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 http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com 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 http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Three Owls Species in One Tree!

Tuesday 29 May 

When was the last time, if ever, that you recorded three consecutive owl species in your notebook?  Well it happened to we five today.  Meeting up at the usual venta at Exit KM80 on the A92 towards Sevilla, Derek and Barbara, Micky, Lindsay and I set off to explore the Osuna area in search of both Collared Pratincoles and Rollers.  But is just after lunch when a certain gentleman, not Derek nor I, needed to answer a call of nature behind a bushy tree.  No sooner had nature got to work that both single Little and Tawny Owl cam dashing out from cover and took opposite directions reaching the end of the old ruin.  Derek and I watched the Tawny whilst the ladies followed the progress of the Little Owl.  Having spent some time wondering where the owls might have settled it seemed a good idea to go back to the tree and see if there were any pellets on the ground below.  Derek and Micky led the way and turning behind the tree came face to face, at less than a metre at eye height, with a little chap that, no matter how much he sucked in his chest to make himself look bigger with his little ear tuffs pointing straight up, returned the stare of those in front of him.  I'm still not sure who was most shocked, the chaps or the Scops Owl.  For me it was the sudden dash from cover which caught my attention as I was a few steps behind and I think the ladies saw our surprised quarry dashed across the open ground in front and disappear as quickly as he appeared.  Now it has to be said that this is not the first occasion when our friend has managed to flush a bird in the way of the first two owls; last time it was a Red-knecked Nightjar.  Now it certainly puts a new interpretation on, literally, flushing a bird out!"

Short-toed Lark Terrera Comun Calandrella brachyactyla

But back to the start of the morning.  Leaving the venta we had a lone White Stork and no sooner on the country lane the first Stone Curlew of the morning along with Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows.  These first kilometre or two produced Crested Lark, Corn Bunting and numerous Barn Swallows before a pair of Turtle Doves flew on to a nearby power line.  Both Raven and Common Swift flew over and then at our first stop we picked up a single Woodchat Shrike, a couple of Bee-eaters and both Black and Red Kite along with singing Reed Warblers.  On the opposite side of the road we had our of a few Buzzards and a pair of Short-toed Larks walked the track.


Turtle Dove Tortola Europea Streptopelia turtur

On up to the first high bridge over the abandoned high-speed rail track where, from above, we were able to observe a couple of close Stone Curlew and a Red-legged Partridge casually walking down the main road.  Further on along this track we stopped to watch six Black-bellied Sandgrouse fly very close before gradually disappearing away to our right.  Good numbers of Calandra Larks were recorded plus a couple of Sky Larks.  At the back of the field a Marsh Harrier was quartering the area and even a quintet of Gull-billed Terns looking for tit-bits.  Then a really special treat as Derek used the scope to confirm a posing Little Bustard on the edge of the ripening corn.  A Woodpigeon was seen over the trees to the left and then our first Collared Pratincole, in the air and quite distant.  A Booted Eagle drifted by and before returning along the track we also found a small colony of breeding Lesser Ketsrels and a distant Griffon Vulture.  Along with the many Crested Larks, Corn Buntings and Spotless Starlings I found a very small charm of Goldfinch.

Lesser Kestrel Cernicalo Primilla Falco naumanni

Back on the road and a stop at the second high bridge produced a pair of Red-rumped Swallow along with Linnet and a Spanish Sparrow.  Overhead a couple of Bee-eaters and then, driving towards the turn to the third bridge, a Collared Pratincole flew out from the field and came to rest on the road immediately in front of me, less than twenty metres away.  A second individual was found on the ploughed field as soon as we turned to the bridge.

Collared Pratincoles Canastera Comun Glareola pratincola
On the wires two Iberian Grey Shrike and then on to the old farm ruins on the corner before taking the track down to the abandoned cortijo.  Once stopped at this point for our picnic lunch we had our first distant Roller, a Hoopoe and more Barn Swallows and even a few House Martins.  nearby we had, and saw, singing Nightingales.  Working our way down the track we had closer looks at a handful of Rollers.

