Professional Bee-eater video from photo hide

 

Birding In Spain invites you to watch this professional video short of Bee-eaters in Lleida, Catalonia, Spain.

Beautiful Bee-eater video taken from bird photo hide in Catalonia.

Beautiful Bee-eater video taken from bird photo hide in Catalonia.

Beautiful Bee-eaters

This beautiful video of Bee-eaters taken from one of our bird photography hides this spring was shot by professional film-maker Norbert Porta. Norbert had only one session in our Bee-eater photo hide but he put it to excellent use!

The Bee-eater video is only seconds long but it shows one Bee-eater feeding another at close range, and then another Bee-eater on its own at even closer range. The light on these birds is just perfect for filming or photography of their colourful plumage. You can also hear a muted version of the Bee-eater’s calls at the beginning. Don’t miss it!

Our thanks to Norbert for donating this video to Birding In Spain. And for his trust in us to arrange his bird hide photography needs while in Spain. Apart from our Bee-eater photo hide Norbert also successfully filmed other birds from different photography hides near Lleida, including Hoopoe, Little Owl, Bonelli’s Eagle, Lesser Kestrel and others.

Birding In Spain bird videos: Golden Eagle, Black Wheatear and Montagu’s Harrier

 

We at Birding In Spain have added 3 more short (10 second) bird videos to the growing collection. Taken from encounters with birds around the Lleida steppes, Catalonia, Spain, you can see Golden Eagle, Black Wheatear and Montagu’s Harrier.

The Golden Eagle is a juvenile bird filmed at the steppes to the south of Lleida. You can see the eagle swooping and landing, and being bothered by a Jackdaw and what looks to be like a Red Kite, or is it a Black Kite?

Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos

                Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos

The Black Wheatears depicted were filmed at two different steppe locations in the Lleida steppes, again just south of the city of Lleida. You can hear a very short splatter of Black Wheatear song if you listen carefully, and bear in mind that these are active birds, and are rarely still!

Black Wheatear, Oenanthe leucura

          Black Wheatear, Oenanthe leucura

The Montagu’s Harrier is a male bird which was filmed on the Lleida steppes, but to the north of Lleida. Watch as the Montagu’s Harrier comes flying in over a cereal field and actually lands on a branch perch in front of the camera! This lovely bird then starts preening.

Montagu's Harrier, Circus pygargus

            Montagu’s Harrier, Circus pygargus

Golden Eagle, Black Wheatear and Montagu’s Harrier are just three of the many interesting bird species that can be seen and filmed around the Lleida steppes.

The Golden Eagles are mostly juvenile birds which disperse over the steppes to hunt for more abundant food sources the area has to offer. Black Wheatears are resident breeding birds, holding their own in the more secluded, arid areas with barren, rocky slopes. Montagu’s Harriers are summer visitors to the Lleida steppes, arriving in April and often breeding in small numbers in cereal fields.

We hope you enjoy these videos and are looking forward to seeing more.

Hoopoes in the Lleida Steppes: Video

The next bird video in the 10 second bird video series is one of Hoopoes in the spring in the Lleida steppes, Catalonia, Spain.

Hoopoe on branch

             Hoopoe on branch in the Lleida steppes

You can see Hoopoes landing on a forked-branch perch when entering or leaving their nest nearby.

Listen out very carefully for the following birds: Corn Bunting, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark and Mistle Thrush. You may have to turn up the volume!

Dirk from the Netherlands was one of the photographers to use our photography hide for Hoopoes in the Lleida steppes with very good results. Although he wasn’t too happy that I had forgotten to bring a chair that day!

10 second videos: Little Bustard

The next video in the Birding In Spain 10 second series is the Little Bustard.

Little Bustard callingA short taster video of a Little Bustard on the plains in the spring. He’s not always facing the other way!

Posted by Birding In Spain on Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Little Bustard jumping

Male Little Bustard jumping by Bart Vercruysse

  1. What will you see? A male Little Bustard “singing”, ie blowing his raspberries.
  2. What can you hear? The Little Bustard call is obvious, and is repeated several times. However, you have to listen very carefully to hear Corn Bunting, Tree Pipit, and just a sliver of a Crested Lark.
  3. Where and when was this taken? In April and May on one of the remaining dryland areas of Lleida, Catalonia, where the Little Bustard still breeds.
  4. Where can I learn more? There’s nothing like photographing displaying Little Bustards from one of our photographic hides from late April to late May. You might even get a jumping male!
  5. And more, with a limited budget? You can join a spring birding tour to see the Little Bustards, or you can sit at home and watch the antics of Steve and the North Herts Birders birding the plains in the spring while being filmed for a Catalan TV programme. Here’s the link, it’s fun!

