Thursday, 31 October 2013

Fuente de Piedra

Thursday 31 October

Whist I am over in "Blighty" this week to check on the aged mother, John and Jenny Wainwright have been keeping the birding front going with a visit to Fuente de Piedra and the Laguna Dulce. In addition to ll the other birds seen, it was good to read in John's report, see below, that the Cranes have returned for the winter.  Like last year they made it back ahead of schedule by the last week of this month so I suspect I know where I might well be heading within a week or so of my return to Casa Collado!

It would appear that John and Jenny were not the only pair on the move this week as I also received a report from Steve and Elena Powell that they had taken the long journey down to the Brazo del Este on the eastern bank of the mighty Guadalquivir in search of winter birds.  Looking at Steve's photographs they must have timed their arrival in time for a mass meeting of the Little Grebes Convention; there certainly seemed to be n almighty lot of them!  Not only grebes to be seen as Steve and Elena once more made contact with the colony of Black-headed Weavers and also saw Osprey and Great White Egret amongst other species during their visit.

As for me, no sooner had we landed and got back to Stamford and we were off down to Southampton to check up on mother.  The Isle of White took most of the bashing form the well-announced storm so no problem in that quarter.  Then it was back to met up with workmen completing the kitchen remodelling before a visit to the optician tomorrow morning and fly back Saturday.  But, I did manage to slip away this morning for a very quick walk around the local patch at Rutland Water where I found prodigious numbers of duck.  Mainly Gadwall and Tufted Duck but also a good number of Wigeon, Mallard, Common Pochard and Teal.  No camera with me so, as might be expected, a number of very handsome Pintails within "spitting distance" of one hide and they would have more than filled the frame so close were they to me.  However, no sign yet of any winter thrushes so they will have to wait until I return to Stamford at the end of November.


Fuente de Piedra & Laguna Dulce: 30 October 2013

A warmish day with a brisk breeze.  We had to attend the doctors before leaving Salar we didn´t get away until 11.30am, so directly across to Piedra.  As we drove in we could see the water levels were non-existent at the boardwalk and the shepherd was out with his flock.  As we passed the scrape we found one Ringed Plover, several Meadow Pipits and a few White Wagtails.  The bushes and reeds held Sardinian and Cetti´s Warblers as well as House Sparrows and Stonechats.  It was here that Jenny spotted two raptors; one was a female Hen Harrier and the other a very dark phase Booted Eagle - this bird was seen later being mobbed by a male Sparrowhawk.

From the mirador we saw Little Egrets, Lapwings, Stone Curlews, Greater Flamingos, Yellow-legged, Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Black-winged Stilts, a few Stonechats and a Common Redstart.

At the closed hide - the water level was quite reasonable - here we located Common Snipe, Shovelers, Mallard, Teal, Moorhens, Common Coots, Little Grebe, Common Sandpiper, Goldfinches, Black Redstart, Sardinian Warblers and a Willow Warbler.  Two Chiffchaffs were seen as we were leaving.  It was in this hide that we met an English couple, Colin & Celia, who told us that they had seen four Common Cranes fly over them yesterday (Tuesday).  As we drove out of the car park a Thekla Lark, several more Meadow Pipits, two Corn Buntings and another female Black Redstart were seen.

Meadow Pipit  Anthus pratensis (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

As we drove towards the Cantarras mirador, eleven Common Cranes were located in the distance.  We then carried on to Laguna Dulce.  En route a Northern Wheatear was seen as were two Ravens.

At Dulce we found Red-crested and Common Pochards, Coots, Moorhens, Mallard, White-headed Ducks, Black-necked, Little and Great Crested Grebes.  Two Marsh Harriers - one female and one juvenile male - the latter was seen to make dives at the duck population at the far bank.

Also along the far bank we saw a Purple Swamphen, Great White Egret, Little Egrets and a few Black-winged Stilts.  A tern was seen here by myself but I lost sight of it without identification.  A good number of gulls here, mostly juveniles and while looking through them, two Cattle Egrets flew across them and across to the far right of the hide.

At the waters edge to the left of the hide, a good duck population was seen - mostly Shovelers with a few Mallard, Black-winged Stilts and a Common Sandpiper.  In the reed beds and bushes around the vicinity of the hide were Cetti´s and Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaff, Goldfinches, White Wagtails and a Blackcap was heard.

