Saturday, 31 December 2016

Spain 8: Bustards

Breeding plumage male Little Bustard in the open - NB:This never happens
There are three species of Bustard that breed in Europe and I am glad to be able to say I have seen all three. Admittedly the Houbara Bustard only counts if you include the Canary Islands in Europe, when in terms of their location and endemic species they are more accurately part of North Africa, but they belong to Spain so I am going with it. This year I have had good views of the mainland species, Little and Great Bustard, in Portugal this spring and again in autumn in Spain.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Spain 7: Common Crane

Adult Common Crane
The Common or Eurasian Crane Grus grus is one of only four species of crane that is not threatened. In fact, it is increasing in Europe, and currently has a total world population of around 500,000 individuals. In Spain we found them at a major wintering ground at Lake Gallocanta. This lagoon in the south west of the province of Zaragosa is the largest staging area for migrant cranes in Europe, with perhaps 80% of the entire western European population using it on passage in both winter and spring. Left over grain and

Friday, 23 December 2016

Spain 6: Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphen
At first sight the unmistakeable Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio looks like a Common Moorhen as reimagined by Disney. Although not at all closely related to any domestic hen, they are indeed chicken sized, except for their feet which seem designed for a bird about four times as big.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Spain 5: Eagles

Golden Eagle
In the UK we only have two breeding species of eagle, Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos and White Tailed Sea Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. The rest of Europe has many more species, and this trip we managed to get good views of three, Golden eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila (formerly Hiraeetus) fasciatus and Booted Eagle Aquila pennatus.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Spain 4: Vultures

Griffon Vulture, Pyrenees
Raptors are always a draw for birders and the biggest of all are the vultures. This trip I had good views of two species – Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus which I have seen before, and a lifer for me, the Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus. Spain has two other species, Cinereous Vulture (the largest species – it has a wingspan as great as a California Condor) and the Egyptian Vulture (the smallest vulture in Europe).

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Spain 3: Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis, Ebro delta
Only a few years ago, news of a Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus in the UK would result in a mass of birders descending on the area. These days they are a scarce but regular presence in wetlands, especially in England, and there has even been at least one (unsuccessful) breeding attempt. Even in December several are still present in the country. Further south much larger flocks can be found in Spain and the south of France, but the bulk of the European population is in Ukraine and Romania. Further afield this species is one of the most widespread of the worlds’ ibises, being found from Africa to Australia. Crossing the Atlantic around 150 years ago, in the same way as Cattle Egrets, they established themselves in Central America and have since spread both north and south, and have bred as far north as Canada.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Spain 2: Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo, Ebro Delta
  One of the most instantly recognisable birds in the world is the flamingo. Although usually associated with Africa and the Americas, there is actually quite a reasonable population around the north shores and islands of the Mediterranean, especially in Spain and the south of France.  The species involved is the Greater Flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus., one of two living species found in the Old World, along with the Lesser Flamingo, Phoeniconais minor, which is almost entirely restricted to Africa. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Spain 1: Red-Crested Pochard

Red Crested Pochard - male
 Although we saw several species of duck on the trip, one of my favourites is one of the showiest of Eurasian ducks, the Red-Crested Pochard. I have seen them many times before, but they are always a good bird to find. Males and females are quite distinct, with only males displaying the bright orange head that gives them their name.