Thursday, 21 September 2017

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 20 September

Another interesting day's birding by David and his Arboleas Birding Group, this time up into the hills of the Sierra de Maria.  There certainly seem to lots of Spotted Flycatchers showing at the moment, no doubt migrating individuals joining the local populations.  Add on also the migrating Pied Flycatchers and there are very many to be found at the moment but, no doubt, all will be gone within the next fortnight or so.
Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 20th September

Today the group head for one of our favourite places, the Sierra de Maria. I picked up Richard and Steve and made our way via Velez Rubio and Velez Blanco.  As we passed the garage between the two we were " in the zone!" I spotted our first bird, a Kestrel flying off a pylon.  Richard closely followed with a Southern Grey Shrike, but nothing else noteworthy on our journey to Maria town. Barrie and Beryl were already at the cafe.  We were soon joined by John, Mary and Adrian.  After the usual coffee and chat we headed towards the chapel.  As we were approaching the car park, a bird flew out of a tree to the left and quickly returned from whence it came.  Although in the shade now, the Spotted Flycatcher posed beautifully.  Once we'd parked up we managed to see it again.  A male Stonechat showed well.  We were joined by Jacky at this point.  There was a lot of bird activity on the far side of the field by the water deposit.  We saw Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Crossbill coming down to drink.  Barrie found a Rock Bunting.  We made our way towards the water trough.  The Spotted Flycatcher was caught having a bath.  We were surprised to hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker firstly drumming and then calling.  Sure enough, it flew over.  The water trough was a hive of activity.  We added Cirl Bunting, Blackbird, Robin and some overflying Bee-eaters.  Richard meanwhile had made his way towards the Botanical Gardens seeing a juvenile Goldfinch on the way.   Barrie and I spotted a Sardinian Warbler.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
At the gardens, Richard had already seen Blue, Coal and Crested Tit.  Mary heard and spotted a Firecrest.  Leaving Richard and Adrian there (and Mary doing the lower walk in the opposite direction) we wandered along the forest path.  I heard a distant Raven.  We also heard and then saw a Jay.  An incredible flock of 30+ Mistle Thrush flew over.   We met up with Mary, who'd also seen Long-tailed Tit.  Richard and Adrian had added Serin to the list.  Barrie and I found a young Subalpine Warbler.  A Crag Martin was also spotted.

Sonechat Saxicola torquatus  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We convoyed along to the farm buildings. John identified Barn and Red -rumped Swallows.  Barrie was first to spot the 3 Griffon Vultures coming out of the sun.
Moving to the farmyard water trough, our first birds were a pair of Carrion Crow.  Steve spotted some LBJs flying to our right.  I picked them up, but saw beyond them at a distance were 3 Alpine Swifts circling high up.   Luckily the others followed the direction of my binoculars to find them as well.  Steve spotted another Spotted Flycatcher.  I found a Crested Lark atop a form building and someone (John?) found a female Northern Wheatear.  We saw some more of the later on the way down to the hamlet.  Here there were more Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark and about half a dozen Yellow Wagtails.  Barrie heard a Corn Bunting.  John may have glimpsed a Booted Eagle before it dropped at a distance behind the farm buildings never to be seen again.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then retraced our steps to the La Piza forest cafe to enjoy our lunch watching Crossbill, Great and Coal Tit, Jay and Chaffinch coming down to drink.  Long-tailed Tits were having a bath in some shallow water behind us.  A Mistle Thrush appeared and Richard spotted some overflying Griffon Vultures.  Jacky had seen about 9 of them doing the high walk.  Barrie found a Blackcap to complete our days list.  A respectable 41 species.  Good weather, birding and company.  What more could you ask for!  Regards, Dave

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Monday, 18 September 2017

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales with Dave

Sanderling Calidris alba (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Sunday 17 September

Whilst I was busy recovering from the week-end's exploits, I see Dave came up with the old excuse to get himself out of the house and off for a little birding.  But there are only so many occasions when you can get away with it, David!  Notwithstanding, I trust you both have a fabulous visit back to Blighty and, upon your return, discover that masses of wintering migrants have arrived.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales
Sunday 17th September

