather which is a real joy to be out in - especially good for getting sightings of displaying eagles. This year however, we have had rain for almost every day over the last three weeks. I have just completed taking two guests, Peter and Vana, out birding for five days. We have had gale force winds, storms, torrential rain. Never before have I had to resort sitting in a steamed-up car to have lunch on one of these trips: we had to do it twice! Roads have been flooded, rivers are at full spate and the amount of standing water in the fields has been amazing. For a guide under these conditions, one faces the prospects with some trepidation to say the least. Effective birding time is severely reduced and some birds will be very hard to find. Fortunately the local weather forecast was accurate enough for me to plan the itinerary to fit in with what the weather would throw at us: it is best to be in op