Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Fuente de Piedra with John and Jenny

I may be back in Blighty and now experiencing continuous, miserable rain after two mornings of severe frost but John and Jenny Wainwright are back on the birding road again having suffered a dose of bronchitis these past two weeks or more - so the weather must be better out in Malaga province!

But where are the Cranes?


Lagunas Fuente de Piedra & Dulce:  Wednesday 26 November

A very pleasant day with a light breeze.

As we left our village of Salar a flock of some thirty Collared Doves flew over and around us, on the wires we saw Spotless Starlings and a few House Sparrows. Only one Jackdaw on way along the A92 and nothing more until we entered the reserve at Piedra.

The flood meadow had a good amount of water in and it held good numbers of Teal - mostly males, Shovelers, Meadow Pipits, Cattle and Little Egret and a couple of Common Snipe.  A female Marsh Harrier came out of the reed bed here and above us a Booted Eagle circled.  The boardwalk area was pretty deserted all bar White Wagtails, two Hoopoes, Chiffchaff and a Black Redstart, while walking alongside the small stream, more Chiffchaffs and Black Redstarts, but in the scrape we did find another Common Snipe.

Looking out from the mirador we saw Lapwings, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls, Dunlin and Sanderlings and in the distance some Greater Flamingos but too far off to see if any Lessers were in the group.

Distant Pintail Anas acuta (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Moving on to the hide at the small lagunetta, masses of Black-headed Gulls interspersed with Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backs, these birds always on the move today.  Another Hoopoe was seen here as well as Blackcaps, Sardinian and Cetti´s Warblers, Goldfinches, a single Song Thrush, Corn Buntings, White Wagtails, a Blackbird, a Willow Warbler and several more Chiffchaffs.  On the back reedbed we spotted a male Pintail in company with Shovelers (a lot in eclipse here), Gadwall, Mallard and Teal, a few Little Grebe and one Black-necked Grebe and on the near shoreline a Green Sandpiper and three more Common Snipe were noted as well as a couple of Lapwings and a single Cormorant.  At the far end of the lagunetta a Grey Heron, Moorhens, Common Coots and a juvenile Greater Flamingo were seen.

Great White Egret Egretta alba (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Two Marsh Harriers (a female and a juvenile) flew in and while the juvenile caused the gulls and Coots to scatter, the female came to rest in the reeds on the far left-hand island.  As we left the reserve a Great White Egret was spotted, sitting on the bank of a ditch.

Looks time for the departure of the Great White Egret (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Along to the Cantarranas mirador where we expected to see at least a few Common Cranes - not a sight or even a sound of them anywhere today.  A few Linnets, Pochard, Common Snipe, Shovelers and Stonechats were the only birds around at this spot.

At Laguna Dulce it was very bleak with only a few Gadwall, Shovelers, Mallard, a Marsh Harrier, Black Redstart and Goldfinches plus a huge raft of Coots in the far left hand inlet.  A few Large and Small Whites, plus one Red Admiral and several Crimson-speckled Moths.

Crimsoned-speckled  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

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

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A frosty morning at Rutland Water

Marsh Tit Parus palustris
Monday 24 November

I understand it might have been a little on the windy side back in the Axarquia area of Malaga province.  Her, back in the Midlands of the UK, it was definitely a case of get on your thermals and as many other layers as possible.  Old age shake is one thing bu then add on the minus four degrees and you start to winder why you even bother to get out of bed.  Just think, a fortnight ago I was swimming in our outside, unheated swimming pool!

Record shot of distant Redwing Turdus iliacus
But it might be my last, or even only, opportunity to do some local birding so up and away to nearby Rutland Water and, reaching the site, greeted by both Carrion Crows and Rooks followed by the resident Jackdaw tribe.  Something about Robins back in Blighty; rather than fly away they cam and give you the once-over before disappearing under the car as if you have some sort of built-in trap door that automatically drops food.  So, before buying mp pass for the morning and setting off to the distant Lagoons 3 and 4 a quick look at the feeding station where, as expected, I found numerous Great and Blue Tits but only the occasional Chaffinch and no Greenfinches or Goldfinches nevermind something a little more exotic.

