Monday, 15 October 2018

Rain stopped play!

White Stork  Ciconia ciconia still on site
Sunday 14 October

Looking forward all week to meeting up again with my old fried Dave Elliott-Binns of the Arboleas Birding Group up well beyond Almeria for a morning's birding at the Charca de Suarez in Motril.  On this occasion I was also able to take newly-met birders Rob and Louise Scheffer from Torrox Costa with me.  However, the forecast was not that brilliant with rain forecast between 11 and 1 o'clock but the journey was dry  with calm and cloudy skies with the odd break.

A little time in hand before the 9 o'clock opening so we made the slight diversion to take in "Turtle Dove Alley" getting a sighting of a lone Cattle Egret on the wires as we approached.  No sooner onto the concrete road than we had both Collared and Rock Dove along with a trio of Spotless Starlings.  On for a hundred metres or so and we stopped to watch the smaller birds picking up grit/feeding on the road amongst some discarded brick rubble.  Up first both House Sparrow and Serin and as the birds moved about they were joined  by a few Greenfinch but ere long arrived the much smaller birds and Rob and Louise had their first sighting of a Red Avadavat.  Looking at the House Sparrow I realised that at least one had a "split" bib and closer inspection revealed it to be a Spanish Sparrow.  Then on to the end of the road with a couple of Blackbirds were recorded before making our way to the Charca entrance where Dave was awaiting us.  Looking back, other than the noisy Cetti's Warblers and the "special" seen from the new hide these were to be our only small birds of the morning.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porpyrio
Collared Doves overhead as we made our way to the bamboo hide overlooking the Laguna Taraje where we immediately had both Red-knobbed Coot and a couple of Purple Swamphens out in the open and giving excellent views.  On the water a pair of Mallard and a handful of Moorhen plus a pair of Little Grebe with three very young, weeks at most, youngsters.  Certainly very late as we were later to see full grown juveniles.  At the far end of this water we picked up Common Coot.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porpyrio off climbing

Next to the large hide overlooking the Laguna del Alamo Blanco which always seems to attract the photographers.  Good levels of water and still clear weather.  The single White Stork was resting on its usual pile of dead reeds and in front more Moorhens and a number of Teal.  Also present were at least seven Common Snipe and then the arrival of a single Spoonbill showing a number of coloured rings. 

A multi-ringed Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia
A Marsh Harrier flew over putting up just about everything bar the White Stork and when calm returned we were delighted to have a fast-visiting Kingfisher flash over the water.
Look ou!  Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus overhead

Meanwhile, immediately in front of the hide, a juvenile Bluethroat wandered casually along feeding on the muddy ground and was followed by a second.

Juvenile Bluthroat Ruisenor Pechiazul Luscinia svecica

At this point Dave waved me over to him, sitting at the far right-hand looking towards the water, as he was sure that he had seen a crake.  Sure enough, with a little patience, the Spotted Crake put in a couple more brief visits out of the reeds before moving to the back of the water.  Not only a Spotted Crake but one of the resident Water Rail also gave the briefest of glimpses to Dave in the same location.  Next a White Wagtail posed for a minute or so on top of one of the planted perches and a Heron landed at the far end before we made our way to the next water.

Spotted Crake Polluela Pintoja Porzana porzana on the Laguno del Alamo Blanco
The Laguna de las Aneas held a couple of score or more Common Coots and maybe a score of mallard. A lone Cormorant rested towards the far end and a small number of Little Grebe were busy feeding.  On the island a trio of Shoveler and a single Pochard.  However, using the scope we were able to pick up more Pochard beyond the island and even a single Ferrunginous Duck.  My possible sighting of a Pintail proved accurate as the bird started feeding a little further away from the cover of the island. A pair of Little Egret arrived and we found a Heron resting on top of a tree at the far end of the water.  A passing Yellow-legged Gull was the only gull seen on the reserve.

