I am having trouble with my Hirundines!! These are the Swallows and Martins but also the Swifts which though not related look the same at a distance. Hirundines because the scientific name of a barn swallow is Hirundo rustica.
Trouble from two directions, firstly getting a photograph and secondly identifying them, although if you can get a photo, even a grotty one then it does help with the ID.
Firstly the photography. I am using a Canon 70D camera with a 100 to 400 lens. I have the camera set to timing priority, and I have set the ISO quite high at 1000, this allows me to use a shutter speed of 1: 2000th of a second or 1:1600th of a second and still have f8. I have the image stabiliser set for the moving object mode, the white balance is custom set at between 54000 to 6000 depending on the light and I am overexposing by 1stop to 1.75 stops because I am shooting into the bright blue sky and need some detail in the birds. All is hand held and most of the time the telephoto is at the lower end ie X 100 to X200. I sit on our roof terrace and take hundreds of photos and one or two are OK.
If I get a shot, ( the camera sometimes refuses to fire, it seems to need a fraction of a second to lock on to the bird…. not great as it zooms past) Then I will download it onto the lap top and normally crop it quite a lot to get something a bit bigger than a dot. Here is and uncropped photo,
So now onto the ID, well this is a difficult time of year and somewhat difficult location. By November all the migrants should have gone south, however ‘should’ is the key word and some my still be passing through. Also as this is almost the very southern tip of Europe and quite warm and pleasant, then some migrants will stay here for the winter. Then we have an added complication that a few North African hirudines have spread north and now live in the very south of Spain.
Consulting my ‘Where to watch birds in Southern Spain book by Ernest Garcia and Andrew Paterson’ well worth getting a copy if you are visiting the south of Spain. It has a list at the back of all the birds you could come across with the times they should be present. Here is the list.
Swift Apus apus arrive April depart by end September
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus arrive late Feb remain into November
Alpine Swift Apus melba March to October
White-rumped swift Apus caffer arrive May remain till November, even December
.Little Swift Apus affinis occasionally recorded in Cadiz province and Malaga Jan to June
Sand Martin Riparia riparia March to October but individuals may occur in winter.
Crag Martin Pyonoprogne rupestris all year, numbers greatly increased in winter by migrants from further north,
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Feb to November but some overwinter.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Feb to October but occasional individuals in winter.
House Martin Delichon urbica Feb to Oct but small numbers overwinter especially in Andalucía.
So as you can see quite a lot and lots of possibilities, maybes and not many you can definitely rule in or out. The ones in green are possible, red I am ruling out.
So on to my photos.
One is a definite it is the Crag Martin, this has little white patches in its tail, which you can see from the right angle and if it spreads its tail out. They are sometimes described as windows in the tail. You can clearly see these on the photo below.
There are a lot of little brown jobs with short tails, are these also Crag Martins with their tails closed or could they be Sand martins. If they are adult Sand martins they should be much whiter underneath and with a brown chin strap.
So over to you any suggestions on how to improve the photos or on the identification then please do say. So far I am sure I have Crag Martins and probably both Barn Swallow and Red-rumped Swallow, but what else?