Birding & nature photography tours

Spring is nigh!  The first few Black kites have already started to arrive as a result of the great weather we’v been having lately.  This time of the year tends to be a busy one for Spring bookings with clients usually vying for the best dates.  Bookings are coming in thick and fast so we recommend you starting enquiring for availability now by sending an email to info@aviantours.net

Black Kite windfamrsBlack kites soaring over a windfarm

The bird of prey passage is specular with significant passage starting on the last week in February onwards, involving Black kite, Short-toed eagle, Booted eagle, Honey & Common buzzard, Griffon & Egyptian vulture,  all harrier species, various falcons, with possibilities of rarer migrant Lesser spotted & spotted eagle, Spanish imperial eagle, Bonelli’s eagle and more, all giving some magnificent views and photo opportunities.

Black-kite-earlierBlack kite closeup in flight

Black kites are particularly numerous and will not show away from a photographer giving a fair degree of concealment and fieldcraft, techniques which is always taught to our clients by our tour guide.  Our guide will help you maximise your cameras setting and help you stretch your abilities to achieve a high success rate of ‘keeper’ photos as well making you a better bird photographer

 

Black-kite-ve-gull-montageMontage of Yellow-legged attack on a migrant Black kite

Some of the aerial battled between the highly territorial and aggressive Yellow-legged gulls and migrant raptors such as this Black kite can be achieved.  We can help you achieve similar photos by being in the right place, at the right time with out local weather knowledge.

Black-Kite-ve-GullClose-up of one of the Yellow-legged gull attacks on a migrant Black kite.

Booted-EagleCloseup of a migrant Booted eagle

Mid-march and particularly April is a great month for Booted eagle with great close-up views to obtain some wonderful & memorable, images during your tour.  Both phases can be photographed although each require slightly different camera setting which will be explained by our tour guide.

Short-toed-EagleA migrant Short-toed page after having just crossed the Strait of Gibraltar.

Short-toed eagles are one of my favourite birds of prey and a favourite target of Yellow-legged gulls.  Extremely numerous during the first half of March.  Can provide great photo opportunities as they arrive tired having cross the Strait and also due to the slow flight action, giving the photographer plenty of time to compose and focus.

Griffon-planeA Griffon vulture preparing to land on a carcass

Knowing where to be can prove crucial in obtaining stunning images!  This is an unusual angle of a Griffon vulture coming in to land on a carcass to feed.  April – June are particularly good months for them across the Strait of Gibraltar.  A fair number of them succumb to tiredness and gull attacks, although many of them are rehabilitated and successfully returned to the wild, particular in Gibraltar with the assistance of the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society raptor rehab unit.  You can also photograph them from bird hides (See below)

 

Imperial-Eagle-inside-WMA view from inside the bird of prey hides

Bird hide photograph is great for some individual species such as both Griffon & Black vultures, and possibly the best way to obtain great views and images of both Golden & particularly Spanish imperial eagle.  Hide are tall, super comfortable and protected & insulted from the elements, as well as providing eco-toilets.  Smoking is strictly prohibited though.  For more info on these bird hides and pricing click here https://www.aviantours.net/bird-hides.html 

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‘Klopp’ – The European Storm-petrel in Gibraltar.

European Storm-petrels are very small pelagic seabirds about the size of House martins.  The only time they occur along the coast is during the breeding season or wind-blown after severe storms.

They breed fairly near Gibraltar in various colonies on both mainland Mediterranean Spain and nearby islands, particularly the Balearic archipelago, the Iberian stronghold.  There are possibly colonies on the African side of the Strait.  Most of the Iberian population winters in the South Atlantic Ocean.  These birds are rarely recorded in Gibraltar even though they do occur in the middle of the Strait on passage.

BD2CEF85-92E6-4942-94AF-6EB850299279
Klopp after it had been recovered.

During the early morning hours of Monday 9th November 2015, I was given a call by a local friend birder in Gibraltar, Albert Sheriff, alerting me of a European Storm-Petrel which he had been picked up exhausted in the area of New harbours, on the western side of Gibraltar.

