Showing posts from November, 2010

An exuberance of eagles

There is nothing really quite like it. A sighting of one of our three big resident eagles species always, always brings excitement. Extremadura is one of the best places in the world to see eagles. The powerful and evocative Bonelli's Eagle (about 100 pairs here) I have mentioned several times in previous blogs, simply because for me it captures the spirit of remote, rocky valleys. The Spanish Imperial Eagle (see John Hawkins' photo) with about 50 pairs is noisy and combative, often seeking the opportunity for a tussle with a vulture. But it was the Golden Eagle (with about 125 pairs in Extremadura) which stole the show this week. The biggest of all three of the these resident species, it roams across large territories over the plains and mountains. The vast open spaces typical of Extremadura provide great hunting habitat. It was a breezy mid-November day, with the clouds breaking from time to time to bring sunshine to the steppes. We had already seen a distant pair of Golden E

Scores of sandgrouse

They looked at first like distant clods of earth - dark, round shapes just below the skyline. Watching them closely, one could see them shuffling around on the short sward, occasionally one rising slightly to flap its wings, a white belly and underwing catching the low morning sunlight. They were Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, a flock of probably at least 70 birds. They are very special birds, much sought-after by visitors and therefore always a pleasure to find and show to guests. They epitomise the open steppe-country for me. The wide expanse of the plains, just twenty minutes from our home, with its largely traditional mixed-farming rotation system, which allows the thin poor soil to rest for long periods is ideal for this species. They like either close sheep-cropped pasture or fallow rich in pioneer "weeds", as long as the vegetation is not too high- their short legs and necks mean that tall plants would curtail their visibility enormously. They are also quite faithful to partic