October is always a bit of an anti-climax for those of us who love to get out and around to see the birds of our region, it is a time when many of our familiar summer resident have departed for exotic destinations in Africa and we then await the arrival of birds from the north that choose to spend their winter with us. The autumn lull in birding can be a bit disconcerting as well as depressing, but I tend to find solace in our incredible resident birds during this time. We have so many wonderful residents, that many birders can overlook as they are taken for granted, and who can resist such a rich avifauna we possess in the region, in particular I made a special effort to see and listen to the local songster Woodlark. The Woodlark is right up there among my favourite songsters, just beautiful to listen to as it already proclaims territory and trills to attract a mate to share in the comfort of an established area providing food and suitable nesting cover. They will be together for some months before eggs are laid, but they will nonetheless have established a bond and be familiar with their adopted home.
Up here in my mountains there is so much to see and appreciate as my wanderings took me to several remote rocky outcrops to see if I could find any early winter arrivals of such wintering birds as Alpine Accentor. Despite a concerted effort my search was in vain, but there were my local beauties the Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush which always make these visits so worthwhile. A few early Ring Ouzel were around and feeding on a less than bountiful harvest of haw berries because of our extremely dry summer, no doubt many of these blackbird sized thrushes will continue their journey south to eventually winter in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco and frequent the high areas populated by juniper trees where they will feed on the berries. Another consequence of the dry summer and early autumn has been the delayed flowering of several autumn plants, much to the disappointment of my wife who so looks forward to seeing her first autumn flowering crocus and the mandrake, a plant steeped in folklore and beautiful as it resembles a cluster of flowering crocuses.
Closer to home and a battle is raging between myself and one of the first winter arriving birds to my garden. Blackcaps have returned in numbers already and now the battle has commenced to see who can reach the ripening figs first, me or the Blackcaps. I have to admit, I am losing this battle mostly because these beautiful warblers are able to rise earlier in the morning than me! In the end I don’t begrudge them the fruits of their labour and quietly admire their tenacity. Robins and Black Redstart are other birds to be arriving and becoming territorial in my garden, the conflicts between these close relatives provides endless entertainment as they chase each other around the confines of my garden. During the early part of October, some late migrants added a little spice to birding from my office window and a distraction from the work I should have been doing, but who could not be distracted by the beautiful Common Redstart and especially the colourful male, whilst the odd Pied Flycatcher launched itself from a favoured perch in an ariel pursuit of a passing insect. Later in the month finches too were flocking and visiting the seed harvest on dried thistle plants with the diminutive and colourful Goldfinch starring in their charms as they gathered precariously on the long fragile stems of the thistles.
October is always a busy time for me as I reluctantly withdraw from my wanderings into favoured wild places and stop pontificating over essential tasks, getting down to the serious business of liaising with the various projects we are involved in as the Andalucía Bird Society. Once started though, the rewards of talking to project managers and volunteer staff are boundless as the enthusiasm for their work becomes infectious and inspiring. I also have the task of coordinating end of season reports for publishing in the Society’s magazine ‘Birds of Andalucía’ and thus keep members up to date on our support work. During the course of this year the Society has been collecting donations from members who had attended our monthly field meetings, these micro donations had been accumulated to reach a target of 500 euro to support the purchase of materials for constructing nest boxes for swifts, an important project as swifts are losing many nesting sites due to new buildings not having crevices in which they can nest. Having reached our target funding, we then decided to continue raising funds until the end of the year to purchase nest boxes for swifts and these will distributed to sites most in need.
I have also been liaising with projects we support involving Montagu’s Harriers and Barn Owls, whilst also discussing the Restore La Janda project with colleagues. The Global Birdfair held in the UK during July this year, an event organised by the Patron of the Andalucía Bird Society a Tim Appleton MBE, raised the amazing figure of 100,000 euros to help fund this much need project at La Janda. Our Montagu’s Harrier support project is also based in and around the La Janda area and so far we have donated more than 10,000 euros to this essential preservation and monitoring work, as well as donating to other conservation causes in the region, so not only do we provide benefits for our members, but they in turn help with many conservation efforts via their subscriptions. For me this is not only a labour of love, but I get to have some fun too. For instance, we organised a fun day taking part in the now famous Global Birding Big Day, a worldwide coming together of nature enthusiasts who spend the day finding as many different bird species as possible in a 24-hour period and donate to various charities and conservation projects. Our ABS Team was involved in October and funding was raised towards additional swift nest boxes. The team had a real fun day and lots of laughs whilst also doing a wonderful job donating to our chosen project.
Article: Peter Jones
Photos: Peter Jones
Note: The views expressed in articles are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of the Society.