Sunday, August 12, 2012

News / Andalucia Birdwatching

Our local News round-up…

Our migration started early here with literally 000’s of Swift and hirundines making their way south, these have been joined by large numbers of Bee eater, White Stork and Black Kite. Not surprising given how wet it has been in northern Europe, but things here have also been bad with one of the driest springs and summers on record, currently we are melting under very hot temperatures and just about everything is struggling, including us! As we report, a few things have brightened our summer and also some sad news too, but hopefully you will be interested in our news round of local happenings and events….

No Tarifa Bird Fair this year!

We decided not to make this edition of the International Fair for Birds of the Strait, Tarifa, September 2012.
It had depended economically on exhibitors, sponsors and the public. It also relied on partners and other companies to help us. We have not obtained the required response. Until the last moment we have been trying. We have spared no effort, but it is going to be impossible. We do not have enough resources and could not guarantee that we would be able to do it well. We have funds, but not enough. Our thanks to all who have helped us and we have tried valiantly.
To all who have contributed effort and funds we will directly write to thank you and explain in detail the facts. Keep trying. Again, thank you.

Note: It was depressing to realize the economical crisis here had reached the bi-annual bird fair in Tarifa. It is an event many looked forward to and though the news was not entirely unexpected, it is still a blow to enthusiasts. I wonder if the effect of controversial planning issues surrounding the current major of Tarifa had anything to do with the lack of support? Hopefully the event will happen in future years.

Weather takes its toll on breeding birds

A dry spring and lack of insects awaited our summer residents. It had an effect on numbers staying to breed and also on the successful raising of broods. The very wet conditions in northern Europe also had adverse effects for those birds normally spending their summers (not the most appropriate of descriptions) further north. A bad year all round for most of Europe’s breeding birds. Early autumn migration here certainly is testimony to the fact many birds have given up on breeding and are returning early to their wintering grounds. One or two brighter notes here was the very successful breeding of most of our raptors, Bonelli’s Eagle particularly enjoyed a good year with most nests under observation producing 2 young to fledging.

Iberia Bird Festival

Sadly the Tarifa Bird Fair is not happening this year but, for this year at least, Andalucia has the Iberia Bird Festival taking place 7th to 9th September. The festival is based in the Natural Park Cabo de Gata, Almería and looks like a superbly planned event lasting 3 days. Those wishing to attend and book accommodation at the venue of the festival, Hotel Rodalquilar, need to hurry as rooms are now in short supply. Full details of the festival and a host of activities can be found on their website Iberia Bird Festival. More news on this festival and the many of it’s exciting events will appear in a separate article soon!

Andalucia Bird Society

This progressive provincial bird society just keeps growing and no wonder with all that it offers to their members. On joining members get the official checklist for the birds here in Andalucia, a handy pocket sized list which also lists bird names in Spanish as well as English. Being a member entitles you to attend monthly field meetings, receive their quarterly magazine The Birds of Andalucia, receive monthly newsletters and generally benefit from an open forum on the web and contact with local birders here. More details here: Andalucia Bird Society. The new and first edition of their magazine was a great effort and congratulations to the society!

and finally...

Turkey Recce Tour

HURRY ONLY 2 PLACES REMAINING on our recce tour to Turkey! Birdwatching in Turkey certainly represents something different for us and we always consider our Recce Tours as much an adventure as an investigation! Birding Turkey is a prospect that excites us, consider bird migration across the Bosporus, the most spectacular in Europe, watching seabirds from the close proximity of your hotel, then exploring the productive Taurus Mountains. We will not only offer a long stay in Istanbul, but venture south to the bird rich environs of the Sultan Marshes, the Goksu Delta and other great bird areas of Turkey, something for everyone and a true adventure. See our link for further details: Turkey

Friday, August 10, 2012

Turkey. Spice and all things nice!

You write a blog, expecting a few friends to read it, but never knowing quite how many are interested in what you have to say. So I am not sure how appropriate this latest blog offering is and whether readers will be particularly interested. Sure it is a promotion, but also an opportunity as I see it, so I hope you might read it and be interested. I am happy for feedback on this to know whether or not to repeat this kind of blog in the future?

Every now again I get to explore new destinations and invite folk to join me on a Recce Tour. Often I head-off into the unknown, accompanied by invited friends, to discover wild places in far off and exotic countries. A country I have frequently discussed and wished to visit is Turkey, in fact it became a bit of an obsession for me to get around to arranging a tour to this large and historically rich region. I began my research and tentative approaches to organising a visit back in April of this year, very soon I became excited by the potential of exploring birds in this diverse area.
Of course places on these tours are limited and often very popular with friends, so I would like to personally invite you to join me on this wonderful opportunity to explore the nature of Turkey. Below is a brief tour description, I hope you might be tempted and will be happy to send further information for your interest. Please do contact me as soon as possible, with only 2 places available I expect to fill this tour very quickly. I hope it might be you that can join me.

