Thursday, 31 December 2015

250 Birds - at last!

Wednesday 30 December

At last, I have achieved my magic total of 250 species seen in Spain and at the very last minute, almost literally.  Not only reached but, at one point, I thought beaten with  last minute sighting.  I am not expecting to do any birding today on New Year's Eve, a final total of 250.  But who's counting?  Well I am!  And the funny thing is that the target was achieved almost at the very end of my visit and quite unexpectedly.

Up early and off to the Guadalhorce in Malaga with the sun shining down from a clear blue sky and not a cloud in sight in any direction.  The sea was like a mill pond but, on the other hand, the early morning temperature was actually colder than yesterday's cloudy start.  Arriving at the mouth of the western canal of the Guadalhorce a quick look at the beach and sea revealed a small number of Cormorants and a small flock of Lesser Black-backed GullsWhite Wagtails, Blackbirds and House Sparrows around me and, as ever, already the raucous Monk Parakeets informing all and sundry that they were up and out to play.  On the river eight Pochard were paddling quietly upstream and, no doubt, considering whether or not it was time to pop in he reserve and enjoy one of the lagunas (there was certainly plenty of water to be seen when I eventually got there.)  Next it was up to the main entry to the track leading up to the footbridge into the reserve and park the car.  Passing a Robin and the just the odd Coot on the river and the resident Rock Doves under the motorway bridge but further upstream a large gathering of Cormorants were resting on the water.

Male White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala
Walking over to the Laguna Casillas hide I had the first of many Stonechat sightings plus at least fifty Cormorants flying in low overhead, presumably form the river I had just crossed, and was then greeted by a small flock of White-headed Ducks, along with a number of Coots, immediately in front of the hide.  A handful of Little Grebes were bust feeding and were almost immediately joined by the arrival of a dozen Teal.  A Moorhen paddled across and the first of the Chiffchaffs and Goldfinches that were to be regularly recorded put in an appearance.

Then the Teal Certa Comun Anas crecca arrived
Next it was the Wader Pool and here at first sight everything seemed completely empty.  However, I eventually found the sleeping Snipe and the pair of Stonechats occupying the territory along with more feeding Chiffchaffs.  I am not sure which brought the greater pleasure, the arriving Greenshank or the Bluethroat and came out of the shrubbery and posed nicely in the Stonechat's tree.  Cetti's Warblers continued to sing all around me and a Sardinian Warbler was spotted in a low bush.  The first of two sightings of Greenfinches was behind the hide as I started my walk down to the Sea Watch to check out the beaches, now freshly cleaned and all debris removed, and the immediate hinterland.

Juvenile Bluethroat Ruisenor Pechiazul Luscinia svecica (above) [note the lack of a white spot in the centre of the bib] and male Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus (below)

What I did notice was that there was not one single bird on the old river, Rio Viejo.  Nada, nothing and the first time that that has been may experience when visiting the Guadalhorce.  Also a first, during the while time I was present on the reserve I saw not one Little Egret.  On the other hand, approaching the beach I had first a Black Redstart and then Meadow Pipits.  To my left on the western canal was a quite large flock of Black-headed Gulls and the Cormorants continued to move back and forth into and out of the reserve.  With fishermen either side of the Sea watch and a digger working on the "sand" away to my left nothing to see out at sea so I mad my way back where a final visit to Laguna Casillas turned up something special.  Busy watching the Teals and White-headed Ducks which had taken shelter I suddenly had  ten Common Pochard drop onto the water but a closer look through the bins revealed that only eight were Pochards as they were accompanied by a pair of Ferrugnous Ducks.  Lovely to watch them bathing in a natural setting.

Ferruginous Duck Porron Pardo Aythya nyroca and with female Pochard Porron Europeo Aythya ferina (below)
Then it was on to the Laguna Escondida passing a couple of Zitting Cisticolas on the way but, again, this water had very little bird life.  A handful of White-headed Ducks and a couple of Little Grebe just about summed it up.  Another disappointment was not seeing the Black-headed Bunting that can often be found here if anywhere on the reserve so still no number 250 for the year.  On the other hand I did see my first Crag Martins of the morning.

