Thursday, 21 February 2019

Protecting the environment - can you please help?

Thursday 21 February



A Plea for help

For the past fifteen years or more the occasionally-used military training ground, Groot Schietveld, in the north of Belgium near the Dutch border has been a haven for wild life.  With very restricted access limited to those taking serious scientific work there has been very little disturbance to the wildlife and flora so enabling a fragile habitat to survive and prosper.  Studies on flowers, insects, butterflies and especially birdlife, etc have been undertaken on a regular basis and, in terms of the birdlife, much, if not all, has been centred on raptors, especially Goshawk and Honey Buzzard, by friend Marieke Berkvens (also a member of the Andalucia Bird Society) who lives in nearby Wuustwezel.  Other breeding birds to be found here include Nightjar, Woodcock and tree Pipits to name but three more.  These are very much endangered species and Marieke’s contribution to their study is invaluable.  Indeed, given that Honey Buzzards feed on wasp lava, she has now extended her research to take on the lives and development of the local wasp population.  The site itself is a mixture of small woodland and heather more with the occasional pond and steams so a very special and isolated site in the surrounding countryside.

In the past the local clay pigeon shooters had used the area and took much effort by the local population to have the group removed so not only bringing peace and quiet to the local residents but also preserving this valuable natural site as described above.  Think army training on Salisbury Plane then divide by ten or more and you will see that this is a site where nature can survive in almost pristine condition.  But now a local clay shooting club wants once more to return to this fragile site to recommence their shooting activities.  Not only will the residents be faced with continuous noise at the week-end as opposed to the very occasional disturbance during the working week but wildlife will be greatly damaged both the habitat and noise pollution which will surely pose a very severe threat to the raptors that are only just beginning to thrive and are having to face many other problems in their lives.

Discarded clay rubbish
In addition to the noise and presence of many people on site comes the added pollution of the discarded clays.  These clays do not break down and disappear but very quickly become a blot on the landscape and a potential problem for the creatures great and small.  When the shooters were finally evicted over fifteen years ago the photograph above gives an indication of the resulting mess left behind.  

The local inhabitants and those who support wildlife have raised a petition to keep the wildlife, as well as their peace, from being once more pollutes.  If you, too, would like to help in this matter then please do follow the link below and sign up, as I have done. 

The petition in short says:  “..... I wish to protest against a permit clay pigeon shooting on Groot Schietveld etc….  importance for local residents  etc… nature reserve protected animals and plants etc”
Once you complete the link you will need to visit the site, if does not automatically come up on your screen, and “tick” the appropriate box at the top to confirm that you have actually signed.  Every one of us needs to help each other or soon it could be you trying to protect your little bit of wildlife habitat that comes under threat.

Many thanks for reading this request and please do help if you can.  Any problems with the actual process than please do contact me and if I cannot help then I am sure that Marieke will.

Bob Wright
On behalf of Marieke Berkvens, the people of Wuustwezel and all those who seek to protect this valuable site


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

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Monday 18 February

Distant Serin Verdicillo Serinus serinus
A beautiful day with lots of warm sunshine and hardly a breeze so a second day with visiting American birder Jon and Nancy and their friends Betty and David.  Today was to be a "Guadalhorce Day" with a morning visit upstream from the airport to Zapata and, following a coffee break, the afternoon at the main reserve  near the beach at the Desembocadura.  The main target for the morning was to try and locate the local Waxbills and hope o find a selection of waders.  We may not have found the Waxbills but Jon and Nancy certainly turned up trumps (but not of the Donald persuasion!) with Nancy enquiring about a small brown bird near the water which was quickly identified as a Water Pipit quickly followed by Jon spotting a yellow-coloured wagtail.  I, naturally, thought it would be a Grey Wagtail but, no, a returning Yellow (Iberian) Wagtail, my earliest recording of same in the past sixteen or so years.

