Monday, 24 April 2017

A sunny day in the country

Monday 24 April

Well,it was until mid to late-afternoon when it clouded over, became almost overcast but still warm, and then a few drops of rain followed by a very light shower as I drove on home from Alhama de Granada.  A lovely day, though, with over forty species at three specific sites; the Rio Cuevas below Solana produced the first target bird, a Golden Oriole, the second a little further on at the Montes de Malaga did not produce either Hawfinch or Firecrest but a new species for the year by way a Wren and then, finally, on over to the Upper Cacin Valley where I found Rollers but not a Great Spotted Cuckoo.  But I did have close sighting of a 15 Black-bellied Sandgrouse.

Parked up in the dry river bed at the ford on the Rio Cuevas I immediately had both Blackbird and Barn Swallow and then a family of Goldfinch drinking in a small area of free running water.  A pair of Red-rumped Swallows flew over and whilst there were both Collared Dove and House Sparrow about it was the first of the male Chaffinches that caught my attention.  Next the Serins were down to drink along with both a Sardinian Warbler and a Nightingale.  Even a female Blackcap made use of this small section of clean, running water.  The Thekla Lark was, perhaps, expected but not the sudden sight of a Sparrowhawk above the trees at the top of the slope.

Serins Verdicillo Serinus serinus at their morning ablutions
A short walk below the ford produced the fist calling Golden Oriole and it was certainly being challenged in terms of excitement by the male Cuckoo calling loudly from close by.  A handful of bee-eaters were about and resting in nearby trees along with a single Common Kestrel. But the Golden Orioles continued to serenade me, even if they are areal so-and-so to actually find when resting in the Eucalyptus trees, and were almost contemptuous of the competition put up by the local Hoopoes.

Distant, high Short-toed Eagle Culebrera Europea Circaetus gallicus

On over to the Montes de Malaga by way of Colmenar and park near the little museum so I could take a walk through the valley.  Spotless Starling and Chaffinch at the start and then a lovely Short-toed Eagle overhead.  The calling Wren caught my attention and then put in a fleeting appearance by way of confirmation.  Great Tit, Blue Tit and Blackbird noted as I walked back and a large gathering of House Martins picking up mud for their house building requirements.

First Roller Carraca Europeo Coracias garrulus of the year
Collared Doves as I entered the local track to take me straight to the almond orchards in the Upper Cacin Valley in search of both Roller and Great Spotted Cuckoo.  No sign of the latter and I was rather surprised to find the Rollers with a pair in the old tree that had been previously used, especially having been told that the tree had been taken over by Little Owls.  Both House Martins and Barn Swallows in the air as I entered the site and then my first Crested Lark, so both Thekla and Crested seen today.  A Common Kestrel in the air and then a pair of Magpies as I continued to work my way in and out of the trees.

One last sorte to the far end of the site and I was suddenly aware of a shape on the ground.  No sooner had I stopped than ten Black-bellied Sandgrouse took to the air from the neighbouring ride.  But my bird remained sitting whilst I happily snapped away and  he/she and a partner, that I had not previously seen, simply stood up and walked away like a pair of Red-legged Partridges.  A very pleased smiled on my face as I made my way back to the road via the old ruin, but no Little Owl present, and I also recorded Bee-eaters, an Iberian Grey Shrike, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting and Stonechat.  Driving down the country lane to make my way home I also picked up more Chaffinches and a couple of Woodpigeon and then, passing a much-depleted Cacin reservoir, noted the Mallards, Common Pochards, Moorhen and Coot.

One of the fifteen Black-bellied Sandgrouse Ganga Ortega Pterocles orientalis
Finally, driving through the "Magpie Woods" to the north of Ventas de Zafarrya I had an Azure-winged Magpie cross the road in front of me to be quickly followed by a couple of Jays.  Not a bad way to end the day even if the sun had by now disappeared.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Moorhen, Coot, Short-toed Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel,  Moorhen, Coot, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Cuckoo, Collared Dove, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe,Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Wren, Nightingale, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Golden Oriole, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

Many distant Bee-eaters Abejaruco Europeo Merops apiaster

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

Friday, 21 April 2017

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 20 April

It seemed like a lovely, warm and sunny morning when I set off from Mezquitilla for this month's meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group at the Guadalhorce in Malaga.  However, as soon as I arrived and opened the car door thinking it was time to dispense with my jumper, I realise my mistake.  the sun might have been shining but there was a gale and a half blowing and reaching the path leading up to the western arm I could see the storm and tempest off the cost with huge waves crashing in and the trees all in full sway motion.  As the ten of us set off for the eastern arm I could not help but think what rotten weather and we are all going to be sorry we made the journey.  In the event it really was an ill wind, etc as we had fabulous birding, no doubt helped by the very windy and stormy conditions that we originally berated, resulting in 6 gull species, 3 terns and no less than 16 wader species.

