Monday, 10 December 2018

Sierra Loja with John and Jenny

Sunday 9 December

Now back in Spain and all around me friends are visiting some of the great local birding sites.  Today it was John and Jenny Wainwright up on the Sierra Loja and, as expected, they found the visiting Ring Ouzels.  I especially liked the the fact that they both also saw Alpine Accentors; lucky them.  But will I have a successful outcome if I manage to visit the local Rio Velez at Torre del Mar in the morning?


Sierra Loja: Sunday 9 December

A bright but chilly day up above.

As we left the village we had seen Collared doves, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows, and as we entered the track near the Guardia Civil barracks, Great Tits and Chaffinches were noted.
A few Azure-winged Magpies crossed the track  near the autovia bridge as did a Blackbird.
The tree line line was very quiet and it wasn´t until we reached the first cliff area that we came across a small flock of Alpine Accentors and a male Black Redstart. While above us several Jackdaws and a few Red-billed Chough were logged. 

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)

Up to the flat area where we saw Goldfinches, a lone Thekla Lark and an Iberian Grey Shrike, but from there until the substation valley it was very quiet. Here we saw a Little Owl and some Stonechats, also a group of six Ibex.

Distant Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)

Moving on up to the Charca only half a dozen Goldfinches were drinking here. So round to the fossil cave where I heard Rock Sparrow and in the vicinity a covey of Red-legged Partridges were noted. So down to the Rouzel trees, where we did pick up a good number of Ring Ouzels as well as Blackbirds, Corn Buntings, Mistle Thrushes, more Stonechats and another  Iberian Grey Shrike.
On the return journey we logged another two Little Owls, White Wagtails, a Rock Bunting, Sardinian Warbler, two Dartford Warblers, Common Magpies and a Black Wheatear.  And to finish it off four dark-phase Red Squirrels.

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)
Spanish Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)
A small herd of Ibix Capra pyrenaica hispanica (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)






 
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Friday, 7 December 2018

Friday 7 December

Just received a report form my great friend Derek Etherton on his two days down in la Janda/Barbate as mentioned yesterday.  It certainly sounds as if they all some excellent birding.  Meanwhile, outside it is absolutely chucking it down as we prepare to depart for east Midlands Airport where at least it should be dry and sunny for the next few days and so help us to recover!


Thursday 6 December
La Janda and Barbate

Plenty of Stone Curlews Burhinus oedicnemus in residence at Barbate, Cadiz province
Just enjoyed 2 super days in Barbate & La Janda, accompanied by great friends Barbara Anne Laycock & Jerry. Target birds were Red-breasted Merganser, Sociable Lapwing, Short-eared Owl, and maybe the Bittern again (we had it for this years list back in February). The weather for mid-December was amazing, no wind a temperature rising to 26c on both days.

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator at Barbate
First of all at Barbate it took 10 minutes to locate the Merganser (not a common bird this far south) and a further hour trying for photos! Moving on to La Janda my job (Derek) was to locate 1 of the 3 Sociable Lapwings that have been recorded here for the 2 Barbara's and Jerry had not seen the bird. Scanning the field mid-way between the bend and the farmhouse eventually found the juvenile bird along with hundreds of Common Lapwing and Snipe. Moving to the end of the track to look for the Bittern (same area as earlier in the year) we 'dipped' however a Black-winged Kite put on a super hunting display until rudely interrupted by a passing Sparrowhawk. It seemed all the raptors were in an argumentative mood as a Common Kestrel took a dislike to a resting Peregrine a little earlier.

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
We stayed overnight on the coast near Tarifa ready for an early start in the morning, the intention being to start down the bottom end looking again for the Bittern. No luck with that and no luck also with an adult Soc. Lapwing. However, whilst watching 3, yes 3, Black-winged Kites the Pallid Harrier flew right alongside our car! 

Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
Moving along to the Short-eared Owl area we first of all lunched, then left the car to walk the road hoping to find the bird - too successful! We spooked it and just watch it fly off and sit around the back of a tree out of sight. However, we were rewarded firstly by a Bonelli's and immediately 2 (displaying) Spanish Imperial Eagles. I was lucky enough to 'scope the birds, Jerry lucky to get a couple of great photos. We kept travelling the road to Benalup (wow! It's not potholed any more!) observing the usually vast quantities of White Storks, etc. A brilliant 2 days that so much was packed into - thanks for your company B & J!

