Monday, 15 April 2013


I have just got back from a week in Spain on a non birding Holiday. We spent the week exploring the influence of 800 years of Moorish occupation on the country and very interesting it was. I had left my cameras and telephoto lens at home but did manage to squeeze in a little Canon SX50. I say little but it has a zoom lens that gives the equivalent of a 35mm camera 1200mm lens plus a 4x digital zoom. Very impressive figures but it only has a 12.1 Megapixel sensor, it still has all the problems of hand holding such a long lens, and a zoom lens will always be a compromise on quality. Still it could be a useful way of obtaining record shots when carrying the full photographic set up is not an option.

The route we took was mostly through the cites of central southern Spain and only included a couple of places where I had expectations of seeing birds. The first was Seville Cathedral which I had read was a stronghold for the Lesser Kestrel and the second was Ronda where I could expect to see a variety of birds around the gorge and cliffs. There were no Lesser Kestrels at Serville but Ronda did not disappoint. There were dozens of birds floating on thermals about 50 metres below the cliff top and lots of small birds in the bushes along the top. Viewing was great but positive identification and, even more so, good pictures were difficult and I only had an hour before we had to move on.

Chough were easy to identify as they swept up and into nest holes on the bridge, but checking my pictures later either the camera has a shutter delay or the operator was suffering a brain delay from too much Rioja the night before.

Not my best ever picture!

In Flight

There were Pallid Swifts and at least five Kestrels on the cliffs and there may have been a few Crag Martins as well, but they were all too fast and too far away to get any decent pictures. The Kestrels could have been the Lesser Kestrels that I had been hoping to see but the only positive identifier I had was the colour of the claws and that is not very helpful when you are looking at them from above.

Fortunately things did improve when we moved towards the coast. I am reasonably confident on this being a female Red-backed Shrike and as I was taking the picture a Hoopoe flew past. Fortunately I remembered about the bird in hand being worth two in the bush and settled for getting one decent picture.

Female Red-backed Shrike
See comments below from Richard T. It looks as though this is actually a Woodchat Shrike. Checking Collins again I am inclined to agree with him.

There were also plenty of Spotless Starlings around.

Spotless Starling

Smart Looking Birds

The coast around Malaga had a more colourful selection of birds. I have yet to see a Ring-necked Parakeet in England and the Monk Parakeet was a new bird for me.

Ring-necked Parakeet

Monk Parakeet

There was also another bird that so far I have been unable to identify. It's probably an escapee but I am hoping its short tail will give me some clue as to what it is.

Suggestions for identity gratefully received
I also managed to get record shots of a couple of other birds including the Hoopoe so given the time I had available for birding this was not too bad a trip. Its interesting seeing the different birds but not as satisfying as adding to my UK list.

The SX50 will not be replacing my 500mm lens. It was ok for record shots but the real quality was missing from the picture and I found it quite difficult to handle. There are buttons all over it and I found myself brushing against them and switching the camera into the wrong mode just as I was about to take a picture. It was also quite difficult to hold such a  lightweight camera and long lens combination really still whilst setting up and taking the pictures. However, if you need to travel light, need a back up camera, or are just getting started in bird photography then it is worth looking at. My one cost about £310 as compared to a new Canon 500mm lens at about £8500.

1 comment:

  1. Your female Red-backed Shrike is a Woodchat Shrike.