Pintail Anade Rabudo Anas acuta awaiting the coming rains!
Our final stop was to be at the Laguna del Trebor.  The weather had turned much darker and we certainly knew what was coming!  A number of Red-knobbed Coot and a few Mallard along with a tired looking Heron away to our left.  Another Kingfisher, one also seen by Dave at the previous water, flashed by and then the spots of the water told us what was happening.  Looking at my watch I saw it was 12.02 and with rain having been forecast between 11 and 1 it could not have been more accurate!  Nothing to do but wait ten minutes or so for the rain to stop, we thought, and make our way out to complete the circuit.  Or so we thought.  Reaching the entrance to the toilets, about as far away from the exit that we could possibly be, the heavens opened and it absolutely threw it down; nevermind cats and dogs more like cows and horses!  No point in us all remembering the coats and at least four umbrellas resting safely in our cars but we were saved by the warden who appeared in his van to give us a dry lift back to the exit.  And so we bade farewell to Dave and made our way back to Torrox Costa and hardly back on the motorway than the sun came out.  It turned out to be a very warm afternoon but everywhere in the Axarquia seemed to have had a good dousing.

One of seven Common Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago
Nevertheless, some great birding during the three hours of dry weather and some wonderful birds in great company.

Shoveler Cuchara Comun Anas clypeata
Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, Spotted Crake, Water Rail, Moorhen, Purle Swamphen, Common Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Snipe, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Blackbird, Cetti's warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Serin, Greenfinch.

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

Friday, 5 October 2018

RSPB Frampton Marsh, Lincolnshire

Thursday 4 October

Up reasonably early and away so that I could complete a good four-hour visit to nearby RSPB Frampton Marsh on the outskirts of Boston, Lincolnshire.  Dry and cloudy start with only a little wind and certainly warmer than I expected - but not so warm that I did not need fleece and sleeveless, after all, this is not sunny Spain!  Just short of Spalding on the A16 I had a roosting Buzzard on a tree to my left and , on the same road, as I approached Frampton a large flock of feeding Rooks on a field to my right.  Then into the reserve itself at 9.05 where I quickly recorded Pheasant, Jay, Crow and Wood Pigeon.

My Canadian friend Peter Thoem always heads his blog as "My Bird of the day."  If I did the same I would already be referring to the pair of Spotted Redshanks but then I had a very close view of a Merlin trying to take a Linnet right in front of the Visitors Centre.  But no, this would still not be the "Bird of the Day" as very late in my stay I finally found the long-staying Long-Billed Dowitcher.  Surely this must have been the "Bird of the Day?"  Not so sure as almost immediately I found the, also long-staying, Cattle Egret.  Now this is a bird I can see by the hundred back in Spain but it was my very first sighting in Britain.  Did I mention both Scaup and Little Stint?

Back to the story of my morning at Frampton Marsh.  As usual with the Visitors Centre not yet open I drove down to the far end of the lane to check out the wet grassland below the high bank, passing a road-crossing Blackbird on the way, where the Long-billed Dowitcher had been recorded for the past week or more.  A Mute Swan and handful of Teal on my right and looking to the large puddles on the left I soon spotted both Avocet and Moorhen.  First the familiar flight call and then I watched the Curlew "sail" overhead and land in the grassland to the west.  But no Dowitcher.  On up to the bank top and looking over the saltmarsh I found a couple of Little Egrets plus another trio on the wet grassland of the reserve below the bank.  Diligent searching of this area found a few more Mute Swans and many Teal along with more than a smattering of Wigeon and the occasional mallard.  Indeed, there were more Shoveler than Mallards.

Wigeon Anas penelope are now beginning to appear in good numbers

Again, searching the waters below me I soon found a pair of Spotted Redshank feeding alongside a Common Redshank and a little further away a pair of Black-tailed Godwits. A pair of Little Grebe seemed very active so, presumably, this was the deepest water available.  Both Herring and Black-headed Gulls about, mainly the latter, and in the distance more Acocet, Teal and Wigeon.  never helps to meet fellow birders and hear them regale how they had seen the Long-billed Dowitcher on Monday alongside a pair of Black-tailed Godwits whilst trying to find shelter from the wind.  But not for me.  So, as I made my way back to the car I was fortunate to be looking in the right direction at the right time when a Reed Bunting made its very short flight up and over the reeds before disappearing from sight once more and also see a dozen Barn Swallows flying low to the west.  Indeed, I had to drive very slowly along the lane as i carefully followed a Stoat happily ambling along the road's edge.  Eventually I had to pass the animal as it bounded, almost bounced, into the adjacent hedgerow.

