Okay, maybe it isn’t quite so cold down here in deepest south Andalucia, but if you are used to higher temperatures, then the weather so far in January has been decidedly cool. In fact, up here in my mountains, we had one night of -5, so that has to qualify as ruddy cold.
One of the great incentives to get out and about during these early months is the territorial and displaying raptors. Wandering the track at Libar the Griffon Vultures fly-by in syncronised display and those perched on ledges get excited by the performance and accompany the fly pass with noises not dissimilar to honking donkeys! Both Golden and Bonelli’s Eagle are engrossed in re-establishing their territories and pair bonding. As in all things, the Bonelli’s appear to be acting aggressively, but after a time they separate and the male stoops and dives calling to his partner and you realise this is love in the fast lane. On Monday 12th of January, accompanied by the new ABS assistant newsletter editor (Robert Luecke), we counted no less than 4 Bonelli’s Eagle, over 100 Griffon Vulture, a Golden Eagle and a Long-legged Buzzard. Near to Serrato we managed a fine female Peregrine sunbathing on a nearby limestone peak. The previous week, Robert had Black Vulture here. On the Wednesday (14th) Robert headed to the Canete area and during the course of his travels he managed no less than 5 Bonelli’s and a pair of displaying Golden Eagle!
I ventured up to Sierra de Libar in the forlorn hope of seeing Wallcreeper, but I did manage Bonelli’s Eagle, Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel, Rock Bunting, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Lesser Kestrel, Black Redstart and Thekla Lark. Accompanied by friends it was good to be able to point-out a stunning showy male Dartford Warbler, normally confined to skulking in low scrub, this bird sat very obligingly on top of a rock. Crag Martins skimmed the cliff tops and several flocks of mixed finches were feeding amongst the hawthorn and field layer of dried thistles.
A notable aspect of birding here at the moment is the reduced numbers of both Meadow Pipit and White Wagtail. Certainly numbers are well down on the seasonal norm and I wonder if the recent cold front has moved birds further south? I am leading a group to Morocco for 3 days next week, so it will be interesting to see if numbers there are significantly increased.