Roller carraca Europea Coracias garrulus
Our final stop was on the the viaduct of the high speed track and still a little damp with a very small amount of water which held a number of Black-winged Stilts and Avocet.  A few Cattle Egrets feeding amongst the grazing fighting bulls and a good-sized flock of Lapwing.  We even had a lone Glossy Ibis drop in to take advantage of the small stream.

Iberian Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis
From here we split so that I could call in at Fuente de Piedra but upon reaching the salinas no sign of either Lesser Yellowlegs nor Lesser Flamingo which were seen just nine days ago.  Lots of Flamingo, Avocet and Jackdaws and ducks included Mallard, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard and Shoveler.  But only one Little Grebe seen and barely a handful of Coot and no Moorhen.  And then a very slight detour on the way back to Mezquitilla which successfully produced  Rufous Bush Chat.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Red-legged Partridge. Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, White Stork, Flamingo, Red Kite, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Coot, Little Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Scops Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Rufous Bush Chat, Nightingale, Reed Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.


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

Saturday, 26 May 2018

El Fondo, Elche with the Arboleas Birding Group

Saturday 26 May

I see my friend Dave has once again travelled north to visit the El Fondo reserve near Elche.  As always plenty f good birds to be seen and just a shame that I live so far away; even Dave and friends have a long journey to arrive on time for the early, controlled, admission.  And look at the great birds seen; possible Greater Bittern, Marbled Duck, Savi's and Great Reed Warbler, Roller, Bee-eater, etc.



El Fondo, Elche   -   Saturday 26th May

Another very early start to get to El Fondo, near Elche in time for the opening of the North Gate at the bird reserve.
Gilly & I picked up Paul and Reyna and drove to the Cox service station cafe where we met up with John, Barrie, Trevor, Ann, Phil and Jen.  After a cup of coffee we headed to the football pitch area for a quick bird before opening time.  Gilly spotted a Pallid Swift.  A number of paired up Jackdaws were perched on buildings or dead palm trunks.  A Roller showed well.  We had fly overs by Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Grey Heron, Kestrel and Cattle Egret.  We saw a distant Iberian Grey Shrike and heard Zitting Cisticola, Great Reed and Sardinian Warbler.  Barrie and Gilly spotted an Alpine Swift amongst some Common Swifts.  A Crested Lark was seen as we made our way to the gate having already notched up 20 species in about 20 minutes!
Roller Coracias garrulus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Gordon, a local birder, was already there and kindly pointed out some Tree Sparrows on the pump house.  Barrie did well to hear a Savi's Warbler and someone else heard an Iberian Green Woodpecker.  We also saw Little Egret, Night Heron and Black-winged Stilt before Michael, today's ranger, let us in.  We drove slowly down to the far, elevated platform.  Paul spotted a Common Buzzard.  On the way we heard Reed and Cetti's Warbler.  Barrie and John had a possible Bittern flying over the reeds.  Once up on the platform a scan of the water to our front revealed Great Crested and Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Common Pochard, Black-winged Stilt, Greater Flamingo and Avocet.  Short flights of Little Bitterns was numerous.  Barrie was first to spot a Purple Heron. Squacco Herons were commoner.  A family of Red-rumped Swallows were near the little building. We saw Whiskered, Gull Billed Terns and I spotted a possible Little Tern. 
Red-rumped Swallows Hirundo daurica (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
John found some Shelduck.  The occasional Glossy Ibis flew past.  Gilly, Paul, Reyna and I went to the smaller second hide where we added Shoveler and Black-necked Grebe.  The others followed us in shifts due to the size of the hide.  We briefly returned to the elevated platform and saw a Hoopoe.  Trevor and Phil spotted a Squacco Heron perched on reeds beyond the small canal.  It posed beautifully. 
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Some of us then walked, others drove to the next hide.  An Osprey flew past.  Walking further along we saw both Bee-eater and Goldfinch.  Gilly spotted a Serin.  John had an Audouin's Gull.  From the final elevated platform, where space is at a premium, Barrie who had the scope found a small group of waders...Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Kentishand  Ringed Plover.  A male Marsh Harrier was seen followed shortly after by a female.  Barrie and John spotted a Booted Eagle.  We also found a Spotted Flycatcher at the top of a dead leafless tree.
We then convoyed to the information centre.  Paul saw a White Wagtail.   Gilly found two Glossy Ibis in the shallow pool  adjacent to the car park plus a Marbled Duck as well.  Numerous Great Reed Warblers were seen.  In the enclosed pool by the centre were three Red-knobbed Coot and some eclipsed Mallard.  Barrie spotted some Red-crested Pochard sleeping along the reed edge.  Moving on to the raised wooden walkway we checked for the recently sighted female Goldeneye to no avail, but did see more Marbled Duck and a couple of Collared Pratincole.  A Slender-billed Gull flew close by. The further hides only produced more Coot, Mallard and Shelduck plus a confirmed Little Tern. Avocets with fluffy chicks was the highlight.  As we left the Information centre, our final tick was a Woodchat Shrike in a power line.
We had a lovely day. Ended up with a very respectable 71 species. Good company as well.
Regards, Dave
 Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Velez de Benaudalla

