Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Hecho and Anso Valleys

Sunday 24 June

All packed and ready to go so was away from the hotel in Zuera by 8.30 and a couple of hours later working my way up the Hecho Valley to the west of Jaca off the N260.  An uneventful drive north and for almost twenty miles moving north of Huesca I did not pass nor see another vehicle of any description; now that's what you call having the road to yourself.  Birds seen en route included red Kite, Blackbird, Raven, Buzzard and Carrion Crow.

But I have to say that the first valley was very disappointing in bird terms albeit very, very scenic and a joy to behold.  A stop at the "Inferno Gorge" to take a photograph on the phone also produced a pair of Cirl Bunting and a couple of Alpine Swifts were seen overhead along with a number of distant Griffon Vultures. I ventured to the very to the valley and then on up the track but all rather a waste of time only adding Serin as I crossed the bridge near the car park before the above track began.

Having made my way back to Hecho I then turned right and made my way across to the Anso Valley for the return journey back to the main road.  Again, all very quiet once back towards Berdun near Binies I did see Crested Lark, Jackdaw, lots of House Sparrows and Corn Buntings to add to the Chaffinch further up the valley.  Once back on the main road I almost stopped as a Black Kite drifted low over the car and a final sight of a rather lovely male Black Redstart.

The only consolation was that I was able to book early into the hotel and watch the England v Panama football match on the TV.  Turns out Jaca is the middle of one if its annual fiestas so nowhere to park the car, everywhere busy and, no doubt, much noise well into the night!

Birds seen:
Red Kite, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Buzzard, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 20 June

I am off back to the UK at the end of the week so hoping to pick up some good birds on my first stop at the Tablas de Damiel  and it looks as if this month will also see the Arboleas Birding Group starting their summer break as the temperatures begin to soar.  But the penultimate visit certainly produced some lovely warblers, three of which I am still waiting to record this year.  Perhaps I am visiting with the wrong group!  On the other hand, that's the same as saying that you are having no luck in Southampton so, perhaps I had better join the Birmingham group for the day - such is the size of Andalucia and the distances we birders out here seem to travel which, I suspect, we would not dream of doing back in the UK.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 20th June

For our penultimate trip before our enforced summer break, I decided we'd try and avoid the heat by heading into the mountains.  I picked up Paul and a new member, Alec, from outside Humbugs cafe in Arboleas and headed for Maria.  We met up with Trevor, Ann, Brian and Mary at the Repsol Garage cafe, enjoying a coffee watching the House Martins feeding their broods under the forecourt canopy.  We made our way to the chapel car park where Jacky and Steve had already arrived and had seen Hoopoe.  We checked the area and saw Serin, Chaffinch, Linnet and Willow Warbler near the water trough.  Jacky spotted a passing Short-toed Eagle carrying an unfortunate lizard.  Some Blue Tits were near the water deposit.  Walking up towards the Botanical gardens, I spotted some Griffon Vultures the far end of the mountain ridge.  Jacky then found a pair of Woodchat Shrike guarding a shrub in the middle of the field.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Moving into the garden, we had Bonelli's Warbler, Crossbill, Crested, Great and Coal Tit all loitering near the small water pools.  Some Bonelli's Warblers showed really well.  I spotted a distant Raven and Brian had heard an Eurasian Cuckoo.
Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Some of us started to do the lower walk.  At the far end we heard, then eventually saw a Melodious Warbler.  I also had a brief glimpse of a flying Western Orphean Warbler.  We also saw a Jay and Paul possibly had a Subalpine Warbler.  As we got back to the garden area, a female Sparrowhawk flew over. Brian, Mary and Ann, who'd stayed in the gardens also had Rock Bunting and had heard Golden Oriole.  Meanwhile, Jacky and Steve, who'd done the high walk, later told us they'd also heard a Golden Oriole and managed to see it after some stalking!  On the way back to the vehicles, the Woodchat Shrikes were still guarding the shrub and we had a good view of a Woodlark.
We made our way to the ruined farm buildings. We added White Wagtail, Blackbird, Barn Swallow and a Thekla Lark.
Moving on to the sheep's water trough area we saw more Serin and Linnet.  A family of 5 Hoopoe showed well.  A Turtle Dove sped past and Brian spotted a far away Rock Sparrow.
Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
It was then onto the plain.  We spotted a Northern Wheatear flying onto a barn roof and a pair of distant Carrion Crow.  Paul saw a flying Lesser Kestrel heading to the hamlet.  When we got there, there were two Lesser Kestrels on the barn roof and another Northern Wheatear on another roof. Brian and Mary had seen a Little Owl on the ruined building further which we'd missed.  We picked it up on the way to the La Piza forest cafe.  Very few birds now coming to the bird feeders, only the odd Great and Blue Tit.  We did see, briefly, a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  On the way out, us in my truck had a Cirl Bunting next to the approach driveway.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We ended up with 43 species. Temperatures are rising at last. Good for swimming but maybe not for the birdwatching!
Great company. New member, Alec, seemed to enjoy the day!
Regards, Dave

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

Damiel Wetlands

Saturday 23 June


Driving back to the UK on my own so the first night, Friday, spent in Damiel which gave me two opportunities to visit both the Tablas de Damiel and the even closer Laguna Navaseca.  However, having left home about 8.30 I first called in at Velez de Benaudalla to check the apartment and then fifteen minutes at the local picnic area.  Lots of Spotted Flycatchers, Chaffinches and even at least three calling Golden Oriole but not a Dipper in sight.  Have to keep my fingers crossed that I might pick one up at Canfranc in the high Pyrenees before crossing the border into France.  Then, on the way north to Damiel, the journey produced Azure-winged MagpieKestrel and a Carrion Crow as I approached my destination.