Lovely to see Mick Richardson and Kevin Wade after such a long time along with Ian Kirk and john and his friends from Granada province.  Welcomed by local Spotless Starlings and a handful of Bee-eaters we made our way up to the footbridge where there were many feeding House Martins and, presumably, once nesting below the bridge. The short walk to the eastern arm produced both Zitting Cisticola and Linnets and then, seen by everyone bar me (isn't that always the case!), a low "Kestrel" which once bins on it, just in time, revealed the bird to be a Short-eared Owl.  A rather mega sighting so late in the year and presumably on its way north from Africa and possibly driven ashore by the strong winds.  Both Heron and Little Egret flew over and a Blackbird crossed the track as we approached the Casillas hide.

Once settled in the hide we soon found Common Pochard and White-headed Duck along with a pair of Mallards and a couple of Little Grebes.  A few Coots about and the occasional Moorhen and a busy Sardinian Warbler below the hide.  Overhead, in addition a plentiful supply of House Martins we also had a small number of Barn Swallows and at least a couple of Red-rumped Swallows.  The Common Swifts added to the Pallid Swift noted by Mick as we approached the hide.  Little charms of Goldfinches all over the place then the piece de la resistance, a Little Bittern on the opposite bank in full view.  As I so often say, leave the camera at home and the birds will come and show themselves!

Finally, saying goodbye to the pair of Gadwalls that has suddenly arrived we moved on to the Wader Pool with a pair of calling Greenfinches overhead and singing Nightingales to our right.  Pleased to see that, at last, the water levels were receding and exposing mud and sand so lots to be seen apart form the numerous Black-winged Stilts.  The waders included both Little and greater Ringed Plovers along with a Little Stint and a mixed group of larger birds including Dunlin, Curelew Sandpiper and a Wood Sandpiper.  A very busy Willow Warbler drew our attention as a Crested Lark descending on the sand for a short stop.

Time to move on see that the old river, Rio Viejo, was in good form and producing a wealth of birds to emphasise what the bad weather was doing to present such a show for our benefit.  Kentish Plover was soon added to the list and then on the opposite bank at the river bend a standing Squacco Heron with a Common Sandpiper feeding alongside.  Time to really concentrate with both bins and scope and see what else was to be found, excluding again the very many Black-winged Stilts.  Scoping towards the far end I picked out a couple of Avocets feeding and to the right a quartet of resting Gull-billed Terns.  Meanwhile, on the nearer shore, Mick had found a small flock of Little Terns.  The distant small island held a couple of Oystercatchers resting under the lone bush and right at the back a Grey Plover feeding alongside a Ruff.  No shortage of Dunlin and plenty of all three small plovers, Little Ringed, Ringed and Kentish Plover.  A few Yellow-legged Gulls floating around and a stray Cormorant passed over the site.

We did all make the relatively short walk against the wind to the Sea Watch and , in addition to the impressive breaking sea, managed to record a passing Audouin's Gull and a handful of Balearic Shearwaters making slow headway out on the sea plus a lonely Sandwich Tern looking for its lunch.  A lone Kentish Plover appeared on the sandy shore to the east giving very clear views to those who had previously relied upon the use of a scope.

Time to work our way back and we noted that the Gull-billed Terns had now been joined by a trio of Sandwich Terns and a Sanderling was also found.  Both a Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull were taking shelter next to each other which also gave a great opportunity to compare identifiers.  A pair of (Iberian) Yellow Wagtails were feeding  and also a single Redshank was found.

The walk back past the two hides and on to the Escondida produced a Common Kestrel, Serin, Rock Dove and House Sparrows and, on arrival, it was a delight to see a handsome male Red-crested Pochard and a few White-headed Ducks along with Coot and Little Grebe. Overhead, many circling Bee-eaters presented a welcome sight.  A Reed Warbler was singing away below the hide and so on to the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande with a screeching by-pass from a small flock of Monk Parakeets to help us on our way.

Finishing up at the main pool provided us with many Little Egrets and Cormorants but also a pair of Spoonbill.  A single Greenshank was at the far back behind the island and a few Little Terns were feeding over the water.  Not only Lesser Black-backed Gulls abut as we departed we also noted the single Slender-billed Gull amidst them.  So, despite the weather, we ended the morning with a rather impressive 66 species.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Balearic Shearwater, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Redshank, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Short-eared Owl, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Willow Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 19 April

Looks like I got the best deal whilst birding in Almeria this week as at least I had beautiful, warm weather and no wind.  On the other hand, I perhaps have to compare my Little Bittern, Squacco and Night Herons with Dave's Pied Flycatcher, yet to see one this year, and the Caspian Tern.