23 May 2018

Having left the other members of the Axarquia Bird Group to drive oer to Velez de Benaudalla to meet the Endesa technician, I arrive almost an hour early so time to spend a little time at the picnic site.  Lots of fast running water but, unfortunately, no sign of the breeding Dippers.  On the other hand I did have my first Spotted Flycatchers of the year and a couple of Golden Orioles were calling in the trees above me.  As expected, many Chaffinches in the picnic site and over the water feeding Barn Swallows and House Martins.  Lovely to see a pair of White Wagtails as most have now left us for the summer but also a pair of Grey Wagtails feeding on the river edges.  Having seen a Nightingale far higher in a tree than I would expect, I next had a foraging individual in the very dark shade.  A mouth full of lovely, succulent food so a nest of youngsters somewhere close by.

Rear view of male Chaffinch Pinzon Vulgar Fringilla coelebs
Rather distant Grey wagtail Lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea
Nightingale Ruisnor Comun Luscinia megarhynchos in tree and shadow


Birds seen in the short visit:
Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Spotted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin
Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Zafarraya

Wednesday 23 May

Eight of us at the old railway track above Ventas de Zafarraya for the may visit of the Axarquia Bird Group including Ollie who had driven all the way west from Almeria and Lindsay who had come east from Marbella.  Also with us Barbara and Derek from Alhaurin de la Torre and Ollie and Corrinne form their new home in Malaga City.  Lovely to see Pat from Torrox once again which made me, on the coast just 45 minutes away in Mezquitilla, almost on the spot!  I always expect a cold start at this site but on this occasion it was relative warm.  Indeed, so warm jumpers were taken removed before we set off along the old track bed but soon to regret as the cloud increased and, when furthest away from the cars, even a couple of spots of rain; always the way!

A very pleasing start as we spent some time at the mirador and even managed to record almost a score of species before setting off.  Lots of Black Wheatears about and once we had observed the small family party of Ibex high above us we son added a pair of ravens followed by the local Choughs.  Naturally there were Blackbirds, Spotless Starlings and even a Collared Dove before the first Black Redstart and a small number of House Martins flying around the cliff face.  High on the rocks we found our first Blue Rock Thrush of the morning and then, high over the top, a mixed group of Alpine and Common Swifts.  A Common Kestrel drifted over the valley to the other side of the road and then both Stonechat and Rock Sparrow at the same time.

Black Wheatear Collalba Negra Oenanthe leucura
Time to make a start along the track towards the tunnel and a stop to record a distant Bonelli's Eagle was followed by the appearance of the resident Peregrine Falcon.  A little brown job dashed across the track in front of us and was soon found; a female Subalpine Warbler which was was joined by the most handsome male.  meanwhile, further up the slope, a small flock of Linnets was busy feeding along with the occasional Serin, Goldfinch and even a Blue Tit put in n appearance.

Once at the tunnel entrance we had not only a Blue Rock Thrush on top of the nearby mat but also a singing Wren on the top wire.  Crag Martins were now very evident along with a pair of jackdaw to make a slight variation on all the Choughs.  The return journey to old ruin and back produced Sardinian Warbler and more Blackbirds along with a couple of Greenfinch and a possible breeding pair of Corn Bunting.  High on the cliff top a resting Kestrel then the appearance of a Short-toed Eagle which delighted us at it both circled above and put in a rather impressive display of perfect hovering with a single feather appearing to move.  Back at the car park we had a Great Tit in the nearest tree and then it was time for a warming coffee at the local venta before driving up to the "Magpie Woods" in search of the named bird.

