Thursday, 27 October 2016

Charca de Suarez with the One-eyed Birder!

Cormorant Phalancrocorax carbo
Wednesday 26 October

A beautiful calm, clear, warm and sunny day so I took myself off to the Charca de Suarez reserve in Motril mid-afternoon; time to collect post from Velez de Benaudalla and see what might be about in Turtle Dove Alley.  What an evening; a visit that produces the 255th  species of the year along with many other surprises.  Great, which just goes to show that I am not going to be beaten by the missing eye - even if it is very difficult to pick out our smaller birds.

A few Cattle Egrets on the recently ploughed fields as I approached the turn into Turtle Dove Alley and then immediately greeted by the first of a few Crested Larks.  Knowing that Red Avadavats like these long grasses at the side of the road I crawled along slowly and then stopped to check out individuals on the roadside and, sure enough, a true pair of Red Avadavats feeding on the grass seeds.  A little further on and a couple of Greenfinches feeding alongside House Sparrows.

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
On round to the Charca entrance where a Blackbird was watching over the entrance gate from on high and straight to the Laguna del Alamo Blanco where a number of Mallards were in residence along with a quintet of Snipe and a single White Wagtail.  Moorhens, young and mature, regularly popped out of the reeds and just as I was about to leave the female Pintail that had been seen at the site for the past week flew in along with a couple of Little Egrets.

Female Pintail Anas acuta
Next it was n to the main hide overlooking the Lagunade las Aneas where there were very many ducks, mainly mallard but also Shoveler, Pochard and a few Teal.  Whilst scoping the Pochards to my right I found the (female?) Marbled Duck that Manu had informed me was presently on site along with an unexpected Fuerruginous Duck, my first of the year.  Similarly, I was surprised, as was Manu, to find a single Black-necked Grebe along with a good number of Little Grebes.  Lots of Cormaorants but no gulls on the water.  At the far end a single White Stork was present as was a single juvenile Flamingo, both apparently quite happy and contented to be on their own.   A Kingfisher flashed past the hide and repeated the exercise ten minutes later.

The distant solo White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Scoping the edges revealed a number of Grey Herons along with the Moorhens and Coots plus a collar-ringed Red-knobbed Coot and a juvenile Night Heron.  Then the Pintail returned to this water giving very close views.

Distant juvenile Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax in the falling light

On the island immediately in front of the hide almost "no room at the inn" with resting Mallards, Pochards, Shovelers, Cormorants and Cattle Egrets.  Closer inspection also revealed a Grey Heron and a juvenile Spoonbill.

Juvenile Spoonbill Platalea leucordia
leaving my belongings in Manu's care I made a quick visit to the Laguna del Trebol where i quickly found and photographed the non-collared Red-knobbed Coot, so lovely to see the bird in its natural state.

Un-fettered Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristala
Returning to the first laguna via a very quick stop at the Laguna del Taraje where I had a Purple Swamphen immediately in front of the hide, I was in time to see both a Black-tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper drop in for the evening.

Time to had off home and both Stonechat and Spotless Starlings on the wires as I departed.  All in all, a very good couple of hours.  REMEMBER.  Opening hours change next week on 1 November and evening openings until the end of January will be fro 4 to 6pm.

Female Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Marbled Duck, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Greenfinch.

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

Monday, 24 October 2016

Booted Eagle and Spotted Redshank

Wednesday 19 October

The last morning of the six-day birding trip not only found a passing Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti but quickly followed by a resting dark morph Booted Eagle Hieraaelus pennatus that was quite oblivious to we two in the nearby car, I even got out of the car, but also the teasing Azure-winged Magpies Cyanopica cyanus.  Then, as a special bonus, we found the one missing bird I had been looking for the whole long week-end, a winter plumage Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus.

Castro Marin again

Wednesday 19 October

We had intended to ravel over to Portugal to find the main salinas near Tariva, especially as I seemed to be one of the very few who had not seen a Spotted Redshank during the past three days.  In the event we decided to make a brief return to the riverside reserve  near Castro Marin and then take a final look at the old salinas below the village.

Entering the reserve we soon encountered the resident House Sparrows, Corn Buntings and Crested Larks before the first good-sized flock of Spotless Starlings.  Cattle Egrets and Mallards flew over and then a lovely posing Iberian Grey Shrike on the hill-top fence to our left.  Then it was the first of a number of Northern Wheatears before finding the Black-winged Stilts along with Redshanks in the pools on our right.  StonechatGreen Sandpiper and Little Egrets were soon added and then to the Visitors Centre.  Whilst here we also added both Avocet and Yellow-legged Gull.

The big surprise on leaving the Centre was to see a Carrion Crow, yes a Crow with its long tail, fly over the building and away towards the river.  The large muddy area opposite held a few Dunlin and even a couple of Spoonbills flew away.

Leaving the centre on the return drive we had a couple of Magpies and a pair of Ravens fly past then stopped to take a closer look at the large raptor above us.  Definitely an eagle and the photos confirmed that we had seen an impressive mighty Iberian Imperial Eagle (seems strange to call it "Spanish" on the other side of the border).  The juvenile Bluethroat was found on the same bank as on Monday.  This area also produced both a Black Redstart on the ruined building and a nearby Dartford Warbler with a covey of Red-legged Partridges at the back.