Cabo de Gata: Wednesday 19 April

Even though I saw a yellow weather warning regarding high winds along the Almeria coast, I still picked up Richard H from El Rincon & headed south to Cabo de Gata. We were making an early start to "do" the rear of the reserve. As arranged, we met up with Kevin in the Pujaire cafe at 08.15hrs. On our way there we'd seen a few of the commoner birds plus a single Gull Billed Tern near the radar trap. After a coffee we made our way, with Kevin in my new-engined 4x4, along the beach-side road. A Common Swift flew low across in front of us. On the beach we saw some resting gulls. Adult Audouin's and some juvenile Yellow Legged Gulls. We then took the track round the rear of the reserve. There was not a bird to be seen till we passed the now dilapidated hide apart from a Barn Swallow & Kestrel. We then saw some Greater Flamingos and a pair of Shelduck. 
Shelduck Tarro Blanca Tadoma tadoma
A male Sardinian Warbler showed well. A bit further along there was a group of waders on the shore-line. Avocet, a couple of Grey Plover, Dunlin, one with black bellied plumage, and Ringed Plover. Nearing the ternary, there were more Avocet plus a flight of 5 Little Tern. Slender Billed Gulls were also seen. We passed the ruined buildings where Little Owls have been seen, but not today! As we slowly drove to the left of the green leafy hedge a couple of birds flitted along the base. The first we identified was a male Common Redstart, the second was a male Pied Flycatcher. Managed to get a record photo through the truck's windscreen!
Pied Flycatcher Papamoscas Cerrojillo Ficedula hypoleuca caught thriough the car window
Well satisfied, we returned to the cafe for second coffees! We drove to the first hide. By this time the predicted high winds had arrived so we birdwatched from the hide. On the causeway we saw Mallard, 3 Grey Heron and a couple of Yellow Legged Gulls. An Iberian Grey Shrike flew by. Numerous Iberian Yellow Wagtails were skitting about in the shrubs in front of us. Kevin found a Kentish Plover and I, a Thekla Lark on the stone wall. Also seen were Ringed Plover.
Gull-billed Tern Pagaza Piconegra Sterna nilotica
We made our way to the second hide. The blustery wind was dead against us as we trudged towards it. Richard was struggling. Kevin rewarded us by first finding a Great White Egret to the left of some Little Egrets and then 12 Spoonbill by the little island. As we were about to leave 23 Gull Billed Terns were seen quartering & feeding over the savannah. I assume they were after crickets & locusts?
We then moved to the public hide. Richard stayed in the truck. There was nothing on the right hand rocky causeway. From the hide all the action was to the left. Loads of Avocet plus Slender Billed Gulls. Kevin spotted a lone Black Headed Gull amongst them. There were more Gull Billed Terns. A single Gadwall was resting on the sandbank. A Little Stint was seen. We were about to leave when I saw a single Caspian Tern further over to the left. Managed to get a bad record shot.
Record shot of Caspian Tern Pagaza Piquirroja Sterna caspia
We decided a trip to the Rambla de Morales would be a problem so we headed home. 37 species in all, but some really good ones amongst them.
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta to rear of Grey Plover Chorlito Gris Pluvialis squatarola
Other news updates. In my last report I stated Richard & Ruth were moving back to the UK. Wrong. They're moving to Antequera. Apologies. Brian Taylor reports seeing a Black Shouldered Kite, a rarity in this region, flying passed his house in Chirivil.
Regards, Dave

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

Las Norias & Roquetas de Mar

Tuesday 18 April

Up early and out of the house by 7 to enable me to arrive at the first causeway at Las Norias, surrounded by those very fashionable plastic greenhouse slums, by just after 8.30.  My first impression was that there was very little about, mainly a few Coots, Great Crested Grebes and Red-crested Pochards.  The odd Moorhen put in an appearance and I soon found a couple of foraging Reed Warblers at the water's edge.  Having noted the pair of Little Grebes I then scoped

Two young Little Grebes Zampullin Comun  Tachybaptus ruficollis setting out on their first paddles of life

along the reeds at the water's edge and was absolutely thrilled to see a Little Bittern appear to walk out of the water and stand posed on the red edge giving super views.  Unfortunately when I eventually decide to retrieve the camera from the car the bird had advanced into the reed out of sight.  No point looking up the water towards the top end as the sun was now up and very low making visibility almost impossible so off to the plastic factory and park up to check the rest of the water.

Great Crested Grebe Somormujo Lavanco Podiceps cristatus
This end was even quieter.  Great Crested Grebes on the mucky end pool and a lonely Grey Heron.  The Red-crested Pochards were further way and when looked at from the bottom road I even found a pair of Gadwall.  meanwhile, away from the water, the usual assortment of Blackbird, Collared Dove and Spotless Starling but nothing exciting.  But then a Night Heron flew over so not all bad news.