What a lovely "Christmas" Robin Erithacus rubecula

Then it was off to Lagoon 3 calling in at the hides overlooking the narrow Lagoon 2.  No sooner away from the road and I had Blackbirds and a Pied Wagtail but, joy of joys, a pair of Bullfinches feeding in the top of the bush alongside the path.  The single Song Thrush was also a very pleasant sighting.  On the water I found Mallards and Shovelers plus a good number of Cormorants with regular Moorhen sightings.  Lovely to see that the Wigeons were about which saved me having to detour via the North Arm on the way home.  The only Gulls present were Black-headed and, of course there were Mute Swans to be seen at every stop.  With limited birds seen from these hides, the Grebe Hide turned out to be the most productive as I was in time to see a Water Rail take to air, well at least a foot off the water, as it skittled round a corner and up the neighbouring channel.

The ever-present and graceful Mute Swan Cygnus olor
So on to the end of the path and approaching Lagoon 4 I had a small mixed flock of Redwings and Fieldfare in the bushes in front with more restless Jackdaws above me.  A tiny charm of Goldfinches put in an appearance with yet more Blackbirds and then I was looking out over an empty expanse of water with just a couple of isolted Wigeon to keep me company.

Plenty of Wigeon Anas penelope to be seen
So on to the main (Shoveler) hide overlooking lagoon 3 to see what was really about.  A good number of Lapwing along with Mallards, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Ducks, Pochards, Mute Swans and a few Moorhens.  Closer inspection also produced a couple of Herons and even a Little Egret, a local resident of Andalucia which had managed to evade me all through the current month.  A few Gadwall were noted and then my birding neighbour used his telescope to find one of the two Red-necked Grebes that had been in residence for the past week, alongside a Goldeneye.  Meanwhile, the first Egyptian Goose of the morning decided that one of the "aerial" nest boxes would make a suitable perch.

Winter-plumage Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus (above) and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus (below)


Walking to the neighbouring hides duly produced more Wigeon and a number of Great Crested Grebes plus very many Tufted Ducks and a single female Reed Bunting.

One of very many male Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula
Leaving the Shoveler Hide on the return journey I cam across a very relaxed Dunnock that posed nicley at the side of th epath, had a good scratch and then went off in search of an early lunch.  Then it was on to the Information Centre, where I had a few minutes to chat to warden Tim Appleby, I managed to find more Redwings plus a few Starlings and a small number of Wood Pigeons.  Still plenty of Blue and Great Tits on the feeders but now also a handful of House Sparrows and a single Marsh Tit that made numerous brief visits to the same trio of feeders, mainly picking niger seed.  Even a cock Pheasant patrolling around on the half-chance of picking up dropped seeds.

The very obliging Dunnock Prunella modularis

A very short walk to Lagoon 1 picked up a small flock of Canada Geese from the Mallard Hide  then I decided to make it back home as there was still shopping to be completed.  Driving away from the car park I was able to add both Collared Dove and Magpie with a Kestrel hovering alongside the road near Lagoon 4.Still not done as a Red Kite crossed the road in front of me as I drove back towards Stamford alongside the Northern Arm.

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, the only wader on show during the morning


Birds seen:
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Red Kite, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Water Rail, Lapwing, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Robin, Pied Wagtail, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Marsh  Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting.


Always guaranteed a Pheasant Phasianus colchicus at the feeding station
 
Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Ventas de Zafarraya

Thursday 20 November

A magnificent male Ibex  Capra pyrenaica
Normally at this time in November you would need to put many layers on to keep out the cold (well, certain lady member did!) but today it was calm and mainly clear with the sun shining brightly over the cliffs up at Ventas de Zafarraya.  Thirteen members of the Axarquia Bird Group present and, just to show confidence in the weather, one member found that shorts and T-shirt were ample coverage.  What was it they said about "mad dogs and Englishmen?"  Lovely to see Christine and Paul Stockton with us as part of their holiday and also  a long-awaited participation from my special friend Andy Paterson from Torremolinos.  David and Ann Jefferson along with Liz and Marcus Routes had driven over from Competa whilst Gerry Collins had made the long trip from Salobrena. Not to be missed after our recent exploits up in Aragaon, Steve and Elena Powell joined in the fun and then we had our local residents from Triana, discounting myself from Lake Vinuela, Jim Moore and Dan Wilkinson.  Very good birding company for the morning.