A bird shall know neither bounds nor confines of man, remaining a free spirit to brighten our lives, a symbol of peace, fostering friendships for those who share in their joy. Peter Jones

In Turkey birds from three bio-regions converge to reside, migrate or winter, demonstrating a blissful ignorance of political boundaries. Asia, Africa and Europe are represented by our birds on this recce tour, a real treat in store for all of us participating on our journey through mountains, marshlands, steppe and lakelands.
The first part of our tour visits Sultan Marsh; it is one of the largest and most important wetlands in Turkey as well as in the Middle East and Europe. The number of species of birds, both predators and warblers, that visit, winter or breed in this area, where fresh and saltwater ecosystems are found side by side, is around 250, with extremely high numbers of certain bird communities during the migration season. Populations of Flamingo reach 50.000, Shelduck 10.000 and ducks of various species 600.000.
From the Sultan Marsh we visit Aladağlar National Park, located north of Adana, it is a huge park of around 55,000 hectares and the summit of Demirkazik at 3756m is the highest point in the middle Taurus mountain range. There is a huge range of flora and fauna. Wildlife includes wild goats, bears, lynx and sable. Here we hope to find the elusive Caspian Snowcock, Radde’s and Alpine Accentors, Alpine and Red-billed Choughs, Crimson-winged Finch and White winged Snow finch.

Onwards we visit the Goksu Delta, now a Specially Protected Area; this is one of the most important ornithological areas in the Western Palearctic region. Where the River Goksu enters the Mediterranean a large delta has developed and although much has been lost to agriculture the remainder hosts an outstanding collection of bird species. Some rather rare or local breeders such as Marbled Duck and Ferruginous Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Black Francolin, Spur-winged Plover and Purple Swamphen, which, in Turkey, breeds only here. White-breasted Kingfisher and Pied Kingfisher both occur in this area and raptors include Egyptian Vulture and Griffon Vulture and Lesser Kestrel. Various herons breed in the reedbeds of Akgol along with Glossy Ibis and Eurasian Spoonbill, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet and Collared Pratincole. White-tailed Plover has bred.
Our next main area to visit is Birecik – Euphrates River (Firat). The area is home to Bald Ibis, See-see Partridge, Pallid Scops Owl, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Bimaculated Lark, Upcher's and Ménétries's Warbler, Iraq Babbler, Dead Sea Sparrow, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, Pale Rockfinch and Desert Finch. We will also visit the rolling hills and rocky cliffs along the Euphrates in search for Eastern Rock Nuthatch and Bonelli’s Eagle. Back in Birecik, we will visit the site for the colony of Iraq Babblers. Wow!
Finally we move to Isikli and Durnali areas. Brief views of a Cinereous Bunting are obtained in this area, whilst other species like the male Blue Rock Thrush, Eastern Black eared Wheatears and Eastern Rock Nuthatches. At the Durnali area it is possible to find Cinereous Buntings, Desert Finches, Turtle Doves, Eastern Black-eared Wheatears, Greenfinches and Eastern Rock Nuthatches. After exploring the fascinating areas of Isikli and Durnali we drive back to Gaziantep.
I think this tour will provide unequalled opportunities for enjoying great scenery, locations and of course birds from 3 continents. I hope you will join me.

To download the information sheet on this Recce Tour see: HERE
To request further information follow this link CONTACT US
To reserve your place follow this link BookOnline

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Strange beginnings!

A weird year so far!

It had been a busy spring, full blown tours and never a dull moment on my local day trips around my mountains here in the Serranía de Ronda, no complaints from me, its been a record year for bookings, but it certainly made time fly by and already we are in the summer months under blue skies and a very hot sun. Certain things stick in mind from April through to the middle of May, namely the unpredictable weather, a strange year so far. Flowers were late, orchids were patchy and some of our migrant birds also chose to delay their appearance, or at least in anything like their normal numbers.

Cold days and rain punctuated the passing of April and a tragedy unfolded as the month wore on. Sure the rains were welcomed by all, the flowers certainly livened-up and the countryside began the transition from multicoloured hues to more greens, but together with the rains, the cold meant a severe lack of insects. I picked-up several dead Bee Eaters around local areas, all showed signs of starvation with breast bones needle sharp and no visible fat, I can only surmise the lack of insects, after such long uninterrupted journeys, led to these beautiful birds perishing at the final hurdle of their migration.

Although it has to be said it was an enjoyable experience for all concerned, it remained a strange mixture of good and bad news for wildlife this year. A very dry winter meant late flowering plants leading to a lack of insects, which led to food shortages for early arriving birds reliant on a good food sources after their long passage from Africa, an unusual year so far…. and now we have birds arriving early on their journey south for the winter, in large part due to such a wet summer in Northern Europe, who said life is dull?

See full illustrated article on this link: Back over my shoulder

To join me on day tours here and learn a little more about my area, please visit my tour page: Serrania de Ronda