Selling off the Spanish natural patrimony


On behalf the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO), I would ask you to try and get the message behind these two short videos. The reason behind them is that the current Spanish government is wooing both the Russian and Chinese governments to come and invest in Spain, even if it involves selling off areas of great natural importance and/or beauty. Please try to understand the message behind them, even if your knowledge of Spanish is nil or scanty.


Many thanks,



25 June: Rambla de Almanzora y Villaricos

This will be the last blog on here for a while as I shall be out of action until end July with the cataract ops. and then away part of August plus another factor which looks like intervening sooner rather than later. Thanks for your best wishes to Gay and myself, Dave. For me it's going to be quite a novelty seeing things clearly!
Dave is also letting up on reports and official outings with the arrival, sooner or later, of the hot weather. I have done little birding and a lot on this machine getting work out of the way, although I have had a family of Spotted Flycatchers around and last week a Bonelli's Warbler in the garden, a very odd date and I can only think that it was a failed breeder. So, have a good summer everyone.
By the by, Dave, my school reports tended towards the "could do a lot better if he tried" end of the scale. I've never forgiven the maths teacher for clobbering me for getting excited about an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull instead quadratic equations.

Only 6 months till Christmas Day! Now that's a thought! This report is my last official one till the weather cools down. As there were only 8 members volunteering to get frazzled in the sun, it was decided to do our local hot spot (no pun intended) of the Rambla Almanzora. When we arrived things didn't look promising with men working near the ford and another car parked further up near the pools. However we soldiered on, seeing both Pallid and Common Swift, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows flying around. There were Black-winged Stilts and a pair of Little Ringed Plovers in the water. We also saw Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Magpie, Kestrel, Southern Grey Shrike and Moorhen. A Sardinian Warbler was seen and Reed Warblers were heard. On the lake by the sewage works were numerous Mallards, more Black-winged Stilts and a Green Sandpiper spotted by Sandra. As we walked back to the cars, we heard then saw a Turtle Dove. Are there less of them around this year?
After a cuppa in Villaricos we made our way to the beach as had numerous sun worshippers...how dare they! Unsurprisingly there were no birds (feathered!) on the rocks so we crossed over to the estuary.
Gilly heard a Zitting Cisticola. More Reed Warblers were heard. A Grey Heron flew off as we arrived, but the full adult Yellow-legged Gull on the pipe stayed put. It was nice to see a pair of Bee-eaters going into a nesting hole in the sand bank on the far side. Gilly did well to spot a Little Egret through the reeds and both Ringed and Kentish Plovers on the far shore line. Being as there were anglers along the beach we didn't expect any birds, but we saw a Little Egret on the rocks and both a Cormorant and
a Sandwich Tern flew by.
As Gilly had to go to work in the early afternoon we then adjourned for a tapas lunch in Palomares. Afterwards Les went to the Vera lakes and added White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Slender-billed and Black-headed Gulls.
We ended the day with 35 species. Not bad, but not brilliant.....sounds like one of my school reports!
Our best wishes go to Andy for his forthcoming eye operation, to his sister Gay and to Rob.


10: The tubenoses - stormies, shearwaters, petrels and albatrosses

This is the last blog about the trip and contains photos what many will be wanting to see - the tubenoses, ranging from the small stormies to the big - and I do mean big - albatrosses. It was on the trip off Stewart Island in rather damp conditions that my camera slipped and fractured the body and after saying 'Oh dear me' (or similar) I am grateful to Etienne Littlefair again as I think that he was the only one to get shots of Mottled Petrel and Brent Stephenson of Wrybill has let me have copies of the last two photos. So, this blog will go up in more or less ascending order of size of the 27 spp. of tubenoses seen, so here goes.
Diving-petrels: Only the Common Diving-petrel seen, no photograph.

Storm-petrels: First, one of the mega species I really would have liked to have seen and I was lucky, very lucky: New Zealand Storm-petrel. Thought to have been extinct until around 11 years ago it was rediscovered by Brent and Sav. Saville, co-founders of Wrybill Tours, and its breeding grounds were only discovered in 2013 in Hauraki Gulf. We also saw Black-bellied Storm-petrel off Stewart Island to add to the list (no photo).
New Zealand Storm-petrel
New Zealand Storm-petrel above White-faced Storm-pètrel
White-faced Storm-petrel
Grey-backed Storm-petrel
Prions, Petrels and Shearwaters: A total of 16 spp. seen from this group, of which neither Broad-billed nor Fairy Prions were photographed, neither were Black Petrel and the following shearwaters: Flesh-footed, Sooty, Fluttering and Short-tailed.
Cape Petrel (above and below)

Mottled Petrel (photo by Etienne Littlefair)
Westland Petrel
White-chinned Petrel - the white chin is a minuscule patch of white feathers at the base of the lower mandible, look very closely and you can just see it!
Grey-faced Petrel
Cook's Petrel (above and below)

Buller's Shearwater (above and below)
Hutton's Shearwater
And now for two photos of one of the ugliest birds in the world, a Northern Giant Petrel (it's cousin the Southern Giant is no better!). These come in to the chum bag and often land and immediately go into threat display with no other birds within metres - absolutely bonkers!

two Northern Giant Petrels, below in threat display!
Albatrosses : And now of the kings of the ocean whose elegance in flight is beyond dispute. Take a good look at the last 2 (courtesy of Brent Stephenson) and ask yourselves which idiot would even volunteer and dare to hand feed an albatross (no clues given).
Southern Royal (above and 2 photos below)

Northern Royal Albatross
Salvin's Albatross

White-capped Albatross (imm)
Buller's Albatross

And to finish off, one of the great experiences of my birding life ... hand-feeding an albatross and I still have all my fingers!