A little chilly as we gathered at the mirador near the old railway bridge and much of the early time was taken up watching the large family of Ibex including a magnificent male.  Elena finally counted a minimum of seventeen individuals as they scramble ever nearer down the cliff face to take up a close rest on the nearby rocks.  Then the first bird seen was a Song Thrush so, all being well, a good morning's birding would seem to be at hand.  This was backed up when we had continuous sighting of a rather handsome male Peregrine Falcon plus the first Black Redstarts and Rock Buntings.

Distant Peregrine Falcon Halcon Peregrino Falco perigrinus (What is he carrying?)
There followed a couple of Rock Sparrows on the wires and the first of ant Blue Rock Thrushes and Black Wheatears.  It would appear that many of the local Crag Martins had yet to descend to lower heights as they flew all around us whilst, more sensibly, a rather lovely male Stonechat simply perched on a stick and watched over all the excitement.  But the real reward came when Andy Spotted a Citril Finch was later watched at great length by Elena as the rest of the party walked the track via the old tunnel for a kilometre or more.

One of a few Rock Buntings Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia seen along the track
Thekla Larks and Rock Buntings on the track in front and then both a Greenfinch and Blackcap just below us on the left.  First the call and then we all looked up as the resident Chough flock, probably about an hundred on this occasion, rose from behind the cliff to our right before momentarily disappearing.  A couple of Serins flew back behind us whilst the small charm of Goldfinches flew ahead and who would not want to miss the occasional Rock Sparrow that put in n appearance.  Before starting our return walk tot he cars we had a single Kestrel on the wires and a very obliging Southern Grey Shrike that remained long enough for everybody to get a good sighting.

Here come the hundred Choughs Chova Piquirroja Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Then the piece de resistance as an immature Golden Eagle drifted over through the clouds above the cliff face.  It may appear on the Facebook page but certainly David managed to get a cracking photo of the raptor.

More of the same as we made our way back with many Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrushes and Crag Martins - but the Ibex herd had moved on save for the odd individual.  On the other hand, a male Great Tit was a welcome addition.

The well-concealed male Blackcap Curruca Capirotada Sylvia atricapilla

At this point eight of us drove through the village to the hinterland and the recently ploughed and harrowed fields in search of the local lark population.  A first stop just inside the "Magpie Woods" produced both Blackbird and Mistle Thrush along with a small flock of Meadow Pipits, Chaffinch and a Robin.  A few Azure-winged Magpies were noted as we drove on having spent more time at the stop looking for the magic "monkey toy" than the corvids themselves!

Once near the arable fields both Crested Larks and Corn Buntings were seen followed by a good-sized flock of Calandra Larks.  Indeed, as we pulled up a single Sky Lark took to the skies and away from us whilst, apart from both House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings, a small number of Lesser Short-toed Larks were identified along with their larger cousins, the Calandar Lark.

Record shot of the distant Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua

Another Kestrel and more White Wagtails seemed to sum up the morning until Steve spotted the lone Little Owl on small rocks near the road.  Whilst the owl flew off before we could all get our cameras and bins out, it did return and we all managed to see this small chap.  So ended a rather pleasant morning just as the cloud arrived but not before we had managed to record 35 species if you include the numerous Collared Doves seen both at the bottom and lower slopes of the climb up to the pass.


Birds seen:
Golden Eagle, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Calandra Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Citril Finch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.