Cattle Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis at the Laguna Grande

Finally to the Laguna Grande and the main hide.  Again, lots of water and very little feeding area for any waders which probably explains why I saw none until I found the quartet of Greenshank sheltering on the small island to the back left along with some Cormorants.  Indeed, I pot a better view when a passing Marsh harrier happened by and put the waders up for a short spell until all was quiet.  This also led to me finding a pair of Lapwing sheltering on the ground to their right as I looked from the hide.  On the water many Little Grebes but also a pair of Back-necked Grebes.  A small number of Shoveler were about plus a trio of Shelduck and, finally, three Mallards appeared in the centre of the water for a few minutes and then disappeared about as quickly as they had arrived.

Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuelinegro Podiceps nigricollis

That seemed just about it and whilst looking at the gathered Collared Doves in the trees to my left I realised that there was no Booted Eagle this morning and I had not seen a single Spotless Starling.  Scores and scores of Cormorants and two or three Herons but no Little egret.  Five Cattle Egrets ventured out over the Cormorant colony on a couple of occasions and they were obviously resting some where at the back.  It must have been my wishful thinking as no sooner had I thought of the Spotless Starlings than about a dozen turned up in a tree to my left and on closer inspection discovered that the group also included a couple of Common Starlings.  A last close look at the trees to the back of the water through  the scope picked up a small raptor low down in the greenery.  A clear look at its darkish head and "streaked" chest but seemed to small for a Kestrel.  As I watched and started looking for other identification signs the bird dropped down out of the tree but still basically well-hidden and swooped round the back but sufficient time, as I was still looking through the scope, to realise that I had found a roosting Merlin.  Not only my last bird of the day but, low and behold, the magic number 250 for the year.  Great, now I can go home happy!

Little Grebe Zampullin Comun Tachybaptus ruficollis in the early morning low sun
Back at the car and still only 11.55.  I wonder?  Fuengirola can only be about twenty minutes away as i am almost on the motorway so I might just as well pop down to the watch point near the light-house on the off-chance that the Purple Sandpiper might still be present at hits regular wintering quarter.  leavi9ng camera and scope in the parked car near the bus stop (in the lay-by just off the motorway) I made my way up and over the footbridge.  A quick look to the east reveled what appeared to be a small number of waders on the beach about a hundred metres away so decided that I would look here before walking up to the hide.  I even managed to get closer having already identified a quinted of Sanderling, a single Kentish Plover and a couple of Turnstones.  On arrival behind the crash barrier and looking almost straight down on the birds I watch d a s a Whimbrel dropped it to feed in and around the rocks.  Sanderlings are very skittish individuals, always jumping here, there and everywhere and running around like headless chickens so nu wonder they have "canutus" as part of their scientific name as they try to keep the sea at bay.  But wait a minute, only four of the Sanderling are behaving in this manner; one has stayed behind happily resting on one leg and taking no notice.  At this point it dawned on me that the bird looked a little larger and fatter than the normal Sanderling and instead of a short black bill had a rather longer, curved appendage.  Yes, a winter-plumaged Curlew Sandpiper.  A walk up to the hide not only produced more Sanderling and Turnstones but also a single Ringed Plover to take the morning's tally to 47 birds for I headed home.

Sanderling Correlimos Tridactilo Calidris alba along with a visiting Kentish Plover Chorlitejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus (below)

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Merlin, Moorhen, Coot, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Snipe, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

Time for the Turnstones Vuelvepiedras Comun Arenaria interpres to take their morning ablutions

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

El Robledal

Tuesday 29 December

Day 2 of my three-day sortied to try and find that elusive 250th bird for the year and off to El Robledal in the Sierra Tejada with Jenny.  Yesterday's visit to the Rio Velez was an also impossible mission given that the only potential bird might be a Common Scoter off the coast but that was not to be.  Today, however, there was more than a reasonable chance of fining a Hawfinch and, provided there was a good number of Chaffinches about, the chance of a Brambling as a back-up possibility.