I took the bird into care and identified the bird as that species, due to its white underwing panel, characteristic of European Storm-petrels.  The bird was inspected and there was no apparent evidence of any wing, head or body damage and all its wing & tail feathers were intact.  I nicknamed the bird, ‘Klopp’

Klopp was given some tinned sardine strips and fresh water, which is oil rich and full of energy.  After half an hour it was obvious the bird was not feeding by itself, so arrangements were made for assisted feeding via a plastic syringe, containing a blended mixture of tinned sardine & water to make sure the bird ingested some energy.  Some fresh water was also administered to ensure Klopp was well hydrated.  Assisted feeding & hydration proved very complex given the delicate structure of the bird, its unwillingness to cooperate and its small esophagus.

The bird was allowed to rest until mid-afternoon, when bird was again checked for any symptoms of any deterioration in health.   More food & water was supplied but again Klopp would not fend for itself.  This assisted feeding process was again repeated in the late evening.  Klopp became very restless and active during the morning hours, a behaviour perhaps typical of this species and its nocturnal habits, which in itself was a sign of good health.  A small amount of food and fresh water was left inside its enclosure overnight.

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Klopp preparing to be feed with a sardine / water mixture.

The following day, Klopp was inspected and found to be in good health but it was noticed that it had not taken any food.  Again the assisted feeding was conducted during the morning.  After consultation with bird ringers and other local bird experts it was decided to try and release the bird that evening to make the most of the good health of the bird.  The main reason for this was that given the problems in feeding Klopp, keeping it might encourage a deterioration in health, thus making a release more complicated, if not impossible, as well as risking death.   Klopp was ringed at Jew’s Gate bird ring station in Gibraltar by our resident ringer, Ian lees, and allowed to rest for the remainder of the afternoon after some more feeding at midday.

Given the strong easterly winds at Europa Point, it was decided that releasing Klopp at Camp Bay which had almost no wind at all, was the best location in which to attempt the release.

At about 1800hrs I got to Camp Bay together with local birder Albert Yome (GONHS) and we discussed the best release procedure.  Given the bird had spent almost a day and a half enclosed indoors, it was decided that it was best to give Klopp some time to acclimatize itself to the elements and the new surroundings.  We also kept a close watch for any potential dangers such as a Little owl which had been spotted nearby by Albert, Yellow-legged gulls flying overhead and any opportune feral cats.

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A ringed Klopp acclimatizing to its new surroundings.

Upon releasing Klopp, we noticed it would turn and hop around, but didn’t seem intent in getting airborne any time soon!  After over half an hour and with darkness fast approaching we put into action plan B, as leaving the bird on the cliff edge would render it a potential victim to rats which  are known to frequent the area.  We therefore decided to try getting the bird aloft with some ‘gentle persuasion’, but Klopp would simply fly round 360 degrees and land back more or less at the same spot.

With very little light left, we decided enable Plan C, encouraging it to fly by giving it more height from one of the nearby cliff areas.  ALAS!  Upon releasing Klopp, it suddenly flew around us several times with complete mastery before heading in a southerly direction, loosing sight of it in near darkness!  Totally unexpected but such a wonderful moment!

Stonechats have arrived to winter in Gibraltar

Stonechat sexes

All photos taken using Canon 1DmkIV & EF600mmL F4 IS USM mkII

Autumn is a fantastic time not only for birdwatching in Gibraltar and nearby, but a great opportunity for some amazing bird photography.  Stonechats – Saxicola rubicola, is a great example and one of my favourite wintering birds in Gibraltar.  They are supremely bold and hold their ground brilliantly when approached (something which cannot be said of many birds!) and the colourful plumage never ceases to impress me.

Stonechat-takeoff

Using some photographic creativity, it is possible to take some rewarding shots like the one above, which is a good example of how you can capture decent images utilising a slowish shutter speed and a low angle.  The fast F4 constant aperture of the lens helps diffuse the background nicely, referred to in the photographic world as ‘bokeh’ pronounced Boh-kay.  This helps makes the image ‘pop-out’

Stonechat_stone

There are also creative ways of capturing a subject in more than one way, as you can see from the images above, we have one on or near the ground, one on a rock and the one below on a twig.  There are endless ways of capturing the same subject, making possibilities literally endless.  I always try and improve my images no matter how common a bird is or how many images of them you’v taken.  Always striving for perfection.

Stonechat-male-looking-right

@GibraltarBirds is a Gibraltar bird tweeting service run by Aviantours offering not only bird sightings news in Gibraltar, but other nature too.

To participate in a private photography workshop to photograph a wide variety of species in Gibraltar, Spain or Morocco, contact us for info on info@aviantours.net