More like the "Battle of La Janda" than Battle of Britain!
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Looks like Audouin's Gulls Larus audouinii to me
All photographs taken by Derek Etherton

Great report Derek and some fabulous birds seen.  Many thanks for sharing your visit with our readers.

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Thursday, 6 December 2018

Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

Wednesday 5 December

More rain than dry back in Lincolnshire, UK albeit we did gave a lovely, clear sunny day last Tuesday but bitterly cold with the temperature struggling to reach 5C.  The good news (?) is that I am receiving regular reports form my friends back in Spain complaining that the temperature is too warm!  Derek and Barbara Etherton, along with Jerry and Barbara Laycock, were down at La Janda/barbate earlier in the week and provoking me with comments that at 26C it was too hot for birding and that they were recording Sociable Lapwing Black-shouldered Kites, fighting Sparrowhawks et all and no doubt by now have also managed to see the Great Bittern seen and photographed by Rick Owen at La Janda.  Now I have just received a report (published below) from John and Jenny Wainwright pointing out that yesterday was, "A very bright, warm day with no perceptible wind."  Thank goodness we are flying back to Malaga in the morning; warm sunshine and away from here before the forecasted winter weather that is expected to arrive at the week-end.


Laguna Dulce & Piedra with John and Jenny Wainwright.
5 December 2018

A very bright, warm day with no perceptible wind. 

As we had been to the Carrefours Centre in Antequera we decided to pop along to Laguna Dulce (on the Campillos Road) to see the state of the area as it had had major floods awhile ago.  As we pulled in the car park Mallard, Teal and Common Coots were noted on the flooded field.  Moving into the hide we began counting the Black-necked Grebes that have made this place quite a popular breeding area- we counted 23  but there are probably a lot more in the reeds.  A nice find was the five Pintails  - 2 males and 3 females -  at the back of the laguna.  Then a Grey Heron and next to it a Greylag Goose was grazing.

A few Little Grebes but only one Great Crested Grebe were logged and as we scanned the laguna a large number of Red-Crested Pochard and Common Pochard were seen.  Also noted were Black-winged Stilts, Shovelers and a lone Shelduck along with several White-headed Ducks.  Two Marsh Harriers were seen sitting in the fields as were a pair of Ravens.  While in the reed bed itself Corn Buntings, Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaff, Blackbird and House Sparrow were logged.

We then moved over to Fuente de Piedra itself .  In the flood meadow to the left of the approach road we could only log Common Snipe and Black-winged Stilt along with some White Wagtails.  We then scanned the fields to our right where we found at least twenty Stone Curlews, Meadow Pipits and Crested Lark.

Along the boardwalk just a few White Wagtails, probably due to the high water levels and on the main laguna several thousand Greater Flamingos were noted along with rafts of Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls along with a spattering of Black-headed Gulls.  Another two Marsh Harriers and Common Kestrel were noted here as well and above the centre the ubiquitous Jackdaws frolicked.

As we departed the reserve a Hoopoe, Stonechat, Goldfinches and Linnets were also seen.

Many thanks to Derek and Barbara along with John and Jenny for keeping me up to date.  In truth, lovely to hear about so many birds to be seen once again and, all being well, I might get down to the Guadalhorce and Fuente de Piedra before the year's end.  maybe even Zapata but I think time might be against me.  Is it me or are many of us seeing more Pintails than usual?  And when will the Razorbills arrive?


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Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Frampton Marsh in Pictures & Long-tailed Duck

Tuesday 4 December

RSPB Frampton Marsh, Lincolnshire through the camera lens plus the visiting Long-tailed Duck at Baston Fen, near Market Deeping in Lincolnshire.

