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Showing posts from February, 2012

Hallo Lesser Kestrels..Goodbye Cranes

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On Saturday 18th February I saw the first Lesser Kestrels of the year. Two of these compact little falcons were gliding over the main square of Trujillo, wheeling over the roof tops of the medieval quarter. Later that same day there were others coming to land on the tiled roof of the Bull Ring on the outskirts of the town, where last year no fewer than 27 pairs nested. Standing to the west of the building in the afternoon, the sinking sun behind one, this is a splendid way to end a day in spring and summer, watching the Lesser Kestrels returning from their foraging trips to the plains, circling, landing, giving their distinctive soft chattering call and tucking themselves into the spaces between loose tiles. A few days later, more birds had arrived and we watched a particularly amorous pair copulate three times during about fifteen minutes, the male making a distinctive thin high-pitched call. This was a particularly fine looking male too, with its peach-coloured underparts, with just…

Cold Birds

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A rather nasal "cheee-aw" cut through the crisp morning air: the unmistakeable alarm call of a Northern Lapwing. This was not from a distant bird overhead, instead it came from our olive grove. And there it was, flying up from the ground with its bold black and white tail and heavy wings which look wider and rounder beyond the carpel joint, giving the bird its characteristic floppy, slow buoyant flight. They are gorgeous birds with irridescent upperparts, which show off to perfection in the Spanish sun and an exotic crest.  It was the first time I had seen one actually in our garden, rather than flying overhead. Later that day it was back. Since then, presumably the same individual, has been on the same patch of ground everyday and almost all day long. It seems to have set up a small winter feeding territory because yesterday it was seen to chase another Lapwing off.

The Spanish name for the Northern Lapwing is Avefría which literally means cold bird, probably derived from …

Accentor curiosities

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The mornings have been crisp and days cloudless and I stood at Montánchez Castle. The view was magnificent through northwards to the Gredos mountains over a 100 kms away. Snow was visible only on their peaks, much less than there should be by this time of year: testiment to the long winter drought that we have endured. I was looking for a bird which breeds at the highest points of the Gredos (which reach over 2,500 metres above sea-level)but moves to lower altitudes in the winter: the Alpine Accentor. One still needs to climb in winter to find them. I had found some earlier in the winter on the highest point of the Villuercas mountains to the east, near the town of Guadalupe, at 1,600 metres. Here at Montánchez I was lower, less than 1000 metres, but Alpine Accentors do habitually spend the winter on prominent hilltop rocky peaks, places like Montánchez, often where Moorish castles had been built. Some winters a small flock of Alpine Accentors winter here, but I was having difficult…