Saturday, 28 December 2013

All quiet at the Guadalhorce

Friday 27 December

Lovely clear and sunny start to the day so I was down at the Guadalhorce in Malaga by 9.30 in the hope of seeing a wonderful range of birds, especially waders and raptors.  What a joke!  By the time I left I began to think that there would have been more birds at home with our resident Black Redstart and White Wagtail on the terrace, Jenny hanging out the washing and the remains of the turkey in the fridge!  Forget the "Western Front" this is where the quiet was to be found - apart from the regular joggers and cyclists out girding heir loins or whatever.

I eventually found a wader when I reached the Wader Pool with a single , sleeping Black-winged Stilt.  Ant that would have been it had I not finally ended up at the Laguna Grande where I doubled the count with a one-minute view of a solitary Redshank.  There were also four more roosting stilts but not a gull in sight on or over the water.

And yet the start of the day had not been so bad as I drove down the mountain accompanied by the early-rising flocks of Goldfinches, Thekla Larks and even a rather lovely female Kestrel.  Loads of Thekla Larks and White Wagtails to be seen and then, on arriving at the Guadalmar church, a pair of male Blackbirds to give some sort of encouragement for the walk to come.  No sooner up on the embankment leading to the footbridge than I had a small flock of Spotless Starlings, the first of a three Sardinian Warblers seen during the morning and a handful of Serin

Walking over the bridge, nothing to be seen on the river either up or down stream, I passed a single Robin and saw the first of many individual Cormorants overhead as they made way to and from the Laguna Grande.  A septet of the wild bunch, otherwise known as those screaming, marauding Monk Parakeets, passd overhead and I was at the Laguna Casillas which duly produced a single Coot.  Patience.  Eventually, a handful of Pochards, single Little Grebe and a couple of Mallard were found along with another half-dozen CootsChiffchaffs, the dominant bird of the day, were feeding all around me and I even had a male Stonechat come to visit.

The single Teal was obviously on a scouting visit form the neighbouring Wader Pool as it was here that I found the other seventeen of his tribe along with the above-mentioned Black-winged Stilt.  As I walked down towards the beach and the Sea Watch, I had a good view of my only raptor of the morning, a female Kestrel.  Another Sardinian warbler and a Robin along with a dozen or so Black-heded Gulls overhead and then e the first Herons, a couple resting above the bank of the old river.  My was there some water here along with all the lagunas; no wonder there were no waders to be seen.  Next a rather lovely Black Redstart and a couple of White Wagtails before reaching the end of the track.  The sea was flat calm with a single fisherman on the eastern side so no waders here.  Out on the sea a couple of small rafts of Yellow-legged Gulls but nothing else.

Returning in the same direction I had a rather lovely little Zitting Cisticola give me the "once over" from a few metres in front and then picked up a couple of Crested Larks on the flat area to the right.  I was also just in time to see the only Little Egret of the day drift downstream in an easy flight.  All was quiet again until I reached the Laguna Escondida where I found more Coots and a handful of Little Grebes.  A single Black-necked Grebe had joined the party at the back of the water which was where I found the ducks; not many but a dozen Shoveler, handful of Mallard, a single Teal and at least a dozen White-headed Ducks.  A few House Sparrows were messing about at the side so I made my way round to the main hide at the Laguna Grande and all the birds that I expected to find.

What birds, where were they?  A total of about forty Cormoranats and up to fifteen Grey Herons but very little else.  Amongst the dozen Coots spread out across the water I did manage to find a single Moorhen and there was another Black-necked Grebe along with a single Little Grebe.  Just a few Mallards and Shovelers but then a pair of Gadwall drifted into sight at the back of the water.  I have already referred to the single Redshank and the quartet of Black-winged Stilts so the only other bird to record was the juvenile Flamingo, of which there were two on the small island at the back, far right of the pool.

And that was just about it; even the resident Rock Doves were missing from below the road bridge but I did have a dozen fly over whilst walking between the lagunas Escondida and Grande.  A final total of 33 species and got home early, fortunately, to discover that Jenny had slipped on the terrace and was ling there in the sun, fortunately only for about ten minutes, awaiting my return and help.  A lot of pain so the afternoon was spent at the local hospital to have her coccyx checked out and x-rayed, etc before finally get ting the all clear to return home.  No breaks but take the pain-killers three times a day.  Now you know why I am late getting by quiet day's birding published!  Jenny is feeling much better this morning but it looks as if I am still going to be on cooking, as well as all other, duties for the next day or so! Roll on 2014 so that we an finally get rid of this unlucky13 year!