Lots of butterflies in and around the reserve, including Long-tailed Blues, Large Whites, Yellows and Bath Whites.
 

Long-tailed Blue Butterfly   Lampides boeticus  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Still, its nice to see the Cranes back, albeit very small numbers as of yet.

Many thanks John and, no doubt, by the time I get over to Fuente de Piedra the Cranes might be back in their hundreds; I hope so!

Friday, 25 October 2013

It´s all happening at the Rio Velez!

Friday 25 October

Picked up an email from Mick Richardson this morning telling me about his visit to the Rio Velez yesterday (Thursday) morning where, in three hours, he managed to record 62 species.  As if the total was enough, the quality of the species was something else!  How's this for to add to your list for the morning?

2x Osprey, 1x Quail, 2x Bluethroats, 12+Yellow Wagtails, 3x Collared Pratincoles, 4x Penduline Tits and several Pied Flycatchers. Also attached were photographs of the Osprey and a Zitting Cisiticola and, judging form the quality, Mick's photographs using the new lens are getting better and better.  I shall have to improve my technique just to keep up with Mick.  Many thanks for the report and photos , Mick which I am sure readers will very much enjoy.


Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis (PHOTO: Mick Richardson)


Osprey Aguila Pescadora Pandion haliaetus at the Rio Velez, Torre del Mar (PHOTO: Mick Richardson)

(PHOTO: Courtesy Mick Richardson)


(PHOTO: Courtesy Mick Richardson)

As a result of reading Mick's email, a slight change of plan for me.  Jenny and I were going down to Torre del Mar this morning once all the washing was on the line so I was "given permission" to wander the Rio Velez myself for an hour.  Greeted just under the bridge by a trio of Mallards and a couple of Shoveler I then made my way down stream towards the pumping station.  I had recognise the car in parked front of me so gave Steve a quick call to establish where exactly he was.  Turns out he was near the beach and had already seen and photographed the Osprey which had headed upstream over the road bridge.  Whilst he was in the same area he had also seen a pair of Collared Pratincoles disappear under the bridge and upstream.
Ringed Plover  Chorlitejo Grande  Charadrius hiaticula
Only a single pair of Ringed Plovers noticed on the way down along with another trio of Mallards, the usual good numbers of Moorhens and the Coots had returned, probably totalling up tot a score.  A Kestrel was resting on top of an electricity pylon and a number of Blackbirds were moving around.

Reaching the pump house I noticed a single Cattle Egret feeding with the quartet of tethered horses whilst another trio were following the ploughing tractor behind me.  On the river a number of Yellow-legged Gulls but nothing else other than the above Coots.  On the grasses in front a number of House Sparrows along with a few Serins, including a very yellow male, and then, surprise , surprise, a pair of Common Waxbills arrived in a nearby bush and continued to be very active.
Immature Yellow-legged Gull Gaviota Patiamarilla Larus michahellis
At this point I looked behind me to see Steve and Elena Powell walking back from the beach, where they had seen both Cetti's and Reed Warbler, along with Dan Wilkinson and his wife.  In addition, Dan had found a Little Bittern in the reeds behind the beach.  After a natural break to exchange sightings and greetings, etc we all continued on our respective ways.

Yellow Wagtail (Blue-headed) Lavandera Botera Motacilla flava iberiae
Other than more Yellow-legged Gulls and Coots on both the river and sea I started to make my way back to the pump house recording Cetti's Warbler.  The grassy slopes between here and the car then produced Stonechat and both Yellow (Iberian) and White Wagtails before spotting a trio of Ringed Plovers, not necessarily a complete addition to those previously seen.  A couple of Monk Parakeets passed over and a small number of Spotless Starlings was recorded.  Only the single Crested Lark to be seen along with a nearby Chiffchaff but it was lovely to find a male Pied Flycatcher just before my departure to collect Jenny.

In addition to the birds, the weather was still fine enough to produce a number of butterflies, including some vey small white species, and there were large blue dragonflies to be seen over the water, presumably Blue Emperors.  I based this identification, rather than Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) on the amount of yellow on the abdomen and the fact that, according to the Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe (Dijkstra), the abdomen was not as straight as that seen in the latter.  No doubt, somebody will correct me if I am wrong!

Migrant Hawker Dragonfly  Aeshna mixta

Birds seen (during the morning):
Mallard, Shoveler, Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Osprey, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Collared Pratincole, Ringed Plover, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Yellow (Iberian) Wagtail, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Pied Flycatcher, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Serin.