Yellow Wagtail (Iberian) Lavandera Boyera Centroeuropea Motacilla flava flava

Still not finished as once in the red bed Jon asked about a small brown bird with black on its face.  Black on the rear end could be the less common form of Waxbill so bins on the spot and a handful of Linnets located.  However, Jon the spent time with the Collins and identified the bird that he and Nancy had seen; a pair of Penduline Tits.  I should have sent longer checking out the reeds rather than assume I had located the unidentified bird.  So extra brownie points to Jon and Nancy; worthy members, now, of the Andalucia Bird Society.

The morning had started well with the sighting of Spotless Starlings, Serins and Goldfinches along with a small flock of Greenfinch. Not just House Sparrows but also a couple of well exposed Zitting Cisticola, a passing Hoopoe and a hovering Kestrel.  Then on to the river with the occasional Cormorant flying over and Coots paddling about up stream.    Crested Larks on the scrapes behind and a number of White Wagtails on the river bank.  Our first wader was a good sighting of a Green Sandpiper and then more Moorhens and even a couple of skulking Heron.

With good numbers of Barn Swallow and House Martin feeding overhead we then also found Crag Martins whist back on the water a pair of mallard drifted down stream.  Nancy picked out the foraging Water Pipit and Jon discovered the Blue-headed Wagtail under the bank just below the ford.  A Common Sandpiper appeared alongside one of the, now, two Green Sandpipers present giving good views and a chance to compare size and markings.  Only one Little Egret as we made our way across the ford to check out the field above.  here we found more Crested Lark and a Little Ringed Plover in the drainage channel.  Another Kestrel overhead and also Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  The nearby bushes produced the first Sardinian Warbler of the day, Chiffchafffs were feeding in the trees and a Blackbird flew away.

Common Sandpiper Andarrios Chico Actitis hypoleucos
Once up in the reed bed area we had Jon and Nancy's Penduline Tit discovery along with Linnet, more Meadow Pipits and Goldfinch.  A Reed Bunting was sitting atop a bush and we watched  pair of Red-legged Partridges gradually making their way across the neighbouring ploughed field.  But then the special sighting.  Even the Cetti's Warblers were calling loudly for the benefit of all around.  Not sure who found it first but I suspect it might have been David.  Well-concealed behind a large boulder at the back of the same field with rushes growing behind, a Sparrowhawk was enjoying its breakfast.  Mostly concealed by with that penetrating yellow eye and barred chest it was really getting stuck into its prey.  Riping out down feathers, eating, eating and eating.  At one point we could see a raptor with a crop the size of a hen's eggs; just like a pigeon having filled itself silly on the local sprouts.

Record shot of feeding Sparrowhawk Gavilan Comun Accipiter nisus
After our coffee stop we arrived at the main Desembocadura reserve about 1.30 and there was a Meadow Pipit on the path waiting to greet us.  A White Wagtail appeared on the other side of the road and as we approached the river bank the first Cormorant flew over on its way to the rest of the colony of the Laguna Grande.  Nothing on the water but above us we watched a Booted Eagle making lazy circles in the sky.  Nearer to us a Kestrel was hovering over the meadow on the other side of the river.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
So on to the Laguna Casillas where we found a good-sized flock of Pochard along a smaller number of Coots.  Maybe a half-dozen Teal and the first sighting of the local Black-winged Stilt.  Numerous Spotted Starlings in the trees to the back and a couple of Monk Parakeets dashed by as is their want.  A lovely Black Redstart was seen below the hide whilst above we had a passage of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and then a sighting of a distant Marsh Harrier.  Also here we found our fist of many irregular sightings of the wintering Chiffchaff who were, perhaps, making the most of their last few weeks before heading off north.