Happy New Year to you all in case this should be my last blog of the year.


Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin.



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

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Back in the birding saddle!

Monday 23 December

Just received great news from my friend John Wainwright and in time for Christmas.  Having spent the last couple of months confined to quarters with just a couple of outings these last few weeks riding shotgun to Jenny, it was good to read that John s once more behind the wheel and in charge of his own destiny and where he would like to go birding.  And where else would he go first but to his favourite local patch up the Sierra Loja.  Indeed, he even manage to find not only a sunny day, as did I for my mountain visit to the Sierra Tejeda, but also found the temperature reasonably agreeable having reached the summit.  With John, once more, behind the wheel, does this mean that Jenny will now have the chance to regain ownership of the camera?  So it is very much a welcome back John and Jenny, lots of good birds recorded, and I look forward to seeing you both in January.

As with John and Jenny, I certainly wish all my readers a very peaceful Christmas and a most happy and healthy New Year; a year in which all your birding temptations and "New Year's Birding Resolutions" may be fulfilled.  Just think about it, an hundred species recorded before the end of January; a year's total of 250 plus achieved; sightings of Wallcreeper, Cream-coloured Courser, Dotterel, Eleonora's Falcon, visiting Long-tailed Duck and Allen's Gallinule, Little Swift, Dupont's Lark, Rufus Bushchat, Moustached Warbler, Isabeline Shrike, Hawfinch and Ortolan Bunting.  There should be at least one species there for everyone so  I expect to hear about some fabulous sightings in the coming twelve months.  Dream on fellow birders - and may they all come true!

Now to John's report and, on this occasion, all the photographs were taken by himself. 


Sierra Loja 23rd December 2013

Very bright and warm, but cold breeze.

We looked at the weather forecast this morning and as today was the only day that rain was not forecast for, we decided to go up to Sierra Loja to try to locate the Alpine Accentors.  So after breakfast at the Mirador we started off, seeing en route, Wood Pigeon, Collared Doves, Chaffinches, Serins, Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows and Chiffchaffs.

Our first stop was the hidden quarry, where we located three female Ibex and while watching them a Dartford Warbler flew into the top of a gorse bush just to their front.  Jackdaws were heard above the quarry but not seen, as was a Kestrel.

In the tree line we saw a dark-phase Red Squirrel, Coal Tit, Mistle Thrushes and more Chaffinches.

Jackdaw  Grajilla  Corvus monedula  (John Wainwright)

So onto the cliffs where we saw another three Dartford Warblers, Stonechats and a large number of Jackdaws were feeding on the lower slopes. A large flock of birds landed on the upper slopes and among the flock we found Meadow Pipits, Rock Buntings and Goldfinches, while on the cliff top itself we saw two Black Wheatears and at a lower level a male Black Redstart and two Thekla Larks. Also here we saw several Jackdaws picking up rocks and discarding them, so as they rolled down the mountainside and landed on the track - I take it they were looking for insects underneath the rocks – watch out below!!.

Between here and the working quarry we saw a Little Owl, Thekla Larks, another Dartford Warbler, Stonechats, Chiffchaffs and several female Black Redstarts.


Little Owl  Mochuelo Comun  Athene noctua (John Wainwright)

The lower of the ponds (Charco de Negra) had some water, but not iced up as the top one was, although neither of these bodies of water attracted any birdlife while we were there.

So onto the fossil cave area and beyond, where we found Great Tits, more male Black Redstarts, two Ring Ousels, six Alpine Accentors, Rock Buntings, a male Blackbird, more Chaffinches, two Mistle Thrushes and a lone Greenfinch. The Iris planifolia are well in flower and quite a good show of them were seen.


Record shots of the Alpine Accentor Acentor Alpino Prunella collaris see beyond the cave (John Wainwright)










On our return journey we saw another two Little Owls, a Black Wheatear and a Booted Eagle cruised past over the pylon wires.

Iris planifolia  (John Wainwright)
Departing Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia (John Wainwright)

Great report John and the Iris looks fabulous; something for the rest of us to make sure we look out for when up in the mountains.


