Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Almeria and Cabo de Gata - Day One

Iberian Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis
Tuesday 21 January

The present forecast is all about percentage chance for rain and yesterday we hardly had more than a five-minute spit!  So, given that Jenny would be out most of tomorrow, I took myself off for two days birding in Almeria province.  Leaving home at 9.45 it was mostly cloudy with the Sun contemplating whether or not to puts its hat on and come out play as I made my eastwards through the Axarquia and then Granada province on the A7 Mediterranean motorway. Literally, as I entered Almeria province a few spots on the windscreen and arriving in Las Norias, home of the plastic re-cycling plant, loads of plastic greenhouses and generally filthy conditions with all the discarded rubbish, a light drizzle started.  However, it was less than fifteen minutes and by and large the day remained cloudy and dry if somewhat murky.  Indeed, as I arrived in Cabo de Gata at about 4pm the cloud was breaking exposing some blue sky and even a little watery sunshine.

Red-crested Pochard Pato Colorado Netta rufina
Leaving the motorway I quickly recorded both Rock and Collared Doves on the wires along with a few Spotless Starlings and a small number of House Sparrows.  The small green patch on the left with the big puddle as you enter the village held its usual supply of Cattle Egrets, twelve on this occasion, along with a couple of Glossy Ibis. Taking the first crossing of the water I was greeted by scores of feeding Crag Martins, a number of Cormorants and little else.  I did record a Little Grebe, Heron and couple of Moorhens along with a few Black-headed Gulls before continuing on and through the plastic greenhouses to the meadow at the end of the road down from the plastic re-cycling facility.  A few White Wagtails on the way and when I arrived but my word what a difference.  This road has been widened, edges given support, re-surfaced and lined so, in theory, nowhere to stop and park up if more than a single car.  Even the usual parking spot near the bridge seems to have been halved.  On the water itself eight Red-crested Pochard, a few Mallard and a dozen Coot along with more Cormorants.  A second Heron was found in the dense reeds opposite.  At the factory end four Little Egret and a single Great Crested Grebe whilst on the opposite side of the road I was able to watch a feeding Purple Swamphen from the bridge. Not only a good number of feeding Crag Martins but also a single Barn Swallow,  Just as I was about to leave I found the single Great Crested Grebe and, of course, a good many Chiffchaff.  

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio

Off to Roquetas de Mar, and found a very cheap place to fill up with fuel near San Agustin, with the first stop at the lighthouse track where I noted many Flamingo, another Purple Swamphen and a few Yellow-legged Gulls plus a distant single Slender-billed Gull.  Approaching the site I passed a massive flock of about 300 Spotless Starling, more Collared Dove along with both White Wagtail and the first of many Stonechat sightings.  The pool at the back held a number of Shoveler, a quartet of Gadwall as well as Coots.

Working my way back to take a look at the “secret Pool” further on I found very little apart from the flooded track.  The return drive to the road produced Crested Lark, Kestrel and Serin. The preening Hoopoe was a welcome sighting.

Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops
And so to Roquetas itself, noting the large flock of over thirty Common Starlings, where the fresh water pool was full of Coot and mainly Black-headed Gulls but very few duck, just a handful of Mallard and a couple of Red-crested Pochard.  Nothing other than Mallards on the “feeding pond” and very little on the track down into the salinas. 

Common Starling Estornino Pinto Sturnus vulgaris
Lots of Flamingos, Shoveler and Coot but eventually a pool that turned up both single Redshank and Greenshank and the next produced a half-dozen Black-winged Stilts.  Just before my turning point I found three Crested Larks and on the water side a whole raft of Lesser Black-backed Gulls but closer inspection with the scope also found the four Audouin’s Gulls.  

Find the Audouin's Gulls Gaviota de Audouin Larus audouinii

Working my way back to the road I recorded a Great White Egret and then stopped to check out the strange “lumps” to my right to discover about thirty resting Golden Plover.  The final species was a pair of Blackbirds as I entered the town itself.

