Thursday, 20 July 2017

Calar Alto and Sierra de Maria

Wednesday 19 July


Just back from my potentially horrendous visit to the UK and a welcome report from my friend Dave Elliott-Binns to remind me that there is a world of birds out there waiting for me to make contact once more.  So, enjoy Dave's report and for me, all being well, it is Fuente de Piedra come Monday.  The forecast on the coast is clear, dry and sunny with temperatures above the mid-twenties but inland, where I am going, it is suggesting a baking 38C!!!!!  No need for a jumper then.

Calar Alto   -  Tuesday 18th &
Sierra de Maria   -  Wednesday 19th July 2017

Paul and  Matt are still on theirs hols, so whilst Gilly was doing her weekly yoga session, I took them up to the 7,000+Ft heights of the Calar Alto Observatory behind Seron.  We started to climb once we left Tijola.  We stopped at a bridge over a running brook in a valley full of tall trees.  Paul spotted a pair of Black Wheatear high up on the steep valley side.  I then heard the sultry song of a Golden Oriole.  Neither of my companions had seen one before.  A female then flew right over us and disappeared into the trees.  We carried on a bit further up and stopped when we saw movement in a tree we were passing.  Another female giving slightly better views this time.  Driving further up we saw a Kestrel, but then I spotted a large bird of prey soaring above us to the right.  Luckily we were just coming to our next stopping point.  We had good views of a Golden Eagle before it folded its wings back slightly and disappeared from view.  We spotted a perched Woodchat Shrike, looking a bit rough after the breeding season.  

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We added Wood pigeon and Corn Bunting before turning up towards the Observatory.  We were disappointed that we didn't see any Tawney Pipits or Rock Thrush, but we had good views of Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Linnet and Serin.  We saw a total of 15 species.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The next day Gilly was free so we all headed for one of our favourite (and cooler) spots, the Sierra de Maria.  On the way up we'd already logged Common Swift and Woodchat Shrike.  Once in Maria town we added White Wagtail and numerous House Martins around the Repsol Garage canopy.  After a coffee, we made our way to the chapel area.  Only had Rock Sparrow, Goldfinch and Blackbird there so trudged up to the botanical gardens.  Here we had a number of immature Subalpine Warblers plus some Bonelli's Warblers as well.

Young Bobelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The small pools were attracting birds to drink.  We saw Crested Tit, Crossbill, Blue Tit and Chaffinch.  Griffon Vultures were soaring above us.  Gilly and Matt stayed there as Paul and I did the lower walk.  We had good views of Short-toed Treecreeper, more Subalpine Warblers and a Western Orphean Warbler.  We returned to Gillyand Matt with our list only to hear they'd had good views of Hawfinch plus a Coal Tit.  Luckily the Hawfinch returned so both Paul and Matt had lifers!  A Booted Eagle flew over before we headed back to the truck. 

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The stop at the farm buildings proved fruitless and a huge flock of sheep was drinking at the water troughs so we didn't stop.  Paul spotted a Hoopoe before we headed along the plain.  We managed to see Crested Lark, Carrion Crow and Northern Wheatear before arriving at the hamlet.   There were more Crested Larks around the piles if wheat with some Short-toed Larks as an added bonus.  A solitary Lesser Kestrel gave us good views.  By the look of the photo it appears to be a juvenile female with fluffy feathers still on her head!

Fluffy topped female Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We made our way to the La Piza forest cafe, seeing a Little Owl on the way.  Whilst eating our early lunch we were entertained by Crossbills, Chaffinches and Jays having drinks or baths in the water pool.  I also spotted a Pied Flycatcher.  We ended with 31 species.  I suspect Paul and Matt have enjoyed their birdwatching trips with us!

If looks could kill....Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Time for this Jay Garrulus glandarius to get a wash and brush-up (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Regards, Dave



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

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Summer Birding

Sunday 16 July

Make the most of this morning before the forecasted showers arrive about 1pm and just in time to add a little sparkle to the star of the British Grand Prix at, not do far away, Silverstone.  So, back from a walk down to the local petrol station to collect a Sunday paper, it is time to bring readers up to date with my present birding world.

This month to date has been most frustrating.  Whilst you have been enjoying 40+C weather in southern Andalucia we have had mainly dry and sunny weather with just the occasional shower or two but our 22C seems far more humid that your oven conditions.  Thanks goodness I got in a couple of hours at nearby Rutland Water at the start of the month and the second week-end visit to my eldest son near newbury in Berkshire to join up with all three boys and families produced a family(ies) of Long-tailed Tits on the feeders, with a maximum of 15 recorded on a single occasion, along with juvenile Blue Tits and the occasional Great Tit.  An added bonus was to have a Red Kite drift over immediately above and, indeed, every time we drove out of Stamford we seemed to be able to guarantee at least one of these beautiful raptors above the road.

