Thursday, 13 December 2018

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas BG

Wednesday 12 December

Just received the following report from my friend Dave Elliott-Binns and after almost two months back in the UK it looks as if we are all returning to our Spanish homes in time for Christmas birding!  Wednesday saw Dave back in routine as he made his first Arboleas Birding Group visit for a long time and must have been well pleased to see what was on offer at beautiful Cabo de Gata.  Trumpeter Finch, Crane, Spectacled Warbler and Stone Curlew to really whet the appetite.  Me thinks I may visit the area and relatively nearby Roquetas de Mar before the end of the year rather than the long drive down to Tarifa.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 12th December 2018

Well it's so good to be back to blue skies and some warming sun after 7 weeks in Blighty!  Only three of us today which meant we were all able to squeeze into my trusty 4x4 giving us more options.  I picked up Peter in Arboleas and then Alan in Los Gallardos before heading south to Cabo de Gata.  A pair of Jackdaws greeted us as we got into the bird count zone coming off the motorway.  We added Spotless Starling, Collared Dove and a Hoopoe, the latter distracting me as I whizzed past the speed camera....double drat!  After a coffee in the Pujaire cafe we had a leisurely drive along the beachside road.  Checking the low wooden railings for finches we first saw House Sparrows, but then spotted some Trumpeter Finches.  Also seen were Greenfinch, Thekla Lark and a Kestrel.  Alan also saw Gannets out to sea and a Eurasian Curlew over the savannah.
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then commenced our drive round the rear of the reserve.  We immediately saw the first of many Stonechats, a Black Redstart and a pair of Meadow Pipits.  I briefly saw a Dartford Warbler.  Moving on to the first salina, we added Little Stint, Dunlin and Kentish Plover.  We detoured up to the ruined buildings where you have great views over the salinas towards the church.  I spotted a distant Raven atop an agave stalk.  A Iberian Shrike was perched on a bush as was a Sardinian Warbler.  Surveying the salinas below, Alan reeled off Audouin's Gull, Avocet, Black Winged Stilt, Greater Flamingo and Redshank.  As we were about to leave I just spotted the head of a female Blue Rock Thrush on top of the building.  A search found it perched on a shrub nearby.  A Crag Martin flew over.
Returning to the track we clocked Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Greenshank and a Ruff as well as Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, but the star was a Spectacled Warbler.  There were small numbers of Chiffchaff plus a flight of Shelduck.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax with Dunlin Calidris alpina below (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then went to the first hide, but it was quite disappointing due to the sun partially blinding us until Alan spotted a distant flight of Spoonbill.  He also found a Black-tailed Godwit. 

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We carried on to the second hide, again seeing Trumpeter Finch and Greenfinch en route.  An adult Gannet was fishing close to the beach.  From the hide I spotted a very elusive Stone Curlew which Alan and Peter eventually saw.  Alan the trumped my sighting by finding 6 Common Crane the other side of the central causeway.  Only head and necks on view!  We also saw Cormorant, Mallard, Little Egret, Iberian Shrike, Kestrel and, yes, many more Stonechats!

Spot the 4 Common Crane Grus grus in with the 7 Flamingo Phenicopterus roseus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
At the public hide we were surprised NOT to see Black Necked Grebes, but Alan did find a pair of Common Tern amongst the Sandwich Terns and gulls on the causeway. We also found the Spoonbills. There were 16 in total.
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then made our way along the beachside track towards Rambla Morales.  We astonished to find a mixed flock of waders feeding on the scrubland.  Ringed and Kentish Plovers together with Sanderling.  Also feeding in the same area was a small flock of Lesser Short-toed Lark and Trumpeter Finches, the first time I'd seen them in this area.  Once we reached the Rambla we checked out to sea and only saw gulls.  At the estuary, I spotted a White-headed Duck, a Shoveler and some Coot.  The lake produced a pair of Black-necked Grebe and more Shoveler.  A flight of Stone Curlew flew over.  We heard a Cetti's Warbler.  Peter completed the days list with a Kingfisher flypast!
Flight of Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus (not bad photo with a bridging camera!)
(PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
A brilliant days birding in good weather and company. 55 species in all.
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Jesus, Ann and Tony a speedy recovery from their various illnesses/injuries.
One hungry Dunlin Calidris alpina (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Monday 10 December