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

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A week in Aragon

Lots of Red Kites Milano Real Milvus milvus to be seen
19 November 2014

Along with Steve and Elena Powell (Jenny was unwell so did not travel) I took the AVE high-speed train from Malaga to Zaragoza last Tuesday (11th) to spend a week visiting birding sites both south and north of the city.  Good weather and absolutely fabulous scenery as the  leaves changed from red to goldens with the coming of autumn whilst, in the Pyrenees we had magnificent gorges and rushing rivers to accompany the colours of autumn,  Truly "gorgeous" as you might say.  Birds?  Not as many as we expected but, nevertheless, some wonderful sites and, I think, we managed to record six of our targeted eight species, the exceptions being Duppont's Lark and the illusive Wallcreeper.  I think that definitely calls for a return next June!  Great Bustard, Alpine Chough, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Short-toed Lark and the magnificent Lammergeier; all were seen.

One of three Lammergeier Quebrantahuesos Gypaetus barbatus appearing out of the clouds above
Great journey up with speeds of 300 kph on the screen and then the hire car collected in readiness for the following morning where we took in the large laguna at Gallocanta.  We had expected to see  in excess of 20,000 Cranes but, evidently, winter has been late in arriving in northern Europe and the birds are only just beginning to turn up in large numbers.  Indeed, we saw a number of large flocks heading towards the lake and, on enquiring, were told that only 8,000 have been counted a couple of days ago but at this moment there were now at least ten thousand.  A magnificent sight as the birds gathered and then took to the air.  We also had our first Hen Harriers of the winter with at least a handful of ringtails but had to wait another couple of days before seeing our first male.  Another addition as we set off to tour the lake was a rather lovely Merlin that dropped into the bank in front of us - but not before we had a good view.

Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus by the thousands at Gallocanta
The steppes around Belchite were our destination for day two and here, in addition to more Hen Harriers and Golden Eagle we picked up both Sandgrouse and Lesser Short-toed Larks along with many smaller birds.  The biggest disappointment in an area conserved by SEO was to come across three different hunters out with their dogs and guns; not at all what we would have expected! Lovely to see Dartford Warbler and a good-sized flock of Linnets but we did also find Common Starling, Ravens and many, many Carrion Crows.  And it would seem, not all of the White Storks have retreated southwards as in an area on the outskirts of Bujaraloz where a farmer was ploughing a field with his tractor we had half a dozen along with at least twenty Buzzards and a score or more of Red Kites.  Magnificent sight.  We were just thinking that we were going to miss out on the Great Bustard when a large flock, about fifteen, birds flew over the road on the edge of the same time. What birds other than Cranes, Flamingos and geese fly in "V" formation?  Not Greylag Geese as Steve mentioned the sandy-coloured front and then the proverbial penny dropped; Great Bustards. Despite having to change my memory cad we got reasonably close to the group before they took off and as they passed I realised that I had reached 58 rather than 15!  Yes, our flock had picked up the birds already feeding.

Then the first of the Great Bustards Avutarda Comun Otis tarda arrived in front of us
Friday and Saturday saw us exploring the Rio Veral below Anso and the Hecho Valley.  What an absolutely spectacle these are at this time of the year even if we did not find the Wallcreeper.  We did have a Peregrine Falcon and loads of Buzzards and Red Kites but the sight of not one but three Lammergeier was a something really special that will be treasured in the birding memory bank.  It was also in this area that we recorded dozens of Griffon Vultures and found our Alpine Choughs.

A few of the Griffon Vultures Buitre Leonado Gyps fulvus at rest on the Belchite steppes
Making our way back towards Zaragoza on the late Saturday afternoon, having driven down the most scenic route from Santa Maria near Jaca towards Huesca via Ayerbe we called in at the the Embalsa de Sotonera where we found a Great White Egret and a quartet of Oystercatchers; now that was something different and quite unexpected.  Again, another route to return to and this time find time to visit the castle at Loarre and the wonderful rock formations of the Mullos de Riglos near La Pena.

The upper reaches of the beautiful Hecho Valley

Sunday was very strange as, on arriving, we found little water if any at the ox-bow lakes west of Zaragoza so drove up to the lake at Sarinena.  Skylark, Kingfisher and Penduline Tits plus a very late Barn Swallow, but just the one.  On the water itself Mallards and Teals plus a couple of Shelduck and a pair of Pintails with a number of Cormorants and Grey Herons.  In addition, both Little and Great Crested Grebes were sighted but not the resident Water Rails.  Other good sightings included a number of Marsh Harriers, a small number of Greylag Geese, Hoopoe and a rather close Reed Bunting.