Azure-winged Magpie Rabilargo Cyanopica cyanus
Climbing from the fertile fields we recorded Crested Lark and as soon as we reached the top had also added Thekla Lark.  The stop at the farm cross-roads produced a number of Azure-winged magpies along with Chaffinches and a Woodchat ShrikeWood Pigeons flew over along with a couple of Collared Doves but then a single Turtle Dove put in an appearance.  A few Long-tailed Tits were feeding at the top of a nearby tree and we had heard at last two Cuckoos calling and finally caught a brief glimpse as one moved over the tree tops above us.  The expected Mistle Thrushes were eventually found and Lindsay even managed to find a Hawfinch which was then seen by all present.

Our final stop was at the far end of the woods where we turned left to visit the "Growing Fields" and the rocky edges to the road.  Here we found more Crested Larks but also a handful of Short-toed Larks.  On the opposite side of the road a Little Owl rested on the crossties of an electricity pylon.  On round the corner where we eventually did find a number of Calandra Larks along with a pair of Hoopoe and a Griffon Vulture circling above the distant hills.  A most enjoyable long morning which was completed in lovely sunshine and a final total of over 50 species.



Resting Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua

Birds seen:
Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle,Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Woodpigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Little owl, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, barn swallow, House Martin, Wren, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Hawfinch, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.


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

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Puert Lumbreras & Velez Rubio with the Arboleas Birding Group

23 May 2018

Good to be back home in Spain after our past month's wanderings and, almost immediately, I get updates and reports including the latest exploit from Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group.  Just as exciting, I was even out this morning with my own Axarqia Bird Group, but more about this in the next blog.  Interesting to see that Dave and company were experiencing the forecast warm and sunny weather as up at Ventas de Zafarraya we had cloud and even a couple of drops of the wet stuff - and it always arrives when you are furthest from the car and without suitable clothing!

Adrian's patch   -   Wednesday 23rd May

The weather today was forecast warm and sunny. Indeed it was as Paul & Reyna drove me to Adrian's patch between Puerto Lumbreres and Velez Rubio.  We met up with Barrie, Beryl, Brian, Trevor, Ann, John and, of course, Adrian at the cafe just of Jct 6 on the A91.  We clocked House Sparrow, Barn Swallow, Hoopoe, Magpie and Woodpigeon as we drank our coffee.  We were then escorted by Adrian, in front in his vehicle, round the tracks and lanes of his patch.  Paul spotted an Iberian Green Woodpecker, whilst behind us in Trevor's car, John added Bee-eater and Common Crow. 
 
Corm Bunting Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
At our first stop, Barrie pointed out a Woodchat Shrike.  We heard Golden Oriole (as we did at virtually every stop!) and Turtle Dove, which eventually showed itself.  Driving on we added Thekla Lark and Corn Bunting, whilst in front of  us, Adrian's lot saw Serin, Greenfinch and Red-legged Partridge.  As we approached a ruined house a Sardinian Warbler flew across the road.  On the house was a Black Wheatear.  At the next stop, Brian spotted some House Martins and Barrie, some Common Swift.  A flock of sheep wandered by!  We then stopped opposite the El Cimbre rural housing complex.  A Rock Sparrow was perched on their sign.  Brian then found some distant Griffon Vultures, but amongst them was a pair of Booted Eagles.  Moving on towards the brook at La Parroquia, we added a Red-rumped Swallow.  At the stream, Barn Swallows and House Martins were collecting mud for nest building.  A Melodious Warbler was perched on the power line.  We heard a Nightingale and Barrie spotted an overflying Linnet.  Beyond the village we could see a plume of 25+ Griffon Vultures.
Now where's that bird?
We then convoyed to the Embalse de Puentes, seeing some Goldfinch on the way.  From the dam top Trevor spotted a magnificent male Blue Rock Thrush. A Grey Heron flew over.  On the water were numerous Great Crested Grebe and four Black-necked Grebe.  A Cormorant was seen.  A pair of Rock Doves were on a ledge below the dam.  Large numbers of House Martins were nesting there.  A few Crag Martins were also seen as were Common Swifts.  Trevor spotted some larger corvid type birds, which Paul eventually found at a nesting site some distance away.  Red Billed Chough.  As we were leaving a pair of them gave good close up views below the dam.
 