Things got off to a very bad start when we ventured out f the door and saw the complete cloud cover, the first of very many weeks, and even a hint that we had had a few spots of recent rain, enough to mess up the windscreen.  As we approached the heights at Ventas de Zafarraya the cloud level became lower and lower an soon we were driving on full headlights.  See the birds?  At this rate we would be lucky to see the trees and bushes a the side of the track.  However, approach the track off the main road to El Robledal, passing White Wagtails, Spotless Starlings and Collared Doves on the way, the skies looked decidedly brighter as if, after all, we might yet see some sunshine.  Sadly, although the weather remained dry, and by no means cold, it was not to be so very poor light and I did not bother to take a single photograph.  We soon added Black Redstart and the first of a few Chaffinches along with Stonechat.  A Wood Pigeon flew over the car and, on getting out for a closer look at a small spinney, we heard both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Robin.  A circular walk around my usual short walk produced a pair of cackling Jays sounding just like a pair of randy "tom cats" out on the tiles at four in the morning and then both Mistle and Song Thrush in the tall tree next to the ruined farm by the car park.  A final delight was a small charm of Goldfinches and a trio of Rock Buntings as we made our way home via the back lane to the Pantaneta near Alhama de Granada.

The water here held a number of basking Cormorants plus a small group of Pochard, a couple of Coot and a Little Grebe.  Hiding in the reeds was a Grey Heron and n the far bank I found a handful of resting Mallards.  Then, still full of low cloud and a dampness in the air we made our way home and passing through the "Magpie Woods" and "Muck Heap" also managed to pick up Meadow Pipit, Serin, Tree Sparrow and Azure-winged Magpies.  Finally, as we drove past the "Corn Bunting Fence" we were rewarded by the sight of no fewer than ten of the names species.

But no new birds for the year.  On the other hand, just as yesterday when two new birds for December took the monthly running total o exactly one hundred, another two species had been added to the monthly list.  Now it looks as if all will depend upon tomorrow and the last birding trip of the year with just two days left in 2015.  Will I or won't I achieve my goal?

Birds seen:
Mallard, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Heron, Coot, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtails, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Monday, 28 December 2015

Rio Velez, Totte del Mar

Monday 28 December

Not particularly early arriving at the Rio Velez on the western outskirts of Torre del Mar and parking in my usual place below the road bridge at the start of the track down to the sea.  As usual, greeted by both the resident Rock Doves and Moorhens along with numerous Goldfinches and Chiffchaffs hopping around the larger trees.  Then a meet with Nigel Smith, a long-distant member of the Axarquia Bird Group from Barnsley (and avid Sheffield United supported.  Well, someone has to show some pity for the poor old "Blades.") and presently holidaying in Nerja till the end of the week.  On his way home having arrived by day break, Nigel had recorded loads of Mediterranean Gull, the departure of the Cattle Egret roost and even seen a Wryneck, Kingfisher and Hoopoe so he was well-pleased.  Whilst we had a short chat a flock of about 80 Sky Larks was wheeling above the field being ploughed and more Chiffchaffs were busy feeding in he track-side hedges and bushes.  t the same time there was a constant calling from the local Cetti's Warblers and the first of a few Zitting Cisticolas flew over the track.

Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis
And on the field to my left just the one, solitary Cattle Egret.  Amazing given that there were at least 200 roosting in the nearby reed-beds overnight.  Perhaps it brings to mind the alternative saying that it is the late bird that catches the worm!  Obviously, this chappy had had a lie-in recovering from a bad hang-over (New Year come early) or a night on the tiles and was the last to get up and get away and, in so doing, discovered the tractor ploughing the nearby field to reveal all sorts of edible goodies!