Common Pochard Porron Europeo Aythya ferina
The Wader Pool was mainly a question of counting the Black-winged Stilts but a pair of Teal did put in an appearance as did a single Little Egret and in a distant tree we picked out a resting Buzzard.  On down to the Sea Watch recording Sardinianain Warbler, Greenfinch and Crested Larks. Lots of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the sea and moving around above us and the return journey confirmed a Redshank and on the Rio Viejo (Old River) along with a Green Sandpiper and many more Black-winged Stilts.  A Little Ringed Plover had arrived on the Wader Pond in our absence and then it was time to move on.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus with Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos


At least three pairs of White-headed Duck on the Laguna Escondida plus Little Grebe, just the two, a few Coot and Moorhen and a shy heron at the far end.  Finally, we spent considerable time at the Laguna Grande where at least 30 Cormorants were counted, many in full breeding plumage.  A Trio of Collared Doves put in a visit and below the hide we had excellent views of Chiffchaff, Black-winged Stilt, both White and another Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail followed by a visit of a Common Sandpiper.

Booted Eagle Aguililla calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
On the water itself there seemed to be still very many Shoveler but the Black-necked Grebe flock seems to have been reduced to just the eight individuals.  At least five pairs of White-headed Ducks so very pleased to see the return of this iconic bird of Andalucia to this site.  For fifteen minutes or more we watched as many as four Booted eagles above and one even graced us with its attendance above the laguna, very considerate.

Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis surrounded by White-headed Ducks Oxyura leucocephala
A wonderful day in excellent company and we manage to find at least 50 species; hopefully, great memories for our American guests to take back to the States.  And having returned Jon and company to their hotel in Torremolinos, as I drove back home crossing the Guadalhorce next to the reserve there were  half-dozen of the local Jackdaws on the bridge.

A bit of everything! can you spot four species?

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Penduline Tit, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.


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

Monday, 18 February 2019

Cabo de Gata Day 3 with John and Jenny

Sunday 17 February

John and Jenny Wainwright stayed on for an extra night and so enjoyed another day at this beautiful site in Almeria and most certainly the weather was on their side the wind have dropped to give a beautiful warm and sunny day.


Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagneus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Cabo de Gata 17th February

Very little wind today, but quite warm.

We headed for the lighthouse at Cape Gata to try to get some more photos of the Trumpeter Finches. At the Alua del Mar (the old boat by the unopened visitors centre) we logged Black Wheatear, Thekla Lark, Goldfinches and House Sparrows, it wasn´t until we started up the hill to the transmitter station that we spotted three of our target bird namely the Trumpeter Finch on some nearby rocks. We continued up to the top but only a pair of Black Wheatears and three Red-legged Partridges were noted.

We then headed for the track at the rear of the salt-pans, here we got our first, second and third Dartford Warblers, along with Greenfinches, Sardinian Warblers and Crested Larks. On the salt-pans we recorded Slender-billed Gulls, a flock of eighteen Shelducks, Greater Flamingos, Redshank, Little Stint, Kentish Plovers and a Sanderling. A large raft of gulls was noted containing Yellow-legged and Auduoin´s and alongside these were a flock of 78 (Jenny´s count) Avocets. Further down the track we located  a Collared Dove, Common Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers and then not one pair but two pairs of Spectacled Warblers, lots of Stonechats, Greenfinches (feeding on the millet plants), Meadow Pipits and two Hoopoes, a Common Kestrel was also spotted by the hay bales.
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicilata (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
We then headed for the Rambla where we logged Shovelers, Mallard, White-headed Ducks (no Wigeon here today), Common Coots and even the Cetti´s Warblers were singing today, a Northern Wheatear was spotted in the dunes and at the sea end of the rambla the Sanderlings were noted. More House Martins, Crag Martins and Swallows were logged here as we headed for our lunch hour.
A good ending to our trip.
Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

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

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Cabo de Gata

Saturday 16 February

Even windier than yesterday for the monthly meeting of the Andalucia Bird Society at Cabo de Gata but, even so, eighteen members present to check out the salinas, lighthouse area and rambla.  On the other hand, the very strong winds and arrival of four coach loads of visitors to the lighthouse with the former resulting in most small birds seeking whatever shelter they could find, did result in fewer species and totals than expected and the meeting finishing earlier at about 20.30 with those members staying on for the evening to revisit some of the sites covered during the morning.

