Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January birding and things…

Here in the southern most reaches of Spain, January and February can be pretty hit and miss with the weather, so getting out around my high mountain area is always a bit of a lottery at this time of year. Towards the backend of 2013 and now during January, we have had some rain at last, so expectations have risen for a better show of flowers this coming spring. A journey into the hills yesterday provided a taster with Broad-leafed Iris Juno planifolia in abundance, we also enjoyed finding grey and white (hypochromic) varieties, which are locally common, but generally rare, if you see what I mean? A number of flowers have been emerging through the change of weather, where rains have provided the necessary incentive for blooms to appear.

Large Tortoiseshell - Olmera - Nymphalis polychloros

Sunny days brought out several species of butterfly and so far this month my species list has just passed into the twenties, quite amazing and also delightful to see one or two favourites such as Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros, to think friend Clive Burrows and I spent all of an April’s day last year trying to find this species in order to get a half decent photograph! The day was planned for a drive around a favoured area with a picnic lunch; I also wanted to check known territories for Golden Eagle occupancy. It was a relief, as has been the case in recent years, to find all pairs present and correct with some already displaying.

Golden Eagle - male and female photo taken from 1km!!

On various scrubby slopes Dartford Warbler were out in force, with little wind birds were more disposed to venture to the tops of broom, gorse and scrub oak bushes. I can’t recall ever seeing so many Dartfords on the same day. Like many warbler species they can be very skulking and often only allow fleeting glimpses, so it was a pleasant change to view them in a leisurely fashion! Echoing around the rocky mastiffs were songs of Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear, though Blue Rock Thrush as ever kept their distance as if knowing my camera was at hand. Cirl and Rock Bunting were also singing with Thekla Lark dispersing and laying claim to breeding territories. Crag Martin tumbled and glided around cliff faces, whilst Swallow and House Martin were absent despite numbers now being seen on the coastal marshes.

Dartford Warbler - abundant on our day in our mountains

Another purpose for my journey yesterday and also some planned excursions this week, is to become more acquainted with the Canon SX50. I am off to Costa Rica leading 2 tours, so I am going to leave heavy camera equipment behind on this occasion and see how things progress with this lightweight point and shoot camera. Photos here demonstrate that it can cope with some conditions, but I will have to wait and see how things work out in Costa Rica, I hope you might pop-in at some point in the future when I have posted the results?

Black Wheatear

Small Gallery from January 2014 – Canon SX50

Common Cormorant
Rock Sparrow
Common Crane
Common Buzzard
Fuente de Piedra
Serrania de Ronda
Broad-leafed Iris Juno planifolia - Grey variant.
Broad-leafed Iris Juno planifolia - typical colouration
Broad-leafed Iris Juno planifolia - White variant - Hypochromic
Red-legged Partridge

Why not join Peter on one his Day Tours? See Links below.

Serranía de Ronda – My Mountains – for further information read HERE

Osuna – Steppe Country – for further information read HERE

Campillos - Mountains to Lagoons - for further information read HERE

Strait of Gibraltar - Migration, wetlands and so much more read HERE

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Damp eyes and an end to an era

I suppose some things, some decisions, are personal, intimate even. My decision to end over 40 years involvement in bird ringing (banding if you live on the wrong side of the pond), came hard and was choking emotionally. You can’t have been involved in this side of bird science and not become engrossed, honoured and feel so privileged to be hands on with advancing our knowledge of birds. The experiences I had over the years made me feel good, part of a team, in a circle of friends with a common interest and purpose.

After ringing 600 Greater Flamingo Chicks! Malaga Ringing Group

In the past I enjoyed ringing and the contribution I had been able to make. At least that is how I felt prior to living in Spain, where my own limitations in learning a new language and partly by just being viewed with a certain amount of suspicion, led to a disenchantment of the scheme here for ringing and birding. It appears to me to be about personalities, highly political and not at all as I have known ringing or birding to be in my previous existence. So I end my long association with one of my passions and feel intolerably sad arriving at this decision.

The old duffer passes on experience in the Alpine Swift study

Some clouds have silver linings and this decision allows me more time to indulge in other aspects of my passion for wildlife. I can dedicate time to myself, not think in terms of the broader picture, but become a little selfish. Leaving the ringing scheme in Spain is a continuum of a deliberate detachment from the politics and closed circles of birding here and an effort to concentrate on my own enjoyment of nature. There are loose ends that I had wanted to finalise, like the further study of biometrics with Iberian Chiffchaff, cataloguing geographical races of Chiffchaff and also to investigate plumage details in juvenile Sylvia warblers in the complex of Spectacled, Dartford, Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers. These things may still be possible if I accompany a friendly ringer/bander or 2!