Departures made I carried on down tot he hide with its now restricted view but at least, unlike my last visit, I could actually see something of the river.  All that I saw from the hide were a number of Serins,Goldfinches and a Stonechat.  So back to the car with, now, the sun behind me and I managed to find a pair of skulking Mallards.  Then it was back to the hide in the car so that I could walk down to the beach.  Fortunately, not too many people about and I was able to pick up a Heron, Little Egret and a handful of Coots.  A number of White Wagtails and Moorhens were feeding/foraging around the rubbish deposited in the middle of the lagoon with a single Little Grebe just beyond and on the beach a single Sanderling and Kentish Plover.  Out at sea, resting on the calm waters, a number of Mediterranean, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Mediterranean Gull gaviota Cabecinegra Larus melanocephalus
Making my way back to the hide I then recorded the only Monk Parakeet of the morning and spent no inconsiderable time scoping the distant feeding Crag Martins in the hope that I,too, might find the individual Barn Swallow previously seen by Nigel.  No such luck.  More Serins, Goldfinches, a Robin and House Sparrow plus very handsome male Back Redstart.  Also, well concealed in the vegetation nearer the river, at least a score or more of Mallards were taking their rest.

Green Sandpiper Andarrios Grande Tringa ochropus
Rather than drive straight back to Mezquitilla, I diverted under the bridge and lightly upstream to check out the clearer water.  Sitting quietly in the car under the trees I was able to watch the flock of bathing Spotless Starlings and then realised that they had been joined by a couple of their Norther or Common Starling cousins, obviously down here rather than be anywhere near the storms and tempests of north-west England!  Plenty of feeding White Wagtails near the water and Chiffchaffs in the trees immediately in front of me.  It was whilst watching the latter that I managed to see the Wryneck but, sadly, it just would not come out from the far side of the leaf-strewn branches.  Similarly, whist watching the Starlings of both varieties I saw the Green Sandpiper dash upstream and then reappear and wait to be photographed.  Also present was a single Meadow Pipit and a quartet of Sanderling who had obviously decide that this was to be the stretch of rive on which they would feed until further notice.  Another male Black Redstart before finally heading off home.

Two of the quartet of Sanderling Correlimos Tridactilo Calidris canutus at the Rio Velez

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Green Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Wryneck, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Zisticola, Chiffchaff, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

A couple of Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris (above) mixing with Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor (below)

Bathing time with a single Common Starling Estornino Pinto Sturnus vulgaris to the left
The ever-present Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

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

Friday, 25 December 2015


25 December

 A very peaceful and joyous
Christmas to all readers

Bob Wright, family and friends

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Still searching for number 250

Early morning Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus
Tuesday 22 December

Really running out of time now as I try and find that elusive new species that will take my annual Spanish total to the magic (for me) 250 mark.  Yesterday I was up early and off in the dark so that I arrived, still with headlights on, in the fields above the Cacin valley in the hope of finding a Black-bellied Sandgrouse.  An hour spent in the cold morning searching without vain so that was one target bird missed.  Strange, and a first, when you think that the first bird seen during the day as a Southern Grey Shrike and I was see at least three others before returning home including the afternoon sighting up on the Sierra Loja.  I set out with four potential birds that might take me to the 250 mark; Brambling on fields near Huetor Tajar and, just maybe, a Redwing or Fieldfare up on top of the Sierra Loja.  I had been warned by Mick Richardson that whilst the local weather was turning much colder it was still probably not cold enough to bring in a possible wintering jack Snipe and he proved to be quite right.  Similarly, no Bramblings which was not surprising given the fact that there were also very few Chaffinches about and up on the Sierra Loja the berry harvest seemed to have been exhausted much earlier than last year so the only thrushes seen were an in individual male Blackbird and a Mistle Thrush.  That leaves a week to find any of the above plus a Hawfinch (no luck at Arroyo Marin last Sunday), a Tufted Duck (Where is there any fresh water?) or even a possible Common Scoter off the coast.

