Thursday, 5 May 2016

Out with Marieke - Quail & Spotted Flycatcher

Tuesday 3 May

Our dear friend Marieke Berkvens from Belgium once again finished her bi-annual visit to the Tarifa area with a couple of nights here with Jenny and I so a good opportunity to find some different birds from all those Honey Buzzards (but not so many this year a she thinks she arrived about a week too early).

Collecting Marieke from the Torre del Mar bus station we headed off in the very warm sunshine for a late afternoon visit to the Rio Velez in the hope that there might be something about and even, fore as Marieke saw hers in Tarifa, a first Spotted Flycatcher of the year. Greeted by the resident Rock Doves and a couple of Goldfinch we soon saw both Spotless Starling and Blackbird before heading down towards the hide and picking up a couple of Serin along the way.  A Grey Heron took off upstream and below us in the overgown vegetation we managed to also find a Moorhen on an exposed puddle of water.

A Common Kestrel was resting and calling from a nearby pylon and as we stopped to look made a bid for freedom to come to rest a few metres along the wire.  By now we had a few Collared Doves calling and moving about with many feeding House Martins overhead.  The occasional Barn Swallow put in an appearance and all the while the Nightingales and Reed Warblers were singing below on the riverside of the track and with Bee-eaters overhead.  From the hide we had a good sighting of a female Melodious Warbler along with a dozen or so busy-feeding House Sparrows.  The sight of a pair of Hoopes in, presumably, their breeding habitat was a joy to watch.

The beach produced nothing other than a small assortment of humans in a various state of undress and looking upstream we could see a handful of Coots along with a pair of Mallards and two gulls, one each of Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls.  An amusing moment as a Purple Heron, presumably disturbed by a wandering nudist in the reeds to our right, shot across the water just as the Yellow-legged Gull took off.  Drastic evasive action required to prevent the former from spearing a meal far too big to contemplate!  meanwhile, the Barn Swallows and House Martins continue to feed overhead and were joined by a very small number of Common Swifts.

So on under the bridge and upstream where we not only found the marauding Monk Parakeets but also my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year followed as we finally made out of the site by a couple of Crested Larks.

Spotted Flycatcher Papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata

Wednesday 4 May

A full day away from the birds than with Marieke for an evening visit to the Charca de Suarez.  I though I had left it late to depart but, in the end, we were about fifteen minutes ahead of schedule so took the diversion down "Turtle Dove Alley."  Still warm but much cloudier now, presumably getting ready for the forcasted rain to come over the next ten days or so.

Approaching the ruined building on the left half-way down the lane I was not surprised to see the resident Little Owl sitting on top of the chimney.  More interesting though, with the windows open, was the sound of the calling Quails.  Having stopped at the ruin so that Marieke could take a look at the Red-rumped Swallows' nest, and see the birds, was the fact that we counted at least four, if not five, calling Quails.  Meanwhile, a Zitting Cisiticola sat on top of a nearby reed wondering what on Earth we were up to.

Turtle Dove Tortola Europea Streptopelia turtur
Arriving at the Charca de Suarez reserve itself we were greeted by numerous House Martins, a few Barn Swallows and many more House Sparrows.  With less than ninety minutes available it was a case of a quick clockwise tour of the pools and than back to spend the final twenty minutes or so at the now very popular Laguna del Alamo Blanco.

Little Grebe Zampullin Comun Tachybaptus ruficollis

The pools themselves very quickly produced both many Common Coot, Moorhen, Mallards and a the odd Little Grebe but all the time we could hear the calling Turtle Doves.  Not to worry, we soon found at least three individuals.  The Laguna de las Aneas held, as might be expected, most birds including a couple of concealed Little Egrets and a juvenile Cormorant which was later joined in ts tree by an adult.  One very distant Night Heron was seen along with a "collar ringed" Red-knobbed Coot and a single Common Pochard. Again, many feeding hirundines as before but mainly House Martins.

Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata

Moving on to the Laguna del Trebol we had close views of "normal" Red-knobbed Coots along with Little Grebe and a single White Wagtail.  In addition to Goldcrest and singing Nightingales, Reed and Cetti's Warblers, including the site of two juveniles of the later which jumped out of the bush in front of us, we also had a closer, though somewhat obscured sight, of yet another adult Night Heron.

Night Heron Martinete Comun Nycticorax nycticorax

Our final stop at the Laguna del Alamo Blanco, with Marieke finding a Greenfinch on the way, finally produced a few waders with single Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandiper, Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover.  The odd Moorhen, Mallard and Coot and even a late Little Egret put in an appearance.  Time to leave and as we approached the gate we had our last bird of the  day, a Spotted Flycatcher sitting on the fence overlooking the Laguna de la Juncia.

Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charaddrius dubius 

On the other hand, perhaps our main memory of the day was when approaching the Laguna del Taraje upon arrival the crashing and banging of undergrowth as a quartet of adult Wild Boar Sus scrofa along with two piglets burst out of the bank's vegetation on our left and dashed across the track in front of us. Even as we recovered from the shock and with smiles on our faces a third, and presumably missing piglet, chased after the rest of the family.  Great sight to see.

Wood Sandpiper Andarrios Bastardo Tringa glareola

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Night Heron, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Common Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Little Owl, Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, barn swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Melodious Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch and Chaffinch.

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

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