Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Rambla de Almanzora - Wednesday 30th November 2016

You wait for one then two come along at the same time!  No sooner had I finished writing my blog than in pops a report from the Arboleas Bird Group's visit to the Ramble de Almanzora in Almeria province.  And it certainly sounds as if Dave and Gilly's return to Spain ended with a cracking day's birding.


Wednesday 30 November


A first Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
Gilly & I have returned from our 7 week stay in the UK.  Today the group was meeting at the "ford" overlooking the Rambla de Almanzora under the charge of Alan.  As Gilly was secretary, I suggested I did the report.  There was Les, Val, Colin, Sandra and us three previously mentioned. The weather was OK.  There had been rain overnight in Arboleas. 
Looking down onto the rambla we had Moorhen, Mallard and Magpie.  A Grey Heron and a Black Headed Gull flew by.  Les saw Greenfinch whilst Alan and I happened to be scanning when a Kingfisher shot through our vision.  As we walked up towards the sewage works a male Black Redstart perched on the fencing.  We heard both Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers.  I saw an Iberian Grey Shrike flying away and a pair of Green Sandpipers were flushed.  At the first settling pond there were only Collared Doves and Moorhens.  In the larger pool there were many gulls, which took to the air as we appeared.  Mostly Black-headeds but one or two Mediterranean Gulls as well.  There were Shoveler, Common Pochard and Little Grebe.  On the waters edge further up was a group of 4 Dunlin.  Also seen was a Little Egret and Crag Martins.
We walked back to the vehicles.  Gilly and I got in with Les, whilst the rest joined Alan in his car.  We first dropped down onto the "ford" to check the pool there.  We were rewarded with more Dunlin, a Little Ringed Plover, one Little Stint and four Temminck's Stints.  Sharp-eyed Gilly found a Water Pipit.  We then drove up the far side road below the embankment, seeing Northern and Spotless Starling and numerous pairs of Stonechat.  When we got to the next crossover was ( just near where the Solitary Sandpiper was many moons ago) we were met by workmen doing traffic control.  They were planting a water pipe down the rambla, which meant there were no pools in that area.  (Hope the pools return in due course!)  We crossed over and drove on top of the embankment away from the estuary.  We added Jackdaw by the goat pens and a Kestrel.  There was some water by one of the low dams.  There were two Snipe and some Black Winged Stilt.  We carried on and crossed over to the opposite embankment to head back.  On this side there were a few pools.  We stopped at one which  had two Ruff, the next a Wood Sandpiper.
As we drove on a large bird of prey flew close to our car. By the time we'd got out it had been joined by a second and both were silhouettes.  Les had spotted a pale and streaky chest on the first one and Gilly had managed a distant record photo.  Later diagnosis concluded them to be Bonelli's Eagles, a first for us in this area.  We carried on.  Gilly shouted, "Stop. There's a wader in the left end of that pool!"  Les and I spotted a Green Sandpiper, but we were in the wrong pool.  Gilly said it was a Snipe but different and she'd got a photo.  As we drank our coffee in Villaricos village an examination of the photo confirmed it to be a Jack Snipe, another first for the area!
We then drove down onto the beach, where there was a strong offshore breeze creating high waves. Understandably, there were no foolhardy birds on the awashed harbour rocks!  I usually put the photos at the end, but I'm putting this one in now as a competition. It was taken by Gilly of the rocky outcrop.  There are six waders there of five species. Answers later :-
 Clue...The waders are all on the same level as the big one in the middle!
(PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)

We saw a few Sandwich Tern out to sea before walking over to the estuary pool.  There was a small raft of Common Pochard and a single female Red Crested Pochard with them. There were a few Cormorant, Little Grebe and Mallard, a Little Egret and a Grey Heron. 
Further towards the beach I found four Black Necked Grebe.  We walked to the beach.  As we came into view a large group of gulls/terns took off but thankfully returned.  There were Audouin's Gulls and Sandwich terns. Some Black Headed and Mediterranean Gulls joined later.  Alan spotted a Sanderling and a Ringed Plover.  Four Turnstone flew in.  I found a solitary Gannet out to sea.  Walking back along the beach, hawk-eyed Gilly spotted some waders on the rock outcrop.........the answer is.....from left to right..... Grey Plover, Whimbrel in the middle, Sanderling, Turnstone, Sanderling and finally Kentish Plover!
That concluded our fantastic day out. 55 species in all.  Bonelli's Eagle and Jack Snipe were the birds of the day.  Gilly won first prize for spotting! 
 Dave Elliott-Binns


Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
Ruff Philomachus pugnax (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)

Snipe Gallinago gallinago(PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)

Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
Distant record shot of Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
Audouin's Gulls Larus audouinii with Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)


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

RSPB Frampton Marsh, Boston

Wednesday 30 November

Brent Geese Branta bernicla by the hundred
Another beautiful, clear and sunny start to the day but somewhat on the cold side as I waited a full fifteen minutes to de-ice and warm the car before setting off for the RSPB Reserve at Frampton Marsh on the outskirts of Boston, Lincolnshire.  As I approached I could not help but notice the large numbers of gathering Rooks along with Blackbird, Wood Pigeons and Crows.  However, even more impressive was the red corridor that covered both sides of the road for most of the journey; there will certainly be no shortage of berries this winter.