Starting at the first hide as the road approached the village, in addition to the Spotless Starlings and Flamingos out on the choppy water we did manage to find a single Grey Plover, a Redshank and a small number of Dunlin before heading off to the Public Hide at the far end of the salinas.  here we managed to add a couple of Little Stints and Sanderling as well as seeing more Flamingos and Dunlins. A Shelduck was hiding below the bank in front of the hide and we had chance to look at the mixed flock of Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls. Driving back to the road, in addition to the Sky Lark we picked up on the way in we added a handful of meadow Pipits.

Crested Lark Cogujada Comun Galerida cristata

Arriving at the road before the lighthouse turn round we settled down to find the local Trumpeter Finches.  Lots of Spotted Starlings, then both Black Redstart and Crested Lark.  Even a Black Wheatear before the Trumpeter Finch was spotted almost in front of us. It crossed the road, passing a Thekla Lark on the way, and proceeded to feed at its leisure alongside a Crested Lark and completely oblivious to the nine of us watching the bird.

Trumpeter Finch Camachuelo Trompetero Bucanetes githagineus

Then it was back over them mountain to take the back track around the salinas.  We were soon encountering hundreds of sheltering gulls; a mixed bag of Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged but also at least thirty Audouin's GullsShelduck numbered a score and at least thirty Avocet recorded.  Whilst the Cormorants were inactive in the distance we did see a foraging Kentish Plover and Little Stint at the water's edge.  The final species was a handful of Black-winged Stilts before stopping at the hide.

Audouin's Gulls Gaviota de Audouin Larus audoinii
All very quiet here but no sooner had we moved on than we stopped as a pair of Red-legged Partridge crossed the track in front of us.  Whilst trying to find the birds for those in the following cars, one individual plus a Stone Curlew took off to our right.  At about this point we also came across John and Jenny travelling in the opposite direction who had seen a flock of twenty plus Stone Curlews taking of to fly to the other (sea) side of the salina.  Reguar sightings of Stonechats then a stop to watch a Hoopoe in front of us and whilst looking also found the Collared Dove resting low in a tree and almost on the ground whilst above it a Greenfinch was feeding.  Before re-starting a single Raven flew close by and a Northern Wheatear put in an appearance.  Our final bird on this track was an Iberian Grey Shrike on a fence in front of the first farm.

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo watched over by Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis
Back through the village to take the track along the beach to the rambla.  But immediately we had, as well as House Sparrows, a single Curlew on the grass to our right.  Once at the rambla lots of water but no sign of the reported Great Northern Diver on the sea at this point.  There were, however, a small number of Kentish Plover on the edge of the river.  Up on the little raised land to get a better look at the water, we soon found both Mallard and Shoveler along with a Coot.  But pride of place probably went to the half-dozen Wigeon.  A Black-necked Grebe was also recorded and then the handful of White-headed Ducks and a couple of Moorhen.  A Little Grebe was feeding at the back of the water almost into the reeds and overhead we had both House Martin and Barn Swallows quickly followed by a number of Crag Martins.  It certainly seemed odd to find one sunbathing Cormorant in the company of a couple of Cattle Egrets.

Wigeon Silbon Europeo Anas penelope

Finally, whilst awaiting the following two cars to catch us up as we turned back inland to reach the village, A Trumpeter Finch, landed on the track and quietly getting out of the car to get a better look and take a photograph, we noticed that it had been joined by two others.  This was to be our last sighting for the day but, meanwhile, Derek and company had had close views of a Spectacled Warbler at the back of the salinas and John and Jenny managed to also see Black-tailed Godwit, Blackbird, Goldfinch and Magpie to take the day's final total up to a very credible minimum of 52 species given the prevailing windy weather.  And despite the wind, I think we all had a most enjoyable day's birding.