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

Monday, 23 December 2013

Ventas de Zafarraya and the Sierra Tejeda

Monday 23 December

Meadow Pipit Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis
With today forecast as the only bright day of the week, I took myself up the local mountain to complete the circuit including the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarray, the "Magpie Woods" beyond and then back down the mountain track on the Sierra Tejeda past the picnic sites, concluding in the village of Alcaucin.  Not a cloud in the sky as I made my way down the mountain recording Sardinian Warblers, Black Redstarts, Blue rock Thrush, White Wagtails and Kestrel.  Ere long I was at the mirador at Ventas de Zafarraya and welcomed by some happy Spotless Starlings, a trio of Meadow Pipits and a couple of White Wagtails, like me rejoicing in the fact that the weather was not as cold as I had anticipated, despite putting on many extra layers!

Off along the track and a single Robin to see me on my way along with a distant Southern Grey Shrike.  I was to see another couple of Robins and, if the same individual, the shrike was much closer when I walked back to the car.  A Blue Rock Thrush "jumped" over the track and disappeared down below and then I caught a movement to my right and an Alpine Accentor paused long enough for me to get a quick shot before it joined its partner further u the rock face and both disappeared from view.  But I did get to see both birds in good light which was absolutely marvellous.

Record shot of Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris
Very few Black Wheatears about but the first recorded just before the tunnel.  They may have been appearing in very good numbers at lower altitudes but there were still plenty of both Black Redstarts and Crag Martins to be seen, the latter feeding over the slopes above the track.  And who could not mistake that definitive call as the first of the Choughs put in an appearance quickly followed by their "mates" until, at one point, there must have been almost an hundred swirling about above me and the cliff face.  At about this time I decided to return to the car and explore the "Magpie Woods" and no sooner had I started back when I had not only a couple of Great Tit but numerous Stonechats in view.  A single Chiffchaff and Thekla Lark before the re-entering the tunnel and, on emerging on the other side, before long I had my second view of the Southern Grey Shrike resting at the top of a bare bush.


Calandra Lark Calandria Comun Melanocorypha calandra resting in the warm sunshine
House Sparrows, Goldfinches and Serins as I made my up to and through the Magpie Woods but, apart from a Mistle Thrush, little else.  Even the arable fields beyond were very quiet though I did pick up a couple of Calandra Larks and a Crested Lark on the return journey.  Two female/juvenile Kestrels were watching from the top of an electricity pylon and a small mixed group of Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Serins were foraging at the side of the road.  Further back a small flock of Greenfinches were also busy feeding.  Meanwhile, the single (common) Magpie took off from the wires and disappeared westwards.


Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia in a fir tree at the lower Alcaucin picnic site
Very little to be seen on the journey down the track through the Sierra Tejeda but I did manage to find a number of Blackbirds and the first of a few Chaffinches along with a single Jay.  The upper picnic area (what a mess this site is at the moment) produced a handful of Crossbills with a few more of the same at the lower picnic site.  The latter also produced more Great Tits and a couple of Rock Buntings along with the expected Chaffinches and yet another Blackbird.  I was about to report that the last birds recorded were a pair of Blackcaps as I neared the end of the track but then that would ignoring your favourites and mine, the Rock and Collared Doves, which duly presented themselves as I approached Alcaucin!  31 species recorded and time to go home.


Birds seen:
Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Jay, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Rock Bunting.


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

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Sunday 22 December

A beautiful clear, sunny and fresh start to the day so what better than a couple of hours down at the local patch, the mouth of the Rio Velez at Torre del Mar.  Thekla Larks and loads of White Wagtails to see me off the mountain and down to Lake Vinuela, followed by dozens of Collared Doves as I passed through Trapiche and then the usual welcome as I parked on the track below the road bridge from the resident Rock Doves and the first of many Moorhens.  A small flock of ten Sanderlings were within sight along with a couple of Dunlin and very many Chiffchaffs feeding in the nearby bushes and meadow.

Sanderling Correlimos Tridactilo Calidris alba and their feeding frenzy

These Sanderling seem to have imprinted on a Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus!  "Hello Mum!"

Following Thursday afternoon's heavy rain the river looked most inviting, even luscious.  Inviting mud banks and flats for the waders, shiny gravel and beautiful green islands and banks.  No shortage of water and with no exit to the sea a well-developed lagoon at the mouth.  Walking down towards the new hide opposite the pump house I had regular Blackbird sightings and then a couple more Mallards along with both White and Grey WagtailsMallards were not the only ducks in residence with a quintet of Shovelers sheltering under the trees on the near bank and then, almost opposite the hide, a quartet of Teal.