Golden Plover Chorlito Dorado Europeo Pluvialis apricaria
A different route to Cabo de Gata on this occasion as I took the road from Retemar straight down to the front and then worked my way along the beach track before joining the country road to my destination.  Hardly onto the track when I found ten Sanderling feeding on a small pool on the sea side of the track which was quickly followed by both Greenfinch and more Stonechats.  Lots of Greenfinches in this area plus more Chiffchaff and a single Dartford Warbler followed by a male Sardinian Warbler as I made my way back to the main road along with a pair of Magpie.

Entering Cabo de Gata I stopped at the first hide on the bend and noted more Flamingos along with Stonechat and a second Iberian Grey Shrike just in front of the hide. Also present one Greenshank and a couple of Slender-billed Gulls. A single Black Redstart and more Greenfinches as I made my way down to the Public Hide from where I noted, to my right, the raft of Lesser Black-backed Gulls which included a quartet of Sandwich Terns, many more Flamingos and a dozen Shelduck.  To the left, in addition to the gulls and another Great White Egret, I found the score or more of Spoonbills resting with the Cormorants.

The very wet and puddled track away from the hide running parallel to the road produced yet more Greenfinches along with Crested Larks and a small number of Meadow Pipits.  A very quick trip up to the lighthouse and back before checking in at the hostal also found more Crested Larks and House Sparrows along with a couple of Black Wheatear.

Well-concealed Meadow Pipit Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Golden Plover, Sanderling, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch

More photographic records:
Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio
Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus

More of the Golden Plover Chorlito Dorado Europeo Pluvialis apricaria flock
Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra

Saturday 18 January

Arriving at Laguna Dulce about 9.15 this morning it was calm but cloudy and dull with a hint of rain in the air.  Intermittent short drizzles followed soon after and by late-morning it was more of a continuous light rain.  Rubbish weather for photographs as will be seen below with many taken from within the car as record shots.

Approaching the laguna I had a Buzzard on top of pole and then five Crane in a field to the left and close to the road and lots of birds to be seen on the water with a roosting gull flock made up of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls totalling well in excess of 500.  Similarly, still over an hundred White-headed Ducks to be seen and almost as many ShovelersMallards were well represented and probably a score of Red-crested Pochard.  Nearer to the hide a handful of Gadwall.  Also present many Little and a few Black-necked Grebes.  A number of White wagtails were foraging the shore to my left, but no Jack Snipe on this visit, and to my right a sudden movement caught my eye and I was in time to see a couple of Song Thrush.  Both Collared Doves and Chaffinches in the trees near the lay-by and even a couple of Snipe were hiding in the road-side verge and took off to the laguna as soon as the car approached.  Also on the water  a very large flock of Coot at the back and maybe as many as thirty Flamingo away to the far right. A quartering Marsh Harrier over the back of the water resulted in the expected rush to take to the air.

Only 15 Common Crane Grulla Comun Grus grus seen

Leaving the hide to drive round to the back of the laguna before the rains arrived I found another Buzzard resting on the wooden shed on the right just before the Ronda turn.  Entering the track to the fields I was welcomed by over a score of House Sparrows and in the very first field on my left nine feeding Golden Plover.  What a shame it was so dull that the photographs could not do justice to this lovely wader.

Golden Plover Chorlito Dorado Europeo Pluvius apricaria in the dull light

Continuing on I cam across a very flighty flock of over an hundred Calandra Lark followed by Stonechat, Crested Lark and Meadow Pipit.  I took the chance to follow the track to its end, well almost, and as on the last visit that dip with its water and mid filled base was too much to contemplate without at least a four-wheel drive vehicle.  Just a hundred metres away I could see the road to Fuente and the big farm, with a good number of Rock Doves and Spotted Starlings laughing their heads off as I turned and retraced my drive!  The return drive produced Goldfinch and Linnet and a quick call back to the lay-by then produced both Blackbird and a Hoopoe.