 

TV3 Tocats de l’ala. Dryland treasures.

First International Meeting on Raptor Conservation, Photography and Responsible Tourism

At Montsonís

International meeting on Raptor Conservation at Montsonís

The First International Meeting on Raptor Conservation, Photography and Responsible Tourism was held at Montsonís, Catalonia, between the 16th and 19th March 2015. For a first of its kind it was undoubtedly a resounding success.

First International Meeting on Raptor Conservation, Photography and Responsible Tourism

The meeting itself was held at Montsonís castle and reception area on Thursday 19th March, and featured talks by photography and nature tourism wizard Staffan Widstrand from Sweden, Norwegian photographer and nature entrepreneur Espen Lie Dahl, and two Catalan raptor researchers, Joan Real from the University of Barcelona and Àngel Bonada of the Lammergeier Research and Study Group.

Among the rapt audience were representatives from the Generalitat de Catalunya, Diputació de Lleida, local mayors, barons of L’Albi, members of La Sabina, the organizers, and others. The baron and baroness very kindly contributed to the act by allowing it to take place in their home, the castle of Montsonís.

During the two days leading up to the meeting, special guests made good use of different raptor photography hides. The invitees included bird and wildlife tour operators from the UK, the editor of the digital magazine Wild Planet Photo Magazine, a photo tour operator from Slovenia, and the sales representative from a major camera and optics retailer in the UK. In the course of their visits they enjoyed encounters with birds such as Goshawk, Lammergeier, Bonelli’s Eagle, Wallcreeper, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Red Kite, Black Kite, White Stork and more.

La Sabina’s reason for organizing the meeting was to promote good practices in development and promotion of nature tourism products, especially raptor photography, as well as to involve the local community and administrations by demonstrating the benefits of this kind of tourism for the environment and the local economy.

First International Meeting on Raptor Conservation, Photography and Responsible Tourism

According to speaker Staffan Widstrand the number of people enjoying nature tourism in the USA is greater than the sum of sports fishermen and hunters, and nature-oriented tourism is growing rapidly in other countries too.

Lammergeiers in the Pyrenees

Here is the second part of Ian Montgomery’s report on his recent trip with us to photograph raptors from our hides.

Now, at last, here is the one that I wanted to photograph above all else when in the Pyrenees: the Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture.

Lammergeier, Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus.

As with other species that have featured in the bird of the week such as the Black Woodpecker and Cream-coloured Courser, my interest or perhaps obsession was stimulated by my Petersen et al. Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe in the early 1960s. Unlike the woodpecker and the coursers, the European vultures were represented not on the coloured plates but in monochrome drawings. If anything, that made them more mysterious and elusive though two of them came spectacularly to life in 1963 when I saw Griffon and Egyptian Vultures during a family holiday in the Pyrenees. The Lammergeier, the mythical bone-breaker seemed destined to remain just that, as I knew it was very rare in Europe, extinct in the Alps, and found only over the highest mountain ranges. Even the name seemed straight out of Wagner’s Ring Cycle along with the Valkyries.

Lammergeier, Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus.

I had been warned by the reserve rangers that the Lammergeiers would appear, if at all, in the afternoon after the Griffons had had their fill and I also knew that they were shy, would initially cruise over the area without landing and could easily be put off by the movement of a large telephoto lens. So the suspense was great, and it was a thrill when the first immature bird landed some distance away just before midday. They kept on the fringes and it wasn’t until about 2:30pm they came close enough for decent photos. The bird in the second and third photo is an older immature bird – they take six or seven years to mature – and the feathers of the breast and legs are getting paler. It also has the red eye-ring of the adult.

Lammergeier, Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus.

In flight, fourth photo, they look quite different to other vultures with their back-swept rather pointed wings and long paddle-shaped tail. The thick plumage on the crown and neck sets them apart from typical vultures too, and when perched they hold their bodies in a horizontal eagle-like stance, presumably to keep their tails off the ground.

Lammergeier, Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus.

Their shape plus the whitish head of the adult is quite distinctive so it was an exciting moment when I saw the first one soaring in the distance over the mountain range that overlooked the feeding station. Much later, they started checking out the feeding area without landing. I was too wary of alerting them by movement so I took the fourth photo of an adult in flight much later.

Lammergeier, Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus.

