Plenty to Hoot About

It was a fantastic week last week. I visited Cabañeros to see the Berrea, or deer rut, and also Fuencaliente where the hills were alive with their bellows. At the Laguna de Navaseca there were four Ruff, one of which was in an unusual breeding to non-breeding plumage, six Black-tailed Godwits, a dozen or so Snipe which shows we are well into the migration season.

2011_09_23 LN - Ruff and Godwits 02
L-R Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, another BTG and the unusual Ruff.

The stony fields around Ciudad Real are full of Whinchat, Wheatears and Stone Curlew. Notable surprises though were two juvenile Black Storks near the castle Calatrava la Vieja and even more surprising were the three I saw in the Atalaya park on the outskirts of town! Who would have thought it?

2011_09_21 ClaV - Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) 04
Black Stork (Ciconia nigra)
In las Minas de Horcajo, near Fuencaliente, apart from all the deer, there were plenty of vultures, a Golden and Booted Eagle, Rock Bunting, Crested Tits, Spotted Flycatchers and on the way home the Valle de Alcudia was all Whinchats, Wheatears, Larks, Vultures, Buzzards and Kestrel.

2011_09_21 ClaV - Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) 04
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
I have been spending quite a bit of time at the Laguna Navaseca and the Tablas of Daimiel for obvious migratory reasons and what really made my day yesterday was not just the fact the park was practically empty of people and with plenty of Bluethroats, Ziting Cisticolas, Spotted Flycatchers, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows chasing dragonflies, but a very up close and personal encounter with a Long-eared Owl perched on a stump in under the tamarisks. 
2011_09_26 TD - Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) 02
Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)
When you go birding, you do sometimes get a sense that something is watching you. I got it and I froze when I saw this pair of fiery orange eyes only four metres away from me. It didn´t seem too worried about me as I slowly, slowly brought my camera to my eye and snapped a few. I then hunkered down and got a few more and it just wasn´t all that worried. It was an enthralling few minutes I had with it before the inevitable happened, a chatting couple came along. I did signal to them to be quiet and then to slowly approach, but the owl had already flown to a branch a bit further in so they didn´t get such a good look with their binoculars.

Now there is less water in the Tablas, and we are hoping for plenty rain to fill them up again, there are less people, but it doesn´t affect the amount of wildlife there. There is plenty to see, all you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut. Only then will you have hoot.

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