First to the Tablas de Damiel at about 2pm and by jove it was hot in the clear blue sky and the sun blazing down.  Not the best of times but I did have a handful of Bearded Tits fly across the reeds almost as soon as I started out on the boardwalk.  Forget the Greylag Geese and numerous White Stork, I was more interested in all those singing Reed and Great Reed Warblers.  The Purple Heron was a rather pleasant addition.  Unlike previous visits at about this time of year, the latter were keeping very low in the reeds but regular sightings of both.  Most of the Nightingales were, presumably, on their second brood judging by the number of juveniles seen.  In addition to Cattle and Little Egret I also recorded successful breeding Red-crested PochardsPurple Swamphen, Roller and numerous Corn Buntings.  Did I mention that I finally found Stonechats for the month's record.

Then it was back to the "new" hotel to check-in and wait until the heat dissipated a little before visiting the Laguna Navaseca.  With a bus load of visitors at the main car park I drove on and parked by the little hide overlooking the small water on the right.  Even as I walked to check out the water I could see the scores of Flamingo and Black-headed Gulls on the main water on the other side of the road.  On my pool, I quickly found both Little Grebe and Purple Swamphen plus more of both Reed and Great Reed Warbler.  Across the road to check out the main water I could see that were were many Black-winged Stilts along with a good number of breeding AvocetBarn Swallows and Common Swifts feeding over the water and ducks included Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested and Common Pochard, Ferruginous and White-headed Ducks along with breeding Shelduck.  In addition to more Little Grebes there were also Black-necked Grebe in full breeding plumage.  before leaving I also added Bee-eater, Hoopoe and House Martin having also previously seen a pair of Sand Martin.

Setting my alarm for 6am I was awake, showered, dressed and out by 5.45 so the first time I have started the day by filling up the car with diesel and the garage next door,  Even had time to clean front and back windows before heading back to the the Tablas where I arrived just after six and the first signs of light.  A great couple of hours and I had to smile at all he early birders arriving for 8 o'clock as I was departing!  Yes, all the expected birds put in an appearance and before finding my Savi's Warblers I was treated to a couple of Great Spotted Cuckoos.  Even better, in the early morning light, almost dark, as I arrived a party of thirty plus Black-bellied Sandgrouse were taking their departure from, presumably, having visited as is their custom for a pre-dawn drink.  A pair of Ferruginous Duck beat a hasty retreat before I had chance to get the camera up but the pair of Marsh Harriers quartered as I moved along the boardwalk.  Not just Great White, Little and Cattle Egrets but also a small number of Night Herons roosting in the dead trees on the small island.  Once again I was able to add Bee-eater and Hoopoes and on this occasion also added Tree Sparrow, Linnet and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike.

having got ahead of myself I made the turn to Laguna Navaseca to take a second look at this water.  Approaching the water a Little Owl posed nicely on the corner of a fence and rather than make a hasty stop decided I would photograph the bird on my back as I was only expecting to spend about fifteen minutes at the water.  The bird had flown when I returned!  All the ducks, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Flamingos present long with both Little and Black-necked Grebe, Reed and Great Reed Warbler but also a pair of Little Ringed Plovers.  As the Cetti's Warblers let me know of their presence so the first Barn Swallows and Swifts put in an appearance.

All too soon to return to the hotel for breakfast and prepare for the long drive up to Zuera just short of Huesca for the coming night.

The drive was not without incident as I recorded Kestrel, Buzzard, Raven and Black Kite but, most strange of all as I passed Jaen, a Red-legged Partridge sitting on the crash barrier at the side of the motorway without a care in the world. One short of seventy species recorded including thirty new for the month.

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, White Stork, Flamingo, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Black-headed Gull, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Little Owl, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Common Swift, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Bearded Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole, Magpie, Azure-winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Crow, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Wednesday 13 June 

Looks as if Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group found sun and sun-bathers to interrupt their birding today but, nevertheless, some great sightings.