You know how it is. Gilly had lots to do preparing for our forthcoming trip to the UK, so it was best if I got out of the way! 
I was up early and headed south towards Cabo de Gata.  By the time I was passing Pujaire, I'd already clocked up 5 species the more notable being Jackdaws and a couple of flights of Yellow-legged Gulls presumably heading for some rubbish dump inland.  I drove to the far end of the reserve with the intention of doing the rear track first.  As I was downing a cup of thermos coffee a young ( I think)
Juvenile Thekla Lark Galerida thekklae? (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
 Thekla Lark perched on a nearby fence. (Note...Using my DSLR camera and Telephoto lens today for a change!).  There was a bit of water on the first salina.   There were numerous Slender-billed Gulls at rest, together with Kentish and Ringed Plover.  Barn Swallows flew low over the pools and a Yellow Wagtail flitted on the edges.  The next salina added some Greater Flamingos.  I drove up to the abandoned farm buildings ever hopeful for a Little Owl.  Failed again, but I did hear and see a Red-legged Partridge.  Went back down to the track where it got with a few metres of the waters edge.  The small waders there, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Dunlin , were unfazed by the large 4x4 parking next to them.  It was around this time I was joined by numerous mosquitoes hungry for breakfast.  I  unwittingly obliged although some of them won't be having lunch!  I saw the first Chiffchaff of the day feeding from the adjacent wire fence.  At the dilapidated hide I added Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Redshank.  A Common Swift flew by.  On the power lines I found an Iberian Grey Shrike.  Further along I spotted a Greenshank on the waters edge.  I then saw a small bird fly off to the right into the sun.  It perched like a "chat".  I'm positive I made out a white supercilium, so I put it down as a Whinchat.  Nearing the hedged field a Sardinian Warbler flew to the left and disappeared into a shrub.  I waited to hear its call but nothing.  The reason was probably the low flying female Sparrowhawk just missing the stationary truck!.  My last bird, before joining the tarmac was a White Wagtail.

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I then drove to the first hide.  Was harried by the Sparrowhawk again!  A scan revealed Mallard and Grey Heron amongst the already logged Avocet and Black-winged Stilt.  The rocky causeway was virtually empty apart from a Little Egret and a Yellow-legged Gull.  Nearly hidden, I just spotted the head of a Little Tern.  It moved so the body was attached!  A late Sand Martin flew past.

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
A brief sea-watch opposite the second hide didn't disturb the scorer!  A Greenfinch was perched on a shrub as a Sandwich Tern headed inland.  There was a kerfuffle in the largest treelike shrub.  Three Hoopoe were having a ding dong.  From the hide I added a Kestrel.  There was a Common Sandpiper in the dyke.
Married Hoopoes Upupa epops having a row (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Moving to the public hide I did a count of the Black-necked Grebe.  There were 89.  One of you bright sparks will know the equation regarding  the number of grebes on the surface compared to the number underwater!  Also seen were 9 Black-tailed Godwit.  I attempted to check out the rock causeway to the right, but immediately got attacked by a swarm of mosquito so gave up.  As I was leaving I heard squawking high above me . A young Yellow-legged Gull was chasing an adult Audouin's Gull with the intention of robbery.  By pure chance a Pallid Swift flew past the protagonists!  Heading towards Cabo village I spotted a female Northern Wheatear on the steppes. No sign of the reported Dotterel sadly.
Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta with Slender-billed Gulls Larus gebei in the middle (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Still having Thermos coffee left, I headed directly to the Rambla Morales.  I didn't check out the beach end as a cyclist in green psychedelic gear was having a rest there.  On the water and its edges, I found a small group of mostly female White-headed Duck, more Mallard and a few Teal plus Coot and Moorhen.  As well as a few Greater Flamingo and Black-headed Gull, a single Red-rumped Swallow and 3 Little Tern flew over.  Then it was back home for a late lunch.
Juvenile Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Apart from the numerous mosquito bites, it was a good days birding. 47 species in all.
Regards, Dave
Dunlin Calidris alpina (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Cabra, Cordoba

Saturday 16 September

Beautiful, clear weather, great company and marvellous scenery for the Andalucia Bird Society's field visit to Cabra in Cordoba province led by Antonio Pestana.  Not so much the quantity as the quality of birds and, as a first visit to the area, those wonderful vistas.