Monday was spent sight-seeing in Zaragoza itself and then it was the Tuesday morning high-speed train back to Malaga where we discovered the heat once again!  All I have to do now is find the suitable photographs to add to the blog so readers may need to be a little patient!  Do I add the Azure-winged Magpies seen from the train in the north of Cordoba or leave the visit total at a reasonable 76 species?

There seemed to be Hen Harriers Aguilucho Palido Circus cyaneus (mainly females) everywhere
A few points on planning.  Other than the first night no hotels were reserved and we had no problem finding very good, cheap accommodation.  If travelling by train as a party, it is cheaper to buy a "table" (four passengers) than three individual tickets.  Never mind the pensioners discount of 40% from Monday through Thursday, it was still FAR cheaper to purchase the table, especially valuable if not everybody is over sixty-five years of age.  car hire from "Goldcar" was good and cheap even if we did have to "pay through the nose for the full tank of fuel including a refill charge.


Birds seen during the five birding days:
Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Pintail, Teal, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Red Kite, Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Coot, Crane, Great Bustard, Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Calandra lark, Short-toed lark, Lesser Short-toed lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Shy Lark, Crag martin, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Penduline Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Magpie, Chough, Alpine Chough, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Raven, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, 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.

Monday, 10 November 2014

When will we find the illusive Jack Snipe?

Tuesday 11 November

John and Jenny Wainwright took off to the fields in and around Huetor Tajar yesterday and, like the ABS field visit on Saturday, also failed to find the wintering jack Snipe.  But we know the little rascal is somewhere in the area so, no doubt we will all be back for another effort well before Christmas.  For me, and possible John and Jenny, a first in Spain when we eventually succeed.

Huetor Tajar: Monday 10 November

A bright but very fresh day, until the afternoon when it warmed up considerably.

After getting the brakes fixed and having a word with Mick Richardson about the Jack Snipe, we ventured down to the said area.  Lots of Chiffchaffs, House & Tree Sparrows about as we entered the track. After parking we walked up and down the ditch, putting up enroute a Common Snipe and a Green Sandpiper. The trees round the first house on the left were full of House Sparrows, Black Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers and Goldfinches.

Hoopoe Upupa epos (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
We drove from there to the newly excavated stream where very little bar a couple of Grey Wagtails, more Chiffchaffs and Meadow pipits were seen.  Back round to the main arroyo and here in the poplar copses scores of Azure-winged Magpies were seen. Having our backs to a copse and looking out onto a small garden area we found Serins, Hoopoes, Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows, Black Redstarts, Stonechats, Crested Larks and White Wagtails. In the copse to our rear we had Greater Spotted Woodpecker, more Azure-winged Magpies, Blackbirds, Song and Mistle Thrushes, Wood Pigeons and Blackcaps.

On the fields surrounding this area we saw Cattle Egrets, Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, Meadow Pipits and again the inimitable White Wagtails.

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Moving over to the Ajo factory fields we found a few Stone Curlews and good flocks of Lapwings.
Around in a big circle and back to the Jack Snipe area, a splash of red in the reedbed gave us a group of ten to fifteen Common Waxbills, these were feeding in and around the small bushes to the right of the reed bed. Another darkish bird landed in the reeds here and after turning to face us gave us our Bluethroat of the day. Lots more House and Tree Sparrows here as well as Meadow Pipits and White Wagtails, while in the ditch area a Cetti´s Warbler serenaded us.  Over the reed bed a pair of Common Kestrels were quartering and then a whoosh and a male Merlin flashed past us after a Meadow Pipit, and as he passed over the meadows, another flock of Lapwings took off.

Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild (PHOTO: John Wainwright)



Shame about the Jack Snipe but still some lovely observations.


