Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Scintillating Swifts

Tuesday 29 July

Following an email from my friend Bryan Stapley of the Axarquia Bird Group checking up that all was OK with me as there had been no publications on this blog for a fortnight, was I even still in  country, etc. I thought I had better put pen to paper - or at least fingers to the keyboard.  Not as dramatic as above but, rather, the fact that whilst back in the UK at the start of the month the X-Trail took its own decision and decided to drive of the road below Los Romanes and ended up in an open manhole with cascading water all around.  A write-off as the damage was considered to be more than the value of the car, even if the interior was a delight and looked at from three corners the car was a delight to see.  But then there was the front off-side, or what was left of it!  So, with only the little Citroen C4 and jenny still with lots of activities to undertake, I came back to no car and, as a direct result, no birding.  But I am hoping to get down to the Rio Velez for a couple of hours tomorrow morning just to remind myself that there are birds to be seen.

So, for me, for these past two weeks birding has been a question of what is happening at the house and on the neighbouring mountain tracks plus what might be seen when we drive down from the mountain.  I even recorded my first Monk Parakeet of the month last week!

Juvenile Barn Swallows Golondrina Comun Hirundo rustica

Around the house we have our resident Sardinian Warblers along with the surviving young of the year and the Stonechats are once more in evidence.  Above and around us both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows continue to feed, drink from the pool and rest on the wires at the side of the house.  I say drink but more often than not they arrive after we have covered the pool.  But you can always count on the young Swallows not yet getting their timing right when it comes to drinking; either not getting low enough or bottoming out when they hit the water.  But they will learn before they set off for Africa.  No eagles overhead this past month but we have the occasional visit form the local pair of Common Kestrel.

Juvenile Red-rumped Swallow Golondrina Daurica Hirundo daurica

On the tracks immediately outside Casa Collado there are still lots of Thekla Larks of varying ages and even the occasional visit from a Red-legged Partridge or two.  Unfortunately however, we have also heard the guns so somebody does not understand "close season" in this part of the world.  At the moment we also have a pair of Hoopoes and, of course, in addition to the local House Sparrows there are many Serins and Goldfinches.  We are used to seeing local Blue Rock Thrushes but a Blackbird crossing the track and up over the terrace was a little different on Sunday.  Only the second one that I can recall in over eleven years as they always seem to prefer the lower slopes of our mountain.

Bee-eater Abejaruco Europeo Merops apiaster
Are you still seeing Bee-eaters?  Every day, usually early in the morning about 9am, I hear rather than see small numbers of Bee-eaters over-flying the house.  Although  at the beginning of last week whilst Derek and Barbara Etherton were with us a dozen or so decided to welcome our guests by flying low over the pool.  Migration is certainly underway with these noisy and colourful birds.

Alpine Swift Vencejo Real Apus melba
Migration is also very much under way with the swift family.  Invited down to our neighbours Steven and Barbara for a curry with other local friends from the mountain top (and the curry was definitely top order as was all the alcohol that was consumed but, there again, we had only a hundred metre walk home up the drive when we finally returned), I sat and watched the arrival of the first Common Swifts as the heat began to cool down.  A few arrived just after 8pm and then numbers continued to increase as these flying aces fed on the midges that had also begun to descend with cooling temperatures.  Then I was suddenly aware of large swifts with white undersides.  Yes, a small number of Alpine Swifts were also present on this migration south.  Strange to say but as the evening wore on the species changed.  Still a number of both Common and Alpine Swifts about but by 9pm we were starting to see the first Barn Swallows and even later a small number of House Martins using the pass (think what our house name "Collado" might mean).  After a mass passing of three good-sized flocks of Goldfinches, the final group to appear and continue the aerial feeding frenzy were little fat animals with no distinctive tails.  Yes, the Bats had arrived.  I know very little about these animals but I am pretty sure that they were too big and fat to be Pipestral Bats.  Any suggestions from those who might be reading this account?

Birding, who needs a car with all this activity going on?   Me!!!!!!

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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