2004 – Rock On – Volume 6
It just could not be much different from last year. The sun is shining and it is so hot, I am toasting. Last year at this time it was rain, rain and more rain. Just Fab now, but not too good for birding.
When the wind blows from any direction apart from East, we get some raptors and a steady trickle of passerines, but generally the ringing is rather slow which gives me ample opportunity to study the birds. We have started getting some Scops Owls, Subalps, and wheatear through but no Willow Warblers or Bonneli’s yet. There are also very few Blackcaps and Chiffs. These are the bread and butter birds at this time of year normally, but this year hardly any.
Great excitement yesterday as we got a decent movement of raptors including a Lanner Falcon. Quite rare here in the spring, so that was worth a drink.
Had my first experience of a “sleep over” this week. A young man of 10 years old named Sam spent the whole day and night with me at the Obs. He has lived here in Gib for 6 years and has never been to the Upper Rock. A very serious and studious type but good company. He would have to be or I would not spend my time with him.
Weather conditions were bad for birds, but it could not have worked out better. We had a great BBQ with his parents when he arrived, I set nets to catch Crag Martins in the evening. We sat in the bushes and watched them fly round and caught four. Ringed and roosted them overnight. Then set the moth trap because he wanted to see Striped Hawk Moth plus the nets and tape lure for Scops Owl.
To my surprise we actually caught the first Scops Owl in the morning and had the earliest Striped Hawk Moth for 4 years in the trap. The only thing he would not do was check the nets at night as they were in the cemetery and he was scared that the “dead people” would get him. I have never been so tired. Talking and playing snakes and ladders until the wee small hours on the veranda. Too much energy these little people. He also had the cheek to tell me that I drink too much. He is in danger of not being invited back.
Couple of bad days for ringing, great days for raptors. The days started cloudy but a South West wind got up in the afternoon. Spent some very happy hours watching the birds come across from Africa. In some 2 hours we counted 2000 Black Kite, 500 Short Toed Eagle, 10 Booted Eagle, 20 Egyptian Vulture, 200 Sparrow hawks, Griffon Vultures plus a few Osprey, Marsh and Hen Harriers. Finished the day in the jazz club feeling very satisfied.
While me and “the boy” (Julian) are watching and counting birds, I am taking the opportunity to learn French. Don’t know why really as Spanish would be better if I am off to Mexico in the Autumn. Nevertheless, I have mastered several choice phrases which will undoubtedly stand me in good stead and enable me to communicate with anyone and everyone I encounter upon my travels, especially the Moroccans as it is their first language.
My “phrase for the day” today was “excuse moi, je suis entrain de fume une clope!” which translates into “excuse me, I am having a fag!” For those in the know, this is the well known international phrase that will ensure me safe passage and haven wherever I travel.
Moroccans have arrived and good to see those I met last year again. They did not talk much about events there only to say that there are many casualties. I have had two with me for four days training, although the main thrust has been to ascertain their needs and how to proceed with future visits to their country.
On the training front, in those 4 days we only had about 20 birds and hardly any raptors coming across. Everything on hold in the birding world. Its just not happening here. It must have been a real drag for them, especially as they don’t drink!
As for ringing in Morocco, they want to start next Autumn, so no trips for me this visit. I might well have gone if there had not been a “cock up” in communications. They wanted 4 days here and 3 days in the field in Morocco. This was translated here into 4 days training and 3 days in the field in Gib. It could only happen here. Ah well. maybe next time.
As the ringing is so bad, I have been helping Keith with his studies in Spain. At least I get to visit some great places to bird. He has one study area in Extremadura which is central Spain, reckoned to be the best birding area in that country. We were planning to go there next week for 4 days, but its snowing. It always happens to me. Next month is a definite and I am really looking forward to it.
On the domestic front, the first British visiting ringers arrive this weekend and the Leeds University students arrive Monday. Bang goes my peace and solitude, but on the up side, I have been asked to look after the students who are studying birds. Looking forward to that experience again.
P.S. Still no MOD pass to Windmill Hill. Only 6 weeks now for a 5 day process.