Must have been almost a thousand Wigeon Anas penelope
Arriving just after 10.30 I was immediately greeted by large numbers of ducks on the pool immediately in front of the Visitors Centre.  Along with those feeding and resting on other parts of the reserve there must have been literally many hundreds of Wigeon along with hundred of Brent Geese.  Every field seemed to contain its mini flock of Lapwings so these, too, must have reached three figures.  Along with the Wigeon on the first water were a few Mallard and Gadwall, many Teal and, after much searching, also a small number of Pintail and the occasional Shoveler.

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus looking most resplendent in the low sun


Leaving the Centre to drive down towards the Wash trail I noticed both House Sparrows and Goldfinches on the feeders which were then joined by both Greenfinch and a Common Starling.  Very unusual to see a House Sparrow on this reserve so definitely worth recording.  My new vantage point enable me to get some sun behind me and in addition to yet more Wigeon I also picked out Lapwings and Brent Geese and then the target bird, a small flock of Pink-footed Geese.

One Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus amongst hundreds of Brent Geese Branta bernicla
Off to check the Reedbed Hide before settling into the 360 Hide. With the sun so low looking in  southerly direction was almost impossible and, fortunately, the birds were all to be seen from the opposite windows.  Similarly, the recent two nights of severe frost had frozen much of the shallow pools and whilst the mus looked wet I suspect it, too, was fairly solid below and hence the sight of only one wader, a very fleeting glimpse of a Redshank.  Much close scoping with my one usable eye, however, did find a single Common Snipe and a pair of Canada Geese.  The main birds here were yet more Brent Geese and a handful of feeding Lapwing.  Three Linnets came close to feed and on the distant bank I managed to watch a mixed flock of Greenfinches, Linnets and Goldfinches feeding on the thistles. In the distance the cope picked up a few Shelduck and a similar number of Shoveler plus yet more Wigeon.

Look out; here come the Brent Geese Branta bernicla

Overall, perhaps it was the lack of open water that resulted in not a single Coot being seen and only the one Moorhen on the reserve.  The were a couple of Magpies moving about the area and even a pair of Canada Geese.  Whilst checking the Brent Geese before heading back to the car park I noticed one interloper in their midst.  One lost Pink-footed Goose who decided to stay with her cousins rather than find the rest of the her flock.  Back at the Visitors Centre the Tree Sparrows had arrived to take their fill from the feeding station and over towards the hedge at the far end of the car park a single Fieldfare took off to join his companions feeding on the abundant berries on offer whilst, on the grass, a female Kestrel pondered where her next meal might come from.

Always a reliable site to find Tree Sparrows Passer montanus
Leaving the reserve to make my way home I immediately encountered the feeding Black-headed Gulls in the neighbouring fields and then, once more, an abundance of Rooks, especially before reaching the Spalding junction.  Finally, as I took the Deepings by-pass, not so much the pair of Pheasants in the field to my right but the white phantom that crossed the road in front of the car within two metres of the ground and took a left turn to quarter the inside edge of the hedgerow, but not before I had overtaken the bird to record my first Barn Owl of the year.  Not a bad way to end a morning's birding before my one eye began to get too tired to carry on.

Resting female Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Birds seen:
Pink-footed Goose, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Pheasant, Kestrel, Moorhen, Lapwing, Snipe, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Barn Owl, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.


And no shortage of Teal Anas crecca


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

Monday, 28 November 2016

For a change - Cleethorpes on the Lincolnshire coast!

Monday 28 November

Back in the UK for a week to see family and check out some building work on the house so hope to visit either Frampton Marshes near Boston or maybe the Norfolk coast if the eye permits.  Meanwhile, I have received a lovely report from my friend Chris Bell over here who is always off somewhere or other finding exciting birds and his latest message is re a visit to Cleethorpes last Saturday.  I always think this part of the Lincolnshire coast is cold in high summer so goodness knows how many layers are required at this time of the year!  Thanks Chris and I can share your experience with other readers of the blog.

Saturday 26 November


... thought I would tell you of the goodies I had had at Cleethorpes yesterday   (Saturday 26th).

The most unexpected were 4 Scoter close in shore (5m), although I was scoping them from 80 then 40m across the beach.  My immediate reaction on finding them with the bins was Harlequin Duck, but sense quickly returned as I realised that they were female Velvet Scoter.  Immediately prior to this I had my first Snow Buntings of the season, at least 19 , but there might well have been a 20th. They were very skittish and were feeding  in low vegetation, and when they came close to me were just as difficult to count.