Red-crested Pochard Porron Colorado Netta rufina
So of to Roquetas de Mar with the first stop at the small pools on the track towards the lighthouse.  A good number of Black-winged Stilts and as I rounded the corner I was just in time to see a Squacco Heron before it disappeared down the other side of the bank.  On the other hand, the bird did reveal the Purple Swamphen that was wandering around the reeds.  Again, not a lot of birds present but I did record Little Egret and a few Common Pochard in addition to more Red-crested Pochards.  A distant Marsh Harrier was not unexpected and then, parking at the far end to check out the island, a lovely mix of birds to be seen.  Unfortunately, presumably due to lack of birders, the reeds had grown quite tall and were beginning to thicken so very difficult to get clear views but sufficient to reveal another Squacco Heron and a Spoonbill resting alongside a handful of Red-crested Pochards.  It was also here that the Cattle Egrets had gathered to feed.

Through the reeds shot of a Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia accompanied by Squacco Heron Garcilla Cangrejera Ardeola ralloides and Red-crested Pochards Porron Colorado Netta rufina

Close up record shot of the Squacco Heron Garcilla Cangrejera Ardeola ralloides
At the very back of the water I was able to pick out a trio of Black-necked Grebes in what looked like full summer plumage and the occasional Moorhen.  A mixture of Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls were also present.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio
All done and time to drive round to old salinas with a first stop at the picnic pool where I found dozens of Mallards, mainly resting on the bank, along with a few Common Pochard and a single, male White-headed Duck.  Strange bird this; he wanted to join the Mallards to see if any food was going begging but swam in disguise with his head tucked into his back.  Quite weird to watch reverse mode.  So, with a pair of Crested Larks feeding on the tack I set off to check out the main pools and, best of all, not another person in sight; the area was entirely mine!

White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxytura leucocephala
Lots of Black-winged Stilts but then, at last, the Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers put in an appearance.  A distant view of a Collared Pratincole which then took to the air was rather lucky but fifteen minutes later I was to realise that these were nesting birds with at least a score in the air at any one time.  Lovely birds to watch as they fly around like either under-sized terns or overgrown swallows.

Distant Collared Pratincole Canastera Comun Glareola pratincole and in flight oveerhead (belwo)
A handful of Dunlin was found and then a small flock of what looked like Golden Plovers.  Certainly not Grey Plovers yet they had many similarities of Dotterel so record shots take to try and solve the mystery on the computer when I returned home.   (Watch this space, as they say.) A long way down the salinas and checking out the side track I picked up a number of (Iberian) Yellow Wagtails and finally found the main flock of, presumably, non-breeding Flamingos.  Mainly Black-headed Gulls here but closer examination did reveal a pair of Slender-billed Gulls.

"Blue-headed" Yellow Wagtail Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae and beow taking off rather than landing.  Just like a helicopter with its nose facing down!
About a score of Avocets present but they, like the Flamingos, were a long way down the track.  And also a single Common Redshank working a pool.

Avocet Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta

Making my way back via Las Norias on the homeward journey, I picked up both a Magpie and a Stonechat on the wires before heading back through the greenhouse from Roquetas de Mar.  It was also here that I saw my first and only Barn Swallow of the day.  Nothing to add at Las Norias other than a single Cormorant which had arrived for its lunch-time rest.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail,  Stonechat, Blackbird, Reed Warbler, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow.

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

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Ventas de Zafarraya & El Robledal

Saturday 15 April

It may have been Easter Saturday but it did not prevent twelve of us from the Andalucia Bird Society meeting up at the mirador above Ventas de Zafarraya to walk the railway line and then follow on to the woods over at El Robledal.  We had expected a cold start but, for some strange reason, there was more direct sunlight at 9.30 than expected so a very pleasant day indeed which simply got warmer and warmer.  Indeed, no sooner had I arrived and been joined by Derek and Barbara Etherton than a single Bonelli's Eagle drifted over above us to be followed, almost immediately, by a pair of Ravens travelling in the opposite, eastwards, direction.  Also seen at the very start of the day were Blackbird, Spotless Starling and Collared Dove and as the group prepared to move off we had our first Chough of the morning.

Meanwhile, in the immediate area of the car park there were Stonechats, Serins and Goldfinches to be seen and before we had reached the tunnel we had the first of many Blue Rock Thrush sightings.  A pair of Linnets flitted about and then our first of the breeding Black Wheateras.  A number of Rock Sparrow were resting on the wires and, in addition to the local Crag Martins, an Alpine Swift flew out from the large cave.  Above the cave perched on the precipice, a single Ibix worked its way along the rock face to the pleasure of all those watching and waiting for the first slip - but they never do!  Other small birds noted in the tunnel vicinity were Greenfinch, Blue Tit and Black Redstart.

