Sunday, 20 September 2020

Charca de Suarez, Motril

 Sunday 20 September

Still suffering from the pulled leg muscle picked up down in Tarifa last Wednesday morning but the sun was shining and it promised to be a lovely morning so I took the chance and drove over to the Charca de Suarez on the western outskirts of Motril.  Arriving at "Turtle Dove Alley" (I suspect all these birds have now left the area in preparation for their winter quarters) I was welcomed by a lonely Collared Dove and no sooner entered than I encountered a mixed feeding flock of finches, including very many Serin plus a few Greenfinches, House Sparrows and even a trio of Red Avadavats.  More Serins at the far end before continuing on to the main entrance passing a good number of Spotless Starlings.

As usual my first stop was at the Laguna del Taraja where all appeared to be relatively quiet with just a quartet of Mallard and a single Purple Swamphen.  However, with the restrictions due to the on-going Coronavirus situation still in place the scene was set for both here and the two main hides with full occupancy by photographers.  Not a great help to birders who want to visit the site as a whole as most, if not all, of these photographers spend the whole of the open hours ensconced so depriving birding opportunities to many others.  And, as on previous occasions, not a single pair of binoculars to be seen nevermind a telescope.  Moan completed so onwards to the far end where this hide, as usual, was completely discarded but there was a single Red-knobbed Coot feeding out in the open immediately in front of the hide.

Red-knobbed Coots Focha Moruna Fulica cristata

As described above, no chance of spending any time tin the hide overlooking the Laguna del Alamo Blanco but I did note the White Stork along with a couple of juvenile Flamingos and a small number of Mallard.  No point handing around so hobbled on to the Laguna de las Aneas passing a couple of Blackbirds on the way.  On the other hand, I did actually revisit the previous hide on the way and there were now also a couple of Moorhens on the water along with a pair of Gadwall.

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta Garzetta

Once in the main hide I was able to find a single spare seat albeit at least here birders moved on so I was able to rotate my viewing area.  Lots of Common and the occasional Red-knobbed Coots.  Mainly Mallards but I did find a pair of both Shovler and Gadwall as well as a single male Common Pochard.  Just three Little Grebe and a single Cormorant and a plentiful supply of Moorhen.  On the island and just beyond a single Heron, three Little Egret and five more juvenile Flamingos.  Perhaps the best sighting was the Kingfisher that dashed across the water in front of the hide and then returned to pose within sight of the hide.

Kingfisher Martin Pescador Comun Alcedo atthis

Nothing knew at the Laguna de Trebol apart form close Red-knobbed Coots but as I walked back down the path I was able to watch the feeding Spotted Flycatcher.  Viewed from the far end of this water nothing to add apart from a second Kingfisher but smiled to note the Little Grebe resting among the sunbathing terrapins.  It was as I approached the rear hide that I met up with my great friend Mick Richardson who I had not seen this year.  Time for a chat and take a look at the three Chameleon that were feeding in the bushes at the side of the path.

Mediterranean Chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon

Similarly, the Laguna del Lirio only held a pair of Red-knobbed Coots with well-grown youngster plus a couple of Moorhens and a visiting Blackbird.  But the Kingfisher also paid a visit to this pool.

So an early departure for home returning once again via Turtle Dove Alley. This time greeted by about a score of Common Waxbill and a single Spotted Flycatcher at the far end to see me on my way.  Small numbers but a most enjoyable couple of hours.

Spotted Flycatcher Papamoscas  Gris Muscicapa striata

Birds seen:

Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Flamingo, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Blackbird, Spotted Flycatcher, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Red Avadavat, Greenfinch, Serin.

Little Grebe Zampullin Comun Tachybaptus ruficollis preening amongst the Terrapins

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

Friday, 18 September 2020

My Atlantic Pelagic

Great Skua Stercorarius skua

 Tuesday 15 September

Eight o'clock saw me, along with friends Derek Etherton and Jerry Laycock, at the small port of Rota near Cadiz.  No sooner breakfast of coffee and toast ordered than the rest of the party joined us for the same.  Having finished we were than informed that a change of plan would see us sailing from relatively nearby Chipiona, so back to the cars.  But the sun was shining, only the hint of the occasional cloud and, upon arriving, with very little wind it looked as if we were in for a very pleasant six hours or so.  Indeed, walking along the quay with its usual sightings of both Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, nevermind the occasional Barn Swallows it was the four Little Swifts just above our heads that put many a smile on faces as we approached our vessel.