Not brilliantly early but still down at the local Rio Velez just west of Torre del Mar by 8.50 on a clear sunny day with the low, rising sun making it difficult to see as I walked towards the beach and, especially, if I tried looking at the fields to my left.  A single White Wagtail as I parked my car at the top of the track just after the underpass to the N340 then a quick look in the river, which at least now contained a water supply, where I immediately recoded a handful of Moorhen and up to dozen or more Mallard.  A few metres on and I noticed a single Greylag Goose accompanied by a very white goose (one trying to escape the Christmas invitation!) then the first of a couple of Blackbirds seen during the next hour or so.

White Wagtail Lavandera Blanca Motacilla alba

Then it was off down to the hide which, once again, had been polluted on the seat by some ignorant so-and-so, where I eventually found a couple of House Sparrows.  Just one Starking on top of the adjacent pylon but  took the trouble to raise my bins and was delighted to discover that it was in fact a visiting Common Starling.  The river from the bridge to here had bee very full and much of the debris brought down from the farmland higher up was now piled up at the edges but the, now, exposed mud brought no sightings other than more Mallards.

The walk to the beach and back was very quiet with the river having broken though and taken a parallel channel to the east so making access to the mouth impossible.  On the beach just the single Black-headed Gull so back to the hide recording a Great Tit and the first of a few Chiffchaffs on the way.  A single Hoopoe was on the path behind the pumping station and at that moment a score of Monk Parakeets screamed over from the east and disappeared over to the other side of the river.

Walking back to the car more House Sparrows feeding on the freshly ploughed fields along with both White Wagtails and a couple of Black Restarts and a female Stonechat.  To my left I picked up a pair of Coot with the Mallard and then, at the car, a score or more of Goldfinches accompanied a few Serins feeding on the grass seeds.  Not just the handful of Collared Doves but also the resident Rock Doves were noted.

Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros
At this point I drove under both road bridges but nothing extra seen until I reached the growing fields beyond the chimney factory.  First Crested Larks then another Hoopoe before a number of White Wagtails on what was left of the previous muck heap.  A dozen Spotless Starling flew overhead as I made my way to the track alongside the river.  Now I really did find some birds.  A few Goldfinches and Serin but mainly Chiffchaff feeding on the rotting fruit and vegetables left on the track.

Chiffchaff Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita
Closer inspection also revealed a trio of Linnets plus more White Wagtails and Crested Lark.

Trio of Linnets Pardillo Comun Carduelis cannabina with male above
Meanwhile, down at the river itself, eleven Sanderling were feeding and a single Green Sandpiper took its leave.

Sanderling Corrlimos Tridactilo Calidris alba
leaving the area I drove back to the main road and then made a clockwise circuit of the growing fields west of the Rio Velez.  More Crested Larks then a pair of Robin on the fence before spotting the resting Kestrel on top of a distant pylon.  A couple of Cattle Egret were following the small tractor ploughing a field and then, judging where best to cross the flooded are near the beach, I noticed yet another Sanderling along with a trio of Little Ringed Plover foraging along the water's edge to take the morning's sightings up to 28 species.

Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius
Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Mallard, Cattle Egret, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Little Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

Monday, 10 December 2018

Sierra Loja with John and Jenny

Sunday 9 December

Now back in Spain and all around me friends are visiting some of the great local birding sites.  Today it was John and Jenny Wainwright up on the Sierra Loja and, as expected, they found the visiting Ring Ouzels.  I especially liked the the fact that they both also saw Alpine Accentors; lucky them.  But will I have a successful outcome if I manage to visit the local Rio Velez at Torre del Mar in the morning?

Sierra Loja: Sunday 9 December

A bright but chilly day up above.

