Friday, 21 January 2022

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

 Friday 23 January

Please to read that Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group had an enjoyable day up in the mountains even if somewhat on the cold side.  Numbers may have been lower than expected but always good to have quality over quantity!  Still very cold on the coast at night and even colder inland, says he who has just driven up to Valencia via Granada, Jaen and the A43 to the A3 the onwards to Lliria to stay with son and daughter-in-law for the week-end.  It may have been zero centigrade for much of the way and n never above 5 until on the southern drive down the A3 but at least I am now back online and can update Dave's report from last Wednesday

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 19th January 2022

Well, they said it would be cold today, so why not head to the Sierra de Maria where it would be 5 degrees even colder!

    Juda turned up at mine dressed for the Arctic. We headed north on the A7/E15 and then west towards Velez Rubio. We started our list, as usual, just outside Velez Blanco. We didn't disturb the scorer until virtually at Maria when we saw two Iberian Green Woodpeckers fly across the road in front of us. We met up with Peter, Kevin, Trevor, Carolyn and Steve at the Repsol garage cafe. Once refreshed, in the interests of keeping warm, I decided we'd do the loop road, thereby staying in our warm vehicles. Birds were very few and far between. Before we reached the village turn off we'd only seen Magpie, small flocks of Northern Starlings, a pair of Jays and some Goldfinch.

    We stopped for a scan by the village. I spotted some glossy black Spotless Starlings on an aerial. Kevin confirmed a sighting of distant perched Linnets through his scope. Juda added some Woodpigeon. We carried on along the track. Juda and I saw Carrion Crow and a couple of Red-billed Chough. We missed the close, posing Little Owl that Carolyn and Steve spotted.  Also seen were small flocks of Chaffinch and Corn Bunting.

Sunbathing Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

     We parked up by the cliff face. Nothing was added till we walked to the other side. A Black Wheatear showed well and a covey of Red-legged Partridge flew over the ridge. Carrying on we added a Stonechat, spotted by Juda, a lone Kestrel and a female Black Redstart. At the hamlet House Sparrows and Thekla Larks were seen. As we were there a car stopped. Mike and Kathy, blasts from the past. They met us many, many years ago and I still send them my reports. Travelling along the plain we saw three Little Owls sunning themselves. The stop at the farm trough only added a couple of Mistle Thrush.

    We headed for the La Piza forest cafe for a snack lunch. We sat there in silence ( bird song) for some time before a force of titmice arrived for a nut lunch. We had, in chronological order, Crested, Blue, Long Tailed and Great Tits. The sun was in the wrong place for any photos unfortunately. A call above us alerted us to the arrival of a few Crossbill. Juda then spotted our first Griffon Vultures of the day as three flew over.

Crossbill Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

    After lunch we went to the Botanical Garden. With the permission of the boss for the day we put up a memorial plaque for Adrian Speakman who passed suddenly last July. Five Griffon Vultures were sitting along the mountain ridge above us.

    We ended up with 27 species for the day. Bright and sunny, but, boy, was it chilly!
Regards,
Dave


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Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Osuna

Monday 17 January

Approaching Osuna just before 9am and a couple of Collared Doves.  Then to the cafe near junction 80 of the A92 where I met up with friends Jerry and Barbara-Ann Laycock for breakfast before heading off into the neighbouring countryside in search of both Great Bustards and Stone Curlews.  I had in mind eight target species with a coupe of possible options to make up the round ten new birds for the year.  Within a hundred yards of setting of, even before the first bend in the road, Jerry had stopped as they spotted a Stone Curlew beneath the olive trees.  I stopped just round the corner in the “usual place” and, sure enough, two very close Stone Curlews and a further dozen in the locality.  With Jerry and Barbara in their car behind me we then saw at least another score fly over the trees as a lone Mistle Thrush dash past below the canopy.

One of a score or more Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus

Before moving on we watched a Buzzard drift past overhead at a low altitude and then both Spotless Starling on the opposite side of the road and both a Zitting Cisticola and White Wagtail in the verge ahead.  Within twenty metres of moving on a Red-legged Partridge was seen soon to be followed by very many more.   Lots of Linnets about plus a smaller number of both Goldfinch and Serin .  Meanwhile, on a fence on the opposite side of the road near a load of rubbish, a mixed flock of mainly Spanish but also House Sparrows.  Less than fifteen minutes into our birding adventure and already three of my target birds seen.