Once parked up I made my way to the Visitors Centre where the feeding area was full of House Sparrows, Goldfinches and the occasional Blue Tit.  The water in front held good numbers of Teal and Wigeon and certainly many more Moorhen.  By now I was seeing regular movements of Starling flocks and then a male Kestrel atop the dead tree in front of me.  The raptor took off and passed low and close to the the VC before disappearing left.  But then the bird was suddenly back in the tree but lower down.  As soon as it took flight those of us watching realised that this was not the same bird but  male Merlin which appeared within ten metres of our window and stooped to prey on a Linnet.  We assumed Linnet as it was unsuccessful with the passerine up out of the reeds to be chased and immediately caught by the Merlin.  What a sight as it spread its wings and seemed to "flop" down into the reeds but not before giving excellent views to all those watching from behind the windows.  Meanwhile, the raft of Tufted Ducks seem to float across the distant water.

Mainly Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula
Whilst all this was going on the warden had found a Scaup at the back of the water moving between a couple of islands which enabled a group of us to zoom in with our scopes.  Also at the back a couple of Shelduck and ,on the beach in front of the hide the appearance of a trio of Meadow Pipits.

A few of the many Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
So on to the 360 Hide which produced nothing other than two of the present seven Canada Geese there being no water whatsoever.  However, the nearby Reedbed Hide was far more productive.  Lots of Teal and  good numbers of Wigeon along with a small number of Moorhen, Mallard and Shoveler.  Lots more Avocet and a large flock of Black-tailed Godwit before I found the first of a few Pintail.  Further away at least  handful of Shelduck.  All were put up into the air as a Marsh Harrier passed over but soon returned.

When the Marsh Harrier passes the Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa take to the air - unlike the ducks

This could well have been the end of my morning but the warden had reported that the long-staying Cattle Egret along with a handful of early-arriving Whooper Swans had been see this morning on a scrape at the far south-west of the reserve below the high bank.  So, back to the car, with a pair of Magpies working the field in front, and a drive back to the end of the lane so that I could walk the high bank westwards.  This walk, against the wind, produced a first Snipe and then a couple of Reed Bunting.  Having reached the far end still no sight of the target birds but I did pick out a pair of Egyptian Geese and a trio of Greylag.  So a leisurely walk back to the car and, this time, picking up a first Pied Wagtail and my way as well as the Snipe.

Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Passing a trio of birders checking out the pool upon reaching the car another birder preparing to leave informed me that the birders I had just passed were checking out a pair of Little Stint and he had seen both the Long-billed Dowitcher and Cattle Egret.  We tried to locate the latter from our cars but insufficient height for the distance required,  What to do?  A no brainer really so about turn and back to the nearby view point.  Not only a pair of Little Stint but also both single  Dunlin and Sanderling along with more Teal and another Avocet.

Next up once more to the high bank and along till I reached the bench and a watching birder.  After telling me where he had last seen the bird I made myself comfortable for the upcoming search.  Spotted Redshanks below and a single Ringed Plover but then, in the furthest pool away, I at last found the Long-billed Dowitcher to add to another Snipe nearer to me. 

Very distant record shot of the long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolapaceus

Why stop now?  As a Greenshank passed overhead I concentrated on the very distant herd of beasts and, yes, there was the Cattle Egret.  What a way to end the morning and I even added a Robin as I drove out of the reserve.  Four hours and a few minutes and a total of over 50 species recorded.  Now to Spain.

Wigeon Anas penelope with the female above

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Moorhen, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Snipe, Long-billed Dowitcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Jay, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

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

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 3 October

Good to know that whilst I am back for a fortnight in the UK Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group are still exploring some of the best sites in Andalucia.  And look what I am missing; Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Wryneck, Sparrowhawk and Pintail to name but a handful.  Which ever way you look at it, 70 species is a cracking total for a day's birding so I must hurry up and get back to Spain,.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales:Wednesday 3rd October