The Visitors Centre seen from the Reedbed Hide
Looking NW from the saltmarsh bank
Looking west from the saltmarsh bank

Greylag Goose Anser anser accompanied by Canada Goose Branta canadensis

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus with scores of the thousands present below


Mainly Wigeon Anas penelope
 Mainly Teal Anas crecca
Long-tailed Duck Clanguls hyemalis at Baston Fen


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RSPB Frampton Marsh, Boston and Baston Fen

Tuesday 4 December

 No rain today but the promise of an overnight frost followed by a cold, clear and sunny day.  They certainly got that right as I spent fifteen minutes trying to cleat the windscreen and side windows to see to get in nevermind drive away!  In the event I was still at RSPB Frampton Marsh just south of Boston by 9am having recorded Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove as I approached the site.  Even better, not the dozen or more Pheasants trying to find some food on the frozen ground but the quartet of Grey Partridge to bring a very big smile to my face.  This was even better than the good-sized flock of Fieldfare that was working the berries in the bushes along the A16.  Once on site, with the temperature nor sailing away at a mighty 1 (one) degree C straight to the end of the lane to check out the far waters whist waiting for the Visitors Centre to open.  Lots of water and thousands of birds about but what might they be?

Early morning Frampton Marsh looking west from the saltmarsh bank
Hundreds of Brent Geese which seemed very restless along with many of the Canada geese that seemed forever to be joining and leaving their friends.  Most of the Greylag Geese seemed fairly settled and there was also a good presence of Pink-footed Geese albeit spread far and wide in ones and twos.  Just for good measure, at least five Barnacle Geese were feeding with the Canada Geese as well as a pair of Egyptian Geese.  A total of six species which was most pleasing.  As expected, there were thousands of Wigeon, by far the largest single species on site, but also very many TealMallard, Shoveler and Pintail were also well represented along with a few Gadwall and a pair of Goldeneye.

Just a small selection of the many Greylag Geese Anser anser on site
At the end of the lane a lone Redshank was feeding at the edge of a pool occupied by Teal and all around hundreds of resting and moving Lapwing.  Making my way back to the car I had the pleasure of a dozen Reed Bunting feeding on the path and a solitary Chaffinch on the neighbouring small tree.


Up to a dozen Reed Buntings  Emberiza schoeniclus seen feeding on the footpath
Approaching the Visitors Centre a couple of Moorhen were feeding on the grass and a Snipe made an explosive departure before I spotted the pair of Magpies.  From the Centre I could see a range of duck including Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler and, of course, Wigeon.  In the distance a pair of Shelduck along with a pair of Little Grebe and nearer to me a pair of Avocet.  Not a lot of use being made of the feeders with only a Chaffinch and Blue Tit recorded on this first visit.  Venturing out I found the female Marsh Harrier resting in a field and then the first of the Barnacle along with the Egyptian Geese.

Merlin Falco columbarius
Next off to the 360 Hide where I duly picked up the Pintail.  Not yesterday's 150+ but rather no more than 30 or so.  Wherever you looked you could see the already named ducks and geese along with the Lapwing.  At least  handful of Curlew were also recorded.  The Reedbed Hide gave me the chance to see the pair of female Goldeneye and also find both a Spotted Redshank and Meadow Pipit on the island in front before returning, frozen, to the Visitors Centre even f the temperature had risen to a mighty 4C!  Approaching the entrance I could see something at the top of a bare tree and checking with my bins discovered that the resident Merlin had taken up a much nearer resting place than the its usual dead tree out on one of the islands.  And I even had my camera around my neck to get a record shot even if the raptor was looking directly towards me.

Back inside the building it was apparent that the feeder was drawing more attention with visits form Goldfinches, a Greenfinch and male Chaffinch, small flock of House Sparrows and even a single Dunnock and Robin.  But still only the occasional Blue Tit.  Making my way back out of the site onto the country lane I then stopped for both a Great Tit and Black-headed Gulls.

The lone Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis visiting Baston Fen near Market Deeping
Much warmer in the car and still sunny as I made my back to Stamford but first a stop at the now flooded gravel pits at Baston Fen.  A Heron to my right and the scrape next door produced a couple of Pied Wagtails and a single Ringed Plover.  Most of the activity was on the deeper pool to my left as I parked up and set up the scope.  Mute Swan and a mixture of ducks including Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and a handful or more of Common PochardStarlings, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove were in the area around the lake but best of all, not more Lapwing, Moorhen nor Coot but the visiting Long-tailed Duck.  What a great bird to finish the day on - or it would have been had I not seen the resting Kestrel in the tree as I got back into the car for the short drive home.  54 species recorded in the five hours including travel.

Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis

Birds seen:
Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler,  Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Grey Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Merlin, Moorhen, Coot, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Snipe, Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove,  Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.


But over a thousand Wigeon Anas penelope elsewhere!
 
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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Rutland Water Re-visited

Monday 3 December

The sun was shining despite the forecasted rain so up out of bed with a view to nipping over to my local patch at Rutland Water.  However, no sooner have I sorted breakfast than I noticed that, outside, it is pouring with rain.  Forget birding; spend time on the computer in the studio.  But then , hours later, I became aware that the room seemed brighter and looked out to discover that the shies had almost cleared.  No brainer really; quick coffee, make a take-out sandwich and off to Rutland Water just after midday.

Lagoon 2, Rutland Water looking north from the Grebe Hide
Greeted by Wood Pigeons and Jackdaws and straight to the Visitors Centre to purchase my ticket and check on recent sightings.  No sooner had a Smew on Lagoon 1 been mentioned than I saw said bird drift past the large window overlooking the lagoon in the company of a few Tufted Duck.  Also present Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and Mallard.  A pair of Mute Swans on the opposite side of the water but, almost in front of me, a pair of adult Bewick Swans with three well-grown cygnets.   Whereas there were hundreds, if not thousands, of Lapwing present I was more pleased to see the good number of Pintail.  The small flock of Canada Geese were well to the back of the immediate area.

Bewick's Swan Cynus columbianus
Leaving the Wigeon and Cormorants I made my way directly to Lagoon 4, passing a pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker, before the rain arrived as the clear skies had now been replaced with some menacing-looking cloud.  Virtually nothing on this water other than a distant Great Black-backed and a few Black-headed Gulls so on to the Buzzard Hide overlooking Lagoon 3.  More Teal, Wigeon and Cormorants but also over two dozen Moorhen grazing the neighbouring field as I approached the hide.  Crows behind me and on the water both a single Heron and a couple of Great White Egrets along with Teal and Wigeon.   Relatively few birds but I did also see more Tufted Duck and a couple of Great Crested Grebe.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Next up was the Smew Hide overlooking the northern end of Lagoon 2 and here closer views of the wintering Goldeneye along with many more Wigeon, Mallard and Teal.  Even  couple of Coot and a cock Pheasant wandered past.  I then moved round to the Osprey Hide to get a better view of the Goldeneye and the Grebe Hide produced more Great Crested Grebe and Tufted Duck along with another sighting of the Smew.  To my left I could just pick out the feeding pair of Shelduck.  Even a solitary Chiffchaff flew into the grasses immediately in front of the hide to undertake a little foraging.

Male Goldeneye Bucephala clangula above.   Female blew.


A very small flock of feeding House Sparrows were seen near the Badger Hide and then, from the Visitors centre, I picked up one of the two male Stonechat currently in residence.  Finally to the feeding Station to gather in all the LBJs.  But where they?  Just on 3pm and the light was already disappearing so only a single Great Tit recorded; no finches or Blue Tits.  Then, without a sound, a male Sparrowhawk swept in the area, briefly perched on top of a feeding support pole and departed straight ahead with out so much as a whisper.  Come and gone quicker than Mercedes can change four wheels during a Grand Pix race!  Good job I just happened to be looking at the empty feeder when the bird alighted but no chance of a photograph.   So, in the end, an enjoyable couple of hours.

Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula

Birds seen:
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Bewick's Swan, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Tufted Duck, Smew, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Great White Egret, Heron, Sparrowhawk, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Woodpigeon, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff,  Great Tit, Jackdaw, Crow, House Sparrow.


Distant Great White Egret Egretta alba

Wigeon Anas penelope
Pintail Anas acuta
Teal Anas crecca


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Friday, 30 November 2018

Rutland Water

Thursday 29 November

Back in the UK for ten days - in pouring rain!  But come this morning it was cool, cloudy, dry and very windy.  But having gained an extra hour in the morning I managed to slip down to my local patch at Rutland Water for 90 minutes before having to pay a late morning visit to banks, etc in nearby Peterborough.  I knew there was an advantage to living so close to this wonderful birding site.

