Friday, 16 March 2018

Zapata with Derek and Barbara

Friday 17 March

This is what you do when you have to wait hours for a Windows 10 update, you go down to Zapata and check-out the Guadalhorce behind the airport!  But see the end for the final outcome!

Lots of the water had gone down the river but the ford is nowhere near passable yet.  Several Sand Martins, Barn Swallows and Pallid Swifts were feeding over the river.  Night Heron, Grey Heron and a couple of Little Egrets were about at the waterside.  4 Little Ringed Plovers and a solo Greenshank were on the gravel, Cetti's Warbler called and Chiffchaffs are still in good supply.  2 Common Buzzards and a Booted Eagle floated around and a Common Kestrel was very active.

We smirked (love that word, just like being at school) as either a fisherman, or an illicit liaison BMW car needed to be towed out of the soft gravel, this was the only grua (Crane) we saw today! 

Driving back to the still very muddy top track (only suitable for 4x4 vehicles at the moment) we noticed several more swifts.  Stopping for a better look we soon found several Alpine Swifts together with both Common and Pallid.  It's funny as Micky Smith had sent me a Whatsapp this morning to say Alpines were passing over his house on the coast.  Great Tit, House Sparrow, numerous Serins, Greenfinch, Crested Larks and 3 Hoopoe were either on the wire fence or on the dryer parts of the track.  2 more Common Buzzards were in front, the other 2 were still behind us, as we approached the top end of the reed bed.  To our right we were delighted to see that the vegetation in the fenced airport field had been cut - never have I seen feeding like it!  It was wagtails everywhere, and still they flew in.  If I estimate 200+ wagtails it is a conservative guess with a split roughly 65-35% toward the White species.  However the 35% Yellow Wagtails contained 3 sub-species easily visible - (flavissima - iberiae - cinereocapilla).  A couple of Iberian Hares loped around, now very visible, but hopefully safe in the fenced enclosure.  To our left in the reedbed Waxbills were noisy, as usual, as they flew in feeding groups.  The largely Spotless Starlings still formed a large group, being visibly disturbed when one of the Buzzards flew over.  Zitting Cisticolas, Goldfinches and Sardinian Warbler were in and out of the reeds.

The afternoon is not my normal time for visiting Zapata, but being slightly stir crazy I was glad I did to add Alpine and Common Swift, and 2 more sub-species of Yellow Wagtails to the year list.

So it was back home after 90 minutes to find the laptop needed a restart - if only it was that simple, the Windows update corrupted the machine meaning I had to go back to an original install.  So now I'm back on Windows 8 and have lost all my files, documents, photos etc.  Grrrrrrr!
 Derek Etherton

Probably explains why I have no photos to illustrate!  Nevermind Derek, we'll get a whole bunch of new birds up in Exremadura next week.
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs  and additional information

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group

Thursday 15 March

Looks like Dave and his friends also had a good morning's birding yesterday.  Whereas we were leased with our Spotted Crake I notice that the Arboleas Birding Group had lots of swifts to our none!  And we are yet to see the first Common all seen to date being Pallid Swifts.  Thanks to Gilly for providing the excellent photographs; probably means that Dave is now looking for a new job!

Wednesday 14th March: Cabo de Gata and Rambla Morales

Firstly, sorry for the delay, but my computer needed a new hard drive!  Spring is on the way so Cabo de Gata was the best option to see what migrant birds had arrived thus far.  Gilly and I picked up Richard and made our way down the E15/A7.  There were patches of sea mist as we approached Pujaire, but we still managed to spot some Common Swift.  We were joined by Alan, Les, John and Val at the cafe before making our way to the first hide.  I immediately saw the rear red end of a Bluethroat disappearing into the shrubs, never to be seen again!  We had good views of at least 3 Iberian Grey Shrike.  The water level was high so we saw mostly the larger waders, Avocet, Redshank, Black Tailed Godwit and Black Winged Stilt.  I spotted a Grey Plover and Les found some Kentish Plover nearby.  Wildfowl included Shelduck and Mallard.  A Thekla Lark showed well on the wall.  Gilly found a Yellow Wagtail.  A Zitting Cisticola showed well on a power line.  Also seen were Little Ringed Plover and Slender Billed Gull. 
Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
We moved round to the beach opposite the second hide.  Numerous Sandwich Terns were fishing close to shore.  As we walked towards the hide a solitary Red-rumped Swallow was spotted by Alan. Gilly counted 363 Greater Flamingo.  Also seen were Chiffchaff, Cormorant and Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Checking out to sea an adult Gannet was seen.  Alan then spotted some dark birds fishing close to shore.  Shearwaters.  We raced back to the beach to identify them as Mediterranean least 6 in total.