After a week away working in Almeria, it was good to be back home.  Today Alec and I were heading for Cabo de Gata.  On the way we stopped in Retamar where some new friends, Sue and David, had come across a Wryneck last weekend.   Sure enough, not one, but two Wryneck were feeding on the ground.  A Spotted Flycatcher was feeding from a nearby branch.  Also seen were House Sparrow , Collared Dove and Blackbird.
Wryneck Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then headed for the Pujaire cafe where we met up with now slightly envious Les, Alan, John and Kevin!  On the way the "formers" had seen Kestrel, Iberian Grey Shrike, Thekla Lark and Jackdaw. After a coffee we made for the first hide.  As usual there were numerous Greater Flamingo and Slender-billed Gulls.  Near the rocky causeway were some Black-tailed Godwit.  Kevin found an Eurasian Curlew and some Black -winged Stilt near to the distant second hide.  We also had Little Egret, Ringed and Kentish Plover, Avocet, Redshank and the now long staying Oystercatcher which was on the causeway.  Near it was a Yellow-legged Gull and a juvenile Gull-billed Tern.  Barn Swallows and later Red-rumped Swallows were passing through.  On the savannah fencing I found a Northern Wheatear and a Greenfinch.  Nearby was a Sardinian Warbler and Stonechat.  I then spotted a female Sparrowhawk climbing and then stooping downwards, but obviously failing to secure breakfast.  It gained height again to be joined by a male.
Flamingos Phoenicopterus ruber with accompanying Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We moved onto the second hide from which we saw large groups of Avocet amongst the Greater Flamingos.  A Marsh Harrier flew by.  Also seen were a Grey Heron and some Shelduck, found by John.  I heard a distant Raven and sure enough, on our way to the public hide there were a pair near the road.
Raven Corvus corax (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
As we arrived Alan and John glimpsed a Dartford Warbler.  As well as more Shelduck, we saw Mallard and Shoveler.  Les ran down the list of waders seen..  Dunlin, Little Stint, Sanderling, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Avocet, Redshank and Greenshank.  On the rocky causeway to the right were Sandwich Terns and Yellow-legged Gulls.  John found a definite Lesser Black-backed Gull.  I found a long line of Black-necked Grebe.   Finally adding a White Wagtail, we adjourned for elevenses to the nearby seafront cafe where we sea-watched in comfort.  I spotted a Cormorant swimming near to a buoy.  Then further out a line of about 6 Balearic Shearwaters heading south.  A few Audouin's Gull flew out to sea.
We then convoyed to the Rambla Morales, Les and co seeing a Kestrel on the way.  There were numerous Coot at the estuary end, but no waders.  Overhead Barn Swallows, House and Sand Martins flocked.  I then spotted a Booted Eagle.  Later a dark phase individual flew over us causing a bit of identity confusion till we saw its back patterning!
Female Pintail Anas acuta (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Les found a pair of Whinchat.  Someone else (or Les) found a Great White Egret.  On the water we had White-headed Duck, Shoveler, Teal, Common Pochard and a female Pintail plus a Moorhen and Little Grebe.  As we returned to the vehicles we saw about 4 Yellow Wagtails by the estuary and a Black-tailed Godwit.  Les, Alan and John had a Black-eared Wheatear on the journey to our lunchtime cafe.  Kevin plumped for a swim instead! 
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Predictably we returned to the Wryneck site on the way home.  Unfortunately for Les, Alan and John there was no sign, but the Spotted Flycatcher performed well.  We added Serin and Goldfinch.  Les found Olivacious Warbler, Black Redstart and Robin.  We could hear the Monk Parakeets.  A Hoopoe completed the list.
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
A great days birding in good company. 70 species in total !
Regards, Dave

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

Monday, 1 October 2018

Rutland Water

Monday 1 October

Following an enjoyable week-end away visiting my sons, etc (during which I also delighted to see so many Sky Larks), I returned to Stamford last night so able to spend the morning at nearby Rutland Water.  Whilst it might have looked beautiful and sunny, no sooner had I arrived on site than I realised how cold it was, probably no more than about 6C!!!!  Welcomed by Carrion Crows, Wood Pigeons, a single Magpie and a quartet of Jackdaws as I made my way to the Burley Fishponds.  Lots of water birds about and I soon had a list of ducks including Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Wigeon.  No shortage of either Cormorants or Great Crested Grebes and also a couple of Little Grebe.  Naturally, there was also a supply of Coot and Moorhen with the former more in evidence.  Larger birds included Mute Swan, Greylag and Canada Geese plus a handful of Egyptian Geese.  On the far bank, as well as both Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls I also noted a little group of five Little Ringed Plovers.

