Wednesday, 22 March 2017

First Woodchat Shrike, Pallid and Common Swift of the Year

Wednesday 22 March

An interesting morning down at Zapata on the Rio Guadalhorce with Derek and Barbara Etherton in warm sunshine but quire breezy which resulted in us recording our first Woodchat Shrike of the year along with both Pallid and Common Swifts.  A short follow-on visit to the Rio Grande found the river much changed, as with Zapata, following the recent heavy rain storms and resulting flooding.  Nevertheless, good to record almost 50 species between us.

No sooner had we entered the site than we were recording Red-rumped Swallow, Collared Dove, Serin and House Sparrow and our first riverside stop added Little Egret, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot and Greenshank.  Not much scoping required to quickly add Little Ringed Plover along with both Green and Common Sandpipers.  Meanwhile, all around us, there seemed to be "swarms" of Barn Swallows feeding low over the grasses and, again, with a little extra care we soon also picked up both Sand and House Martins.  Both Greenfinch and Goldfinch were recorded before we saw our first Pallid Swift of the year to be followed shortly afterwards by both another and a couple of Common Swifts.

Blue-headed Wagtail Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae

After watching a couple of Jackdaw fly out from under the motorway bridge and a pair of Cattle Egret pass overhead, we left the newly-arrived Grey Heron and Cormorant and made our way towards the main reed bed.  No sooner had we reached the higher track than we found the Woodchat Shrike sitting quietly on the fence and close by both Corn Bunting and StonechatCrested Larks on the track itself and then under the airport approach lights to discover that the field on the right behind the fence had been recently moved and the grass removed leaving a very inviting, insect field for the score of mixed White and Blue-headed Wagtails along with more House Sparrows, Corn Buntings and Spotless Starlings.  Whilst here we also watched a rather lovely Marsh Harrier quartering the reeds up ahead and a Blackbird flew past along with the first of a number of Zitting Cisticolas to be seen during the morning.

keep yur windows closed as the Marsh Harrier Aguilucho lagunero Circus aeruginosus passes by
Moving between sites we had a Monk Parakeet fly over the car and, upon arrival at the Rio Grande, were greeted by a number of both Cattle and Little Egrets along with the odd Cormorant and a handful of Black-winged Stilts.  A Hoopoe crossed in front of us and then a male Chaffinch sitting on the track itself.

One of verry many (Blue-headed) Yellow Wagtails Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae
From the far bridge over the newly-created "dam" we had first views of a pair of Raven and then no less than five Buzzards overhead.  Lots of Little Ringed Plovers about and, as with Zapata, no shortage of singing Cetti's Warblers.  Our final bird of this site was a male Spanish Sparrow and then a female Stonechat and Black Redstart when we stopped to look at the nesting Bonelli's Eagle - but neither Mum nor Dad were at home!

Spanish Sparrow Gorrion Moruno Passer hispaniolensis
Spanish Sparrow with House Sparrows Gorrion Comun Passer domesticus
Accidental photo of a House Sparrow Gorrion Comun Passer domesticusin glight!

Birds seen:
Mallard, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, WhiteWagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

Monday, 20 March 2017

Ferruginess Duck and Jack Snipe at Charca de Suarez

Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo
Monday 20 March

Having seen Mick Richardson's photos of the Ferruginous Ducks at Charca de Suarez, I thought I had better make an urgent visit in case the birds decide not to stay and breed.  So off for the restricted evening opening and, apart from a quick look in the Laguna del Taraje for the Little Crake, which was not seen, on to the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas to seek out said ducks.  All rather quiet with a pair of Shoveler, the same number of Mallards and few Coots which were well outnumbered by the local Moorhens and I was beginning t think that this might have been a wasted journey.  I happily watched the diving Little Grebes and there certainly a good number of Cormorants and Grey Herons lining the eastern bank.  Then, from my left, the pair of Ferrugiunous Ducks paddle rather swiftly across in front of me undertaking regular dives, just like overgrown Little Grebes but showing their white backsides.