Reaching the old ruin before commencing our return walk we also found Sardinian Warbler then a pair a Melodious Warbler with its very yellow front.  On the relatively recently restored farmhouse a  small number of House Sparrows were recorded along with the nesting House Martins.  A pair of Woodchat Shrike were a delight but, perhaps, the best sighting was that of a pair of Spectacled Warblers which regularly "popped up" so that all got at least a brief view.  The distant Peregrine Falcon that we all saw perched on the cliff top near its traditional nest when we first started walking put in an appearance as it saw off a Black Kite that had strayed a little too close to it territory.  Very high and only visible with binoculars, a small flock of about a dozen Alpine Swifts were making their way northwards.  More Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrushes and Crag Martins as we approached the cars and then Common Swift as we headed away from the village and up to El Robledal with a coffee break before starting along the track.

The track produced the first Chaffinches and a very close Woodchat Shrike and Dartford Warbler.  At least four jays crossed the road and flew through the neighbouring trees along with a Mistle Thrush.  A Green Woodpecker was heard "yaffling" away as we made our first longer stop to be rewarded with Coal Tits and Chaffinches and then a very close Cuckoo singing its well-known song.  Next it was a pair of Wood Lark sighted by about half the group before reaching the car park area for lunch our picnic lunch.

The car park was relatively quiet and devoid of birds other than the occasional Chaffinch and Great  Tit as we started off on our anti-clockwise circuit of the nearby woods.  A pair of distant Griffon Vultures and a Woodpigeon went crashing out of a nearby tree.  A few also saw the Common Kestrel before it was masked by the sun shining straight into our eyes.  Indeed, it was a very pleasant walk but we probably saw more butterflies athan birds!  About half-way round we stopped to study the dark morph Booted Eagle and whilst a couple picked up a Short-toed Treecreeper we were almost back at the car park when the action really started.  First a Nuthatch climbing down the trunk whilst others missed it to watch the Long-tailed Tit in the next tree.  Ere long all had seen both.  Then, within sight of the cars, a dark shape high in the sky and as we watched the bird turned, flew on, then back and gave all, or certainly most, the opportunity to get the birds in their bins and successfully identify it as a Goshawk.  Now that's the way to end a birding day with a smile on your face and 45 species recorded, including, for me, three new sightings for the year.

Birds seen:
Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle, Booted Eagle, Goshawk, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Green Woodpecker, Wood Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Melodious Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Chough, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Zapata and high track above El Burgo

Wednesday 12 April

Zapata and the mountain trail above El Burgo.  Sounds like a trip into bandit country - and once would have been!  Up very early to meet up with Barbara and Derek Etherton plus Micky Smith to be down at Zapata before daybreak to have a reasonable chance of seeing the newly-returned Red-necked Nightjars.  However, it was the very many Nightingales that we heard first on arrival and after the briefest glimpse of a Red-necked Nightjar then a few circuits did eventually bring us to a stop where we could hear a very close individual.  No sooner heard than the bird flew up in front of the car and disappeared into the darkness.  Wonderful!

With light breaking and a walk towards the river we could make out Black-winged Stilts and overhead the remarkable sight of a White Stork which then landed to rest in the water itself.  On the far bank Moorhens, Mallards and Little Ringed Plovers whilst, overhead incoming Night Herons and Cattle Egrets. With the improving light we then had our first raptor as an Osprey passed overhead making its way upstream  Around us Greenfinch and Serins along with Blackbirds and Collared Doves.  The first Barn Swallows put in an appearance and the riverside revealed both Common and Green Sandpipers.  A pair of Gadwall appeared out of nowhere on the water.

Around us we continued to listen to the numerous Nightingales and then a Cetti's Warbler joined in the morning chorus.  Yellow-legged Gulls, Jackdaws, Common Swift and Red-rumped Swallows were added to the overhead birds as we moved on down to the reed-bed.  Here we added Reed Warbler, Goldfinch, Sardinian Warbler and Blackcap along with a Zitting Cisticola and a pair of Grey Heron.

Record shot of Short-toed Treecreeper Agateador Comun Certhia brachydactyla
A short break for breakfast and then we made our way inland through Ardales and up to the long mountain track above El Burgos.  The most enjoyable aspect of this track, apart from the fabulous views, was the lack of company.  After a couple of hours a single car passed us and we were not to see our second and final vehicle until we left the site another two and a half hours later.  No shortage of Corn Buntings and especially Chaffinches as made our way having already added Blue Tits and Great Tit along with Rock Dove on the way.  The woods produced the anticipated Blackcap, Coal Tit and Short-toed Treecreper, a quartet of Jays and a handful of Mistle Thrush.  Further on a couple of Hoopoes crossed the track in an open space and we also found Wood Lark and a Cirl Bunting.