Female & male Gadwall Anas strepera followed by male Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Time to move on to the feeding station in front of the Visitors Centre only to find the place almost deserted.  A Grey Squirrel was hogging the far feeder and all the local House Sparrows seemed to be working the nearer feeders.  having sorted the Blackbirds and a couple of Collared Doves I eventually managed to record both Great and Blue Tit along with a pair of Dunnock before moving on to Lagoons 2,3 and 4.

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus

Lagoon 2 produced Pheasant, Lapwing, Great White Egret and Little Egret from the Grebe Hide then a rather "empty" Lagoon 4.  Here the standout sighting was about a dozen or more Egyptian Geese.  So on to the Shoveler Hide overlooking Lagoon 3 and this, too, seemed very quiet at first sight .  A quartet of Lapwing and a sole Ruff whilst, in the distance, I Could see a tight flock, almost a raft, in excess of 1000 Tufted Duck.

Part of the 1000 plus Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula
A quick look at the back of the same lagoon form the Buzzard Hide not only confirmed the number of Tufted Ducks but also a pair of Great White Egrets on the artificial island along with a single Grey Heron.  A single Green Sandpiper was working the shallow water in front of me and also a resting Herring Gull at the back of the water..

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
So to the Smew Hide to get a better look at the end of Lagoon 2.  Seven Little Egrets plus more Herons and a great selection of ducks including Mallard, Teal , Shoveler and Gadwall.  This time three Green Sandpipers along a with a single Snipe.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus

The final stop at this end of the reserve was to look in at the Crake Hide where I counted 13 Little Egrets.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
So back to the Visitors Centre to post my sightings and, at the same time, note the arrival of yet another Great White Egret.

Determined to reach 40 species for the morning I took myself to the far end of the feeding station to watch the site from the Woodpecker Hide and so have the sun behind me.  No sooner seated than a cock Pheasant wandered in to feed on the dropped seed and the House Sparrows were once again feasting, the feeders having been topped up during my absence.  First a Robin put in an appearance and then both a female Greenfinch and a male Chaffinch on a single feeder at the same time.  From then numerous Blue and Great Tits along with House Sparrows, Chaffinches and a single Dunnock till, eventually, a Goldfinch put in an appearance so that I could make my departure.
Female (above) and male Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Undertaking the circular route round Rutland Water I noted both a pair of Red Kites and a Jay at Lyndon before making my way back to Stamford with a final tally of 43 species for the morning.

Red Kite Milvus milvus over Rutland Water

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Red Kite, Moorhen, Coot, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Ruff, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

Corrmorants Phalacrocorax carbo "hanging out to dry"

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

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Rutand Water

Wednesday 26 September

Mute Swan Cygnus olor
First  of our twelve days back in the UK and lots to do before visiting sons down south tomorrow.  But, never one to miss up an opportunity, not before just popping over to nearby Rutland Water for a little over an hour to see what was on the the North Arm and the feeding area, plus a quick check on Lagoon 1 from the Visitors Centre.  Only a quick visit but still managed to record 35 species.

Approaching the North Arm I had already seen Rook, Crow and Wood Pigeon and the first sight of this water quickly added Mute Swan and all three local geese, Greylag, Canada and Egyptian.  Good numbers of Coot and, my word, the Wigeon have turned up in hundred since last here about six weeks ago.  Also present a number of Cormorant and a few Moorhen plus Lapwing and a single Great Black-backed Gull to add to the dominant presence of the Black-headed Gulls.  Apart from the Wigeon, there were also Mallard, Gadwall, Teal and Tufted Duck along with absolutely scores of Great Crested Grebes and a handful of Little Grebe.

Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus

The narrow road back toward the turn for Eggleton produced both Blackbird and a male Pheasant but next to nothing when I arrived at the car park.  No scores, just less than a handful of Jackdaws but I did find more Collared Doves.  Once seated overlooking the feeding area the small birds came in droves to feast on the feeders.  The larger were mainly Greenfinch and Goldfinch, with slightly more of the former, along with a good smattering of Chaffinch.  So many juvenile Goldfinch yet to to receive their red faces. less than a dozen House Sparrows but I did eventually find a couple of Dunnock and a single Robin.  Of the tit family, mainly Great Tits,now looking rather resplendent in their new feathers but also regular visits by Blue Tits.