The morning was spent in Zuheros and the hills above.  Driving to the site we managed to encounter Collared Dove, Spotless Starling and a Kestrel before parking at the lower end of the village.  We had good views of Pergrine Falcon along with Stonechats and Black Redstarts that refused to leave us.  Both a number of Blue Rock Thrushes and Crag Martins were seen on and in front of the cliffs and the former even on the ground immediately in front of the group of seventeen.  As we got into our cars to drive towards the top an Orphean Warbler also presented itself to four members within three metres of the road.

Crested Lark Cogujada Comun Galerida cristata

Once near the top we had good views of the Griffon Vulture riding the thermals along with a couple of Short-toed Eagles.  Both Buzzard and a very close Booted Eagle were also seen.  Not the number of corvids that we had expected a but a couple of Jackdaws did take to the skies.  On the stony ground below the road and also in between the scattered, very old olive trees we soon found numerous Black Redstarts and Stonechats but the, in due course, also picked up the larks, mainly Crested but a at least a couple of Thekla Larks.  However, the most pleasant sight was that of the Common Redstarts still in glorious colour.  Barbara and Ron managed to find a lone Nuthatch which, evidently, is almost unheard of in this area.  Black Wheatears were relatively common and eventually seen also both Blue Tit and Goldfinch.

Male Common Redstart Colirrojo Real Phoenicurus phoenicurus but why the white collar?
Lovey to find a couple of Pied Flycatchers showing well so that when the Spotted Flycatcher came along it was rather special. With both Sardinian Warbler and Blackbird recorded plus a handful of Rock Doves, it was time to make our way back down the mountain, recording a Hoopoe on the way to the cars, and off to a small pine wood on the outskirts of Cabra itself.  Here, close to Antonio's hand-made hide, we found many more tits and especially Great rather than Blue Tits.  Also seen were a couple of small flocks of Crossbills plus a quite large flock of Greenfinches plus Serin was heard.  For  some the sight of a close Spotted Flycatcher found by Marja was very rewarding and as we left to take a short lunch break we had an individual Red-rumped Swallow above us.

Pied Flycatcher Papamoscas Cerrojillo Ficedula hypolieuca

After our lunch break it was of to the "Balcon of Andalucia" and what magnificent views of the region when we arrived, even if the only birds seen were a Chaffinch and passing Grifon Vulture immediately overhead.  We were shown the nest site of the resident Bonelli's Eagle and Derek pretty sure that hew had a distant Bonelli'e Eagle moving from (his) right to left over the distant mountain ranges.

On the other hand, the stop just below the summit produced more Crested Larks, Black Wheatears and Blue Rock Thrushes along with a relatively close Orphean Warbler that was seen, I think, by just about all members.  Then followed the drive down the twisting road back to the A318 and our return to the original meeting point at Hotel Mitra from where we said our good-byes and headed back to our respective home.  Great day in great company.

Fleeting glimoses of the Orphean Warbler Curruca Mirlona Sylvia hortensis
Birds seen:
Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush,Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Arboleas visit to Almanzora & Vera Playa

Wednesday 13 September

Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group have just been out on their latest weekly field visit and certainly found some interesting birds.  Yet more signs that migration is on the move with summer visitors working their way south from their northern breeding ground and even our winter visitors starting to appear in small numbers.  Now if only we could have some proper rain to freshen up the rivers and lakes.  In my local case, a thoroughly good and persistent downpour to flush out the local river of all the debris and unwanted growth.

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa
Wednesday 13th September

We decided to stay local today, so Gilly and I picked Steve up in Arboleas and headed towards the Rambla de Almanzora.  We joined it just passed the entrance to the Desert Springs golf complex and drove slowly atop the adjacent embankment. In most of the pools were small numbers of Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen and Mallard. Some House Martins and a Magpie flew over.  A farmer had dumped a large amount of unsaleable water melon.  The Cattle Egret and Jackdaws loved them.  A pair of Little Ringed Plover were loitering with intent on the periphery.  Gilly also spotted a Southern Grey Shrike.  Also observed was some Spotless Starling, a Little Egret and a female Teal.  We first met up with John, who'd come in from the other direction and had also seen Kentish Plover and had heard Cetti's Warbler.
 At the "ford" we met up with David, Myrtle, Adrian, Jacky and Frans. Trevor and Ann joined us later for a total of 11 members.  The start of the walk was not very productive, only adding House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Goldfinch and Sardinian Warbler.  At the sewage works there were some Black Winged Stilt, Common and Green Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plover.  Gilly saw a White Wagtail and I spotted a female Shoveler amongst the Mallard on the large pool.  Also seen were Blackbird, Chiffchaff and Greenfinch. 