House Martins Delichon ubicum collecting building material (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then drove to the lakeside area in the pine forest where we had our picnic lunch.  I saw Great Tit and Chaffinch in the trees but missed a lot more, I suspect!  I heard a distant Raven.  We then departed.  I managed a Kestrel before we hit the motorway. We had a 45 species day in good company!  It began spitting with rain, but by then we didn't care!
Regards,
Dave

Interesting to note the bee-eater as I am still awaiting a sighting this year but I did manage a first Turtle Dove whilst up on the Malaga /Granada border.


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

Photo Update from John and Jenny

23 May 2018

Not content with seeing the safe return of two pairs of (relatively) local Rufous Bushchats in Malaga province, John and Jenny paid a repeat visit to this "secret" site and not only had good views but managed to get their desired shots thanks to Jenny's camera work.  She may be making a good recovery from her recent ankle and arm breaks but, obviously, the hands are steady as proved by the following two photos.  I particularly like the shot of the Kestrel with his morning lunch to hand, or foot in this case!

Rufous Bushchat Cercotrichas galactotes  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)





























Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus with its (lizard?) lunch (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)



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

Monday, 21 May 2018

Toronto Islands, Toronto, Canada

21 May 2018

Back from my wanderings and, I think, all reports received now published.  I have included the following as it refers to a wonderful morning I spent with local birding friend, Peter Thoem and his birding pal Barry Coombs.  As the report reflects, just as well these experienced birders were with me or it would have been an "LBJ" nightmare.  Just how many warblers can you expect to see in one morning?  And then you discover that the next lot of warblers are not warblers but vireos, etc.  But it was approaching the peak migration period with all sorts of little birds just dropping in on the island.  And when I say"island" I mean an occupied island used by the people of nearby Toronto, just a short ferry ride away, who use it for their own recreation.  Another distinct difference from birding here was the fact that most birds are happy to remain in-situ rather that disappear the minute they see a human never mind a camera creeping around the place!

My very special thanks to peter and Barry for sharing their birding with me last Wednesday morning.

The following is Peter's report as his "My Bird of the Day" and you can follow his birding exploits in Canada with the following address: http://www.mybirdoftheday.ca/2018/05/18/philadelphia-vireo-3/


Philadelphia Vireo

by Peter Thoem

May 16 2018 Ward’s Island, Toronto ONI’m occasionally asked to name my favourite bird; I can’t but I bluster around the question and come up with vague answers. But last year it came to me that while I don’t have an absolute favourite bird species, I think I might have a favourite family of birds, the vireos. Apparently a good answer for what’s just small talk anyway.
Today was a vireo day for me, we saw several Warbling Vireos, heard and perhaps saw one Red-eyed Vireo and spent several minutes at close quarters with a Philadelphia Vireo. Sorting one vireo species from another can be tricky and maybe that’s what endears them to me. I suspect though that Bob, a visiting British birder, found them to be dull fare compared to the many dazzling warblers we showed him. I’m sure for him our May warblers were a perplexing group: mostly small, often yellow with-something-else, and never staying still long enough.We assured him that the glorious male Black-throated Blue Warbler was a very good find but was not to be confused with an equally glorious male Black-throated Green Warbler which was sharing a tree with Yellow-rumped Warblers not far from a briefly seen Canada Warbler.Thank goodness though for Yellow Warblers who are exactly as named, bright yellow.
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow Warbler

Eastern Kingbirds and Great Crested Flycatchers seemed to make a good impression on Bob, probably because the flycatchers of Europe are mostly small and inclined to the drab. Then just to confuse the issue we showed him one of our own drab ones – a Least Flycatcher (which at first blush you might confuse with vireos – another problem).
Least Flycatcher -drab bird No.1

And so it went on: perhaps thirty entirely new birds, some as noted above but also Grey Catbirds, Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, a House Wren and Northern Cardinals. And there were a few which, like Tree Swallow, Cedar Waxwing and Double-crested Cormorants, were easily recognised for being closely related to similar European species, and a small group of familiar faces common to both continents: Barn Swallow, European House Sparrow and Herring Gull.
But while Bob’s head may have been spinning (I’d told him months ago that May 16th would be peak migration and to expect the best), I was especially enjoying those vireos. And this one, our close up Philadelphia Vireo was My Bird of the Day.
Philadelphia Vireo. Drab Bird No. 2
All I have to do now is make a start on downloading and deciding which photos to share; that should keep me busy for a week or two- or three, or four, etc.