One of the delights was to also find a rising Sky Lark and then a Sparrowhawk circling high over the trees followed by a passing flock of about fifty Bee-eaters.  Close by we also encountered Stonechat, Thekla lark and Linnet.  Eating our picnic lunches and looking towards the steep cliffs we were able to add Chough and Crag Martin along with a few soaring Griffon Vultures.  Not so much the Blue Rock Thrush that Derek found with the scope but the sudden sound of what sounded like some form of car or electrical alarm.  Not our mobiles and the proverbial penny dropped as first Micky, then Derek and I realised that we listening to a calling Scops Owl, a real revelation.  And so on to the end of the track picking up a trio of Alpine Swifts above their breeding cave and both Woodchat Shrike and Woodpigeon along the track itself.  A final raptor on the mountain was a high Bonelli's Eagle.

Distant record shot of Wood Lark Alondra Totovia Lullula arborea
Making our way back to the cars parked near Zapata we called in at the Rio Grande where we found plenty of Black-winged Stilts and Little Ringed Plovers along with Moorhen and Mallard and, finally, our first Little Egret of the day.  A Buzzard circled above in the distance and the journey home produced at least three Kestrels on the electricity pylons alongside the main road.  A great day's birding with five new species of the year for me in wonderful company.  But I certainly needed the sleep at the end of the day!

Birds seen/heard:
Gadwall, Mallard, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Osprey, Bonelli's Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Scops Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Wood Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Nightingale, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Tuesday 11 April

Jenny on an early flight back to the UK so chance to send a few hours down at the Guadalhorce, Malaga before returning home for lunch and getting down to the domestic duties.  Whilst welcomed by the resident Monk Parakeets, Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, Rock Doves and Blackbirds along with a few of the summer House Martins, I realised that something was very different.  The track edges had been trimmed on both sides and on reaching the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande I also noticed that the vegetation in front of the hide had been tidied up and cut back, as had the areas in front of all the hides.  However, once reaching the eastern arm of the river I also noticed that the lower land on the landside of the track had also been severely cut back; rather like one of those long-haired male hairstyles of the 1970s having visited the barber for a drastic short back and sides!

Adding Sardinian Warbler and House Sparrow as I made my way to the main hide I was greeted with many Black-winged Stilts and a good number of Cormorants still present plus a couple of Herons.  On the water about a dozen Black-headed Gulls and a pair of both Little and Black-necked Grebes.  Both the odd Cattle and Little Egrets departed and I moved on to the Laguna Escondida. Here I found both Red-crested and Common Pochard along with Mallard and Moorhen.  The Laguna Casillas also produced Common Pochard, Mallard and Little Grebe but, in addition, a few White-headed Duck, Gadwall and CootGoldfinches and Barn Swallows feeding overhead.  As with all areas, there were numerous Black-winged Stilts and many already incubating their eggs.

The Wader Pool had finally started to lose some of its water and produce the necessary sandbanks to attract the waders though, today , there was just the single Redshank and a pair of Common Sandpiper along with a solitary Little Ringed Plover.  Two Spoonbills were in residence and joined by half-a-dozen Little Egret.

Squacco Herons Garcilla Cangrejera Ardeola caloides (taken with mobile phone)

However, it was the Rio Viejo , the Old River, that finally produced the goods.  Lots of Black-winged Stilts but also a pair of Avocet.  Smaller waders included both Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers along with a handful of Curlew Sandpiper.  Whilst a sole White wagtail patrolled the near bank I was made aware of the pair of Squacco Heron resting in the near corner.  No camera with me but on watching a local Spanish birder make use of my scope to take a picture with her phone I thought, why not me, I have a phone with a camera.  But I must admit, I was pleased that the young lady used her expertise to actually take the record shot of the Squacco Herons.  Not a bad morning, well under three hours and 35 species recorded.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, Goldfinch.

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

Monday, 10 April 2017

ABS Field Visit to Tarifa

Saturday 8 April

Collared Pratincole Canastera Comun Glareola pratincola
What a windy night and start to the day which does not promise well for good birding when we meet up with other members of the Andalucia Bird Society for the first of three field meetings in April.  On t other hand, a quick stop at the well-known car park did indeed, eventually, produce a Garden Bulbul and with a male Common Redstart at the bottom of the same tree.  Overhead no end of calling Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, Barn Swallows and a pair of Lesser Kestrel.

Having sorted ourselves out on where to go considering the windy conditions, we duly set off t the shore in the hope that there might be some smaller birds on show.  Both Cormorant and Raven recorded before we arrived and then a Sardinian Warbler and the first Stonechat.  Everyone heard the singing Nightingale but the bird refused to show itself so we had to make do with the lovely song and then both Blackcap and GoldfinchHouse Sparrows and Linnet came in to drink from a large puddle before we move up towards the end of the track and found the resident Little Owl.  A dark phase Booted Eagle, Black Kite and Common Kestrel were also recorded before we made our way back and decided that we would be better off exploring the old salinas behind Barbate.  A short stop on the  way back along the track produced the first Black-eared Wheatear of the year.  We also managed to add Barn and Red-rumped Swallow along with House Martin and a White Stork before rejoining the main N340 road.