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa:Wednesday 13th June

Richard, Steve and I were kindly picked up in Arboleas by Paul. We joined the Rambla de Almanzora near to the Desert Springs golf complex and headed slowly towards the ford.  There was no water in the rambla until we were virtually there, but we did managed to see Bee-eater, Spotless Starling, Blackbird, Magpie, Goldfinch, Black Headed Gull and Woodpigeon.  At the ford we only saw Moorhen, Mallard and Black-winged Stilt.  Brian and Mary were already there.  We were joined by Barrie and Beryl​.  We walked onto the embankment overlooking the water-filled channel and were joined by Jacky.  Lots of Black-winged Stilt.  I spotted a Green Sandpiper and Paul found a Little Ringed Plover nearby.  Barrie added some more Green Sandpipers and a Ringed Plover.  Overhead we had Common Swift, House Martin, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows.  Richard checked out the channel further towards the bridge as the rest of us, now joined by Trevor and Ann made for the sewage works.  We could hear Reed Warblers.  A Hoopoe posed well.  I thought I had taken some photos of it, only to discover, once on the computer, I had very sharp images of the vegetation behind it!  We added Sardinian Warbler before we got to the larger pool.  I added a Common Pochard to the list.  Only other birds were Mallard and yet more Black-winged Stilt!  We heard a Stone Curlew calling from the rambla very close to us.  It eventually flew up the rambla on the far side. 
Resting Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Leaving the car park area about last, us in Paul's car had a close encounter with a perched Roller on a power line.  We retreated to the Lucky bar in Villaricos village for refreshments.  On the table next to us was Steve, a holidaying birder from Buckinghamshire who might be moving out our way.  I've added him to my e-mailing list. 

Roller Coracias  garrulus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
After a short detour back to where we'd parked at the ford as Paul's rubber knob had come off the bottom of his crutch, we joined the others on the beach......with the increasing numbers of sunbathers! The harbour rocks produced a single Cormorant and a few Little Egrets.  Trudging over to the estuary as it was getting a bit hot now (31c predicted on the weather forecast this morning!), we saw a female Common Pochard, 3 Shoveler, a male and 2 females as well as Coot and Mallard. I spotted a distant Kestrel perched on a telegraph pole adjacent to the road. Jacky was first to hear an overflying Zitting Cisticola.  Moving further towards the beach we saw more Coot and lots of jumping fish.  A couple walking with two dogs removed any chance of seeing much along the estuary's beach end.  I did briefly see a Sanderling.  Barrie managed to find a Kentish Plover.  Paul saw a Yellow-legged Gull. On the walk along the beach back to the vehicles, Barrie spotted a small flock of feeding Greenfinch. 

Female Common Pochard Aythya ferina (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then drove to the dual carriageway opposite the Consum supermarket behind Vera Playa.  It was not a shock to hear the numerous Black-winged Stilts, some with chicks.  The Black-headed Gull colony seems to have had a successful breeding season.  Moving a bit further along I found a single Slender-billed Gull.  Barrie saw some interesting birds on a sandy spit even further along.  We walked onto a flattened area where we could get a closer view.  A Little Tern was diving for fish.  A wader proved to be a Curlew Sandpiper.  We also saw White-headed Duck and Little Grebe.  Barrie found a sitting Mediterranean Gull with a last year juvenile nearby.
We ended up with 41 species.  Due to the increasing heat and the numbers of people on the beach, I think we shall return here in the autumn.  Still a good days birding in good company.  We wish Barrie and Beryl good luck on their future holiday to Outer Mongolia looking for Snow Leopards.  They've promised to send me photograph!
Regards, Dave

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

Axarquia Bird Group Visit to Charca de Suarez

Little Bittern Avetorillo Comun Ixobrychus minutus
Tuesday 12 June

A lovely sunny morning, despite some finding it a little on the breezy side as they left their respective homes, for the Axarquia Bird Group's private visit to the Charca de Suarez resrve on the western outskirts of Motril.  Great to see long-standing members Marcus, Gerry and Patrick again along with Derek, Micky and Jerry who had driven over from west of Malaga, Olly who put in the kilometres to drive west from Roquetas de Mar and Steve from, in this company, the relatively close proximity of Frigiliana.  A great mornings birding in good company; not so much the quantity as the quality of species.

Arriving close to the site to take the short drive along "Turtle Dove Alley" I had a Cattle Egret fly over the road and away and, naturally, there were Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows and Collared DovesTurtle Doves heard in the ally of their name and then, at 9.30, into the reserve as a group before individuals deciding where they would like to visit first.  Lots of House Martins about and many Pallid Swifts but not until nearly the end of the morning did I record my first Common Swift.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio (note the pinheads on the primaries showing that the bird's main wing moult is almost complete)

With all quiet and no other visitors, six if us headed straight to the Laguna del Taraje in the hope that the Little Bitterns might be about.  We were not to be disappointed.  Two on show the whole time and a total of four individuals recorded.  Not only did a Purple Swamphen put in an appearance but we also had a Red-knobbed Coot with a single chick; don't often see this bird on this particular water.  Also present Coot, Mallard and Little Grebe, all with their youngsters, and the deafening sound of both Nightingales and Cetti's Warblers. A single Hoopoe flew across the back of the water above the tress and we had a  a couple of sightings of Reed Warbler. Our first Turtle Doves were seen although their calling was almost continuous.  I suspect I may be way out if I suggest hat there must be at least a dozen breeding pairs in the immediate area.