Mediterranean Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus  (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns) * Presumed Balearic Shearwater
We then headed to the public hide. There were numerous Lesser-black Backed Gulls on the causeway together with a good number of Sandwich Terns plus, Black-headed, Mediterranean, Audouin's and Slender-billed Gulls.  Small birds included Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart and Greenfinch. Dunlin were noted and I found some Black-necked Grebes.  Richard, who'd stayed by the vehicles, believed he saw some Tree Sparrows.
We then made our way to the Rambla Morales.  On the way along the beach-side track there was an obliging Lesser Short-toed Lark.  Alan also spotted some Skylark.  There was a large flock of mixed swifts and hirundines over the reeds.  These included Crag and House Martin, Barn Swallow and we believe both Common and Pallid Swifts.  Also seen were Mallard, Coot, Grey Heron, White Headed Duck and Shoveler.
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
We made our way back to the Cabo cafe.  Those that braved the cool wind were rewarded with a sighting of a Marsh Harrier coming in off the sea (from Roquetas way, not Algeria!) and more Mediterranean Shearwaters!
We ended up with 52 species, but weather was a bit chilly and the wind was northerly.
Thank you to Gilly for the photos.
Regards, Dave
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs  and additional information

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce

Wednesday 14 March

Pleasant and calm start to the day for the March field visit of the Axarquia Bird Group with much broken cloud and becoming much warmer and even a little breaking sun by the time we departed over four hours later.  On this occasion, just the three of us as I was joined by Derek Etherton and Micky Smith.  Great shame as, having been informed of their presence on site, if we were lucky, we had wonderful views of the pair of Spotted Crake; shame there were not more of us to enjoy the experience and we even managed a total of 58 species.

Whilst waiting for the others to join me I had a tree full of Spotless Starlings and the occasional Cormorant moving about the site and House Martins overhead.  A Blackbird was seen along with a Robin and Goldfinch and even a distant Booted Eagle resting in the a bare tree near the Laguna Grande. So off we went towards the footbridge and soon picked up Barn Swallow and, of course there were a few Rock Doves under the motorway bridge.  A handful of Jackdaws flew past us and then no sooner had we recorded a Greenfinch at the top of a nearby tree than we crossed the footbridge and found a single Zitting Cisticola in a similar position.  A Kestrel flew out of a nearby small tree and above us we ere fortunate enough to locate a high-flying Great White Egret.

Male Common Pochard Porron Europeo Aythya ferina
Once at the Laguna Casillas we had not just feeding House Martins and Barn Swallows but also a single Sand Martin seen by Derek and a handful of Crag Martins.  Almost a score of Common Pochard on the water along with Little Grebe, Coot and Moorhen plus the expected Mallard and White-headed Duck.  A Cetti's Warbler was calling loudly from below us in the hide and no sooner seen than Micky spotted the one Red-rumped Swallow seen during the morning and also a pair of departing Little Ringed Plovers.

Then we moved on to take a very detailed study of the scrape on the other side of the track and its small amount of exposed water now known I believe as the Laguna Torrecilla.   Whilst we watched a Bluethroat made a sudden descent and disappeared into the grasses at the water's edge but was seen on a couple occasions as it moved about the vegetation.  I found a skulking Moorhen and got all excited about nothing and as we were about to look elsewhere on this small pool out walked the Spotted Crake.  It remained in the area for almost ten minutes and showed very well at times to the great pleasure of all three of us albeit difficult to try and get a photo as we so busy watching the bird through our scopes.  A little disturbance revealed that a second individual had put in an appearance but this proved too much for the Moorhen who chased them off back into the vegetation and not to be seen again.