But that's it.  Continuing, hindered work trying to sort out mother's probate and then having my bank accounts hacked ten days ago has led to all sorts of misery and frustration.  Hours spent on the phone and visiting local branches to, at present unsuccessfully, resolve the situation has prevented any birding and I had expected, as a minimum, to pay at least three visits to Rutland Water along with a couple of new sites.  Just shows how losing £13K can make an impact on your everyday life - but it could have been worse and I could have lost all my savings along with mother's finances awaiting probate.  Always look  on the bright side and grateful for small mercies.

But then some good news to cheer me up.  I had an email late last evening from my friend Dave Elliott-Binns (Arboleas Birding Group) complete with a report, yet again, from a visit to the El Fondo reserve near Elche, Alicante.  Reading this and previous reports from his visits to the reserve it would appear that marbled Duck is a resident bird and one can be guaranteed a sighting on each visit; I must remembers to keep away!  Anyway, enjoy Dave's report.




El Fondo Bird Reserve   -   Saturday 15th July


Paul contacted me some time ago to arrange a trip to the El Fondo bird reserve near Elche whilst he and fellow holidaying birdwatcher, Matt, were here for the week.  They also bought friend Neville along as well.   We met up at the Overa Hotel, junction 547, A7/E15 at 05.30hrs and Paul kindly chauffeured us all up there.  Having been refreshed with coffee at the Cox service station, we made our way towards the reserve.  Being slightly early we first went to the old football pitch area between the North gate access and the Information Centre.  Paul spotted a large bird perched atop a dead palm tree trunk.  A Short Toed Eagle....a brilliant start.  Other dead palm trees were being used as nesting sites for Jackdaws.  We heard our first Zitting Cisticola of the day.  Neville spotted a Kestrel.  Also seen were Barn Swallow, Common Swift, Crested Lark and Magpie.
As the time for Antonio, the friendly ranger, to open the North gate was approaching, we headed in that direction.  Whilst waiting for his arrival we could hear a Stone Curlew.  Neville was first to see a Green Woodpecker flying by.  Antonio duly arrived and let us through the two gates.  We were first in the queue.  Within 50 metres were had flushed at least 10 Squacco Heron, a Grey Heron and some Night Heron from the roadside channel.  Squaccos were everywhere.  The trees above us had Little Egrets perched on top.  I ordered Paul to stop as I noticed one of the former was in fact a Great White Egret.  We also saw Red-rumped Swallows, Black -headed Gulls and a Lapwing fly over as we made our way down to the elevated viewing platform at the end.  Compared with my last visit, where, if you remember, there were loads of various heron species feeding round the reed line, this time there was nowt as the say north of Watford Gap.  I spotted a White-headed Duck. 

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
There were Common Pochard and Mallard.  There were small numbers of Great Crested and Little Grebes.  Yes, there were still numerous Squacco Heron.  There were joined by a regular fly-by of Little Bitterns and Glossy Ibises.  Matt spotted an Iberian Grey Shrike perched high in one of the leafless trees which were also inhabited by Little Egrets.  I found a Purple Swamphen in the reeds and we saw a few Purple Herons.  I also spotted a pair of Common Sandpipers.

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The only other group of visitors to the reserve today were a group from a Spanish Photography Club.  When they ascended the stairs we took the opportunity to walk along to the other hide down there.  As soon as we had arrived Paul spotted an Osprey sitting on a pole out of the water.  The water was quite low so the edges were muddy/sandy flats.  Not many birds on them but we did see Black-winged Stilts, Green Sandpiper and both Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers.  Some Shelduck and Greater Flamingos flew by whilst a half dozen Whiskered Terns quartered the water.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
With the arrival of the Photo group, having pointed out the Osprey, we returned to the elevated hide. We added Avocet.  Paul spotted a Hoopoe and Matt, a Little Tern.
 