Making my round to the car park at Fuente de Piedra in a clockwise direction I had a very large flock of Feral Pigeons at the large farm and a similar number of Spotless Starlings resting on the wires leading into the olive grove.  This was quickly followed by another Buzzard atop a pylon and then a couple of Wood Pigeons.  Approaching the Visitors Centre the area on the left was dry but a single Lapwing at the back.  With a light drizzle falling and very limited time before moving off to the Camping Bar for the annual meeting of the Andalucia Bird Society in forty-five minutes, it was straight round the back to the laguneta.  The main salina, now basically dry with a damp gleam, held hundreds of distant resting gulls and to the left maybe up to 400 Flamingo.

Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus and Shovelers Cuchara Comun Anas clypeata at the laguneta

Once at the laguneta a dozen or more Flamingos accompanied by a good variety of duck including many Shoveler, Mallard, Common Pochard, a couple of White-headed Duck and a similar number of Teal. A quartet of Little Grebe and many Moorhen and Coot were also recorded.  Most of the gulls were resident Black-headed but there were also a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Away from the water in the surrounding vegetation I found a number of Chiffchaff, Spanish and House Sparrows, Blackcap, Blackbird, Great Tit and a few Greenfinch.  I also added Jackdaws which, on this occasion, seemed to have preferred the town itself rather than the reserve.

Very distant female Blackcap Curruca capirotada Sylvia atricapilla

Following the ABS meeting I made a fleeting return visit to the Visitors Centre but was unable to locate the Redwing seen earlier in the day so back to Laguna Dulce for a final visit before heading off home via Ardales and Malaga.  The country road away from Fuente produced a small number of Serin and Goldfinches, another couple of Kestrel and then a single Red-legged partridge standing in the road and waiting to be ht by a passing car!  On arrival at Laguna Dulce I was able to add a single Bluethroat and the scores of Crag Martins that had turned up to feed now that the temperature had risen and the weather much improved.

Bluethroat Ruisenor Pechiazul Luscinia svecica at Laguna Dulce

A short stop at the Penarrubia duly produced a couple of Griffon Vulture using the thermals to drift along the cliff face and then on towards Malaga where I decided to stop a the Rio Grande just in case
Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba
there were any wintering Siskin.  My drive downstream alongside the small private airstrip produced White Wagtails and Chaffinch and then, at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Guadalorce, a preening Common Sandpiper.  Driving back and then upstream before crossing the river and stopping at the small bridge produced a quintet of Black-winged Stilt and a few mallards along with a lone Little Egret.  Whilst at the bridge I watched a couple of Cormorants and then a Great White Egret took off from below me and settle further down stream.  By the time I returned to Mezquitilla I had recorded well over 50 species for the day which was most pleasing especially giving the dullness, cloud and wet weather.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochatd, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Flamingo, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Friday, 17 January 2020

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Greenshank Tringa nebularia (left) with Black-winged Stilt Himantopus hinantopus
Thursday 16 January

Arriving just after 9am  at the mouth of the Guadalhorce in Malaga for the monthly meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group the weather was bright and sunny with clear blue skies, yet a very cold chill in the air and definitely well worth putting on the thick jumper.  By midday the temperature was up in 15 - 17C range and I was trying to keep cool!  Arriving early with visiting Dutch birder, Lisette we went straight to the mouth of the river where we found a very calm sea and no birds.  Lots of House Sparrows and a few Serins in the surrounding vegetation on the banks and even a couple of Sandwich Terns put in an appearance as we were about to depart.  A Cormorant flue up river and, in addition to the Spotless Starlings on the roofs of the apartments, Lisette heard a Greenfinch as we were getting into the car.

Arriving at our meeting point on the track leading up to the river opposite the football ground, visiting Swedish birder, Goran Storensten, who was to accompany us to the first hide, was already on site and shorty joined by Jerry and Barabra Laycock from Fuengirola and Marcus and Liz Roots from Competa.  With many Monk Parakeets atop the fence on the other side of the road and a visiting Blackbird we set of towards the footbridge recording both Cetti's Warbler and Robin.  A Lesser Black-backed Gull flew overhead and from the footbridge we picked up both a couple of Rock Doves under the motorway bridge and also saw a couple of Collared Doves.