Eventually, just before 3pm, the first adult landed, though like the juveniles, the adults stayed on the fringes as well and it wasn’t until 4:30pm that they came closer pick over the remains of the food carcasses and the real photography began.

 Lammergeier, Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus.

The black bird on the left of the fifth photo is a Common Raven and it seems to be imitating the stance of the larger bird and saying ‘I’m a champion too’. It’s much closer to the camera which makes it look larger than it actually is. Thirteen seconds later the Lammergeier took flight right over the Raven’s head – it had to duck – as if to say ‘we’ll see who’s boss’, and the relative proportions are more obvious. The wing-span – to 280cm/110in – is similar to that of Griffon and Cinereous Vultures, but the tail makes it much longer – to 125cm/49in. Females are heavier than males, to 7kg/15lb, but both sexes are lighter than the other vultures.

Lammergeier, Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus.

The Lammergeiers wait until the others have finished because their food of choice is bones and bone marrow. In fact these make up 85% of the diet making them unique among birds and probably also vertebrates. The one in the sixth photo has found the favourite morsel, the digits of a cloven-hoof herbivore such as sheep and goats. Smaller bones ones are swallowed whole, larger ones – up to 4kg in weight – are dropped onto regularly used rocky areas called ossuaries to smash the bones. The usual pattern of the birds here was to scout around for suitable food, carry it off and then return perhaps 20 minutes later. They’re called ‘quebrando huesos’ (breaking bones) in Spanish. They’ll also take live prey such as tortoises, which get the same treatment. Legend has it that the Greek playwright Aeschylus was killed around 456 BC by an eagle – clearly a Lammergeier – dropping a tortoise on his bald head, mistaking it for a rock.

Lammergeier, Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus.

Conservation efforts have seen the Pyrenean population grow from 75 pairs in 1993 to 125 pairs in 2008 and the species has been successfully re-introduced to the Alps. It also occurs in eastern Africa, South Africa and Central Asia. Estimates of the global population range from 2000 to 10,000 individuals. Until recently, it was not considered globally threatened until recent declines outside Europe and it is now classified as near threatened. The greatest concern is the veterinary use of the anti-inflammatory and pain-killing drug Diclosfenac. Highly toxic to vultures, causing kidney failure, it has been solely responsible for the 99% decline in vulture populations in India, where it is now banned.

Horrifyingly, this drug has recently been approved for veterinary use in Spain and Italy. This insanity jeopardises the wonderful conservation efforts being carried out. BirdLife International has rallied to the cause, see http://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/vultures-africa-and-europe-could-face-extinction-within-our-lifetime-warn, and funds are being raised here https://www.justgiving.com/stop-vulture-poisoning-now/.

Lammergeier, Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus.

I’m going to donate. If we think that because there are no vultures in Australia, it’s someone else’s problem, it’s not unfortunately quite so simple. There is recent evidence that Diclofenac is toxic to Aquila eagles too. That includes the Wedge-tailed Eagle and this drug is approved for veterinary use here (e.g. ‘Voltaren’ for horses) and widely prescribed for human use. Studies have shown that it increases the risk of strokes in humans http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-09-14/study-links-voltaren-to-strokes/2260424. Photographing Lammergeiers is a personal missió complerta (Catalan for misión completa). A much more important mission accomplished will be the global banning of this completely unnecessary and dangerous drug – there are safe alternatives.

Vulture visitors from Down Under

The following text and photos are kindly reproduced with the permission of their author, Ian Montgomery, who paid our raptor hides a visit this October.  

The first photo shows part of Boumort National Reserve in the foothills of the Pyrenees in Catalonia about 40km southwest of Andorra. A reserve since 1991, It has an area of 13,000 hectares and is of special importance as one of the only places in Europe where all four European species of vultures breed. Three occur naturally, while the fourth, the Eurasian Black or Cinereous Vulture has been reintroduced, after becoming extinct in the Pyrenees in recent decades. I made arrangements to visit it through Steve West of Birding in Spain, including getting the necessary permit to photograph these birds, accommodation and transport.

Boumort Nature reserve

As part of the conservation effort, the vultures are fed three times a week and I was taken to the feeding site by two rangers who had collected carcasses and meat off-cuts from farmers in the vicinity. The site is equipped with a spacious and comfortable hide, complete with toilet, and I was left there alone for the day after they had spread out the meat and carcasses in front of the hide. When we arrived there were already between one and two hundred vultures, almost all Griffons, soaring high above. I had been briefed beforehand that the first arrivals would be Griffons, with Eurasian Blacks arriving later in the morning when the crowds thinned, while the iconic Lammergeier could be expected, probably, in small numbers in the middle of the afternoon. The fourth species, the Egyptian Vulture is a summer visitor and had already departed for Africa.