Little Grebe Zampullin Comun Tachybaptus ruficollis

So onto the Laguna del Trebol where I duly found more Common than Red-knobbed Coots along with a few Mallards.  Back to the main hide and the Feruginous Ducks were more in the open but there were three together so, perhaps, these are visiting rather breeding birds.  Also present both Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls and only Barn Swallows feeding overhead.

Ferruginous Ducks Porron Pardo Aythya nyroca
Next some time to be spent at the relatively new Laguna del Alamo Blanco which really turned up trumps.  A Black-winged Stilt and a single Green Sandpiper to wards the back right but it was the quartet of Common Snipe that caught my attention along with a trio of Wood sandpipers.  Then, not the Moorhens, Coots, Mallards or even the Teal, but the single little "stripy" bird at the far back up close to the vegetation that caught my attention and demanded that I give it a really good check out with the scope.  This was, indeed, a small snipe, but not Common rather a single Jack Snipe.  And here was I thinking that the wintering individuals had moved on.  (Perhaps they had and this was a new arrival.)

One of the quartet of Common Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago

This individual ignored his larger cousins and continued to feed on its own and, unlike the Common Snipe, very close to the water's edge so that, presumably, if necessary, it could quickly slink away into the reeds.  A single Little Egret departed and having noted the sole Ringed Plover I walked back to the Laguna Taraje, with a very small charm of Goldfinch passing overhead, in the hope that the final twenty minutes might produce the Little Crake.  It did not, just Moorhens, Coots and Little Grebe along with a Chiffchaff and a White Wagtail.  The final bird, flitting around outside the hide, was a Robin.

More photographs of this visit:

Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo dring off and looking like just plucked fo rthe oven!

Two of the three Ferruginous Ducks Porron Pardo Aythya nyroca present on the main laguna

Lots of Grey Herons Garza Real Ardea cinerea on site
Not a head in sight for these two Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago and a Teal Cerceta Comun Anas crecca

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal. Ferruginous Duck,  Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, White Wagtail, Robin, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, Serin, Goldfinch.

Now what sort of Terrapin might this be; native or introduced?

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

Cabo de Gata week-end

Monday 20 March

The monthly field visit of the Andalucia Bird Society was at Cabo de Gata this past Saturday, 18 March and attended, on the day, by a total of 34 members as we explored the area in as few cars as possible, each with their own maps of the area so that, I think without exception, there were never more than two cars together at any one time - save when we came across each other at the occasional hide or mirador.  As a group we managed to record over 60 species on the day itself.

For Jenny and I the trip started at 12.30 the previous day as soon as Jenny had completed her hospital appointment in Velez Malaga to check up on the progress of her broken elbow from last September so, rather than a couple of stops on the way to Cabo de Gata in Almeria province, we made straight for the huge "lake" at Las Norias where we had our late picnic lunch.  I use the word "lake" reservedly and with some trepidation as for those who know this water they would perhaps smile, if not loudly guffaw, at such a description.  To reach the water you drive through a city of plastic and will not be surprised to learn that only plastic re-cycling plant that I know of is located at the eastern end.  Here, not only will you find vast quantities of bundled plastic awaiting the incinerator but, being the nature of the beast, no shortage of overspilled rubbish lining the banks of the far pool which is favoured by the breeding Purple Swamphens and roosting egrets and herons.  What a stinking mess this area can be with the wind in the wrong direction.