And as that great philosopher Bugs Bunny would say, 'That's all, folks,' and I hope that you have enjoyed the trip as much as I did!


9. Seabirds in general, except tubenoses

This penultimate blog is relatively short although I admit that I have got carried away with the photos of the Australasian Gannets (henceforth Aus. Gannets), a superb species when seen close up as we could. There is a variety of photographs of terns and gulls,  plus some of shags and cormorants and one or two of penguins.
In order to set the scene, a map of the three main sites where we had major successes.
Main pelagic excursion areas: Hauraki Gulf was excellent and is always recommendable; the best known place is undoubtedly Kaikoura where they run a tight seabirding ship under skipper Gary. Stewart Island was very good too as being the most southerly but the most difficult to access, but check with Matt and Ty whose names and addresses are in the first of this series of blogs for advice/help - we had a hell of a good day out with Ty.
Kaikoura Encounter offices, not only for seabird pelagics with very knowledgeable skipper Gary but also diving with dolphins and watching cetaceans. Apart from 2 pelagics in one day during the tour, I went back for three full days and did 5 more pelagics and had a ball of a time.

Blue / Little Penguin, we also saw Yellow-eyed (chick in photo below) and Fjordland Crested.

Yellow-eyed Penguin chick, mum had to come ashore running the gauntlet of a sealion!
Australasian gannet colony at Muriwai, as visible as anyone could wish and as good as the Bss Rock for sighting. These birds, described by Bryan Nelson as (more or less) 'big, brave, and brainless' are wonderful to watch.

'sky-pointing', equivalent to 'welcome back from fishing, darling'.
... but if you land in the wrong place you're going have the living daylights pecked out of you!
Little Black Shag
Spotted Shag
Pied Shag
Black-billed Gull
Red-billed Gull (= Silver Gull in Australia, two countries, two names, same species)

2 photos of Grey Ternlet, once known as Blue Noddy; delicate retiring little birds.
Kelp Gulls, 1 juv, and 1 imm at right
Kelp Gull, imm.

Black-billed Terns (2 photos)
White-fronted Tern
White-fronted Tern and chick
We also saw 1 Black Noddy, a major rarity, Pomarine and Brown Skuas, Caspian Tern.


8. New Zealand (1)

This is the first of the last three blogs and cover species not shown in the blog on parrots (March) and the more recent blogs on waders (shorebirds), herons, rails and so on. It is a long blog with some 43 photos and will be followed by New Zealand (2) which will deal with gulls, terns and storm-petrels, whiulst the last, New Zealand (3), will cover shearwaters and albatrosses. In this blog there is little comment unless deemed necessary and I am particularly grateful to Etienne Littlefair for his two photos of Great Kiwi, taken under very dim lighting conditions without flash, and also the Rock Wren taken on an absolutely vile day after hours waiting. My grateful thanks also to our tour leader for Wrybill Tours, Brent Stephenson, for the first photo, for being so darned good with us all and showing us so much with so much patience! So, that said, here goes ....
the group, Brent our intrepid leader kneelingl
 New Zealand has suffered an enormous number of introductions, many by exiled Brits who decided that British birds would improve those to be found naturally .....

A nice but distant and rather elusive male Yellowhammer, as much sought by Geoff, our Australian photographer who would go to nearly any lengths to get a decent photograph of one.
California Quail
Chukor Partridge
Other introduced species, presumably for hunting purposes, include the European Common Quail and the Chukor Partridge which amanages to maintain a self-sustaining population.

There are, fortunately, rather more interesting native species, and if asked probably the number one would be a Kiwi, although not which of the 4 species. One often sees these road signs, most of which have been peppered by non-consearvation minded hunters. We made nocturnal expeditions to see the, some very briefly, two with incredible success. The first, when photography was not allowed, was on an excursion with Ian Cooper of Okarito Kiwi Tours www.okaritokiwitours.co.nz to show us Okarito Brown Kiwi when first a radio-tracked female Jolene walked nonchalantly between us and was soon folowed by her smaller and shyer male. The second good views were when we went to an island off Stewart Island, crossing a Paterson Inlet (my ancestors must have got everywhere!) where Southern Brown Kiwis feed on insects on the same beach where Sir David Attenborough has also watched them. The photos are those of Etienne.

Southern Brown Kiwis
White-faced Heron
 Apart from the White-faced Herons, we also saw Royal Spoonbills and, with some luck after prolonged scanning, an Australasian Bittern.
Paradise Shelduck, female
Plumed / Grass Whistling Duck

Blue Ducks
New Zealand Falcon, an adult female and juvenile found after many days of fruitless searching;
New Zealand Falcon
Weka : a ridiculously tame endmic rail
Takahé: another ridiculously tame endemic, this from a population transferred to the rat-free Tiritiri Matangi Island where they wander freely amongst visitors
Mount Doom, an irresistable photograph with comments about us all being doomed. (Remember 'Dad's Army'?)

New Zealand Pigeon, difficult to photograph as they always seem to sit partially in sunshine and partially in shade
Sacred Kingfisher
Rock Wren (photo by Etienne Littlefair): diabolically secretive and maximum skulker, it took around 4 hours in pretty nasty weather for Etienne to get this photo. I failed!
There is a whole group of small and very attractive passerines, starting with the Silvereye above and including the Whitehead (we missed out seeing the Yellowhead), the Fantail, the black phase of this I found very attractive to watch, the Tomtit but the prize must go to the New Zealand Robin, a most incredibly confiding and inquisitive little bird as the following four photographs will show after one decided that Geoff was worth investigation.

New Zealand Robins and one investigating if Geoff was edible or harboured insects
The following are more native passerines..
Bellbird (female)
Tui (male)
So here endeth the 8th instalment of this series (actually number 9 but the parrots were earlier.