Hirundines over Andalucia (Zahora)

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.Hirudines6

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.Hirudines1

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,Hirudines3

This is the cropped version, obviously more fuzzy but now we can see more of the colour pattern.Hirudines4

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.Hirudines2

Then we have some birds with long tails which look like swallows, but which ones? I think they are Red-rumpedHirudines8

But this one has a dark collar so looks more like a Barn Swallow. The photo is rubbish but you can see the dark throat area.Hirudines9

This one is a real mystery it has a swallow like tail but is marked more like a swift, maybe a juvenile. Hirudines7

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.Hirudines5

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?


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