Male Red-crested Pochard Pato Colorado Netta rufina
We left Velez Malaga in beautiful warm and sunny weather but on opening the car door at the first crossing over the lake in Las Norias discovered to our surprise that there was a rather healthy breeze creating choppy waters.  Indeed the breeze was to stay with us for the rest of the day and the morrow.  Probably just as well, as come Sunday when calm returned the temperature soared up into the high twenties.  This first stop produced good numbers of both Great Crested Grebe and Red-crested Pochards along with Common Pochard, Mallard, Cormorant and Little Grebe.  Overhead, both Barn Swallows and House Martins were having a feast and what few gulls we saw were of the Black-headed variety.  On round to the last causeway near the plastic recycling works to park by the bridge.  More Great Crested Grebes including a pair performing one of their classic courting dances and the far, top, side a large roost of Little Egrets in a single tree and an almost continuous row of Grey Herons.  All seemingly seeking shelter from the string easterly breeze and, to our left, another tree holding a roost of Cattle Egrets.  In was in this latter roost that I discovered the single adult Night Heron.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea with Little Egrets Egretta garzetta but can you find the Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax?
Missing out the salinas at Roquetas de Mar we managed to arrive in Cabo de Gata by about 4pm which gave Jenny chance to settle into the hotel whilst I drove down to the far "Public Hide" to check on what might be about for the ABS field day in the morning.  What a surprise greeted me.  All the recent rain had so increased water levels so that not only were there very few feeding shores for the waders but the very end pool which has always had a long, narrow spit of rock on which both gulls and terns of all sorts roosted had completed disappeared below the water.  Not a bird in sight.  The main pool in front of the hide contained a good number of Flamingo and scores of feeding Avocets along with both Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls.
Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus with Avocets Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta
The larger island did have a very narrow shore on which the few waders were recorded, including Redshank, Kentish Plover and Dunlin.  So, watching a Raven fly past overhead and a number of Sandwich Terns feeding just of the beach, back to the first hide on the bend just outside the village where I found a few Slender-billed Gulls resting on the water along with Green Sandpiper, a dozen Black-winged Stilt and the opposite side of the road an Iberian Grey Shrike and a passing Marsh Harrier to add to the previously seen kestrel.  The final birds of the day were a rather lovely Garganey and a Black-tailed Godwit in full summer plumage.

Garganey Cerceta Carretona Anas querquedula

Saturday morning and at Hide One to outline the plans for the day to the expected twenty or so members to discover that our final tally was a magnificent 34.  (But I had already had a very short walk before breakfast to the flooded filed just 100 metres to the north of the hotel and found House Martin, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler and Hoopoe.) Once maps had been distributed and car groupings sorted members took off to their referred starting point for the day knowing that we would all, or the great majority, meet up again at the local Blancabrisa hotel in the late afternoon.

My little group of seven in two cars set off through the town and picked up the beach-side track to the rambla making stops on the way to observe both the Gannets and feeding Sandwich Terns.  At the rambla itself we found plenty of water, unlike my last visit in January when there was a mere trickle down the middle, but very few birds.  A Moorhen and Mallard along with a Ringed Plover on the far bank before a distant Marsh Harrier was spotted quartering the fields.  Overhead a Raven wandered towards the village giving very good views and then eight Black-winged Stilts flew in from the direction of the sea and settled on the river.   As we followed these birds upstream we discovered a most gorgeous male Garaganey along with a single Green Sandpiper.  A few Goldfinches and a Sardinian Warbler were also recorded before I found a lone Golden Plover that popped its head up from the long grass between some low bushes just as I had the scope in that direction; very lucky indeed.  Needless to say there was a constant supply of Barn Swallows in small numbers.

Garganey Cerceta Carretona Anas querquedula with Black-winged Stilts Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
From here it was one extreme to the other as we made our way to the far end of the site to try and find the wintering Trumpeter Finches near the lighthouse.  On approaching, the road around the lighthouse was jam-packed with tourists so we took the mountain road and parked outside the stone buildings.  Much as we tried we could not find our target bird albeit many did who had started at this end of the site.  Both Spotless Starlings and Black Wheatears were resting on the wires and no shortage of breeding Crested Larks.  In addition we added Crag Martin as we climbed (by car!) to the top for the amazing views over the cliffs and beyond.

Our final stop, before taking a comfort break and enjoying drinks and "fishy" nibbles at the roadside restaurant overlooking the sea, was on the track to the back of the salinas; just far enough along to check out the roosting gulls.  nearest to us were scores of Audouin's Gulls but we also recorded Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls.  Behind us we had a number of views of Crested Lark and the occasional Corn Bunting.