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

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Alcaucin

Thursday 24 October

Jenny off to a Spanish lesson so with just over an hour to spare after dropping her off in Puente don Manuel I took a drive up to the picnic site above Alcaucin in the hope of finding a few Crossbill.  Collared Doves at the start of the mountain drive followed by a rapidly departing Blackbird before arriving at the car park.  No Crossbills in the usual Eucalyptus tree so took a look at the alternative dead tree below the car park.  Again, no Crossbills but a pair of Nuthatch and a single Great Spotted Woodpecker.  That was a very welcome surprise.

The first Great Spotted Woodpecker Pico Picapinos Dendrocopos major of the morning

Views of the third Great Spotted Woodpecker Pico Picapinos Dendrocopos major seen at the picnic site
Next up through the picnic tables where I found  Great Tit and saw a high-flying Azure-winged Magpie cross over above the tree tops.  Then along the water channel, recording a couple of Chiffchaffs, to the far end and back.  Only a single Coal Tit but at least three individual Jays were noted.  Returning to the picnic area and a wander round the pats below to reach y car and, sure enough, there were plenty of Crossbills to be seen.  In addition, another closer look at a, possible, different individual Great Spotted Woodpecker. Indeed, whilst walking through the area I was visited by a rather lovely Speckled Wood Butterfly which took the opportunity to rest and sun itself immediately in front of me.

Speckled Wood Butterfly  Pararge aegeria
Continuing on up the mountain track to the upper picnic site proved somewhat a waste of time as there were cars parked on the track and then the sudden appearance of at least ten 4 x 4s on some sort of sponsored car rally - and all travelling at speed which seemed to put an end to birding and leave me insufficient time to be back to collect Jenny.  However, my very briefest of stops did reveal a skulking Robin under the thick bushes between the steps and water deposit. Fortunately, the class was late finishing so she only had to wait a bare five minutes for my arrival.

There were numerous Jays Arrendajo Garrulus glandarius and this one seems to have found his acorn
Birds seen:
Great Spotted Woodpecker, Collared Dove, Robin, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Crossbill.



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

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Five days in a birder's life!

Friday 18  to Tuesday 22 October

Good job it rained late in the afternoon as I have jobs to do around the house on Wednesday and I must resist all temptations to try for a fourth birding day!  Friday morning saw Jenny and I off to Jaen Province for the week-end, travelling via Salobrena and Granada, in readiness for the monthly meeting of the Andalucía Bird Society near Puente del Obispo, a little south-west of Baeza, (around the Laguna Grande followed by a long and beautiful drive over the Sierra Magina).  Sunday was rather a barren return drive following the same route but we did see numerous Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows plus the occasional Thekla Lark!  Good job we were stopping in Frigiliana to enjoy lunch with our friends Steve and Elena Powell.  Monday, rather than Sunday, became the day of rest and with Jenny having to be out of the house by 7 am to accompany our neighbours to Granada, I took the opportunity to spend the morning at the Guadalhorce in Malaga.  This report, therefore, sums up two "proper" days of birding plus the additional opportunity to checkout the local area when first we arrived at the Hacienda La Laguna just south of Puente del Obispo.

Friday 19:
That most handsome of raptors, the Red Kite Milano Real Milvus milvus








Arriving in the early afternoon, and greeted by a few Cattle Egrets at the end of the lane, there was time to drive down and around the neighbouring Laguna Grande to see what we might expect in the morning.  Imagine our surprise, therefore, when we found very little bird activity.  A single Little Egret and on the main water a pair of Red-crested Pochards along with a handful of Common Pochards.  No shortage of Great Crested Grebes and a score or more of Cormorants plus Coots and Moorhens added to the list.  There also a number of Grey Herons around the edges of the water and we even found at least a handful of Shovelers.  Around the area there also numerous House Sparrows, Blackbirds and the occasional Wood Pigeon.  In the trees at the edge of the water a large flock of Azure-winged Magpies were feeding.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio
Returning to the hotel, I dropped Jenny off and then went off with a fellow member on a 16km drive along an awful road then track to the Embalse de Marin.  A few Spotless Starlings on the way but the real site was that of a beautiful Red Kite overhead which resulted in a five minute stop for photographs.  A single raven passed over us and we eventually reached the water after nearly an hour to discover that, not only was it very narrow and with a tall reed fringe, it was also completely fenced off!  A short walk through a neighbouring olive grove did lead us to a fishing break in the reeds and, on  reaching the water, we were just in tome to see a disappearing Purple Swamphen.  Nothing else to be seen other than the local House Sparrows but a return to the above reed break also revealed a Goshawk take off from the reeds on the far bank and rapidly disappear from view.  For the return journey to our hotel we took the main road through Baeza on a proper surface and, before leaving the immediate area of the embalse had good views of a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes, Kestrel and a flock of Jackdaws. Naturally, we also came across a small number of Goldfinches.

