Friday, 20 February 2015

Birding Tour: Osuna and Brazo del Este

Friday 20 February
Day 1: Osuna and Brazo del Este

With Saturday scheduled as the February meeting of the Andalucia Bird Society down in Bonanza just north of Sanlucar de Barrameda in Cadiz Province on the eastern bank of the might Guadalquivir, it seemed appropriate, especially given the distance involved, to make the most of the time and do some additional birding both before and after the meet.  So, on the outward journey a quick deviation at Osuna in Sevilla Province to check out the steppes and then the afternoon wandering through the Brazo del Este before finally arriving at Chipiona for my first overnight stop.  And who know, perhaps even the Little Swifts might be back in town.  Departing the mountain at 9.15 in a clear, calm and sunny weather the day turned out to be lovely and warm and just a few light, wispy clouds in the azure sky by late afternoon.

Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows as I came off the A92 motorway at Osuna to tale the, almost, parallel country road alongside the new high speed rail track and hen the first of a number of regular sightings of Red-legged Partridges.  A pair of Ravens landed to my left and, indeed, these corvids were to put in regular appearances before I re-joined the motorway an hour later.  Stonechats, Cetti’s Warblers and Crested Larks as I made my way to the first new bridge and then scope out to check the fields.  A strange brown “blob” in the centre of the nearest field turned out to be a resting Marsh Harrier with a lovely golden crown.  Then, my side of a distant hedge, a group of twelve Great Bustards working their way along and through the breaks happily feeding.  Target achieved!

Two of the distant dozen Great Bustards Avutarda Comun Otis tarda
Next up as I approached the turn over the third bridge towards La Lantejuela, a female Hen Harrier soared out of a ditch immediately in front of me showing off both her “ring tail” and white rump.  Common Kestrels on the electricity pylons as I drive up to the first bend and back along with more Crested Larks and Red-legged Partridges.  The journey between here and the motorway then produced a number of Corn Buntings, Goldfinches and a pair of Barn Swallows.  Stopping to check out the temporary pool beneath the new railway track produced a good number of Black-winged Stilts and a small flock of Yellow-legged Gulls.  Closer inspection identified about a score of White Storks huddled together and even a pair of adult Flamingos.  Strange to relate, the shallow water even held a lone Shelduck and on the sandy bank in front a number of Lapwing were bust feeding.

Great Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacocorax carbo
Just before reaching the motorway a Buzzard took off from its resting place on a roadside telephone pole and as I travelled south towards my turn off for Cadiz I also added a flock of Rock Doves, Cattle Egrets and Black Kites as I passed close to the well-known rubbish dump.
Collared Doves welcomed me upon my arrival at the Brazo del Este and by 1.15 I had entered the track leading through the now arid rice fields.  Time for a long drink and some necessary food so I stopped at the nearby first pool on the left.  What a place to stop and what birds were seen.  Chiffchaffs buzzing around all over the place and good numbers of Black-winged Stilts in the water along with very many White Wagtails and Shoveler.  Just a couple of Little Egrets and the occasional Little Grebe but suddenly I was looking at good numbers of Avocet and Glossy Ibis and even had up to a dozen well-exposed Purple Swamphens.  As the Stilts moved away from me one bird took off parallel to the track before crossing the road in front and away to the right; long tail and signs of yellow on its “magpie-like” appearance and I suddenly realised I was looking at my first Great Spotted Cuckoo of the year.  Wow!

Lovely to have close views of the many Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus
Too quick and too late to get a reasonable photo, just a blurred image, but it did draw my attention to the smaller reeded pool on the other side of the road.  A single Snipe was feeding along with more Glossy Ibis, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank and a single Water Pipit.

Distant Water Pipit (?) Bisbita Alpino Anthus spinoletta
The next water produced considerable numbers of Great Cormorants and a few Mallard plus a single Wigeon in with the Shovelers.  There were also very many Avocet in addition to more of the birds seen on the first water.  A number of Grey Herons were present and at least three Great White Egrets were also recorded.  However, by far the largest group were the fifty or so feeding Black-tailed Godwits along a solitary Spoonbill.

Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia
After all this excitement if was up and away and straight down to the harbour at Chipiona where, at four o’clock, I met up with Gill and Micky Smith for a well-deserved coffee and the hope that the Little Swifts would be back in residence.  As far as we could see they were not but a couple of House Martins had started investigating the traditional nesting site and, of course, there were Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls to be seen.

Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba
So ended Day 1 with a total of 49 species recorded including 5 new birds for the year.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Great Bustard, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Cetti’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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