Following our short top we drove on the Public Hide  overlooking a large pool containing very many Avocets and Flamingos.  Once settle in and a chance to search other other birds we soon picked up Shelduck and Mallard along with Cormorants.   The nearby island produced Dunlin, Little Stint and Redshank whilst at the very back a quintet of Black-necked Grebes were moving along as a self-contained group.  It was here that we said goodbye to three of the group as they had to return home early so, after dropping Jenny off at the hotel, we remaining four returned to the original starting point with the sun now behind is to check out the water once more.  A small group of Spoonbill were soon spotted along with a single Cattle Egret, pair of Slender-billed Gulls and a few Mediterranean Gulls.  The Garganey was still present from last night and also a male Wigeon.  Tucked into the bank we had a couple of Little Egrets and a small number of Black-winged Stilts.  Still plenty of Avocets but all the Flamingos were at the far end.

Our final stop was back at the flooded field near the hotel where numerous Barn Swallows were feeding but also both Sand and Crag Martin along with a Red-rumped Swallow.  On the water mainly Black-headed Gulls but in the dead stems of what resembled a harvested paddy fields a group of a dozen Black-winged Stilt.  And a s we looked closer we found a full summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit and then a further three, one of the latter being in full winter plumage and almost making it look more like a Bar-tailed Godwit when compared with its companions.  And so back to the hotel for a rest and prepare for the evening's get together with the last new bird seen by me being an Iberian Grey Shrike.

Sunday morning, yesterday, and eight of us were at the "Trumpeter site" by 9.30 before the day-trippers arrived.  Still no Trumpeter Finch but the busy feeding Crested Larks suggested that there might be a nest of youngsters nearby.  In addition we found Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipit and Linnet to add to the Black Wheatears and Spotless Starlings.  We even had a female Black Redstart land on the wire in front of us.  Back to the hotel where I completed packing the car, collected jenny and set off back to Mezquitilla.  As we left Cabo I did stop for the very briefest of a look to check the water and say goodbye to this wonderful and beautiful site.  In time to record Avocet, Spoonbill, Slender-billed Gull, Mallard and Barn Swallow.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
Our first stop was at the salinas of Roquetas de Mar.  The picnic site pool provided lots of Mallards and a few Common Pochard along with  female White-headed Duck.  We managed to drive on quite a way along the track until it disappeared under the conjoined waters.  However, on the track we observed both Black-winged Stilt and Redshank with a couple of Ringed Plover further along.  On the main water lots of Avocets and Red-crested Pochards along with Shoveler and a flitting Zitting CisticolaFlamingos could be seen in the distance.

Great Crested Grebe Somormujo Lavanco Podiceps cristatus  about to get all excited!
Our final stop was at nearby Las Norias where, again, lots more Red-crested Pochards along with Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes and Herons.  No sign of the Night Heron from Friday or the reported Tufted Duck from Saturday.  However, we did add Chiffchaff, White Wagtail and Red-rumped Swallow before checking out the next causeway where we came across a good number of Gadwall.  To add to the excitement, a pair of Garganey was spotted and whilst zooming in with the scope I even discovered a feeding Purple Swamphen.  Meanwhile, on the very far bank a distant Great White Egret took to the air.  And so ended a very enjoyable week-end with lots of great birds and company.

Very distant record shot of a Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio

Birds seen by me:
Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Golden Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Crested lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

Sunday, 19 March 2017

El Fondo with the Arboleas Bird Group

19 March 2017

It would appear that whilst I was up at Cabo de Gata in Almeria province withe Andalucia Bird Society for its March field visit, report later, Dave and his group were even further north at the "famous" El Fondo site.  A few years now since Dave took Jenny and I there so I wonder if it still holds breeding Moustached Warblers.  It certainly must still be very popular as I think Dave and company have made the long journey up to Elche, near Alicante, on at least four occasions these past six months or so.