At this point Jerry drew my attention to the three close flocks of V-formation Cranes high in the distance moving eastwards.  Then in a bare tree a Black Redstart at the top and as we approached the end of the olive groves onto more open countryside the first of very many Stonechats.  A Blackbird disappeared behind the trees and quickly followed by a pair of Crested Lark, my fourth target bird of the morning.  Having just seen a hovering Kestrel we stopped just beyond the deep culvert directing potential flood water away from the railway line and we found another on top of a farm house next to the railway bridge.  Using scopes we were able to identify the Hoopoe resting on the bridge railings so yet another of the eight targets recorded.

By now there were regular sightings of Red Kite, the most common raptor of the day, and still the occasional Buzzard.  Driving up to the top of the first bridge over the abandoned high speed rail track we had a single Raven in the field and, using scopes, we manage to find 27 Great Bustards in the distance (target bird 6).  Deciding to carry on and follow some of the farm tracks we managed to get much closer, but still a fair distance away, to the Great Bustards.  Only when we stopped to take record photographs did we notice the eight individuals that were hidden in a dip immediately in front of us.  Naturally they were off and away.

Then the Great Bustards Otis tarda took flight

Having seen the main flock move away we took a track then farm road off to the left in the hope that the birds might have alighted on the other side of the trees.  A group of six Ravens feeding near the road junction.  

Ravens Corvus corax

They had not but we did find a couple of Iberian Grey Shrikes on the wires (target 7). Starting to work our way back to pick up the main road at overbridge2 we then stopped having found half a dozen distant Great Bustards away to our right.   As we about to move on a local farmer pulled up behind us and asked if we would like him to show us where the main flock was feeding.  Naturally replied in the affirmative.  So a short journey of about 500 metres up and past his farm to a grassed area where we had closer views a group of ten plus another couple of Great Bustards so making a final total of 48 individuals for the morning.

Nearer and more distant Great Bustards Otis tarda

As we finally continued on our way we recorded Sardinian Warblers but nothing, other than more Stonechats, and a couple of White Wagtails noted on the side track taken alongside the rail track.  So onto the far end of the road to try and get a decent view across the fields to the railway viaduct and usually flooded area below.  But just before arriving, having already seen both a Kestrel and another pair of Red Kites, we stopped to check the field to our right and a Black Kite passed low overhead.  Within twenty metres of moving on I stopped, a last minute decision, to take a closer look at the “blob” on top of a pylon and discovered my reserve target, a  Black-shouldered Kite.

Very distant record shot of Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus

Then on down to the bottom of the rise to take a distant look at the viaduct.  Jerry managed to find  a couple of Lapwing on the far side and I picked out the Buzzard resting on the viaduct along with a number of Feral Pigeons.  At this point Barbara drew my attention to the flock of twenty-five white birds flying past the viaduct. Having twisted and turned the birds finally settled and I was able to confirm that they were Golden Plover.  Yet another bonus sighting. Then it was on to take a look a the “hidden pool” in the extensive olive grove just round the corner. What a disappointment to find the pond completely dried up, never seen that before, but as we turned to make our way to La Lantejuela I noticed a couple of male Blackcaps come in to feed on the spilled olives on the ground where the locals were gathering same .

Arriving at the grey water ponds on the outskirts of the village we stopped to check out the main water on the other side of the fence.  Immediately in front of us a couple of Little Grebe and Coots with some very bust Chiffchaffs in the neighbouring trees.  Out on the main water many Flamingo along with a small number of Mallard and Shoveler plus a couple of Pochard.  At the far end a handful of Cormorants were resting in the trees and Crag Martins feeding over the water.  However, the best sighting was the handsome male Marsh Harrier circling over the water.  And that was it.  Having eaten our picnic we decided to start on our return journey towards Malaga as another couple of Red Kites circled above on the opposite side of the road.  And, in conclusion, the only missed target bird was a Corn Bunting and whilst I also did not find any Calandra Larks it was a bonus to see the Golden Plovers.  A most enjoyable day with great company.

