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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Spain - Tarifa September 5th

El Algarrabo Watch point

Over the years Tarifa has always been high up on the list as a must visit place and recently, whilst staying with my Sister and Brother in law in their apartment at Costa Mijas near Malaga who kindly put me up, I finally had an opportunity to visit.

As you know I get my kicks from Raptors, having followed various websites and related news over the years, I knew it was a well known Bird of Prey passage way back into Africa, one of the best month’s being September.

I had arranged the trip with Luis from Birdaytrip having met him again at the Birdfair; the trip was planned for the Straits and La Janda.

He picked me up on the above date at 6.00am, by 7.40am we were in position at the watch point taking in a nice Spanish breakfast along the way.

The entrance track up is dodgy to say the least, solid rock and holes, unfortunately it proved to be our undoing, more on that later.
With my usual luck and timing it was rather grey, cloudy and hazy early on and remained so with a few brief sunny spells for the morning, however it didn’t stop them moving, there was also a good breeze.

Sun up - part of Gibraltar just starting to rear up on the left


Right from the start, just before 8.00am, flocks of Black Kites and Honey Buzzards were dropping out of the cloud layer over head in semi darkness, quite a surprise for me to see them moving this early. 

It meant to me that they must have roosted nearby in numbers ready to make the crossing, can’t see them being a nocturnal migrant?

Black Kites dropping out of the cloud layer early a.m

From 8.00am to 10.30am we watched a continuous passage overhead of various raptors and other birds despite not ideal weather, especially for photography. Bee Eaters were also arriving at first light announcing their presence by distant trilling, high up they were a bugger to pick up until they came lower.

My totals up to 10.30am were as follows-

Common Kestrel – 2

Bee Eater – 177

Griffon Vulture – 23

Honey Buzzard – 216

Short Toed Eagle – 3

Black Kite – 122

Raven – 3

Sparrowhawk – 11

Iberian Chiffchaff – 2 (picked out on call by Luis in scrub)

Egyptian Vulture – 10

Marsh Harrier – 2

Booted Eagle – 16

Black Stork – 4, very nice came in together

Pallid Swift – 4

Common Swift – 6

Not bad for a couple of hours, nothing really close but very enjoyable just the same, it was one of those places where you don’t know what you are going to see next, I loved it.


Booted Eagle

Big boy - Griffon Vulture

Honey Buzzard

Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian Vulture

Black Storks

Dark Morph Booted Eagle

With this in mind Luis said we should go to the next place where they will pass closer, additionally the weather was perking up for photography.

Unfortunately the track back down to the road attacked us, big bang, pulled up down the road with the engine light flashing, looked underneath and oil was pouring out, a hole in the sump.
An unfortunate end to the morning, especially for Luis and his car, but these things do happen, the motto of the story get a 4x4.

They came and towed the car away, impressive service, they were there in 25 minutes, we then got a cab back to Costa Mijas.

Window watching as you do from the Cab along the A7 produced no less than 31 White Storks, 4 Booted Eagles and 2 Short Toed Eagles hovering, quite a sight.

Arriving back early afternoon I then decided to head down on my little legs to the coast, more on that in the next post…..

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Cooling Marshes

 August 31st

An early morning visit coinciding with high tide was made hoping to catch up with some Migrants, a stunning morning heralded a good visit.

The Little Owls were in there usual spot in the Barn, hope to get them a nest box for next year, despite a number of summer visits over the years, cannot recall seeing any young.

On arrival as the mist started to clear 50 Sand Martins, 40 Swallows and a Swift dropped out of the sky and started to hawk the fields, a good start.

From then on I started to pick up many more migrants, 32 Yellow Wagtails made up of various flocks crowding the cattle, 5 Whinchat on top of the reeds and then 4 Wheatears were present nearby.