As we left the village we had seen Collared doves, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows, and as we entered the track near the Guardia Civil barracks, Great Tits and Chaffinches were noted.
A few Azure-winged Magpies crossed the track  near the autovia bridge as did a Blackbird.
The tree line line was very quiet and it wasn´t until we reached the first cliff area that we came across a small flock of Alpine Accentors and a male Black Redstart. While above us several Jackdaws and a few Red-billed Chough were logged. 

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)

Up to the flat area where we saw Goldfinches, a lone Thekla Lark and an Iberian Grey Shrike, but from there until the substation valley it was very quiet. Here we saw a Little Owl and some Stonechats, also a group of six Ibex.

Distant Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)

Moving on up to the Charca only half a dozen Goldfinches were drinking here. So round to the fossil cave where I heard Rock Sparrow and in the vicinity a covey of Red-legged Partridges were noted. So down to the Rouzel trees, where we did pick up a good number of Ring Ouzels as well as Blackbirds, Corn Buntings, Mistle Thrushes, more Stonechats and another  Iberian Grey Shrike.
On the return journey we logged another two Little Owls, White Wagtails, a Rock Bunting, Sardinian Warbler, two Dartford Warblers, Common Magpies and a Black Wheatear.  And to finish it off four dark-phase Red Squirrels.

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)
Spanish Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)
A small herd of Ibix Capra pyrenaica hispanica (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)

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

Friday, 7 December 2018

Friday 7 December

Just received a report form my great friend Derek Etherton on his two days down in la Janda/Barbate as mentioned yesterday.  It certainly sounds as if they all some excellent birding.  Meanwhile, outside it is absolutely chucking it down as we prepare to depart for east Midlands Airport where at least it should be dry and sunny for the next few days and so help us to recover!

Thursday 6 December
La Janda and Barbate

Plenty of Stone Curlews Burhinus oedicnemus in residence at Barbate, Cadiz province
Just enjoyed 2 super days in Barbate & La Janda, accompanied by great friends Barbara Anne Laycock & Jerry. Target birds were Red-breasted Merganser, Sociable Lapwing, Short-eared Owl, and maybe the Bittern again (we had it for this years list back in February). The weather for mid-December was amazing, no wind a temperature rising to 26c on both days.

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator at Barbate
First of all at Barbate it took 10 minutes to locate the Merganser (not a common bird this far south) and a further hour trying for photos! Moving on to La Janda my job (Derek) was to locate 1 of the 3 Sociable Lapwings that have been recorded here for the 2 Barbara's and Jerry had not seen the bird. Scanning the field mid-way between the bend and the farmhouse eventually found the juvenile bird along with hundreds of Common Lapwing and Snipe. Moving to the end of the track to look for the Bittern (same area as earlier in the year) we 'dipped' however a Black-winged Kite put on a super hunting display until rudely interrupted by a passing Sparrowhawk. It seemed all the raptors were in an argumentative mood as a Common Kestrel took a dislike to a resting Peregrine a little earlier.

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
We stayed overnight on the coast near Tarifa ready for an early start in the morning, the intention being to start down the bottom end looking again for the Bittern. No luck with that and no luck also with an adult Soc. Lapwing. However, whilst watching 3, yes 3, Black-winged Kites the Pallid Harrier flew right alongside our car! 

Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
Moving along to the Short-eared Owl area we first of all lunched, then left the car to walk the road hoping to find the bird - too successful! We spooked it and just watch it fly off and sit around the back of a tree out of sight. However, we were rewarded firstly by a Bonelli's and immediately 2 (displaying) Spanish Imperial Eagles. I was lucky enough to 'scope the birds, Jerry lucky to get a couple of great photos. We kept travelling the road to Benalup (wow! It's not potholed any more!) observing the usually vast quantities of White Storks, etc. A brilliant 2 days that so much was packed into - thanks for your company B & J!

More like the "Battle of La Janda" than Battle of Britain!
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Looks like Audouin's Gulls Larus audouinii to me
All photographs taken by Derek Etherton

Great report Derek and some fabulous birds seen.  Many thanks for sharing your visit with our readers.