Birds seen:

Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Flamingo, Black-shouldered Kite, Red Kite, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Coot, Great Bustard, Crane, Stone Curlew, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet.



More distant and even further Great Bustards Otis tarda

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Sunday, 16 January 2022

Guadalhorce and Fuente de Piedra

Osprey Pandion haliaetus

 Sunday 16 January

Dropped Jenny off at Velez Malaga and still at the Guadalhorce, Malaga by 9.25 to start a full day's birding.  Dry and calm weather and by the middle of the day quite warms and sunny with very little cloud.  After leaving the reserve I called in briefly at both Zapata and the Rio Grande on my way towards Campillos.  Next a very short stop at Penarrubia before arriving at a very dry and empty Laguna Dulce.  Finally on to Fuente de Piedra where there was plenty of water and then finally an overnight stop in Pedrera at the Las Canteras restaurant/hostal in readiness for tomorrow's visit to the Osuna Triangle.

Entering the Desembocadura del Guadalhorce immediately on view many Cormorants and they left and entered the reserve and once at the Laguna Casillas mainly Coots and Mallards along with a good number of Shoveler.  From thence on it was to be the Shoveler that was the dominant species with well over a hundred on site.  Also present many foraging Chiffchaff and Crag Martins feeding over the water. A pair of Pochard to my far right and only a couple of Little Grebe before I moved on.  

Redshank Tringa totanus

More Shoveler at the Wader Pool along with a dozen Black-winged Stilts and single Avocet and Redshank.  A Booted Eagle was resting in a tree at the back of the water and a Heron flew in as a couple of Collared Doves flew out.  Making my way towards the beach the Rio Viejo (Old River) produced many more Black-winged Stilts along with a couple of Greenshank whilst each side of the path I manged to locate Blackbird, Black Redstart and Robin.  A dozen Shelduck were recorded and then the first Sardinian Warbler.  Lovely to see a female Kestrel resting atop a pole, made a change from a Cormorant, and once at the Sea Watch just the four ducks on the water to my left (east) but, at least, they were Common Scoters!  Making my way back by the same route I noticed the Little Egret working the eastern arm and two Sandwich Terns flew upriver. Now the Kestrel was asleep in a well-leafed tree but more Stonechats, Black Redstarts and Sardinian Warblers. A Common Sandpiper had arrived at the top end of the old river and a Zitting Cisticola took to the air.  Meanwhile on the opposite bank behind the resting Black-winged Stilts a score of feeding Serin.

Feeding Serins Serinus serinus

Approaching the Laguna Escondida a couple of White Wagtails and a lone male Blackcap.  On the water itself, a few Coot and a couple of Little Grebe plus very many Shoveler.  However, a single female White-headed Duck was seem making her way up the right-hand side of the laguna.

Massed Dunlins Calidris alpina

So on to the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande where most of the Cormorants were to be found along with a small number of Flamingo and two sleeping Spoonbill.  Also present over a score of Shelduck, more Black-winged Stilts and a large mixed flock of Spotless and Common Starlings.  Nearer to the hide a large flock of Dunlin and a single Ringed Plover plus a few feeding Serin and a single Meadow Pipit.  On the far side near the small island a handful of Sanderling and a couple of Kentish Plover.  

Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis

Nevermind the dozen Black-necked Grebes at the back of the pool, preening itself atop the old tree on the island a magnificent Osprey and, as I was about to depart, the arrival of the Booted Eagle.  Perhaps it was scoping the distant Osprey that led me to finding the dark shape hiding at the back of the trees which turned out to be a Marsh Harrier.  And the last birds to be seen were a pair of Monk Parakeets.

The very distant Osprey Pandion haliaetus

Zapata produced more Meadow Pipits and White Wagtails along with a couple of Greenfinch whereas the stop at the Rio Grande was noted for the large number of people out for their Sunday picnic - but at least there were five Cattle Egrets, the only individuals seen all day.  The cliffs at Penarrubia duly produced the Griffon Vultures and a handful of Crag Martins plus a male Sardinian Warbler but no Choughs on this occasion.

