Monday, December 27, 2010

European Bee-eater - Bird of 2010

The bird of 2010, selected by blog and facebook followers, is the European Bee-eater Merops apiaster. My thanks to all my friends for joining in the fun of selecting this species. It has been your choice! Here is a small selection for all to enjoy...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A wagtail for all seasons

The marshes and other wetlands of south-western Iberia are home for many birds, some migratory and others less so. It so happens that there is always one species of wagtail exploiting the diverse and abundant insect life that thrives in small pools, ditches and flooded fields. Now it is the White Wagtail that abounds in these habitats.
they arrived in September and October and will depart in February and March
they head back north into north-western Europe and do not breed in these lowland wetlands. Come February and March it is the Yellow Wagtails that arrive from the south, Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa, to breed in these same places.

By the time they have finished raising their young and are migrating south once again, its cousins from the north return and fill the empty space.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bird of the Autumn - The Results

Adding your comments in this blog, facebook and by email gave a clear winner - the Bluethroat. Thank you all for giving your views!

Second place went to Cory's Shearwater

Barbary Partridge (above) and Wheatear (below) took joint third.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Charming Goldfinch

The Goldfinch is an abundant resident bird whose numbers are largely augmented in the region of the Strait of Gibraltar during migration and in the winter. Its beauty and colour matches, in my opinion, that of many tropical passerines.

Goldfinches are the second most numerous passerine migrant crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. Only the Swallow is more abundant. The migration is most pronounced in the autumn when tens of thousands arrive in late October and early November, many crossing south to spend the winter months in Morocco. 

But many remain on the northern shore of the Strait where they are a dominant component of the bird community of pastures where they feed largely on the seeds of thistles. Here their density averages around 7 birds per hectare, giving a clear indication that the region is a main wintering area.

Most of the wintering Goldfinches come from western Europe, principally France, the British Isles, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland but a small contingent comes from further east. These are birds from Russia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy and Yugoslavia. 

Their long bills are specialised for probing into thistle heads from which they can extract the most difficult of seeds, inaccessible to most other finches (above and below).
Come March, these birds will join others coming from Morocco to return back to their breeding grounds, leaving the local breeding birds behind. The phenomenon of the Goldfinch migration and wintering in the Strait of Gibraltar is another of those hidden secrets that this rich land reveals to those who venture into the fields of places like La Janda...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bird of the Autumn

With the end of the autumn I thought it might be fun to pick the top three birds of the past season, just like we did for the spring. So here I am posting 25 birds in alphabetical order. Why not have some fun with me and select your top three? Just put your favourites numbered 1, 2 and 3 in the comments section (or on facebook) and we can see which species win. Here they go:

Azure-winged Magpie

Barbary Partridge

Barn Owl


Booted Eagle

Black-winged Kite

Cattle Egret

Cetti's Warbler

Common Sandpiper

Cory's Shearwater

Egyptian Vulture

Fan-tailed Warbler


Greater Flamingo

Griffon Vulture

Little Egret

Meadow Pipit

Pallid Swift

Peregrine Falcon

Red-rumped Swallow


Spotless Starling

Squacco Heron


White Wagtail