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

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

Wednesday 5 December

More rain than dry back in Lincolnshire, UK albeit we did gave a lovely, clear sunny day last Tuesday but bitterly cold with the temperature struggling to reach 5C.  The good news (?) is that I am receiving regular reports form my friends back in Spain complaining that the temperature is too warm!  Derek and Barbara Etherton, along with Jerry and Barbara Laycock, were down at La Janda/barbate earlier in the week and provoking me with comments that at 26C it was too hot for birding and that they were recording Sociable Lapwing Black-shouldered Kites, fighting Sparrowhawks et all and no doubt by now have also managed to see the Great Bittern seen and photographed by Rick Owen at La Janda.  Now I have just received a report (published below) from John and Jenny Wainwright pointing out that yesterday was, "A very bright, warm day with no perceptible wind."  Thank goodness we are flying back to Malaga in the morning; warm sunshine and away from here before the forecasted winter weather that is expected to arrive at the week-end.

Laguna Dulce & Piedra with John and Jenny Wainwright.
5 December 2018

A very bright, warm day with no perceptible wind. 

As we had been to the Carrefours Centre in Antequera we decided to pop along to Laguna Dulce (on the Campillos Road) to see the state of the area as it had had major floods awhile ago.  As we pulled in the car park Mallard, Teal and Common Coots were noted on the flooded field.  Moving into the hide we began counting the Black-necked Grebes that have made this place quite a popular breeding area- we counted 23  but there are probably a lot more in the reeds.  A nice find was the five Pintails  - 2 males and 3 females -  at the back of the laguna.  Then a Grey Heron and next to it a Greylag Goose was grazing.

A few Little Grebes but only one Great Crested Grebe were logged and as we scanned the laguna a large number of Red-Crested Pochard and Common Pochard were seen.  Also noted were Black-winged Stilts, Shovelers and a lone Shelduck along with several White-headed Ducks.  Two Marsh Harriers were seen sitting in the fields as were a pair of Ravens.  While in the reed bed itself Corn Buntings, Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaff, Blackbird and House Sparrow were logged.

We then moved over to Fuente de Piedra itself .  In the flood meadow to the left of the approach road we could only log Common Snipe and Black-winged Stilt along with some White Wagtails.  We then scanned the fields to our right where we found at least twenty Stone Curlews, Meadow Pipits and Crested Lark.

Along the boardwalk just a few White Wagtails, probably due to the high water levels and on the main laguna several thousand Greater Flamingos were noted along with rafts of Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls along with a spattering of Black-headed Gulls.  Another two Marsh Harriers and Common Kestrel were noted here as well and above the centre the ubiquitous Jackdaws frolicked.

As we departed the reserve a Hoopoe, Stonechat, Goldfinches and Linnets were also seen.

Many thanks to Derek and Barbara along with John and Jenny for keeping me up to date.  In truth, lovely to hear about so many birds to be seen once again and, all being well, I might get down to the Guadalhorce and Fuente de Piedra before the year's end.  maybe even Zapata but I think time might be against me.  Is it me or are many of us seeing more Pintails than usual?  And when will the Razorbills arrive?

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

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Frampton Marsh in Pictures & Long-tailed Duck

Tuesday 4 December

RSPB Frampton Marsh, Lincolnshire through the camera lens plus the visiting Long-tailed Duck at Baston Fen, near Market Deeping in Lincolnshire.

The Visitors Centre seen from the Reedbed Hide
Looking NW from the saltmarsh bank
Looking west from the saltmarsh bank

Greylag Goose Anser anser accompanied by Canada Goose Branta canadensis

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus with scores of the thousands present below

Mainly Wigeon Anas penelope
 Mainly Teal Anas crecca
Long-tailed Duck Clanguls hyemalis at Baston Fen

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

RSPB Frampton Marsh, Boston and Baston Fen

Tuesday 4 December

 No rain today but the promise of an overnight frost followed by a cold, clear and sunny day.  They certainly got that right as I spent fifteen minutes trying to cleat the windscreen and side windows to see to get in nevermind drive away!  In the event I was still at RSPB Frampton Marsh just south of Boston by 9am having recorded Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove as I approached the site.  Even better, not the dozen or more Pheasants trying to find some food on the frozen ground but the quartet of Grey Partridge to bring a very big smile to my face.  This was even better than the good-sized flock of Fieldfare that was working the berries in the bushes along the A16.  Once on site, with the temperature nor sailing away at a mighty 1 (one) degree C straight to the end of the lane to check out the far waters whist waiting for the Visitors Centre to open.  Lots of water and thousands of birds about but what might they be?

