Busman’s Holiday? Two of our tour guides, both based in Spain, take timeout during a quiet time in an otherwise hectic schedule. So what do Mick Richardson and Peter Jones get up to when they get a moment to themselves? They go off together, accompanied by their wives, on a mission to see how many butterfly species they can find and spend a day in the higher mountain regions of the Serranía de Ronda! Mick gives an account of their day in this report and also Peter gives us a brief glimpse into his ringing/banding experiences. Here Peter shares a tale of his most recent trip to Fuente de Piedra ringing/banding Greater Flamingo Pheonicopterus roseus……
Up into the mountains. Peter, his wife Brenda (also a guide for Spanish Nature), my wife Jayne and I all headed up to Sierra de Libar near the village of Montejaque. We passed through most of the valley without a stop and made our way to the Oak woodlands towards the far end of Libar. The first stop was to inspect some roadside thistles for butterflies. We found Small (Artogeia rapae), Iberian Marbled (Melanargia lachesis) and Bath Whites (Pontia daplidice), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Sage Skipper (Muschampia proto), Spanish Chalk-hill (Lysandra albicans) and Common Blue (Polyommtus icarus), Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) and Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea) the blighters all very quick and difficult to photograph. As we moved out and past the refuge into the grassland area at the furthest point of Libar, we saw the first of a few Rock Grayling (Hipparchi alcyone). Amongst the thistles and Field Eryngium we found more Iberian Marbled Whites, Clouded Yellow, Spanish Chalk-hill Blue and added Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus).
We then turned around and headed back to the woodlands where we stopped and had our picnic lunch by some old bathtubs being used as watering troughs for the livestock. Some of the water was leaking out and turning the soil to mud, where many butterflies were coming to settle and take on water and minerals, these included Holly (Celastrina argiolus), Long-tailed and Spanish Chalk-hill Blues, Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus f Iyllus), Cardinal Fritillary (Argynnis pandora), Scarce (Iphichides podalirius feistameli) and Common Swallowtails (Papilio machaon), Cleopatra (Gonepteryx rhamni) and Ilex Hairstreak (Satyrium esculi).
The birds for the day were typical of the mountains in this area and included Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius), Black (Oenanthe leucura) and Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica), Rock (Emberiza cia) and Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus), Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator), Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans) and Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae). In amongst the oak woodland we saw Gold (Carduelis carduelis) and Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris), Linnet (Carduelis cannabina), Jay (Garrulus glandarius), Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) and a Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) a bird I don’t see very often over in Granada Province. In the air above the site Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus), House Martin (Delichon urbica), Barn (Hirundo rustica) and Red-rumped Swallows (Hirundo daurica) all hawked for insects. Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Turtle (Streptopelia turtur) and Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocto) and House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) were all seen on our way back to Peter and Brenda’s in Ronda. Mick.
(Butterfly Photographs by Brenda Jones Top: Holly Blue Bottom: Sage Skipper)
Flamingo success at Fuente de Piedra – Andalucía
Another year and, after the disappointment of 2008, I can report on a successful breeding season at Fuente de Piedra for Greater Flamingo Pheonicopterus roseus. 2009 saw the 25th anniversary for ringing of the Greater Flamingo chicks at Fuente de Piedra and a total of 600 chicks (only a small representative sample of the total raised) were fitted with specially coded plastic colour rings. These colour rings can be easily read through telescopes and sometimes through binoculars, allowing observers to report on the movements of these birds as soon as they gain their independence and are able to fly to feeding grounds throughout the region and North Africa.
The ringing of Greater Flamingo chicks is a highly organised affair and run with military precision. The group of volunteers, numbering somewhere over 300, embark during cover of darkness slowly and silently encircling the nursery of young. As dawn arrives the nursery is slowly and safely encouraged towards a fence line and bell mouth shaped entrance to a holding corral. For the protection of the young, the entrance and corral are lined and padded with soft fabric and the corral is circular to avoid any sharp edges. This year, from the moment the required number where successfully corralled to the moment when all had been ringed and released took a grand total of 2 hours. If you consider the operation and further that each bird is processed for weight, measurements, blood sampling and inspected by attending veterinaries, then the minimum of time taken is a huge tribute to the thorough organisation of the operation.
It’s been quite a year for the species at Fuente de Piedra with in excess of 30,000 adults being reported on occasions. As the water levels drop, many adults make the daytime journey to Huelva and the Doñana to feed and return during the night to provide necessary sustenance for their young. An undisputed burden and act of dedication with a round journey every day of at least 160km to feed their offspring! Talking with the wardens I learnt that Lesser Flamingo Pheonicopterus minor apparently attempted to breed, but they believed the eggs were accidentally broken by the brooding adult and no further evidence was discovered to suggest breeding took place with any second attempt. Peter.
(Flamingo article: Thanks for the photographs, courtesy of my friend José A. Cortés - Peter)