Next u was another great sighting; a dark morph Booted Eagle so intent on preening that it refused to move away from its chosen fence post giving us marvellous views - and the Azure-winged Magpies that did their best to, unsuccessfully, move it on.  What a way to end this part of the visit.

The magnificent dark morph Booted Eagle Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus *

Moving along the road the salinas visited on Monday were, like the pond last night, rather depleted in species and numbers.  We picked up Heron, Sanderling and Redshank.  Knowing that our visit to Ayamonte and its environs had come to an end we drove the car as far as we could, not very far, along the track and found a Kestrel and distant Flamingo.  A Zitting Cisticola put in an appearance and then, on the last corner before arriving back at our usual parking place, I happened to look across the tall grasses and see a grey/white wader.  I recognise that colour and shape!  Yes, our very last sighting was that of a wintering Spotted Redshank and it remained long enough to get plenty of photos as can be seen.

The last bird recorded, a lovely winter plumage Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
All in all, a great five day with great company and, by coincidence, an absolutely wonderful way to spend one's birthday; good company and good birding with special thanks to all for helping out this old one-eyed birder see what he couldn't on his own.

*  More shots of the Booted Eagle and Spotted Redshank on separate blog.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Sanderling, Dunlin, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Crested Lark, Northern Wheatear, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola,  Dartford Warbler,  Iberian Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Crow, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting.

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

Costa Esuri, Ayamonte

Tuesday 18 October

Leaving the Odiel Marshes we stopped for a drink on the way back to the apartments and arriving at just after 5.30 called to see if it might be possible to visit the ponds before changing for dinner.  It was so with a couple of buggies we headed off to the natural lake where, whilst we did not have the sunset light the increasing cloud rather spoilt the occasion.

Wigeon Anas penelope in poor light
Indeed, there seemed to be fewer birds about and the Purple Swamphens were in amongst the reeds rather than wandering the golf course.  So in our maximum sixty minute visit we found Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall along with Little Egrets and Heron.  Still a good number of Black-tailed Godwits present along with Coot and Moorhen.  perhaps the best sighting moment was when Linda Roberts noticed the female Marbled Duck slip quietly into a small bay behind the reeds - but not before seen by the rest of us, even if only for a very short time.  There were also a couple of Little Grebe on the water and just the one Muscovey Duck but a couple of Chiffchaff were feeding in the nearby reeds.

Moving over to the holding pool we found, again, fewer ducks, mainly Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall but also both Common and Red-crested Pochard.  All but one of the Wigeon had moved off or on and the remaining bird spent most of its time resting on a narrow bank in front of a group of Muscovey Ducks.

Muscovey Duck Cairina moschata
Darkness, or rather very poor light, seemed to come quickly today and, on reflection, this site is probably best visited at the close of day when birds are arriving for roost and having a final feed before sleep.

Birds seen:
Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Marbled Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-tailed Godwit, Chiffchaff

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

Odiel Marshes (Marismas del odiel)

Tuesday 18 October

With Jenny and accompanied by John and Maureen Taylor e set off on our own for the Odiel Marshes knowing the the rest of the group were somewhere in the vicinity and that we were bound to encounter them on and off during the day as we worked the area.  Driving through the woods between the two motorways as we made our way to the Odiel we not only had Wood Pigeons and Azure-winged Magpies fly over the road but also an Osprey, surely a positive indication for the birding to come.

The large flock of (mainly) Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis
On arrival at the site we made the small, water short, pond on the approach road our first stop.  Here we found Moorhen, Coot and Mallard and with closer inspection also added Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal.  Cetti's Warblers were calling and both Ringed Plover and Little Stints worked the edges whilst on the limited water we found Black-tailed Godwit and Black-winged Stilts.  Both Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls were also present and as a couple of Spoonbill flew over we turned to see the numerous Flamingos at the far side of the working salinas where salt was being gathered by the workforce.

Then it was round to park at the Visitors Centre and check out both the river estuary and the main mud flats of the Odiel itself, making use of the now open pier that lets you look immediately down on the latter.  Spotless Starlings in the trees, Magpies wandering around and John managed to see the sole Robin.  The estuary produced a number of both Redshanks and Dunlin along with a odd Grey Plover and Whimbrel.  Little Egret, Cormorant and Greenshank were added to the list before walking the pier to look at the Odiel banks.  A Blackbird took to the bushes on the way and then we had good views of a couple of Sandwich Terns resting on nearby buoys.  More Whimbrel, Dunlin and Redshank along with both Ringed and Kentish Plovers.

A stop to look at the salinas opposite produced closer views of the Flamingos along with more Black-winged Stilts and Heron.  Then on down to the Juan Carlos picnic area with the tide now well out but not before passing a White Stork, a small number of Linnets and a flock of Spotless Starlings and a stop near the small copse to find Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit and Bluethroat.

Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii with the terns and a Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundues
From the car park we could see a number of both Whimbrel and Curlew plus  many distant Oystercatchers.  Lots of Redshanks, Dunlin and Ringed Plovers feeding and so on down to the far end of the narrow causeway, stopping to admire the large flock of resting Sandwich Terns which also included about a dozen winter-plumage Common Tern, certainly standing out by their noteble smaller size.  Also present were Cormorants, Sanderlings, Grey Plover and more Dunlin and Redshanks, not to mention Oystercatchers.

East to spot the two Common Terns Sterna hirundo in winter plumage with black beaks rather than red
Now a basking Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo has joined the throng
The final stop was impressive by the number of present Northern Wheatears along with Crested Larks, Stonechats and even Hoopoes.  Making our way back to the Visitors Centre before starting the homeward journey we stopped by the old salinas to find at least three of the Stone Curlews seen by Roger and Jean Smith earlier in the day.  Whilst there we also added Turnstone to the day's tally.

Two distant resting Stone Curlews Burhinus oedicnemus

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Turnstone, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Linnet

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

Costa Esuri, Ayamonte

Monday 17 October

Back to the apartments we were once again able to visit the natural lake below the 17th green of th golf course.  Water levels were only slightly down but lots of cover for the wintering and resident birds, including the free-breeding wild Muscovey Ducks which seemed to have had a great breeding season.

Muscovey Duck Cairina moschata
On arrival a couple of Purple Swamphens were walking the edge of the green before returning to the water where there were very many Mallards along with a plentiful supply of Teal and Gadwall and Shoveler.  Also lots of Coots and Moorhens plus Little Egrets and Herons.  Both Snipe and Redshank were recorded but the majority of waders were Black-tailed Godwits.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio

With the light dimming and the sky starting to take on a red glow, we looked behind us in time to see a lone hawking Black-shouldered Kite which proved very popular to all present.  then it was on the artificial lake at the back which is used as a water supply where we found many duck, mainly Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall but also both Common and Red-crested Pochard.  However, the prize sighting was the quartet of resting Wigeon rather than the main flock of Muscovey Ducks.

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus looking for its last meal of the day

A White Wagtail and Hoopoe visited the neighbouring green and Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove and Magpie were seen overhead.  As was the visiting Marsh Harrier which was soon shown the door on three occasions by the flock of Black-tailed Godwits that spilled out of the lake into the air to haste its departure.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea as night approaches
Mixed ducks at sunset including Common Pochard Aythya ferina, Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina and Gadwall Anas strepera plus the Muscovey Ducks Cairina moschata
A closer look reveals the Wigeon Anas penelope (top centre)
Birds seen:
Muscovey Duck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Little Egret, Heron, Black-shouldered Kite, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Redshank, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, White Wagtail, Magpie

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

Castro Marin on the Portuguese border

Monday 17 October

A selection of waders.  How many can you identify?  Only three, keep looking.
Off across the border river to explore the Castro Marin reserve on the Portuguese side of the Rio Guadiano in the wonderful company John and Jenny Wainwright.  It seemed that most of our group took the same route but, at least, we were able to split up on very many occasions before going our separate ways for the rest of the day.  Once again, lovely weather and no wind and we were greeted by old friends such as Crested Larks and Red-legged Partridges.  No sooner had we made our first stop that we had both Mallard and Spoonbills passing overhead and no shortage of local Stonechats and Corn Buntings.

Stopping by the first pool a Green Sandpiper moved away and in the low vegetation we found both Dartford and Sardinian Warblers.  Cattle Egret, Redshank and Heron were added to the list whilst posed on top of a middle-distance bush was the first Iberian Grey Shrike of the morning.  House Sparrows were flocking near the fence on top of the hill to the left and Black-winged Stilts walked the next pond but it was the juvenile Bluethroat that really stole our attention.  Amazingly, whilst watching the Bluethroat below tree a Spotted Flycatcher perched just a couple of feet above. Having drawn the attention of others to the Spotted Flycatcher it obligingly removed itself to be replaced within a couple of inches by a Pied Flycatcher!  Now that's the way to see birds.

A rather lovely Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
The next pools, which seemed to have a water link at the back, contained both Ringed Plover and a single Grey Plover and when the Little Egrets had moved away we also found a Greenshank.  Both White Stork and Hoopoes were in the air and then, on a distant dead tree to the right of the Visitors Centre, a resting Osprey.  Parked at the Visitors Centre we were able to look over the vegetation and find a single Great White Egret whilst to the left a number of Flamingos were feeding.  Scoping the surrounding area we also observed Northern Wheatear along with Yellow-legged, Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls. Our final sighting before moving away from the site was a single Whimbrel.

A stop at the working salinas immediately below Castro Marin produced a range of waders including Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plover along with Black-winged Stilts, Redshank, Turnstone and Common Sandpiper.

Common Sandpiper Actitis macularius
Our final stop before returning to Costa Esuri was another working salina on the outskirts of Tavira. Here, not so many birds, but we did record Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, lots of Redshank and Turnstone along with Little Egret, Little Stint, Curlew SandpiperDunlin, Ringed and Kentish Plover.

Distant Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea in winter plumage

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Great White Egret, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Bluethroat, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Iberian Grey Shrike, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting.

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