Just when I thought I would have to leave Gibraltar without seeing a few migrating raptors, I saw some; hundreds and hundreds of them. I was going to go to the Botanical Gardens for a few hours of birding, but before I even got out of the marina, I looked up and saw several large flocks of raptors flying above the Top of the Rock. I went as fast as my old legs could go to the tram. The whole time, I kept willing them to stay soaring long enough for me to see them as something more than blobs. Since I am not familiar enough with the European raptors to ID by shape, I needed good views.
There was a group of five undecided people at the ticket counter asking about all the ticket options. It was all I could do to keep myself from yelling, “Just buy the da*n tickets and move it!” I was anxious the whole way up; I just knew they would be in Africa by the time I got to the top. Someone said something about seeing the apes. Since I had been up a few times, I told them they would have no problem seeing them. I said I hoped the raptors would still be there. The tram operator assured me they would be and that more would be coming, mostly Honey Buzzards. Before we reached the top, most of the passengers were looking at the raptors and asking questions about them.
The operator was right, there were plenty of birds and the vast majority were Honey Buzzards. The top lookout area over near the restaurant was a great spot and often the birds came quite close. I saw light, dark and common phases. I like the ‘common’ morph the best, what a beautiful bird! A few Sparrowhawks were in the mix. I got lots of shots and when I viewed them later, I saw what I’m sure are Black Kites as well. The photos are not good, just blurry sillouettes, but you can just make out a tail starting to vee, or a few wings with long fingers.
Sometimes, there would be a short period when the sky emptied, but it wouldn’t be long before another Raptor Wave would hit. Some groups flew in a tornado shape, some were swirling cumulus clouds and others a long ribbon. Some flew over the top of the Rock and others flew lower, over Gibraltar Bay. It was an amazing sight and I’m glad we’ve been too content to hurry with our projects and lingered long enough to witness this migration. Both Honey Buzzard and Sparrowhawk are lifers for me.