We commenced our drive back to the exit, stopping off at the hides on the way. Our first stop was a painful stop for Neville and I.  Remember last time Les was stung by wasps on the steps. Both Neville and I got stung on the legs.  There was one nest under the steps and another larger one just to the side of the steps behind the hide sign.  Once inside, Paul found a Black-tailed Godwit on the shallow water in front of us and I spotted a flying Marbled Duck.  At the smaller elevated hide there were hundreds of black, white and grey birds in front of us.  Black-headed Gulls, Avocets, Little Egrets and at least 3 Great White Egrets.  Also seen were Slender-billed and Yellow-legged Gulls and Shelduck.  Amongst this group, hiding in full view, were 13 Spoonbill.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Antonio released us from there and we headed to the Information Centre.  The enclosed pool adjacent to the Centre provided good views of more Marbled Duck, a pair of collared Red-knobbed Coot and a fleeting view of a Purple Swamphen.  We wandered along the raised wooden walkway.  There was a commotion to our right.  A parent Coot with young was  viciously attacking a Purple Swamphen.  It was on its back pushing it totally underwater and pecking its head every time the poor bird came up for air.  It luckily managed to escape this ordeal.  I found a group of 5 Cattle Egret.  We headed for the furthest hide, seeing a flock of 100+ Glossy Ibis land further to our left.  The water level in front of the hide was very low, there being only a shallow pool.  There were 15 Glossy Ibis, together with some Black-headed Gulls there.  Paul spotted a pair of Greenshank.  We heard a Sardinian Warbler and actually saw a Zitting Cisticola on the way back to the car park!

Those dreaded Avipas that seem to love Dave's exposed legs!

Due to the hot weather we didn't have high expectations for the day, but we were proved wrong. 55 species in all.
Good birding in great company! Regards, Dave
It certainly sounds like a great day to me and I am still awaiting my first Marbled Duck of the year. 


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

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Breeding Bee-eaters in the UK!

Tuesday 4 July



Rare bee-eaters under 24-hour guard in East Leake quarry

This is what happens when a once-in-lift-time experience occurs in your local area.  Having watched the report on my local TV news and seen later reports I can confirm that the estimated crowd of "twitchers" visiting East Leake at the week-end was estimated at 2,500.  And with birds apparently settled in for the breeding season and likely to be in the area for the whole of the summer, I imagine that the final count will be well in excess of ten or even fifty thousand visitors.  Indeed, the site is not so far away from Rutland Water so, if still present, I would not be surprised to see additional visitors combining East Leake with next month's Bird Fair.

The following is extracted from the BBC News Internet site:


Seven bee-eater birds rarely seen in the UK are under 24-hour guard at a quarry over fears any potential nests could be disturbed.  The birds, usually found in southern Europe, were first spotted at the quarry, in East Leake, Nottinghamshire, on Sunday.  Tim Sexton, of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, said nest disturbance was a "constant worry" for conservationists.  Up to 2,000 people are expected to try and see the birds at the weekend.


The RSPB, which has set up a safe viewing area and a car-park to accommodate visitors, said trespassers would be reported to police.  Round-the-clock security has been brought in to prevent any nesting attempts by the birds being disturbed.  The charity tweeted: "... no need to trespass, risks everything. Keep out of quarry - simple!"




Mr Sexton said now the "incredible" birds have settled he is expecting a few thousand people over the weekend, but encouraged visitors to view them from the designated watch point.


The quarry, owned by minerals firm Cemex, is still active and protected by fencing and CCTV.
The RSPB and the wildlife trust are also providing volunteers to not only give out information and help to birdwatchers, but also report trespassers.  The birds, which feast on bees and other flying insects, are likely to nest at the site and have probably travelled northwards because of climate change, the RSPB have said.


Obviously photographs taken before the big week-end rush!

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham said: "It's an exciting bird, they're made of a patchwork quilt of colours which make them very exotic.
"They're head of a vanguard of birds that are moving northwards thanks to climate change... we've had increasing numbers of these birds remaining into summer [in the UK] and breeding."
The birds, which burrow into sandy banks, nested in Cumbria in 2015, and on the Isle of Wight in 2014.


A trio of the seven Bee-eaters Merops apiaster present at the quarry

 Bee-eaters are normally nest in southern Europe and are a very rare breeding bird in the UK
  • They nest in colonies in sandy banks often near rivers
  • The birds can burrow in 10ft (3m) tunnels and usually lay clutches of four to nine eggs
  • They can be seen tossing bees into the air after catching them
  • Bee-eaters are a schedule one species, which means intentional or reckless disturbance of their nests is a criminal offence

Source: RSPB

All photographs take from BBC News page

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

Monday, 3 July 2017

Rutland Water

Monday 3 July

An interesting, shortened morning as I stupidly put the camera in a rucksack and then forgot to take a spare battery so you all know what happened within the hour!  But the week-end has been ma case of "taking coals to Newcastle" as they say.  The very hot news around the Midlands is the arrival of seven, yes seven, Bee-eaters at the sand quarry at Old Leake and it very much looks as if a breeding record is on the way for this year.  Heard this morning that 2,500 birders had visited the site over the week-end so jolly pleased that I see them in Spain and was not part of this human invasion.

