Tuesday 17 May 2011

Something in the air

I'm still birding my local patch. I'll keep doing it until I see nothing different. Only then am I going to branch out regularly into other parts of Bulgaria.

Today I went out birding straight after my Bulgarian lesson finished. I had a vague thought I might see black headed bunting and cirl bunting which should both be around by now. I last saw cirl bunting in Morocco on a birding holiday and black headed bunting in Azerbaijan where I once worked. I had also hoped to see yellow hammer again which I last saw last week!  The plan was to increase my set of local bunting pictures.

Well none of this happened. Are black headed bunting even here yet?

Events took a completely different turn. I did see new birds for the area. I saw my first song thrush for example. However most of the excitement was in the sky. I picked out a bird of prey which at first I thought was a very light common buzzard. Then my mind returned to Libya where I last saw this bird.

local short toed eagle

It is a short toed eagle. From the picture you can see it lacks a black trailing edge which even the very lightest (adult) common buzzard have.  I also saw the bird's top side and it had a white spot over its tail again confirming a short toed eagle. If I had any doubt it was with the width of the wings and the number of "fingers" but I am confident this is just an artefact of the photo. Finally if you still have any doubt just remember its other name is short toed snake eagle and this one has what looks like the remains of a snake in its mouth!    

local house martin

Another bird I thought could only photograph in the air was house martin. I hadn't seen any land and it unusual for them to do until after breeding is finished. Today the valley had a very large number flying. There were also a few barn swallow joining in too. With the swallow family and swifts I find it very difficult to photograph in the air as they are so fast and small. I resort to rapid snaps pointing in a set direction and sooner or later I capture one.

The house martin above looks unusual to me. I can't see the fork in its tail (unlike the one below). I assume its because its tail feathers are completely splayed. I've ruled out every other bird - even crag martin doesn't come close. 

more normal looking house martin today

Barn swallow hasn't cause me anything like the same trouble. I have found it easy to see them perched. Ironically less than half an hour after I had spent so much effort getting pictures of house martin in flight I saw two of them sitting on a wire with two barn swallow right next to my home. 

two house martin and two barn swallow

The house martin are all white underneath,  have a white face and a white rump whereas the barn swallow have a red wash underneath and a deep red face. I can't tell from the photo whether the barn swallow are male or female. Females have lighter faces, slightly lighter red wash and slightly shorter tail streamers than males. 

site of bee-eater colony

Another find today was the site of my local bee-eater breeding site. I hope to visit (carefully) later in the summer when there is more activity.

In the end I have had a good birding day but it had nothing to do with buntings!

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