Shoveler Cuchara Comun Anas clypeata

So onto the Laguna Casillas where there was a small party of Shoveler along with about ten Pochard.  Just the single Moorhen and Little Grebe and a few more Coot. No Booted Eagle resting on the old tree to our right on this occasion but right on cue an individual flew over and lost itself from view in the vegetation at the back.

Concealed Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus at the Laguna Casillas

On the Wader Hide where we found eight Black-winged Stilts and a couple of Moorhen at the back of the water.  Also to the back right no less that six Little Grebe and then a Common Sandpiper dropped in.  Meanwhile, further searching found a second Booted Eagle resting in a dead tree at the back whilst behind us we had the constant accompaniment of a calling Red-legged Partridge.  Marcus found a distant Hoopoe and there was also a number of Chiffchaff to be seen.

Redshank Archibebe Comun Tringa totanus

Moving on towards the sea watch we stopped to check-out the Rio Viejo (Old Rover) where we found more Black-winged Stilts, a couple of Ringed Plover and at east ten Sanderling.  A single Redshank and a couple of Greenshank plus a small party of Dunlin improved the wader total and then the first of a few Black Redstarts on either side of the track.  Scoping the back of the rough ground to our left we found a trio of Crested Larks and a couple of Meadow Pipits.  A Blackcap put in a very brief appearance and a (true) pair of Sardinian Warblers dashed across the track.  Similarly, there was no shortage of Stonechat sightings.  Nothing to see from the Sea Watch and so we made our way back picking up another couple of Kestrels and a trio of Linnets that alighted on the side of the track for a few seconds.  At about this point, with the weather getting decidedly warmer, the Crag Martins started to appear and their number actually included a single Barn Swallow.

Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuellinegro Podiceps nigricollis

Approaching the Laguna Escondida we were in time to see the departing Cattle Egret and then found a good assortment of birds on the water including Coot and Moorhen plus a couple of Little and two Black-necked Grebes, plus ducks including eight Pochard, a pair of Mallard, half-dozen Shoveler and (now) two male White-headed Ducks.  Both Chiffchaff and White Wagtails were busy feeding in front of us and to our left my first Zitting Cisticola of the morning.

Male White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala

All now in a happy frame of mind as we made our way to our final stop at the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande.  After being welcomed by a passing Booted Eagle we could not but notice at least thirty Cormorants and a good half-doze Heron.  To the back of the water, in addition to a number of Shoveler there was a small group of Seven Black-necked Grebes and a few Moorhen and Coot were also notes.  A number of Collared Doves and Spotted Starlings in the trees to our left and in front the remaining three of the five juvenile Flamingos, two resting with the above Cormorants.

Juvenile Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus with Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

Immediately in front of us on the scrape, in addition to the few Black-winged Stilts we had a Common Sandpiper and another Greenshank.  A Redshank worked its way along the edges as did a couple of Ringed Plovers and a quartet of SanderlingCetti's Warblers were calling and then Marcus found the resting Marsh Harrier in a tree at the back of the laguna.

Very distant Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental Circus aeruginosus

I noticed the small "lump" behind a high branch on a nearby dead tree and on closer inspection with the scope discovered a Peregrine Falcon enjoying its midday meal as it heatedly plucked away at a large bird, presumably one of the local Collared Doves

Very distant record shot of Peregrine Falcon Hacon Peregrino Falco peregrinus enjoying its lunch!

And to round off a perfect morning just as we were leaving Lisette was pleased to be shown the Osprey that chose that moment to do an over-pass.  In addition, our hearing specialist, Lisette also heard Short-toed Treecreeper and Dunnock during the morning.  Great birds, great company and great weather.

White Wagtail Lavandera Blanca Motacilla alba

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola,  Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

When all the schoolkids arrive the Flamingo will leave!


Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Villaricos & Vera Playa with Arboleas Birding Group

15 January 2020

latest report from my friend David Elliott-Binns following his day's visit with the Arboleas Birding Group shows that , once again lots of good birds found by the members.  I notice that lots of Black Redstart and Northern Starings are being seen this winter and for Dave and friends the arrival of Barn Swallows must have brought a smile to many a face.

Wednesday 15th January: Villaricos & Vera Playa

I decided we'd go local this week, so having picked up Claire outside Humbugs Cafe I drove down to the coast to the Rambla Almanzora at Villaricos.  In total there were 24 members out today, a possible record!  I thought the large number might be a problem, but apart from parking in Villaricos village at coffee time the day went well. 

The first problem was that I'd forgotten to bring my notebook, so unfortunately (not) John had to write down the birds seen.  Richard spotted a Robin and also on the list were Collared Dove and Magpie.  A Green Sandpiper was in the ford water.  Jacky had seen a Snipe on her walk from the beach.  Also seen from the car park were Moorhen, Northern Starling,  Black-headed Gull, Moorhen, Black Redstart, Mallard and White Wagtail.  Walking up towards the sewage work we all commented on the lack of birds on the water.  Another Green Sandpiper was seen and Alan added a Redshank.  A Serin and Greenfinch were perched on the fence.  Numerous Chiffchaff flitted about.  On the way back a Common Sandpiper and Ringed Plover were seen on the small pools.  Also seen was a Grey Wagtail.  A Cetti's Warbler was heard.  Back at the ford pool we saw a pair of Black-winged Stilts.

After a coffee in the village we made our way to the beach.  Cormorants were on the harbour entrance rocks.  I spotted the "resident" Whimbrel on a closer rock.  Crag Martins were flying low over the rocks.  A Yellow-legged Gull and Turnstone were also seen.  Alan spotted a distant Gannet out to sea. We then walked over towards the estuary.  A tremendous amount of work is being done building up the sides with sand banks, but there still were a few birds around.  The star was a Kingfisher which was fishing on the opposite reed line.  There were three Grey Herons, Coot and Little Grebe.  Nearer the beach was a single Audouin's Gull together with a Sandwich Tern and some Black-headed Gulls. Near them was a Grey Plover and a small flock of Dunlin.  A raft of distant black birds on the water proved to be Cormorants in the end.  On the beach John found Kentish Plovers and a Sanderling on the rocky outcrop. 
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then convoyed down to the dual carriageway behind Vera Playa.  Several Stonechat were seen. Amongst the scattered bushes in the water we saw both Teal and Shoveler ducks as well as Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe.  Two Marsh Harriers were quartering over the reeds.

Moving round to the far elevated hide near the Aguaparc we had good views of about 20 White-headed Duck plus Shoveler and Teal.  I spotted a single Barn Swallow among the Crag Martins.  I then found a Ferruginous Duck, just as John arrived, having walked from the dual carriageway, saying he'd also seen one plus a Blackbird. 
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

A Little Bittern flew low over the water.  Another birder pointed out what we agreed was a Willow Warbler giving good views just below us.  I left at this point.  John and some others stayed on and were awarded with views of Black-necked Grebe, Booted Eagles and Purple Swamphen.

Willow Warbler  Phylloscopus trochilus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Adding those to the total, we ended up with 55 species for the day.  Very good days birding in good company.  Was good to see Richard and Maria again.  Also Jim and his daughter, Natalie.
Regards, Dave 
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Interesting photograph of the Willow Warbler confirming how difficult these little phylloscopus warblers can be to identified, especially if relying on leg colour.  The "black" of the Chiffchaff can sometime be quite "light" whereas the Willow Warbler's "yellow" legs can often be quite "dark" - and that's before we take into account sun and shadow, etc.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Ventas de Zafarraya

Tuesday 14 January

Arriving at the mirador at Ventas de Zafarraya it was calm and sunny with a little hazy cloud but certainly on the cold side.  Indeed, frost still on the ground in shaded areas but, with height, came the chance to still see the Almond blossom and along the old railway track a lovely carpet of Broad-leaf Iris.