Female Teal Cerceta Comun Anas crecca

Either the Sanderlings had moved down river or there were two distinct flocks with another thirty-three recorded along with two more, or the same, Dunlins.  A Kingfisher flew upstream and, before me, a pair of Black-winged Stilts were feeding.  A Cormorant moved off down to the sea and I was later to see many more and a single Little Egret presented itself along with a Grey Heron.  The Chiffchaffs continued to reveal themselves by the dozen and a large flock of Spotless Starlings rose up to rest on the nearby electricity wires.

Beware the Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta in the shade!

And the Grey Heron Garca Real Ardea cinerea when hungry!
From the new hide I could see a good-sized mixed flock of gulls including about ten Mediterranean, a handful of Black-headed and a number of both Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls.  Something to look forward to on my return from the beach and the chance of scoping for an Audouin's.  On the nearby meadows were a number of both Goldfinches and Serins along with the occasional Zitting Cisticola, a single Robin and a pair of Meadow Pipits.  Returning to the hide I was most disappointed to find an inconsiderate chap walking his two dogs, off lead and running free, so dispersing all the birds previously on the site.  A scope of the shore and small islands did reveal a single Bluethroat and the, flying low, a single Mediterranean Gull with an almost full black head.

Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis
To give the gulls chance to return I took a short ride to the eastern growing fields which produced both Crested Lark and House Sparrows.  Returning to the hide I had a Sardinian Warbler and numerous Stonechats along with more Chiffchaffs but the gulls did not return.  Why?  Dad had taken his two very young children for a cycle along the track and made use of the newly-installed cycle racks so that the family could go for a walk an play alongside the river's edge!  What next?  If the hide survives the ravages of teenage youth then, perhaps, the cycle rack will be well-frequented, the hide used as a deposit for personal belongings and the meadow become a football field.  I hope not; perhaps the "powers-to-be" will keep an eye on this new and encouraging facility to see that it is not abused.

The ever plentiful Chiffchaff Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita
Making my way back to the main road I had a simply gorgeous male Black Redstart followed by a solitary Common Sandpiper.  Then it was back up the mountain with its Thekla Larks and Chaffinches and, this time, a flock of over forty Crag Martins on and around the wire below the house.  What a welcome home and not too bad to record 39 species in a little over two hours!

Female Grey Wagtail Lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch.

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

Correction from Thursday and Laguna Dulce

Saturday 21 December

I thought it was strange and I had my suspicions with the flock of over fifty Short-toed Larks seen on the north side of the laguna at Fuente de Piedra as we returned to the village and, on posting the blog, I got my first response.  As Andy says, Short-toed Lark is a purely summer visitor and has not been recorded in any of the SEO winter surveys.  There are a few regular sightings of Lesser Short-toed Larks but these always tend to be in the far west of the region, not in our local area.  So what did we see?  Back to the drawing board, check the photos and confirm my theory, especially when my latest copy of Birdwatch had photos of winter flocks, that we actually had feeding in the stubble was a lovely wintering flock of Skylarks.  As soon as this blog is published I will amend the original.

Meanwhile, with better weather, Mick Richardson took a trip over to the Laguna Dulce form Loja and managed to find a rather lovely flock of Tufted Duck as his email below states.  All three photos by and courtesy of Mick Richardson.

All dozen Tufted Ducks Porron Monudo Aythya fuligula at Laguna Dulce captured in one shot

Looks as though you had a great day, sorry I could not make it but as usual Jayne had the car.  I did have a days work out that way today however and we did quite well.  We had 12 Tufted Ducks at Laguna Dulce (all twelve in the attached shot), along with several Dunlin, Little Stints, three Hen Harriers a dozen or so Marsh Harriers and a few hundred Common Cranes.  At Fuente de Piedra we had brief views of a Bluethroat, another female Hen Harrier, Spanish Sparrow, more Common Cranes and loads of Stone Curlews.


Female Hen Harrier Aguilucho Palido Circus cyaneus
It sounds to me as if the Stone Curlews and Hen Harriers had prior warning about the storm that was to hit Fueuente de Piedra as soon as we finished our visit!  We only had the two Stone Curlews and no Hen Harriers.  And what about the Golden Plovers; where are they at the moment? 

Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental Circus aeruginosus


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

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Fuente de Piedra

Thursday 19 December

The one thing I have discovered about this part of Spain is that when you get heavy rain, especially when accompanied by string winds, you get power cuts.  Imagine my surprise, therefore when  come Friday morning we had lost no power so went up to the studio to start on the blog.  I obviously spoke too soon as a power line had come down further inland and taken out my Internet provider so no access to the computer until Friday afternoon.  Problem solved and most of blog completed then came upstairs this morning, Saturday, and discovered that, once more, the Internet connection was lost.  Back on line now at just after ten o'clock so hoping to crack on and finish the job whilst the sun shines on outside the windows!


The gang's all here - including our furry fried who seemed the least interested of all!


Christmas almost upon us and time for the last field visit of the year; as for the past three or more years to that wonderful oasis to the far north-west of the province of Malaga, Funete de Piedra.  Any visit to this large lagoon at this time of the year must be, in addition to the Greater Flamingos of which there were still thousands to be seen, to record those most graceful of large  winter visitors, the Common Crane Grus grus.  Of course, one would also like to see Stone Curlews and other delightful species and on all accounts we fifteen were not to be disappointed.  It was lovely to see both Gerry and Leslie Collins make the long journey over from Salobrena and then we also had travelling with them, the pleasure of meeting a first-time participant, Diana Porter.  Eric and Pat Lyon made the journey over from Sayalonga and Marcus and Liz Routes travelling down the mountain from Competa were kind enough to collect Dan Wilkinson and Brian Green from Triana on their way.  For David and Janet Fisher living in Antequera it was almost a "hop down to the shops" living so relatively close whereas Steve Powell travelled from distant Frigiliana which just left me from Lake Vinuela.  But not quite, as we were delighted to welcome visiting Christine and Paul Stockton from Chester who also gave a holiday home in Gaucin so not there first visit to this wonderful site.

One of the numerous White Wagtails Lavandera Blanca Motacilla alba seen during the day


I left home without a cloud in the sky and all was calm.  Scores of White Wagtails and the resident Thekla Larks everywhere and then, within fifteen minutes the dense cloud arrived giving a very ominous look to the skies as I headed towards Casabemerja and the motorway to Antiquera.  Rain was promised for the afternoon but I am pleased to report that we managed a great day's birding in calm weather, if somewhat cloudy, and only when we finally left the local restaurant after our Menu del Dia did we notice that the wet stuff had arrived during our meal.  Not only rain; by the time I got home it was pouring and the winds were very much on the increase leading to a very windy night (literally and not as a result of the garlic!) and, whilst we kept our electricity supply, the Internet was down due to a fallen wire and/or cable further inland which took out our supplier for most of the next day.  Hence the lateness of this posting; well, that's my excuse and I am sticking to it!

Distant Shelducks Tarro Blanco Tadoma  tadoma (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Steve and others managed to record Chiffchaffs as they drove into the reserve and within seconds we had, I am sure, all recorded Flamingos and the first of many White Wagtails.  Following introductions it was up to the Visitors' Centre to make use of the facilities and the n a general look over the main laguna in front of us and the fields to the south before taking in the small lagunetta to the rear.  Not only Flamingos on the water but numerous Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a smaller number of their smaller cousin, the Black-headed Gull.  A handful of Shelduck were to the right long with seven Cranes, our targeted bird recorded much sooner than we had anticipated, along with a large flock of Lapwing.  A single Little Egret flew over and then we were able to see the large number of Shovelers in the water immediately below us along with a very small number of Teal and a few Mallards.  the more we looked the more Black-winged Stilts that we recorded and then the first Marsh Harrier in the distance.  But not to worry, we were to see plenty more before the morning was out.


The arrival of the Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus (PHoto below: Steve Powell)
Down on the dry land near the fence a couple of Stonechats went about their business along with a score or more of Jackdaws.  A pair of Raven flew past and then a whole mass of Spotless Starlings to add to the fun.  The Marsh Harrier had settled to rest in the top of a distant tree but gave good views through the telescope.  Time to wander round the back an see what else was about.


Approaching the first, open, hide a small number of Serins, Golfinch and a female Balckcap were seen and then the first of a few MoorhensCoots were also picked up at the back of the reserve along, from the main hide, a few Little Grebes plus a single Black-necked Grebe.  Lots of Black Redstarts to be seen (they seem to be everywhere at the moment) along with a small number of House Sparrows and distant Rock Doves but the best reward was finding the solitary Little Owl trying to hide in a small bush immediately in front of us.

(PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Continuing on now that the Internet has been restored:


Returning towards the car park we crossed the long footbridge to take a closer look at the ploughed field containing the recently restored electricity tower, complete with Kestrel perched on the side of the roof.  The dry bushes in front of us quickly produced more Goldfinches and Serins and then a couple of Reed Buntings as they moved across the top. To the left a small flock of Meadow Pipits were foraging and then a handful of Corn Buntings joined in the fray.  Meanwhile, away to the front and right, more Jackdaws to be seen and a couple of wandering Lapwings but close searching and first seen by Pat Lyon, produced the target bird, a single Stone Curlew standing high, which in itself was most unusual.  The more expected result was the individual so low on the ground that, for most, it would simply be passed over as another clump of dead grass.

Spot the Stone Curlew Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedicnemus (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Continuing to regularly see Blackbirds we all set off for an anti-clockwise drive round the laguna.  Eric and pat Lyon were the only ones to call in at the Mirador de la Vicaria and for their troubles were rewarded by close views of both Southern Grey Shrike and a Buzzard resting on a low stump and a couple of Snipe.  For the rest of us, we had to be content with more Stonechats followed by a single Hoopoe making a rapid departure stage left and then we found the Cranes.  A lovely row of about a dozen silhouetted on the skyline and as they took off we saw the reason why; at least a couple of hundred feeding near the arroyo in front of us.


(PHOTO: Steve Powell)
On to the Mirador de Cantarranos where we could still see the cranes including a handful in the water below us.  Whilst the main body of the Flamingos were on the main laguna, a single juvenile was seen along with a fleeting glimpse of a Purple Swamphen as it moved between a break in the reeds.  Lots of Marsh Harriers to be seen including a range of ages and both sexes.  Over the water, many Crag Martins were feeding and, amongst the mainly Mallards and Shovelers, we also found a few more Teal.  Just when we deemed it time to move on a white shape caught my eye to the far left and then the bird went into "Kestrel-hovering" mode.  Certainly not a male Hen Harrier despite the black on the wing and as it moved to and fro all remaining members managed to get a view through either/both telescope and binoculars.  As a special Christmas treat, the bird decided to fly towards us and perch in the top of a dead tree to give even better, if somewhat distant, views of this most gorgeous of raptors, the Black-winged Kite.

Distant record shot of Black-winged Kite Elanio Comun Elanus caeruleus
The remaining journey round the laguna duly turned up a good-sized flock of over fifty Sky Larks along with the expected Crested Larks.  Then it was time to head off for lunch, passing another Buzzard and Kestrels on the way, and discover that during the morning a Gadwall had also been seen at the main Centre along with Robin, Sardinian Warbler and Great Tit.  The only other wader seen was a single Redshank.  An extremely good morning's birding in splendid company and, eventually, a total of over 50 species recorded in very reasonable weather.  But, as I said at the beginning, no sooner had we moved inside for our meal than the rains arrived and the rest, as they say, is history!

And so good-bye to the Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus until 2014
But look on the bright side; if we get a little more rain then we can look forward to a multitude of waders when the Axarquia Bird Group visits the Guadalhorce, Malaga for its first meeting in 2014 on Thursday 16 January.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Little Egret, Flamingo, Black-winged Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Snipe, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting.



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

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Bermejales with John and Jenny Wainwright

Thursday 18 December

Immature Golden Eagle Aguila Real Aquila chrysaetos
Freshly back from our short cruise from Malaga taking in Barcelona, Casablanca (and, yes, we did go to "Rick's CafĂ©" and have a drink and, no, we did not always have Paris and Sam was not at the empty piano), Madeira and Lanzarote before returning yesterday morning to Malaga.  What did we see in birding terms?  Not a lot really once you discount the hordes of Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls at most ports along with resident House Sparrows, Spotless Starlings and Feral Pigeons.  We did record Kestrel, Zitting Cisticola and lots of Blackbirds and even had a good view of an adult Gannet at sea and a possible Great Skua but very little else.  On the other hand, the good news was that I managed to get within a metre of an immature Golden Eagle!  The bad news, in birding terms, was the individual was sitting on its handler's arm at the Madeira Christmas market!!  However, it does mean that I now have a close up of the bird.