Griffon Vulture, Gyps fulvus.

 

Sure enough, as soon as the rangers left, large numbers of Griffons glided in and squabbled noisily over the food. Griffons feed mainly on muscles and viscera and attacked the carcasses and pieces of meat with great gusto. The bird in the second photo showing its skill at balancing on a rock on one foot and waving the other is an adult, recognisable by its white ruff, horn-coloured bill and pale wing coverts. The one in the third photo is a juvenile, with grey bill, coffee-coloured ruff and darker wings. Juveniles generally had a covering of short plumage on the head and neck, while the adults often had relatively bare necks.

The breeding range of the Griffon Vulture extends from Portugal in the west to northeastern India and southwestern Kazakhstan in the east. Spain is its main stronghold in the west with about 8,000 pairs and the species is not considered under threat.

Griffon Vulture, Gyps fulvus.

These birds are huge and it was wonderful to observe them up close. The black bird in the fourth photo sneaking a mouthful from under the watchful eye of a Griffon is a Common Raven. This is the largest passerine in the world, with a length of up to 67cm/26in and wingspan of up to 130cm/51in, larger than a Common Buzzard, but completely dwarfed by the vulture. Griffons are up to 110cm/43in in length, with a wingspan of up to 280cm/110in and weighting up to 11kg/24lbs.

 Griffon Vulture, Gyps fulvus.

In the air, they glide effortlessly and powerfully and the enormous wings make the body appear quite small by comparison. They come into land looking like parachutists under square canopies but with the ponderous, unwavering stability of a large aircraft like a B747 or an A380. Look how elegantly and precisely the toes are arranged with all the poise of an Olympic diver, fifth photo.

 Griffon Vulture, Gyps fulvus.

It really was an extraordinary experience watching the spectacle of these amazing birds, even if their table manners left much to be desired. The large amount of food disappeared at a great rate and the crowds started to disperse, leaving the scene, one hoped, for the later, rarer and more picky species. To be continued…

Greetings

Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,

454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818

Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au

Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/

Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunes; Google Play

Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au

Raptorfest – an autumn raptor photo trip special offer

Raptorfest Special Offer

We are offering November Raptorfest photo trips with a 10% discount.

See full details here…

November Raptorfest photo trip special offer 

For example, the birds photographed in one day last year, on the 30th October:

2 Bonelli’s Eagles from the Bonelli’s Eagle hide

1 Golden Eagle, 2 Goshawks, several Buzzards and numerous Red Kites from the Raptor Hide

Little Owls from 2 different Little Owl hides

Then combine these possibilities with the well-known Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture and Black Vulture hides

Then on another day maybe add Marsh Harrier from the Raptor hide

You can have 10 species of Raptor  on a raptor photo trip in November. You also have good light that you can use for almost all of the day.

And of course all of our professional expertise that goes with our photo trips.  

Photo trip prices going up (soon)!

Hide Photography

Our spring on the plains bird photography programme is fully booked :0 from the 12th April to 24th May 2014. However, we still have places available from the 24th May and into June.

La Sabina bird photo trips

Furthermore, Lammergeiers, Goshawks, Bonelli’s Eagles, Red Kites, Griffon Vultures and Black Vultures are all great subjects to photograph in the January-April and September – November period. And they can and have been photographed from our hides, just recently in fact.

Our photo trip prices are likely to go up a little in 2014, not much, but sometimes every little counts.

However, we are holding this year’s prices for any enquiries received before the end of the year and which lead to a booking in 2014.

So if you have been thinking about it, now’s the time to get in touch.

La Sabina bird photo trips

Steve West and Florinda Vidal, Lleida, December 2013

New hide photography brochure now available

Hide Photography in Catalonia

 

New hide photography brochure now available

This is the cover of the attractive new brochure on bird photography in Catalonia just edited by Birding In Spain and La Sabina.

It’s packed with some great bird photos – all of them taken from our hides – and tons of relevant information about bird photo trips and hide use, location, species etc.

A big thanks to all who contributed to make it possible, above all photographers who contributed a lot of the photos, such as Yves Adams, and especially to Eva Solanes. Eva was responsible for the graphic design and we think she did an excellent job. Congratulations Eva!

Anyone interested in seeing more of this brochure can request a copy by sending us an e-mail.

Happy birding, and great photography!