Many of the expected species were about, with many Yellowhammer in the dunes area, the approximate150 Linnet too quick to disappear into vegetation for me to be examined for the possibility of  Twite, Sky Lark, Reed Bunting,  single male Stonechat, 3 Grey Plover tucked in with the  many Redshank, Curlew and Little Egret.

It was very sunny at Cleethorpes , with the forecast  fog lying well offshore, however the  tide brought it in spoiling viewing the birds at high tide.  However, before this thousands of Knot swirled their way along the shore, many Oystercatcher and Sanderling feeding ahead of the incoming water with fewer Dunlin and fewer still Turnstone and Curlew.  Of course,Brent Geese and Shelduck were about in goodly numbers and the local flock of feral Barnacle Geese was at 100+ level.

So a very enjoyable day which, if you are in the UK, my report  might tempt you to the coast, possibly the Norfolk coast.

It most certainly might Chris with the only possible constraint a change in the weather, the eye playing up and/or builders wanting to visit.  But I certainly want top get one day somewhere so, as they say, watch this space. 


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

Monday, 21 November 2016

Black-bellied Sandgrouse - at last!

21 November 2016

After yesterday's wonderful day on the Sierra Magina it was time to travel back to Mezquitilla on the Malaga coast.  Ten members stayed on for an extra day's birding with Jose Luis but for Jenny and I it was back to our seaside home.  A Red Kite as we left Ubeda and then regular sightings of Magpie, Wood Pigeons, Corn Buntings and Spotless Starlings.

With time in hand and following a coffee break as we left the Granada area, Jenny suggested that we make a slight detour to take in the upper Cacin Valley in the hope that we, too, might spot a Black-bellied sandgrouse.  Leaving the motorway for the usual site we had Collared Doves and Spotless Starling along with House Sparrows and a stop to check out the massive aviaries on the approach track.  Still the, I believe, fourteen juvenile Saker Falcons in the first aviary but the second, previously empty, structure now held at least fifty (50) individuals and these seemed more like juvenile Gyr Falcons.  Just where do all these birds come from?  It's something like a central holding site to pepare these young raptors for onward journeys to, presumably, wealthy falconers in the Middle east.

Leaving the road towards the ruin we were welcomed by the first Little Owl and as left the trees for the final stretch up to the old ruin a flock of seven Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew low over the car and settle on the field to our left, unfortunately just over a slight ridge.  Chance to take a look at the birds on the ground but driving slightly forward to take photographs did not produce the birds and then they were lost to sight.  Meanwhile, up ahead on top of the old ruin, a second Little Owl watched our progress up the  track.

Distant Iberian Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis

Scanning the fields produced an Iberian Grey Shrike and a Magpie followed by a flock of Calandra Larks along with individual Crested Larks and White Wagtails.  Then it was a drive through an almond orchard which produced, in addition to scores of Chaffinches, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a few Linnets and a Black Redstart.  Lastly, a second Iberian Grey Shrike, a very small charm of Goldfinches and a good-sized flock of Spotless Starlings before it was time to head off for a bar lunch before completing the journey home.  Two days birding and now  a total of three new species to take the annual total up to 259.

Birds seen:
Red Kite, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.


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

Sierra Magina, Jaen with the ABS

Saturday 19 November

One of the 6, very distant, Golden Eagles Aguila Real Aquila chrysaetos seen in the Magina (Same rock as last time!)
It may have been colder than on the coast last night but, nevertheless, Saturday started clear and sunny and gradually warmed up (layer after layer being removed before mid-day) when 24 members of the Andalucia Bird Society under the leadership of ABS member and professional guide of Sierra-Trek, Jose Luis Sanchez, set off the for the mighty Sierra Magina in Jaen Province.  With the whole group safely packed into just six cars we still managed to lose the last car as we took our final turning .  Whilst we awaited the missing car to catch us up it enable some impromptu birding which proved very rewarding starting with a Little Owl and quickly followed by a juvenile male Blue Rock Thrush.  Further scanning produced both Rock and Collared Doves along with Black Redstart, a trio of Linnets, Stonechat and a very late Spotted Flycatcher.

Then of to the start of the 35km track up and over the sierra with a first stop at the picnic site where we found Firecrest, Chiffchaff, Great and Long-tailed Tits along with  a couple of frisky Red Squirrels. Above the hills the first Crag Martins of the day; there were many more to be seen as we crossed the mountains.  There then followed the long drive with many stops along the way and by the time we reached the far side most had seen at least one Griffon Vulture and all manged to catch distant views of six individaul Golden Eagles.  One stop produced a flurry of Crossbills and the odd Chaffinch and beyond half-way we found our first brief sightings of a few Ring Ouzels.