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

Sierra Loja with John and Jenny Wainwright

Good to read that Jenny is well on the way to a full recovery and, no doubt, she will soon be shooting her own photographs as she acompanies John and their birding adventures.

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius

Sierra Loja 18th May 2018

A warmish day with thunder then rain later.
On the way up we stopped in at the hidden quarry but only a Sardinian Warbler, Coal Tit Jackdaws and House Martins were noted. While moving up through the tree line more Coal Tits were heard, also in the area were Chaffinches, Crossbills, Short-toed Treecreeper and Woodpigeons. A bit further up Cirl Buntings were logged as were Azure-winged Magpies, Greenfinches and Serins, and the only dark-phased Red Squirrel of the day.  At the cliff face Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Buntings, Spotless Starlings and Jackdaws were about as were small numbers of Chough in the valley to our right. Red-legged Partridges are in good numbers, but only two Hoopoes were seen all day.

Looking down into the scrubby mountainside a Spectacled Warbler was singing and displaying from a may-bush, and further to the right a Sardinian Warbler was singing from his tree top. A Common Kestrel came into view as we drove further up the mountain.


Close to the Charca we saw our first Black Wheatear of the day as well as Rock Sparrows and more Rock Buntings, while at the Charca we noted Linnets, Black Redstart, Common Swifts and Black-eared Wheatears.


Moving round to the fossil cave a couple of Griffon Vultures soared over us, and Crag Martins were flying across the cave mouth. Lots more Spotless Starlings here today, they seem to have taken this area over.


As we approached the rock climbing area a male Rock Thrush was seen feeding but only a couple of quick photos were had before it flew back up and over the clifftop.




We then made our way back to the watchpoint at El Gordo, where we watched Linnets, Thekla Larks and a distant Peregrine Falcon. Just as we were about to leave a male Rock Thrush appeared, giving us great views of this very splendid bird.


Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Making our way back, and in the substation valley, a group of six Chough were mobbing a female Montagu´s Harrier - probably one of the birds that is seen round the Venta del Rayo area every year.
A bit further on a Northern Wheatear and two more Blue Rock Thrushes were seen.
A lot of butterflies about today, including Knapweed Fritillary (Melitaea pheobe) and Provence orange tip (Anthocharis belia)


Knapweed Fritillary Melitaea pheobe
It was really getting black overhead and thundering so we headed back to home in Salar.
(All photos by John Wainwright)
Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Arboleas Birding Group - 9 May

