After weeks of preparation (and never writing many 10,000 Chook 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 possibly can cease on the Cazalla Hovering Chook 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 jap 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 every week till I used to be in a position to get out and chicken in type. Having to attend that lengthy made me impatient and, effectively, moderately willfully ignorant. I took off for the location at daybreak, despite figuring out 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 have been all over the place. Quickly, a trio of English-speaking birders turned up, and helped me determine a Willow Warbler, a Crested Lark, and a number of European Honey-Buzzards — lifers all. Maybe arriving early was not such a nasty thought.
European Stonechats, female and male, in early morning mild
Even earlier than the thermals developed, there was an abundance of resident Eurasian Kestrels. (If you’re not acquainted with Outdated World birds already, you could discover that the individuals who named them have been terribly keen on the phrases Eurasian and European.)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 chicken Eurasian, when you possibly can use the phrase Zitting?)
A rather-blue Eurasian Blue Tit
This Cisticola was certainly Zitting. Zeet!
After which, steadily, the primary occasion started. Increasingly more folks arrived — from throughout western Europe, though I appeared to be the one one current from the Americas. And so did the hovering birds. Brief-toed Snake-Eagles have been constantly essentially the most considerable, with Booted Eagles taking second place.
With dozens of Brief-toed Snake-Eagles overhead, even I used to be sure to get a superb picture.
Black Kites, a lot bigger than any of the unrelated New World kites, would sometimes fly excessive overhead. After which there was a superb 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 images, however imagine me, you don’t wish 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 have been additionally excited when a small group of Black Storks flew overhead. White Storks (the traditional “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.
Just a few of the various 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 have been Egyptian Vultures, majestic birds in their very own proper.
grownup Egyptian Vulture
Juvenile Egyptian Vulture: solely the tail form appears 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 have been… 4 Eurasian Griffons! With its nine-foot wingspan, this species was on the prime of my want listing.
Sadly, by midday I needed to depart Cazalla — whilst issues continued to turn out to be increasingly more fascinating. Nonetheless, I went again to our non permanent residence 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 might 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 most likely not get a single photograph of a raptor up shut, and species ID is extra prone to be by common form and conduct than by getting a good view. Nonetheless, each experiences simply make it into my lifetime top-10. Go if you happen to probably can.
The view overhead at Río de Rapaces in Veracruz state, Mexico.
An identical piece of sky in Cazalla within the afternoon. Earlier than midday, the raptors fly a lot decrease.