A lovely Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus catching the early morning sunshine

But there were other birds to be seen.  Apart form the early Southern Grey Shrike, the field area produced a small charm of Goldfinches and White Wagtails along with a Greenfinch, Kestrel basking in the early morning sunshine and a Hoopoe.  As I left the area not only did I pick up Crested Lark, Wood Pigeon and Collared Doves but also a good number of Jackdaws mixing with a lock of at least 50 Common Starlings, making a mockery of the handful of Spotless Starlings seen just round the corner!

The uncommon, for Spain, Common Starling Estornino Pinto Sturnus vulgaris
Then it was on to Huertor Tajar and a walk along the path at the far side of the town.  No sooner had I started and I almost tripped over the very close Bluethroat.  Again, this was to be the first of a quintet seen in the next hour or so but, as so often happens, I was carrying the tripod and scope rather than the camera.  No shortage of Black Redstarts, White Wagtails, House Sparrows and Stonechats but then I started to pick up a wider selection including a rather lovely Grey Wagtail, a single Meadow Pipit, the first of the Lapwings and a small flock of Tree Sparrows.  Onwards and then able to scope the wintering Stone Curlews who seemed to be lined up against a black water pipe.  One long line of Stone Curlews having a morning nap and it did strike me as if they were keeping themselves warm as the sun heated the, presumably, water in said pipe.  I estimated, including the sleeping birds on the sandy soil, to be about two hundred individuals present.

One of 200 sleepy Stone Curlews Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedicnemus
A drive around the area produced a large flock of Lapwings and in the river a single Snipe along with yet another Bluethroat along with Chiffchaffs and Blackbirds.  A Cetti's Warbler was calling from cover and a walk to check out last year's Jack Snipe habitat found another Bluethroat and a Kingfisher at the small pool.  The final port of call was the Cacin river site which produced numerous Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails and then both a number of Meadow Pipits and fewer Water Pipits.  A number of Azure-winged Magpies were feeding in the area and Blackcaps and Sardinian Warblers were in the trees and hedges at the far end followed by a couple of Chaffinches as I searched in vain for the unsettled Little Bustards.  I ended up taking another look at the Stone Curlews form the opposite side and not the best for photographs given the sun's position.

A Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia getting his feathers ruffled!
With the only chance of reaching the magic 250 being the wintering thrushes I made my way up the Sierra Loja with just the two stops; one to check out the main quarry where was still no sign of the breeding Eagle Owl (another species that I have missed this year) and then for a break fr lunch at the Charco del Negro.  All very quiet here as the mountain in general as apart from the Little Owl as I approached the electricity sub-station.  It took a long time to find the first Red-legged Partridge and at the top the only thrushes to be seen were, as reported earlier, the single Blackbird and Mistle Thrush.  I did find ore Stonechats and Black Redstarts and it was lovely to have a handful of Rock Buntings posing in the bush top to my left.  On the other hand, I did add a single Black Wheatear and a handful of Rock Sparrows to the day's list which just managed to reach the forty mark.  Finally, as the sun decided it was time to think about easing back for another day, a rather obliging Southern Grey Shrike posed, it seemed, indefinitely to my left enabling to take a few photographs.

Southern Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Kestrel, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Snipe, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Whatear, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush,  Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff,  Southern Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Common Starling, Spotless Starling. House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting.

