Friday, 26 December 2014

Forget Christmas turkeys, look at the Great Bustards!

Friday 26 December

It would appear that there are always good-sized birds to be found on Christmas Day and not just on the dining tables of the Christian world with their legs up in the air and stuffed with seasonal goodies!  Whilst I was on cooking duties preparing the festive meal and Jenny at church as we awaited the arrival of our guests, John and Jenny Wainwright took off from their Salar home to visit the "triangle" just south of Osuna in search of our own Andalucian answer to the turkey, albeit not for human consumption, and in this they were not to be disappointed. Not only Great Bustards but, as John's report states, good numbers of Southern Grey Shrikes (I still can't bring myself to call them "Iberian Grey Shrikes") and even a wintering Wryneck.  But, most of all, my delight was receiving John's email that he and jenny had, at last, been able to return to the birding world which can only mean that Jenny is at least much better or even recovered; the best Christmas news I could hear from Salar.  Now I look forward to seeing John and Jenny again as soon as possible and wish them, along with all readers, a very happy and healthy New Year with some super birding to come in 2015.

Great Bustards  Avutarda Comun Otis tarda near Osuna (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Osuna 25th December 2014

A cold (-2C) and foggy start to the day but warmed up later

As we were leaving the village we saw Collared Doves,Spotless Starlings, two Jackdaws, House Sparrows and a Chaffinch.  As we turned off of the autovia a few Cattle Egrets were feeding at one end of a field whilst two men were rabbiting in the ditch at the other end.  Along the road to the first bridge there were several small flocks of Spanish Sparrows, also about were Corn Buntings, Sardinian Warblers and Stonechats.

Male Spanish Sparrow Gorrion Moruno Passer hispaniolensis (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
We stopped at one of the small streams here we found Moorhen, more Spanish Sparrows and a Hoopoe, whilst on the fence alongside the railway line House Sparrows, Linnets and yet more Stonechats were noted and in the field in the front of them we picked up our first of many Crested Larks. Then a Great Bustard flew over our heads, heading for the olive groves alongside the Vereda de Rabadanes.

More Great Bustards  Avutarda Comun Otis tarda  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Turning off onto the Vereda de Rabadanes we spotted two Great Bustards feeding in the field, then another five arose from the ground.  We sat in the car waiting to see what they were going to do but they were quite settled and carried on feeding allowing us to take some forty or fifty photos (well, you can never take too many).  As we left the track and rejoined the main road a Marsh Harrier came around the back of the road bridge and off into the distance.  Meadow Pipits, more Corn Buntings and Stonechats were seen before we left the road for the track leading to the new bridge.

Hare today; gone tomorrow  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Our first encounter down the track sitting on the top strand of barbed wire was a beautiful Wryneck, it stayed long enough for one photo through the screen, but then vanished as a Malaga bound train passed by.  Our one and only Serin of the day was then seen along with Goldfinches, Stonechats, White Wagtails, Chiffchaffs and a superb looking Hare was disturbed from the new railway track.  Then our first Raven of the day (this is surprising as we have normally notched up twenty or thirty by now) followed by a second, then a Common Buzzard followed by a Black Kite.  In the fields to our left more Crested Larks and a small group of Calandra Larks rose as we passed, and back again to the fences, where more Spanish Sparrows were seen. Over the "bridge" and along this road a few Common Kestrels (only females though) were seen on the pylons along with several Southern Grey Shrikes.  From over the olive grove on our left, two Red Kites made their entrance showing us their wonderful colouration.  A Common Buzzard approached  from the field on our right and  perched on top of a pylon, displacing its former resident a Sparrowhawk, while below in the grove a large family of Red-legged Partridges scattered in all directions.

A wonderful, wintering Wryneck Torcecuello Euroasiatico Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
We parked in the Vereda del Alamillo for lunch - the rabbiters were here as well, and here - while in between sandwiches and sausage rolls - we spotted Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Corn Buntings, House and Spanish Sparrows a large flock of Black-headed Gulls and a lone Black Stork circled overhead. 

Returning over the "bridge" and turning onto the Marchena road, more Ravens started appearing, then another Common Buzzard and a Red Kite.  As we reached the largish "lake" by the new railway bridge, a huge flock of  some two hundred White Storks were in the fields and on the lake itself we found Black-winged Stilts, Shovelers, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls while in the field to the front of the lake another thirty or so Ravens.

Following the road round we found two occupied storks nests; on one a single White Stork and the other a pair of White Storks.  Another Black Stork was seen here alongside another flock of White Storks circling high above the lake area and as we slowed down watching the olive grove for Stone Curlews (which we dipped on), a Green Woodpecker was seen feeding there but didn´t stay around for a photo session.

One of many Red Kites Milano Real Milvus milvus seen on the day (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Our return journey to Salar gave us Red Kites, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzards and as we got to the Antequera area a massive flock of Jackdaws came to settle in the olive groves just past the new but incomplete railway bridge.

Overall a very successful Christmas Day trip and a Merry Christmas to all followers of Bob´s Axarquia blog. 

John & Jenny (Salar)

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