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

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Huetor Tajar with the ABS

Saturday 8 November

We found the Little Bustards Sison Comun Tetrax tetrax
Along with twenty-two other members I joined Mick Richardson in Huetor Tajar for the November field outing of the Andalucia Bird Society.  The forecast had promised rain and it was certainly very misty with low and necessary for windscreen wipers as I drove over the mountain from Zafarraya to Loja but, in the event, it proved a quite calm day and almost ideal for birding.  So, one and all, we had a very enjoyable day.

Lovely to see some Tree Sparrows Gorrion Molinero Passer Motanus in the mixed sparrow flocks

The morning was spent in the agricultural fields around the town centred on the winding Arroyo del Vilano to the north.  Even before we set off from our meeting point a few of us managed to see the Peregrine Falcon fly over our heads and, as soon as we arrived at the arroyo, we had a succession of House sparrows, White Wagtails and Spotless Starlings.  However, a little closer observation soon picked up a couple of Grey Wagtails and a sparkling Kingfisher dashed down the stream.  No shortage of Stonechats and the occasional Blackbird but it was the quartet or more of Common Snipe that caught our attention albeit the wintering Jack Snipe was not to be found.  The neighbouring fields held good locks of lapwing but I think we were all pleased to record our first Bluethroat of the day along with Black Redstarts and numerous Chiffchaffs.

The handsome Grey Wagtail Lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea

Feeding Cetti's Warblers in the ditch were a pleasant change whilst overhead there seemed to be continuous movement of Wood Pigeon flocks.  The bushes around the arroyo held good mixed flocks of Tree Sparrows, Serins and Chaffinches and, of course, there were many charms of Goldfinches to be seen.  A lone Hoopoe sat on top of a dead tree stump but at least four others were active in the opposite field along with a number of Meadow Pipits.  Larks were represented by Thekla and (mainly) Crested but also a small number of Sky Larks.  We even recorded both Mistle and Song Thrush plus a number of Blackcaps and a Sardinian Warbler.

Hoopoe Carraca Europea Upupa epops looking out over his domain

A little further away we watched a Kestrel carry a prey item mobbed by smaller birds followed by another Kestrel.  Both birds seemed to fighting over the same object but ere long they flew away "empty handed" or even empty talloned!  Interesting to see a trio of Grey Herons and a handful of Cattle Egret in the area and then the discovery of a good number of Azure-winged Magpies moving through the olive trees at the back of the field.

Which Kestrel Cernicalor Vulgar Falco tinnunculus won the fight?

Just the one Great Tit before we found the Linnet flock along with a number of Greenfinches, Chaffinches and more Serins and, finally, we managed to track down a Water Pipit feeding at the edge of the stream.

Moving to the fields at the opposite end of the village we finally found one of our target birds, the Little Bustards.  A small number of both Calandra and Sky Larks to distract the group but the score or more, far less than usual, could avoid our attention no longer.  Next it was on to the usual site where we also found our Stone Curlews; but how many?  far, far less than we might have expected but these chicken-like birds with their beady yellow eyes are so difficult to find when thy hunker down for the day.

can you find the Stone Curlews Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedicnemus and how many?
Look again; I can find at least ten!
Whilst many stopped for lunch some of us pressed on eastwards along the agricultural road to the relatively nearby Laguna del Regidor.  here we found a small number of ducks including Mallard, Pochard and Teal but mainly Shovelers.  There were also a number of Coots and Moorhens along with Little Grebes plus a departing Grey Heron and a couple of Green Sandpipers.  Whilst here we all recognised the distinctive calling and looked up to find a flock in excess of 150 Choughs passing over.

Resting Green Sandpipers Andarrios Grande Tringa ochropus
Driving over towards the Caucin valley a tree full of Corn Buntings and then, on arriving, a single Southern Grey Shrike but no Black-bellied Sandgrouse today.  But there was a considerable flock of Calandra Larks.  As I left the site to make my way back home via Alhama de Granada I was seen on y way by a sentinel Magpie and, having seen one, I seemed to see many more for the remainder of the journey to Alhama.  In the end a very pleasant day in most enjoyable company and over fifty birds recorded.


Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Southern grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.