Dunlin Calidris alpina (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)

We the adjourned to the Lucky cafe in Villaricos for some coffee before heading for the beach.  John spotted a juvenile "pink footed" Shag on the harbour rocks near a Yellow Legged Gull.  I was expecting loads of rubbish in the area after the "Dream Beach" pop concert a few weeks ago but was pleasantly surprised by the lack of it!  Over in the estuary we had the usual Coot and Moorhen, but in small numbers.  Loads of jumping Grayling fish.  Gilly spotted a Kestrel.  A Grey Heron flew round us.   Nearer the beach the shallows produced Dunlin, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Turnstone.  A Sandwich Tern also flew by.  On the rocks by the beach we only saw a Little Egret and a Turnstone.  The resident Whimbrel was not seen.

Juvenile Shag Phalacrocorax aristoelis with Yellow-legged Gull Larus mchahellis

John had seen some small waders on a pool behind the Palomares Repsol garage on the way this morning so we decided to swing round there on our way to the dual carriageway.  We only saw an Audouin's Gull and a Kentish Plover, but Frans and Gilly, who stayed on to take some snaps of the gull, were joined by some Dunlin!  Gilly noted that the Audouin's was missing a foot.  It was eerily joined by a Yellow Legged Gull with no feet at all!

Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
From the carriageway overlooking the pools opposite the Consum Supermarket we saw loads of Coot and Black Winged Stilt together with Little Egret and Grebe.  John spotted a Crag Martin.  There was a juvenile Greater Flamingo plus a what looked to be a recently deceased adult bird in the water.  We'd been admiring 3 Ruff when all of a sudden everything took to the air.  Gilly was first to spot the female Marsh Harrier coasting in.  I scanned its flying prey and found a Redshank in the melee.  Frans also found some Serin.  At the far end directly opposite the supermarket, we saw more Black Winged Stilt and another Ruff.  Further along opposite the Acuapark, where pipe-laying operations had removed some of the reed screen we only had Little Egret and Little Grebe.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
We ended with a respectful 47 total. A good days  birding in good company.
Regards, Dave

A departing Grey Heron Ardea cinerea (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The "Big Ton" Day

Tuesday 12 September

Out of the house by 5am and with Steve Powell off to the Plaza mayor in Malaga to meet up with Barbara and Derek Etherton where, once ensconced in Derek's car, we set out on the latest "100 in a day" challenge.  Straight up to the Montes de mMalaga where it was dark, getting colder as we waited for some action and, finally, our first bird of the day with a very noisy Tawny Owl.  A lot of time was spent at this venue and as the skies lightened we picked up Crossbills, Chaffinches and Blue Tit along with Wood Pigeons and a couple of Jays.  A Blackbird called before we found the Hawfinch a  top its usual tree below us and even a yaffling Green Woodpecker before it was really light. Whilst the Greenfinch and male Blackcap were a lovely addition, we could not add Derek's Great Spotted Woodpecker as he was the only member present to actually see or hear the bird and our rules clearly state that any species must be seen/heard by at least two of the members present.  We were to experience a very similar process at the end of the day when we were desperate to try and reach our target with me being the only one to see the Gannet dive into the water off the Guadalhorce.  Finally, a very early passage of a couple of Bee-eater flocks before we headed off to Colmenar for our breakfast at about 8.30.

