Birding in Spain advent calendar December 25th

Merry Christmas!

Now why would you be reading this on Christmas Day?

I called this image “blood”. It’s an alert Goshawk (is there any other kind?) with a full crop and a blood-stained bill.

The Goshawk is a mean, aggressive predator, a real bird of prey, a feathered Velociraptor. It’s an image which doesn’t appear to have much to do with the Christmas spirit, the message of “Love and peace to all mankind”, or anything close to that.

Well, I could postulate that red is the colour of holly berries, and that holly has been a visible feature of this festive season in northern Europe for many years; or that red is the predominant colour of Santa Claus’s outfit, the red of gift-wrapping paper, Christmas tree baubles and tinsel, and so on. I could, and that might be a nice way to end this advent calendar series. However, if I did I think I’d be straying too far from what brought us all here in the first place: the birds.

Birds are beautiful. Birds can fly, soar, glide, swim, run, walk, float, climb, dive, hop, jump, dance and sing. And the beauty of birdwatching is that we can actually see the birds doing many of those things.

In any other world birds would be impossible. But they exist – in this, our, world. Enjoy birds. Enjoy life.


Blood – a festive Goshawk?


Bird, and be free

Birding In Spain

Birding in Spain advent calendar December 24th

Good morning birders from all over!

I hope you have a nice tomorrow’s eve!

Today’s offering is a slightly risqué image of a Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture (as they keep reminding us). Risqué because of the foot-dragging diversion away from the conventions of bird portraiture: the clipped wingtips, the visible narrow white border separating the bird from its background, and the very artificial background of scratches and grunge patches.

I often wish that I could go much further than this and apply some measure of real artistic ability to create nature-related images capable of captivating the audience, surprising or shocking them even, while still distilling some or all of what the bird is, what I’ve seen it to be after countless encounters in the field.

How many of us can see and feel, and would like to share, but lack the ability to communicate what we feel or see or hear?

Did you know that adult Lammergeiers don’t get that orange-yellow coloration on their underparts from plumage moult or anything of the kind? Maybe some of you didn’t, so I’ll continue: they actually get it by “bathing” in ferruginous springs – think iron oxides or ochre – to acquire what is termed “cosmetic colouring”.

Incredible, huh? Why they do that is another story, but like many things in the natural world it’s probably related to sex.

Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture

Advent calendar – December 24th – Lammergeier

Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth.

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Birding In Spain Advent Calendar December 22nd

This one is close to me.

For a good number of years now the Bonelli’s Eagle has been one of my favourite “home” birds.

Just look at that expression: this bird has character, and plenty of it.

The Bonelli’s Eagle is only a medium-sized eagle, but I’ve watched it chase off a considerably larger Golden Eagle encroaching on its territory, and it still had plenty of fight left in it. The Golden Eagle did the right thing by getting out of there pretty fast.

It’s an eagle with bright white underparts, so you’d think it would be easy to spot, wouldn’t you? Well, when it wants to show off to a potential mate or rival it will sit on an exposed perch and you might happen to be there too to observe it. However, if it doesn’t want to be seen you can spend hours in a known eagle territory and leave frustrated after seeing nothing, or worried that the territorial pair will have abandoned the area, or even worse, suspecting that they have fallen prey to some human-induced mortality factor.

As means of illustration: I’ve watched a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles sitting virtually motionless for almost an hour on secluded perches and then briefly take flight only to move to another even more secluded perch where they remain for at least another hour. If I had the whole day to spare I might wait then to see them take another brief flight over the nearest ridge, not to be seen again for the rest of the day.

And that look; that scrutiny. To me that expression alone makes the Bonelli’s Eagle more like a Goshawk than an eagle. It’s hungry, insatiable, unpredictable. It’s wild – still. As it should be.

Bonelli’s Eagle on perch

A negative mind will never give you a positive life

Birding In Spain Advent Calendar December 21st

Hello again

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This turtle is a survivor, like all of us.

This turtle survived a hellish struggle as a mere hatchling, flailing its flippers in a desperate bid to get to the sea. It made it, but it couldn’t have done so without the sacrifice of most of its brothers and sisters.

We are here, now, as we are, largely as a result of what our forebears did, but also of what our brothers and sisters of the human race do for us every day. Even if you, like the turtle, are a solitary creature, you have the responsibility of bearing the sacrifice of others with the dignity their memory deserves.

Turtle in the sea

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed

Michael Jordan

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Birding in Spain Advent Calendar 2023


Only a week to go until December 25th or, for many of us, Christmas Day. That will bring us to the last post in this “advent calendar” series. But until then, there’s a whole week of nature images and motivational quotes for you all to enjoy.

Why am I doing this?

Well, I remember when I was a kid when me, my younger sister and brother took turns in opening the little squares on the advent calendar hung somewhere where I forget, and revealing a chocolate treat moulded into the shape of something that had some resonance with Christmas or the “festive season”. It could be a Christmas tree, a sleigh, a stocking to be filled with gifts, holly leaves with berries, and so on. We were kids back then and not adults shaped by cynicism about the power and the opportunism of marketing. For us it was something just a little bit different, just a little bit special.

So I’m hoping that these images and the experience as a whole is just a little bit different, just a little bit special.

Special effects Griffon Vultures in flight


Never regret anything that made you smile

Mark Twain

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Advent calendar – December 15th

A colourful morning to you all!

Have you ever done something and thought “yeah, that’s quite neat”, and then left it, gone back to admire it a month or two later and thought “What? What was I thinking?” and then gone over it again, improving, modifying, enhancing, left it for a while, then gone back to it again and again thought “What the hell?” Yes? Then you know the feeling that I had before getting to this image with the Great Crested Grebes!

There’s a danger that if I ever come back and read this post after a few months have passed that I may want to delete it, if I have the energy to make another attempt at improving this image.

Do something today that your future self will thank you for

Have you ever watched a pair of Great Crested Grebes displaying and thought how truly wonderful birds are?

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