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

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sierra Loja for the Ring Ouzels



Thursday 6 November

Following John and jenny wainwright's visit to the Sierra Loja yesterday, I set off just after nine this morning in the hope that I could replicate their observations.  Lots of birds on the way including the expected House Sparrows, Spotless Starlings and both Collared and Rock Doves - but no White Wagtails this morning as I drive down towards the lake from Los Romanes.  Again, nearing Loja I started to pick up both Serins and Corn Buntings and even had a resting Kestrel just beyond Venta del Rayo.  Good numbers of Azure-winged Magpies about and more as I entered the track to drive up the mountain itself.  The target was to find the Ring Ouzels in the limited time that I had at my disposal so not too fused about many stops on the way to the top.  However, the most common bird of the morning was the Goldfinch with numerous charms seen both before and all over the Sierra Loja.

Feeding Goldfinch Jilguero Cardueli carduelis

Nothing to see at the lower picnic quarry but the main quarry produced both a small number of Crag Martins and a delightful Dartford Warbler.  Driving through the trees I had very little to see as I seemed to be accompanied by first a quartet of mountain bikers and then the forestry workers thinning out the pines.

A very cold Meadow Pipit Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis

No sooner past the tree-line than I had first a Black Redstart closely followed by a pair of Meadow Pipits.  No jackdaws or Choughs seen but I did hear the latter when at the top.  Just the two Red-legged Partridges then I stopped to watch a pair of male Blue Rock Thrushes and a male Blackbird also decided to join the festivities.  About now I experienced the first of very many charms of Goldfinches seen during the next hour or so.  One tree held a large flock of Corn Buntings  and then, rounding the bend, I stopped o watch another Red-legged Partridge cross the track.  he/she was joined by another and then a third.  Before I knew what was happening I had counted ten individual and then, suddenly, the rest of the covey took off to fly over the track taking the others with them away down the slope.  I gave up after counting the first eighteen!

Three before the score plus Red-legged Partridges Perdiz Roja Alectoris rufa
Turning off to the right to pass the ponds on my way to find the target bird I cam across the first of the mushroom pickers.  They seemed to have arrived as family parties and during the next few kilometres or so I must have past or seen at least a dozen cars with their occupants similarly engaged.  And yet the whole time I was in their sight, both outward and on the return journey, I never saw one person bend down to actually gather a mushroom.  I t mad me think of the old Lonny Donnegan song, "They must all be toadstool as the're no mush rooms here!"

Distant female/juvenile Ring Ouzel Mirlo Capiblano Turdus torquatus
Eventually I arrived at the designated area for the hawthorn bushes and managed to see, probably, as many as a score of Ring Ouzels, mainly females and youngsters but the occasional male.  Unlike John yesterday, the birds were well-hidden in the bushes and only appeared for a few seconds as they fled away to lose themselves in a similar bush a little way off.  Very difficult to actually find a bird that could be photographed.  What to do?  Black Wheatears on the rocks below and both Rock Bunting and Rock Sparrow as I made my way back towards the ponds - where I found yet more mushroom pickers.  However, the predominant species was the resident Thekla Lark of which there seemed to be scores, they were all over the place.

Another distant Ring Ouzel Mirlo Capiblano Turdus torquatus plus the one that got away just as the camera clicked!

I then set off to the alternative valley as recommended by John and eventually found the scattered hawthorn trees and bushes, like the first site, well sourced with both red and black berries.  Again, at least a score of Ring Ouzels in the area but they, too, were not co-operative and refused to pose for photographs.  The Stonechat posed nicely and even a trio of Red-legged Partridges wandered by but the Ring Ouzels just dispersed as individuals as they flew away to more distant bushes whilst I ate my lunch.  How frustrating and I doubt whether I will now have another date in the near future to try again before the birds disperse.


Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Dartford Warbler, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.