Looking back as we left the Collared Doves, House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings at Colmenar we could but reflect that a lot of time had been spent up in the mountains for relatively little reward as no raptors and only one tit recorded.  But, perhaps, El Torcal would be a great substitute.  fat chance when two coaches overtook us at the bottom as we saw our first Griffon Vulture, Corn Bunting and both Thekla and Crested Lark.  And at the top even more coaches and very many cars, many parked in our favourite search area.  Working our way back down the mountain no surprise to find Crag Martins, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear but the male Rock Thrush certainly came as a wonderful and pleasant surprise.  In addition, we also recorded Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch and both Spectacled and Subalpine Warblers were an added bonus as was the juvenile Woodchat Shrike.  So, no Rock or Cirl Bunting seen but good numbers of Black Redstart.

Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis

So here we were with two sites completed and, according to Derek and Barbara possibly as many as fifteen or even twenty species short of our expected target by this stage of the day.  Nothing for it but to change our minds and head over to Fuente de Piedra in the hope that we might pick up something extra.  All very dry as expected but there were Flamingos to be seen along with Grey Heron, Little Egret, Lapwing, Ringed Plover and both Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Our first Barn Swallow of the day appeared overhead immediately followed by both Red-rumped Swallow and House Martin.  The lagunetta was looking very sorry for itself but it did produce Linnet, Black-winged Stilt, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Moorhen and Mallard.  In the scrubby areas we also found Willow Warbler, Linnet, Olivaceous Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher whilst the nearby Cetti's Warbler screamed lest we forget to enter its name into our notebooks.  Then the drive over the fields to pick up the main road from Campillos to Teba Rock produced not only a Chiffchaff but many Northern Wheatears, Zitting Cisticola, Hoopoe and a Raven.  Not so much the Kestrel but the second, perched Raven which turned out to be, when scoped, a resting Buzard completed this section.

Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais opaca (PHOTO: Stephen Powell)

From our stop at the Teba Rock we saw Griffon Vultures overhead and scoping the large reservoir below we were able to add Coot, Great Crested Grebe and Cormorant.  Not a lot to add so onwards to the upper Rio Grande but no Black Storks to be seen.  However, there were many Cattle Egrets as well as Little Egret and heron plus a small flock of Serin.  Eventually we found a couple of White Wagtail and the others managed to catch sight of the departing Grey Wagtail.

Next stop was Zapata on the Guadalhorce just above the airport.  At last we could add Little Ringed Plover and a lone Black Kite passed over above us.  Similarly, we were able to add both Little Grebe and a lone White Stork.  Departing this site we were also able to add a Turtle Dove.

So here we were, at about 5.30, entering the reserve at the Guadlhorce with a present running total of 72 species.  Another 28 required which seemed a very big ask, especially of wader numbers were down but, at least we could try and end up with a respectable total for the day.  What a shock, therefore, after recording both Common and Pallid Swift as we crossed the entrance footbridge, when upon reaching the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande we discovered a water given over almost entirely to Black-headed Gulls.  It it have been a new bird for the day but we had hoped for more.  Monk Parakeets screeched overhead and then a Kentish Plover below us and an Osprey in  a far tree busy disposing of a recently-caught fish.  And then, at the far side, a few Mediterranean Gulls and a Greenshank.  Perhaps the best sighting at this point was the brief sighting of a pair of Pied Flycatchers, the first of the year for all of us.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus
 We reached the Laguna Escondida still in need of a further 19 species but, again, not all the birds that we had expected to find.  Yes, White-headed Duck, Shoveler and Pochard along a female Kingfisher and a distant Booted Eagle.  Still 14 to go as we approached the Laguna Casillas.  A Short-toed Lark was first recorded and then a juvenile Blue-headed Wagtail quickly followed by the first of a couple of Whitethroat.

We arrived at the "Wader Hide" and what we thought was our final chance to add any number of new species.  A Black-necked Grebe and Wood Sandpiper were soon added along with a single Sanderling and, at last, our first Jackdaws of the day were seen passing over the trees at the back.  That was it. a total of 93, not an hundred but we had seen some great birds during the long day.  I think we were all tired as we moved along to check out the old river, the Rio Viejo and looking forward to a homeward retreat.  But come the river and yet more large flocks of gulls and we soon found a pair of Caspian Terns.  Lots of scoping and trying to look at every individual gull on the water and our hard work paid off when we found both a third-summer Audouin's Gull and a couple of Slender-billed Gulls.  A Couple of Little Stints on a small, stony island and then the arrival of five new waders and, wonder of wonders, they were all Curlew Sandpipers.

Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

At the time both Barbara and I had forgotten to add the Ringed Plovers seen at Fuente so did not record those seen at the Guadalhorce.  We believed we were on 97 for the day and how frustrating can that be.  As be debated what to do we were busy trying to catch up with a small warbler in a nearby bush and then it really exposed itself and we were able to add an Orphean Warbler.  Could we really set of home just two short of our target?  No.  Despite feeling tired we made the final trek down to the Sea Watch.  Just two birds to find and we could not believe it when we found a Balearic Shearwater working its way westwards and then, as we looked, it seemed that there were scores of the birds making a steady procession and the most  any of us had seen on a single watch.  99, just one to go.  "Got you!"  A Gannet diving for food but nobody else picked up on the bird so still one short.  Finally, at 7.29pm. a very small shearwater passing by and ten a second and a third actually resting on the water enabling is to get a good scoped view.  Yes, we all concurred as we wrote down Yelkouan (formerly Levantine) Shearwater.  Time for handshakes all round and retreated to San Julian so that we could celebrate the achievement with a large clara con lemon!  And to think that, without realising it at the time, we had already reached the century with the Ringed plover.

I have just been looking at the final eight sightings; Little Stint, Caspian Tern, Slender-billed Gull, Orphean Warbler, Audouin's Gull, Curlew Sandpiper, Balearic Shearwater and Yelkouan Shearwater.  Not a bad group of birds I am sure that you will agree.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Balearic Shearwater, Yelkouan Shearwater, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Flamingo, Osprey, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Snipe, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Caspian Tern, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Tawny Owl, Common Swift, Pallid Swift,  Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Olivaceous Warbler, Spectacled Warbler,Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill, Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Tarifa, Barbate and La Janda

Ruppell's Vulture Gyps rueppellii at Tarifa
Friday & Saturday, 8 & 9 September

Our ABS committee meeting near Estepona last Friday lasted rather longer than we had expected and that coupled with traffic delays near San Roque following a road accident meant that, along with Derek and Barbara Etherton, we did not arrive at the Cazalla mirador until mid-afternoon.  Just a short stay here, having already noted both Sardinian Warbler, Sparrowhawk, White Wagtail and Spotted Flycatcher to observe Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Osprey and White Stork before we headed off for La Janda.

As might be expected, plenty of White Storks in La Janda and our drive down form the road to the canal produced Zitting Cisticola, Stonechat, Corn Bunting and House Sparrow whist ahead of us we were able to pick out both Montagu's and Marsh Harrier.  A few Spotless Starlings and as we made our way along the canal-side track we had plenty of Barn Swallows, a few House Martins and a regular sighting of occasional Crested Larks.

A large pool in the rice paddy produced not just more White Storks but over an hundred Glossy Ibis.  A couple of Black-winged Stilts were seen then we found Snipe, a Common Sandpiper and three Green Sandpipers.  having found a few Lapwing at the far end of the water resting on the bank, a passing Collared Pratincole led us to at least a handful resting alongside the Lapwing.  Meanwhile about 200 or more Cattle Egrets rested at the far end along with the occasional Little Egret and the odd Grey Heron.  Immediately below us we had a couple of Blue-headed Wagtails, the Iberian sub-species of Yellow Wagtail.  In addition, a handful of Coot and a couple of Flamingos were resting and feeding in the pool.

Mixed Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinelus and Catte Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis
Look carefully and find both Lapwing Avefria Europea Vanellus vanellus and Collared Pratincole Canastera Comun Glareola pratincola and a mystery wader in front of the Cattle Egrets!
As we moved on we started to pick up a number of Jackdaw and the first of a few large charms of Goldfinch and the occasional Linnet.  Checking out the trees on the far side of the river we suddenly had an exploding burst of House Sparrows before they disappeared down into the foliage.  Why?  A passing Sparrowhawk soon revealed the source of the fright.  Not until the last large flock of House Sparrows did we finally find some well marked Spanish Sparrows and there certainly seemed to be a number of hybrids in the the previous flocks.  We also found a passing Buzzard which came to rest on an irrigation pipe.