El Fondo, Elche   -   Saturday 18th March

Paul & Kath asked me to arrange a day out at El Fondo whilst they were over for a short break, so here we were at silly o'clock heading towards the bird reserve near Elche. We'd already logged Blackbird and Black Redstart prior to arriving at the North Gate for 08.15hrs when the ranger released us into the reserve for the only 3 hour slot of the week into this, the best, part of the reserve. We heard Green "Iberian" Woodpecker and Cetti's Warbler as we were waiting. 
As Paul drove along the track towards the bottom elevated hide what should fly across in front of us but our first "Common" Cuckoo of the year!  A great start!  Also seen on the drive were Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret.  As we exited the car a Common Buzzard flew off.  From the hide, looking away from the sun, onto the expanse of water in front of us we could see White Headed Duck, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot and Common Pochard.  I spotted a distant Purple Swamphen on the reed bed peripheries.  (Big word for this time of the morning if correct, but sounds good!) Some Greater Flamingos flew passed.  A Grey Heron was also seen.  On the water the other way we saw Cormorant,  Great Crested and Little Grebe.  In the reeds were a few Chiffchaff and invisible Cetti's Warblers.  On the water way over to the left were some Shoveler (more later!).  The only hirundine we saw was a lone Red Rumped Swallow. 
The sun was now warming us & and the raptors up. We were subjected to flights of Booted Eagles and Marsh Harriers, some of the former landing in the close by eucalyptus trees.  Meanwhile fast flying squadrons of Teal flashed passed to land unseen behind the reeds.

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We decided to move to the small hide along the dew covered grass track to the right.  As we walked along, getting decidedly wet shoes and socks, a flight of 200+ Glossy Ibis flew by.  From the hide we only added Shelduck, Cattle Egret and a single Black Headed Gull.  I had a fleeting glimpse of a Kingfisher.  Walking aback to the elevated hide we saw a Robin and a Barn Swallow.  We'd missed two Little Bittern flights whilst away!  We added a flight of Black Tailed Godwit before making our way to the hides further back towards the entrance.  The first was unreachable as the little bridge was under water.  The region had had torrential rains in the last week.  At the next hide we saw Black-necked Grebe and a single male Red Crested Pochard.
At the smaller elevated viewing hide we were greeted by three Great White Egret feeding with numerous of their Little cousins and a few Glossy Ibis.  A flight of 10 or so Golden Plover was seen. The vast expanse of water was covered with Shoveler.  I guesstimate there were at least 2,000+.  Paul found a male Blackcap skitting up and down a shrub.  I had a fleeting glimpse of what was probably an Osprey before it disappeared below the reeds.  We moved to the raised footway a bit further along. We were treated to our first Pallid Swifts high above us plus some soaring Marsh Harriers and a Booted Eagle. I at first missed the Alpine Swifts with the flight of Pallids but soon locked on to a couple of them.  A Green Sandpiper flew by.  We ended time there with a Kestrel.

Great White Egret Egretta alba (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then drove round to the Information Centre having been let out by the ranger.  A lot of families around, not to mention the midges and mosquitoes!  (Thought I'd got away with not being bitten, but have just found a large bite at the back of my head which won't stop itching now I've scratched it!) There was a singled collared Red Knobbed Coot in the pool next to the Centre.  We walked along the raised wooden pathway.  A Sand Martin flew by.  There was a Little Stint on the water line to our left. Then to our right another wader.  After much discussion we confirmed it as a Temminck's Stint, a lifer for Paul.  We got to the end of the pathway and Kath decided to head back to the car park as she was getting plagued by the mozzies.  Paul and I headed for the two other hides.  The far one was unreachable due to the water level, so we made our way back to the first one.  The usual suspects were there...Moorhen, Coot and Black Headed Grebe.  We were just about to leave when I spotted a Marbled Duck.  In fact there were four on the far reed line.  

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We also saw Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler and Zitting Cisticola on the way back.

Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
A great days birding in good company, ending with 55 species.
Regards, Dave
Great report dave and most envious to read about both the swifts and the Marbled Ducks.

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

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Caleta de Velez

Thursday 16 March

A very late afternoon walk along the front from Mezquitilla to Caleta de Velez after completing the Fuente de Piedra report from yesterday turned out to provide some interesting observations.  Rock Dove and House Sparrows as Jenny and I made our way westwards and, of course, no shortage of very active and noisy Monk Parakeets still apparently carrying nesting material to their favoured tree.

Once at the harbour entrance bay the water as well up the beach and hitting the retaining wall along about seventy-five per cent of the bay.  The little space on the beach was taken up by about fifty Yellow-legged Gulls of varying ages whilst on the rocks a small number of both Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls were resting.  At the far end and on the water the best part of a score of Cormorants.