Male Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra

A little later we stopped not only for more Ring Ouzels but Meadow Pipit, Rock and Cirl Bunting along with Magpie, Goldfinch and Chaffinch.  A little later as we were driving down a gentle slope we came across not only more Ring Ouzels but an accompanying Fieldfare and a single Mistle Thrush that seemed to be "at roost" as it refused to leave its temporary home.  Amazingly, our lunch stop at the shepherd's shelter produced a trio of Magpies and Mistle Thrush with, seen by a few, a Hawfinch in the branch below.  But, unfortunately, it had gone by the time I returned to back of the shelter.

Resting Mistle Thrush Zorzal Charlo Turdus viscivorus
Then it was on down the Sierra Magina and off the the Parque Natural Laguna Grande arriving in the very late afternoon with barely an hour of daylight left.  On the way, driving through the olive groves near Las Escuelas, the wires were alive with Wood Pigeons, the occasional Collared Dove, Corn Buntings and Thekla Larks.  Also ecorded on this short drive were Stonechats, Kestrel and a Buzzard.  Passing near the solar panels we found a wire full of Mistle Thrushes and at least two Iberian Grey Shrikes took their leave of us as they slipped off the wire and fence.

Distant Ring Ouzel Mirlo Capiblanco Turdus torquatos

Not so much "Laguna Grande" as "Laguna Pequeno" when we finally arrived..  The main pool was very low on water and not a bird to be seen so we followed the track down the side and stopped at the almost empty laguna with more of a shallow puddle but lots of glorious and juicy mud.  Here we did find birds, the first being a Water Pipit plus scores of White Wagtails along with Grey Wagtail, a handful of Green Sandpipers and even more Ringed Plovers.  Both Sardinian Warbler and Robin were added to the species list but I have left the best till last.  Three snipe on the far side but a closer study revealed that only one was a Common Snipe the others being the smaller Jack Snipe.  Even better, one of the Jack Snipe had "itchy feet" and kept wandering past its larger cousin so giving all an opportunity to compare shape and size , especially the difference in beak length.

A wonderful way to end a lovely day and, for me, two new species for the year.  And I am sure that other embers saw birds that I have missed off the above.

Birds seen:
Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Ringed Plover, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush,  Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill, Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.



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

Friday, 18 November 2016

John and Jenny at the Charca de Suarez

17 November 2016

Whilst I was making my way to the Charca de Suarez to join the Axarquia Bird Group meet, John and Jenny Wainwright were travelling down from Salar to take in a couple of extra sites on the way before we all met up outside the reserve in readiness for the 4 o'clock opening.  Some great birds recorded as can be seen by John's report on the afternoon.


A very warm day with very little wind.

As Bob had arranged an afternoon visit to Charca de Suarez we decided to make a day of it and visit Padul on the way down, but alas the best plans etc!!  As the whole valley was in dense fog we continued onto the Suarez area.

Our first port-of-call was the now renowned "dipper" picnic site where we found Grey and White Wagtails, Chaffinches and Cetti´s Warblers.  Walking downstream to the bridge we saw Blackcaps, more White Wagtails, Spotless Starlings, Blackbirds, Great Tits, Collared Doves, a single Robin (although several more were seen on exiting the area) and House Sparrows.

Upstream we found the Mallard on his usual resting place - on the bough of the tree, another Grey Wagtail was disturbed from the "waterfall" and several Chiffchaffs were seen foraging in the little reed island.  As we approached the roundabout of the A7, Jenny spotted two raptors, one being Common Buzzard the other a Bonelli´s Eagle.
Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
We left now for "Turtle Dove Alley", and all was quiet until we reached the ruin, whereupon we found Greenfinch, Goldfinches, Chiffchaffs and Stonechats.  A mewing overhead gave us a trio of Common Buzzards and a Common Kestrel was seen hunting over the meadow.

Growing Bananas (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
It was nice to see the banana trees in fruit again with their hands of bananas ripening, but I digress.
Moving along to the "T" junction and turning right we came across an irrigation ditch which had a few puddles in at the top end and a culvert from the opposite side of the road gave us some running water.  Here we found a male Bluethroat, Meadow Pipits, Black Redstarts and good numbers of Serins.  A small flock of Black-rumped Waxbills came out of the bushes and landed in the reed bed about 100 yards away, these were joined by the Serins from the stream and a few House Sparrows as well.  A male and female Avadavat was located later (this was our total of this species for the day).  A few Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) about here today plus one Large White (Pieris brassicae).

Along the track a flock of eleven Cattle Egrets landed and hunted the verges for food, and a Little Egret flew over them, as did a Hoopoe and another Common Kestrel.  As we headed for a cafĂ©, two Crested Larks flew out of the grasses on the side of the track.
Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
After coffee we headed for the beach but only Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows, two Rock Doves and a raft of Yellow-legged Gulls were seen here.

