Thursday, November 27, 2008

Summer birds Serrania de Ronda & Sierra de Grazalema 2008

A summer so far!

Our day tours continue to thrive with more and more visitors choosing to spend a day with us here in our home area. It has been particularly pleasing to see so many friends returning and some of you returning for the third or fourth time! I admire all of you for your courage in being able to spend a complete day with an off-the-wall nature nut like me. Thank you all for your support and encouraging remarks, it truly is an enormous pleasure and privilege to be able to share my time and local knowledge with you all.

It has been a fairly mixed set of fortunes for our local birds. All the warblers seem to have enjoyed a good breeding season and so too our raptors (one pair of Bonelli’s Eagle raised 2 chicks this year). However, the worrying trend of declining Egyptian Vulture continues to dominate birding conversations here and no clear evidence has emerged to support various views as to the reasons for this decline. Whether it is due to poisons used in Africa, both on wintering grounds and migration routes, or persecution and poisoning here, is still under debate. The rate of decline is alarming and certainly answers and solutions need to be agreed upon as a matter of urgency.

The economics of farming practises continues to have an affect upon certain species, some benefiting and others showing signs of a gradual decline. Most noticeable in our region is the poor returns for sheep and goat herders. The reduced level of hill and mountain grazing has led to, in certain areas, a slow decline in such species as Northern and Black-eared Wheatear, whilst increased ground cover has helped other species i.e. Spectacled and Dartford Warblers. The continuing increase in boundary fencing is also having an affect on the freedom of movement for grazing herds and again this has produced ‘enclosures’ of scrub which further reduces the amount of open and grazed habitats preferred by such species as Black Wheatear, Tawny Pipit, Black Redstart and Rock Thrush.

On a more positive note it is now possible to add Azure-winged Magpie to our list of resident birds. At one site the birds have been observed at all times of the year and more recently both adult and juvenile birds recorded. It is great to have this addition to our growing list of birds; they are certainly colourful and great characters. Who knows, they might even attract the odd Great-spotted Cuckoo to stop and breed! It has been a good year for White-rumped Swift and I have found a couple of new sites for the species in the local area.

Autumn migration has already begun. Golden Oriole and Bee Eater are passing through and daily counts of Black Kite are on the increase. Night Heron, mostly juveniles, are now a regular feature along the Rio Guadiaro as too are Green Sandpiper. Barn Swallows and House Martins line themselves together on the overhead wires and juvenile Woodchat Shrikes can be seen passing through. Altitudinal dispersal is also evident with large numbers of Rock Sparrow flocking on recently harvested Wheat fields. It is also possible to now see Thekla Lark together with the more common Crested Lark at drinking areas along the Rio Guadiaro (a handy gathering for those who struggle to separate these closely related species).

No comments: