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C Spain - recent records

John Muddeman
05/03/2009 11:47:38

Some notes and comments regarding (mostly) recent local sightings

Posted in: Birds | Madrid | Spanish Mainland, Central Spain

Though the recent spell of wonderful weather, due to the formation of the usual late winter high pressure area, has come to a nasty end – snow and high winds are forecast for every Spanish region except the Canary islands for today 5th March (and it's foul outside as I write!) – this period of good weather has enabled the migration to do some catching-up.

5th Jan – first White Stork back on the village church in Fresnedillas de la Oliva.

19th Feb – 3 Barn Swallows over the flat, including one singing.

22nd Feb – 10-11 flocks totalling approx. 3000-3500 Common Cranes Grus grus moving E-NE over El Pardo (N Madrid), plus my first 2 House Martins and large flock (200+) of Mistle Thrushes in the Prickly Junipers. The warmth in a S-facing gully had also enticed out a series of butterflies, including Small Coppers, Small Heaths, Provençal Hairstreaks, Small White, Western Dappled Whites, Peacock (presumed emerged from hibernation), and Clouded Yellows.

23rd Feb – 2 more House Martins in the village next to ours and 3 more flocks of Common Cranes moving E over NW Madrid and another moving E/NE over Valdemorillo.

25th Feb – a.m. Laguna de la Veguilla, Alcazar de San Juan, La Mancha: 15+ Barn Swallows, 12+ House Martins, a few Sand Martins, 100s of Greater Flamingos and Northern Shoveler, plus a wide range of other species around the lake, including the nearby Ross’ Gull ; several Crag Martins (residents) in local villages and 2 (perhaps 3) Red-rumped Swallows over the village school. All five Spanish hirundines in a day before the end of February is good for C Spain!

27th Feb – a Large Tortoiseshell on the village outskirts.

1st Mar – after a failed first attempt to get out with a private client for the day (due to rain from 6:30-7:00 a.m.), we finally met in Madrid at 10:15 and went out for the rest of the day. Fortunately, despite threatening cloud and sometimes very chilly conditions, only a few drops actually fell on us. In the agricultural area to the NE of the capital near Valdetorres del Jarama: a single male Little Bustard, a small flock of Rock Sparrows, 2+ male Hen Harriers, several Marsh Harriers and Red Kites, a few pairs of Red-legged Partridge, >50 Great Bustards, 22 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, 2 Southern Grey Shrikes, 3 Cirl Buntings and a fine juvenile Merlin. In a nearby sierra, Thekla and Wood- Larks, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, a singing Blue Rock Thrush and during a picnic lunch, a very brief passage of large birds during just 15 minutes, included an immature Black Stork, 3 single Black and 7+2 Red Kites and a group of Griffon Vultures (but which may have just been a movement of local birds). A female Peregrine chased off a male and an adult Golden Eagle dropped down (unfortunately just out of sight) before reappearing with a large Rabbit in its talons! Golden Eagle - Aquila chrysaetos & Iberian Hare - Lepus granatensis © John MuddemanGolden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
& Iberian Hare Lepus granatensis
© John Muddeman
En route to our final site (near Colmenar Viejo) we stopped for numerous small birds (including Serins, irbii Long-tailed and also Crested Tits and two calling Yellowhammers amongst others) plus a large flock (40+) of Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpies, and also two patrolling Black Vultures overhead. The final area near Hoyo de Manzanares produced a pair of displaying Red-billed Choughs en route and plenty of Black and Griffon Vultures, Mistle Thrushes, single Stock Dove and Redwing and a few Thekla and Wood- larks. But no Spanish Imperial Eagles, as hoped, despite rounding off well with a few Wild Boar in a small pool way below us from an excellent viewpoint looking S to Madrid. Thanks for a great day out Mikkel!

2nd Mar – the population of Spanish Imperial Eagles in Spain is on the up, and perhaps a reflection of this is the number of seemingly immature-plumaged birds appearing in the breeding population (though this is also partly a reflection of the relatively high mortality of adult-plumaged birds from the population, especially from non-natural causes – either through being shot or poisoned; tragically this has just happened to the only successfully breeding pair in Portugal, where the male has been shot: online news article). While pairs with younger-plumaged males are generally less successful, documented cases of females in these plumages show that they can be successful. Why is this interesting? Well, a double encounter with the species today not far from home involved a young ‘damero’ ( = "checkerboard") male. The first found me watching a pair displaying noisily at close range, with the male being this damero. The second, a few hours later and 2-3 km away saw me having to pull over and get out of the vehicle to prove that indeed there were 5 SIEs circling simultaneously in the same area (1 high, three in the middle and the damero at the bottom…). The first spring I was in Spain I also saw 5 together, over El Pardo, on the NW edge of Madrid, but not since. It’s an impressive sight! Perhaps this young male is replacing a lost mate from one of the pairs in this area, or perhaps a new territory is being set up in the matrix of those others around.

4th Mar - despite unpleasant windy and chilly weather, the first singing Hoopoe of the year here.

5th Mar - intermittent driving sleet and rain on a freezing N wind. Fortunately we're just below the snow level, but I wouldn't want to be in the mountains.... Eh, Teresa?!

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