Trumpeter Finches Camachuelo Trompetero Bucanetes githagineus

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Flamingo, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Spectacled Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Golfinch, Trumpeter Finch.


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

Retamar and Cabo de Gata

Friday 15 February

On my way to the overnight stop at Cabo de Gata I called in at the heathland just south of Retamar.  No sooner had I taken the narrow road down towards the beach that i had both Iberian Grey Shrike and Magpie on the nearby large bushes.  A Kestrel was hovering away to my right and then the first Black Redstart.  Taking a side track I found both Stonechat and Crested Larks before coming across a small flock of Greenfinch.  Then Spotless Starlings as I made my way to the end of the road to take a loop round the tracks at the bottom.

Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros

Still very windy when I arrived at Cabo de Gata and only Flamingos and Yellow-legged Gulls to be seen from the first hide.  A stop at the Public Hide produced more Flamingos and a mixture of Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls but no terns.  A couple of Avocet and a Shelduck before continuing on to the lighthouse, recording both Barn Swallow and Meadow Pipit to check out that area.

Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseusngo

More House Sparrow and Collared Dove as I returned to the salinas and took the track along the rear.  Here I found at least a dozen Avocet and twice that number of ShelduckCrag Martins were feeding above the water and then at least thirty Audouin's Gulls seen at rest.  A Dartford Warbler up onto the fence near the hide for a few seconds before dropping back into the undergrowth.  Only the occasional Cormorant in flight with most hunkered down on the shallow rocks.

Male and female Greenfinch verderon Comun Carduelis chlois

Finally a loop round the rambla having accessed the site from the beach track.  On the water Coot, Shoveler, Mallard and White-headed Ducks in addition to a few Coot with White Wagtails on both the track and shore line.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, White-headed Duck, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Flamingo, Kestrel, Coot, Avocet, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Dartford Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch


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

Las Norias and Roquetas de Mar

Friday 15 February

Off by just after 9 with the first stop the mucky lake at Las Norias surrounded by plastic greenhouses and the very muck plastic recycling plant at the the eastern end.  Beautiful, warm sunny day with clear blue skies and calm arriving at the main road across the water.   Passing a Cattle Egret, Spotless Starlings and Collared Doves I had to the west (left) a good number of Cormorants, Black-headed and Lesser black-backed Gulls with loads of Crag Martins feeding overhead and both Chiffchaff and Meadow Pipits in the nearby bushes and rocks.

On the water itself a number of Coots along with a few pairs of Red-crested Pochard and at the very back of the water a handful of Little Egret and a solitary Heron.  A Moorhen drifted across the water before I found the diving Black-necked Grebe. On the other side of the road a Green sandpiper made a hasty retreat and then both Little and Great Crested Grebes recorded. I also found a pair of Teal skulking away to my right and, naturally, there were House Sparrows to be seen.  A few White Wagtails wandering around before i forced my way through the "jungle" that now blocked the back of the footpath to the lake disturbing both Blackbird and Cetti's Warbler in the process.  Before setting of for Roquestas de Mar I saw my first House Martin of the day along with Kestrel and the resident Rock Doves.

By now it was quite windy and getting worse by the minute.  The water either side of the causeway leading towards the lighthouse looked more like the choppy sea then a shallow salina.  A few Flamingos to my left and a single lapwing.  At the far side I picked up a distant Marsh Harrier and a Magie that was perched atop a large bush.  The waters themselves were virtually devoid of bird life and, apart from Crested Lark, very little was added, other than the adventure of driving through the deep puddles covering the track, when heading off to the small lake near the sea where I did find a Redshank and Black-winged Stilt.