Other birds seen:

Kingfisher Martin Pescador Comun Alcedo atthis
Linnet Pardillo Comun Carduelis cannabina
Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene Noctua

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

Sunday, 20 December 2015

In search of number 250

Sunday 20 December

The weather fine calm and the promise of more sun so I drove over to the Arroyo Marin near Archidona in the hope of finding a Hawfinch which would bring my 2015 Spanish species total up to my magic number of 250.  But, sadly. it was not to be.  Spotless Starlings, Collared Dove and White Wagtail as I entered the track down the arroyo and then the first of many Blackbirds seen during the couple of hours that I was present.  Next both Blue and Great Tits along with a regular supply of Robins but still not the target bird.  And the, nicely posed at the top of a bare tree what looked like the silhouette of the Hawfinch.  Camera up and firing away to make sure that I had a record followed by the use of my bins and a look at the taken photos to confirm that, rather than the target bird, it was a Crossbill.

Male Crossbill Piquituerto Comon Loxia curvirostra
Ah well, onwards and upwards as I walked both directions from the footbridge and added a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  On the other hand, a rather pleasant surprise at the far end of the track as I followed a pair of Chaffinches with my bins as they paused on a small bush opposite the car and revealed something else lurking within.  The Chaffinches were soon up and away but my mystery bird gradually exited from the centre of the thick bust to reveal itself as a rather lovely "Jenny" Wren.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Pico Picapinos  Dendrocopos major
My return journey took me via Salar where I was able to call in and see John and Jenny Wainwright to wish them festive greetings and, more importantly, check how Jenny was recovering following her car episode last week.  Unlike James Bond, jenny was both shaken and stirred but with John's care and attention I think she will be fine soon and out and about again ticking off those birds.  Also added as I crossed the arable fields approaching the "MagpieWoods" near Ventas de Zafarraya were both Magpies, Common and Azure-winged, a Tree Sparrow, small flock of Linnets, Stonechats and at least a quartet of Mistle Thrushes.  Lots of Chaffinches about but again, alas, no sign of any accompanying Brambling.  That just leaves ten days to find my "missing" bird; will I or won't I succeed before the year's end?
Birds seen:
Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, White Wagtail, Wren. Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Linnet, Crossbill.

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

Friday, 18 December 2015

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Fuente de Piedra

Thursday 17 December

First we counted a hundred, then another hundred and finally over 800 Cranes Grus grus
The last meeting of the year for the Axarquia Bird Group and just the nine of us at Fuente de Piedra in search of the wintering Cranes.  A lovely calm and sunny day, somewhat cool when we met in the Visitors car park  at 9.30 but becoming increasingly warmer as the morning progressed.  I have never seen Fuente as dry as it was today and, other than the barely damp area on the main laguna (as was!) and just one very small, shallow area of water which held the 200+ Flamingos, one could have been forgiven for thinking that we were visiting the "Badlands" of Arizona so dry and barren looked the site. But despite the arid conditions we managed to record almost 50 species before most of us retired to the village for a (disappointing) menu del dia - and even then he had a White Stork drift immediately overhead as we sat outside n our shirts sleeves, just a week short of Christmas Day.

Arriving with Jenny, and putting up a Hoopoe that was feeding alongside the entrance road, just after Mick Richardson we were immediately greeted by an overflying Raven whilst on the field housing the "Kestrel Tower" a large roost of Lesser Black-backed Gulls was observed along with the feeding Jackdaws and Lapwings. Soon we were joined by both Marcus and Liz Rootes along with Steve and Elena Powell and we made our way up to the mirador in front of the Visitors Centre where we had the exposed dry expanse of nothing in front of us.  As stated above, the Flamingos were on a large group to the left and also nearby a similar number of Black-headed Gulls.  Also present just a few Mallard and a dozen or so Shelduck making the most of what little water was present. Below us the constant movement of a few passerines including Robin, Sardinian Warbler and Blackcap plus the first of the Black Restarts and StonechatsChiffchaffs above us in the trees and just the suspicion that there might even have also been a Firecrest and then Jenny returned form her wander round the back having found both Goldfinches and Serins.

Both the latter were found as we made our way round to the laguneta having now been joined by Eric and Pat Lyon and here we did find a good depth of water with the accompanying Little Grebes, Mallards, Shovelers, Pochards and Teal.  Even a couple of Snipe feeding at the edge of the largest island and a number of Coots and Moorhens.  Above and around us the constant movement of Jackdaws, Spotless Starlings and the local Rock Doves.