At 16.00 we were let into the reserve - after spotting a Kingfisher which came across from the beach area and flew into the reserve towards the new lagoon.  And after enquiring about the Jack Snipe was told he was found on the new lagoon but very hard to locate (that was certainly true), as I don´t think anyone of the group saw it!!  But during our time at this hide we did spot two Buzzards and a Booted Eagle plus a Common Kestrel.  Lots of Teal here with a smattering of Shovelers and a few Mallard, Also in the area we saw Kingfisher(s)-probably the same female, Moorhens, Common Coot, Green Sandpiper, Little Egret and Cetti´s Warblers.  To the left of the hide another Little Egret and two Common Snipe were located, along with more Teal and Shovelers. White Wagtails were about and a Grey Wagtail was spotted as we left the hide.  A greyish, quite large raptor was spotted landing in the trees by the "Bluethroat hide", although nothing definite was proved it was thought to be a Goshawk!!!
Common Buzzards Buteo buteo (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
At the large hide we met up with most of the group, here on the island, we saw Spoonbill, Little Egrets, a juvenile Greater Flamingo, Mallard Teal, White Wagtails and a few Pochard.  While in the water we found two Wigeon, more Pochard and Mallard, a single Shelduck, Little Grebe, Common Coots and Moorhens. A Kingfisher came directly across the laguna and landed in the reeds to the right of the hide - out of sight, naturally.

Across the back of the laguna, we found the Red-knobbed Coot and a single White Stork. A Pintail was noted moving out of sight to the right hand side of the hide as two Grey Herons flew over. Not a lot more was noted apart from a couple of Blackcaps, Great Tits and as we left on of the hides a small flock of Crag Martins came over.

Its amazing how quickly two hours go, as we said our goodbyes, and made our way home in the twilight.


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

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Charca de Suarez, Motril

17 November 2016

The promise of more to come on the Laguna de las Aneas
A beautiful war, clear and sunny day for the afternoon visit to Charca de Suarez on the western outskirts of Mortril by the Axarquia Bird Group and well attended by 16 members, some of whom (even with two eyes!) I have not seen for over three months if not a full year or more.  With the reserve only open for to hours, many members took the opportunity to check out the neighbouring fields around "Turtle Dove Alley with John and Jenny Wainwright along with David Hird and Arthur Oliver recording at least a further seven species including Meadow Pipit, Red-rumped Swallow, Grey Wagtail, Bluethroat, Red Avadavat, Black-rumped Waxbill,  and Bonelli's Eagle.  Great sightings.  Whilst in the area we also recorded Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Stonechat, House Sparrow and Kestrel.

Most of us on entry to the reserve headed straight to the Laguna del Alamo Blanco in the hope that the Jack Snipe might be seen; we were not to be blessed on this occasion. We had a couple of Common Snipe along with Little Egret, Teal and a a pair of female ShovelersWhite Wagtails fiddled about at the back and a Stonechat and Kingfisher took it in turns to perch on a dead tree.  Overhead, the Booted Eagle previously seen in Turtle Dove Alley passed overhead and was followed by a couple of Buzzards.  However, for some of the group it was not so much the small flash of the Kingfisher as it crossed the water but, rather, the larger grey flash low across the water and finally into a tree at the back before disappearing for good of a Goshawk.  Almost certainly the same bird that was seen crossing the main laguna  less than a week ago.  Does this mean that we have the potential of both a wintering Jack Snipe and Goshawk in or near the reserve?

Female (above) and male (below) Shoveler Chuchara Comun Anas clypeata


Leaving the hide we had a couple of Herons fly over and as we made our way to the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas we added Grey WagtailRobin, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola and Chiffchaff.  Upon arrival we found that the juvenile Spoonbill and Flamingo were still present along with the single White Stork at the back of the water.  Also still on site was the single female Pintail. For the rest no shortage of ducks which were mainly Mallards along with a number of Pochard and Shoveler plus a Shelduck.  Whilst checking out the many ducks John Wainwright also managed to discover a couple of Wigeon.  The odd Little Egret scattered about and on the island along with a number of Cattle Egrets,  A few Cormorants present but still, I think, a little early in the season for the large numbers that will winter here.  Coots and Moorhen on the main water plus a few Little Grebe and a single, collared, Red-knobbed Coot was found at the back neat the White Stork. Overhead a small flock of Black-headed Gulls to accompany the Yellow-legged Gulls.  very few small birds other than the pair of White Wagtails and the occasional shout of a Cetti's Warbler.  Then, just before moving on, a lone Purple Swamphen wandered out on the left bank to work the edges.