From whence the Spotted Crake came but  this is more like the accompanying Moorhen!

But at least Derek managed to find the Spotted Crake Polluela Pintoja Porzana porzana  (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

Continuing on down to the Wader Pool we added a good number of Black-winged Stilts but, apart from a pair of Mallard, very little else.  A similar story with the Rio Viejo, the Old River, as a result of the high water level which had completely covered all the small islands.  However, the water did contain a trio of Avocet and a similar number of Greenshank along with a single Redshank.  On the bare ground below the track on the opposite side we had a pair of Red-legged Partridge and then found a couple of Meadow Pipits in with the dozen Spotless Starlings and a male Sardinian Warbler along with a couple of Serin.

Kentish Plover Chorlitejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus
From the Sea Watch the best we could do was a Cormorant resting on the sea and a passing Gannet travelling westwards.  Two Crested Larks put in  appearance as we left to make our way along the beach.  Very profitable as this ten minute walk produced a quartet of Sanderling along with eighteen Kentish Plovers and a lone Whimbrel which flew in from the sea, rested less than a minute and then set off again.

Distant shot of the Whimbrel Zarapito Trinador Numenius phaeopus that joined us for less thn a minute
Once at the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande we had a dozen White-headed Ducks (not often seen on this water), about a score of Black-necked Grebes and other ducks including Mallard, Shoveler and Shelduck.  Still more then a dozen Cormorants present along with a single Heron but only one Flamingo now remains.  At the far side we found a single Black-tailed Godwit alongside the handful of Black-winged Stilts and a few Black-headed Gulls.  On the other hand, there was no shortage of Collared Doves and even a quintet of Monk Parakeets finally put in a first appearance of the morning.  Finally, a pair of Gadwall leisurely sailed across the back of the water before we made our departure.

One of the male White-headed Ducks Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala
Our final stop at the Laguna Escondida at first seemed wasted but as we looked at the five male White-headed Ducks and the odd Moorhen and Coot we became aware of the activity of all the feeding Chiffchaffs immediately below and near the hide.  There seemed to be a great variation of colour but we did also manage to find a second Willow Warbler of the morning.  Right at the back a pair of Teal and a Hoopoe resting in a bare bush and then, above the lamp-posts on the far side of the motorway a distant Osprey before also having a Marsh Harrier head into the reserve.  What a wonderful way to complete a very pleasant morning and still very many memories of the Spotted Crake.

Distant shot of the OspreyAguila Pescadora Pandion haliaetus

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Spotted Crake, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-headed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Robin, Bluethroat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Woodpeckers and Hawfinches

Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Monday and Tuesday 12 and 13 March

Having been reading about the sightings of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in Cordoba, along with Derek Etherton and our wives we decided on a couple of days exploring the area and especially the sights recommended by local Spanish birders.  Ten days ago all seemed well as the forecast was for two sunny days.  However, recently this has changed from one sun and one cloudy to two cloudy and come yesterday morning one cloudy and prolonged rain expected today, Tuesday.  So it was not without a little trepidation that we collected Derek and Barbara and by 1pm found ourselves parked up in Cordoba on the outer side of the mighty Guadalquivir.  Approaching the city we had found not just Buzzard but a good number of Black Kite, Kestrel and even a passing Raven.

After a coffee we made our way to the promenade above the river and walked towards the Roman bridge where, after crossing, made a complete circuit and back.  Immediately we could hear Cetti's Warbler and certainly no shortage of Blackbird, Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove.  Moving along we soon added Blackcap and Chiffchaff and the first Cormorant was seen crossing the river to our left.  Approaching the bridge we noticed the first of the Mallards which seemed to be playing at surfing downstream under the bridge on the swollen, brown waters and a couple of Muscovy Ducks which had obviously taken a liking to the area and settled down in their new home.