Saturday 20:

The target bird, the magnificent Golden Eagle Aguila Real Aquila chrysaetos
Off by 9 o'clock we either drove to the laguna so that, we hoped, we could make an early exit if nothing had improved since the previous afternoon.  The pochards had disappeared and been replaced by a number of Mallard and a pair of Gadwall.  All the other water birds were still present but we did have a single Black-winged Tern fly over.  At least three Marsh Harriers were recorded and there were still plenty of Azure-winged Magpies to be seen by ABS members.  Smaller birds included Long-tailed, Coal and Great Tits plus a Robin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chiffchaff, female Pied Flycatcher.  Nearer the water, a Cetti's Warbler was heard and there were regular sightings of Blackbirds along with a Sardinian Warbler.  We even had a (common) Magpie join the throng.

Southern Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis
By 11 o'clock we were in our cars and off to the Sierra Magina in search of Golden Eagles.  No sooner had we set off and reached the local solar panel station than we started to see some good birds including a close Black-winged Kite and Southern Grey Shrike.  There were Corn Buntings and Stonechats on the wires along with the local House Sparrows and Thekla Larks.  Three Hoopoes were recorded before we arrived at our first stop from where we walked up the mountain for about a mile to look for the eagles and eat our packed lunches.  On the way up we recorded both Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear along with Crag Martins but it was to be Griffon Vultures that made the first appearance followed by a distant Goshawk that worked the hillside for an hour or so.  A pair of Choughs passed over high above us before we returned to collect the cars for the thirty kilometre journey over the top of the mountain, eventually reaching over 1200 metres at the pass before dropping back down on the northern side.

Distant record shot of a Goshawk Azor Comun Accipiter gentilis
Once on the higher slopes we found our first Golden Eagle and, having found one, continued to find more during the drive.  Also on the higher slopes were large flocks of Ring Ouzels, as we discovered when stopping at the shepherd's rest.  These birds were then to accompany us for miles.  At this rest we also found a Jay and a number of Chaffinches along with many Wood Pigeon.  Returning to the lower slopes we looked in vain for a Bonelli's Eagle at its traditional nesting site but did pick up a Peregrine Falcon and Sparrowhawk along with a distant single Griffon Vulture and nearby Greenfinches.  Just as on the outward drive, the solar panel farm area once again produced the birds (no wonder many people returned for a second visit for departing for home on the Sunday).  First a pair of Hoopoes and then a couple of Common Buzzards.  A few Jackdaws but then a large flock of Choughs on the wires along with a pair of Ravens.  At least three Mistle Thrushes flew over the road in front of us and another Southern Grey Shrike was recorded. hen we came to compare notes, we were also able to add a couple of Red-legged Partridges, a female Pied Flycatcher and a Snipe at the laguna in the morning.

We even had a few butterflies including this poor chap who seemed destined for an early demise.


There may only have been just over 50 species recorded but what a selection and, for most present, many new birds for the year, if not life.

Birds seen in Baeza area:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Black-winged Kite, Red Kite, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Snipe, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring ouzel, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Pied Flycatcher, Longtailed Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.


Tuesday 22 October:
A pair of Booted Eagles Agulilla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus on the Rio Viejo


At the Guadalhorce by 9 o'clock and greeted by a score of screaming Monk Parakeets.  The it was over the footbridge and on to the Laguna Cassilas.  The first Marsh Harrier was recorded along with a Pochard, Coots and a few Little Grebe along with the odd MoorhenSardinian Warblers and Blackbirds were active plus one or two Greenfinches during this first walk. A Heron flew over and there were a number of Yellow-legged Gulls moving in and out of the reserve. 

