Friday, 13 February 2015

Axarquia Bird Group at Charca de Suarez

Friday 13 February

What a beautiful day; warm sunshine with clear blue skies and no breeze at all.  It may be "Friday 13th" in Britain but certainly not unlucky here as witnessed by the fifteen members of the Axarquia Bird Group who turned up for the private entry to the Chara de Suarez reserve on the western outskirts of Motril.  Never min the Red-knobbed Coots and Purple Swamphens, or even the Water Rail and Bluethroat seen by Steve Powell, the bird of the day, and seen by all, was the solitary Little Bustard taking refuge on the right-hand side of the main pool, Laguna de las Aneas.  What was this steppe bird doing here?  I have absolutely no idea and, as confirmed when we spoke with the chief warden, Manolo, a first for the site.  Wow!  We may have seen only 38 species during the morning but what a list.  (no doubt, some members will now email me to let me know the birds that I may have missed!)

The colour difference in the Chiffchaffs Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita was very noticeable
Arriving early there was time to make a slight detour along "Turtle Dove Alley" where Crested LarksHouse Sparrows and Goldfinches were seen along with a possible Red Avadavat.  Then it was on to the main entrance where fifteen members were duly let into the reserve for our private viewing.  Blackbirds and Collared Doves plus a single Barn Swallow amongst the Crag Martins overhead as we headed for the first hide overlooking the Laguna del Taraje.  John and Jenny Wainwright had started towards the new pool but turned round to join the main group as a couple of Red Avadavats flew over.

This first water held a good number of Mallards, a couple of Moorhen and more Common Coots along with scores of feeding Chiffchaffs.  The main bird, however, was a Purple Swamphen that remaining for a long tome pout in the open giving splendid views to all and we were to see at least another four individuals during the morning.  Still a number of Crag Martins overhead as we made our way to the now relatively new Laguna del Alamo Blanco which is rapidly filling so no waders; just a single White Wagtail and a number of Teal.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Porphyrio porphyrio

Walking to the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas produced more Goldfinches, Serin and Chiffchaff along with another, distant, Red Avadavat and a Common Ketsrel.  On the water itself a good number of Mallards, Shovelers, Gadwall and Pochards along with a small number of Coots and Moorhens.  Another Purple Swamphen and just the one resting Grey Heron.  Three Cormorants close to the hide were either resting and/or drying their flight feathers whilst Chiffchaffs and White Wagtails "buzzed" around the vegetation.  Then, way down on the right-hand edge, Derek found what he thought might be a Little Bittern hiding in the tall grass and only occasional showing its head.  Derek is nothing if not thorough and persistent and, soon enough, the bird ventured forth into the open ground at poolside and proved not to be a Little Bittern but a female Little Bustard.  What was this steppe bird doing her? No answer to that question but on discussion with the warden at the end of the morning, Manolo confirmed that it was a first sighting at the Charca for this species.  Certainly one up to our little Axarquia Bird Group and well done, Derek, especially as every one got to see the bird.  We even had a friendly Robin walk into the hide to see what all the fuss was about!

Distant shot of the Little Bustard Sison Comun Tetrax tetrax

Meanwhile, Steve Powell had walked on round to the far  (coast) side of the Laguna del Trebol and, no doubt as a result of being on hos own managed to find the illusive and very shy Water Rail along with both a Bluethroat and Grey Wagtail.  When told of the Little Bustard that he had missed he was off to the main laguna and just in time to see the prize bird fly up and away for the reserve.  Steve also managed to be the only one to get a very brief view of a Little Bittern that flew into and out of the Laguna del Lirio.

White Wagtail Lavandera Blanca Motacilla alba
As expected, the Laguna del Trebol duly produced a number of Red-knobbed Coots including last year's youngster which, I am pleased to say, is without a neck collar so that you can see that bird as was intended.  It looks very much as if this bird has paired up with one of the introduced adults and has established a nest site very close to the southern hide.  Also sen from this hide was our first of two Marsh Harriers for the morning and a Great Tit. Whilst leaving this hide Jenny Wainwright managed to fins one of the incredibly small Little Green Frogs Hyla meridionalis which posed on a green reed right next to the path.

Little Green Frog Hyla meridionalis

having enjoyed more Chiffchaffs and another Red-knobbed Coot plus Little Grebe on the Laguna del Lirio we ended the morning back at the Laguna del Taraje where, despite much searching, we were unable to produce one of the wintering Moustached Warblers, just loads of Chiffchaffs and a couple of White Wagtails plus our friendly Purple Swamphen who re-appeared to say farewell to us as we made our departure.

Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata at potential nest site
Another very enjoyable morning with the Axarquia Bird Group.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Bustard, Snipe, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Serin, Goldfinch.   PLUS: Great White Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Black-headed Gull, Hoopoe, Black Redstart, Spotless Starling. 
(Total: 44 species)

Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo with Mallard Anade Azulon Anas platyrhynchos in front

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

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