From the Roman bridge we found a single Cattle Egret downstream whilst upstream we had a pair of Night Heron, Moorhen, Common Sandpiper and even a passing Grey Heron.  Above the river a good number of Barn Swallow and House Martin and on the flotsam below the bridge on the far side both White and Grey Wagtail Chiffchaffs seemed to be everywhere as could also be said of the local Blackbirds.  Making our way back to the road bridge, far side and same venta for a coffee and too-large baguette we also added Robin, Goldfinch and Black Redstart along with a high White Stork and many Spotless Starlings.

Male Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros

Still only mid-afternoon and with much rain promised for the morning we took the opportunity to visit one of the two recommended sights to the north of the city before checking in at hotel reservation, also about 4km north of the centre. Arriving at the Arroyo Bejarano we soon found both Sardinian Warbler and Robin followed by just about all the Tit; Long-tailed, Crested, Coal, Blue and Great.  We did add Chaffinch and both Derek and Jenny heard and thought they also saw our target bird, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.  And so on the relatively short distance at our overnight hotel having recorded a pleasing 38 species.

Time to draw back the curtains and lift the blinds to see what was in store for us as we prepared to head of to the city for breakfast on our way to the Fuente de Elefante. Not so much rain as thick mist!  However, after our breakfast and reaching the village of Santa Maria de Trassierra, recording Serin, Blackbird, Hoopoe and Corn Bunting on the way up the hill, we found the weather rather warm and pleasant, no wind albeit mainly cloudy.  But that was to improve and by the time we returned to the above village for a coffee before starting out on our return journey it was very pleasing indeed with some good, warm sunshine.

Hawfinch Picogordo Coccothraustes coccothraustes
As we entered the village we took the first track on our right and stopped about a thousand metres down to check-out the birds we had seen lying through the overgrown dehesa to to our right.  Mainly Azure-winged Magpies but then, looking closer, a pair of Hawfinch sat on top of a distant tree. Whilst we watched we also had Jay and Goldfinch behind us and then, not just another sighting but at least five Hawfinches in the same tree behind us.

Jay Arrendajo Garrulus glandarius

But not just Hawfinch as they were joined by a rather vociferous Nuthatch who let all and sundry know that this was his territory and, indeed, even flew to his (prospective?) nest hole in a nearby tree.  But, before all this, whilst we were studying the first Hawfinch we heard the distinctive calling of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and possible a second individual.  Not only that, but a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker behind us.  What a great start to the morning.

Hawfinch Picogordo Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Parking up the car we then walked up the hill and, having watched the soaring Booted Eagle above, eventually took the 1.4km footpath on the right, now with many puddles, to the Fuente de Elefante.  The top of the path produced the first Long-tailed and Blue Tits and Sardinian Warbler of the day and, at the bottom in the grazing field with no end of bramble bushes, we soon added Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Black Redstart.  A Serin was moving about and then the first of a couple of Mistle Thrushes in the field.  Not to be outdone we were soon seeing more Hawfinches and by the end of the morning had recorded at least a dozen individuals.

In the same area we added Great Tit and Chaffinch along with another Crested Tit and Jay.  Once again the "yaffling" of a second Green Woodpecker and in the distance the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  A single Robin put in an appearance and then, above a bush containing a pair of Black Redstarts, a lone Corn Bunting played sentinel for a good five minutes.  But best was to come, not the male Stonechat, but, on top of the brambles, we all recorded our first Woodchat Shrike of the year as it posed for the distant photographs. Then it was on to the actual spring of the Fuente de Elefante and on the return journey we also managed to add a close view of a Short-toed Treecreper.

