Saturday, 18 August 2012

Spanish Pyrenees part 2: Sierra de Guara

The second week in the Spanish Pyrenees we were departed in a small village called Nocito. It is at the northern side of the Sierra de Guarra and still called part of the Pyrenees. This part has a complete different geology and is much lower than the High Pyrenees. Thus, more species, and especially more numbers both for birds as butterflies. The first few days I needed to rest and adapt to the much higher temperatures and spent some time in butterflies. We had found a kind of oase where butterflies came for their much needed water and nutrients (peeing on the road!!!) and we could chill underneath an overhanging rock and in the slow streaming creek, what a life!
One of our groupmembers got stung by an insect (probably mosquito..) and his feet bulged in such a way he couldn't walk anymore. So we transported him to the hospital and the doctors must have thought it was an unknown highly contagious disease, so they kept him in the hospital... The next morning, Jorrit and I were at the hospital to pick him up, but they still didn't let him go. So we decided to go for birdwatchin just out of Huesca. The first kinda road (more a dirt track..) we parked the car and went for a walk. We heard a sound that both made us laugh and say: a flying horse?? Then it dropped.. There were some Black Kites (Milvus migrans migrans) flying and calling. One individual was sitting in a tree and sometimes gave a call. At these moments, even when it was already 30 degrees, I get the goosebumps!

In the same area (agricultural), I finally managed to make a decent recording of European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster). It are very difficult birds to record, as the are shy, flying high and softly!

In the meantime, we could pick up Sjoerd in the hospital, supplied ourselves with loads of water, food (sweet stuff and loads of beer) and other stuff and went for Roldán. A place where we only had heard of, but it was supposed to be awesome with vultures. So we went, in the heat of the day. We drove towards Roldán and in the distance we saw two huge cliffs where vultures were circling.. Could it be there? In fact, it WAS there! We parked the car (nobody else!) and walked around the cliff (it really is a 400 meter steep cliff). We saw some Sub-alpine Warblers (Sylvia cantillans cantillans) and saw two Western Orphean Warblers (Sylvia hortensis), not quite a species I suspected here but a tick for me! One individual was kind enough to give a call while recording. I'm sorry to dissappoint you, but this one comes later in a Sylvia-special (muahahaha, sounds exciting heh?). This all was guided by the vultures demonstrating Doppler-effect by their wings. So close, amazing! Well, it's one of those breath taking moments were you will think of when you're old..
Roldán - copyright Jorrit Vlot

Around our campsite there were several Iberian Green Woodpeckers (Picus (viridis) sharpei). They
especially called in the early morning (with hangovers..) and in the evening. One evening I spent on recording these guys, as their call is totally different than normal Green Woodpeckers, to me at least. It sounds to me as a hybrid between Green Woodpecker and Whimbrel, listen for yourself:

Faster, higher, 'ki' instead of 'kuh'.. Not even talking about the structure.. But al these questions? When is a Green Woodpecker calling and when is it singing? What types of calls do they produce and when? Do Iberian Green Woodpeckers produces also the 'normal' song (yes they do: and most especially: is it diagnostic?? I must admit: I don't know.. I can say that this sound (and I only heard this sound, every day for two weeks) is surprisingly different!

Keep recording!!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Mystery bird: the answer and the Pyrenees part 1

Last blog post I gave a sound recording of a mystery bird in the Pyrenees. I've got some reactions, mostly typical species from the higher mountains. I can imagine, as we live in the Netherlands, that we don't have that much experience with those species, but this species is actually a Dutch breeding species! Agreed, not a common one, but still!
It was the call of a Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe libanotica)! (Libanotica is surprisingly lighter than the nominate!) I'm totally unsure when the sound is given, I thought begging, but the bird was not a juvenile and other recordings (only a few!) were made for example in April, way to early for juveniles! At first I thought that it had to be specific for this subspecies, but it was also recorded in the Netherlands (by Herman van Oosten). So it must be a rather rare call.

As I said: I've spended my holidays in the Spanish Pyrenees. Hiking, landscapes, birds, butterflies, grasshoppers, plants, lots of fun and lots of friends, thé recipy for an amazing holiday. This time I had to choose what to do. You cannot go for a long hike if you want to watch butterflies or record birds, so every day was different. In total I made about 300 (after selection) pictures and 100 sound recordings (also grasshoppers, still working on them..). All of my Dutch observations and recordings are added to the online database Foreign observations and recordings are put on the international equivalent Untill recently most of the observations of the latter are done by Dutch observers on holidays, by now more and more observers are putting observations in the database! Wonderfull! I've added all of my sound recordings on as well ( and for 10 species it was the first recording, yay!

The first week we stayed at Benasque, a small village especially crowded in winter. As the first week in a new country is rather overwhelming, we made quite some hikes and it was windy all the time or there was a stream that ruined the recording. So, I did not manage to make a lot of recordings. When I hear a singing Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra curvirostra) I'm always amazed by the power, melody and variety between birds and populations. Here a bird from Spain, no idea of the type..

One of my targets, Citril Finch (Carduelis citrinella) was heard and seen flying frequently, but the calls were very soft and the birds are very shy.. Ridiculous how difficult they were to see and hear.. Still managed to make a short recording of the (sub?)song, it reminded me of the song of Reed Warbler..

In the mountains I'm always amazed by the melodious calls and songs of Alpine Chough's (Pyrrhocorax graculus graculus) given in stunning flight shows! It seems that they fly just for fun and showing of. My friends and I are struggling to climb that mountain and of course an Alpine Chough is challenging us by flying up and down the mountain with ease...

This where the bird recordings of the first week. The second week we spent time in the Sierra de Guarra, a more quiet area with higher numbers of species and individuals, so more recordings comming up! As said before, I also made several recordings of grasshoppers. Still working on them, but I will spend a blog post on them as well later on.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Pre-listen from the Pyrenees: mysterybird

From the 7th until the 24th of July I had my holiday in the Spanish Pyrenees with the JNM. Of course I made sound recordings and currently I'm working on them. In the meantime I have a mystery bird that I want to share with you! Eventually we succeeded in locating the sound and thus the species, but we never heard it before. Do you know which species it is only by the sound?

Some hints of the location: open areas without trees and with a lot of rocks. Mainly above 1800 meters, but also one time at 400 meters!