So back home to see what has been happening in our absence; no rain that was for sure.  But then an email from John Wainwright cheered me up with all the birds that I could once again look forward to seeing - hopefully starting tomorrow at the Axarquia Bird Group's visit to Fuente de Piedra.


Bermejales  17th December 2013

A bright day but warm, clouding over fast in the afternoon.

Needing some exercise and bored of the doing my crossword puzzles, I thought a picnic at the nearby Embalse Bermejales (close to Alhama de Granada) wouldn´t be too strenuous.
As we were leaving our village a Buzzard was seen atop one of the pylons close to the petrol station, also in this area were Azure-winged Magpies, Crested Larks, Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows.

Meadow Pipits Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
  

The road to the embalse via Morelada gained us a Lesser Kestrel, Common Magpies, a Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaws and a few Corn Buntings.
After parking up a small walk was had along the embalse water line, where I put up Serins, White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and three Mistle Thrushes.
Further along where a strip of land juts into the embalse I watched a flock of Goldfinches and Greenfinches bathing at the edge of the water accompanied by the plentiful White Wagtails. In the small firs here I saw five Sardinian Warblers, two Robins, a Blackbird, several Woodpigeons, Great Tits and a small flock of Crossbills passed noisily overhead.

Dark-phase Red Squirrel (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Joining Jenny back at the car, where she was busy photographing a distant dark-phase Red Squirrel, she had seen Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaff in the small orange coloured bushes lining the waters edge opposite her. also in this area we saw Black Redstarts, Blue Tit and a Great Tit.
Whilst we were having a cup of tea a Kingfisher flew into a bare bush at the waters edge, but disappeared as fast without a photo being taken.
A flash of white across the water and a Common Sandpiper came to rest on a branch just off shore some hundred metres away.

 


Mistle Thrush  Zorzal Charlo Turdus viscivorus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

We then decided to go back the Cacin valley route. Lots more Mistle Thrushes, Sardinian Warblers, Serins, Long-tailed Tits and more Goldfinches, were seen in the hedgerows and we had great views of a Bonelli´s Eagle as it came out of the gorge and disappeared amid the olive groves. At the Roman bridge a Blue Rock Thrush was spotted as were Chaffinches and a male Blackcap.

At the dam the waters were exceptionally high and all we found were Shovelers, Mallard, Common Coots and more White Wagtails.

Back at Morelada as we joined the A92 autovia, on the small laguna we saw Little Egrets and in the fields to the front were a few Lapwings.  As we pulled off the autovia for Salar and home a Common Kestrel sat on a telegraph pole at the T-junction.

Nothing out of the norm, bar possibly the Bonelli´s Eagle, but a good day in the fresh air all the same.



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

Friday, 6 December 2013

What a start to December!

Friday 6 December

That's it, our time is up and in a  couple of hours we will be off top the airport for the return journey to Malaga and home.  But not without some great birding in the first five days, mainly at Rutland Water on Wednesday morning but also from our eldest son's dining room window where we were able to see both Coal Tits and visiting Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Record shot of a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus at Rutland Water

Wednesday, on the very calm and clear day before yesterday's big country-wide storms was fabulous and I ended up with all the tits apart from Bearded along with two woodpeckers and, I think, fourteen species of duck including Long-tailed, Smew, Scaup and Goosander.  Just as enjoyable was have a very clear view of a happy feeding Water Rail out in the open ditch not twenty metres away.  Just a shame that it was in shadow and the very low sun was immediately behind the bird but, nevertheless, I did manage the record shot.

Travelling back from Southampton to Stamford in the dark meant no Red Kites and/or Buzzards on the way and not a single raptor was seen on Wednesday.  But who knows; we may well record all three on the drive down the A1, A16 and M11 to Stansted to put the record straight.

A full, illustrated, report can be found on my alternative blog by CLICKING HERE.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Lagauna Dulce today

Thursday 5 December

Yesterday Granada province, the next day Malaga.  It certainly seems as if John and Jenny Wainwright have got the right idea whilst the weather remains reasonably calm fr following an initial birding outing to nearby Huetor Tajar yesterday today, Wednesday, saw them at the Campillos lake of Laguna Dulce for a couple of hours, so very little walking requited t make the hide and enjoy the birds of both water and surrounding reeds and vegetation.  What next; an email tomorrow about a third successive day's birding to the mountains?