Black-eared Wheatear Collalba Rubia Oenanthe hispanica
Taking the track round the back at Barbate we soon saw Yellow-legged Gulls and the first of very many Corn Buntings and Crested Larks.  However,it was not so much the Barn Swallows that drew our attention as the Collared Pratincoles which seemed sufficiently relaxed to land very close to the car for even better views.  Pallid Swifts flew over as Iberian Yellow Wagtails worked the track.

Collared Pratincole Canastera Comun Glareola pratincola
On the shore Sanderling, Dunlin, Little Stint and Ringed and Kentish Plover were recorded before we saw our first Cormorant.  Lots of Woodchat Shrikes and a few Norther Wheatears as we made our way down the track to the rear.  Then the third and final new bird of the year recorded today when a very obliging Tawny Pipit decided that the main track was the place to feed.  Other small birds included Goldfinch, Greenfinch and White Wagtail before both House Sparrow and Hoopoe put in an appearance.

Woodchat Shrike Alcaudon Comun Lanius senator
The further ponds did produce Mallard, Little Egret and Grey Heron before we found the single Grey Plover and a Common Sandpiper. The very few Spoonbills were distant which was not the case with the Black-winged Stilt and Little Egret seen on the way out.  Finally, leaving the site we had time to stop and take a look at the nesting Bald Ibis and accompanying Jackdaws before driving on to the western entrance to La Janda.

Even with more light this Bald Ibis Ibis Eremita Geronticus eremita is still one ugly bird!
With the continuing strong winds there was very little to see on a relatively quick drive through La Janda along the main track.  Yes, both Cattle and Little Egrets along with Grey Herons and the only raptors seen being a couple of Common Kestrel. Both Pallid and Common Swift along with Barn Swallow in the air and close to the ground a number of smaller bids including Stonechat, Goldfinch and Linnet.  Amongst the White Stork we managed to find a Glossy Ibis and a few Mallards tucked into protective channels.  A Pheasant crossed the track in front of the car and a small flock of Jackdaw took to the skies.  By way of contrast, we actually found our first Purple Swamphen of the past week.  Finally, driving up the track to the main road what appropriate birds to see on the rusting fences but Stonechat, Corn Bunting and Woodchat Shrikes.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio
And so back home to Mezquitilla and time to rest before starting on these reports and checking out the photographs.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Bald Ibis, Grey Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Collard Dove, Little Owl, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Tawny Pipit, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Garden Bulbul, Nightingale, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Blackcap. Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

Birding Huelva: Day 3

Thursday 6 April

Day 3: Castro Marin and the Portuguese Salinas of Taverna

Lots of Bee-eaters Abejanuco Europeo Merops apiaster seen at close quarters
The relatively short drive down to the Portuguese border in the one car and then across to the Castro Marin reserve that borders the river.  Whilst we had recorded Collared Dove, Spotless Starling, Kestrel and both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows on the way down, it was the increasing numbers of Crested Larks and Corn Buntings that reminded us more of the habitat we were about to encounter.  No sooner had we arrived than we were also finding Magpie, Stonechat and Zitting Cisticola but then came the moment, at last, when we finally found our first Azure-winged Magpies since arriving in the west.  Interesting to find a massive Ocellated Lizard resting in the shade; must have been at least 60cm long including tail.

Ocellated Lizard Timon lepidus
The small pools contained a mixture of Mallard, Cattle and Little Egrets along with Black-winged Stilts, Redshank and a solitary Greenshank.  A Marsh Harrier drifted by away to the right and then flight sightings also of White Stork, Bee-eater and Common Swift. Both Spoonbills and House Martins flew over as we made our way towards the Visitors Centre and a pleasant inter-change with local warden Felipe.

Lovely to see so many Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia

A walk, having collected the key, to the enclosed fresh water pool produced Serin and Goldfinch and on the water Coot, Mallard, Shoveler and Gadwall along with a few Shelduck.  A Little Grebe was happy to regularly dive for its food and even a pair of Red-legged Partridges came down to the waterside to see what was going on and revealed a Common SandpiperRed-rumped Swallows were above us as we made our way back and then took a look at the far salinas which revealed a small number of Flamingos and two pairs of Avocet.  Once we had recorded the Little Ringed Plover we made our way down to the extensive salinas along the coast to the east of Tavira.

These extensive salinas were awash with waders and water birds.  Not just the expected Grey Herons and Little Egrets but masses of Dunlin and Redshank along with Grey Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling and Turnstone.  Great fun watching the Turnstones doing as their name implied as they turned quite large stones over in the shallow water.  As expected, we also found both Little Ringed and Kentish Plover.  On the banks we found a number of Iberian Yellow Wagtail along with the occasional Blackbird.