A few Goldfinches upon arrival and as I walked towards the old tunnel both Black Redstart and Stonechat.  Soon after the tunnel the first of four Black Wheatears and then a female Sardinian Warbler.  But generally quiet until I reached the old track-side ruin with a Kestrel perched on top of a large, spindly tree to my left.  In front of me a trio of Rock Buntings and more Stonechats.  On top of a pylon in front pf me a male Blue Rock Thrush.  Making my way back a couple of Chaffinches in the spinney below me and then my attention drawn to a quartering Sparrowhawk being mobbed by a quintet of Crag Martins.  Arriving back at the car a score or more Spotless Starlings before setting off for the "growing fields."

The small pond near the picnic area held 26 Mallard and more Goldfinches as I continued on towards the "Magpie Woods" and took the country lane to me left.  Lots of House Sparrows and at least a couple of hundred Ferral Pigeon feeding on the rough fields.  The set-aside field to my left held a trio of Mistle Thrush and a small flock of Linnets and Chaffinches.  More Mallards at the main pond and then a stop on the way back to the main road led to the sighting of a single Robin and then a small flock of Lesser Short-toed Larks along with more Mistle Thrushes.

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus on the wires
White Wagtails on the road as I approached the Magpie Woods and almost immediately an Azure-winged Magpie passing on the left.  Through the woods and off to the left where I found an Iberian Grey Shrike.  Approaching the end of the arable fields a small finch flock in the trees near the small building and, wonder of wonders, including a Brambling.  Immediately over  the crossroads and I saw the first of a dozen Magpie and then a large flock of almost one hundred Wood Pigeons to my right.  Seven Red-legged Partridges on the road and then, on a small pile of stones a Little Owl.

Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridional
At the cross-roads itself a small number of Corn Bunting and a male Blackbird flitted across the road.  A detour along the paved road to my right as I started out on the return journey produced more Chaffinches, a second Little Owl and a Buzzard.

Fast disappearing Buzzard Buteo buteo
Only just midday so decided to pay a short visit to El Robledal in the hope that I might pick some new birds for the year including a woodpecker.  No such luck.  However, I did add a Jay to more Chaffinches, Black Redstart, Robin, Blackbird and House Sparrows.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Little Owl, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Osuna area

Saturday 11 January

A most enjoyable day's birding in the Osuna area which eventually produced all my target birds.  Leavng home before 7 to meet up with friends at the venta at the exit to junction80 on the A92 at Osuna it was clear, sunny and bloomin' cold.  It might have been 10C when I left the coast but rising to the top of the hill out of Malaga the temperature had dropped to -2C and settled for the morning between 4 and 8 before rising to 12 after lunch.  Approaching the meeting point I had already seen a couple of Buzzards and House Sparrow and White Wagtail were foraging in the car park area.

Eventually, along with thirteen special friends in a total of five cars we set off along the back lane and made straight to the viaduct over the abandoned high speed rail track-bed.   On the way we recorded Spotless Starling, Corn Bunting and more White Wagtails before the numerous number of Stonechats.  Also seen was a large flock of Red-legged Partridge and a number of Buzzards.  We even had the sighting of a departing Northern Wheatear showing its conspicuous white rump.  Even closer, a rather lovely Iberian Grey Shrike.  As we approached the viaduct very many small mixed flock of House and Spanish Sparrows along with more and more sightings of Ravens.

Surprised to actually see some water below the viaduct albeit mainly narrow streams and the occasional wet patch we soon found dozens of Rock Doves (Feral Pigeons) on the viaduct itself and a large flock of Lapwing below.  Having found the first of a couple of Green Sandpipers we were then show about eight Snipe immediately below and Derek was first to find the flock of about 50 Golden Plover and a handful of Ringed Plovers at the back of the wet area.  However, apart from the isolated individuals there were over sixty White Storks feeding alongside the horses to our distant left.