Cranes Grus grus in the dried up Laguna Dulce

Quite a shock to find the Laguna Dulce completely devoid of any water yet a smile as I studied the 28 feeding Cranes in the middle of the dry lake.  Leaving the hide to make my way round to the back of the now dry laguna, I noticed a handful of Chaffinches in the trees at the side of the layby. Stopping to check the sex of the individual that landed immediately in front of me but partly hidden by the branches and twigs I was delighted to not the  white rump and quickly identify the winter-plumaged male Brambling.  Most unexpected,  Once round the back I found both a Raven and a Little Owl along with very many Stonechats.

A much larger group of distant Cranes Grus grus

On round to the main car park at Fuente de Piedra and immediately yet another Black Redstart.  The entrance field on the left still held water and mainly occupied by Black-headed Gulls and Black-winged Stilts plus a single Lapwing.  Working my way round to the back and the Laguenta I had a Blue Tit and a handful of Linnets on the wires.  Also present many feeding Chiffchaff and, on the water, Coots, Shelduck and Mallards but mainly more Shoveler and a lot of Black-headed Gulls.  On the main salina, as well as Flamingos, it had been scores of Lesser Black-backed and a few Yellow-legged Gulls.  A pair of Gadwall drifted past and beneath me both a Robin and Sardinian Warbler were busy foraging.  Finally a Moorhen crossed the water, the first and only one seen all day.

Making my way back to towards the car park and the boardwalk I came across a small flock of half-dozen Song Thrushes and on the bottom nesting hole of the bird tower a resting Little Owl. All that remained was for me to eventual see a Jackdaw as I drove out of the reserve.

Very distant record shot of Little Owl Athene noctua

Birds seen:

Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Common Scoter, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Little Owl, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Jackdaw, Raven, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet

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Saturday, 15 January 2022

Charca de Suarez, Motril

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita

Charca de Suarez:  Friday 14 January

First day back home and needing to visit the superstore in nearby Motril I followed up by a quick drive round the corner to present myself for the evening opening at the Charca de Suarez.  But first a quick return drive down the Camino Patria at the back of the reserve.  Lots of birds about including over 40 Cattle Egrets, a pair of Kestrel and very many White Wagtails.  Also noted were a couple of Collared and a handful of Rock Doves plus a small flock of Common Waxbill and a pair of Greenfinch. Making my way back to the reserve I watched a passing Marsh Harrier and also added a charm of Goldfinch.

Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis

Those of us waiting for the gates to be unlocked were watching the Kestrel resting atop a pine tree just inside the reserve and then I was off to the LagunaTaraje where I found Mallard, Shoveler and Teal along with a few Common Coot, a single Purple Swamphen and a Little Grebe.  Just the one Moorhen but plenty of foraging Chiffchaff.  The hide at the far end produced more Shoveler and a pair of Collared Doves.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio

Next of to the Laguna de las Aneas after a short walk towards the far entrance which produced a male Sardinian Warbler.  Lots of Common and Red-knobbed Coot along with very many Black-headed and a few Herring Gulls.  No shortage of Cormorant on view and in addition to the lone Little Egret there were a dozen Heron.  Ducks were mainly Mallard and Pochard with a few Teal and Shoveler.  Lots of feeding Crag Martins over the water, a few more Little Grebe and the occasional White Wagtail plus ever-present Chiffchaff.

Male Shoveler Anas clypeata

Making my way towards the Laguna del Trebol I found a couple of Blue Tit and once inside the hide close views of many Red-knobbed Coot and Chiffchaff along with the feeding Crag Martins. 

Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata

Eventually I found the hiding Ferruginous Duck and no sooner found than a second appeared.  By way of change a couple of Gadwall hove into sight.  It was whilst at the opposite end of the water and safely into the hide that I found both foraging Cetti’s Warbler and Bluethroat who seemed to take no notice at all of the many Chiffchaff.  Then it was back to the exit encountering both a couple of Great Tit, a Robin and a quintet of Blackbirds.  Just the bare two hours in total and a grand 37 species to welcome me back to local Spanish birding.  The final observation was the murmuration of over 300 Spotless Starlings as I left the reserve to regain the main road back to the N340   Who knows, maybe there was the odd score or two of Common Starlings joining in the display with their southern cousins.

