After weeks of preparation (and never writing many 10,000 Fowl posts), my spouse and I are lastly in Spain. Algeciras, Spain, to be particular — proper across the bay from Gibraltar. Drive a bit to the southwest, and also you attain Tarifa, Europe’s most southerly level. And in between, you’ll be able to cease on the Cazalla Hovering Fowl Observatory (Cazalla Observatorio de Aves Planeadoras).
This spot has achieved fairly a little bit of fame as a part of the staging space for hawks, eagles and vultures planning to soar south throughout the Straits of Gibraltar each September. It’s the western European equal of the wonderful Raptor River (Río de Rapaces) in Mexico’s japanese state of Veracruz. And let me inform you, I used to be itching to get there.
Our journey to southern Spain is a piece journey, so it was per week till I used to be capable of get out and chook in kind. Having to attend that lengthy made me impatient and, nicely, somewhat willfully ignorant. I took off for the location at daybreak, regardless of realizing that hovering birds don’t get going till after eleven within the morning. Foolish me.
Nonetheless, Spain is a land filled with potential lifers for a New World birder like me, and I bought one virtually as quickly as I bought out of my rented automotive. European Stonechats had been in every single place. Quickly, a trio of English-speaking birders turned up, and helped me establish a Willow Warbler, a Crested Lark, and a number of European Honey-Buzzards — lifers all. Maybe arriving early was not such a nasty concept.
European Stonechats, female and male, in early morning gentle
Even earlier than the thermals developed, there was an abundance of resident Eurasian Kestrels. (In case you are not acquainted with Outdated World birds already, you might discover that the individuals who named them had been terribly keen on the phrases Eurasian and European.) A really washed-out juvenile Eurasian Blue Tit consumed fennel seeds, and the wonderfully-named Zitting Cisticola made its look. (Why on earth would you title a chook Eurasian, when you might use the phrase Zitting?)
A rather-blue Eurasian Blue Tit
This Cisticola was certainly Zitting. Zeet!
After which, regularly, the primary occasion started. An increasing number of individuals arrived — from throughout western Europe, though I gave the impression to be the one one current from the Americas. And so did the hovering birds. Brief-toed Snake-Eagles had been constantly probably the most plentiful, with Booted Eagles taking second place.
With dozens of Brief-toed Snake-Eagles overhead, even I used to be sure to get a very good picture.
Black Kites, a lot bigger than any of the unrelated New World kites, would often fly excessive overhead. After which there was a very good variety of one-offs: a Eurasian Marsh-Harrier, adopted by a juvenile Montagu’s Harrier. An immature Bonelli’s Eagle flew by, additionally good and low. (I want I may present you my pictures, however consider me, you don’t need to see these.) A Peregrine Falcon was seen within the distance, one of many day’s few species I may even have seen in Mexico. One European Sparrowhawk turned up. A Frequent Buzzard perched on one electrical tower, whereas a Lengthy-legged Buzzard perched on the neighboring tower brought about a lot pleasure among the many locals.
juvenile Montagu’s Harrier
The locals had been additionally excited when a small group of Black Storks flew overhead. White Storks (the basic “baby-bringers” of legend) are more and more frequent in Spain, as they’ve discovered to make use of human disturbance, particularly landfills, to their benefit. However Black Storks are apparently more and more uncommon. Nonetheless, after the smaller group flew overhead, a bigger group adopted. After which one other.
A number of of the numerous Black Storks
One Black Stork… and a customer
Because the earlier photograph reveals, by this time vultures had began to make their look. Outdated World vultures, unrelated to the vultures of Mexico, are large birds. The primary to show up had been Egyptian Vultures, majestic birds in their very own proper.
grownup Egyptian Vulture
Juvenile Egyptian Vulture: solely the tail form appears to be like the identical.
However I had been ready all morning to see one species… and it turned up simply earlier than my restricted time was over. There they had been… 4 Eurasian Griffons! With its nine-foot wingspan, this species was on the high of my want checklist.
Sadly, by midday I needed to go away Cazalla — whilst issues continued to develop into increasingly attention-grabbing. Nonetheless, I went again to our momentary house happy, and 13 lifers the richer.
Having now had the privilege to expertise two of the world’s nice raptor migrations, I’d like to finish with a comparability of Cazalla and Mexico’s Raptor River (Río de Rapaces). If I had spent the day on the latter, I’d have seen maybe 100x the variety of particular person birds I noticed in Cazalla. Look overhead in Raptor River, and you’re prone to see 1000’s of birds at a look. However you’ll in all probability not get a single photograph of a raptor up shut, and species ID is extra prone to be by common form and habits than by getting an honest view. Nonetheless, each experiences simply make it into my lifetime top-10. Go should you probably can.
The view overhead at Río de Rapaces in Veracruz state, Mexico.
The same piece of sky in Cazalla within the afternoon. Earlier than midday, the raptors fly a lot decrease.