Showing posts from July, 2014

As the vulture glides

Griffon Vulture (Raymond de Smet) Calm, long summer days, not a cloud in sight, nor the brush of a breeze. Against the vastness of the blue dome there is just one movement that catches my eye. Approaching from the north, the object moves on an unwavering course, a flight path on fixed bearing, as it were. There is no sign of propulsion. The glide lasts across my entire view of the sky. Its wings, broad but tapering slightly towards their tips, show no motion. Their shape are sufficient to identify this as a Griffon Vulture, and as this individual disappears from view, two others are overhead, again as if drawn by invisible threads. On such a day, vultures are finding thermals rising from the plains. Up currents of air, triggered by slight temperature gradients are somehow located by soaring birds: the vultures, eagles, storks. It is by the presence of such birds, rising in spiral fashion (described often as a "kettle") that we detect these otherwise invisible pumps of air

Moving around

Spoonbills (John Hawkins) July misleads us, faking a quiet time, a balmy summery lull. Bird song has almost disappeared and in its place the electric buzz of mid-afternoon cicadas. The heat builds and we retire indoors, solace in the shade and time for a siesta. But there are subplots underway and understated. One signal comes from the referee's whistle calls from Bee-eaters. As they were when spring arrivals, now they seem again to be high above, in earshot, but almost out of sight. Difficult to pick out against the hazy blue sky, parties wheel, dive and swoop, as if whole colonies were on the move. Perhaps they are. They will be around still for a few weeks, but the sense they give is restlessness, nomadism, exploring the skies in search for food before the southward migartion starts. More evident, but still far from dramatic, is the arrival of new faces on the rice fields and other wetland sites. Since late June a trickle of passage waders has started, first Lapwings and G