Iberian Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis

Not really any warmer as we made our way back to one of the high over-bridges passing a close Iberian Grey Shrike on the way to take the farming road out into the steppes in search of the local Great Bustards.  Derek in the lead stopped to say that he could see a few distant Great Bustards and by the time we had all disembarked and concentrated we finally added our small groups together and reached an estimated flock size of about 55.  Great.  Then a small raptor on a rock that moved to a low bush at the side of the track.  At the same time a Kestrel took up station on a nearby rock but I think most of us were right in calculating that the original small raptor was indeed a Merlin.  Whilst in the area we recorded Linnet, Crested Lark, Red Kite and Calandra Lark and as we continued to study the big birds a small number of Lesser black-backed Gulls flew over.

Female Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

Steve then took our car along a narrow, deep-rutted track to try and get a closer view of the Great Bustards as they had moved away right to land in front of a distant white building.  Whilst watching the feeding flock, we were amazed to see a another large flock fly in from the left and pass immediately overhead the feeding group.  Counting the split as 25 and 35 it would appear that we had about 120 Great Bustards in sight at the same time.  It appeared that a handful were actually feeding very close to a nearby farm building so we took a circuitous route to the area but, alas, the group were just as far away and now with the sun in our faces.

Maybe a third of the Great Bustard Aventarda Comun Otis tarda flock
We , therefore, drove back to the main road and carried on the next turn which took us over the third high bridge towards La Lantejuela.  Stopping on the bridge we had a flock of 16 Stone Curlews fly immediately in front of the car and then a quintet of larger birds.  A pair of Ravens and both a Buzzard and Marsh Harrier also moved away to our right whereas a close Buzzard headed off left in front of Steve.

Distant shot of more Great Bustard Aventarda Comun Otis tarda 

Our next call was a visit to the old ruined farm at the end of a long track where the Rollers and Lesser Kestrel breed.  These had not yet arrived from their winter quarters and all we added were Chiffchaffs and more Crested Larks.  But we did stop to watch a few Linnets and Serin and Steve spotted the single Brambling which came to rest in the top of a nearby olive tree.  Whilst the rest of the group remained with the Great Bustards to take more photographs and also found a good-sized mixed finch flock including a number of very flighty Bramblings,we headed off to nearby La Lantejuela for a comfort break and warning coffee passing a large group of Spotless Starlings on the way which also included a good number of Common Starlings along with more Calandra Larks before joining the main road to the village.

White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala with Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus

Suitably refreshed,our next stop was at he small reserve on the outskirts of the village based on the local grey-water treatment plant.  As usual the site was closed but the warden was exiting with a small group of Maltese birders and let us join them a the hide overlooking the main pool.  Lots of birds to be see,  Apart from the seventy plus Flamingo we had a variety of duck species including Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, many White-headed Duck and a pair of Ferruginous Duck.  Both Little and Black-necked Grebes clearly on show and a number of Coot.

Shovelers Cuchara Comun Anas clypeata and Flamingo take flight
There were smaller birds to be seen around the edges including many Chiffchaff and House Sparrows but we also saw House Sparrows and on the left bank a feeding Spotted Flycatcher, another early sighting following last week's bird a the Charca de Suarez, Motril.  Steve and Elena were first to find the Black-winged Stilt on the far side and a walk along the road to check-out the bushes produced a male Sardinian Warbler.

Common Buzzard Bustardo Ratonera Buteo buteo 
All joined together for a final drink on the outskirts of the village before making our respective journeys home and for we three the straight seven kilometre road back to Osuna produced no less than seven Buzzards on the pylons along with a suddenly arriving Black-winged Kite.  Just when we thought we had recorded the last species of the day we happened to check out the resting bird on the next length of wire and discovered a Wood Pigeon rather than another Collared Dove, so giving a final tally of 51 species for the day.

Sometimes the bird gets away first: Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus (above), Buzzard Buteo buteo (below)

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-backed Grebe, White Stork, Flamingo, Black-winged Kite, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Coot, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Sardiian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Iberian Grey Shrike, Raven, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Brambling, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Over 70 Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus present.at la Lantejuela

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