Green Sandpiper Andarrios Grande Tringa ochropus being seen off by the Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago
Given that we were sending the night in Barbate itself and it had been a long day, no crossing the bridge on this occasion to explore the far area up and beyond the "smelly farm" but rather straight on to the end of the road.  (Makes it sound like a song coming on!)  On the last stretch first more Corn Buntings and House Sparrows on the wires but then a juvenile Woodchat Shrike and finally a lone Northern Wheatear.  Naturally, there were regular sightings of the many White Storks, Little Egrets and Glossy Ibis and an occasional Marsh Harrier.  And so to Barbate where we also found many Yellow-legged Gulls.

Three Little Egrets Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta
Breakfast and then up to Lidls, recording House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Black-winged Stilt, Cattle Egret, Spotless Starling, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Buzzard and Short-toed Eagle on the way, in Tarifa to meet up with the rest of the attending members before heading off to the Cazalla mirador and the, hoped for, thousands of migrating raptors.  A cooler and windier day than yesterday and this was to be reflected in the number of birds seen.  It was also evident, and commented upon, that the weather conditions in the north of Europe had resulted in an earlier migration that normalFor instance, only one Honey Buzzard seen in the whole morning, there should have been thousands, but I had already received a message from Marieke in Belgium that their Honey Buzzards had had a bad breeding season and departed southwards by mid-August  - and it only takes three days for a Honey Buzzard to reach Tarifa.

Short-toed Eagle Culebrera Europea Circaetus gallicus
On the other hand there were many Booted and Short-toed Eagles and as the morning warmed we gradually began to see more and more Griffon Vultures.  A handful of Alpine Swifts passed over and there was always a Yellow-legged Gull or two wandering around when, suddenly exploding out of nowhere, a Sparrowhawk flew up over the edge just missing our heads.  A large kettle of White Storks passed over and soon we had our first Black Storks as a small group of wide seemed to make their way westwards against the strong wind.  A small number of Barn Swallows were regularly seen and then a hovering Common Kestrel.  At last, the sight of a small number of Black Kites, these birds seem to spend the whole summer either arriving or departingBut for me, the best sighting was that of a group of about twenty-five Egyptian Vultures in close formation.  We had seen a group of five Griffon Vulture heading low inland and were later informed that one was actually a Ruppell's Vulture but, well, you can hardly call that a sighting.  But not to be undone, as were preparing to depart that small group must have circled right round for there, immediately above us at no great height, was the magnificent Ruppell's Vulture and giving every opportunity to pick out specific identifiers.  Wonderful.

And then the Ruppell's Vulture Buitre Moteado Gyps rueppellii flew immediately overhead
At this point the group split up with most heading off for La Janda whilst six of us took the narrow road down to the coast and then the rough track alongside the beach.  Amazing to see so many at the cliffside viewing point and, at that point, there seemed to be more raptors here than up above.  Lots of both Booted and Short-toed Eagles along with Black Kites and Griffon VulturesBarn Swallows were flying along the edges, and continued to do so the whole time we were in the area, and as we drove off we added many Stonechats, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting and a first Sky Lark of the morning.  A short stop as we searched the rocks off shore produced a couple of good-sized flocks of Bee-eaters and then we found Whimbrel and a small number of Turnstone on the rocks below.

The next stop produced both Northern and Black-eared Wheatear along with a single followed by a quintet of Raven behind us.  On the rocks the resting gulls were Yellow-legged but also a handful of Audouin's Gulls.  Closer study also produced a number of Sandwich Terns, more Turnstone and a few Ringed PloversLittle Owl and a Little Egret were added to the sightings along with a passing Peregrine Falcon, probable Lesser Kestrel and more Goldfinches.

Part of the Flamingo  Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus flock at Barbate
Now well past mid-afternoon so we all decided a quick visit to Barbate was the best option.  Unfortunately the tide was almost back in and the marshland to the rear looked a very sorry sight and desperately in need of lots of refreshing rain.  Goodness knows what worthwhile the cattle were able to find.  Lots of Flamingos on the water and a small number of Sanderling at our first stop and, once round the corner for a longer stop, we picked out Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls along with the odd Grey Heron and Little Egret.  Not so many waders but we did manage to record Black-winged Stilt, Dunlin and Grey Plover.  We only found three Spoonbills but did eventually record as many as five Stone Curlews on one of the stone-covered islands.  Leaving the site we experience a large flock of Calandra Larks and a single Blackbird and our final stop near the now-full river produced both a Redshank and a Common Sandpiper.