Nuthatch trepador Azul Sitta europaea
An excellent morning's biding so we drove back to the village of Santa Maria de Trassierra for a coffee and looked up to seeing a circling Sparrowhawk as we parked the car.  The return drive to Malaga was not without interest as no sooner had we left Cordoba to take the A45 motorway home than we once again entered the "Raptor Route" with many Black Kite, Buzzards, Kestrels and even a Red Kite not to mention a kettle of White Storks and a pair of Raven.  On two occasions Red-legged Partridge flew across the motorway in front of us and Jenny managed to see a party of at least 8 (Common) Magpie in a field to the left.  Approaching Antequera we had a Crested Lark exit the central reservation and both Jackdaw and Black-winged Stilt were seen near and on the flooded fields respectively.  A short stop near the service station below Antequera did not produce a Cirl Bunting but we did find another Corn Bunting for the day.  The final record for the day was a trio of Cattle Egret as we approached Alhaurin de la Torre so making a final total of 47 species for the day and a grand total of just about 60.

"Anybody home?" asked the Nuthatch trepador Azul Sitta europaea

Birds seen:
Muscovy Duck, Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Red Kite, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker,Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker,  Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin,  Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Restart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow,  Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Hawfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Zapata and the Rio Grande

Serin Verdecllo Seinus serinus
Wednesday 7 March

Jenny out at  a couple of classes during the day so an excellent opportunity to join friends Derek and Barbara Etherton for a morning at Zapata (Guadalhorce behind the airport) and then follow on, after a lovely egg and ham roll, up to the Rio Grande.  At the "Arches" just before 9.30 and all into Derek's car to drive down to the river across the mud flats following the recent, continuous rain - albeit not as bad, I am told, as yesterday, nevermind Monday!

Welcomed to the site by the local Jackdaws and Spotless Starlings then the drive down to the river produced many Blackcap and Sardinian Warbler along with a passing male Blackbird and a number of both Serin and Goldfinch.  A trio of Greenfinches gave us the beady eye and, of course, there were numerous House Sparrows.

Goldfinch Jilguero Carduelis carduelis
Once at the river we could see that, indeed, the water level had slightly receded but still a good flow and great fun to watch the Mallards being taken downstream to ride the rapids over the now deep crossing - even backwards!  Lots of White Wagtails and Chiffchaffs about plus a few Little Ringed Plover.  A large party of Greenshank took off downstream and there was no shortage of Green Sandpipers.  On the far bank at least four Grey Herons and a solitary Night Heron.  In addition to the Mallards we found a pair of Gadwall and a number of Moorhen but just the one Coot.  The Jackdaws were busy under the motorway bridge and that point a Marsh Harrier put in an appearance quickly followed by a Sparrowhawk.  Even stranger, the Kingfisher flying downstream decided to seek elevation and passed over the reeds rather alongside parallel to the water.

Great White Egret Gazetta Grande Egretta alba
A couple of Black-winged Stilts were seen in the area and a few Cormorant before it was the turn of the Little Grebe to be taken downstream on the strong current.  Having got my shot of a close Goldfinch we headed off to the reed bed and found ourselves following a pair of Red-legged Partridge. A Kestrel sat on a pylon on the opposite side of the water whilst closer to hand we had more Crested Larks, a Zitting Cisticola and a Great Tit.  Before leaving we also added a pair of Glossy Ibis to our sightings for the morning and then a couple of Collared Doves to add to the local Chiffchaffs but, on the whole, this part of the site was very quiet with no sign of the resident Waxbills.

Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia
Then, after our breakfast, it was up to the lower reaches of the Rio Grande starting at the confluence with the Guadalhorce.  Chaffinches as we drove through the trees then a pair of Spoonbill was followed by at least two Great White Egrets and a handful of Little Egrets plus Moorhens.  Above us a good numbers of feeding Crag Martin, Barn Swallow and House Martins along with a few Pallid Swifts. After Derek had picked out the Meadow Pipit we made our way upstream taking note of the feeding Great White, Little and Cattle Egrets along with more Black-winged Stilts and White Wagtails.  Then a stop as almost immediately overhead we had our first Short-toed Eagle of the year.

The high Short-toed Eagle Culebrera Europea Circaetus gallicus

No sooner had we seen the eagle than we seemed to enter "Raptor land" with first a Booted Eagle immediately followed by both Buzzard on the nearby wires and a Kestrel.  Having recorded both Black Redstart and Stonechat we made our way up to the bridge to admire Herons, drying Cormorants and a lovely Greenshank when we found not just more Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps but a Grey Wagtail and our first Common Sandpiper of the morning.  All very enjoyable and a final count of over 50 species before we made our way back to collect my car from Zapata.

And then the Common Buzzard Busardo Ratonero Buteo bureo was up, up and away (Camera passed to Derek to take shots through the nearside window)
 Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis, Heron, Spoonbill, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Pallid Swift, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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

Monday, 5 March 2018

La Janda

Saturday 3 March

Straight after breakfast it was down to Los Lances beach, recording Woodpigeon, Cattle Egret and Spoonbill on the way, and what and unexpected and awful sight awaited us!  Not so much having to get through the foot-deep "pond" to reach the boardwalk to the hide but then discover that the said boardwalk was no more.  Evidently the storms two days prior had seen the sea reach well into land and rip up the woodwork.  Well, we went as far as we could which was just before the final turn seawards to the hide itself.  Then a question of using bins and scope to see what was on the beach with the sea still crashing ashore.  Up first were the resting gulls, mainly Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged with a few Black-headed thrown in for good measure.  Nearer to us we found eight Audouin's Gull, many wearing rings, and on the poles in the water a few Sandwich Terns with another score or more resting on the beach to the other side of the hide.

Audouin's Gulls gaviota de Audouin Larus audouinii at Los Lances beach
Also seen on the beach were a number of small waders including, mainly, Sanderling, Ringed and Grey Plover, Little Stint and Dunlin.  Apart from a few Cattle Egret the drive also held Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Spotless Starling and Little Egret with a White Stork over-flying.  Then it was back to the hotel,collect Jenny and head off to Tahivilla for the ABS cheque presentation to the Montagu's Harrier Project but not before adding Robin, Greenfinch, Blackbird and Chiffchaff to the morning's sightings.

Just a few of the Sandwich Terns Charran Patinegro Sterna sandvicensis on view
Duty done and accompanied by Jerry and Barbara Laycock in their car and Ricky and Sonia Owen plus Geoff and Lisa Chapman in the third car we set off for La Janda and were on site at the top of the track by 11.45; the weather calm and dry with a hint of warm sunshine for a few hours birding.  Rain expected by 1pm so a question of getting on with the job and, in the event, we were finished and departing for home at about 4.30 and still the rains had not arrived.  How fortunate was that!

Corn Bunting Triguero Emberiza calandra
As we prepared to set off down the track to the canal a distant marsh harrier disappeared over the hills to our left and looking along the fences as we very slowly descended the track we recorded Corn Bunting, many Stonechat, Crested Lark and a rather handsome Iberian Grey Shrike.  Stopping at the corner before starting off along the canal we had sightings of a number of Mallard and Cormorant but, best of all, a long-hovering Black-shouldered Kite to make a really fabulous start to what was to be a raptor experience extraordinaire.

Distant Black-shouldered Kite Elanio Comun Elanus caeruleus

Herons, Little and Cattle Egret were expected as were regular sightings of the local Jackdaws but, perhaps, not the Audouin's Gull that put in an appearance.  Not long before we found a score or more of Glossy Ibis followed by regular sightings of Goldfinch, Serin and Linnet, especially the last.  A pair of Black Stork made their way west high above s but it was to be little while before we picked up the first of the feeding White Storks albeit we had seen a large kettle of them as we entered the track.  What was amazing, at the time, was the number of Purple Swamphen recorded as we drove along.  With the river it seemed in full flood and the fields on the opposite bank becoming more like lakes, it was interesting to see the feeding going on in the reeds still projecting from the water with many Moorhen, Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler.  We managed to add a Reed Bunting and Ricky's car missed this bird but were compensated with finding a Penduline Tit!  On the banks we added both Greenfinch and Zitting Cisticola and on the left-hand side a couple of Green Sandpipers along with the frequent Crested Larks.