Great White Egret Egretta alba


So well dressed up to keep out the howling wind I made my way to North Arm and was suddenly confronted by what looked like a completely deserted Burley Fishponds; did not see a single bird form the car and beginning to think that it was a good job that I had seen both Rook and Crow as I left the main road!  However, there were birds a plenty sheltering just the other side of the stone  fishing limit on the North Arm.  My first sighting was a single Great White Egret and using the scope noticed that there were a further five just to the left sheltering under the stone work whilst on the spit itself there must have been a sheltering flock in excess of 100 Lapwing.

Great White Egret Egretta alba with Little Egret Egretta garzetta and many Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
The ducks here were mainly Wigeon with a few Gadwall and the occasional Mallard.  A couple of Moorhen wandering about on the far side and below the Lapwing a good number of Little Egret.   Just a few Cormorant moving about and a handful resting near the Lapwing.  I looked up to see the Wood Pigeon fly over and then noticed the lone Redshank walking the nearby shore.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor with Teal Anas crecca


Out on the main water but still close to hand must have been hundreds of Tufted Duck with a few Great Crested Grebe sharing their company.  Nearer to the shore a couple of Mute Swans and accompanying Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal.  But wait, not just Wigeon but also a score or more of Pintail.  More use of the scope found the score or more of Canada Geese and then a smaller number of Greylag.  Strange to see the pair of Egyptian Geese keeping the Mute Swan company on the shallow water.  Very few gulls about other the Black-headed and a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls.

Hundreds of Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Whilst at the site one of the local ringers returned with a brace of Teal top process and ring and he mentioned that Lagoon 3 was virtually empty of birds as was both lagoons 1 and 2.  However, he did inform me that, if I had time, there was an immature Scaup amongst the Tufted Duck and that he had recently seen the "strange" falcon in Lagoon 3 which had passed over him minutes ago and disappeared behind the far road.  It would appear that the general consensus of opinion was that the bird was a cross between Lanner and Peregrine Falcon.  Perhaps something for me to look out for next week, weather permitting.

Pintail Anas acuta (top centre) with Teal Anas crecca
Good job, therefore, that I was only making a very brief visit!  As I set off I noticed the Heron arrive on the far side and also picked up a Magpie as I turned towards Egleton and the Visitors Centre.  calling first at the Centre I confirmed that, indeed, there was very little bird life on the water, just a few Cormorant and Lapwing but also a couple of resting Pochard.  And not one single Coot to be seen.

Moving over to the feeding area I began to think that this, too, would be a disappointment but within five minutes the little fells arrived in their droves.  Mainly Blue but some Great Tits along with many Goldfinch, a few Chaffinch and even a single Greenfinch.  However, pride of place went to the Brambling that stayed just a few seconds short of me getting the camera on the bird.  A couple of Dunnocks foraged about the ground and a Blackbird or two chased across the back completely oblivious to the Grey Squirrel working away at one of the suspended nut feeders.  A noise to my left revealed a visiting hen Pheasant and, of course, a handful or more of House Sparrows arrived to join in the feeding frenzy.  Two Jackdaws paid a visit but many more were seen as I left the shelter where I also picked up both Collared Dove and Starling.

Dunnock Prunella modularis
Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus
With just enough time to get me home in time for the 11.45 bus to Peterborough I drove round the Water and noticed passing the Manton Bay end that this water, too, appeared almost completely deserted.  A Red Kite alighted on the top of a telegraph pole as I passed under the railway bridge so that it could take a closer look at the dead Pheasant on the road to my left.  Then ,turning left to drive down to the Lyndon Centre I had a pair of Jays but also confirmed that there was practically no bird life about on the water.  A few Mute Swans on the far side and the occasional passing Cormorant and Black-headed Gull just about summed it up till I found a pair of resting Egyptian Geese and the odd Wigeon on the edge of the deserted pool down on me left.  Again, no Coot to be seen during this very brief stop.


Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Red Kite, Moorhen, Lapwing, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor with (mainly) Wigeon Anas penelope
Wigeon Anas penelope and Teal Anas crecca plus a Pintail Anas acuta

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