The Breach itself held a good flock of Curlew numbering 129 birds, in addition there was also

2 Greenshanks

2 Green Sandpipers

94 Avocet

60 Black Tailed Godwit

Grey Plover

67 Dunlin

47 Ringed Plover

15 Redshank

To cap off a good visit I then had 3 Bearded Tits on the walk back with 2 Hobbies hawking Dragonflies over the fields.

Migrant Hawkers seemed to be everywhere, also saw 4 Clouded Yellows and good numbers of the commoner Butterflies.

It was worth the visit just for the sunrise.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Territorial Peregrines and Common Buzzards

Anyone involved with peregrines will be aware of their attitude towards larger Birds of Prey, especially near their nest sites or within their territory.

They are exceptionally aggressive towards them; Common Buzzards, Red Kites and Marsh Harriers all get the same treatment it seems, even outside of the breeding season.
As far as I am aware from observations in London, they ignore Sparrowhawks and Kestrels, both species are slightly smaller, likely not seen as a threat, also both are prey species.

Due to their increased density all over the UK, great to see, Common Buzzards come into contact with peregrines far more, from my monitoring it seems the reaction is always the same.
There generally ignored but watched, if there too high to go up after, but lower down is a different matter.

I was at a site recently when 2 Common Buzzards entered a peregrine territory; both were at a height that was obviously too low, this was born out straight away when a Crow found one of them.
The 1st Buzzard lazily thermaled whilst the Crow mobbed it, basically ignoring it and not needing to defend itself, the Crow I suspect is seen as an ‘occupational hazard’, they mob many birds.

Crow and Buzzard

Shortly after, the Crow gave up after presumably edging the Buzzard out of its territory. The Buzzard unfortunately then drifted into the peregrines territory, the adult Falcon located it, it was having a bad day.

Reaction from the Buzzard then changed dramatically as the Falcon repeatedly dived on it and forced it to defend itself by flicking over ‘and presenting talons’.
This went on for about 2- 3 minutes with the Buzzard getting lower and lower, unable to thermal and gain height, I eventually lost them to view with the Buzzard very low and still trying to get away.

Falcon and Buzzard

5 minutes after this I then picked up the 2nd Buzzard, higher but straight away another peregrine had found it, however this time it was a juvenile female.
It seems the natural aggression towards larger birds of prey is genetic and inbuilt; this juv female was giving the Buzzard a torrid time.

The same tactics were again used, diving, casting back up and then diving again and so on. Quite obviously it looks as if they are trying to hit a wing or the head.

Again this attack was sustained and eventually lost to view also.

Juvenile female and 2nd Buzzard

Another adult female this time attacking a male Marsh Harrier

It’s no surprise that at a site in the West Country, Peregrines have accounted for no less than 15 Common Buzzards over the years; it was even featured on the One Show.

For me, only this year I retrieved the dead Common Buzzard above at a peregrine nest site in London, it met its unfortunate end sadly after getting too close.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Battersea Power Station 2017

Another good year for the pair, as per 2016 they have again fledged 4 juveniles with construction works in full swing.

The 4 chimneys have now all been demolished and rebuilt, now painted, the peregrines are again using them extensively for hunting along with many of the site Cranes. The fact is that they simply never stopped using the chimneys even during re construction, having spoken to some of the chimney workers; many have had incredible views aloft of the birds.

Once the new glass lift to the top of the North West chimney is in situ, I would imagine the public will not only get incredible views of London, but also of the peregrines floating by.

We unfortunately lost one of the juveniles, much the same as in 2016, this is sad but normal and has happened on at least 5 of the sites that I monitor this year, fledging in an urban area is usually always a hazardous business I’m afraid.

The remaining 3 are now venturing further afield exploring the adults territory, it’s becoming harder to catch up with them on my visits, however I did get lucky on August 6th with all 3 very active.

The Power Station

2 of the juveniles

Adult and juvenile on one of the new chimneys

A flat out adult chasing down prey low over one of the Cranes

Usual hunting position

Another favoured position

Adult just launched off the chimney gathering speed

Juvenile suddenly realizing how big its feet are