Monday, 5 January 2015

Super Sunday at the Charca!

One of many Chiffchaffs Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita
Sunday 4 January

Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus
What a way to spend your wife's birthday; best of both worlds!  Whilst Jenny was at morning church I collected Ceri Levy form Maro and joined David and Ann Jefferson along with Steve Powell for a glorious, sunny morning at the Charca de Suarez reserve on the western outskirts of Motril.  When I say we joined Steve I think it was in spirit, not of the liquid variety, more than person.  Steve arrived about fifteen minutes after we four and, unbeknown to us, followed the same circular route starting with the new Laguna del Alamo Blanco pool.  However, on leaving this new water we cut back to the Laguna del Taraje to see if we could find a Little Bittern (we could not) before the potential masses arrived.  Meanwhile, Steve did not so, again unbeknown to us, he was now walking ahead and trying to catch us up!!!  We eventually found Steve at about 12.30 when we made a return visit to the above pools only to discover what he had seen in our absence.  Not to worry, between us we had a great morning an I got back to Nerja in time to meet Jenny and along with Steve and Elena, we had a great birthday lunch and, probably, far too much to eat.  No wonder it was almost 6.30 when we finally got back to the mountain top.

Mrs & Mr Paddleduck akar the Mallard Anade Azulon Anas platyrhynchos
All parked up, greetings exchanged and off down to the Laguna del Alamo Blanco where we found mainly Teals along with good numbers of Chiffchaffs, they were everywhere, a couple of Mallards and the odd Shoveler.  No sooner had a female marsh harrier passed over than we also had a departing Blackbird and a couple of White Wagtails.  A little work with bins and scopes soon revealed a pair of Snipe followed by a single Black-winged Stilt.  naturally, we had already seen both House Sparrows and Collared Doves but very few Spotless Starlings about.  Next to the Teal, the most common bird present was our friendly Moorhen with many sightings.

Cetti's Warbler Ruisenor Bastardo Cettia cetti seen at both Lagunas del Taraje and del Trebol
Whilst we then made a slight detour back to check out the Laguna del Taraje for a possible Little Bittern, which we did not find, Steve following along behind us managed to watch a rather beautiful Moorhen swimming ashore immediately in front of him and left his camera dangling as suddenly realised, no beautiful Moorhen but a Water Rail!  Too late, the bird had disappeared and the opportunity missed but, on the other hand he also had a small flock of Red Avadavats pass over head.

A very "tame" Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio
Back at the Laguna del Taraje, our time was mainly occupied watching the antics of at least three Purple Swampens at close range.  Always lovely to see these birds when they start feeding using their toes like fingers; go on, you try and pick up a biscuit in your toes and then pop it into your mouth!  Chiffchaffs all over the place until Ceri found a "very white" specimen and drew our attention to the bird.  The bird flicked about here and there and never seemed to pause in an open space but, patience rewarded, we did eventually get that close view with the bins to confirm that the Moustached Warbler(s) were back at the Charca.  Great news.  Mallards, ShovelersCoots, Moorhens and Little Grebes but no sight of the Little Bittern.

Moustached Warbler Carricerin Real Acrocephalus melanopogon on the Laguna del Taraje
By now, although we did not realise it, Steve was in front of us but gone by the time we reached the main hide overlooking the Lagunade las Aneas, passing Robin, Black Redstart and Great Tit on the way, we found all the usual culprits with a good number of both Coot and Moorhen along with Little Grebes, a few Heron and a Little Egret.  About  a dozen Cormorants were using the water and main island to wash and rest and, again, lots of Chiffchaffs and White Wagtails.  Another Purple Swamphen made use of the side cover and in addition to both Mallards and Shovelers we found a at least a dozen Common Pochards.  The only gulls to be seen were a handful of Yellow-legged Gulls.

Red-knobbed Coot Focha  Moruna Fulica cristata without the seemingly obligatory marking white collar. 2014 youngster?
The Laguna del Trebol was viewed from both hides  at the opposite ends and confirmed that a number of Red-knobbed Coots still occupied the water including the, presumably, un-ringed youngster from last year.  Every time I see these adults they look more and more like a visiting priest from the neighbouring bird church with their thick white "dog collars!" WhiteWagtailsChiffchaffs, Moorhens, Common Coots, Mallards and Shovelers in attendance but this is the water for finding the Red-knobbed Coots.  On the other hand, we did have a very close view of a foraging Cetti's Warbler at the southern end of the water.  Whilst in this area Ceri stepped outside the hide in time to see a Kestrel drifting away over head and so it was on tho the final pool, the Laguna del Lirio where more of the same were found including yet another Red-knobbed Coot and a pair of Gadwall.

Gadwall Anade Friso Anas strepera
So, time to spare and a return visit to the Laguna del Taraje to see if we could find that illusive Little Bittern.  It was here that we finally caught up with the disappearing Steve who had been busy watching and photographing the object bird at close quarters!  Leaving the hide, as the bird had once more retreated into the reed-bed, only a short stop ensued so you need to check out the Axarquia Birds and Wild Life Facebook page to see Steve's evocative shots of this bird including one showing an elastic neck!

One of many Great Cormorants Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo on the Laguna de las Aneas
All together at last at the starting water where we also added both Water Pipit and a rather lovely male Reed Bunting along with a quartet of Ringed Plovers.  So ended a most enjoyable three hours or so with, between us, some marvellous sightings.  Travelling back via "Turtle Dove Alley" not only did we see more Stonechats and a rather lovely male Marsh Harrier but we also added Serin, Goldfinch and Corn Bunting.  Indeed, we even had a Grey Wagtail hop up onto a car mirror and then proceed to walk up the windscreen to the car's roof as we set of towards the motorway and home.

This Little Grebe Zampullin Comun Tachybaptus ruficollis would appear to be a BARREL of laughs!
Water Rail, Little Bittern, Moustached Warbler, Red-knobbed Coot, Purple Swamphen? You choose your "bird of the day" on our behalf from the 40 species recorded.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Snipe, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Moustached Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Serin, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

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