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta masking the juvenile Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia
A short visit to the Laguna del Trebol duly added two, non-collared, Red-knobbed Coots amongst their common cousins the Common Coot along with a few Moorhens and Mallards and a single Little Grebe.  To our side a pair of Great Tits were busy feeding on seed heads.  Leaving the hide to return to our original stop for a last look at the Laguna del Alamo Blanco for any late additions we looked up in time to see a small flock of passing Crag Martins and also recorded a Blackcap .  On arrival, with the setting sun almost directly in front of us, we not only had a brief, closer, look at a Snipe but a very short visit from a Green Sandpiper.  The single Little Egret continued to strut about whilst the Mallards and Teals sought out a suitable resting place for the coming night.

Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristala in the comming dusk
And so the visit ended with over 40 species recorded and we made our farewells for what, I believe, had been a very enjoyable visit and appetites whetted for a return at the earliest opportunity.  My thanks to all those who attended and look forward to seeing you all again in the very near future.


Birds seen:
Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard. Pintail, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Bonelli's Eagle, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Goshawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Kingfisher, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Black-rumped Waxbill, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.



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

Friday, 4 November 2016

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 3 November

A sort of belated October field visit by the Axarquia Bird Group after all the trials and tribulations of the past month so, after dropping Jenny off ofr her daily physio session in Torre del Mar, Bryan Stapley and I drove down the church at Guadalmar where we were soon joined by James Moore, Brian Wilkinson and Gerry Collins.  Then it was on to the Guadalhorce reserve where we could see numerous Cormorants in the distant Laguna Grande plus one feeding to the left on the river.  Also present were at least seven Grey Herons and then we fond the resting Booted Eagle.  So over the footbridge were we came across Paul Coulthard and so on the far aside and the Laguna Casillas. Here much to my surprise and delight we found John and Jenny Wainwright and within a few minutes we were up to ten members for the morning.  John and Jenny had been on site for about an hour so were soon able to fill us in with the birds they had seen and we had missed!

On the water itself we had mainly White-headed Ducks along with a few Little Grebes, Coots and Pochards.  A Kingfisher seemed happy to plash up and down the water giving good views to most and no sooner had all watched the passing Osprey when first, then a second Booted Eagle decided to put in an appearance and happily perched on the bare tree on the opposite bank.  Wonderful views.



Our lovely Booted Eagle Hietaaetus pennatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Next it was on to the Wader Pool where we found no less than twelve Flamingos along with  a small number of both Teal and Mallard and a single Redshank.  In addition a few Black-winged Stilts, a couple of both Moorhens and Snipe and a singe Blackbird.  Immediately below the hide we watched a feeding Meadow Pipit whilst behind us both Great Tit and Sardinian Warblers were seen and on the distant trees in front of the Laguna Grande so many roosting Cormorants that hey looked like lanterns complete with a topping of Spotless Starlings.

At this point I left the group to drive into Malaga city where a very dear birding friend had kindly arranged to meet me at the main hospital to look at my "damaged" eye and offer advice and potential treatment. What more can I say than I was so impressed and appreciative that, despite the worry about the forthcoming operation, I can now look forward to having great vision to prepare for the arrival of the summer migrants.  Wonderful news for me and so much appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity.

Meanwhile, the remaining members continued their tour of the site and very many thanks to John Wainwright for both sending in the following report and including some lovely photographs taken during the morning.

A very warm day, breeze picked up late afternoon.

We arrived a bit early at the meeting place so we decided to take a very slow walk to the first hide (Casilla), en route we saw along the estuary at least seven Grey Herons and several Greater Cormorants, Rock Doves, Jackdaw, Cetti´s Warblers and Monk Parakeets. Several Robins, Blackbirds, a few Serins and House Sparrows, Zitting Cisticolas and a couple of Sardinian Warblers were noted as we progressed through the canes and up onto the embankment.

As we approached the Casilla hide a small group of seven Sand Martins flew through, while from the hide we saw Teal, White-headed Ducks, Pochard, Shovelers, Mallard, Little Grebe and Moorhens. Our only short sighting of a Bluethroat was had here as well as Chiffchaffs, Goldfinches, Stonechats and Crag Martins.

Across the other side of the reserve a Booted Eagle was spotted as it landed in one of the trees lining the river - the group saw it from the track leading to the bridge so I am told.  A couple of Great Tits flew in to the bushes to our right as a Common Buzzard came low across the reed beds.  A flash of colour in a bare tree across the pond here gave us our first Kingfisher of the day.  This bird kept dropping into the reeds below then flying off, but returned three times while we were here.

As we were joined by the group an Osprey gave us some fairly good views, but didn´t hang about here long, but we did have close views of two Booted Eagles, one landing in the Kingfisher tree and the other about 300 metres to the left in a slightly less visible location.

We all moved along to the Rio Viejo hide where good views of Snipe were had as well as Redshanks, Black-winged Stilts, a dozen or so Greater Flamingos, several Teal, Little Egrets, Moorhens, Little Grebe and good views of a Meadow Pipit were had, later we had a female Black Redstart here as well.

