Eurobirdwatch 2019 a success
Over 500 participants attended a successful Eurobirdwatch 2019. With groups at Jews' Gate, Commonwealth Park and at Europa Point in the afternoon.
EuroBirdwatch activities began at 8am, with a walk up to Engineer Road to the GONHS Field Centre at Jews’ Gate. With clear skies and a northwesterly breeze blowing, conditions were poor for migrant songbirds. Most of the birds seen, or more often heard, were resident species such as Blackbird, Wren, Sardinian Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Greenfinch. The many Blackcaps will have included some migrant birds, and there was Robin, Chaffinch and the first two Song Thrushes of the season.
We eventually reached Jews’ Gate Field Centre, where the ringing produced 40 Blackcaps, two Sardinian Warblers, a Blue Tit, a Blackbird, three Garden Warblers, two Willow Warblers, a Reed Warbler, a Common Whitethroat and a Robin, allowing attendees to view a small range of migrant passerines at close quarters. A watch from the balcony of the field centre produced two Peregrine Falcons, a Common Kestrel, a female Marsh Harrier, a Short-toed Eagle, six Black Kites, a Grey Heron and two Northern Ravens. A trickle of Barn Swallows amounted to some 50 birds. On the walk back down Engineer Road, a group of seven very confiding Barbary Partridges provided stunning views.
A Robinson moth trap had also been set up the night before. Among the catch were small numbers of moths including a Large Yellow Underwing and a spectacular Death's Head Hawkmoth.
The breeze had swung round to southwesterly by the time we reached Europa Point in the afternoon, producing good conditions for a very entertaining seawatch. There was a trickle of gulls and terns, with five adult Audouin’s Gulls in beautiful plumage, four Black-headed Gulls, two Mediterranean Gulls and 15 Sandwich Terns. However, the bulk of the entertainment was provided by the feeding frenzies that are typical of this time of year, with many Atlantic Bluefin Tuna jumping and vying for shoals of flying fish with Yellow-legged Gulls, at least 600 Cory’s Shearwaters, four Balearic Shearwaters and some 20 Northern Gannets. At least ten Great Skuas flew frantically between flocks of gulls and shearwaters, chasing these and forcing them to drop their fish. Only one Scopoli’s Shearwater was close enough to shore to be positively identified. The best sighting of the day was without doubt a magnificent Great Shearwater that flew so close to the point as to offer excellent views through binoculars. The rocks below the point hosted waders: a Whimbrel, a Common Sandpiper and three Turnstones. There were raptors too, with a Short-toed Eagle flying in from the Strait and a Honey Buzzard overhead. A Blue Rock Thrush capped the day’s species list.
Meanwhile, the GONHS Raptor Unit’s bird of prey display at Commonwealth Park during the morning proved incredibly popular, with at least 500 people attending, viewing some very impressive birds and learning about the unit’s excellent rehabilitation and conservation work. All in all, it was one of the best EuroBirdwatch celebrations in Gibraltar for years!