Canned Heat Birding

Virtually every morning now, the sun rises and very quickly becomes the great inhibitor to forays on foot in search of birds. For me woodlands and riverside walks are bearable early mornings, but temperatures quickly rise to make this a little uncomfortable as early as around 10 am.

Now is a great time of year to get along early to a bird hide. Youngsters join their parents visiting a nearby waterhole and can provide endless entertainment as they compete for the shallows to bathe and drink. I am lucky, my friend and colleague Pieter Verheij, has a hide in the middle of a traditional and typical oak forest hereabouts in Ronda. The hide is sheltered by the shade of an oak tree and the front is an amazing picture window of spyglass. The hide even has its own bathroom!

Iberian Green Woodpecker
An Iberian Green Woodpecker enjoys the private bathroom for birds!

Throughout the remaining summer months and into early autumn, this site will produce a constant procession of varied species coming to drink and bathe. The sheer number of birds and species is amazing. Virtually all your typical woodland warblers such as Subalpine, Bonelli’s, Iberian Chiffchaff and even the elusive Orphean Warbler will put in an appearance. Both Iberian Green and Greater-spotted Woodpecker are regular along with members of the Tit family. Nuthatch and Short-toed Treecreeper are frequent and Wryneck can be regular some years.

Jay
Normally such a shy bird, the Jay is common as a visitor to the hide pool.

I enjoy the solitude and cool in summer by watching from this amazing hide. Flycatchers, thrushes and the shy Jay are wonderful to witness at such close quarters. Nightingale will be drinking and probing the surrounds of the pool, oblivious to my presence only a meter away! Of course, by being still and hidden from the birds, surprises are frequent. Booted Eagle, Honey Buzzard and Sparrowhawk can and do come to bathe and drink, as too does the local Common Buzzard. Some mammals too can come close and I have enjoyed great views of Egyptian Mongoose, Fox, Red Deer and even the hop skip and jump visit of Weasel.

Nightingale
Nightingale is a common bird around the pool margins and often seen here in the open areas next to the hide.

The hide, unsurprisingly, is very popular with bird photographers. Pieter has been fastidious in the choice of spyglass, the top end glass gives crystal clear views and no distortion to photo images. Although I take my camera with me, I have probably missed so many photo opportunities due to just being preoccupied by watching so many birds coming and going. To be so very close to so many otherwise shy and elusive birds is a pure joy, especially in the cool of the hide. It provides the perfect escape from high summer heat. And birding whilst drinking my chilled drink and eating a naughty chocolate nibble, whilst the birds are unaware of my voyeurism, is my idea of lazy summer birding.

Subalpine Warbler
Such a great place to see skulking warbler species as they come to bathe and drink. Subalpine Warbler is very common at the pool.

The hide is within the natural estate of Algaba, Ronda. For more information visit their website and photo gallery page.

Article: Peter Jones
Photos: Peter Jones

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