Then moving on to the old Viejo area we spotted a few waders, among them was one Grey Plover, a few Sanderlings, Ringed Plovers and Redshanks, while in and around here we noted more Meadow Pipits, Black Redstarts, Goldfinches, Sardinian and Cetti´s Warblers and three Blackbirds.  Above us Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls were seen as were Greater Cormorants. Another Booted Eagle was noted sitting to the left of the old nest box in the bare trees in the distance.

Sanderling  Calidris alba (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
As we approached the sea view building a RIB put up a huge raft of gulls and apart from this there was only four White Wagtails seen on the sands to the left of the hide, and a Common Sandpiper was seen flying.


Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
On out way to the Escondida hide we saw a few more female Black Redstarts, but nothing different from what we hadn´t already logged.  As we neared the Escondida hide a beautiful Spurge Hawk-moth caterpillar Hyles eurphorbiae was spotted by Jenny; its coloration is supposed to warn off predators as its host plant (euphorbia) is fairly toxic.  At the hide a Kingfisher flew back and for across the laguna several times, while at the back of the laguna we noted Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Shovelers ( among them a very leucistic bird ) and a Little Egret.  A group of Black-tailed Godwits flew over heading for the Laguna Grande.  Two Marsh Harriers quartered the reed beds here putting a few of the ducks to flight and a Grey Heron came across the laguna a few minutes later.


Spurge Hawk-moth caterpillar Hyles eurphorbiae (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
So onto the last leg of the journey to the Laguna Grande.  Here we met up with several of the group. We located the Black-tailed Godwits (from over the previous hide), directly to our front as well as good numbers of Black-headed Gulls, three Slender-billed Gulls, but only five Yellow-legged Gulls were counted here.  In a small pool below the hide a Common Sandpiper, a Redshank and Ringed Plover were logged, while a bit later a Little Stint flew in.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Masses of Greater Cormorants here in the trees, as well as Cattle Egrets, and a few in the laguna itself along with Grey Herons, seven Shelduck, Little Egrets, Coots and Moorhens were also seen. Spotless Starlings, Collared Doves were spotted in the trees to the left of the hide as well as a very pale Booted Eagle, which had prey under it´s left foot, and was calling repeatedly.  We later found the other Booted Eagle still perched in the bare trees next to the old nest box along with more Greater Cormorants - this is the one - I believe - that we spotted from the Old Viejo area earlier on in the day.  (Gerry and Bryan also found a couple of Spoonbill behind the island with the dead tree on the far right-hand side and also recorded a Green Sandpiper.)

On our walk back to the car we located the Osprey again, as well as a Song Thrush and four  Greenfinches.

Distant Song Thrush Turdus philomelos (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
A very rewarding days birding in my eyes.

Just look what I missed whilst undertaking my treatment in Malaga but, there again, with my one good eye there was every chance that I would have missed many of these lovely birds.  It looks like a minimum 57 species in total.  To John and Jenny very many thank for your help and support.


Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Kingfisher, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.


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

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

(Almost) no birds!

Wednesday 2 November

Having dropped Jenny off at 9 o'clock for her daily physio treatment on the arm I took my one eye off for some birding in the almond orchards above the Cacin Valley; this time hoping to return with same number of eyes with which I started the day!  Lovely clear weather and the promise of very warm sunshine and I was on site by 10.15 and welcomed by all the usual as I approached including Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Spotless Starling.

One of the two large aviaries being used to house young falcons
I did stop briefly to look at the two large aviaries and noted that one now contained about 20 falcons which appeared to be either Lanner or, more likely, Saker Falcons rather than Gyrfalcons.  From where and for what purpose?  Are these youngsters being raised for the falconry hobby and, if so, where is to their new destination to be?  Presumably somewhere with lots of money judging by the expenditure involved in building and maintaining these massive aviaries.

Always good to be welcomed by a handsome male Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
On to the track leading into the fields with a Corn Bunting on my right and Crested Larks to the front.  A stop to admire a handsome Black Redstart and then  I arrived at the old ruin where a pair of Little Owls were giving me the "evil eye" as I got the camera ready.  One disappeared but the other remained and seeing the lens through the car window lifted its head, took a good look and then disappeared from sight.


The Little Owl Athene noctua looked, looked again and then was off
A good look round the area with the scope revealed no sandgrouse but the first of a couple of White Wagtails.  The same was trues approaching the solar panels but I did come across a group of 7 Magpies (somebody no doubt will tell me what that represents!)  Other than a large female Common Kestrel and a single Mistle Thrush no other birds were seen.

Leaving the area I went back to the aviaries to take some photographs and then called in at Huetor Tajar where I found just about every field covered with asparagus left to seed before cutting back. No sign of a Little Bustard or Stone Curlew and the only new birds in the area were a trio of Cattle Egret, Stonechat, Serin and a few Greylag Geese on the river which I feel pretty sure were of a domestic origin rather than wild.  But who knows?  Just meant that I was back home sooner than I expected - but there's always another day.