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

The Ring Ouzels are back - in abundance

Wednesday 5 November

had a text message about midday from john and jenny wainwright to let me know that tey had just sen between 20 and 30 Ring Ouzels up on the Sierra Loja.  John's report arrived this morning confirming same plus another flock of about the same size in the next valley.  With the birds lining up to be photographed and neither John nor jenny needing to even get out of the car, I am beginning to think that this two-some is an "avian green-finger!"  last week a Dipper posing nicely on the wall of a static pond near Alcaucin and now all these on-hand Ring Ouzels.  If green-fingered gardeners can grow anything anywhere, then I am beginning to think that John and Jenny only have to step outside theirr house and something rather delightful, of an avian nature, will drop at their feet!  For me?  Well I travelled over the same two sites today (Thursday) and saw about the same number of Ring Ouzels but mine were very scatty and always semed to be dashing to the centres of thick, well-leaved and berry-clad hawthorns.  My blog will follow next with the disappointing photos.


Sierra Loja: Wednesday 5 November
 
A very bright but fairly cold day (4C @ 1600m) with a stiff breeze.
 
As the forecast looked pretty miserable for the weekend we decided to go "rousel" seeking up in the Sierra Loja; quite a good choice in hindsight.  Anyhow after having coffee at our "local", we took the autovia tunnel entrance to the site.  Our first sightings were of  two female Black Redstarts and a Chaffinch and Crossbills.  All was very quiet - possibly due to the forestry work being carried out in the area - until we reached the "Eagle Owl" quarry.
Here we heard ( no sightings at all today) three separate Dartford Warblers calling, also about were Stonechats, a Sardinian Warbler, Jackdaws, Serins and five Spanish Ibex including a very handsome buck.  In the tree-line we found Great Tits, Short-toed Treecreepers, a family of Long-tailed Tits and more Chaffinches.


Moving on up to the cliffs we had a very brief view of the Little Owl on the cliff top, whilst on the grassy slopes Meadow Pipits were noted, on the other side of the track on the downslopes we found more Stonechats, Jackdaws and Meadow Pipits plus male and female Black Redstarts, Red-legged Partridges, Thekla Larks, Chaffinch and a Southern Grey Shrike.  Another Dartford Warbler was heard.  Between here and the substation valley, we saw Linnets, large "charms" of Goldfinches, a Northern Wheatear, Rock Buntings and yet more Stonechats, while in the valley we found another Northern Wheatear, a Little Owl again.  It was a wonder we saw any birdlife as there were people milling all over the mountain today looking for Ceta mushrooms - and by their despondent looks not very successfully either.



Male Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Nothing extra was seen on the way through the turbines and we decided that due to the number of people about we would skip the "ponds" area and head directly for our favourite catchment area where we hoped to find the "rousels".  We were not disappointed either as the Ring Ouzels were everywhere; in the hawthorn bushes, among the rocks and on the grassy areas - this was regardless of the "mushroomers".  We did get some strange looks as we poked our cameras out of the car windows and were clicking away for a good hour and a half.  We counted over thirty birds - these comprised of mostly females and juveniles, with a few males.  We also saw a Crag Martin, lots of Black Redstarts (mostly female) and a Blackbird here.



Female (above) and more Ring Ouzels Turdus torquatus (PHOTOS: Jenny Wainwright)

From here we made our way across to the "Fossil cave" area and beyond, here, we found another large influx of Ring Ouzels - possibly twenty or more.  We had better views this time as they came off the bushes to drink at a puddle on the track itself.  Also we found a single Greenfinch, Chaffinches, Black Redstarts, Linnets, another Blackbird, two Mistle Thrushes, four Chough, three Black Wheatears and another Crag Martin.  A covey of Red-legged Partridges broke cover as a first winter Golden Eagle came over the cliff top across the face and landed about half a kilometre away on the cliff itself.  It only stayed for a couple of minutes but long enough to get a few "record shots" of it.



Record shot of first-winter Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
As we approached the "ponds area" a group of eleven Griffon Vultures soared by and on the cliff face by the bottom pond we saw Rock Sparrows, more Linnets, Black Redstarts, another Northern Wheatear and Goldfinches, also two more Spanish Ibex were noted among the rocks .

On our way back to Salar using the back roads a Sparrowhawk came across the hedgerows, saw the car, jinked and dropped its prey - I didn´t know which one to feel more sorry for!


Still a very successful trip and the target bird(s) located, no Alpine Accentors seen yet.



Great sightings John and Jenny; shame mine were not so forthcoming.


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