Monday, May 21, 2018

Oop,oop,oop.

We saw lots of Hoopoes during our two week expedition to Menorca. Hang on, let me rephrase that a little. We heard many a Hoopoe; probably several dozen. We saw less - five or six individuals on a typical day.

"Click the pics" to see Hoopoe action.

Hoopoe 

The Hoopoe’s “oop,oop,oop,oop” call carries many a mile over the quiet landscape of Menorca. But this mainly shy bird often calls from the cover of a copse, a dry stone wall or the corner of a distant building. For an apparently highly visible bird with a funky hairdo the Hoopoe can be difficult to spot. Its striking but basically sandy-brown plumage blends well with the dry landscape while the black & white wing pattern and the bird’s erratic butterfly flight allows the bird to dissolve into the dappled light of a Menorca day. 

Hoopoe 

The Hoopoe is very common in Menorca where it occupies a wide variety of habitats: vineyards, gardens, parks, woodland and agricultural situations. In fact anywhere that will hold a dark cavity in which they can raise a family. 

The stink from a Hoopoe nest is legendary. The female secretes a substance of foul odour from the uropygial gland. This liquid smells like rotten meat. Due to the unpleasant smell, most predators stay away from the nest. On the other hand, insects, the Hoopoe's food, will be attracted but may find themselves to be the next Hoopoe meal. 

I didn’t test out the smelly nest theory when I found a nesting pair during the first week of our holiday as it was a hands and knees job. The nest site was an inch or two from the ground with the danger of rubbing my nose into soil and debris from the unkempt surroundings. 

Hoopoe 

Hoopoe 

Initially I thought that the adults were feeding only tiny young as they carried quite small morsels of food into the lump of pre-cast concrete with a handy cavity. Mostly the adults took items through the hole and left quickly, but on occasions the slightly smaller female stayed in to brood the chick(s). One food item seemed to be favoured, a small, red spherical creature that appeared to be a spider or bug. On other occasions it was definitely spiders of one sort or another. 

Hoopoe 

Hoopoe

Hoopoe 

Hoopoe 

Hoopoe 

May 18th was our flight home day. So on the late afternoon of the 17th I left Sue packing and drove for a last look and check of the Hoopoe’s nest. I was glad I did because after a while and soon after the female departed the nest, a younger head appeared at the hole. 

The youngster peered out into the world it would soon inhabit. Passing cars, footsteps, sounds of laughter & joy from a nearby villa and swimming pool. The click of a camera from the window of a Fiat Panda didn't phase the youngster as it waited patiently for mum to return.

Hoopoe chick

Wow. That’s some gape; pure white, unmissable in the darkened depths of a nest when the adult arrives with a pile of grubs to share. Maybe there was only one youngster after all? We'll never know but my guess would be that the young Hoopoe was big enough to fly away on 18th May at much the same time as we flew back to Manchester Airport. 

In the UK the Hoopoe is uncommon enough to be an attraction for twitchers. I guess it’s those jazzy looks, the wish to see that slow fanning in and out of the headdress or to hear that mellow “oop, oop, oop”? 

Bird ringers will testify that in the hand the Hoopoe is something of a disappointment. Beneath that colourful finery lays a rather scrawny skeleton that seems in desperate need of a good meal. But I must admit a Hoopoe does make for a nice ringing “tick” and a good enough photograph.

Linking today to World Bird Wednesday.



Saturday, May 19, 2018

Wedding Free Zone

I'm back from Menorca with a few photos and tales to tell. Click the pics for more sunny days from the Gem of The Mediterranean, 4th – 18th May 2018. This was our fourteenth visit to this the most beautiful and carefree of the Balearic Islands. 

People have in the past said to me “Are you going to Minorca or Menorca?”, but the two words “Minorca” and “Menorca” are interchangeable. Menorca is the preferred local name, Minorca the English version. Menorca has its own language, Menorquín, which is a dialect of Catalan, but Spanish is widely spoken. 

We picked up the hire car at the airport thanks to our friends at Momple,  a local family business since 1974 and highly recommended in preference to the bigger names of car hire. A small car is ideal for sometimes narrow and twisty roads Menorcan roads. We noted more than one hire car with bent wing mirrors or recent dents.