All on target being up early enough to arrive at Rutland Water car park by a few minutes after 7.30 and proceeded to spend a couple or so hours checking out the northern lagoons before returning to the Visitors Centre and time for a chat with both both Tim Appleton and Mike in the InScope sales office.  On arrival I was greeted by the usual assortment of Wood Pigeon, Starling, House Sparrow and Collared Dove but very, very few Jackdaw.  A couple of Carrion Crows as I made my way down the approach road and even a few feeding House Martins.  A Blackbird flew across the car park as I made my way down to the deserted feeding station; all very quiet so expected to see some good birds but, alas, just a handful of juvenile Blue Tits along with Dunnock and juvenile Robins.

Male Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Th trek down to the first of the norther hides, Redshank, overlooking Lagoon 2 produced more juvenile Robins and then a rather splendid cock Pheasant.  A Mistle Thrush was strutting its stuff on the track whilst, overhead, a Red Kite moved slowly away from the area.  From the hide I quickly observed the large number of Black-headed Gulls including a good number of juveniles.  Also preset were Mallard Mute Swan, Canada Geese, a few Pochard along with my first Little Grebe of the morning and, resting on their respective short posts, both a Little Egret and a Grey Heron.  Over the water the Sand Martins from the nearby nesting colony were actively seeking out their breakfast.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
So on to the Grebe and Osprey hides where I added both Coot and Moorhen along with the first of very many Tufted Duck and also Common TernLapwings at last along with a few Great Crested Grebes whilst using the scope revealed a single, distant, Osprey roosting of a branch overlooking the deep water of North Arm.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Moving on to Lagoon 4 and the Sandpiper hide I found a pair of Ringed Plovers and more Lapwings along with a handful of Pied Wagtails.  In addition to the Shelduck I also found a quartet of Teal.  More Black-headed Gulls, Mallards and another Little Egret before I found the resident Great Black-backed Gulls.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
The Shoveler hide overlooking Lagoon 3 had a whole host of water birds, most already recorded, along with families of both Mute Swan and Little Grebe.  The Shovelers looked in a rather sorry state as they undertook their moult and a Reed Warbler was scrabbling about in the bottom of the reeds to my left.

Mum and Dad Mute Swan Cygnus olor with family
Returning to the Visitors Centre I managed to add both Greylag and Egyptian Goose along with a couple of Cormorant and a few Common Tern then a return visit to the feeding station added both Great Tit and a single Goldfinch.


Feeding Common Tern Sterna hirundo
My final stop was up at the North Arm on the way home which, at first, seemed very quiet until I discovered the mass of Great Crested Grebes, Coots and Cormorants.  More Black-headed Gulls, Mallards and Tufted Ducks and even feeding Common Terns.  I may not have seen the 4000 plus Gadwall that were noted at the week-end but certainly there were some in a poor state of plumage.  All this and still home before noon so that I could both charge and replace camera batteries in readiness for a more length visit later in the week - subject to all other jobs having been completed.


I know they're suppose to be "ugly ducklings but are you one of mine?

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan,  Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Teal, Pochard, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Osprey, Red Kite, Moorhen, Coot, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Sand Martin, House Martin, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Reed Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch.
 
An apparently headless juvenile Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus


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

Rutland Water with Chris Bell

Saturday 1 July

Well, it's all been happening these past few days!  Landed almost an hour late at East Midlands but at least it meant that we missed the morning rain.  On the other hand, the queue for immigration was not only outside the control room but half-way down the runway with, I am sure, at least 2500 bodies in front of ours.  But we mad steady progress, collected the car and were back in Stamford by 4.30.  Welcomed home with an email for birding pal Chris bell who had spent the previous day at Rutland Water so I knew what to expect when I eventually found time to pay a visit (but first necessary top sort out probate papers, prepare back of garden for moving shed, empty shed, etc, etc.).

The following report from Chris is all set to whet rthe biridng appetite:

With only a single tick in June, be it that it was a brilliant, well behaved, full breeding plumage female Red-Necked Phalanrope on one of my regular Tuesday visits to Attenborough (20th), I decided to visit your old stamping ground Rutland Water on Saturday the 24th, where I would be able to see Osprey, having been unsuccessful in coming across them locally. (Non-breeders sometimes visit Welbeck Raptor Point just 4 mile away and whilst the odd one reported has not been seen by me but where this year I have also not managed to see either Goshawk nor Honey Buzzard.)