Then we were off, all duly masked up for the safety of others.  Heading west out of Chipiona we spent the next couple of hours or so heading out fifteen nautical miles into the Atlantic with the boat eventually reaching a point where we had over seventy metres below us.  Perhaps calling it a swell journey sums up the rocking and swaying boat as we rolled around trying to keep bins and cameras steady as we continually checked the sea life.  Apart from the continuous supply of gulls, almost from the start we were recording numerous Balearic Shearwaters.  On the other hand, unexpectedly one of the first sightings was a Pomarine Skua.

Balearic Shearwaters Puffinus mauretanicus

Whilst awaiting an email to confirm all sighting of the day it would be fair to say that in addition to the very many Balearic Shearwaters  we also recorded Cory's, Great and a Manx Shearwater.    Always lovely to see a "Bonxie" but to have the Great Skua at comparatively close quarters was an absolute privilege.  In addition, we also had a number of Arctic Skuas.

Perhaps because Gannet is a bird that we often see from shore it was most pleasing to be able to follow juvenile, immature and adult birds at close quarters, both in flight and resting on the sea.

Adult and immature Gannets Morus bassanus

Not long after leaving port we encountered a large group of feeding Sandwich Terns and once well out on the open sea we then added both Common and Black Terns.  Again, in addition to the usual gulls we also had a couple or more Audouin's and then a fly past from a Mediterranean Gull.

And so time came to start on our return to Chipiona, a journey that in itself took a little over two hours, and all the while more Gannets and especially Balearic Shearwaters.  And as we tied up at the quay there were four Turnstones to welcome us back to dry land.  A fabulous day in great company and many thanks to Javi and Yeray from "Birding the Strait" who organised the palegic.

Returning to Chipiona

Birds seen:

Cory's Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Turnstone, Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Black Tern, Little Swift, Barn Swallow.







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Thursday, 17 September 2020

Tarifa

Juvenile Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus

Wednesday 16 September

Time to set off home from Alcala de los Gazules but not before a stop at Tarifa to check out the raptor migration.   A handful of Common Swift plus Spotless Starling and House Sparrow noted as we left the house and taking the motorway towards Los Barios we encountered Osprey, Kestrel and Cormorant.

Once at the Cazalla mirador the weather was very windy with much low cloud.   Appraching the site we saw our only Griffon Vultures of the morning, less than a handful.  Whilst there were many Black Kites and a few Booted Eagles it was the Short-toed Eagle that appeared to be the dominant species of the morning.  Over a hundred Black Storks were circling high above waiting for the cloud to clear so that they could actually see Africa and get under way - which they eventually succeeded in doing so.

Over 100 Black Storks Ciguena Negra Ciconia nigra passed through Cazalla

There was the occasional Sparrowhawk and even a couple of Egyptian Vultures but for me the best was the nearest raptor, a single juvenile Honey Buzzard.Also moving through was a small number of barn Swallows and then some very high Bee-eaters, heard rather than seen.  Meanwhile, the female Common Kestrel noted resting on a pylon below us when we arrived was still present when we made our departure.

Back to the Tarifa roundabout and back up the other side of the road so we could take the narrow road down to the coast past the Migres Centre and then on up past the coastguard observatory (?), round the two giant guns left behind by the army when the base was closed to a high vantage point where we then had excellent views of the birds as they came over, often below as well as above us.

Juvenile Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus

Again, mainly Short-toed Eagles but now also a plentiful supply of both Black Kites and Booted Eagles.  Another Sparrowhawk before hearing more Bee-eaters who then proceeded to fly right past us at our feet along the bank..  Similarly, a flock of about a score of Red-rumped Swallows flew past from left to right and included both a Sand Martin a few House Martins.

Juvenile Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus

Amazing to see a Northern Wheatear just simply drop in and rest on a stone not more than ten metres away.  Time for our small picnic then start the long journey back home and as we drove back along the track a quintet of Crested Larks few up in front of us.