Greenshank  Archibebe Claro  Tringa nebularia
On to the Wader Pool which seemed remarkably quiet with just a pair of Greenshank and a small number of Teal, a large flock of twenty plus having passed me between the two hides.  A Kestrel, one of at least six seen during the morning, landed at the back of the water which gave me an opportunity to look at the resting Cormorants in the large trees and discover that a single Booted Eagle was resting below them.  Not so far away a further pair of Booted Eagles was seen.  No sooner had I found six Snipe than a single Little Egret landed on the water.

The Marsh Harries Lagunero Occidental Circus aeruginosus cometh with a male at the bottom





A number of birds to be seen on the old river (Rio Viejo) including three juvenile Flamingo.  A couple of Ringed Plover, a handful of sleeping Sanderling and almost a dozen Ruff were busy feeding along with another Kestrel and Greenshank.  Very little else to be seen and nothing on the sea other than a small raft of Yellow-legged Gulls so back to the Wader Pool where a trio of Black-winged Stilts had arrived along with a pair of Shoveler.   Not too late as above me a dozen or so late Barn Swallows were busy feeding on the wing.

The distant Osprey Aguila Pescadora Pandion haliaetus

Passing a pair of Crested Larks as I approached the Laguna Escondida, I then discovered more Shoveler plus a handful of White-headed Ducks and numerous Little Grebes on the water.  Likewise, not a great variety to be seen on the Laguna Grande other than the very many Herons and a number of Cormorants.  A pair of Black-necked Grebes was found at the back and yet another Marsh Harrier made a pass over the water.  Nearer to hand a few gulls were on th ewater along with a single Avocet.  However, well concealed in its usual tree below the feeding pole to the left was a fourth Booted Eagle whilst, in a dead tree amongst the vegetation at the back, a single Osprey was taking its rest.  Nearer to the hide a small party, probably a family, of Little Ringed Plovers was seen along with a couple more Ringed Plovers.  A single Common Sandpiper was feeding nearby to the left whilst a lone White Wagtail fed on the opposite side of the hide.  Above me at least a dozen Red-rumped Swallows were seen.  Then it was time to make my way home before the afternoon rains were expected having recorded 36 species and a Thekla Lark as I made my way up the mountain to Casa Collado along with yet another Kestrel.

A very tired looking Avocet Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta
The lonely Common Sandpiper Andarrios Chico Actitis hypoleucos

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Snipe, Ruff, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Rock Dove, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler,

Don't look now, you re being watched by a Spotless Starling Estornino Negro Sturnus unicolor







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

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Sierra Loja with John & Jenny Wainwright

Whilst I was away in Jaen Province and am yet to complete a write-up, John and Jenny Wainwright have once more been up their favourite mountain, the Sierra Loja.  John's report follows below:

Sierra Loja:  21 October

A beautiful day up top with a fresh breeze.

We had a four hour window before Jenny was at her craft evening so we had coffee at the local hotel and then off to the sierras, en route seeing Blackbird, Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows and a Collared Dove.

Our first stop was the hidden quarry where we saw five Sardinian Warblers and two Dartford Warblers contesting for the ownership of a bush.  Here also we saw Chaffinches, Stonechat, Serins, and in the pine copse more Sardinian Warblers.  Looking down into the old workings a Wood Lark was heard and a Great Tit was seen. To the right of the large cross we found one Ibex.


Black Wheatear Collalba Negra Oenanthe leucura (PHOTO: John Wainwright)



In the quarry itself I found a male Black Redstart, three Black Wheatears, two Linnets and a male Stonechat.  And on the cliff face - just below the Eagle Owl´s roost - five Jackdaws were seen perching.  As we left the quarry track Jenny picked up a Red Squirrel (dark phase) on the ground opposite.

In the tree line a large flock of Goldfinches and several Long-tailed Tits were seen, as well as a Willow Warbler, a female Common Redstart, two Short-toed Treecreepers, Red-legged Partridges and some Chaffinches.


This time a pair of Black Wheatears (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Up at the cliffs a good number of Jackdaws were wheeling around as well as four Chough.  A Hoopoe was seen as was another Black Wheatear and then a male Sparrowhawk.

Onto the flat area and the next quarry where we good views of a Lesser Kestrel, another Northern Wheatear and some more Chough.
 

Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris  oenanthe oenanthe (PHOTO: John Wainwright)


Down in the substation valley a few Thekla Larks along with Rock Sparrows, two Meadow Pipits, more Goldfinches, two more Northern Wheatears, a Black Wheatear and Stonechats.

We turned about here and nothing different was seen on the return journey.