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Bluethroat with Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti (behind)

 Birds seen:

Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.


Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

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Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group

 Wednesday 11 January

What a day for friend Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group.  Not just all those Trumpeter Finches but two lifers, probably for all present, as they recorded first a Bonaparte's Gull and then a visiting Blue-winged Teal.  And whilst Dave was pondering the rain or no rain at the start of the day, we were setting odd from Portsmouth to Santander on our way back to Spain.  Thick fog from daybreak and never mind birds, we could only identify the Navy's warships by shape rather than detail as we slowly sailed past.  We did see about half a dozen very close Black-headed Gulls but that was it all day.  Come this morning clear blue skies and blazing sunshine - but not a single bird in sight.  Such is birding!


Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 12th January

Health warning....Those of a nervous disposition please read no further!

The weather forecast was a bit dodgy, but hey ho, are we fairweather birders?  No! I started early and headed south on the A7/E15 towards Almeria.  At around Sorbas there were a few drops of rain, but ahead of me I could see clear skies with patchy clouds.  I'd arranged with Kevin, who stayed overnight in his campervan, to meet me at the first hide at 8.15hrs.  He arrived just before me, then got in my truck for a trip round the rear of the reserve before the others were scheduled to arrive at 9.30hrs.  As we drove towards the beach a flight of Cattle Egret flew over.  On the beach itself we saw three Eurasian Curlew plus Stonechats and Thekla Larks on the fence posts. No sign of any Dotterel.  Further on Kevin added a Yellow-legged Gull.  We also saw a Raven.

We started down the bumpy, but dry track.  There was a flotilla of 17 Shelduck on one of the first salinas.  A few small waders were seen on our shoreline.  Dunlin, Little Stint and Kentish Plover.  In the water there were Greater Flamingos and Black Tailed Godwits.  On the pylons there were a large number of Northern Starlings.  Nearing the end of the track I spotted a flight of 20 Stone Curlew whilst Kevin found another two on his side of the track.  Also seen were House Sparrows and a Collared Dove.  Back on the road again, a Hoopoe flew over.

We stopped at the first hide and scanned the view in front of us.  An Eurasian Curlew flew noisily over. There were 3 Little Egrets along the left hand bank, but a long line of Spoonbill down the far end. Kevin counted 49 individuals.  He later found two more in a different location.  He spotted some Mallard and I found a few Wigeon.  About this time we'd been joined by Peter, Carolyn and her boyfriend, Steve.  Kevin identified some distant Slender-billed Gulls and I found an Iberian Grey Shrike on the power lines behind us.

It was time for a coffee so we stopped off in a Cabo village cafe.  From there, with Kevin and Peter in my 4x4 and the other two following in theirs, we headed along the beachside track to the Rambla Morales.  The last time we ventured along there, someone, mentioning no names, got his car stuck in the soft sand!  This time there was very little of the soft stuff.  We checked for waders on the savannah, but nothing was seen.  We parked up.  Kevin said there were some waders and grebes at the closed estuary mouth.  Sure enough there were 6 Black-necked Grebes, a Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover.  There was also a medium-sized gull there, on its own, doing a Slender-billed Gull feeding action.  It had a black beak and a spot behind the ear.  I suspected it was the Bonaparte's Gull seen the previous week there.  I checked Collins and it looked good for it.  I thought I'd check with a higher authority before publishing my report.  I got some distant photos, not wanting to spook it.  Peter saw a female duck in the opposite reed line which turned out to be a Teal.  We wandered down to the hump, hearing a Cetti's Warbler on the way.  Kevin, who'd got there before us, had already logged Purple Swamphen, Coot, White-headed Duck, Shoveler and Common Pochard.  There was a Dutch or Flemish birder there with his scope.  He said, "Look in my scope.  It's the Blue-winged Teal (female).  It's half hidden in the reeds!  " Wow!  Then he said, " