Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September Feeding Frenzy in the Strait of Gibraltar

This is the time of year when flying fish are passing through the Strait of Gibraltar. They attract many predators that chase them and catch them below or above the surface of the water. These concentrations provide a unique opportunity to see large concentrations of marine predators. Last Sunday we were able to experience this amazing event. See our blog of 20 September, 2010, for a similar event.

Last year we found them in the Mediterranean, east of Gibraltar, but this time they were in the Strait within view of the mist-covered and imposing Rock. Below are some scenes from this magical event...

Leading the underwater action were Common and Striped Dolphins

On the surface, the main predator was Cory's Shearwater

They wait patiently, and peacefully, in rafts until, that is, the dolphins bring the fish to the surface. Then the squabbling commences!

Just like the smaller vultures at a carcass, the Balearic Shearwaters (below) operate on the fringe as they wait for scraps

Gannets arriving from the Atlantic to winter also join in. Most are juveniles or immatures. There are very few adults right now, most will arrive in October.

These past weeks have been very busy for us in the field, so we need to catch up with a number of stories. So keep visiting our blog!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Day of the Honey Buzzard

Late August and early September mark one of the most incredible and impressive of bird migration spectacles - the passage south of the Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus across the Strait of Gibraltar

Tens of thousands of Honey Buzzards migrate south in the space of a week or so. They come in tight flocks which adds to the air of spectacle. These birds are coming from Scandinavia, western Russia and Western Europe. They are bound for the tropical forests of West Africa.

Their plumage is very variable and we can identify three main plumage types or phases - they are linked to each other by intermediate patterns. The most common phase is the intermediate or barred (above)

This bird is of the light phase

and this one is of the dark morph

In this image we see all three phases together

All the images in today's blog were taken today over the Rock of Gibraltar

Not all were high and some, incredibly, flew low over the town

The passage continues and more species will pass over the next two months...