This year’s trip was a little bit different in that the two previous trips were always during the first half of the fall migration season, whereas this trip was scheduled toward the end of the season. This gave me the opportunity to experience different birds and different projects. Another big difference was the fact that the Migres group has a new center, where I was allowed to stay!
|Sunrise at the southern-most tip of Europe, Africa is visible in the distance on the right.|
The beginning of the trip was a little rough. The plane was delayed out of Boise, leaving me just enough time to run to my flight to Europe at the Seattle airport. I boarded the plane just 5 minutes before the doors closed. This is never a good scenario from a checked baggage perspective! Landed in Paris and then in Malaga Spain. My bags did not. It would be another two days before my bags would join me at the Centro Internacional de Migración de Aves. Two days later, the airline attempted to deliver the baggage, but could not find the center. They asked around and someone sent them to closest count site (not the one I was at). They walked up and asked one of the Spanish employees of Migres (Andres) if he was “Rob Miller”. No, but he knew who I was and the airline handed him the bag.
Twenty hours of airports and flying, then a train, and a three hour bus connection, and I was closing in on Tarifa Spain, my home for two weeks. I texted my friend Alejandro asking for a ride from the bus station. He replied and asked if I was going to go band swallows that night in Laguna de La Janda. Ha ha, absolutely! Alejandro and I have a long standing joke about not getting any sleep upon arrival during my previous trips. This must surely be a joke. “Indeed” I reply. Lola, Wioleta, and Javi pick me up at the bus station. I am excited to arrive at the center, take a shower, get some food, and then sleep. Lola drives out of Tarifa toward the center, but then takes a left turn…what…wait… are we really going to La Janda? Yes. No food, no water, seven more hours before sleep… Welcome to Spain.! (Actually, it was a great evening and I was glad that I went). We banded 55 Barn Swallows and then stopped for a mid-night pizza on the way back to the center. I did great until I ate the pizza, then I was ready to sleep right there.
My home and office for two weeks in Spain.
|Cigueña blanca (White Storks) approaching the Strait of Gibraltar.|
|Flock of over 300 Cigueña blanca (White Storks) and 4 Espátulas (Spoonbills) with wind turbines in the background. These birds did not cross on this day due to the string Levante (east) winds.|
I joined three previous Boise State University graduate students (Michelle, Erin, and Tempe) who were each spending three months working in Spain with our Migres partners. I was there for their final two weeks on the project to help wrap up the research plan and begin the work toward manuscript publication. Through IBO's partnership with Fundación Migres, we have published two research manuscripts. My previous paper from my work in Spain was published earlier this year - Local and regional weather patterns influencing post-breeding migration counts of soaring birds at the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain.
But, most of my time was out in the field counting, and in some cases identifying the age and sex of, the migratory raptors.
|Rob (me) trying to identify birds at Observatorio del Estrecho. The Strait of Gibraltar is roughly 50 meters behind me.|
|Inmaduro Águila Culebrera (inmature [2 –4 years old] Short-toed Snake Eagle).|
|Milano Real (Red Kite).|
It had a snake in its talons… no… it has falconry jesses on its legs… This bird is an escaped falconry bird. We don’t get to count it… We later received the owners name and was asked to call him if we encountered the bird again, which we did. I haven’t heard if he was able to recapture the bird or if it is still flying wild.
|Águila Esteparia (Steppe Eagle), this one is an escaped falconry bird.|
|Águila pomarena (Lesser-spotted Eagle).|
|Buitre Leonado (Griffon Vulture) migrating to Africa.|
|The counts begin at sunrise on the Isle de Tarifa, the southern-most tip of Europe.|
|Michelle and Carlos counting for this round. We count for ten minutes and then rest your eyes for five minutes, with a longer break after three rounds, hence counting 30 minutes per hour.|
|Adult Gannets migrating from Atlantic Ocean into the Mediterranean Sea. Their white feathers are more iridescent and reflective than most white birds. Spectacular.|
|We get to see other birds too, such as these Sanderlings and Mediterranean Gull.|
|And this Northern Wheatear perched on the very tip of Europe, possibly contemplating a crossing.|
|Male Bluethroad, my favorite!|
|Pied Flycatcher. A new bird for me, but one I have read many papers on. This species is a model example of how climate change has negatively affected long-distant migrants when their food source changes its phenology (timing), but they do not.|
|Águia Imperial Ibérica (Spanish Imperial Eagle) in Laguna de La Janda.|
|Critically Endangered Bald Ibis.|
|Critically Endangered Bald Ibis allopreening.|
As expected it was a fantastic trip that I got to spend with great friends from the past and new friends I made on this trip. I look forward to my next visit!
I will close with a fun video that the Migres team put together featuring some of the volunteers and collaborators including team America (myself and the three women from Boise State).