Monday, 10 September 2012


Just spent a week birding in Luguero, near Leon and Asturias in northern Spain. What a fine way to mark the end of summer and to look forward to the onset of autumn! Didn't see wallcreeper, although we were surrounded by high, sunny cliffs and even spent a morning out looking for them in the likeliest of likely spots. Maybe just the wrong week...

Did see great bustards and black storks, Egyptian vultures and short-toed eagles, purple herons and rock buntings. Every one of the thousand or so pied flycatchers we saw were brown - all females and juveniles? All? Apparently not, since the black and white males moult into this plumage in autumn! I never had any inkling of this before - of course in Britain we only have pied flys between May and August when they head south for the winter. Offhand I can't think of another bird that does this.

Feels like a bit of a Gilbert White moment. We assumed we were looking at females and juvies and that all the males had gone early en masse. Just like the swallows all descend into the mud at the bottom of the ponds and lie torpid underwater for the winter!!

And thousands of mistle thrushes all week, pouring in here and there, at all altitudes and in every habitat. And the jays - pouncing like shrikes on the lizards among the rocks on the foothills.

The sight of a hobby over our chalets, flying high, then stooping and swerving among our house and crag martins before disappearing into the orange sunset. A sparrowhawk which tried to harrass them the evening before had been tempted too close and too fast towards the chalet windows where she hit the glass and killed herself. She was still warm when we returned to find her on the balcony, but the martins were unperturbed by the sight of their fatal bellman stretched still on the ground.