Early morning Frampton Marsh looking west from the saltmarsh bank
Hundreds of Brent Geese which seemed very restless along with many of the Canada geese that seemed forever to be joining and leaving their friends.  Most of the Greylag Geese seemed fairly settled and there was also a good presence of Pink-footed Geese albeit spread far and wide in ones and twos.  Just for good measure, at least five Barnacle Geese were feeding with the Canada Geese as well as a pair of Egyptian Geese.  A total of six species which was most pleasing.  As expected, there were thousands of Wigeon, by far the largest single species on site, but also very many TealMallard, Shoveler and Pintail were also well represented along with a few Gadwall and a pair of Goldeneye.

Just a small selection of the many Greylag Geese Anser anser on site
At the end of the lane a lone Redshank was feeding at the edge of a pool occupied by Teal and all around hundreds of resting and moving Lapwing.  Making my way back to the car I had the pleasure of a dozen Reed Bunting feeding on the path and a solitary Chaffinch on the neighbouring small tree.

Up to a dozen Reed Buntings  Emberiza schoeniclus seen feeding on the footpath
Approaching the Visitors Centre a couple of Moorhen were feeding on the grass and a Snipe made an explosive departure before I spotted the pair of Magpies.  From the Centre I could see a range of duck including Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler and, of course, Wigeon.  In the distance a pair of Shelduck along with a pair of Little Grebe and nearer to me a pair of Avocet.  Not a lot of use being made of the feeders with only a Chaffinch and Blue Tit recorded on this first visit.  Venturing out I found the female Marsh Harrier resting in a field and then the first of the Barnacle along with the Egyptian Geese.

Merlin Falco columbarius
Next off to the 360 Hide where I duly picked up the Pintail.  Not yesterday's 150+ but rather no more than 30 or so.  Wherever you looked you could see the already named ducks and geese along with the Lapwing.  At least  handful of Curlew were also recorded.  The Reedbed Hide gave me the chance to see the pair of female Goldeneye and also find both a Spotted Redshank and Meadow Pipit on the island in front before returning, frozen, to the Visitors Centre even f the temperature had risen to a mighty 4C!  Approaching the entrance I could see something at the top of a bare tree and checking with my bins discovered that the resident Merlin had taken up a much nearer resting place than the its usual dead tree out on one of the islands.  And I even had my camera around my neck to get a record shot even if the raptor was looking directly towards me.

Back inside the building it was apparent that the feeder was drawing more attention with visits form Goldfinches, a Greenfinch and male Chaffinch, small flock of House Sparrows and even a single Dunnock and Robin.  But still only the occasional Blue Tit.  Making my way back out of the site onto the country lane I then stopped for both a Great Tit and Black-headed Gulls.

The lone Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis visiting Baston Fen near Market Deeping
Much warmer in the car and still sunny as I made my back to Stamford but first a stop at the now flooded gravel pits at Baston Fen.  A Heron to my right and the scrape next door produced a couple of Pied Wagtails and a single Ringed Plover.  Most of the activity was on the deeper pool to my left as I parked up and set up the scope.  Mute Swan and a mixture of ducks including Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and a handful or more of Common PochardStarlings, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove were in the area around the lake but best of all, not more Lapwing, Moorhen nor Coot but the visiting Long-tailed Duck.  What a great bird to finish the day on - or it would have been had I not seen the resting Kestrel in the tree as I got back into the car for the short drive home.  54 species recorded in the five hours including travel.

Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis

Birds seen:
Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler,  Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Grey Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Merlin, Moorhen, Coot, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Snipe, Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove,  Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

But over a thousand Wigeon Anas penelope elsewhere!
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information