As some of you may know, IBO is always trying to establish contacts with people from other countries who also study migration. Both this year and last year, two Spanish students have been able to come to IBO to work on our migration project as part of an exchange program; and this year two of our own raptor grad students were able to go to Spain and see migration there!
So, here's a guest blog post from Micah and Martina with an update on their first month there:
Greetings from southern Spain! We have been working with the Migres Program for one month now to help survey for migrating raptors, storks, passerines, and marine birds as part of a student exchange program between Boise State University, the Idaho Bird Observatory, and Fundacíon Migres. The goal of the Migres Program is to monitor population changes of migratory birds in Spain and the rest of Western Europe. The migration observatories are situated on the coast of Spain looking out over the Strait of Gibraltar. Each year hundreds of thousands of soaring birds and an estimated 20-40 million songbirds pass through this area as they cross the Strait at its narrowest point (approximately 14 km) on their voyage between Europe and Africa. This makes the Straight one of the most excellent places to study the phenomenon of avian migration!
Griffon Vulture soaring over head. This species is migratory but not until the end of October. We see many each day and monitor the numbers seen so the wind farms can use this information to help mitigate collisions. Griffons are the most commonly killed soaring birds by wind turbines.
Sparrow Hawk saying "I see you too"
The Migres Program operates several observatories which are used at different times of the year. Each observatory is strategically placed to capture the majority of migrating birds for different species. Our most inland observatory, Facinas, is used to count the bulk of the White Stork migration. Approximately 71,600 Storks are counted here each year! This observatory is up and running from July 25th to August 25th after which the observatory of Algorrobo is utilized. At Algorrobo we are able to view the majority of migrating Honey Buzzards. Nearly all of the migratory Honey Buzzard populations pass through in just two weeks with some days having upwards of 20,000 birds flying overhead. The main observatory, Cazalla, is located near the coast and looks out of the city of Tarifa and across the Strait of Gibraltar to the Moroccan coast. The greatest diversity of raptors are counted at this site, the most common of which is the Black Kite (approximately 78,000 each year). Here is what we have counted so far from the main observatory at Cazalla…
Lesser Spotted Eagle-1
Another 100 thousand birds were also counted at Facinas as well for a grand total of approximately 300,000 birds counted so far this season. You will notice that we have nearly surpassed the average number of storks and Black Kites counted and we still have another two months of migration yet…it has been a great year so far!!
Observatory inland (Facinas)
Main observatory of Cazalla
View from our hostel (yes, we have a swimming pool)
In addition to counting soaring birds we have also had the opportunity to trap and band (or ring as they call it over here in Europe) Black Kites (Milano Negros) and passerines. Trapping raptors here is particularly difficult. When birds arrive at the Straight they are on a mission to cross and are therefore usually uninterested in food. However, when the weather is poor birds will forage along the coast. We trapped Black Kites on just such a day. There had been strong winds for two days prior and poor visibility across the Straight making it ideal conditions to bait a walk in trap for Black Kites. We had moderate success in the morning with 38 birds captured. After processing the Kites we re-opened the door to allow more Kites to enter while we took lunch. An hour later we returned to find about 150 birds inside!!! Needless to say we were busy for the next several hours banding and processing birds. We took measurements and blood from only a portion of the birds captured and released the rest after ringing them.
Walk in cage trap full of Black Kites (around 150!!!)
Martina releasing a Black Kite after it was banded
Once every two weeks we also mist net Swallows (Golondrinas) in the natural reserve of La Janda about 40 km north of Tarifa. We attract the birds to the nets using a playback call just before dusk. This last week we were also fortunate enough to capture two Bee Eaters! Bee Eaters are another common migrant seen here traveling in flocks of 5 – perhaps 50. Stunning colors!
Adult Bee eater being processed (juvies lack the red eye)
We hope to keep you all posted on more of our activities here as we continue to experience a different culture, learn about new birds, and participate in monitoring avian migration at one of the most important migration sites in the world. Esparamos que todos esta bien con el migratión in los estodos!!
Micah and Martina