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 for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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