Wednesday, 13 April 2016

School trip birding by Luke Nash

For five days in mid-March, I went on a cultural/language-learning trip with my school to Spain, specifically Castilla y Leon in the north of the country. We stayed on a farm roughly half an hour’s drive N of Valladolid, the capital of Castilla y Leon; most days were spent there doing activities. Being allergic to the animals, I managed to do a bit of birding on the side whilst the others were with them. Most birding was done around the farm; fortunately enough, the farm’s estate had extensive patches of Bosque; patches of Mediterranean Oak forest with the odd pine clump too. We also made excursions out to Medina de Rioseco, a town a few kilometres NW of the farm, the canal stretching from there to a town a few kilometres away and to Valladolid itself. 

Bird life in these areas was very diverse. Try as I might, however, I failed to see any bustards which are supposed to frequent the area; frustratingly enough, we drove straight past a known bustard site without any to be seen! Still, I managed to record at least 48 species here & when driving to and from the airport in Madrid. Below are a few highlight species from my trip:

White Stork by Jill Pakenham
White Stork by Jill Pakenham
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) - As well as 3 on the journey from Madrid to the farm, I saw 4 over an industrial area in Medina de Rioseco; I’d assume there will be a breeding colony there as more of the birds arrive this month. 1 was also seen near the Iglesia de San Pablo in Valladolid

Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) - I was surprised not to have seen more of these raptors but eventually I saw one about 50km N of Madrid when we were driving back from the farm to the airport. This bird was being mobbed by two Buzzards Buteo buteo. 

Crested Lark by John Harding
Crested Lark by John Harding
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) - Actually fairly common around the farm; at least three were seen, located by their flight & call which is distinctly different from Skylark Alauda arvensis (although this species was found as well)

Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) - At least 2 were in thick shrubbery roughly 6.5km along the canal from Medina de Rioseco. Unfortunately, I did not have my binoculars with me but, upon consulting a field guide later, I concluded that the bird was probably this species owing to matching body shape, flight pattern, colour & size.

Iberian Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus irbii) - 3 birds of the Iberian subspecies were seen to fly into some trees in Valladolid; views obtained were poor but, owing to geographic location, the birds were probably of this subspecies.

Raven (Corvus corax) - 1 was seen on some wires over the farm

Iberian Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) - This split from Great Grey Shrike L. senator was a much unexpected addition to the trip list when one was encountered on the farm. Possibly the best bird of the trip.

Cirl Bunting by Tom Wallis
Cirl Bunting by Tom Wallis
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) - Very common; the Iberian equivalent of our Starling.

Serin (Serinus serinus) - 3 were heard calling & flashing their yellow rump in pine trees in the Bosque near the farm.

Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus) - 1 was heard singing from wires over the farm along with a Corn Bunting E. calandra, offering a good comparison between the two species.

This list just goes to show that good birding can still be had on school trips even if you don’t visit any ‘birding’ sites. 

I’d be interested to hear of birds you’ve seen on your school trips.

Luke Nash 

1 comment:

  1. Impressive list! It must of been amazing seeing a Griffon Vulture. :)