 A returning fishing boat brought with it hundreds of gulls and even a couple of Gannets.  However, the most interesting arrival was that of a tightly packed flock of forty Black-winged Stilts.  The birds came from the east in a tight group low over the water and entered the bay.  They then proceeded to continually wheel around the water as if looking for a place to land and settle but seemed not happy with landing on the small amount of beach presently occupied by the Yellow-legged Gulls.  Next they entered the fishing harbour itself only to exit and take another turn around the small bay.  These birds were just not happy and even when they reached the exit rather than bear left (eastwards) into the wind and the prospect of a lengthy stretch of beach, around they came once more and when we finally departed after watching this activity for at least fifteen minutes the Black-winged Stilts were still no nearer to making up their minds to where they wanted to head.  Very strange indeed and the amount of energy they were using up left you wondering whether they had been wasting their time bothering to feed for the past number of hours.

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

Photos from Fuente de Piedra

Wednesday 15 March

So many memories of our visit to Fuente de Piedra on Wednesday morning that I thought I might share some pics taken of the Greater Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseua and sleeping Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua.  With regard to the latter, can you sleep, open your eyes to see what is going on and not move a single movement, or more likely a little finger, before simply dozing off again?  Typical Spanish siesta and the first thing I mastered when arriving here in Spain!

Greater Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseua


 Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua



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

Fuente de Piedra

Fuente de Piedra for Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus
Wednesday 15 March

Following yesterday's (Tuesday) continuous heavy rain all day, this morning was beautifully warm and sunny even though the local forecast had suggested that we might have to wait until late morning before the temperature started to pick up.  So off to Fuente de Piedra to see the effect of the rain on the site and what might have been brought in.  How different from Monday evening's visit to Charca de Suarez when I had to sit in a damp hide with the drizzled dropping through the porous cane roof although, as my birding friend Chris Bell from Worksop pointed out, if I had paid more attention to my history lessons at school I would have known to "Beware the (h)ides of March!"

Can you find the Snipe Gallinego gallinago?

On arriving at Fuente I could sense that something was different from previous visits at this time of the year.  There was a good-sized pool on the field to my left as I entered the reserve but only a number of Coot to be seen along with, eventually, a couple of Ringed Plovers and a White Wagtail plus a number of Barn Swallows feeding over the water.  No ducks and where were all the waders that I expected to find.  To my right now plenty of wader on below the boardwalk but, again, just a single Black-winged Stilt to be seen.  So up to the southern side of the Visitors Centre and look down onto the scrape.  A rather large pool now and water in the nearer channel but, also here, no real evidence of any waders.  Yes, Coots and a handful of Mallard along with a pair of Shovler and even the Moorhens could be counted on less fingers than one hand.  What is going on?  However, scoping in on the resting male Shoveler revealed a pair of well-concealed Snipe and then out of the blue, or in this case out of the green, a most magical moment that made it all worth while as the most handsome of male Garganey swam into view.  What a gorgeous bird!

The glorious Garganey Anas querquedula

 I, therefore, quickly returned to the car to collect the camera and walked along the bottom track in the hope of getting a closer shot of the Garganey.  Whilst walking towards the hedge gap alongside the fence I also picked up a female Black Redstart and male Stonechat, a calling Hoopoe and, of course, a small number of House Sparrows.  Now where was it hiding?  A dozen Black-winged Stilts had arrived and the Shoveler was moving about but no Garganey.  Looking just beyond the water on the "grazing" land I found a trio of White Wagtails then noticed a lovely male Northern Wheatear and, almost immediately, a female Yellow Wagtail of the Iberian sub-species.  Great; a second year tick in just  few minutes or so.  A movement to the bird's right, more a sudden yellow light, as I found, also with the use of the scope, a resting Stone Curlew which had opened one of its large, chicken-like eyes.  Could it get any better?  Yes it could as the Garganey made its appearance from upstage left and gave me the chance to get some distant photos.