Laguna Dulce 4th December 2013

A sunny day but dark clouds looming, though no rain fell.

As we were in Antequera, we decided to pop along to Laguna Dulce for a couple of hours.  It was beautiful sunshine albeit rather cold in the shade, although on the horizon some very dark clouds were building up.  A Black-shouldered Kite was found on a pylon close to the Sierra Yegas/Piedra turn off; also Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, a Common Kestrel and Common Buzzard were seen in that area.



Tufted Duck  Aythya fuligula on Laguna Dulce (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Jenny´s first sighting from the hide was of a couple of male Tufted Ducks - don´t often see these up here.  The birds were in amongst Pochard, Common Coots, Black-necked Grebes, White-headed Duck and a few Mallard.

Scoping the far reeds I found Red-crested Pochard, Gadwalls, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Shovelers and Little Grebes.  In the bushes to our immediate front a Willow Warbler (singing), Chiffchaff, Chaffinches, two Blackbirds, Cetti´s Warbler and three Corn Buntings.

Three Marsh Harriers were then spotted - one female and two juveniles - the latter causing the Coots to scatter as they made mock attacks on them.  A few White Wagtails were seen, as well as Goldfinches, House Sparrows, a male Blackcap, two Robins and two male Black Redstarts.

On our return journey the Black-shouldered Kite was still about as was the Common Buzzard (but in a different location).  Three Southern Grey Shrikes on the telephone wires and as we passed the new high speed railway bridge at Antequera a huge flock of some fifty or so Jackdaws flew across the face of the cliffs.


Goodbye to the Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula on Laguna Dulce (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Good to see you have lost none of our observational skills, John and, I must admit, I was more than surprised to read that you actually picked up a singing Willow Warbler.  What was that doing here rather than with his cousins down south of the Sahara enjoying the warm sunshine and accompanying insect life?  I know we have experienced the first snow in Yorkshire and the wind, following a clear and calm day yesterday has more than picked up in readiness for some really bad, cold weather but you guys must still be enjoying some sort of "Indian Summer" so please make sure you save some for Jenny and I to enjoy!


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

Huetor Tajar with John Wainwright

Thursday 5 December

They tell me that you can't keep a good man down and that certainly sounds right as far as John Wainwright is concerned.  The Internet connection has finally been restored sop I am able to catch up with what is actually going on in the outside world.  Great to see a couple of reports from John who has evidently found himself a driver (car not computer!) to get himself back amongst his birds.  It may not be the summit of a freezing Sierra Loja but at the base in nearby Huetor Tajar the attraction and stimulation was to get the latest information on the return of the hordes of Little Bustards.  Read on for John's account and then I can publish his second expedition as part of his recovery progress.  All being well, John and Jenny, I will get to meet up with you both in January.

Huetor Tajar  3rd December 2013

A warm, bright and windless day.

I am getting restless after four weeks convalescing, so Jenny decided to take me over to Huetor
Tajar
to look for the Little Bustards.  We found them with no real problem although there were only
thirty or so of them at this moment in time - too distant for any good photos though.  A few Lapwings here also Meadow Pipits, Black Redstarts and House Sparrows.


Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
The stream has dried out -  bar a couple of very small pools here and there - but we still found
Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Spotless Starlings, Serins and Crested Larks along the banks.
Several Azure-winged Magpies were seen, as was a Common Magpie - feeding among a huge flock
of feral pigeons.  A Common Kestrel hunted over the far fields and a Grey Heron was seen stalking
the ditches.


No sign of the Bramblings - in the poplar tree area as of yet although plenty of Chaffinches about.
Lots of White Wagtails and Meadow Pipits were following a tractor discing the fields and yet more
Black Redstarts.  A Blackbird was spotted also.  At the ajo factory we found several Stone Curlews, more Lapwings ( no sign of the Golden Plovers yet) and another Grey Heron.


Lapwing Vanellus vanellus  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
On the way back home along the back road to Salar we found two Thekla Larks, Lapwings, a Robin, a flock of Mistle Thrushes, another Blackbird, some Chiffchaffs and a large flock of Jackdaws.  On the road into Salar a Common Kestrel, Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons and more Azure-winged Magpies and atop a telegraph pole next to the petrol station a Little Owl was spotted.

Thanks for all the information John and something for me to look forward to upon returning home.