Gadwall Anade friso Anas strepera

The large fresh-water lake held numerous Coot, Mallard, Teal and a small number of Gadwall.  Then working my way along the main salinas having first noted the Mallard, Pochard, Shoveler and Coot on the hidden pond, there were no waders to be seen.  A good number of Flamingo and hundreds of Coot but Shoveler numbers were much reduced.  A handful of Black-winged Stilts but then a couple of Reed Bunting.  Occasional sightings of Shelduck were pleasing and apart from the gulls already seen I finally found a trio of Slender-billed Gulls.  And right at the end before departing to Retamar and Cabo de Gata a pair of Stonechat.

Slender-billed Gull Gaviota Picofina Larus genei

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Snipe, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Reed Bunting.


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

Cabo de Gata with John & Jenny

Friday 15 February

Whilst I was making my way east towards Cabo de Gata to take in those peculiar birding sites at Las Norias and Roquetas de Mar (see next blog), John and Jenny Wanwright had already arrived and made an early tour of the site to see what was about.  Fortunately, they managed to make a good start before the strong winds set in for the afternoon.

Cabo de Gata: Friday 15th February

A bright, warm day with a blustery wind now and then.

We arrived at the Hotel Blanco Brisa at about 11.00am, we had called in at the no1 hide just down from here and found Slender-billed Gulls, Little Egret, Greater Flamingos, Black Godwits and as we left for the lighthouse area a Common Kestrel was logged.
As we approached the lighthouse we turned up towards the Aula del Mar, where we found three Trumpeter Finches sitting on the wall just below the transmitter station aerials. Also about were House Sparrows, Black and Northern Wheatears, Goldfinches, Sardinian Warblers, small flocks of Meadow Pipits, two Thekla Larks, a solitary Common Chiffchaff, Spotless Starlings and several Yellow-legged Gulls. As we headed back down the road  another Trumpeter Finch was spotted as were a few Blackbirds.
At the bottom of the hill we turned off onto the back track which runs (more or less) parallel to the main road back to Cabo de Gata. The wind had picked up by now and the small passerines were nowhere to be seen (or heard). At the hide we spotted at least a two hundred Avocets and a large number of Greater Flamingos, seven Shelduck were noted as well as Auduoin's Gulls, Redshanks, Dunlins, Little Stints, a White Wagtail and two Kentish Plovers. Two Sand Martins were gratefully logged here and further down the track a small flock of Crag Martins. As we headed across country to the BP station to fill-up, Greenfinches, Spotless Starlings, Collared Doves and another Sardinian Warbler were added to the list. We then headed for the camp site area track that headed for the beach and on the estuary we spotted five Wigeon (four males and one female), Shovelers, Mallard, three White-headed Ducks, a Common Coot and a single Barn Swallow. Out on the sea an adult Gannet and several Yellow-legged Gulls were noted.
Back to the hotel for Menu del Dia; not a bad first day.


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

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra

Lapwing Avefria Europea Vanellus vanellus
Wednesday 13 February

A beautiful, clear sunny day but shame about the strong wind.  Lots of fun and birds with visiting American birders from Pennsylvania, Jon and Nancy Leven along with their friends David and Betsy.  Off from Torremolinos just before 9.30 to Laguna Dulce then Fuente de Piera and not back till dark and well after 7pm - but we did take the scenic route back from Fuente de Piedra so that we could drive around the Guadalhorce lakes.

Approaching Campanillos we stopped to check out the cliff face at the Teba turn and were rewarded not with just a dozen Griffon Vultures gliding along the top and nearer but also a flock of about an hundred Chough.  Also present were Crag Martins and we even had our first of at least five Common kestrels seen during the day.

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
Chough Chova Piquirroja Pyrrhocorax pyrrocorax
Approaching the Laguna Dulce we stopped to check out the flooded fields on our right and, again, were well rewarded by a good range of birds including a couple of foraging Meadow Pipits in front of the car.  On the water itself, apart from the many Black-headed Gulls, were a number of Black-winged Stilts, Dunlin and a Redshank along with the many White Wagtails.  Further study produced a couple of Avocet and a handful of Shelduck, Ringed Plover and Lesser Back-backed Gulls.  However, I suspect my American guests were more impressed with the Lapwing.