Record shot of Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanth oenanthe

Birds seen:

Cormorant, Black Stork, Osprey, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture,  Booted Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Bee-eater, Common Swift, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Northern Wheatear, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow.

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

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Wednesday 16 September

Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group seem to have had a wonderful last visit before Dave and Gilly's upcoming autumn break back in the UK.  No doubt Dave is wondering about the 14-day self-isolation when he arrives to be followed by the possibility of the same when he returns here!  Good luck with that Dave but trust that you both have a wonderful time back in the UK.

Some lovely birds seen by the group and obviously some serious migration presently underway.  Why is it that I keep finding Woodchat Shrikes and the Iberian Grey Shrike favours your group?  I liked your wader and warbler sightings, especially the Sub-alpine Warbler.

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa: Wednesday 16th September

For my last outing before Gilly and I go back to the UK for our pre-xmas seeing family and friends jaunt, I decided to keep it local and plump for the Rambla de Almanzora and the back of Vera Playa.
I picked up Rob, Claire and then Juda and headed for the rambla entering it just past the Desert Springs entrance. Immediately I spotted an Iberian Grey Shrike high up on a power line. Driving along the embankment we saw a Moorhen followed by a group of House Sparrows.  A small number of Barn Swallows flew by.  A Sardinian Warbler showed distantly.  Magpies were seen in small groups.  Rob identified some perched Chaffinches.  We slowly approached the ford.  On the left I found a juvenile Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper.  To the right was a Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Mallards and Moorhens.

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We parked up on the far embankment to wait for the others which included Pippa, a new member.  There were 13 of us in the end. John added a Red-rumped Swallow to the list which he'd seen en route. We commenced our walk towards the sewage plant.  Some Woodpigeon flew over.  Below us a number of warblers were flitting about in the shrubs.  They were mostly Chiffchaff, but I did ID a Subalpine Warbler.  We heard a Cetti's Warbler.  Kevin saw a wagtail with yellow on it but it was too quick to confirm a Grey or Yellow.  At the first pools there were some Black-winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers and both Green and Common Sandpipers.  John was first to see the Kestrel flying over.  Us up front had a Blackbird whilst John, Rob and others behind had a Blue Rock Thrush.  On the main pool there were lots of Mallard with Black-winged Stilts and Black-headed Gulls.  John did well to spot the two Teal.   Kevin added a Cattle Egret.and John, a White Wagtail and Kentish Plover.

Common Sandpiper Actitus hypoleucos PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

After a refreshment break in Villaricos village we made our way to the beach.  Despite the sunbathers and swimmers, there was a white fronted juvenile Cormorant on the harbour entrance rocks with a Yellow-legged Gull.  We walked over to the new sand embankment.  After climbing up it we had a good view over the estuary.  Two anglers below didn't seem to distract the Coot and Mallards.  Also seen was a Grey Heron and Little Egret.  John found some distant Audouin's Gulls as well as a Turnstone and Ringed Plover.  I spotted a Sandwich Tern.  Some Cormorants were closer to the sea with some on it as well.  A Greenfinch flew by. Kevin found a distant Iberian Grey Shrike.  We moved round to the beach which gave us better views of John's Audouin's Gulls and some resting Sandwich Terns.  Rob then spotted a Great White Egret next to a Grey Heron which nicely showed the size comparison.  He also found a juvenile Greater Flamingo.

We then convoyed to the dual carriageway opposite the Consum supermarket behind Vera Playa. Overlooking the shallow water John found a Curlew Sandpiper.  Kevin spotted another distant wader which I identified as a Wood Sandpiper.  There were lots of Coot, Mallard, Little Egrets and Black Winged Stilt.  Juda spotted two flying Glossy Ibis and John got some Shoveler and a Shelduck.  I had an Avocet.

Moving further along I spotted a Kingfisher. The Glossy Ibis had settled on the far bank.  Lots of Greater Flamingo here.

We walked round to the first elevated viewing platform.  Some went up top, but I, with others plumped for the shade underneath.  It was very hot and I was feeling rather faint, especially with wearing a mask. We had better views of John's Shovelers and Shelduck.  I found a Greenshank on the sandy island. Kevin found some distant Little Grebes.  John spotted a Black -necked Grebe.