On purchasing my permit to bird, I was told of nesting Spotted Flycatcher by the approach to the Visitors Centre, and sure enough they were visiting a nest in an ivy covered tree on the eastern side of the road about 10 meters after you leave the car park, a jolly nice observation at the start of the session.

With nothing recently reported from Lagoon 4 requiring my immediate attention, I started my slow trek to Heron Hide, picking up a good variety of species, on the way, including : Blue, Great, and Long Tailed Tit; Chaffinch, Goldfinch , Dunnock, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Lapwing, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Coot, Moorhen; Swan; Mallard, Reed Bunting,Wood Pigeon,Collared Dove.

The old dilapidated Heron Hide seemingly eventually collapsed, and has been replaced by a very nice clean structure. I quickly remembered where to look for the nearest Osprey platform which from the hide has the nest just over the vegetation to the left of the line of Poplars and had excellent scoped views 250 meters away of 1 adult and 2 well grown young on the (apparently ground level) nest , with the second adult perched atop the pole. (They and 7 other sets of young on Rutland Water seemingly had been ringed during the week).

Typical of me, I almost instantly picked up on a diversion, high over that end of Manton Bay ,that turned out to be a Red Kite, and then realised in front of me, 100 meters away ,there were 2 Great White Egret patrolling the opposite side of the inlet, where also there were 4 Little Egret and a Grey Heron. Common Tern made frequent flights close to the hide, whilst out on the water there was a 40 strong flock of Greylag, good numbers of Mallard with the males well into eclipse plumage, Tufted Duck, Coot, and a few pairs of Great Crested Grebe some with young. A Lesser-Black Backed Gull made a lazy pass , and a few Black-Backed Gull put in appearances, and yes the Osprey family were all still in their same places. All jolly good stuff, but the opportunities of Lagoon 4 were beckoning.
On the way back to the visitors centre I picked up on a few additional species, Garden Warbler, Stock Dove, and Shelduck . I had my picnic lunch in a bench next to a reedbed where there had been a Sedge Warbler as I approached but of course it didn’t re-appear.

At the visitor centre whilst taking on more liquid up in the Gods, new species seen included 20+ Cormorant, 50+Canada Geese, Shoveller, Teal, Gadwall ,and a rather splendid Hobby that was picking off dragonfly over the reeds.

Making my way towards Lagoon 4 I disturbed a female Pheasant with its entourage of young .A couple of birders told me that earlier in the year they had seen Nightingale on the approach path to Bittern Hide, but there wasn’t one today however on its Lagoon 3, in the reeds immediately in front of the hide , there was a juvenile Reed Warbler and an almost still wet behind the ears juvenile Sedge Warbler, whilst further out there were adults of both species.

So to Plover Hide having been warned that it was quiet on Lagoon 4,and yes it was but rarely un-interesting. Hardly had I sat down when a pair of Egyptian Geese and 3 young landed on the water, and further out on the water there were other of the species with young. Searching the island in front of the hide turned up a brace of Ringed Plover and I was later to find others elsewhere on the Lagoon.A couple of very leggy Lapwing young were on another island .A pair of Redshank landed on the nearest island but didn’t stop long. A pair of noisy Oystercatchers with young were on the bank to the left of the hide. Some Sand Martin were landing on the island and picking up sand, presumably to prepare nests for their next breeding attempt. A few Swallow put in appearance, and Common Tern were flying at almost stall speed into the wind past the hide. Further out on islands there were a couple of Little Egret, and several Lesser-Black backed Gull.
Walking round to Sandpiper Hide (followed by Dunlin Hide ) I picked up on a Cetti’s Warbler in scrub on the left of the path.

Probably best from these 2 hides were a pair of Shelduck replete with 4 young, another pair of Ringed Plover, a dozen Common Tern on one of the sandbanks, a summering male Wigeon, a bird that I studied for a while which was only a oddly behaving juvenile Starling, a Yellowhammer in the fields to the south, 4 more long legged young Lapwing, a Redshank, and my 4th raptor species of the day a Buzzard flying over to the north.

So “all very interesting” but not too exciting.

Now its Monday morning approaching very rapidly so, if awake in time, I am hoping to be across by 7.30.  All is ready for the off and many thanks for the above briefing from Chris.

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