Male Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero occidental Circus aeruginosus
Before reaching the bridge we had also added Bluethroat and Black Redstart found near the water and the first Kestrels were up and about.  A stop at the bridge produced both Great Tit and Crag Martin and we realised that the water was continuing to rise at this end compared with yesterday afternoon's visit as there was no n longer any gap between water level and the bridge underside.  Driving down the avenue with the trees all sitting well in the water and the sight of the scores of Cattle Egret nests from last year, we picked up our first Red-legged Partridge and soon after a Pheasant.  A Great White Egret was showing well and then, taking a break for our picnic lunch before crossing the flooded stream, we watched both Marsh Harriers and Black Kites above the green slopes in front of us.

Black Kite Milano Negro Milvus migrans
Up to the smelly farm and then the straight road through the dehesa which, in addition to the Rock  and Collared Doves, dozens of Jackdaws and a small flock of Meadow Pipits, really started to produce the raptors.  Not just the occasional Marsh Harrier but dozens of Black Kites and at one stage it seemed that there was a Black Kite on every post on either side of the road.  Not long after, rounding a bend we came across a tree on the left which held almost thirty resting Black Kites.  Over the distant hills T'other Bob even managed to find a trio of circling Griffon Vultures.

A few of the remaining tree-resting Black Kites Milano Negro Milvus migrans (Can I see 15?)
Reaching the end of the road we turned left having found that the Great Spotted Cuckoos were not in the small thicket where seen last week and made our way along the badly-surfaced road and over the river.  But before crossing we found a field with about thirty Purple Swamphen at the rear and, as we watched, at least another score joined them before disappearing down the bank as yet another Marsh Harrier drifted over.  The set-aside field on the the far side of the bridge produced both a number of White Wagtails as well as a single Grey Wagtail and then Ricky, who had taken the lead at the previous junction, was out of his car, camera in hand and pointing to the far end of the green field.  Yes, he had found the wintering Lesser Spotted Eagle and it was certainly an impressive site to see such a huge bird drifting slowly along at no more then a couple of feet above ground level and, to cap it all, a male Hen Harrier was quartering the opposite direction.  Whilst we all jumped out to get a better, albeit distant, view Sonia remained in the car taking photographs - as can be seen.  The arrival of a handful of Black-winged Stilts to the field in front of us seemed almost insignificant.

Lesser Spotted Eagle Aguila Pomerana Aquila pomarina (PHOTO: Pagui Mateos Ruiz)

And that was it - or so we thought.  Returning the junction to take the road back towards the smelly farm Ricky stopped once more and, as we all looked right, a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos were found in the very same thicket as seen last week.  A great way to end of little birding adventure, say our farewells and head off for our respective homes passing once more through the "clouds" of Black Kites.  Fantastic day with about 65 birds recorded; over 100 Black Kites, Black-shouldered Kite, Hen Harrier and numerous Marsh Harriers then that Lesser Spotted Eagle and over 50 Purple Swamphens.  What's not to like about birding on a day promising nothing but steady rain?

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis, Heron, Black Stork, White Stork, Spoonbill, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Griffn Vulture, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Green sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Pallid Swift, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Penduline Tit, Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Tarifa Area

Friday 2 March

What a start to the day!  I had promised my Australian birding friend, Bob Ashford, that I would find him a Bald Ibis to see and photograph so we booked a night down in Tarifa to gives us a couple of days and, at the same time, attend the presentation of a large donation from the Andalucia Bird Society to the Montagu's Harrier Project at La Janda.  But that was before we noted the promised change in the weather.  Whilst we had expected to concentrate on water birds we, naturally, assumed that it would be birds on water not water on birds!  The drive down on Friday was horrendous with torrential rain and, near Fuengirola, what seemed like hurricane-force winds. But, and it was a big but, the rain stopped for our coffee break on the way down and once in Tarifa, again a break in the weather whilst we checked out the "Bulbul Car Park" (not seen on this occasion) and every time we stopped; calm in Zahara, a respite at Barbate and just the occasional spot as we drove the reverse way back through La Janda on to our overnight stay in Hotel la Torre.  "But" again as no sooner had we put belts on to leave La Janda than the heavens opened once again!