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina with sleeping Flamingos
With a happy heart I made my way round to the Laguneto at the back of the Visitors Centre with a short stop at the Mirador to check out the main water.  Whilst there was more water than I had seen over the past few months, instead of thousands of Greater Flamingo the birds could be counted in a few hundred along with a good number of Black-headed and fewer Yellow-legged Gulls.  Maybe a handful of Shelduck were searching the mud for food and then a I noticed the ten Grey Herons huddled together.  Just beyond this little group stood a lonely female Curlew, what turned out to be my third and final new bird of the year recorded today.  The Barn Swallows continued to feed overhead and I became aware of the resident Jackdaw flock but, yet again, far fewer than I would have expected.

Time to go for these Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
So onto the Laguneto where I soon became saw the large flock of Black-headed Gulls on the water along with a number of Little Grebe.  Lots of ducks on the water's edge in front of the hide so time to settle down and see just what was present.  Mainly Shoveler and Mallard but then the arrival of a (true) pair of Common Pochard guided me to yet more and also  at least five pairs of Red-crested Pochards.  But what was that smaller duck half-concealed behind a small growth?  No, surely not?  Yes, not one but a quartet of Garganey and then at least another pair resting alongside the Shovelers.  So, just like the number 9 bus, I wait well over a year for Garganey and then a whole fleet of the bids appear on one day.  I was later to learn that as many as 100 had been seen on site last Sunday and a 698 were recorded heading eastwards off the light house (faro) at Fuengirola following Saturday's heavy storm. Possibly all part of the same flock.

Garganey Anas querquedula with Teal Anas crecca and Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
To my right I found a lone White Stork resting on the ground between the small trees.  Not seen one here before but looking across the  water I could see another pair on top of the tall chimney just beyond the railway station.  It very much looks like a new nesting site for these birds.  Just beyond the single White Stork a male Linnet was happily sitting at the top of a tree and out on the water I could add both Coot and Moorhen with, on the far bank, two pairs of White-headed Duck .  A Teal put in appearance to my right and then, to make a total of 9 duck species seen today, a pair of Gadwall drifted into view.

Is this White Stork Ciconia ciconia the odd one out with a pair nest building on a nearby chimney top? 
By now I had been joined by friends Barbara and Derek Etherton along with Micky Smith so we spent the next couple of hours enjoying the rest of the day's birding.  The small hide overlooking the pool adjacent to the Laguneto proved another pair of Gadwall and a few Shoveler and Mallard but also a score of sparrows feeding on the seed heads and drinking at the water's edge.  Closer inspection revealed that a number were Spanish rather all being House Sparrows.  A single Robin popped in whilst returning to the Laguneto proper we were also to add a Marsh Harrier and found the regular visits of a Goldfinch to its nest in the top of a small tree immediately in front of the hide where the female (?) was presumably brooding her clutch of eggs as a Black-tailed Godwit took off from a concealed position at the water's edge and disappeared away behind us.

A well-concealed but distat Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

A stop at the Mirador revealed that the Curlew had moved on but there was a very small flock of Golden Plover on the sands and, as we watched, a pair of Redshank landed in front of us on the scrape and a Green Sandpiper took flight.  Beyond the scrape we once again picked up both Yellow and White Wagtails along a with a pair of Little Ringed Plovers and a solitary Crested Lark.  Moving across to the boardwalk a trio of Avocets passed overhead and, in addition to a couple of Black-winged Stilts we managed to find both Meadow and Water Pipit.  A few Jackdaws were making use of the breeding tower out on the field and returning to our cars we stopped to take a good look at the roosting Little Owl.

Sleepy Little Owl Athene noctua; but I can still see you!

A stop at the mirador La Vicaria hide for our picnic lunch revealed only many distant waders of various sizes in the heat haze with only Dunlin being positively identified.  A lovely Buzzard drifted overhead and a handful of Serin were recorded.  On to Cantarrannas mirador where nothing extra was added and so the start of respective journeys home which included a very lovely male Hen Harrier at the far end of the laguna near the near mirador.  All that then needed to be recorded were the Corn Buntings on the wires and the Rock Dove near the farm before once again joining the main road back towards Antequera and the motorway.  A very enjoyable day and in the best of company which, for me, finally provided a total of 53 species including three new for the year as previously mentioned.

A last view of the Garganey Anas querquedula
Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Garganey, Teal, Red-crsted Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier,  Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Yellow Wagtail (Iberian), White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

So how many species can you count; 7 or more? 
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.