Little Bittern Avetorillo Comun Ixobrychus minutus
On to the Laguna del Alamo Blanco where the local White Stork was still present along with a single Snipe.  More Coots and Moorhens with an older group of Mallard ducklings but, perhaps, the pick of the birds were of a smaller size.  Pallid Swifts, House Martins and both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows  with, in the tall grasses at the back, a male Reed Bunting.  But then, not only a flock of a dozen or more Common Waxbill but also maybe as any as four of the local Black-rumped Waxbills.  I wonder if these two related species inter-breed? More Reed Warblers and a Zitting Cisticola along with  the occasional sightings of Blackbirds were also noted.

An absolute delight to these these lovely little Common Waxbill  Pico de Coral Estrilda astrild
Walking to the Laguna de las Aneas we recorded both Goldfinch and Sardinian Warbler but also had the first Bee-eaters fly over with their usual plaintiff calling.  The water itself was relatively quiet with very few Mallard, the only duck species present, and Common Coots.  A pair of Red-knobbed Coots very close to the hide with a couple of chicks confirming that these uncommon birds may have had an excellent breeding season with most surviving predation from the roving Yellow-legged Gulls.  Just the one Heron resting in a tree to the right.

Red-knobbed Coots Focha Moruna Fulica cristata which are thriving well at Charca de Suarez
As we expected, we picked up Spotted Flycatchers and many Nightingales walking down to the hide overlooking the Laguna del Trebor from where yet more Red-knobbed Coots were recorded.  A juvenile Greenfinch and a pair of Serin offered something a little different for the morning.  Then, as well as the few Common and many Pallid Swifts it was time to make our departure at 1 o'clock but not before Jerry had noticed the resting Common Kestrel.

Serin Verdecillo Serinus serinus

Four of us decided to drive up to the picnic area at Velez de Banaudalla in search of the breeding Dippers.  Both Grey and White Wagtails, lots of Spotted Flycatchers and Chaffinches, singing Golden Orioles and loads of House Sparrows but not a Dipper to be seen.

One of very many Spotted Flycartchers papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata

Then off on the homeward journey with a slight detour to take in the hills above Cerro Gordo to discover if the White-rumped Swifts had returned.  A  beautiful male Blue Rock Thrush was on almost constant display, often with food in its beak so a successful nest somewhere near the building site.  The odd Pallid Swift noted as we scanned the skies we eventually found more and more of these lovely swifts. Not just one Common Kestrel flying overhead but suddenly the appearance of a second as he harried the much larger female Peregrine Falcon.  All this excitement led to our eventually finding  a White-rumped Swift, very high initially but later a little lower, but still high, altitude.  Having brought a smile to our faces Derek then pointed out the Black Wheatear which suddenly appeared in the trees below and as I drove back to Mezquitilla to collect bits and pieces to take into Jenny at the local hospital, a few House Martins arrived on the scene and a pair of Red-legged Partridges casually walked, at their very slow leisure, across the road in front of the car.

Male Blue Rock Thrush Roquero Solitario Monticola solitarius

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Heron, White Stork, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Snipe, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, White-rumped Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Barn swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Black-rumped Waxbill, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.
Recently fledged Nightingale Ruisenor Comun Luscinia megarhynchos
Lots of Turtle Doves Tortola Europea Streptopelia turtur to be seen this morning

And still the White Stork Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia remains at the Charca de Suarez
A last look at one of our two very patient Little Bitterns Avetorillo Comun Ixobrychus minutus at the Charca de Suarez

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

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Osuna area with John and Jenny Wainwright

Sunday 10 June

Great report from John and Jenny re their visit to the Osuna triangle and not only did John get to see the Scops Owl but also managed a photograph.  Lucky him.  And what abut all those Little Owls nevermind the Iberian Grey Shrikes and a variety of raptors.

Osuna: Sunday 10th June

A very warm day, cloudy, with very little wind.

As  we had had a lazy day on Saturday we decided to have a run out to Osuna, as it is one of the places Jenny doesn´t have to leave the car too much.

As we left the village a Little Owl was spotted on the wires, lets hope it isn´t the 21st victim , as normally happens on this approach road to the village.  Also noted were Collared Doves, House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings.

Not another thing until we got out at the vehicle at the Las Vegas cafe, where we had two Monk Parakeets fly past.  After coffee we headed for Lantejuela and soon spotted a Black Kite circling above a White Stork.

Lots of Corn Buntings, Crested Larks and House Sparrows about on the way to the second road bridge.  Here we located a Raven being mobbed by a pair of Common Kestrels, and a very unusual sighting of a Purple Swamphen on a bank leading to a small water catchment.  On the other side of the road, a male Montagu´s Harrier quartered the fields.

We then drove down the abandoned high-speed rail track for a while putting up from the bushes lining the sides of the track, Spanish and House Sparrows, Iberian Grey Shrike, Corn Buntings, Blackcaps, Stonechats and Chiffchaffs.