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 9th May

Paul & Reyna picked me up today from Arboleas to convey me down to Cabo de Gata. Don't ask about my truck! As we drove through Retamar Sur, Paul spotted a pair of overflying Monk Parakeets. I know of a little colony at El Toyo a few kilometres away. We met up with John, Les, Trevor and Ann at the Pastelaria cafe just prior to Pujaire. After a cuppa we made our way to the first hide. By the time we'd arrived Les had already seen a Gull Billed Tern disappearing into the ether. On the water there were a few Greater Flamingos, Shelduck, Slender Billed Gulls and Mallards. There was a Yellow Legged Gull on the rocky causeway, but the most numerous birds were Avocets. Also seen were Redshank, a Spotted Redshank, Black Tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Black Winged Stilt, Little Egret & Kentish Plover. Les found an Iberian race Yellow Wagtail. A Grey Heron flew in. A couple of Iberian Grey Shrikes were seen. I discovered a very distant Spotted Flycatcher. A Hoopoe flew past as did a Kestrel.
Moving on to the second hide we added a Blackbird en route. Once in the hide we added nothing to the list on the salina. Trevor spotted a small bird in a large shrub. It turned out to be a Melodious Warbler. Les found a distant Woodchat Shrike. As we were leaving we saw a pair of Chiffchaff in another shrub being harassed by a Dartford Warbler.
We then travelled the short distance to the public hide. A pair of Red Rumped Swallows were dipping & diving above it. In the fenced enclosure we saw 4 Willow Warblers. We added a Ringed Plover & Little Stint.
We then convoyed up and over the " mountain" road towards the lighthouse turning left towards the Vela Blanca ridge. Us in the first car dipped out on Sardinian Warbler, Black Wheatear & Alpine Swift the two other car's occupants saw, but we did see the latter two up on the crest. Heading back we came across a very obliging Trumpeter Finch perched on a power line. 
We now moved on to the Rambla Morales. Some resting House Martins were on the track. John managed to get his car stuck in soft sand, but after a bit of shoving it was extricated! There were a few Sanderling at the estuary. An Audouin's Gull flew in. There was a small mixed flock of Greenfinch & House Sparrow. Paul spotted some flying Cormorants. From the "hump" we added White Headed Duck, Coot & Moorhen. Both Black Necked & Little Grebes were seen in breeding plumage.
We ended the day with 53 species and happily managed to avoid the later thunderstorms but not a few mosquito bites!
Regards, Dave

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
 Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information
Las Norias & Roquetas de Mar: Thursday 17th May

When I checked the weather forecast for the Almeria area today, it stated sunny with clouds! It may have been at 20.000ft, but on the ground we were constantly harassed by showers, sometimes heavy! Here is my soggy report:-
 
I picked up Paul & Reyna from Arboleas and drove down to the Repsol Services at junction 420, just beyond the Roquetas de Mar turn-off. It had started to shower as we approached Almeria. We met up with John, Les & Barrie. After a cup of coffee we made our separate ways to the Las Norias lake. From the first causeway we saw a good selection of hirundines, but in small numbers. Common Swift, Barn Swallow, Red Rumped Swallow & House Martin. On the choppy water, as there was a bit of wind with the precipitation, we managed to see Great Crested Grebe and Red Crested Pochard, some with ducklings. A Turtle Dove perched briefly on the power line. A Gull Billed Tern flew over. We didn't linger as we were getting slightly drenched.
 
At the next stop, after clambering over the dumped rubbish, we found some Gadwall, Coot & Moorhen plus Blackbird, White Wagtail & Greenfinch.
 
On the smaller pool at the opposite end to the plastic recycling plant, Les spotted an adult Night Heron & a Kestrel. Moving along the road to the little bridge, John saw a Ringed Plover, Avocet, Black Winged Stilt & a Grey Heron.
 
It was decided a coffee in a dry cafe should be next on the agenda, so we stopped in San Augustin village on our way to the Roquetas salinas lake area. Suitably refreshed, but still damp, we convoyed along the tarmacked track towards the lighthouse. The causeway was littered with resting Black Winged Stilts. Greater Flamingos were feeding oblivious to the heavy downpour. A Whiskered Tern was seen. We heard a Great Reed Warbler as we used our vehicles as hides. Mosquitoes invaded through the open windows...oh joy! Paul spotted a Glossy Ibis and I found some Little Grebe. A Purple Swamphen showed briefly. Also seen were Redshank, Gull Billed & Little Tern. 
 
Moving to the next causeway, we were treated to only a slight shower, but mud underfoot, but there were Kentish Plover & Black Winged Stilt on it. A Yellow Wagtail appeared. A Common Pochard flew over & I found some White Headed Duck. A Little Egret was seen. As we headed back to the vehicles we saw Zitting Cisticola and a pair of Sardinian Warblers.
 
We drove to the small pool near the hotels. A male Common Pochard was guarding the feeding area with some Mallard. We then drove up the main track. Collared Pratincoles were lining the edges of the track, reluctant to take to the wing. Posed well. but didn't look happy at all. There must've been at least 25 of them. Despite the rain we had had a reasonable day with over 40 species. 
Regards, Dave


Mummy Red Crested Pochard & duckling​


Male Common Pochard


One unhappy Collared Pratincole


And another one!​

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