After weeks of preparation (and never writing many 10,000 Hen 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 Hen 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 superb Raptor River (Río de Rapaces) in Mexico’s jap state of Veracruz. And let me let you know, 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 chicken in type. Having to attend that lengthy made me impatient and, nicely, somewhat willfully ignorant. I took off for the positioning at daybreak, despite understanding that hovering birds don’t get going till after eleven within the morning. Foolish me.
Nonetheless, Spain is a land stuffed with potential lifers for a New World birder like me, and I acquired one nearly as quickly as I acquired out of my rented automobile. European Stonechats have been in all places. 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 foul concept.
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 Previous World birds already, you might 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 ate up fennel seeds, and the wonderfully-named Zitting Cisticola made its look. (Why on earth would you identify a chicken Eurasian, when you can use the phrase Zitting?)
A rather-blue Eurasian Blue Tit
This Cisticola was certainly Zitting. Zeet!
After which, progressively, the primary occasion started. Increasingly 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 have been constantly probably 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 an excellent picture.
Black Kites, a lot bigger than any of the unrelated New World kites, would sometimes fly excessive overhead. After which there was an excellent 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 might 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 might even have seen in Mexico. One European Sparrowhawk turned up. A Widespread Buzzard perched on one electrical tower, whereas a Lengthy-legged Buzzard perched on the neighboring tower induced 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 realized 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 couple of of the various Black Storks
One Black Stork… and a customer
Because the earlier picture reveals, by this time vultures had began to make their look. Previous 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 seems 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 high of my want checklist.
Sadly, by midday I needed to go away Cazalla — at the same time as issues continued to grow to be increasingly more fascinating. Nonetheless, I went again to our momentary dwelling glad, 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 might be prone to see hundreds of birds at a look. However you’ll most likely not get a single picture of a raptor up shut, and species ID is extra prone to be by basic form and conduct than by getting a good view. Nonetheless, each experiences simply make it into my lifetime top-10. Go for those who presumably can.
The view overhead at Río de Rapaces in Veracruz state, Mexico.
An analogous piece of sky in Cazalla within the afternoon. Earlier than midday, the raptors fly a lot decrease.