I thought it best that I headed home.  We ended up with 50 species.  Lovely days birding in great company.
Will be back at the end of November.  Sending our best wishes to Lynn and Marion.
Regards, Dave


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La Janda, Cadiz Province

Spot the bird!

Monday 14 September

Off to my friend Derek Etherton midday to join him on a leisurely drive down to Tarifa on the Andalucian coastline of the Strait of Gibraltar.  On the way we collected fellow friend Jerry Laycock from Fuengirola before heading to our final destination at Alcala de los Gazules in preparation for a pelagic bird watching day out of Rota near Cadiz city on the morrow.  A few White Storks seen standing on old nests as we approached Algeciras and the on towards Tarifa wherewe passes a fhandful of Black Kites and a Booted Eagle before finally arriving at the entrance to the La Janda entrance track.  Time for a leisurely drive through the site before continuing on to our Alcala.

A Woodchat Shrike was sitting n the fence as we entered and driving down the track to the canal we added a couple of Zitting Cisticola.  Once at the bottom time to stop and check out the area where we soon found at least three Montagu's Harries quartering the nearby fields.  A couple of White Storks passed over and more were noticed in the distance. 

White Storks Ciguena Blance Ciconia ciconia

Similarly,  a couple of very large charms of Goldfinch before continuing on the down the track where we also observed both Black Kite and Marsh Harrier.  Some of the riverside trees seemed to be alive with a mixture of House and Spanish Sparrows along with a number of Spotless Starlings and, of course, the regular sightings of Barn Swallow.  A Buzzard was seen rising on a thermal.  A Little Egret came to alight in the ditch and Herons were seen on both sides of the track.

One hungry Heron Garza Real Ardea cineria

Over the bridge and proceeding through the avenue, having seen both Turtle Doves and a Lesser Black-backed Gull, where many more Goldfinch before we had sightings of three Black-shouldered Kites. Also present were a score or more Wood Pigeon.  Once beyond the avenue, sightings of many Lesser Kestrels along with the occasional Common Kestrel.  Approaching the "smelly farm" we stopped to spend some time observing, and photographing, the sleeping Red-necked Nightjar under a small tree and very well camouflaged amongst the surrounding dead leaves.

Red-necked Nightjar Chotacabras Pardo Caprimulgus ruficollis

On up past the farm noting the large number of both Jackdaws and Rock Doves, not to mention a handful of Pheasants, before a second pair of Turtle Doves along with a couple of Collared Doves were recorded.  Ere long we had reached the end of the track and turned left to make a stop to check out the water on the left.  A couple of Mallard seen and on the fence to the right both Linnet and a pair of Corn Bunting.

Turtle Dove Tortola Europea Streptopelia turtur

The flooded field to the the right seemed to have gained more water from my visit a week ago and the Glossy Ibis flock was now down to about forty.  A Blue-headed Wagtail was seen along with a Green Sandpiper.  Closer scrutiny revealed a three Snipe on the far side below the path.  A few Cattle Egret were also noted feeding near the cattle themselves as we approached the above flooded field.  .A couple of Red-rumped Swallows flew over the area and, finally, a Booted Eagle crossed above us and a Hoopoe dashed for cover as we left the site and headed on to Alcala.

A few of the score of Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus

Birds seen:

Mallard, Pheasant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Glossy Ibis, White Stork, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard,  Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Red-necked Nightjar,  Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Common Kestrel  Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

Common Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago

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

Around Alcala de los Gazules

 Tuesday 15 September

The big palegic day.  But this report will come a little later once I have received an email from "Birding the Strait" updating birds seen, etc.  meanwhile, the journey form Alcala to Rota produced Cattle Egret, Hoopoe, Magpie and Collared Dove,  No shortage of Barn Swallows about and, having completed our trip out into the Atlantic there was time to call in at the the large lake at Medina-Sidonia.

Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops

I say "large lake" but upon arrival we found just about all the water had evaporated away leaving a small, distant shallow amount of water which, in turn produced a couple of both Flamingo and Black-winged Stilt.  However, it was rather pleasing to be greeted by a departing Stone Curlew.

