Lockdown Birding Part 1

The view from the balcony to the Sierra of Pedro Gómez (Martin Kelsey)
To the north-east lies the small town of Madroñera, embraced by gentle olive-clad hills. These rise, as I look east, to the summit of Pedro Gómez, over a thousand metres above sea-level and five and half kilometres from where I stand. There olives are replaced by holm oak dehesa, with  deciduous Pyrenean oak near the summit. Looking southwards and south-west, the hills are smaller, rounded and called the Sierra de los Lagares. Our village of Pago de San Clemente, rests at the base of their old olive-grove covered slopes. Red-tiled rooftops and small gardens are in view.
South across the village of Pago de San Clemente (Martin Kelsey)

To the south-west, below the continuing shoulder of the Sierra are pastures and an arable field. Closer at hand are our own olive grove and garden with its lawn and scattered trees. Half of the overall panorama is the sky.
South-west over the Sierra de los Lagares (Martin Kelsey)

I stand on the balcony and this is my view. This will be my birding world for at least the next two weeks, and probably longer, as households across Spain are in lockdown as part of the declared state of emergency to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The instructions are clear: no one can leave their homes unless for essential reasons. This means that birders too across Spain are confined to their homes. All seasons here in Extremadura fascinating, but spring is probably the season that we all look forward to the most. But this year there will be no walks and excursions in the countryside, we will all miss the glory of the plains and their flowers, displaying bustards and the chorus of larks.

So birders in Spain will now experience spring in confinement, but still driven by curiosity to plug into the vibrance of the renewal that spring grants us all. Standing on balconies or looking out of windows in villages, towns and cities, we can still sense the hope of spring.

We will cope in different ways. My plan is to record as systemically as possible the birds I see from the balcony. At a fixed time in the morning, midday and afternoon, I am spending 15 minutes recording everything on a checklist. These get submitted to eBird and across the country a challenge is underway to compare backyard lists sent in by birders. Even though none of us will be out in the field, the springtime migration will still be tracked and monitored. I can also note down anything I see or heard as I wander around the garden, catching up with the tasks at hand there. On the first day of lockdown, an Iberian Chiffchaff was singing: a bird that I would have missed had I been out in the field! Indeed, the next few weeks will be the first opportunity in the 16 years that we have been here, to get a much better idea of what birds pass through our yard on a daily basis.

Balcony birding during the lockdown (Claudia Kelsey)

Over the lockdown period you can find out what I have been seeing, by reading these blog posts. I will also be blogging on some wonderful birding encounters from the last few months. At this time of great anxiety, finding time for nature and reflection will help us cope.


Unknown said…
What a great idea. I have already enjoyed reading the first two blogs and look forward to reading them every day. We live in Exmouth, Devon so very close to the sea which provides us with the chance to walk on fresh air every day. We are not locked down here in the UK, but everyone is keeping their distance and most social activities have stopped, but the positive side of it is the extent to which communities are coming together to support hose most in need. You blog will certainly something I will now look forward to as part of my new daily routine.
David Wright
Anonymous said…
Hi Martin and Claudia,
Great sightings from your balcony. We had a Red Kite fly over 2 days ago and today 2 Coal tits were busy feeding all round our back garden.
We will enjoy reading your blogs each day which will also remind us of our lovely time with you last year.
Mark and Pam
Anonymous said…
Dear Martin,
actually we wanted to stay at your site these days. But we had to cancel our journey - and due to the lockdown that was the best. So we are happy to read your blog an see the pictures you took from your balcony. We hope, that we can come to El Recuerdo next year and we look forward to meet you and Claudia.
Petra and Heribert

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