But look on the bright side, apart from the the amazing number of birds seen including, for me, four new species for the year, Jenny, T'other Bob and I enjoyed spectacular views of waterfalls and dramatic scenery both on the way down and at the Atlantic coast.

Barn Swallow Golondrina Comun Hirundo rustica
No Bulbul but we did record Sardinian Warbler, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow and House Martin at the car park before a Peregrine Falcon circled above us quickly followed by a Common Kestrel.  Then it was on to Zahara de los Atunes to look for the local Little Swift.  Again, no success but we stopped to watch the ocean crashing ashore before retracing our steps but this time through the tow itself.  However, on the drive up to the viewing point we came across a single Great Skua flying alongside the road.  Eventually the bird crossed and disappeared over the houses and back, presumably, to the sea.  I imagine that the bird had been pushed in shore by the very strong winds but it was our good fortune that we just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Exiting back onto the Barbate road the water levels were extremely high and we stopped to watch the feeding hirundines finding not only House and Crag Martin but also Red-rumped Swallow in good numbers in addition to the Barn Swallows.

Next it was on to Barbate recording both Cattle and Little Egrets a plenty and first a stop at the track leading to the back of the new fish ponds.  No sooner had we arrive than we had a sight of a lone Bald Ibis flying across the back of the field but the waters themselves were to prove very disappointing.  What looked like hundreds of Flamingos at the distant far end but no point in risking the car on the very muddy track.  Nearer to hand we had a quintet of Spoonbill, Cormorant, Sandwich Tern and the odd Little Egret or two plus a  handful of Audouin's Gulls.  The only small birds were Crested Lark and a White Wagtail.

Bald Ibis Ibis Eremita Geronticus eremita
Arriving at La Barca de Vejer we found scores of jackdaws at the local cliff along with five Bald Ibis so Bob a very happy chappy as he snapped away.

No point in arriving too early at the hotel so, having achieved our target for the day we decided we would make a casual drive back through La Janda if only to make sure that the track was drivable for the morning.  Approaching 4.30 and the light not good we were not expecting to see that many birds.  How wrong we were.  Not hundreds of White Storks and lots of Glossy Ibis - just two White Storks but a good range on of many the species.  However, the most spectacular sight was the site itself; I have never seen so much water here.  The river had burst its banks in many places and it was like looking at the Donana during harvest time.  The bridge over the river up towards the "smelly farm" had only about 20cm of clearance over the water (see tomorrow's report!) and the ditch on our right (main road side) was full to overflowing at this point.

Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba
No sooner had we seen our first Heron than we had a couple of Great White Egrets.  Lots of both Little and Cattle Egrets and the occasional White Wagtail on the track along with small numbers of Serin and Goldfinch.  Before the bend even a Chaffinch. A cloud of Spanish Sparrows took to the air and then the first of many Mallard to be seen, mainly in flight.  Only the one Lapwing but  regular sightings of both Purple Swamphen and Moorhen.

Not crossing the bridge we continued on up the much puddled track with regular sightings of Crested Lark along with Stonechat and more Serins, Goldfinches and White Wagtails before finding our pair of White Storks.  A couple of Woodpigeons put in an appearance and a Hoopoe flew up from almost underneath the car.  To the left a dam-looking Kestrel took to the air from its perch on the main water gate and then the most bedraggled Pheasant you can imagine wandered across in front of the car and wandered up the track in front of us looking like a "drowned rat" and too sodden to actually take to the air.  But, as stated at the beginning, once we reached the turn back up to the road and had fastened seat belts, etc the heavens absolutely opened once again.  But fortunate had we been to see so many birds (43) on a day when sensible people would have remained indoors!

Cattle Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis

Birds seen:
Mallard, Pheasant, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Bald Ibis, Great White Egret, Heron, White Stork,Spoonbill, Flamingo, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Lapwing, Great Skua, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch.

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