Lapwing Avefria Europea Vanellus vanellus
At the laguna itself the water level was still very high but I suspect the number of Coots had considerably diminished since my last visit a fortnight ago.  Lots of Common Pochard to be seen and then the finding of maybe more than twenty Red-crested Pochard.  Also present were at least two dozen White-headed Ducks.  Whilst there was a good number of Black-necked Grebes present, Great Crested Grebe numbers were not only down but the birds were much further away than usual.  We had a distant female marsh harrier quartering the back of the water and immediately in front of the hide a foraging Chiffchaff.  A female Black Redstart beat a hasty retreat from behind the fence and having found the wintering Crane on the far side of the water it was time to drive round to the track on the other side.

White-headed Ducks  Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala with both Common and Red-crested Pochard at top
No sooner had we arrived than a flock of about thirty Golden Plover wheeled around in the air immediately above the car but being very windy and with the sun in our faces it made taking good photographs of the Cranes more difficult but we perceived.  Also found on the far side were many more Coots and Lapwing plus, of course, White Wagtails and the expected Crested Larks and Corn Bunting plus a Sky Lark.  We also added Stonechat to our sightings and near the old farm found a Little Grebe on the pool at the side of the track.  having taken a chance that the track might now be passable to the end we pressed on but then came to the "gate" in the form of deep, flooded ruts and half the track missing with a gaping hole to the right!  Nothing for it but to turn round and retrace our steps so to speak but as we made our way back we did did get a glance at  female Hen Harrier above the olive trees followed by a small charm of Goldfinch; so not all bad news.  Ant then a lone Cattle Egret as we reached the end of the track and another male Common Kestrel resting on the wires above.

Common Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus
Having been informed of a nearby flock of Flamingos we made our way to a flooded field next to the road just before reaching the small pool and hide south of Campillos.  I counted a 101 Flamingos along with a few more Black-winged Stilts, a couple of Ringed Plover and more White Wagtails.

Then it was on to Fuente de Piedra and lunch.  Approaching the working farm on the junction so that we could take the anti-clockwise circuit to the village, we picked up our first Spotless Starlings plus more Stonechat.

Plenty of Black-necked Grebes Zampullin Cuellinegro Podiceps nigricollis

Our inner bodies now satisfied we made our way to the laguna as we approached the car park the flooded field to lour left held Black-winged Stilts and Black-headed Gulls plus a good number of Jackdaw on the bank.  At the far side two pairs of Common Teal were noted.  Viewed from the mirador next to the old tree, thousands of Flamingos could be seen n the distance and to our right we also came across the first Shoveler of the day.  The scrape produced a couple of Moorhen and then it was time to visit the main hide overlooking the laguneta.

Just a few of the Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus plus Gadwall Anade Friso Anas strepera (to left)
Lovey to see relatively close Flamingos and beautiful Teal and Shoveler.  Still a few Red-crested Pochard and even a two pairs of GadwallLittle Grebes were feeding and then the wonderful sight of a female Marsh Harrier quartering the pool and giving excellent views to all.  Not just the Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls but even a handful of Barn Swallows flying across the water.  As for the Coots, we noticed that one pair already had four thriving chicks happily paddling about the water - just waiting to be picked up by the quartering Marsh Harrier.  And if not one of the small chicks then certainly something else that had been sheltering in the long grass on the opposite side of the water from the hide.