Flamingos  Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus on the move
Then it was time for the long journey home, saying goodbye to Ricky and Sonia Owen, dropping off Linda Roberts at the Lidl car park to collect her car and we were back in Alhaurin just before 9pm which meant that I was home by ten o'clock.  What a long day but a total of almost 70 species!

Birds seen:
Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Heron, Black Stork, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Ruppell's Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Peregrine falcon, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Dunlin, Snipe, Whimbrel, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Alpine Swift, Bee-eater, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Always a Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus somewhere!

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Can't see man or cow but could be made of cheese!
Thursday 7 September

A sort of "back with a vengeance" or "double header" as Dave was back out again today after his exploits with the Arboleas Birding Group down at Cabo de Gata with it now being the turn of the mountains of the Sierra de maria.  Lots of good birds as can be seen in Dave's report so hoping it all bodes well for my week-end down at Tarifa, the "Malaga Bird Tour" on Wednesday and finally the sierras of Cordoba next week-end.

Sierra de Maria   -   Thursday 7th September

As I left my house this morning, with the full moon showing beautifully, I could hear Bee-eaters migrating way above me.  Today I'm off to the Sierra de Maria with David and Myrtle.  Leaving my truck at their house, David drove us towards Maria.  As we passed Velez Blanco there were 4 Bee Eaters resting on the power lines.  As we entered Maria we added House Martin, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow and Collared Dove.  After a reviving cup of coffee at the garage cafe, we headed to the chapel area.  We didn't see anything on the way up, but I spotted some Red-rumped Swallows from the car park. We walked over to the water trough.  There was a plethora of small birds waiting to "take the waters" using a bush to its right as a staging area.  There was a family of Subalpine Warblers, some Chiffchaff and some Chaffinch.  There was a brief appearance by a gorgeous male Common Redstart and a Pied Flycatcher.  The star however was a Western Orphean Warbler.  Also seen were Blue Tit, Coal Tit and Goldfinch.  A pair of Collared Dove posed well.
Western Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Myrtle and I walked up towards the Information Centre whilst David went back to the car, driving up there.  Myrtle and I added Barn Swallow and Crossbill flying over.  The micro ponds in the botanical garden were busy quenching the thirst of many birds.  A group of Long-tailed Tits hogged the limelight with a Crested Tit sneaking in.  Serin and more Crossbill visited as well. 
Crested Tit Parus cristatus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
A walk round the lower walk didn't add anything to the list, but above us a total of probably 70 odd Bee-eaters flew noisily over.  We got back to the car and headed towards the plain.  Even before we had got to the La Piza junction we came across a serious accident.  An articulated lorry was on its side completely blocking the road.  The Guardia Civil and Traffic Maintenance crews were already there.  By pure chance, there was a dirt track adjacent to the road by which we could pass.  Once back on the road we spotted some Griffon Vultures flying overhead.  At the farm buildings I spotted a distant Hoopoe flying.  On the tree above the water deposit were 6 Crossbill waiting to drink.  A Carrion Crow was perched on top of a large bush.  I then amazed myself by identifying the call of a Booted Eagle before seeing it flying overhead.  We carried on down to the farm water trough, seeing a Jay on the way.  We only had a Crested Lark there.  The plain produced nothing till near the hamlet when we disturbed a roadside Northern Wheatear.  At the hamlet, the field beside the mounds of wheat refuse attracted a small number of Lesser Short-toed Larks.

Male Crossbill Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We adjourned to the La Piza forest cafe where we watched Crossbill and Chaffinch coming for a drink in the man-made little pool as we ate our snack lunch.  We ended up with 28 species in all which wasn't too bad.  Good weather, birding ad company.  By the time we got back to the accident site the large recovery vehicles were in attendance.  Hopefully the driver was not physically injured!
Why not capture the posing Collared Doves Streptopelia decaocto? (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
  Quite an adventure dave; what will you roduce for me next week?
Quite a mess; just hope he wasn't transported fresh eggs (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns) 

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.