Walking back along the lower level and over the causeway before reaching our cars we recorded numerous Blackbird, Greenfinches, Corn Buntings and White Wagtails along with more Black Redstarts and StonechatsCetti's Warblers had been heard so we were now ready to start our circuit of the laguna.  In addition, we also managed to find a pair of Great Tits and Spanish Sparrows and whereas Mick and a couple also managed to see the only Marsh Harrier of the morning, most of us pondered over the pair of very distant resting large raptors that were almost certainly Golden Eagles rather than Spanish Imperials.

Both a Kestrel and a handful of Red-legged Partridges before stopping just short of the Mirador de Cantarrannas produced a rather lovely Black-shouldered Kite and a Buzzard.  Not just a few Thekla Larks in the field to our right but a flypast of a small flock of Sky Larks which had left a handful of Calandra Larks behind them on the other side of the road.  The stop to look out from the mirador itself only served to confirm how arid was the laguna albeit the sun on the damp area did produce a most beautiful reflection of Fuente de Piedra.  And then , to the far right,the sight of our first Cranes as a flight of about a dozen birds could just be made out in the far distance.  So where were the Cranes?

Moving on to the back of the laguna we certainly found our target birds with at least 800 individual Cranes feeding on the harrowed fields to our right.  What a magnificent sight, especially when individuals took to the air; always a wonderful sight.

Cranes Grus grus spread out in rows as above were a sight to see at the rear of the Fuente de Piedra laguna
And so on round to complete the circuit but without finding any Stone Curlews.  We did have more Corn Buntings, Black Redstarts and a second Black-shouldered Kite along with Thekla Larks and a Kestrel.  A single Cormorant flew away from us and, as already mentioned, we finished the day with the White Stork flying over the village itself.  What a lovely day day with lovely company and a very peaceful Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year to all the members of the Axarquia Bird Group and readers.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Cormorant, White Stork, Flamingo, Black-shouldered Kite, Golden Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, White Wagtail, Robin, Back Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Jackdaw, raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Monday 14 December

Off to Malaga this morning to change the address on my car tax and what a wasted journey that proved to be!  So, with a little time to spare and the sun trying to shine on a very calm day I came home via a couple of hours down at the Guadalhorce where, first of all, I checked out the lower end of the western canal where the water was now running freely into the sea and the sea itself for any sign of gulls etc.  Then it was back to the main entrance where I spent just under an hour taking in the main Laguna Grande before walking back with a short deviation to the Laguna Escondida.

Approaching the river mouth I had a number of Spotless Starlings and the occasional Blackbird and then a small flock of Serin feeding on the bank.  A friendly Monk Parakeet came to feed on seeds almost at my feet whilst the rest of his motley crew screamed and dashed around overhead.  Cetti's Warblers were calling and a Sardinian Warbler dashed for cover into a nearby bush.  Below me a single female Black Redstart was foraging away whilst a solitary Heron rested on the opposite bank.  At this point very few House Sparrows and just a couple of Crag Martins feeding overhead.  Out at sea the  occasional Cormorant and distant Lesser Back-backed Gulls with a few Black-headed Gulls nearer the port.