Bar-tailed Godwit Aguja Colipinta  Limosa lapponica
As the Yellow-legged Gulls flew overhead we then found a Marsh Sandpiper and Bar-tailed Godwit, the latter the only godwit seen during the week.  The Bar-tailed Godwit took off to the nearby river and, on finding the bird, we also found another Grey Plover and a WhimbrelOystercatchers were seen and a Sandwich Tern was feeding off-shore.  As we returned to the main road, the final pool provided our first Purple Heron of the week and a distant Curlew was heard by all.

Curlew Zarapito Real Numenius arqueta
On the track we came across a Northern Wheatear which remained faithful to the top of a pile of stones and a Hoopoe crossed the track in front of us whilst, high above, a Buzzard was making lazy circles in the sky.  Driving away we also noted the resting Cormorants.

Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe


Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel,  Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Turnstone, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

More of the Bee-eaters Abejanuco Europeo Merops apiaster

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

Birding Huelva: Day 4

Friday 7 April

Day 4: El Rocio and the Donana National Park

Time to depart Punto Umbria and make our way to Tarifa via the Donana National Park.  An hour or so later, after taking breakfast on the way, we were parked up outside the SEO Vistors centre at El Rocio having already recorded Azure-winged Magpie, Corn Bunting, Woodchat Shrike and Stonechat.  What a lovely and amazing little town this is and, for the first time in many years, lots and lots of water; indeed, more I think than I have ever seen.

Recording House Martins, Collared Doves, Spotless Starings as we drove through the town we were soon wondering where the little islands in the main pool might have gone, the water being so deep.  No shortage of Black-winged Stilts and Red-crested Pochards and soon we also found Common Pochard, Shoveler and Mallard. A few Jackdaws were flying round and immediately next to the Centre a new heronry containing mainly Glossy Ibis along with Cattle Egret and a few Night Herons.  Further over on the water we found flocks of both Flamingo and Spoonbill along with the occasional Grey Heron and a few Gadwall.  Not as many as a winter visit but still a good number of Greylag Geese on the far water.  The White Storks were on their nests and we had both Red and Black Kites in the sky along with Common Kestrel.

Bee-eater Abejarucco Europea Merops apiaster
Both Cormorant and Griffon Vulture were seen in the sky and around us calling Cetti's Warblers.  There was also a small flock of Spanish Sparrows feeding alongside their House Sparrow cousins.  No sooner had we had another flypast of both swallows than both Pallid and Common Swift were recorded and whilst I missed the passing pair of Black Tern I did return in time to see the Whiskered Terns and a Raven.

Spanish Sparrow Gorrion Moruno Passer hispaniolensis
Next came the long drive over to the large water at the Dehesa de Abajo recording very many Woodchat Shrikes, a single Iberian Grey Shrike and Corn Buntings on the way and a short stop produced a whole raft of small birds including Nightingale, another Common Redstart, Great Tit, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch.  A Hoopoe flew away as we departed.

Female ("Ring-tail) Montagu's Harrier Aguillucho Cenizo Circus pygargus
A short drive down the track towards the Valverde centre produced a Northern Wheatear, more Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins.  However, it was the numerous Bee-eaters and a good-sized flock of Sand Martins that really drew our attention plus the handful of feeding Lesser Kestrel.  Before deciding that we did not have sufficient time to spare if we were going to check out the Dehesa de Abajo before the long drive  over to Tarifa we had a rather lovely female Montagu's Harrier and a reasonably close Purple Heron.

Purple Heron Garza Imperial Ardea purpurea
Arriving at the large lake at the Dehesa de Abajo we appreciated how much the wind had suddenly picked up as we found choppy waters and relatively few birds.  A few Great Crested and Little Grebes and even a rather lovely Black-necked Grebe along with Mallard, Shoveler and Red-crested Pochard and a fair-sized flock of Flamingos at the back of the water.  No shortage of resident White Storks and a passing Marsh Harrier.  Meanwhile, the Reed and Cetti's Warblers were happily singing away

Even the local, resident Jackdaws Grajilla Corvus monedula were taking shelter in the Bald Ibis nest sites
Then it was the long drive to Tarifa with a very strong cross-wing making driving very tiring but a very short detour enabled us to see the Bald Ibis hunkered down on their nests accompanied by the local Jackdaws and a passing Yellow-legged Gull.  But, on the other hand, the four days had produced a total in excess of 120 species including 15 new species for the year.

Even in very dark conditions there is no disguising the fact that these Bald Ibis Ibis Eremita Geronticus eremita are ugly-looking birds!

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Little Grebe, Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Bald Ibis, Grey Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Purple Heron, Red Kite, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Yellow-legged Gull, Black Tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Nightingale, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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