Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Osuna with the Andalucia Bird Society

Saturday 25 April

Buzzard Buteo buteo
Following a very good day's birding on Friday (see previous blog) I spent the night at a quiet hostal in Los Corales in readiness for the relatively short drive over to Osuna to join the second field visit this month of the Andaucia Bird Society.  The twenty minutes or so drive over the mountain produced a gorgeous Red Kite, the only one seen all day, and a Griffon Vulture and then we twenty-two set off on the "Osuna triangle" in search of Great Bustards, Collared Pratincoles and Rollers amongst others. Great news, all three were seen on this calm and cloudy day with just the occasional brief period of hazy sunshine.

Taking the country road westwards alongside the new, unfinished high speed railtrack we soon saw numerous Corn Buntings and Crested Larks along with House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Goldfinch and even a Zitting Cisticola.  A small number of Bee-eaters were heard as they passed high overhead.  Naturally, whenever we came across human occupation we also found both Rock and Collared Doves.  Our first stop was at the first high bridge over the above track and we soon picked up the seven or more ravens that were flying around.  A couple of Marsh Harriers but then at least six Black Kites resting on a rocky outcrop not too far distant and then a Griffon Vulture drifted across the far side of the neighbouring olive grove.  There seemed to be no shortage of Red-legged Partridges and a local Common Kestrel went through his hovering procedure as he sought out his morning breakfast.  Finally, hidden in the distant wheat field, we found our first Great Bustard.  Fortunately it was on the move or we would never have found it even with our massed ranks of scopes.  As it was, what we saw was just a head showing about the cereal crop.  This and the following bridges seemed to be playing host to a large number of Red-rumped Swallows, presumably nesting below.

The hiding Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
Time to move on to the second bridge and as we last two cars came down to take the road we stopped to watch the Stone Curlew that was resting under an olive tree.  Then it was on to catch up the other five cars and see our first Montagu's Harrier of the day, a most handsome male.  A very high Booted Eagle was seen along with the first of the Gull-billed Terns and a Sky Lark was soaring and giving us a sweet flight song.  Looking over the distant fields towards the third bridge we then found a small, exposed flock of distant Great Bustards including at least a couple displaying males. Now a question of how much nearer to the birds we could approach with our cars on the way to the third and final bridge.

Part of the distant flock of Great Bustards Otis tarda
Whilst the other cars took to the track alongside the new railway, I followed the road in the hope that we might find the Collared Pratincoles.  Indeed we did and in good numbers along with at least an hundred Gull-billed Terns, some wheeling around above us and the majority resting on a farrowed field.  Also seen were more Corm Buntings and a few Calandra Larks.  Whilst watching the Collared Pratincoles a single Blue-headed Wagtail leisurely walked past without a care in the world.  Them, taking aright turn to drive up to the final high bridge a quartet of Lapwings in the sky along with a handful of Lesser Kestrels.  From the top of the rise we had much closer and better views of the Great Bustard flock and managed to count at least fifteen.

Collared Pratincoles Glareola pratincola found on the expected site

Just before we were all once more together, in addition to more Montagu's Harrier and Raven sightings we saw a quick flash of a Turtle Dove, heard it singing and then it reappeared to perch on a nearby electricity wire; the first of the year.  We were to hear at least two more during the day.  Our final stop in this area was at the turn to the ruined farm where we came across a large flock of Spanish Sparrows and a second Roller having found one on the pylon as we drove along the road.  Also present were numerous Rock Doves and a couple of Common Swifts flew over.  Whilst listening to, and finally sighting, a Nightingale we also had the pleasure of seeing a Melodious Warbler but could not find the suspected Sedge Warbler.  However, the final bird on this corner was the sudden appearance of a Green Woodpecker that flew from the olive grove into the dense trees on the pother side of the track.

Not only gorgeous Montagu's Harriers Circus pygargus but a first Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur (below)

We then headed off to La Lantejuela where arrangements had been made for a private, escorted, visit to the local reserve based at the ponds collecting the grey water which is normally shut to the general public.  Not just Serins and Barn Swallows on the way but both a Southern Grey Shrike and a lone Little Owl resting on the roof of an old barn as we passed the farm.  No sooner had we entered than we had a sight of our first Little Egret passing over and a pair of Glossy Ibis rose out of the long grass on the right.  A good number of Flamingos were resting on a pool to our left but as we approached they took to the air to join their "friends" on a neighbouring, larger pool.  Also on the original water were a couple of Little Grebe, Mallard and the odd Black-necked Grebe.  Calling in the tree to our immediate left and eventually seen was a rather lovely, if somewhat shy, Olivaceous Warbler.

The Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus change pools
The next pool held a flock of Black-necked Grebes and the opposite pool provided Gadwall, Common and Red-crested Pochard.  By now we were seeing many Cattle Egrets as we approached their nesting colony and also found were a few Night Herons.  No shortage of either Coots or Moorhens and a couple of dozen White-headed Ducks.  A distant view of one of the resident White Storks was achieved.  Overhead numerous Barn Swallows and fewer House Martins but also a single Sand Martin was spotted.  There were also a few Yellow-legged Gulls and Black-winged Stilts plus at least a couple of Common Sandpipers. Cetti's Warblers were screaming their heads off at the last hide where we also obtained a better view of the Night Herons along with more Spanish Sparrows, a Greenfinch and a Hoopoe as we made our way to the cars.

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricolis in almost full summer plumage
Our final stop was at the Laguna Verde de Sal where we found a number of Flamingos but precious little else in the almost dry pool.  We did eventually find both a Little Ringed and a Kentish Plover and both Sardinian Warblers and Southern Grey Shrikes were flying around the edge of the area. And so time to make our way back to the starting point and our respective journeys home but not before adding yet another lovely Marsh Harrier, more Spotless Starlings, Blackbird and a Jackdaw.  A long day and very tiring but thoroughly enjoyable in good birding company and a total of about 70 species recorded.

Male White-headed Duck Oxytura leucocephala (Come late autumn the beak will have turned almost black)

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Little Egret, White Stork, Flamingo, Griffon Vulture, Red Kite, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Lessser Kestrel, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lapwing, Yellow-legged Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Swift, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Nightingale, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Olivaceous Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinelus

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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