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

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Zafarraya

Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe
Thursday 17 October

What a way to spend your birthday; get all the bad news out of the way first then enjoy the company of friends walking the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarraya and exploring the hinterland before most of us enjoyed a very good Menu del Dia.  We awoke to strange noises outside to discover that it was the skimmer sucking air as a result of yet another catastrophe with the swimming pool.  I left with the water level set at the bottom of the skimmer inlet suggesting that I knew what had to be done but, appears, there was to be more bad news as upon my return the level had dropped another tile (approximately 1000 litres) below the skimmer.  What a so-and-so as today was to have been our last day in the pool before shutting it down for the winter.  Looks like more work and expenses ahead.

Meanwhile, up at the pass, there were a round dozen of us gathered for the monthly meeting of the Axarquia Buird Group and good to see the "Triana Trio" of Jim Moore, Dan Wilkinson and Brian Green again along with Eric and Pat Lyon from Sayalonga, Patrick Raines from Canillas de Albaida, Marcus and Liz Rootes form Competa, John and Jenny Wainwright from Salar, my friend Barrie Avis form all the way up in Murcia and yours truly.  In somewhat cooler weather and a rather overcast sky, at least three of us were pleased to see the sun break through and bring some warmth to our exposed legs.  On the other hand, by late morning we had the proverbial last laugh as the weather got warmer and warmer.

Meeting at the mirador before 9.30 we were greeted by the resident Rock Doves and a few Spotless Starlings along with two separate groups of Ibex, one on each side of the pass, and totalling at least a dozen in number.  There were certainly more Blue Rock Thrushes about than we have seen for a number of months, they were everywhere, and we even managed to find a female to go along with the delicate blue males.  A couple of Goldfinches flashed past, the first of many to be seen, and then we were into the Crag Martins.  Dozens of these hirundines feeding over the grassy slopes and all the evidence seemed to suggest that many were still bring off the latest clutch of chicks, probably a third brood, with nests in both the tunnel and "Alpine Swift Cave."

Having found our first Black Redstart, a beautiful male, we quickly found another handful along with the first Greenfinch of the morning.  Thekla Larks were recorded and then the first raptors, a pair of adult Golden Eagles moving slowly inland in a north-easterly direction.  No sooner had we passed through the tunnel and reached the ruined track-side cottage to start the return walk then we had another individual, this time a sub-adult showing a little white below the wings and tail.  Meanwhile, amongst the soaring Crag Martins a stranger was spotted, too large for such a bird.  Quickly identified as a Sparrowhawk, I did wonder what its purpose was as it moved with the Crag Martins but then, on the return walk, Barrie was lucky enough to see the bird dive into a tree and when the scope was lined up on the concealed bird it was very bust tackling its morning feed.  No cereal or toast for this mighty hunter but what looked like a possible Blue Rock Thrush form its outline.  During this walk we also recorded a couple of Great Tits, Sardinian Warbler and a good number of Stonechats along with more Goldfinches and the first Serins of the morning.  And all the while we were aware of those white flashes as the Black Wheatears moved around the slopes and rocks above us.  The first of the group back through the tunnel were just in time to see a rapidly disappearing Peregrine Falcon (we wondered where our local bird had been hiding) and then back to more Black Redstarts, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows as we reached the cars.

Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe
Next it was on tot the former "Muck Heap" where we duly found both Thekla and Crested Larks along with the first Blackbird and more Goldfinches and Serins.  Next it was on to the "Brambling Field lay-bye" to look for Azure-winged Magpies.  Just the one high-flying bird found but then a more concentrated effort with bins and scopes produced all sorts of species.  A number of Mistle Thrushes was not unexpected nor was the Chaffinch but it was a tremendous thrill to find as many as a handful of Common Redstarts feeding on the ground in front of the old tress.  A Robin was also present and regularly hoping up and down from low branch to ground and it, too, was joined by a Blue Tit.  To add to the show, a Jay exposed itself a couple of time as it moved through the trees and, of course, we could not forget the first Corn Bunting which was on the wires as we approached the site.