Within ten minutes and minimal paperwork over, we headed for our destination of two weeks, the beach side resort of Sant Tomas. From Sant Tomas it’s a ten minute drive to the major road of the island, the Me-1. From there the fish-bone layout roads lead to authentic and unspoilt inland towns and to touristy coastal resorts north & south plus the major cities of Mahon or Ciutadella at each end of the island. 

Menorca

Panda 

It rained all of the day we landed. Ready for a rest after our 2am start we remained optimistic for the next and following days. Sunny skies arrived soon and stayed until the end. Witness the following photographs.

There are bits and pieces around the hotel. Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Spotted Flycatcher, Hoopoe, the two local gulls Yellow-legged & Audouin’s, plus shearwaters in mostly distant view. On most evenings one or two Scops Owls put on brief shows as they came to feed on beetles and moths. Sadly, the local Woodpigeons have become as bold as our own British ones and rather to the expense of the local Turtle Doves that have now become harder to find in Sant Tomas and the local countryside.

Audouin's Gull

Turtle Dove

Spotted Flycatcher 

Blackbird 

Woodpigeon

Hoopoe 

When the sun came out the local lizards warmed up too. On our travels this year we spotted albeit briefly, a Fox Vulpes vulpes, the same species as our UK one but the one we saw of a very sandy shade almost like the colour of a golden retriever.

Italian Wall Lizard 

It’s one of our favourite runs. Towards Es Mercadal with stops here & there along “Dusty Road” at Tirant and the swooping run to Cavelleria and back followed by lunch at Fornells village. We stopped to rescue a Hermann's from traffic.

 "Dusty Road", Tirant

Hermann's Tortoise

May flowers 

May flowers 

Playa Fornells from Tirant

Bar at Tirant

To Cavelleria

Cavelleria

Red Kites, Kestrels and Booted Eagles line this route with the occasional Egyptian Vulture. We fell lucky on a couple of days with singles of both Red-footed Falcon and European Roller on the roadside wires. The kites and eagles appear to never, ever land, not for the car bound photographer and certainly not for the brightly clad cyclist or walker.

Red Kite 

Booted Eagle 

Egyptian Vulture 

European Roller 

European Roller

Red-footed Falcon 

 Red-footed Falcon

Tawny Pipits seemed harder to find this year, as did both Thekla, Short-toed Lark and even the normally plentiful Stonechat. I fear that Menorcan farmland birds may be in similar decline to our own UK ones. In contrast, Corn Buntings appeared as ubiquitous as ever.

Tawny Pipit

Corn Bunting 

Stonechat 

Fornells 

Fornells

Fornells 

Fornells 

Fornells

Stay tuned. There's more to come from Menorca soon, a book review, plus back to local birding when time allows.

Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Blogspot.



Friday, May 11, 2018

Guess Where

Regular readers will know where Sue and I are this week. That’s right - Sunny Menorca, our annual treat after the British winter. The winter just gone was the worst for many a year so we are really ready for this respite. 

First and foremost this is a holiday of rest & relaxation with a few birds thrown in for good measure.  Sue tells me a holiday should not include blogging so I scheduled this post before we left to include pictures from recent years.

Apologies if some seem familiar but sit back at your PC, “click the pics” and enjoy some of that the Mediterranean sunshine as we take in a few birds and landscapes of glorious Menorca. 

Menorcan Panda 

Bee Eater 

Donkey Love 

Red-footed Falcon 

Egyptian Vulture 

Lobsters 

Es Grau Nature Reserve 

Sardinian Warbler 

Hoopoe 

Es Mignorn 

Alaior

Hoopoe

Egyptian Vultures

View from El Toro, Menorca

Scop's Owl 

Purple Heron 

Tawny Pipit 

Black-winged Stilt 

Turtle Dove 

Es Grau, Menorca 

Hermann's Tortoise 

Squacco Heron 

Es Mercadal, Menorca 

Bee Eater 

Woodchat Shrike 

Spotted Flycatcher 

Fornells Village, Menorca 

A hot day in Menorca 

Back soon. Don't start birding without me.


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