January is a special and busy month with two special birthdays and lots of New Year greetings and meetings to make. It is also 9 years since I began my nature blog as a record of the biodiversity around me and with the hope that this will not disappear. The warning bells have been ringing for a long time now and for most people there is a desire to see the natural world flourish. But the big but is the way so much productivity whether food or goods harms nature through intensive farming, pesticides, mining for our mobiles etc. And then the pollution. Sometimes it all seems overwhelming but with a new year there must be hope. I hope my blog helps celebrate that diversity and in doing so helps us be stronger in our efforts to protect our precious world.
For one special birthday we were sitting on an Algarve beach with a picnic lunch. Coats needed but sunshine and a good breeze. In January there are few tourists on the beach just locals and dogwalkers. On the Manta Rota beach the surf was quite strong and we watched a few sanderlings with their fast moving legs dodging the waves coming in but ready to dig into the sand before the next wave. I wonder what their food is as it was hard to see.
There must also have been an abundance of fish close to the shore.as there was a lot of angling going on with long rods and some catches. We then watched some cormorants flying quite fast along the surface of the ocean dodging the waves. Thankfully we had brought the binoculars and noticed something different to the cormorants. There were flashes of white as these birds turned catching the light. Gannets. We were then rewarded with some very high speed dives dropping into the ocean. The cormorants seemed to be surface divers and the gannets deep divers but both seemed to be more successful with their fishing than the men standing along the shore.
In 2014 I wrote a post about gannets as we visited Bempton Cliffs in the UK. This area and Scotland are the main nesting sites for the European gannets. We also saw some very close by when we visited the Skelligs just off the coast of County Kerry Ireland. These birds have an amazing design to allow them to dive at high speed and protect their brains.
The Algarve and these southern European regions have an amazing diversity of flora and fauna. A little later on we walked around the salt pans between Cabanas and Tavira. The light was failing so I have used other photos but we saw quite a variety as I had seen once when I wrote a poem about all the birds along this coast. I have also put in an extract from that poem as we couldn’t decide what a certain pair of pretty brown birds were. It tied us in knots. Probably Calidris canutus or or knot in winter plumage so not very red. Sorry no photos yet! But we have these from the poem. Bird Biodiversity Poem 0n the Sea Shore
Today we are going to do identification of birds,
Birds on the seashore, birds out at sea,
Birds whose names meant nothing to me.
I must now make a spell and chant out the words.
Kentish plover, Ringed plover,
Little ringed plover too,
Golden plover, Grey plover,
Dotterel make a few,
and let’s not confuse
Dunlin, Sanderling, with Knot,
Green Shank with Red Shank
Or take a Stint or two.
That’s just the start
of the spell we need to weave,
If we go to the seashore,
Where there’s a chance to breathe.
Breathe deep and wonder
The vast variety of birds.
Stand in awe and thunder
Storms brewing words
And for me a first – Avocets but I only realised afterwards when studying my poor camera photo which at least zoomed in more than my eyes to show up the differences between avocets and the black legged stilts. And way into the distance was a lone spoonbill.
We are now back in the chestnut woods of the Sierra Aracena and here the diversity of the woodland birds deserves a poem. They are mainly singing away at the moment and the woodpeckers tapping out more holes in old trees. Today I look out from the kitchen window and spot two high in a tree. How do they make such perfectly rounded holes?
We were going to go out to some of the wetland areas to the north of us where the cranes overwinter but this for various reasons might be next November when they should come back. Winter can bring a different diversity of birds.
It would be lovely to hear from you as to what birds you might have seen in January. After all in the UK its been the Great Garden Bird Watch. What about a blog bird watch for January?