So on back to our base in Acala where there were numerous House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings.  However, it was whilst sitting on the roof terrace just after dark and "chewing the fat" that we heard then saw a Little Owl in the tree on the opposite side of the road.  Things got even better when a Barn Owl drifted by at head height and disappeared round the corner.

Birds seen: 

Cattle Egret, Flamingo, Stone Curlew, Black-winged Stilt, Barn owl, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Collared Dove, barn Swallow, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Male Crossbill Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

 Wednesday 9 September

Once again Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group seem to have had a marvellous day's birding with lots of small birds and particularly like the idea that they managed both Whinchat and Crossbill.  Like me down at La Janda on Monday there seem to be lots of Willow Warblers passing through at the moment.  And, yes, good to read that there are still Bee-eaters and Lesser Kestrels to be seen, even if both will surely be departed by the end of the month if not before.



Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 9th September

Yes, heading back to the Sierra de Maria for another visit.  Picked up Juda and Rob and made our way via Oria to Velez Blanco.  En route to Maria town I spotted a male Common Redstart and an immature Woodchat Shrike on the roadside power lines.  In town whilst having a coffee we added House Martin, Spotless Starling and House Sparrow.  There were 13 of us when we eventually got to the chapel car park.  A scan of the mountain ridge revealed at least 3 Griffon Vultures resting there.  John had already seen Red-rumped Swallows on the journey, but we were glad to see 6 more perched on a leafless branch.  Both Jay and Iberian Green Woodpecker were heard.  Moving over to the trough area, was sad to see the puddle by the overflow pool was dry.  There was constant traffic using the water trough.  We managed to see Rock Bunting, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Crested Tit, Robin and Serin using the facilities. John saw a Willow Warbler and some others spotted a Chiffchaff high up in the tree.  Three Booted Eagles flew by followed by a Kestrel.

We then started to walk up towards the Botanical gardens.  Steve spotted a Stonechat and some Woodpigeons were seen.  In the gardens a Coal Tit and a Pied Flycatcher were attracted by the small water pools.  Griffon Vultures were drifting past overhead.  We first heard then saw a flock of 30+ Bee Eaters migrating south.  We headed back to the vehicles.  Rob heard some Long-tailed Tits.
As we left the car park, a Hoopoe flew past.  On the road to the loop junction a Jay flew across us.  We started the loop and as before didn't see a lot.  I noticed a small plume of Griffons to my left.  Rob said, "What's this to the right?"  A male Hen Harrier flying low and slow till it disappeared over a slight rise. Wow!

Very high Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We stopped for everyone to catch up just before the village.  John at the rear of the convoy missed the harrier.  It was small consolation that he and Trevor had added a Carrion Crow.  A juvenile Woodchat Shrike posed well.  Some Collared Doves were in the village.  We moved off along the track.  I saw a small flock of Linnet, followed by a couple of Northern Wheatear.  I then saw a bird thistle hopping along the roadside verge.  A Whinchat.  The whole group managed to see it.  Also seen were a Thekla Lark and Magpies.

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We stopped at the cliff face.  Nothing this side so we walked to the far side.  A  Little Owl was flushed and headed eventually over the top.  Trevor had spotted an Iberian Grey Shrike.  We heard some Red-billed Chough, but they never made an appearance.  Carrying on, near the airstrip, Rob spotted some high flying birds.  Couldn't believe that Lesser Kestrels were still around.  Three high above us.  We later saw more.  Thought they'd already left for southerly climes!  Us in the lead car saw a Black-eared Wheatear.

We reached the hamlet and hoped for a better score than the big fat zero John and I got last time!  At first it didn't look good, but John, I think, found a bird standing on the rough ground.  A Tawny Pipit.
We moved on to the farm trough.  A flock of Rock Sparrows flew off and didn't return as the goat farmer's wife drove up to collect some water. 

It being passed lunchtime we went directly to the La Piza forest cafe.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew off.  We enjoyed our lunch watching Crossbills, Jays, Great, Long-tailed and Coal Tits eating the bread or drinking the water.

Mr & Mrs Crossbill Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Even without our taliswoman from last week, we had some great birds.  Good company.
I'm sure the Group would join me wishing the following members our continuing best wishes.
Les and Lynn, Richard and Pat, Val and Rob.
Regards
Dave

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