Bird Migration in February
A new arrival although there are some Egyptian Vultures, mainly adults that winter in southern Spain and Portugal
A rich mixture of birds continues to add to the delights on this special avian flyway. During an unsettled period of warm then cooler temperatures plus a large depression containing a lot of heavy showers, birds from the south came streaming in across The Strait of Gibraltar pushed on by two large Atlantic storms.
Another storm rolls in off the Atlantic Ocean
Black Kites are early migrants in the raptor world and hundreds came across during the last week. Egyptian Vultures have also been seen in low numbers and single Marsh Harriers with a few Hen Harriers have been seen crossing The Strait of Gibraltar. Along the road from us between Vejer de La Frontera and El Palmar there's still a lovely male Pallid Harrier. As yet I still haven't managed any photos but will be keeping my fingers crossed when out again down that way.
Short-toed and Booted Eagles continue to come past our house most days. Sparrowhawks too have been arriving as have adult Marsh Harriers with more Lesser Kestrels.
Northern Gannets passing through The Strait of Gibraltar
Our own Lesser Kestrels are displaying most days (weather permitting above the white villages or pueblos blancos like our nearby town of Vejer de La Frontera.
Lesser Kestrel males having a slight territorial tussle!
Black-winged Kites are very visible with a few adults displaying in and around La Janda. There are good numbers there but if you really want to see those birds up close then ask about our day tours. We have permission to go onto private land and watch these and many other birds.
Close encounter - a Short-toed Eagle flypast
Common Cranes filling the sky earlier in the week
Hundreds of Common Cranes were watched crossing from Morocco and making a brief stopover at La Janda before heading north. There are a few family groups dotted about at this time but the bulk of the La Janda group have already left. Golden Plovers and Lapwings are showing better this week as they move down towards the accessible tracks, incidentally some are starting to get quite rutted with the heavy rain and the Marismas at Barbate are saturated with a lot of surface water. On the track from Vejer's sewage treatment plant on the Marismas some recent work in taking the grey water away from the track there has improved access. This is a great site and should be visited not only for the birds but plants and insects too!
GPS coordinates for the Marismas de Barbate are: 36°14'31.39"N 5°56'58.19"W
Great spotted Cuckoos have one of the loudest calls for their size!
Great spotted Cuckoos have been arriving as some of the wintering Short-eared Owls also departed for northern areas. A single Short-eared Owl came in at Barbate the other evening and quite a few Common Scoter were seen flying out from the direction of the Mediterranean Sea. Gannets are still very much in evidence and one Orca was seen hunting shoals of fish very close to Barbate's port last week.
Some Nightingales have also been reported in the Pelayo area further down The Strait.
Little Swift another early migrant that's not too far away from us during the cooler winter months
A pair of Little Swifts were seen over Barbate on the 20th of February. Unlike their more southerly 'African cousins' the White-rumped Swift they breed in good numbers all down the Moroccan coastline and well south into equatorial Africa. The same day I also saw a long line of Eurasian Spoonbills flew past the coast heading towards Cape Trafalgar.
Glossy Ibis flock takes to the air above the rice fileds
Glossy Ibis too have been seen in their hundreds flying in across The Strait and also feeding in the nearby La Janda and Barbate Marismas areas.
Some waders are back from the south with a huge fall of Common Snipe and some Black-tailed Godwits and a few Pied Avocets.
A common Snipe relying on its wonderful camoufage to keep it hidden in the harvested rice-fields
Chiffchaffs are plentiful but lower sightings of White Wagtails and Meadow Pipits could signal that our wintering ones have started moving north and we could expect waves of others that winter further south in Morocco.
Bluethroat amongst the vegetation along the canals and irrigation ditches in La Janda
Our Bluethroats are still here or at least I'm presuming they are the same ones that have stayed with us. Of course the same could apply with these skulking little devils as with the Wags and Mipits and these could be wintering Moroccan birds.
Northern Bald Ibis one of the rarest birds in the Western Palearctic
Around our house flights of Northern Bald Ibis are more frequent sights as some pairs are returning to start nest building or at the moment spring cleaning at the nearby small colonies. I hope that a few more nest¡ting pairs swell the nesting birds at all of the sites this spring.
We have one pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles within 20 minutes drive from us that have been displaying for weeks and last week we watched them mating. Please don't ask me for information on the site as they are very rare and more sensitive to human disturbance.