Saturday, and I’m busy fighting the never-ending war against weeds in the vegetable garden above the village. With everyone around me fully briefed regarding birdwatching however the skies are constantly monitored, and a large bird of prey soaring up the valley towards us grabbed our attention. No chance to run for binoculars…as usual I’d left mine hopelessly out of reach, and it was quickly apparent we were facing a tough call.
Raptors in flight are often difficult to identify with a reasonable degree of certainty, and this one caused a lot of problems. First of all size…big, definitely big. Plumage? Our regular Booted Eagles are either clearly black and white under the wing, or carry the distinctive pale “palms” with a brown chest…this bird had neither colour pattern and size alone suggested something else. With its very pale chest, fine barring and equally pale plumage under the wing the Short-toed Eagle was another possibility. But there was too much dark detail on this birds wings and again size alone seemed to discount the Short-toed as an option.
As the bird started to drift away the choices were narrowing. The Golden Eagle easily met the size criteria but always has a brown chest…our bird’s chest was white and was catching the light. With the other eagles of our region discounted, there was only one left. It had to be a Bonelli’s Eagle, only the third sighting I’ve had of this powerful, hawk-like eagle and the very first I’ve seen above Lanjaron. Superb.
With only a few hundred pairs left over the whole of Europe we’ve been very lucky to find them over the marshland reserve at Padul. But to have one overhead just above the village is a fantastic development. It really does go to show what a remarkable area this is, with something amazing to see every day…