Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Charca de Suarez

Wednesday 1 October

Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo
The second private visit by the Axarquia Bird Group to the Charca de Suarez reserve on the western outskirts in three months and, once again, a marvellous turn out of nineteen embers on a calm cloudy morning with the promise that the clouds would eventually break and the weather become quite warm and humid.  It did.  As always, lovely see our regulars in Bryan Stapley along with Patrick Raines from Canillas de Acebuche, Eric and Pat Lyon from Sayalonga, Marcus and Liz Rootes from Competa, John and Jenny Wainwright from Salar, Gerry Collins and Louise Grey from nearby Salobrena and Malcolm Austin, now back from a year in the UK from just down below me near Lake Vinuela.  Also good to see Pat Shaw from Nerja and lovely that David and Juliet Hird travel all the way west from Benalmadena whilst my friend Olly along with Gordon Barratt travelled westwards from distant Roquetes del Mar.  However, even further east, it was good to see that Barrie and Jan Avis could join us for far distant Murcia, spending last night in their motorhome before they continue on westwards to Portugal.  Once again, lovely company an, indeed, lovely birds seen.

I approached the meeting point outside the reserve by driving down "Turtle Dove Alley" and had hardy entered the narrow road than I had a couple of male and a single female Red Avadavats on the concrete in front of me.  With my camera still shut away on the back seat I only had time to get a last minute shot through the windscreen so, no picture will tell you the rest!  However, once inside the reserve many actually saw the species in and out of the reeds on the new scrape.

Record shot of Red Avadavats Bengali Rojo Amandava amandava through the windscreen

As usual, upon entering and having been greeted by the warden, Manu we seemed to split up with many going straight to the new scrape, others in a clockwise direction to the first hide and even some taking the anti-clockwise circuit.  Bryan and I had hardly time to reach the seat of the hide overlooking the Laguna del Taraje when a Little Bittern "hopped" across the gap in the opposite reeds -but not before we both had a good view.  A few Coots and Moorhens about but then a single Ferruginous Duck appeared and disappeared in to the reeds to our right.  Unfortunately, you cannot see the far end of this water which is now reasonably clear but looking through the new bamboo cane fence we were able to ascertain that at least a dozen Mallards were in residence.  And there was certainly no shortage of calling Cetti's Warblers.

Squacco Heron  Garcilla Cangrejera Ardeola ralloides
Meanwhile, those taking the direct route to the scrape had both Hoopoe and Blackbird on the track whilst, overhead both a female and juvenile Marsh Harrier were to be seen.  Indeed, the adult spent most of the morning around and over the site so, I think, just about everybody get to record "Marsh Harrier" before we departed at 12.30.  Once at the scrape, apart from a small number of Mallards and a single Little Egret there were also waders and wagtails to be recorded.  All, I think, found the single Ruff along with Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Curlew Sandpiper to the front.  Over to the right we had a Redshank and both White and Grey Wagtails to be followed a little later in the morning by a single Iberian  sub-species of Yellow Wagtail (Blue-headed).  On the other hand, the Little Stint was not quite so easy to find as it moved behind one of the small islands.  Overhead a number, but not excessive, of Barn Swallows plus a couple of House Martins and then he first of three sightings of Common Kestrel.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio
The main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas was rather empty compared with our usual sightings.  A number of Mallards and a Shoveler right in front of the hide plus an immature Cormorant resting on a stick just off shore.  Also present were a few Coots and Moorhens plus the occasional Little Grebe and a Grey Heron on the nearby island.  To the far left we had a Squacco Heron which duly departed and landed much nearer on the right-hand side of the water.  Before the sole Purple Swamphen put in an appearance to our left, the "cry" went up that thee was a Little Bittern resting in the will ow trees tot the far right, about a couple of metres above the water.  From our end of the hide we had a much clearer view and, I must admit, something looked wrong to me.  Yellow eyes but the bird was as big as a Grey Heron.  Had we actually found a Great Bittern and, if so, we could expect "twitchers" by the coach load within hours of reading our report.  Much debate and looking in Guides and phone apps to get a better identification.  Fortunately, Gerry was able to zoom in on his photographs and, at last, we could confirm that we had an immature Purple Heron.  Lots of head stripes and black edges to the primaries but the bird refused to stretch its neck as it sat huddled up in the tree.  Then it did.  You once again had that skinny neck with a large beak the size of its head; so much so that it gave the snake-like impression where there is no distinctive head shape.  Finally, a handful of Sand Martins put in an appearance low over the water.

Record shot of the juvenile Purple Heron Garza Imperial Ardea purpurea

On to the Laguna del Trebol where we duly found the Red-knobbed Coots.  All the Coots seemed to be resting on the floating platform with a single Red-knobbed at each end.  Scoping helped find a third adult, all waring white collars, and the single, unmarked juvenile Red-knobbed Coot.  Another Purple Swamphen put in an appearance before we continued on our clockwise circuit.  The track leading to this hide had produced a single Common Redstart for John and Jenny Wainwright and further on the fruited fig tree not only held Blackcaps seen by Eric and Pat Lyon plus others but also a pair of Garden Warblers.  Meanwhile, others were seeing Spotted Flycatchers, Goldfinches and Great Tits. As far as I know, the only gulls recorded were the occasional Yellow-legged Gulls as they passed over the site.  Similarly, every water produced at least two fly-pasts with the occasional rest of the lovely Kingfishers to be seen here.

"Neck ringed" Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata on extreme right with Coots Focha Comun Fulca atra

The only surviving Red-knobbed Coot from this year's chicks
Many returned to the scrape to finish their morning at the reserve and whilst some found the Green Sandpiper, Gerry, David, Juliet and I were in time to see the Greenshank take off and away to the back of the pool whilst, right in front of us, we had a visit from yet another male Red Avadavat.  So ended a very enjoyable morning and, returning via Turtle Dove Alley some of us were also able to add a dozen or so Cattle Egrets to give a final species count, subject to receiving contradictory emails, of 40 species for the morning.

A very shy Kingfisher Martin Pescador Alcedo atthis

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Redstart, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Red Avadavat, Goldfinch.

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

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