Friday, 4 March 2016

Undiscovered Owls - A Sound Approach Guide (Magnus Robb & The Sound Approach)

Undiscovered Owls - A Sound Approach Guide
For once, I'm not on the pulse of modern day publishing as this book was originally launched a year ago. Indeed, I attended the launch in the Netherlands. It was a fascinating day of presentations by the various major contributors to the book. Amongst the speakers were Mark Constantine (the main man of A Sound Approach), Killian Mullarney and Magnus Robb. All gave insightful accounts behind the initial ideas and construction of the book.

Owls are an enigmatic family of birds. How many of us regularly see owls? The answer is that many of us don't with fleeting glimpses of birds flashing across car headlights being the best that many of us can attain. It is true: owls are not the easiest of birds to study. What this book has boldly done is to present owls in a whole new light, if you will excuse the rubbish pun. The authors set about recording the owl species in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and in the process they discovered new calls from species that we thought we knew well. They have made the suggestion that the Great Grey Owl of northern Europe be split from the Great Grey Owl of arctic North America and be re-named Lapland Owl. They even succeded in discovering a new owl species, the Omani Owl.

The book comes replete with four cd's containing the calls of the owls - a truly fascinating collection of sounds - that in the engaging text are deciphered and graphically described in sonograms. This is not a throwaway book that you refer to just once. It is a tome that will pique interest and will draw you to explore your environs under the cover of darkness to discover the owls in your neighbourhood.

I applaud A Sound Approach for their ground breaking work.

Undiscovered Owls - A Sound Approach Guide is available from Wildsounds

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Waiting for spring in Mérida

So far, I have been spending a fair amount of time in Extremadura, Spain and in particular it's capital city, Mérida. I have a lot of familiarity with the city having visited it for the past six years. During that time I have amassed a city list of 72 species thus far.
 The view from the Roman Bridge looking west
Mérida is a small city of 100,000 or so inhabitants and is essentially surrounded by countryside. Most tourists visit the city to see its rich Roman heritage as there are plenty of ruins around, not least the Roman Bridge - the world's longest of its kind. It cuts across the Guadiana River seperating the old town from the more recent part of the city on the westside.
 The view from the bridge looking east
Birders also come here, primarily to stand on the Roman Bridge to search for Purple Gallinules foraging alongside the reedbeds. It is indeed, one of the best places in the whole of Extremadura for this oversided moorhen.
 Looking south towards the Roman Bridge
Currently the water levels are artificially low because the local council are clearing the margins of a Water Hyacinth, a virulent invasive alien plant that has been choking everything in its path.
 An ancient house exposed due to the low water levels
The draining has created some interesting looking muddy margins that I was hoping would have yielded a few waders. Instead, I have only been treated to a Common Sandpiper once and a scarce  Pied Wagtail or two.
 Wasteland by the Iron Bridge
My patch is essentially the riverbank on the western side of the Guadiana from the Roman Bridge to the Iron Bridge (a railway bridge) 1.5 miles north downstream. There's an interesting area of land that is currently being churned up by bulldozers. Despite that there are some small areas of thick vegetation, muddy puddles and piles of compost. All looking very inviting to passing migrants. The compost heaps have been crawling with Chiffchaffs with at least 30 snapping up the insects the other day.

I have flushed Snipe and found two Little Ringed Plover from the muddy pools and in the vegetated bits I've watched Hawfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Spanish Sparrow. From the Iron Bridge sing Spotless Starling and on a reeded island in the middle of the river a pair of Marsh Harriers display.

Anyway, here are a selection of the birds that I have seen in the last month - and spring is not even here yet!
 Crag Martin
 House Martin
 Crested Lark
 Corn Bunting 
 Spanish Sparrow
 Iberian Grey Shrike
 Meadow Pipit
 A leucistic Collared Dove