Shots of the juvenile Saker Falcons  Falco cherrug?






Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Cattle Egret, Kestrel, Little Owl, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Mistle Thrush, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Corn Bunting.



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

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

La Janda with the ABS

Saturday 29 October

It was cool and early light when, with Marieke, I set off for the car park adjacent to the Isla de las Palomas in Tarifa where we should have been having the privilege to visit said island for some fantastic sea-watching.  The meet had already been cancelled a couple of days previously due to the forecasted severe, not to say storm force, winds.  So, 37 disappointed members but eleven of us did turn up to meet our guide for the morning, Javi Elorriaga of Birding the Strait, to prepare for the alternative site, La Janda.  Just as well the meet had been cancelled as the winds were steadily increasing and a couple of members who had visited the area the day before found a Police Local presence to prevent the public from accessing the causeway as waves were breaking over and the severe wind was threatening to blow pedestrians over the side!

So off we twelve went and, on arrival, sorted ourselves out into just three cars.  By now the sun was u, it was getting warmer and warmer but there was still a strong wind with which to contend.  The close fly-past of a Peregrine Falcon as we left Tarifa was to be repeated later on in the morning so that we were greeted on site by Spotted Starlings,Stonechat, Crested Lark, Goldfinch, both House and Spanish Sparrows and, towards the canal, a number of Sky Larks.  As we looked around us we could see many Cattle and Little Egrets along with the first of hundreds of White Storks.  Not just Jackdaws moving around the area as we started down the long track but a handful of Barn Swallows flew past including a couple of Red-rumped Swallows in their midst.

Meadow Pipit Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis
Cetti's Warblers calling from the river bank and a Green Sandpiper in the ditch whilst a few Serins were active in the weeds and a lone Mallard paddled across the river.  The first of a number of Marsh Harriers put in an appearance and then seemed to be ever present even if, at times, they were quite distant.  One of the wider drainage channels on the far side of the river produced a feeding White Wagtail and on the water was a score or Mallards along with about a dozen Teal.  And just where we had seen the two Cranes fly over us yesterday we found them feeding at the back of the field near a small group of White Storks.

Cranes Grulla Grus grus with White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia behind

Whilst a few Meadow Pipits worked the track a Cormorant flew past and, looking up, we even had a Spoonbill fly over.  By now we had reached the bridge on the bend and were regularly noting more Grey Herons along with the White Storks and egrets not o mention a fairly close Great White Egret.  Then the Black-shouldered Kite appeared, worked the cotton fields on the other side of the water and came to rest in a nearby dead tree.  Lovely views in the air as I made my way along the track to take a closer photograph but the "shout" went up the at the bird was in the sky once more. Naturally, I turned back and as I did so the bird left its tree; there were two Black-shouldered Kites working the area so I had to rely on the aerial shot in blustery conditions.

Black-shouldered Kite Elanio  Comun Elanus caeruleus
Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the muddy swamp resulting from turning in the rice stalks along with Lapwing, storks, egrets and herons we continued on to the main road and back in the hope that we might find either the visiting Great Spotted Eagle or Pallid Harrier. We were not to be so lucky.  We did have a Zitting Cisiticola and on the return journey both more Marsh and a male Hen Harrier.

Male Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus

Then it was over the bridge and up towards the "smelly farm" and, for me, a long stop to have a chat with my dear friend Andy Paterson who happened to be parked up on the far side of the river. Working our way towards the farm we naturally picked up both Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge followed by a rather lovely Booted Eagle.  Lots of Rock Doves and Jackdaws around the farm and searching the distant fields and hills we noted our first Griffon Vultures of the day.  Regular Kestrel sightings as we made our way to the end of the road before taking a left turn to check the stream where we recorded a Little Grebe and a few Crag Martins.

Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba
To finish the day we reversed and took the pot-holed track towards Fasinas with Robins singing away to our left and both Corn Buntings and Stonechats seen on the fence wires along with the regular Crested Lark.  We also had occasional small charms of Goldfinches feeding on the thistles and even a Yellow Wagtail whilst stopped for the big moment of the drive.  Not just Kestrels but a large, distant eagle.  We were able to get closer and observe a might male Spanish Imperial Eagle which was soon joined by a smaller immature female.  Evidently the pair had unsuccessfully tried to breed this year which certainly promises well for 2017.this year.  Indeed, whilst watching the aerial display of these magnificent birds a couple of the group also had a fleeting sight of a Merlin as it dashed up a narrow hollow in the ground and was gone.  What a way to end the day and make our way back to the parked cars and onwards to our respective destinations.














The magnificent Spanish Imperial Eagle Aguila Imperial Iberica Aquila adalberti

Birds seen:
Mallard, Teal, Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Griffon Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Green Sandpiper, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Stonechat, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.



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