Record shot of Bonelli's Eagle Aguila-azor Perdicera Hieraaetus fasciatus
Driving on beyond the Magpie Woods to the arable fields beyond taking the left turn at the bottom of the hill towards the old Loja road duly provided at least a score of Calandra Larks.  However, Eric managed to also see about the same number of departing Short-toed Larks on the opposite side of the road.  No more of the latter were seen until the return journey when at least another pair was seen in about the same area.  Also in the area where numerous Northern Wheatears and then, looking at the slopes of the distant hill, we eventually picked out a flock of fifty plus Chough along with a single (common) Magpie.  Another couple of Corn Buntings were seen on the wires along this road and then, just before we turned round at the bottom of the broken road, at least ten Magpies were seen.  Almost the end of the morning and as we made our way back to the previous stop we had first a Common Kestrel and then the Choughs once more.  But above them, and remaining for quite some time to provide good but distant views, a rather handsome Bonelli's Eagle to round off the tip along with a handful of Azure-winged Magpies as we reached the magpie Woods.

A most enjoyable morning in good company with a final tally (until I am corrected) of 35 species.  Forgot to add the five meadow Pipits seen by John and a few others whilst looking at the larks so total species increased to 36.

Birds seen:
Golden Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Robin, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.



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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Guadalhorce, Malaga with John and Jenny

I have just received a report from John and Jenny Wainwright re their visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga yesterday (Tuesday) which seemed to throw up (not literally!) some interesting species.  I was especially intrigued by the late Melodious and Reed Warblers and noticed, with interest, that there are still a reasonable number of both House Martins and Red-rumped Swallows to be seen.  I wonder if they will still be present if I drive down to the ponds next week?  Steve Powell, on the other hand, had a very short visit two days earlier and all he had for his trouble, plus the "usual stuff" was a pair of Marsh Harriers, but at least glad that they were once more to be seen, a pair of Teal and a well-decorated Spoonbill with so many rings and tags that, in Steve's words, it "... looked like it was labelled ready for a supermarket shelf .. it is a wonder the poor bloody bird could still walk!"  So, I ask myself, is this individual one of our returning Dutch-bred and ringed Spoonbills?


Guadlahorce: Tuesday 15th October
 

It would have been a very hot day, save for the lightish breeze.

As we walked along the track to the access bridge we saw House Martins, one Barn Swallow and several Red-rumped Swallows, Rock Doves, Stonechats, Monk Parakeets, Cetti´s and Sardinian Warblers and a female Marsh Harrier.

At the Laguna Casilla it was very quiet only a few Common Coots, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Mallard, Teal, Little Egret, Moorhen and a Grey Heron flew over.

Onward to the Viejo hide which, too, was very lacking in birds, although a birder told us he had had a Bluethroat and a Peregrine earlier.  We did however see Avocets, Black-necked Grebes, Sardinian and Cetti´s Warblers, Black-winged Stilts and Little Grebe.  In the background a Marsh Harrier quartered the reed bed and Cormorants were perched in the dead trees.  A few Spotless Starlings about here as well as a single Blackbird, above us another two Grey Herons and a huge flock of Black-headed Gulls.

At the old Rio Viejo several Ringed Plovers, Sanderlings, a Common Sandpiper, four Ruff, a Shoveler, Redshank, Little Egret, Yellow Wagtails and more Black-winged Stilts.  Opposite here in the patches of reeds we found Reed Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, yet more Sardinian Warblers and Melodious Warbler.  Along a bit further in the scrub we found Crested Larks, Yellow Wagtails and a Stonechat.  We were looking for Bluethroats here but there was a lot of pedestrian movement in this area, so we moved on to the Sea Watch.

It was rather choppy out at sea but we did locate a juvenile and two adult Gannets.  Also here there were rafts of Black-headed Gulls with a few Lesser Black-backs and Yellow-legged Gulls mixed in.  On the fence surrounding the "bird breeding area" we saw two female Common Kestrels.

We had lunch here and the retraced our steps back to the Viejo hide but we couldn´t get in due to a horse which had taken advantage of the shade, so we made our way round to the Escondilla hide, en route seeing a Booted Eagle.


Booted Eagle  Aguililla Calzada  Hieraaetus pennatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
A the latter named hide it was a case of Little Grebes, Little Grebes and more of the former, a few Mallard, a Moorhen and some Coots.

So to the last hide of the day, Laguna Grande. Again the gull population was the prominent species here, including Black-headed, Yellow-legged, Herring and two Lesser Black-backed.  While I was scoping through the gulls, two waders flew past, they turned out to be Little Ringed Plovers.  Also here were Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers, a Great White Egret, Grey Herons, Shovelers, Crested Larks, Coot and Moorhens, a lone Yellow Wagtail and a small flock of some twenty Serins.  On the "Osprey pole" a female Common Kestrel landed alongside two Cormorants and below in the bushes a Collared Dove flew in.  Another small group of House Martins flew through and following these came a House Sparrow and a Spotless Starling.