Great Tit Parus major

A quick visit to the now open Visitors Centre meant that I was looking almost directly into the sun but it did not prevent me from watching the Great White Egret fly along the back of the water and come to rest on the mud to my right.  Similar good fortune away to my left where I watched the arrival of a female Marsh Harrier.  And that was it as I quickly made my way back to Stamford to complete my appointments.

Male Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Hopefully, I shall find time to return next week as well as pay a visit to either Norfolk or Frampton Marsh near Boston.

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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

Monday, 24 September 2018

Axarquia Bird Group Visit to the Charca de Suarez

Sunday 23 September

Seven of us at the monthly meet of the Axarquia Bird Group.  Leaving early so that I could take the slight deviation via "Turtle Dove Alley" at the back of the Charca de Suarez I had a pair of Kestrels pas overhead as I entered the narrow concrete road along with many Collared Doves and House Sparrows and a few Blackbirds and Spotless Starlings quickly followed by a feeding male Sardinian Warbler and then a pair of Red Avadavats at the side of the road.  A Crested Lark was put up from the road a hundred metres or so along and then a handful of Serins on my right.  Arriving at the entrance I could see John and Jenny Wainwright already in place and waiting for the gates to be opened.

Once opened I went on my usual clockwise walk starting in the bamboo hide overlooking the Laguna del Taraje whilst John and Jenny headed straight for the new hide overlooking the Laguna del Alamo Blanco.

Another fine, sunny day with very little breeze.

We arrived at the site with about ten minutes to spare before opening, but there was nobody around, were we here on the right date?? Then Bob turned up, a relief to say the least.

At nine o'clock on the dot Mano arrived to open up the reserve and the day started.  Plenty of Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows and Blackbirds about on the walk down to the new lagoon (by the butterfly house).  Just prior to this a Sparrowhawk cruised overhead but was gone from sight in an instant.  At the hide we settled in to watch at least eight Common Snipe, three Teal, a few Mallard, and a Green Sandpiper.  A Kingfisher flew onto a far post but quickly left but below the post a Chiffchaff was noted (singing also).  To the left of the hide and up the channel a Little Egret was feeding as were several Moorhens (juveniles and adults).

Moorhen Gallineta Comun Gallinula chloropus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Two Purple Swamphens came out of the reeds to our right – one carrying a reed, half again the length of the bird itself.  A Little Grebe was heard in the back of the reeds, but I never saw it here.  Cetti´s Warblers were in full voice all over the reserve and a White Stork continued its position on the centre reed pile.  As a Shoveler and a Mallard were feeding in the front of the hide, a Water Rail was spotted, running into the reed bed, it appeared sporadically until a flurry of action and two of the latter came out of the reed bed and then back in.  One of the birds did appear quite often during our 40 minute stay in the hide.  Two White Wagtails were seen but only for ten minutes or so as did two Red Avadavats (one of them had a feather in its beak so we can only assume its nesting somewhere close by).

Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Passing a Hoopoe on the track in the opposite anti-clockwise direction, there were lots of vociferous Cetti's Warblers about and even a first Chiffchaff at the Taraje.  Mainly Moorhen and a single Red-knobbed Coot till the Purple Swamphen was noticed in the reeds opposite going about its personal ablutions.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio
On leaving and calling in at the small hide at the far end of the water, I found a couple of Common Coot. Son on to the large hide overlooking the Alamo Blanco in which I found John and Jenny and able to share most of the sightings described above, indeed, all but the Sparrowhawk.   the Snipe seemed very obliging and the single Little Egret flew into the main pool area along with six of his friends.

Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago
We had presumed that the Water Rail had moved nearer to us and so giving better sightings.  Here it remained for ages but when it eventually regained its original sighting there was an almighty scuffle and we realised that there were, indeed, two individuals present and so the battle commenced.  probably at about this time, around 9.30ish, we were joined by Steve and Elena Powell along with John Ross.

Little Egret garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

Leaving the hide, John and spotted a female Marsh Harrier came quartering over the laguna, putting up the Teal and all of the Snipe, but they quickly returned after it had passed over. As we left the hide a Common Buzzard was seen.  We then moved on to the "Bamboo hide" where we saw another Kingfisher, Common and Red-knobbed Coots, Moorhen and Common Waxbills. 

Water Rail rascon Europeo Rallus aquaticus
Making my way to the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas I was able to record another Chiffchaff and once ensconced with John Ross take note of the large number of Common Coot, mainly resting on the island immediately in front of the hide.  we were soon joined by Lesley Laver who had appeared for the opposite direction.  The usual number of Moorhen and Little Grebes about along with a handful of Cormorant and at least three Grey Heron.  A Blackbird made a brief appearance and then I concentrated on the resting ducks which were mainly Mallard with a few Teal and Shoveler.  A couple of Common Waxbill visited the island and then the Kingfisher flashed by to land on the water gauge. Back to the island where further study revealed a first then second Ferruginous Duck along with a dozen or so Common Pochard.  Strange how the latter seemed to have sorted themselves out by sex leaving a few centimetres gap between the two sets!  A pair of Red-knobbed Coots, neither with ring collars, were so close to the hide it would have been easier just to walk in and make their introductions!

Birdy island at the Charca de Suarez
Ferruginous Duck Porron Pardo Aythya nyroca (centre) with Pochard Porron Europeo Aythya ferina (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Leaving the main hide to move on to the Laguna del Trebol we stopped at the recently-created spinney where one can usually find some interesting smaller birds.  We were not to be disappointed.  A Spotted Flycatcher was quickly found along with Blackcap and Great Tit.  A closer look at the phylloscopus warbler quickly confirmed it as a Willow Warbler with its pale legs prominently in sight.  But then the large mystery warbler.  We had great, clear sightings but could just not, immediately, identify the bird.  Was it a Reed Warbler?  Too big.  No distinguishing identifiers, could it be a garden warbler?  Wrong shaped beak.  The bird moved further away as local birder Juan arrived.  He immediately found a Reed Warbler, but not our bird.  We thought Great Reed Warbler as one had just been recorded back at the Alamo Blanco but not big enough.  Time for some further research and the description completely validated the idea running through the minds of both John and myself, Western Olivaceous Warbler, "...rather like a washed-out Reed Warbler; same size and has same pointed head..." or ".. only confused with Reed Warbler but appears slightly larger with larger beak.."

Before continuing on the Laguna del Trebol, Lesley and I made a quick return to the Aneas to check out the pair of female Gadwall that we had missed amongst the other ducks resting on the island.  Job done, on to the next hide but very little else to see so on round to the southern hide looking back over the same water.  A Marsh Harrier was seen by John and Jenny and many more Common and Red-knobbed Coots along with the occasional Moorhen and Mallard.  Having seen our first Barn Swallow of the day over the main water we now saw at least a score feeding both here and over the previous laguna.  Leaving the hide we stopped to check out the usual bushes for the resident Chameleon and successfully found the larger of the two seen last week.

So back to the Laguna del Taraje where we had close views of a pair of Common Waxbill and a Greenfinch.  The last stop to spend the remaining fifteen minutes was at the large hide overlooking Alamo Blanco but all seemed very quiet and almost deserted.  Just the odd duck, a single Snipe and Green Sandpiper.  Even the White Stork had moved on to pastures new.

Common Waxbill Pico de Coral Estrilda astrild (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

As John noted in his report, "Moving along to the Trebol Laguna hide we noted Blackcaps and House Sparrows in the bushes, while at the hide a small group of Barn Swallows flashed past (only hirundines of the day).  Another Grey Heron here as well as Common and Red-knobbed Coots, Common Pochard and two Kingfishers, a nice surprise was the female coming to rest in the reed bed, she showed herself twice before we left the hide." A group of five Yellow-legged Gulls were logged as we walked back to the exit."

Water Rail rascon Europeo Rallus aquaticus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
All in all, a most enjoyable morning, especially the many close sightings of the Water Rail and, between us, a total of 45 species recorded.

Water Rail Rascon Europeo Rallus aquaticus

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Colared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow,  Waxbill, Red Avadavat, Serin, Greenfinch.

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