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus

Crossing the footbridge I noticed that a few of the resident Rock Doves were roosting in their usual place under the motorway bridge and a Moorhen crossed the river.  A couple of good-sized charms of Goldfinches were feeding on the abundant seeds in the nearby meadow.  The it was on to the Laguna Grande passing a small number of Shoveler in the river approach plus a considerable number of feeding Goldfinch.  Strange to see a small roost of Collared Doves at the base of a distant tree and then to the hide itself to observe the laguna.   Certainly no shortage of Cormorants with over seventy in residence along with about a dozen Heron.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

On the water a few Mallard and Shoveler but also a couple of White-headed Ducks along with about a dozen Coots.  At the far side many Little Grebes and a trio of Black-necked Grebes whilst in the tall trees at the back I found both a Marsh Harrier and a Booted Eagle.  However, much closer and to my left a second Booted Eagle posed very  well.  Below me a Chiffchaff was well occupied and a good number of Crag Martins were feeding above the water.  Once the Marsh Harrier had taken to the air over the far side of the laguna she disturbed the, till then, hidden waders so revealing a Redshank and a a quartet of Marsh Sandpipers which took shelter on the small, distant island to the right.

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Walking to the Escondida I had a White Wagtail for company on the track and looking back at the man water I could see that there were now two Marsh Harriers in the air, a magnificent female and juvenile.  Arriving at the small laguna most of the birds were at the far end including a large number of Gadwall and a handful of Teal.  More Moorhens and Coots but just the one pair of Mallards.  A male Stonechat posed in a bush to my left and more Goldfinches arrived to feed in the nearby weeds.

Gadwall Anas strepera
Job done and time to get home and as I left the hide and looked up i was in time to see the local Osprey returning to the main laguna.  The last bird recorded was a single Robin as I approached the track back down to the road and my car.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Heron, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Moorhen, Coot, Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-headed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cettis Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch

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

Monday, 14 December 2015

Charca de Suarez

Sunday 13 December

A very busy week ahead of me today promising to be the best day in the coming week I took off for a couple of hours at the Charca de Suarez in Motril where David Jefferson and Mick Richardson had record a Spotted Crake yesterday.  Approaching I had Spotless Starlings and Collared Doves along with a large number of Cattle Egrets following the tractor as it ploughed a roadside field.   A few Rock Doves put in an appearance and a lone Hoopoe sat in the road and refused to move until I was within a whisker, or feather, f it.  Presumably joining in the festive spirit and playing "Chicken!"

White Wagtail Motacilla alba

Leaving the new laguna till the end I headed straight to the Laguna del Teraje where I soon found scores of Chiffchaff and a couple of Kingfishers.  Also present were many White Wagtails, Coot, Moorhen and Mallard.  Whilst a Stonechat posed in the opposite reeds, Blackbirds flew across and there was the constant calling of Cetti's Warblers. A couple of Crag Martins dropped down to feed over the water and then a single Little Grebe.

Scores of Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita to be seen everywhere
Moving on to the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas, passing a female Black Redstart on the way,  I was soon aware of the large number of Crag Martins present and in addition to the Mallards this water produced both Shoveler and Pochard plus a single Ferruginous Duck.  Lots of Coots and Moorhens but just the one Purple SwamphenLittle Grebes a plenty along with about a dozen Cormorant and one Grey Heron.  Again, more Chffchaffs and White Wagtails.

One of the two Snipe Gallinago gallinago on show at the Charca de Suarez
A quick visit to the Laguna del Trebol produced more of the same but also Red-knobbed Coot and a female Reed Bunting before I head back seeing both Robin and Great Tit towards the new hide overlooking the Laguna del Alamo Blanco where the reed growth looked very lush.  Here the resident ducks numbered a dozen Teal along with a couple of Snipe.  Very few small birds but I did pick up a Zitting Cisiticola.  A single Little Egret dropped in for a few minutes before departing across the reserve and a Yellow-legged Gull made its noisy way overhead.

A fine pair of Teal Anas crecca
My homeward journey took me down "Turtle Dove Alley" where, much to my surprise, I found a Wryneck along with House Sparrows and Goldfinches.   Finally, in a detour to the reserve at Padul where my woodside trail took me to the lake, I managed to record more Mallard, Shoveler and Cormorant before coming across a Southern Grey Shrike and Kestrel.

The Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis on sentinal duty

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Snipe, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldinch, Reed Bunting.

Another gorgeous Little Egret  Egretta garzetta

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