Raptors seen in the valley

Over the last few years we have seen a significant increase in the number of raptors hunting up and down the valley. Possibly this is due to a reduced use of pesticides but, for whatever the reason, it is wonderful to watch the birds as they soar and dive for their prey.

A few years ago, a pair of what we believed to be Hobbys (photo on right) were seen hunting half way down the lane. They were present for several weeks so obviously found plenty of prey. It was a friend of ours who identified them as Hobbys, I could never get a close enough view of them in the binoculars, so I cannot be certain if he was correct. Unfortunately they have not returned since.

Since then we have made a positive identification of a pair of Montagu's Harriers (possibly the reason the Hobbys have disappeared). According to the wildlife book of Spain (this is left in the villa for the use of guests) these raptors are only common in Iberia so it was a delight to spot them as it is the UK's rarest breeding raptor.

The photo on the left shows the distinctive black wingtips and the spring grassland down the valley is perfect hunting ground for them.

When they first arrived they seemed to spend more time up at the top of the lane but during the last few years there have been many sightings as they made their daily trip down the valley often flying just below the house.  This photograph was taken from the terrace at the front on the day this Montagu Harrier passed, at eye level, less than 5 metres from where we were sitting. I once saw one of them make a kill under one of the olive trees just below the terrace.

A year ago we were surprised to see a third bird flying with the pair, but a brownish colour. We later read that this was a youngster. The following year it was back to just the original pair.

A male Kestrel (photo on right) was also seen hunting with the Montagu's Harriers one day. The distinctive red back and inner wings were clear to see as it perched beside the road and took off as we passed in the car.

A few years ago some friends staying at the house claimed that one day around 50 eagles, or similar large raptors, flew over, which I believe is very unusual. This year (2014) we had several sightings of some very large dark coloured birds, probably eagles from their flight pattern. Unfortunately they moved out of the valley to quickly each time for us to identify them.

A new visitor this year (2014) was a Grey Heron. It spent many hours fishing in the lake just below the house. One evening it came up from the lake to roost in a tree not too far away and I was able to identify it through the binoculars.

A few years ago an extremely large bird passed overhead which we never saw but we heard the wings beat and it blocked out the sun for what seemed to be several seconds! We have no idea how it managed to disappear in the time it took us to look up trying to spot it.