Birding Cazalla Hovering Chicken Observatory – 10,000 Birds

After weeks of preparation (and never writing many 10,000 Chicken 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 Chicken 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 (Rio de Rapaces) in Mexico’s japanese 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 every week till I used to be in a position to get out and fowl in type. Having to attend that lengthy made me impatient and, properly, reasonably willfully ignorant. I took off for the location at daybreak, regardless of understanding that hovering birds do not 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 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 determine a Willow Warblera Crested Larkand a number of European Honey-Buzzards — lifers all. Maybe arriving early was not such a nasty thought.

European Stonechatsfemale and male, in early morning gentle

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 (If you’re not acquainted with Outdated World birds already, you might discover that the individuals who named them have been terribly keen on the phrases Eurasian and European.)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 fowl Eurasianwhen you might 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. Quick-toed Snake-Eagles have been constantly essentially the most plentiful, with Booted Eagles take second place.

With dozens of Quick-toed Snake-Eagles overhead, even I used to be certain to get a very good picture.

Booted Eagle

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-Harrieradopted by a juvenile Montagu’s Harrier. An immature Bonelli’s Eagle flew by, additionally good and low. (I want I may present you my photographs, however imagine me, you do not 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 Widespread Buzzard perched on one electrical tower, whereas a Lengthy-legged Buzzard perched on the neighboring tower precipitated a lot pleasure among the many locals.

Black Kite

juvenile Montagu’s Harrier

The locals have been additionally excited when a small group of Black Strokes flew overhead. White Storks (the traditional “baby-bringers” of legend) are growing widespread in Spain, as they’ve discovered to make use of human disturbance, particularly landfills, to their benefit. However Black Strokes are apparently growing uncommon. Nonetheless, after the smaller group flew overhead, a bigger group adopted. After which one other.

Just a few of the numerous Black Strokes

one Black Stork… and a customer

Because the earlier picture reveals, by this time vultures had began to make their look. Outdated World vultures, unrelated to the vultures of Mexico, are huge birds. The primary to show up have been Egyptian Vulturesmajestic 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 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 go away Cazalla — at the same time as issues continued to turn into an increasing number of attention-grabbing. Nonetheless, I went again to our non permanent house happy, and 13 lifers the richer.

Having now had the privilege to expertise two of the world’s nice raptor migrations, I might 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 in all probability 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 an honest view. Nonetheless, each experiences simply make it into my lifetime top-10. Go should you 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.