Once back on the road we headed for the ruins, en route logging Roller, Bee-eater, Spotless Starlings, Turtle Doves and Hoopoe.  As we approached the ruins a Buzzard came out of the olive grove as did another Roller and a Raven.  As I got out of the car at the ruins  a pair of Lesser Kestrels took off from the roof-top, while a little bit of searching found me a Scops Owl peering at me from behind a branch, anyhow it gave me a few seconds to get three photos of it, before it flew off into the ruin complex, due to my foot slipping off one of the old stones from the building.

Scops Owl Otus scops (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Back in the car after a cursory search of the ruins, we then spotted a Little Owl and more Rollers. Turning round at the end of the ruins we put up a bevy of Red-legged Partridges and two Red-rumped Swallows came over as did a few Barn Swallows.  At the "roost tower" a Kestrel came out of a nest hole and a Roller flew out from the back of the tower.

Back on the road another two Iberian Grey Shrikes were seen as were more Turtle Doves and three Rock Doves.  As we passed one of the bridges a small party of Collared Pratincoles - some eight in total - were logged as was another Little Owl.  Our last - but by no means least - bird of the day,  was a Booted Eagle.
Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

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

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Zafaraya and the Alhama de Granada Lakes

In-flight Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea
Wednesday 6 June

Off early at 8.45 for a day's birding with special friend Elena Powel concentrating on the lakes above and beyond Alhama de Granada but with a first stop at Ventas de Zafarrya and the nearby "Magpie Woods."  Warm but cloudy and very tired when we got back to Mezquitilla having recorded a total of 60 species for the day including some great birds such as Common Cuckoo, Blue Rock Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Whitethroat and Spotted Flycatcher amongst others.

Approaching the first stop the mirador on the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarraya we not only had a couple of Hoopoes fly over the road but a couple of score or more of Barn Swallows.  It seems too late to be arriving and too soon for departing individuals so I am assuming a "gang of roving teenagers" made up of recently fledged first brood Barn Swallows.  Cloudy and a very large herd of goats (domestic not wild) feeding on the slopes but we did find Thekla Lark, Chough and Black Wheatear before driving up the track and parking outside the old tunnel. A good number of the breeding Crag Martins about and saw more Blue Rock Thrushes than Black Wheatears.  A Wren was perched on the wire in front of the tunnel and the Choughs were whirling and calling along the cliff face.  Both Rock Sparrow and Rock Bunting were noted along with a couple of Blackbirds and then, having walked trough the tunnel, a couple of Alpine Swifts.  Elena was first to spot the single Goldfinch.

Spotless Starlings, House Martins and House Sparrows as we drove through the village to make a short stop at the usual cross-tracks as we entered the Magpie Wood.  Immediately, an Azure-winged Magpie on the road and another disappearing int the trees.  More Blackbirds, a Mistle Thrush and plenty of Chaffinches to be seen and heard as the Collared Doves flew over.  Through the woods and took the left turn towards the growing fields to find the resident larks and immediately, sat on the road, a Turtle Dove.  Having stopped we found six more either feeding on the ground or resting on the overhead wires.  A Corn Bunting rested alongside and as soon as we reached the "rockery" a handful of Short-toed Larks along with Crested Larks and, having stopped in the usual place, we were soon seeing a good number of Calandra Larks along with a pair of feeding Hoopoe.

Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua
A good job we decided to take the old road up to main Alhama to Salar road as we not only had some incredible bird sightings but also discovered that the abandoned and pot-holed road had now been graded and perfectly safe for even "normal" cars.  At least half-dozen Common Magpie and then not one but two Little Owls posed close to the road.  Wood Pigeons and Common Swifts above and even a handful of Linnet. A short stop at the old ruined farm buildings off the main road was evidence that Lesser Kestrel numbers are down this year with only a quartet seen but also a single Common Kestrel.  Also present a lively Zitting Cisticola.

Male (above) and female Blackcap Curruca Capirotada Sylvia atricapilla at nest site
Then it was on through the town of Alhama de Granada, past the cemetery and off to the large Los Bermajales reservoir.  Approaching the water a Common Cuckoo flew across the road immediately in front of the car and stopping in the woods as we approached we had many Chaffinches and a Great Tit.  The dam area was alive wit feeding House Martins and other than these birds feeding over the water and a lone, resting Cormorant there was not a bird to be seen.  A walk around the picnic area produced both Short-toed Treecreeper and Greenfinch along with a few Magpies and a Marsh Harrier which took to the air having been disturbed by a wandering walker near the water's edge.  Further round we also added White Wagtail, Mallard, a nesting Coot and at least eight Grey Heron from the nearby heronry.  We also saw and heard both Cetti's Warbler and Jackdaw.

Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea
Next, following a meal in the nearby venta, a walk down the track alongside the outflow from the lagunetta above Alhama de Granada. On the water there had been just the single Little Grebe and a very small number of Mallard and Pochard.  Straight away a Robin and, probably, nesting pair of Blackcap.

Robin Petirrojo Europeo Erithacus rubecula
Meanwhile the song and calls of the Nightingales was almost deafening and even a Golden Oriole was calling from the woods beyond.  Both Grey Wagtail and Serin were quickly found and, having crossed the small bridge to walk down to the shrine, we were able to add Goldfinch, more Blackcaps, a Cirl Bunting and Whitethroat before arriving in front of the gorge which produced Jackdaw, loads of Chough, Rock Sparrow and even a close view of another Blue Rock ThrushWood Pigeon was sitting tight on her nest as a Red (black out here) Squirrel ran along a fallen trunk before taking to an upright tree.  A couple of Spotted Flycatchers were working the far clearing and the return walk produced House Martins, Barn Swallow and Spotless Starling along with a couple of recently fledged Great Tit.  Even a Great Spotted Woodpecker took to the airs to prove another sighting for the day which, by now, had just about reached the sixty mark.

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris

An excellent day's birding enjoyed by both of us with Elena looking forward to Steve's return from Florida on the morning and me off to check Jenny's progress at the local hospital.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Heron,Marsh Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Coot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Wren, Robin, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Short-toed Treecreper, Golden Oriole, Azure-winged magpie, Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Male Blue Rock Thrush Roquero Solitario Monticola solitarius

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Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birdig Group

Wednesday 6 June

Another good day's birding for Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group with some lovely sightings.  Obviously, at the moment, waders seem to be a bit of a rarity and where were all the Flamingos, were they counted in scores or hundreds?

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 6th June

As I was on my own this morning, I made an early start to do the rear of Cabo de Gata reserve before meeting up with the others at 09.30hrs.  I was at the start of the rear track by 07.45hrs.  Weather was sunny, but the sun had not yet completely cleared the mountains so I was in shade to begin with.  The sea was surprisingly rough with breakers crashing onto the beach and fine spray coming over the road.  The first birds I saw were Yellow-legged and Audouin's Gulls resting on the salina.  Thekla Larks were quite numerous.  On the water's edge of the next salina produced Avocets and  long-legged fluff ball chicks, Grey, Ringed and Kentish Plovers and a handsome Slender Billed Gull.  Also seen were Greater Flamingos and Shelduck.  Smaller birds included Sardinian Warbler, Common Swift and Iberian Grey Shrike.  As I reached the last field I spotted a pair of Lesser Short-toed Larks. I ended my short tour with Hoopoe, Kestrel and Greenfinch.

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

I met up with Barrie, Beryl, John and Pete in the Pastelaria cafe near Pujaire.  I noted our usual cafe in the village had now re-opened after refurbishment.  As I parked there I saw Red-rumped Swallows. Barrie and John had seen a Little Owl on a nearby building which was still there as we left....the Little Owl as well as the building!  We headed to the first hide, seeing Blackbird, Barn Swallow and Kestrel on the way.  There was a Black-tailed Godwit with some Black-winged Stilt on the small pool to our left.  5 further Godwits were near the rocky causeway together with Avocets and 5 Gull-billed Tern.  A Little Tern was diving for fish.  Also seen were Mallard, House Martin and Yellow Wagtail. Jacky then arrived, followed by a coach full of kids, parents and teachers so we made a tactical exit, heading for the second hide.
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
A brief sea-watch produced a couple of Sandwich Terns spotted by Barrie.  He also spotted a low flying Whimbrel from the hide.  A pair of Pallid Swifts showed well. The public hide only added Sanderling to the list, but we saw more Grey Plover, Yellow Wagtail and Shelduck.

Fluffy Avocet chick  Recurvirostra avosetta (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We headed to the lighthouse hoping to see some Peregrine Falcons, but alas, no sign of them.  A pair of Black Wheatear was our only addition.  Here Jacky was tempted away by the chance of a new walk in stunning scenery.  Us others drove up to the Vela Blanca ridge.  Barrie spotted a Rock Bunting on a power line.  Pete and I saw a pair of them on the way down.
We convoyed along to the Rambla de Morales.  The wind had increased.  We saw a White Wagtail on the track.  As we parked up, a pair of Black-winged Stilt flew off from the estuary.   In the reeds we heard both Great Reed and Reed Warblers.  From the "hump" we found a few White-headed Duck, a Coot and a pair of Black-necked Grebe.  More Pallid Swifts showed well as did a House Martin.  We headed back to the vehicles.  A tern landed on the beach, but was disturbed by a passing cyclist. Barrie and John later saw it was a Common Tern. 
After our lunch outside the beach cafe in Cabo Village where Pete spotted an overflying Audouin's Gull, I suggested we checked out the Lesser Short-toed Lark site from earlier.  Luckily there was one still there.  Pete and I missed the Raven the others saw from their car!
We ended up with 45 species for the day. Good weather, company and birding.  What more could you ask for?
Regards, Dave

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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Rio Genil with John and Jenny Wainwright

Tuesday 5 June

Good to read that Jenny is still able to continue birding with her broken limbs even if still restricted to the car.  Reading John's report some good birds were seen so hope I can replicate tomorrow (Wednesday).

Rio Genil:  Monday 4th June

(Iberian) Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
A very warm day with a slight breeze.

We stopped for coffee prior to going to the river, here a few hirundines - namely House Martins and Barn Swallows - were about, as well Collared Doves and Spotless Starlings.
As we approached the river, Common Swifts and Red-rumped Swallows were logged, and as we followed the course we saw Jackdaws, Kestrel and Woodpigeon.  Green Woodpeckers were heard and a couple of Golden Orioles were noted.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker tapped away relentlessly at an old decayed tree, while in the bushes lining the river, Nightingales, Blackcaps, Cetti´s Warblers, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and Serins were seen.
As I was scanning the ridges of the hills here, I spotted a Bonelli´s Eagle just sitting on a rock.  He, or she, sat there for over two hours while we were photographing insects and flowers.  I think it one of the pair we have seen here for the past few years, although I have not found nest site.  Lots of Azure-winged Magpies and a few Common Magpies hereabouts and two Bee-eaters passed over but never stopped in view.

Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
One of our favourite areas was a poplar copse where we used to have good views of the Golden Orioles that nested here every year, but sadly the copse has been cut down and new olive trees planted. We did however get views of an Oscillated Lizard out hunting in a small olive grove, and at small sandy area a Little Ringed Plover, a Yellow Wagtail, several Turtle Doves and a Grey Wagtail were logged.

Ocellated Lizard Lacerta lepida (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Wind has picked up in strength so making our way back to Salar.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 30 May

Whilst I was exporing the Guadalhorce with US birding contact Mary Dokery, Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group were back up at the Sierra Maria and some good birds they turned, some of which would be year firsts for me.  And judging from the photograph, Great Spotted Woodpeckers are easily tempted by a little white bread!

Sierra de Maria:  Wednesday 30th May

Was on my own travelling to the Sierra de Maria this morning.  The sun was out so I'd dressed in shorts and T-shirt.  By the time I'd got to Maria there were clouds in the sky and a chill in the air!  As I waited for the others to arrive I watched the House Martins nesting in the forecourt canopy of the town's Repsol Garage.  I was joined by Barrie, Beryl, John, Brian, Mary and lastly Trevor and Ann. We drove up to the chapel car park, seeing Magpie, Chaffinch and Collared Dove, but the star was a Sparrowhawk.  Following behind, Brian and Mary saw a Booted Eagle with a pigeon breakfast!  We parked up with two coach loads of school children.  Also the local council were strimming the grass between the chapel and the water fuente!  It was agreed that we'd retreat and do the plains before returning later.  A Griffon Vulture or two glided effortlessly over us.  On the way down we met Jacky and Steve.  They decided to do the high walk, so we'd meet up later.
We headed in convoy to the old farm buildings, seeing Jay, Blackbird and Woodpigeon on the way.  Arriving first I saw Rock Sparrow departing.   About three Hoopoes could be heard, Barrie also hearing a Woodlark call.  Brian spotted a Corn Bunting.  I wandered round the buildings seeing Goldfinch and more Rock Sparrows.  Barn Swallows were in evidence and John found a Red-rumped Swallow.
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla  (PHOTO: David Elliott_Binns)
Moving on to the farm trough area, two Turtle Doves flew off as we arrived.  Crested Lark and Rock Sparrows were seen.  A distant Booted Eagle was seen.  We heard a bird calling from the hillside behind us.  I scanned the area and found one of the two Stone Curlews seen.  A first for us at Maria!  I then found a male Northern Wheatear near the sheep feeders.  A Hoopoe flew past.
We left there and drove slowly along the plain.  In the leading car, I saw only Crested Larks at first, but then found a pair of Short-toed Larks.  A pair of Red-billed Chough flew off as we passed.  I spotted our only Common Swift of the day.  Calandra Larks were battling it out above the foot long wheat stems.  At the hamlet we saw only two Lesser Kestrels.  On the way back I spotted a Yellow Wagtail, but missed the Short-toed Eagle and Griffon Vultures the others saw!  Brian also had a Raven.
We returned to the chapel area where the council gang were now painting walls.  A lot of work had been done.  They had refurbished the water trough and the BBQ area had been removed.  Walking up towards the Information Centre, a Melodious Warbler was singing from a shrub top as was a Stonechat a bit further up.  

Male Stonechat Saxicolatorquatus (PHOTO: David Elliott_Binns)
We also had a Serin.  At the Centre the kids were in the building, so we sneaked into the gardens.  Nothing near the pools ( due to the noise?) but we did manage to see a few Bonelli's Warblers as we joined the lower walk.  We met up with Jacky and Steve on their way down. They'd seen Crested, Blue and Coal Tits plus a Subalpine Warbler.  A female Crossbill showed well. Barrie heard a Firecrest and we were lucky enough to get some brief glimpses of a few of them.  We passed the kids as we approached the gardens.  A Subalpine Warbler followed by a Rock Bunting and Bonelli's Warbler took advantage of the relative silence to get a drink.

Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta (PHOTO: David Elliott_Binns)
We then went for lunch at the La Piza forest cafe.  As we enjoyed our snack Chaffinch, Blue, Great, Coal and Crested Tits came to the bird feeders.  We saw a Iberian Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Jay and a Sparrowhawk the far side of the track.  A female Greater Spotted Woodpecker came to the discarded bread rolls.  On the way back to Velez Blanco I added a White Wagtail and had a positive sighting of a Woodlark.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major (PHOTO: David Elliott_Binns)
All in all we had a great day. 48 species. Great company, bit chilly though!
Regards, Dave
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Wednesday 30 May

A most enjoyable morning at the Guadalhorce, Malaga with visit US birder Mary Dockery from Birmingham, Alabama and which resulted in over 40 species during our almost four hours.  Mary had set her eyes and heart upon seeing both Bee-eater and Hoopoe and I had promised to add a White-headed Duck.  Upon collecting Mary at the Plaza Mayor (what a mess this is with every car space closed off and nowhere to park) there were resident House Martins flying around their newly-restored breeding colony and, whilst awaiting my arrival, Mary had already had a Hoopoe fly past to make it sound like a very promising start to the day.  And before reaching the entrance to the Guadalhorce reserve we had also also added Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet and House Sparrow.

Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops in flight
Crossing the footbridge there were a few resident Rock Doves under the motorway bridge and numerous House Martins flying around our bridge and visiting their nests below.  Posed nicely next the bridge was a Red-rumped Swallow so very confirmed the earlier photograph taken by Mary.  Slightly upstream a lone Little Egret waited patiently at the water's edge as we continued on to the eastern arm of the Guadalhorce and the Laguna Casillas.  A rather pleasant group of birds here including very many Black-winged Stilts, some incubating, others just starting to lay their clutch whilst some already had chicks ranging from days to weeks old.  A pair of Mallard along with a handful of Common Pochard but just the one pair of White-headed Ducks and a single Coot.   Overhead very many House Martins with the occasional Barn Swallow but these were joined by scores of Swifts, mainly Common but a few Pallid.  A Nightingale was singing to our left.

Male White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala
Moving on towards the Wader Pool we had a couple of Serins on the track and a small number of Goldfinches feeding in the vegetation below. A second Hoopoe put in an appearance, and there was to be a third whilst at the Escondida hide, and then we were once more looking at many Black-winged Stilts along with a sole Crested Lark on the sandy island below.

However, it was the Rio Viejo (the Old River) which really turned up trumps.  Not jut the small mixed flock of gull-like birds which included, mainly, Audouin's Gulls, juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich, Little and a single Caspian Tern but also a couple of Grey Plovers in beautiful summer plumage, a Redshank, quartet of Dunlin, three Avocet and very many Little Ringed Plovers.  It took a short while but we eventually also found a few Kentish Plovers.  A Sardinian Warbler dashed between the bushes below us and, on the opposite side of the track, a male Blackbird arrived as a quintet of Spotless Starlings moved on.

Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius
A visit to the Sea Watch produced a calm sea and eventually about a dozen resting Mediterranean Gulls.  Returning to the Wader Pool we added a Bonelli's Warbler and manged to find a quite large Chameleon in a distant Tamerisk.  A Common Waxbill landed on the top of the same bush and yet another Nightingale was singing before we continued on to the Casillas Pool which produced a Zitting Cisticola and a couple of Moorhen.

Walking towards the Laguna Escondida Mary stopped having seen a small bird a the bottom of a bush which turned out to be a second Sardinian Warbler but almost next to her bird was a female Subalpine Warbler and then the female Sardinian Warbler put in an appearance.  But, hark, what was that we heard overhead?  Yes, our first Bee-eater of the morning but it was gone before Mary could raise her bins.

Bee-eater Abejaruco Europeo Merops apiaster in flight

Not to worry, a hundred metres further on we found the bird, or another one, resting on top of a bare tree so Mary able to take photographs.  The Escondida itself was very quiet with just a pair of White-headed Ducks and many swifts and hirrundines above but then a trio of Bee-eaters arrived and posed very obligingly near the hide in a bare bush.  Wonderful views.

Bee-eater Abejaruco Europeo Merops apiaster

Again, the Laguna Grande was relatively quiet with a few Black-winged Stilts and their families.  To the back a small group of Back-headed Gulls and then a couple of Whiskered Terns arrived to help make our day even more exciting.  Below us a pair of Kentish Plovers were, presumably, approving of their nest scrape when before we could blink mating took place; full frontal nudity.  We assume that copulation was successful albeit we both laughed when the the male fell off backwards taking the female with him and the undignified scramble that followed as they tried to recover their feet; what a way to remember the morning!  Walking back to the car a flight of four Monk Parakeets, not so raucous and noisy on this occasion, passed overhead.

Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops

Birds seen:
Mallard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern, Little Ter, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Serin, Goldfinch.

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