Common Sandpiper Andarrios Chico Actitis hypoleucos with Little Ringed Plovers Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius in foreground (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Only one extra "tick" on the way back and that was two Greenfinches, but we did get good views of a female Praying Mantis.

African Mantis Apteromantis aptera(?) Sphodromatis viridis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Not a terrific amount of birds, but, a pleasant few hours birding.



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Monday, 14 October 2013

Laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra

Monday 14 October

Stone Curlew Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedicnemus
Off to Ronda first thing this morning to collect magazines  followed by a stop at both Laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra on the return journey.  Leaving the motorway towards Campillos at least thirty Cattle Egrets feeding in the adjacent field which was in the process of being harrowed.  (on the return journey, the tractor had moved to the other side of the road and there was now in excess of forty individuals.)  Next to the egrets a solitary Kestrel kept watch of the process from a neighbouring watering pole whilst, quite unconcerned by the Kestrel's presence, almost an hundred Rock Doves also worked the newly ploughed field.

Leaving Ronda I had a quartet of circling Griffon Vultures above me and then, a little later, arrived at Laguna Dulce to see what was about.  As expected, hundreds of Coot and a very large number of White-headed Ducks plus very many Mallard and  Shoveler, a few Gadwall and a small number of Common Pochard.  Only the occasional Great Crested Grebe noted but plenty of Little Grebes.  However, the dominant grebe on the water was the Black-necked Grebe, most now in full winter plumage, but I was unable to find the winter-plumaged Slavonian Grebe that had been seen by Peter Jones late last week.  A single juvenile Flamingo was feed in close tot he left of the hide and there was a plentiful supply of Moorhens to be seen.  Other birds on the water included both Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls.  To the edge on the far bank a couple of Black-winged Stilts were noted and then both Corn Bunting and Goldfinches flew into the trees behind me whilst a Sardinian Warbler flitted through the reeds.  Before departing, a single adult female Marsh Harrier started to quarter the reeds on the far side and to my right and no sooner was I back on the main road than I had a resting Buzzard on top of one of the now defunct telephone polls.

Approaching Fuente de Piedra it was apparent that, whilst there was till water in main laguna, most of the neighbouring ponds and damp area were now completely dry.  Even the laguneto at the rear of the visitors' Centre was hardly more than a joined-up lair of dark green ponds.  However, the main focus was on the every greatly reduced number of Flamingos to be seen.  Had the birds flown to pastures new (or should that be waters new)?  Whereas on my last visit the Flamingos could be counted in thousands, probably reaching 20,000 or more, now the birds would, probably, be easier to count in hundreds with a final total well short of 2,000.

A few ducks on the main water and the ponds at the back held a few Flamingos but a good-sized mixed flock of ducks, mainly Mallards and Shovelers but also a small number of TealMoorhens were bust feeding and smaller birds included Sardinian Warbler, House Sparrows and Goldfinches.  Just the one Kestrel was recorded but I did find a couple of male Stonechats.

How many of the thirty plus Stone Curlews Burhinus oedicnemus can you count?
I spent a little time with the scope trying to locate any Stone Curlews in the field beyond the causeway, that with the newly-restored tower, and managed to find a single individual.  So, on the way back I walked across the above causeway for a closer look and finally managed to find a couple that were very well concealed on the ground amongst the sods (of earth!).  Walking back to the car I saw about thirty flying in low to the same field from the direction of the laguneto so parked my car just on the side track and had another look with the binoculars.  Yes, there they were So I was eventually able to get a few, hopefully reasonable, distant photographs of the local Stone Curlews.  At the moment the flock would appear to be about thirty to forty strong but, of course, there may be others in the neighbouring fields around the laguna.

A little easier to see the Stone Curlews Burhinus oedicnemus in this picture - but still greatly magnified
Then it was home for a late lunch (again!) and a very pleasant surprise to find a Barn Swallow feeding alongside the road as I approached the Colmenar turning.  My local Thekla Larks were waiting to welcome me back on to the mountain, along with the local goat herd that I had to follow up the track.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Flamingo, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Thekla lark, Barn Swallow, Stonechat, Sadinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.




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