Children getting up close and feeling a juvenile Robin - Educational

I will continue to be involved with projects outside of Spain and in contact with birders from other countries, whilst continuing with developing sustainable tourism both here and elsewhere. My work leading tours and also guiding tours means I can share my experience and passion, not just for birds, but wildlife in general; I can even further my involvement in this side of my work now I have more time! It’s like a clean sweep, brushing aside involvement with disingenuous people and focusing on more pleasant contacts with people I like and enjoy a change which feels like fresh air, I feel good!

Extracting (very carefully) small passerines from a mist net

So it’s goodbye yesterday and hello to today and my tomorrows!

Small Gallery.

Short-toed Treecreeper
Long-tailed Tit
Reed Warbler
Willow Warbler
Sub Alpine Warbler
Maybe the last lecture by me on ringing/banding birds!
Sparrowhawk - 1st winter female. 

Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cavorting around the birding world!

Oh what to do when it is raining and damp outdoors? Guess what....

It’s a rainy day here, the second in a row, so I thought I’d look through the various photo albums by country for the year of 2013. I am always reminded just how lucky I am to be a professional wildlife guide, when I make the time to look through the various photographs that depict each year. Free travel, great destinations, wonderful birds among other wildlife and most importantly travelling with friends old and new. It is a privileged life and one I never ever take for granted. Strangely 2013 was a year when I worked more in Spain than travel around the globe, but still photos bring back fond memories of some great tours.

Gambia - see itinerary / details HERE

Abyssinian Roller - Gambia
Red-billed Firefinch

Among both cherished and memorable times travelling overseas were tours to Thailand, Morocco (3 times), Costa Rica, Norway and Uganda, besides a few others, so it is good to share a few of those trips here and with you. I hope you enjoy the journey!

Thailand - see itinerary / details HERE

Scarlet-faced Liocichla
Silver-eared Mesia

Costa Rica - see itinerary / details HERE

Golden-browed Chlorophonia
Collared Forest Falcon

Morocco - see itinerary / details HERE

Blue-cheeked Bee Eater
Crimson-winged Finch

Norway - see itinerary / details HERE

Bohemian Waxwing

Brazil - see itinerary / details HERE

Agami Heron
Hyacinth Macaw

Uganda - see itinerary / details HERE

Red-throated Bee Eater
Grey-crowned Crane

Spain - see itineraries / details HERE

Black Vulture
Cetti's Warbler

To keep up with my tours and any last minute offers to join me on one of many adventures, why not sign-up for our Newsletter? Simply Contact Us and ask to be added to our mailing list.

Day Tours and Tours in Spain see HERE

Worldwide Tours see HERE

Friday, January 10, 2014

TROGONS [Trogonidae] - what a family!

TROGONS Trogonidae 
Species in family  39 
Trogons are a small group of birds often with stunningly coloured plumage, worthy icons of the exuberance of the tropics. Well represented in the Neotropics (especially in Central America), they also occur in Africa and the Oriental region, although in reduced variety. Their appearance is distinctive, and their phylogenetic relationships are obscure. Almost half of the family is in the familiar genus Trogon. Trogons are either citrus-bellied (lemon or orange) or red-bellied. Males have much richer plumage above, with shimmering greens and blues predominating, while females tend to be attired in more sombre tones. Undertail patterns typically differ between the sexes, and males use their more distinctive patterns in courtship.

Masked Trogon (female)

World Distribution of Trogonidae

Trogons are birds of the forest, ranging from humid lowlands to mountain cloud forests. Although such magnificently coloured birds, they are more often heard than to seen. Their hollow hoots have a haunting quality, and it can be very difficult to locate a perched bird until it moves. Trogons live in pairs or solitarily, scanning the foliage for caterpillars and other largish arthropods, snatching prey from leaves or limbs by hovering. At other times they fly-catch and also frequent fruiting trees. The bill is broad and surrounded by bristles, the neck is short and the eyes large, which must be helpful for finding food in the dark interiors of woodland.

Orange-breasted Trogon

Despite their long association with human culture, trogons remain poorly served by published study and very little is known about them. Much of the existing ecological information comes from studies of a few neotropical species undertaken in the 1930s and 1940s by Alexander Skutch in Costa Rica and Guatemala, and more recent field studies of the Elegant Trogon at the northern extremity of the range. Longstanding uncertainties exist about the relations and origins of trogons. Kingfishers and their allies were most often nominated as the trogons' closest allies and a New World origin was assumed because most trogon species are now found in the neotropics. However, recent studies have a leaning towards placing trogons in a separate order, Trogoniformes, with possible affinities to the African mousebirds, and there is also some reasonably strong evidence for supporting an Old World origin.

Narina Trogon
Amazonian White-tailed Trogon
Orange-bellied Trogon
Masked Trogon

To accompany us in search of Trogons choose a tour to suit you from a selection of destinations on our main Website or why not join us on our tour to Costa Rica in February 2015 (all tours are fully booked for 2014) and get to see many of these fine birds firsthand! To find out more see our tour details and full itinerary HERE. Dates for 2015 will be published soon, meanwhile the details provided will apply to 2015.