Marsh Harrier Aguilucho lagunero Circus aeruginosus on the hunt for lunch
Finally setting off for home continuing on an anti-clockwise circuit so that we would link up again at the farm, we noted that had we been able to continuing on the connecting track mentioned above then we would have been defeated within thirty yards of the exit as the track is still submerged in a deep river and enough mud to last a lifetime!  Probably just as well that we stopped earlier on.  Now lots of Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows around the farm as we made our way onwards to the Guadalhorce lakes and Torremolinos.  More Blackbirds to add to the two males sitting on the wall outside the hotel in Torremolinos and  a dozen Cattle Egret flying back to their roost for the night.  A most enjoyable day in wonderful company and a final count of 47 species.

Red-crested pato Colorado Netta rufina and Common Pochards porron Europea Aythya ferina along with the Coots Focha Comun Fulica atra

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Flamingo, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Back-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.



More of the Crane flock Grulla Comun Grus grus


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Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa

Wednesday 13 February

Looks like another good birding day for Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group as can be seen by the following report.



Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa:Wednesday 13th February

Today was bright and sunny, but a tad chilly to start with.  I drove down to the Rambla de Almanzora in Richard's car with him sitting beside me.  We checked what was around from the road bridge to the ford.  We saw Magpie, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, and Moorhen.  At the ford pool we added a Snipe and a female Shoveler. 

Snipe Gallinago gallinago (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We also saw Black Redstart, Woodpigeon, White Wagtail and Black-headed Gull.  We were joined by Charlie and then John and Alan who'd seen a Booted Eagle and Crag Martins near the Consum supermarket.  Next to arrive was Trevor together with daughter, Karen and son-in-law, Mark, the latter two being novices.  As we were about to commence the walk towards the sewage works we spotted Stonechat, Mallard, Great Tit, Carrion Crow and Hoopoe.  As we made our way along the rambla embankment a couple of Green Sandpipers flew up the channel, but the star bird was a female Sparrowhawk.  A Grey Heron took to the air.  On the large pool we had Common Pochard, Mallard and Teal.  On the opposite embankment Richard spotted the now regular female Blue Rock Thrush.  He also saw a Robin.  We were joined by Val as we were turning round to head for the vehicles.

Female Blue Rock Thrush Monticoloa solittarius  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We added a Blackbird on our way to Villaricos village for a coffee.  John and Alan checked out the beach nearby and saw a Turnstone and Thekla Lark.  We all made our way to the harbour beach. There was nothing on the rocky islands as waves were splashing over the top.  I spotted a couple of Gannets out to sea and John found a Black-necked Grebe at the harbour entrance.  Karen the spied a Greenfinch on a nearby shrub.

Dunlin Calidris alpina (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We walked over to the estuary where the usual suspects were in evidence.  Cormorant, Coot, Moorhen and Grey Heron.  We made our way round to the beach.  About a dozen Dunlin were feeding on the shoreline.  Alan found a Sanderling on a rock and I found a single Audouin's Gull swimming on the lake.  John checked out the rocky outcrop and found the Whimbrel as it flew off. There was a small mixed group of Sandwich Terns and Audouin's Gull, two of which had visible rings, the details of which I'll send off.  Val found a Turnstone and Kentish Plover whilst John got a Kingfisher perched on a rock.  The final bird was a Grey Plover found by me.

Auduoin's Gulls Larus audouinii with Sandwich Terns at back Sterna sandvicensis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We moved on to the dual carriageway opposite the Consum supermarket at the back of Vera Playa. The usual wildfowl were there.  Shoveler, Mallard and Teal, but Shelduck were also seen as they took to the air as a Marsh Harrier quartered over.  John pointed out one of many Mediterranean Gulls amongst the Black-headed ones.  Also seen were Black-winged Stilt and Little Grebe.  Over the far side John found a Black-tailed Godwit whilst Alan added Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Little Stint.  Also seen was a Jackdaw.  We made our way to the raised concrete platform near the Agua Park.  We only added some White-headed Ducks.  We also heard Cetti's Warbler.

Common Pochard Aythya ferina (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
A lovely days birding in good company. 55 species in all.
Regards, Dave

About a quarter of the gull flock (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

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