Pages

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Spain 22: Chamois

Pyrenean Chamois
One of the characteristic mammals of the high mountains of Europe and the Caucasus is the chamois. There are actually two species, the Alpine Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra from the Alps and eastward, and the Pyrenean Chamois Rupicapra pyrenaica in the Pyrenees. It was the latter species that we found in the mountains on the French border.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Spain 21: Rock Bunting

Rock Bunting - male
One of the over 40 species of true (Emberiza) buntings is the Rock Bunting Emberiza cia. What actually defines a bunting is a rather complex issue, as the Emberizidae also includes New World Sparrows, Juncos, and Towhees. On the other hand, Snow and Lapland Buntings are now placed in an entirely separate family, the Calcariidae, which is closer to tanagers, cardinals, New World warblers and other species found in the Americas. Emberiza buntings are an Old World genus, with various species found from southern Africa to northern Europe and across to Asia.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Spain 20: Hawfinch

Hawfinch
In the UK the Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes is an extremely scarce and hard to see species, with a breeding population of under 1000 pairs. Across Europe it is doing much better and is consequently classed as Least Concern by the IUCN. Its range extends from Eastern Europe across temperate forests as far as eastern Asia and northern Japan. It is closely related to two American species, the Evening and Hooded Grosbeaks which have rather similar ecological requirements. Slightly more distantly related are other grosbeaks found in east Asia and the Himalayas.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Spain 19: Rock Sparrow

Rock Sparrow. Note yellow throat patch
All over the world, the English name for a small, brown, streaky bird tends to include the word “Sparrow” even if the bird concerned is not at all closely related to the pretty much universally distributed House Sparrow. Having said that, the subject of the present post, the Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia, does belong to the same family as House and Tree Sparrows, albeit a separate genus.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Spain 18: Spotless Starling

Spotless Starling
Out of the over 100 living species of starling only three breed in Europe. The most distinctive, the pink-and-black Rosy Starling Pastor roseus is found in eastern Europe. The Common Starling is native to Europe and Asia as far as Nepal and north to Siberia, but has been widely introduced to North America and Australia, and is also now breeding in South Africa and Argentina. The third species is the subject of this post, the Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor.