Thursday, 18 January 2018

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Wednesday 17 January

Beautiful, sunny morning without a cloud in the clear blue sky as 12 of us enjoyed a morning's birding at the Guadalhorce, Malaga with the Axarquia Bird Group and the day warming up by the hour.  Not only that but over fifty birds recorded before we made our respective ways home just before 1pm. Some lovely birds seen including both Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, White-headed and Ferruginous Ducks, Gannet and very close Booted Eagle.  But for me it was he single Knot right at the close of play as they might say in cricket terms.

Awaiting arrivals at the slope leading up to the river bank the "corner plot" duly produced an assortment of small birds including Serin, Black Redstart, Great Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird and the local, screeching Monk Parakeets.  The odd Yellow-legged Gull was floating around and a good number of Cormorants could be seen on and over the site.  No sooner had we started to walk towards the footbridge into the reserve than we observed the Booted Eagle resting in its usual tree.  A lone Heron was standing on the filed to the left.  From the footbridge we could see Coots on the water and a pair of Jackdaw and a Kestrel resting on the motorway street lights.

Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraeatus pennatus
The Laguna Casillas was relatively quiet with mainly Coots, the odd Moorhen and a good number of Pochard plus a handful of Mallard.  But then we picked out the single Ferruginus Duck and a quartet of Teal paddle up the water.  Just a couple of Little Grebe and a few Crag Martins feeding overhead.  A Stonechat fed on the ground below the hide and looking to the scape on the opposite side of the track we picked out a mixed feeding flock of Goldfinch, Linnet, Serin and Greenfinch whilst the distant trees at the back of the laguna were full of resting Spotless Starlings and Cormorants.

Ferruginous Duck Porron Pardo Aythya nyroca
So on to the Wader Pool which was even quieter with just a couple of Teal and Black-winged Stilts and a Shelduck.  the added attraction, apart from the ever-present Chiffchaff, was the single Meadow Pipit feeding close to the water line.

On the old river, the Rio Viejo, where we found a handful of Shelduck and a single, juvenile Flamingo.  A few Black-winged Stilts and then our first Dunlin and Ringed Plover along with a couple of Sanderling and a trio of Lapwing on a small island.  However, pride of place went to the trio of godwit and very strange to see a single Bar-tailed feeding with the pair of Back-tailed Godwits.  Behind us, on the eastern arm of the river, a quartet of Little Egret, a calling Cetti's Warbler and the first Crested Lark as our Booted Eagle drifted past overhead completing ignoring the regular passage of Cormorants whilst a Kestrel put in an appearance at the back of the river.

Little Grebe Zampullin Comun Tachybaptus ruficollis
Once at the Sea Watch we certainly need scopes to pick out the distant Lesser Black-backed Gulls as they trailed the fishing boats but did get a closer look at a pair of Gannets.  A party of fourteen Sanderling occuied the beach below us.  On the other hand, perhaps the best sighting was the pair of Dolphins feeding and/or playing near the strange structure off shore.

Whilst most continued on along the beach to the Laguna Grande Olly and I retraced our steps and picked up a pair of female Shoveler on the old river along with passing Collared Doves and House Sparrows.  Many of the birds seemed to have dispersed for the first two hides so it was on round to the Laguna Escondida for more Coots and Little Grebe along with Chiffchaffs and the occasional Crag Martin and where we met up again with the rest of the group.

Chiffchaff  Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita - but was this individual ringed locally?

Our final call was to the Laguna Grande which produced, in addition to tscores of Cormorants, a second juvenile Flamingo and eight Black-necked Grebes.  We finally caught up with the small flock of White-headed Duck and even had a male Shoveler at the back of the water.  A couple of White Wagtails added to the sightings and then, at last, we found the Knot that had been reported at tis water last Sunday.  Well concealed on a small "puddle" to the right of the distant island behind the temporary hide.

Two of the eight Black-necked Grebes Zampullin Cuelinegro Podiceps nigricollis
With all of us dispersed to our various homes, Lisette and I stopped for a quick shop at Leroy Merlin and then took the short drive to Zapata entering from the southern, airport, end of the track.  We simple drove slowly down to the ford and back and were gone in about an hour but during this time we managed to record 30 species including nine not previously seen in the morning. Waxbill, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Black Redstart and Crested Lark were certainly expected as was the case with the many White Wagtails and a single Grey Wagtail.  A special treat was not so much the Kestrel, lots of views of the quartering Marsh Harriers but the Osprey that out in an appearance.  The river produced a number of Coots and Mallards but also a n overflying Cattle Egret, Common Sandpiper and Ringed Plover.  Another lovely sighting was that of a Dartford Warbler just before coming across the Zitting Cisticola and the sight of a quartet of Red-legged Partridge crossing the track in front of us on the return drive.

White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala with blue beak just beginning to emerge

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Waxbill, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Monday 15 January

Time for an early afternoon walk alongside the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar from the N340 road bridge to the sea.  Whilst the "bird of the day" might have been the lone Purple Swamphen that put in a prolonged appearance on the "lake" at the end of the river, the most memorable sight was the actual state of the site, if you'll pardon the intended pun.  The recent heavy rains had made positive inroads on the overgrown jungle that was the river bed so now leaving some clear areas and the occasional "puddle" on the way down but, best of all, the safety handrail around the hide has been replaced and the excrement removed for the seat; somebody cares after all!  And, as an added bonus, not one single naked man in site nevermind the potential procurements that can be most off-putting when visiting the lowest regions of the river.

leaving the car parked above the bridge near the chimney factory I immediately had a departing Hoopoe followed quickly by both Chiffchaffs and Robins (lots of these this hour).  Once under the bridge the first Blackbird flying down the riverbed and then a rather handsome male Serin.  No shortage of Moorhens, especially once ensconced at the newly-freshened hide, with a total of a dozen in sight at one time.  A male Black Redstart then put in an appearance along with Stonechat and more Chiffchaffs.

One of many Moorhen Gallineta Comun Gallinula chloropus on site

Next down to the shore and along the beach to take a look at the river pool and water stretching up about a further fifty metres.  A handful of Coot and a Moorhen in addition to the Purple Swamphen along with a pair of Mallard, single Little Grebe and Heron.  Just the three Cormorants present but a good number of Crag Martins feeding over the water.  A White Wagtail put in an appearance and then I picked up the single Mediterranean Gull consorting with the handful of Black-headed Gulls. A quick drive round the arable fields north of the N340 also picked up Cattle Egret, Rock Dove, House Sparrows and a couple of Kestrels.

Just the one Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea
Having completed the shopping on leaving the river I called in at the entrance to the fish harbour at Caleta where, in addition to the hundreds of Lesser Black-backed I also picked up yellow-legged, Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls along with numerous Cormorant and a single Sanderling and a Little Egret which very conveniently dropped in to be recorded.  Needless to say there were scores of Monk Parakeets about along with a small number of Spotless Starlings.

Common Coot Focha Comun Fulica atra

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Sanderling, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin.

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

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Osuna - again!

Wednesday 10 January

When was the last time you went birding and the first bird seen on the day was a Stone Curlew?  Yes, a Stone Curlew not a House Sparrow, Blackbird, Collared Dove, White wagtail et al but a Stone Curlew.  Well, it happened to me when I took my visiting Dutch birder neighbour Lisette Heikoop from nearby Caleta over to Osuna for a loop round the "Osuna triangle" with ten other ABS friends.

You can hide but we can still find the Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus

No sooner had we seen one thean we saw at least a further dozen along with White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Crested Lark and Blackcap not to mention hundreds, if not thousands, of Spanish Sparrows feeding in large flocks.   The first of the many Raven were noted and, eventually, we caught up with the Red-legged Partridges.  Our first sighting of a Red Kite was soon followed by more along with Buzzard and Kestrel although it was to be much later when we we finally found our first and only Black-shouldered Kite resting in a dead tree near the viaduct on the abandoned high speed railway track. After the recent heavy rain a large roadside puddle held a feeding Green Sandpiper and then a Blackbird flying along the abandoned railway track.  A Hoopoe flew through the trees to our right.

Just a few of the hundreds of Spanish Sparrows Passer hispaniolensis
The damp fields to the side of the road held numerous Crested Larks and White Wagtails along with a few Linnets and Meadow Pipits.  Amongst the many Spanish Sparrows we also managed to find House Sparrows and the odd Tree Sparrow.  And, rather to our delight, among the Spotless Starlings (known as "Black Sparrows" in Dutch) we also found a couple of Common Starlings.
The fences and nearby trees held a regular sightings of Iberian Grey Shrike.

Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis

But we were here to find the local Great Bustards and peter and company having seen half a dozen fly over were doing their best to find the birds in the fields below as we gathered on one of the high bridges.  Some doing after first finding both ground feeding Buzzard and Raven but, eventually, I managed to find a quartet including a very handsome male.  meanwhile, the marsh harriers and Red Kites continued to fly around us as we made our way down the abandoned track to the viaduct over the now well-flooded meadow.

Always lovelier when the Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus take to the sky
To our right large flocks of White Storks and Lapwing with a moving flock of about two hundred Golden Plover.  Lisette had already found a large flock of Calandra Lark and Steve had seen the only Dartford Warbler of the morning.  To the left of the viaduct a good-sized flock of mainly adult Flamingo and with the handful or so of Teal a single Pintail, three Shelduck and then a lone Black-necked Grebe.

A few of the White Stork Ciconia ciconia flock
Before continuing on to La Lantejuela for a quick lunch we also recorded Goldfinch and Serin plus a couple of Little Owls.  Both Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon, not to mention Rock Dove, were added and it was a delight to see the Sky Lark soaring up as it sang out its little heart.  But a great lack of waders with, apart from the Lapwing, just the single Snipe and a handful of Black-winged Stilt.  But it was on the viaduct that we were truly amazed.  Not the dozen or so Rock Doves that perched on the railing to our left but the Peregrine Falcon that sat just a few metres away on the other side.  After trying our hands at distant photographs Steve took the opportunity to slowly drive up to the bird to get some closer shots and still the falcon did not fly - so we decided we might just as well approach quietly and get some close-up shots for ourselves.  But then, within striking distance if you pardon the expression, the bird took to the air and disappeared below the viaduct.  But to our amazement up she came and re-perched a few metres further on so we did, eventually, get a closer shot ourselves.

Our very patient Peregrine Falcon Falco pereginus
The visit to the lake at the village gave us chance to "look over the wall" before the hide was unlocked for us to take advantage and we were soon adding Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Coot and MoorhenLittle Grebes, Flamingo and a Night Heron were seen whilst, right in front of us, we had Chiffchaff, Cetti's Warbler and a small flock of Common Waxbill.  The arrival of a Purple Swamphen was an added bonus.

With the sun shining brightly we made our way home with time to call in for a short visit to Fuente de Piedra.  Lots of water now and Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Mallard and Shoveler on the flooded field to our left and scores of Jackdaw above the building itself.  Looking down to the field beyond the scrape we found both Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls along with a sleepy Stone Curlew.  A lone Song Thrush flew across the road and Crag Martins were seen above as we headed round the back to the laguneta.  Here we found lots of Shoveler along with both Pochard and Mallard along with Coot and Little Grebes.  Between us and the water we also picked up Robin, Linnet, Crested Lark and Black Redstart.  Final sightings included Blackcap, Lapwing and Hoopoe.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Night Heron, White Stork, Flamingo, Back-winged Kite, Red Kite, marsh harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-headed Gull,Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 10 January

Looks like a number of us were out birding yesterday following the heavy rain of Monday/Tuesday and we all seem to have seen some great birds.  Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group were at Cabo de Gata where pride of place went to the numerous Trumpeter Finches whereas I joined a group of friends to re-work the "Osuna Triangle" in Sevilla Province.  My blog to follow later.

Cabo de Gata and Rambla Morales:Wednesday 10th January

Gilly was working again and my proposed passenger called off sick, so it allowed me to have an early start, so I headed south to Cabo de Gata. My first tick was a hovering Kestrel just outside Pujaire.  I made my way to the far end to commence the track round the rear of the reserve.  The weather wasn't ideal. It was overcast and windy.  The sun had just risen.   Not looking good for any photos.  I saw some Crested Larks before I started to see waders on the edge of the salinas. Redshank, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Little Stint and Avocet.  In the water were Greater Flamingos and Shelduck.  Little birds included White Wagtail, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit. 

I'd seen 16 species by the time I'd returned to Pujaire to meet up with the others.  John, Les and Alan joined me for coffee before we headed to the first hide, me seeing an Iberian Grey Shrike en route. Luckily the clouds had departed and the sun was out.  We'd hadn't long been there when we were joined by Jacky and a new couple, Lee and Debbie, who had been invited by Les who met them birdwatching in Mojacar.  Scanning from the right, Alan and I found Eurasian Curlew, Grey Plover, Mallard, Black Tailed Godwit and Black Winged Stilt.  I found 8 Spoonbill asleep in their usual location up the far end.  Alan spotted a Sardinian Warbler.  Jacky found Marsh Harrier way over to the left.  There was a small flock of Dunlin and Little Stints adjacent to the causeway next to 9 larger waders with their heads tucked in asleep.  Eventually one woke up to prove they were Black-tailed Godwit.  They were joined by a single Spoonbill.  Alan located a flying Raven which flew by and landed on a nearby pylon.

Raven Corvus corax (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Prior to walking over to the second a quick sea-watch discovered a Sandwich Tern.  At the hide I saw a female Marsh Harrier quartering the savannah to our left.  Suddenly 30 odd Stone Curlew took to the air, some eventually landing nearby.  John found some Black-necked Grebe whilst I spotted an adult Gannet out to sea.  A Lesser Black-backed Gull flew by and Alan saw a Crag Martin.
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I led the convoy to the public hide . As I came off the main road some small birds flew over the car and landed on the savannah.  My initial gut feeling was correct.  Trumpeter Finch.  We saw 4 together with Greenfinch and Serin.  Les, Alan and John arrived just as they flew over the road as they'd been sussing out what turned out to be a pair of Grey Plover further back along the road.  Whilst they searched for the Trumpeter Finches the rest of us went to the hide parking area.   Unbelievably another 6 Trumpeter Finches were perched on the fence.  A quick call got the lads to join us. Numerous Greenfinch were also fence perching.  On the causeway were Lesser Black-backed Gulls and many more in front of the hide.  I spotted a Dartford Warbler and our only Black-headed Gull of the day.  We said our goodbyes to Lee and Debbie as we headed to Rambla Morales.  Jacky wanted to go for a walk so we arranged to meet her at the cafe later.  As I drove long the straight towards Cabo village a flock of 50+ Trumpeter Finch flew over.
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus (Male above and female below) (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
As I parked at Rambla Morales I could see about 8 pterodactyl like Cormorants hanging their wings out to dry.  They flew off as some dog-walkers went past.  An Iberian Grey Shrike was hunting nearby and caught a beetle.  It took us some time to find anything at the lake.  Alan first spotted some Shoveler, whilst I found 2 pairs of Wigeon.  Apart from a few Greater Flamingos and a Mallard, that was it!  A few Crag Martins were skimming over the reeds and some Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew over.  Not even Coot or Moorhen were seen!
Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Retiring for lunch we saw some passing Gannets out to sea.  On the way back to the motorway I had a Black Redstart near the greenhouses. We ended up with 43 species.  Was great to see so many Trumpeter Finches.
Regards, Dave

Sounds like a great day, Dave and in good company.  Just hope at least one of the Trumpeter Finches will still be about when I visit on 8 February following a day at Las Norias and Roquetas de Mar.  And your Lesser Black-backs look suspiciously like Yellow-legs.


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

Monday, 8 January 2018

Charca de Suarez

Sunday 7 January

Torrential rain yesterday and a few light showers this afternoon with the promise of more heavy rain tomorrow and Tuesday and the possibility of local flooding.  But this morning lovely sunshine and clear blue skies as I travelled over to Charca de Suarez with Barbara ad Derek Etherton where we met up with Steve Powell.  After a most enjoyable morning recording over 40 species we retired to Steve and Elena's house for lunch and a relaxing afternoon.  Indeed, as we left the motorway a Hoopoe crossed in front of us and, parking literally outside Steve's home, a Bonelli's Eagle slowly drifted low overhead giving excellent views.  What an enjoyable day and just what the doctor ordered for getting over my recent illness.

Straight to the Laguna del Taraje where all was very quiet with just the single Mallard and the occasional Chifchaff.  Both single Heron and Cormorant flew over so we took ourselves off to the Laguna del Alamo Blano where, again, at first sight all was relatively quiet with just the single White Stork and a pair of Herons.  But at the back we picked up at least 8 Moorhens and then the appearance of a few Chiffchaffs, a single Serin and, seen by Derek and Barbara, a couple of Red Avadavats and a Great Tit. leaving the hide to head off towards the main Laguna de las Aneas we looked up to see a pair of Marsh Harriers with a couple of Crag Martins doing their best to harry them away.

Walking to the main hide we picked up Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Black Redstart and Robin along with a couple of Common Waxbill and on arrival the sight of many basking Cormorant along with a handful of resting herons and a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls.  On the water itself a number of Mallard, Shoveler, Teal and Pochard along with a single Ferruginous Duck at the back.  Just the one Red-knobbed Coot noted along with its Common Coot cousins plus the occasional Moorhen and a Little GrebeCrag Martins were busy feeding over the water along with a pair of White Wagtails and more Chiffchaffs and a solitary Spotless Starling looked down on the scene from its advantage point on top of the neighbouring radio mast.

Distant Ferruginous Duck Porron Pardo Aythya nyroca

Once at the Laguna del Trebol we quickly picked up a number of very close, and unmarked, Red-knobbed Coots plus more Common Coot, Moorhen, Mallard and Chiffchaff.  A Stonechat came to see what was going on an a lone Grey Wagtail alighted on the nearby floating raft.  meanwhile, Steve had arrived before us and was able to photograph the feeding Bluethroat.  Once at the hide on the opposite side we had lots more Chiffchaffs and a close view of both Cetti's Warbler and Robin.  Needless to say we also picked up a handful of House Sparrows and then, almost out of nowhere, a dark morph Booted Eagle put in a short appearance.

So on to the Laguna del Lirio, recording a few Collared Doves and Blackbirds plus another Great Tit on the way, where not only more Red-knobbed Coots but two male and four female Wigeon had taken up residence.  And what stunning birds the male looked as the sun shone on their new plumage. A final look at both the Lagunas del Taraje and Alamo Blanco produced nothing new other than another Kestrel so we made our way back to the car, noticing that the local ringer had just retrieved yet another Goldfinch from his net, in time to see a couple of Cattle Egrets pass overhead.  Nothing of note to add from our exit journey via "Turtle Dove Alley" so all that was left was the sighting of both Hoopoe and Bonelli's Eagle reported in the opening paragraph.

Drake with two female Wigeon Silbon Europeo Anas penelope
Birds seen:
Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Heron, White Stork, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crag Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Waxbill, Red Avadavat, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Two-days Birding with Friends

Friday 5 January

The ten-day wait whilst I try and recover from my chest infection over Christmas, nevermind the newly-acquired eye, was finally over and I managed to get out for a couple of days birding with friends, mainly in lovely sunny weather, and also try out the new eye following my successful cataract operation just before Christmas.  What frustration as I coughed away and wondered whether it would ever end but, come last Wednesday morning, I was up early and off to Casabermeja to pick up Bob and Noreen Ashford for the drive over to Osuna where we met up with Derek and Barbara Etherton and Ricky and Sonia Owen for our drive around the well-know "triangle" in search of the local Great Bustards.  And successful we were, too.

Some of us had already seen the Great Bustards Otis tarda! (PHOTO: Bob Ashford)
With Raven, Buzzard and Little Owl as we reached the meeting point we soon added House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Collared Dove and the first Red-legged Partridge of the day within a few hundred metres of moving off towards the country lane.  Serins, White Wagtail and Crested Lark followed almost immediately and then a small flock of Linnets and we studied the railside fence. A lovely Red Kite put on appearance and we were to see many more during the day along with Buzzards and the occasional Kestrel. Flocks of Corn Bunting remind you how scarse they are becoming back in the UK and then a couple of Meadow Pipits feeding below the olive trees.  A Hoopoe flew over and then a rather handsome male Marsh Harrier.  The small trees alongside the fence held, it seemed, literally thousands of Spanish Sparrows which, of course, was a great delight to 'tother Bob.

Very distant record shot of Great Bustards Avutarda Comun Otis tarda feeding alongside a Raven Cuervo Corvus corax
A pair of Iberian Grey Shrikes on the wires as we approached the first high bridge over the abandoned high speed rail trackbed with numerous Stonechats perched it seemed just about everywhere led to us seeing a party of about twenty Great Bustards flying low on the other side and come down out of sight.  However, once on top of the bridge and able to scan the fields we soon our flock of Great Bustards along with quartering Hen and Marsh Harriers.

A couple of Sky Larks were singing their hearts out as we then picked out Goldfinch, Sardinian Warbler and Chiffchaff before heading of along the trackbed to the the viaduct over the well-known flooded field.  in amongst the Spotless Starlings we even found the odd Common Starling.  Nevermind stopping to look at the pair of White Storks on the right as there were hundreds on the left!  A small party of Teal were sheltering in some reed-infested grass and, on the opposite of the viaduct, a good-sized flock of Lapwing.

White Stork Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia
Meanwhile, a large number of White Storks and Rock Doves had taken to resting on the viaduct railings in front of us and as we scanned the ground below we picked up Black-winged Stilt and Mallard and Sonia and Ricky also added Dartford Warbler.

Then it was the short drive over to La Lantejuela for a welcome coffee before checking out the small reserve from the road where we added Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Flamingo, Moorhen, Little Grebe along with feeding Blackcap, Black Redstart, Cetti's Warbler and a number of passing Woodpigeon.  Finally, as took the long drive down to Tarifa via Cadiz most were able to pick out the pair of Black-shouldered Kites and, of course, the numerous Cattle Egrets.

Suitably refreshed after a good night's sleep at Hotel la Torre we set off for a morning's visit to relatively nearby La Janda with a Buzzad watching us from a post adjacent to the car park. Not just more Buzzards but also a Little Owl on the wires and fields full of Cattle Egrets.  No sooner had we arrived on the track down to the canal than we stopped to scan the overall area and noted the hundred of wintering White Storks along with the first of a good number of Cranes.  The fences down to the canal produced Stonechats, Crested Larks, Corn Buntings and Linnets along with a distant quartering Marsh Harrier. Noreen even managed to see the lone Penduline Tit that just happened to alight on a fence post as we drove past.

Hundreds of White Stork Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia at La Janda
Once alongside the canal lots to see including Meadow Pipits and a even a Water Pipit.  By now we had been joined by Jerry and Barabara Laycock and Sonia and company looked out of the car window to watch a feeding Penduline Tit on the bear bank as a Bluethroat worked the opposite bank and a Kingfisher chose that moment to fly between them both!  A good number of Zitting Cisticola were seen working the bank.  More Kestrels and the first of many Jackdaw as we made our way to the large, shallow pool where we found a trio of juvenile Flamingo along with a small flock of Spoonbill feeding alongside Little Egret and Herons.  Then we noticed  the score or more of Glossy Ibis.

Successful search for the Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus (PHOTO: Bob Ashford)
Whilst we had a couple of Green Sandpiper feeding at the edge of the water it was odd to see the pair of Purple Swamphen take off and fly over the cars to land at the riverside grasses.  having received the news form visiting Spanish birders we spent some time scanning the flooded grasses and eventually found at least three Jack Snipe along a similar number of more of Common Snipe.  A couple of Redshank revealed themselves and a handful of Cormorant flew past overhead along with small numbers of Mallards - probably fleeing the distant shooting that we could hear.  At the same time a small group of falconers arrived with a Gyr Falcon and dog to try their hand at flushing out Snipe.  We left well before they got to work and disturbed the remaining wildlife.

Spanish falconer with his Gyr Falcon Halcón Gerifalte Falco rusticolus?
Accompanied by Goldfinches, Linnets, Serins and Jackdaws we made our way to the bridge as we took note of the distant Griffon Vultures soaring over the hills.  Much as we tried we were unable to find the wintering Lesser Spotted Eagle or resident Black-shouldered Kites but on driving up the avenue we did find a small number of Chaffinches accompanied by at least a couple of Brambling.  Both Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge were added to the list along with over-flying Crag Martins and, once again, the Red Kites put in an appearance.  Having stopped to watch a small party of feeding Short-toed Larks we then noted a quartet of quartering raptors including both Hen and Marsh Harrier whilst, overhead, a lone Bonelli's Eagle was making its way southwards.  Up past the "smelly farm" we had a very close view of a quartering male Hen Harrier and a Hoopoe looped away to our right.  Not just Kestrels here but most also saw the Sparrowhawk as it dashed away.

Male Hen Harrier Aguilucho Palido Circus cyaneus quartering La Janda
With time pressing on and we three three returning home this evening we bade our farewells and drove over to Barbate picking up a Bluethroat on the road as soon as we left the muddy track.  No luck in trying to find the Bald Ibis but we did add a Grey Wagtail as we drove through the outskirts of the town and at the estuary duly found Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Audouin's Gulls along with Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Dunlin and Sanderling.  Good numbers of Cormorants and the occasional Little Egret and Heron but the stars of the show were the good number of Stone Curlew resting on the nearby island and showing very well.  Chiffchaffs, House Sparrows, White Wagtails and Crested Larks fed on the nearby fields and a Black Redstart made a brief appearance as we finished our coffee and set out on the long journey home.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Black-shouldered Kite, Red Kite, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Bonell's Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel,  Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Crane, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Jack Snipe, Snipe, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Back-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Penduline Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Sering, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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Friday, 5 January 2018

Almanzora and Vera with the Arboleas Birding Group

Friday 5 January

The reports seem to be coming in thick and fast so goodness knows when I will be able to start, nevermind finish, my own blog!  new Year and birthday treats over it looks very much a sif Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group are back on the road again, this time to relatively nearby Vera despite all the canal visits of the wrong sort!

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa: Thursday 4 January

The first Arboleas Birding Group outing was delayed for 24 hours as I had root canal dentistry on the Wednesday.  Gilly had hers on the Tuesday and is still suffering. Therefore, twas only me en route early to the Desert Springs end of the Rambla de Almanzora.  The only bit of water at that end contained a pair of Teal, a pair of Mallard and a Little Grebe. 
The newly-cleared Rambla de Almanzora (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
I carried down towards the road bridge nearing the estuary, stopping briefly for a chat with Les, so I could see what had happened to the reed clearing operation.  As you will see from the photograph, the reeds have been totally removed and a channel dug to centralise the water flow.  The reeds will regenerate, but I don't think the channel will be good for birdwatching. We shall see.  I added Black Redstart, Stonechat by the time I'd retraced my steps to the "ford" meeting place.  My bird spots were then trumped by John who'd stopped at the Rio Agua and had seen a Purple Swamphen and the Ferruginous Duck, but Les won with a Common Crane flying over on his way from Turre!  We were joined by Kevin, Pete, Dave and Myrtle.  John also had seen a Snipe by the ford.  We commenced our walk towards the sewage works. Many Chiffchaff flitting about the shrubs. We heard a Cetti's Warbler. We also added Robin, Magpie, Spotless Starling and Collared Dove.  A Yellow Legged Gull flew by and two Grey Heron took off from the large pool, on which were Common Pochard and Mallard.  A Green Sandpiper was down the far end. I spotted a Hoopoe on a distant pylon. We saw Chaffinch, Serin and Greenfinch.  A Common Sandpiper was by the weir. John found some Northern Starlings up on the power lines.  We headed back towards the vehicles seeing much of the same. Down by the ford there were many Moorhen and Mallard.  An Egret flew off, Les confirming it as a Cattle Egret. A Water Pipit was seen briefly.  John, who'd walked further along saw Grey Wagtail, Snipe, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover and Black Winged Stilt.
We adjourned for coffee and tostada in Villaricos village where we met up with Trevor and Ann.
Suitably refreshed we made our way to the beach.  I quickly scanned the rocks.  I saw a  Sanderling together with a larger red legged wader, saying Redshank, but Kevin corrected me.  It was a Turnstone.  On the harbour rocks there were Cormorant, Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls. The Whimbrel briefly showed itself.  Scanning the sea for Razorbill and failing, I did find a Great Crested Grebe.
Juvenile Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Adult Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Cormorants doing what they do best! (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then walked over to the estuary.  It appeared the Coot were beginning to start nesting.  There was a line of Cormorants on the half-submerged water pipe posing nicely.  Closer to the beach there was a large flock of Black-headed Gulls on the water interspersed with the odd Audouin's and Mediterranean Gull.  I spotted an adult Gannet far out to sea.  On the muddy edge by the beach we found Dunlin, Little Stint, Redshank and both Meadow and Water Pipit.  John found a Grey Plover on the rocks as well as Kentish and Ringed Plover.  A Little Egret was also seen.  A Sandwich Tern out to sea was feeding by instead of diving from a height was sort of belly-flopping into the sea.  Maybe it was having a wash?  Further along the beach there was a line of assorted gulls and terns.  Audouin's, Mediterranean, Black-headed Gulls and more Sandwich Terns.
We then made our way to the dual carriageway opposite the Vera Playa Consum supermarket.  Les saw a Jackdaw on the way there.  Apart from more Black-winged Stilt, Teal, Mallard, Little Grebe and Coot we added Shoveler.  The immature Greater Flamingo was still there.  Les spotted a pair of Black Wheatear way up by the mobile mast.  Before dispersing, I was saying that I was surprised not to have seen a Crag Martin, when John pointed towards a bird above us.  Not a Crag Martin, but a Barn Swallow!  Les and John messaged me later to say they'd also seen Lesser Black-backed Gull, Crested Lark and a Kestrel.
We ended up with a creditable 59 species. Good birding, weather and company!
Regards, Dave

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Fuente de Piedra with John & Jenny

Friday 5 January

Whilst I was trying to shale off the recent illness John and Jenny Wainwright were off on a short visit to Fuente de Piedra and rewarded  with a couple of Black-shouldered Kites; now that's a lovely New Year present.

Fuente de Piedra: Wednesday 3 January

A bright but chilly day

What a nice change!! As we approached the reserve we could see water all over the place, the flood meadow was almost devoid of birds still, only a few Coots, Teal and a Common Sandpiper were noted.

After parking we walked down to the newly repaired causeway bridge where we saw lots of White Wagtails, Greenfinches and Chiffchaffs.

Along the path to the scrape we spotted male and female Blackcaps, Meadow Pipits and Stonechats, while the scrape only produced a Moorhen.

Looking out from the mirador we saw Greater Flamingos in the distance, while closer in rafts of gulls, mostly Black-headed and Yellow-legged.  A large flock of Lapwings here and scanning the edge of the laguna, a large flock of Stone Curlews and several dead gulls were noted. A few Crag Martins were about overhead as was a flock of Stone Curlews.

At the lagunetta Shovelers, Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested and Common Pochard were here as were Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls, two Dabchick, Moorhen, Shelduck and a lone juvenile Greater Flamingo.  In the shrubs we saw Blackcaps, Cetti´s and Sardinian Warblers, Robins, House Sparrows, Blackbirds and Stonechats.

Moving round to the Cantarranas mirador we had three groups of Common Cranes fly over and at the mirador itself a nice surprise was two Black-winged Kites sat in the bare tree in the middle of the marsh (no water visible) and a ring-tail Hen Harrier was spotted quartering the reedbed.  On the roof of the house to our left a Southern Grey Shrike was seen.  More Common Cranes were spotted in the olive groves opposite the car park. 

Distant record shot of the two Black-shouldered Kites Elanus caeruleus (HOTO: John Wainwright)
On the drive round to the Laguna Dulce we saw Common Kestrel and Buzzard, while at the laguna itself we had Green Sandpiper, male and female Marsh Harriers, more Common Cranes, Black-winged Stilts, Chiffchaffs, Chaffinches, Corn Buntings, a single Avocet , Great Tits and Cetti´s Warblers.

A very productive second outing of the year .

Reading John's report it was reassuring to see the reference to the "lots of Greenfinches" as I had just been reading the latest from Bird News reporting on the recent sad demise of this this bird in the UK which is now on the Amber List.

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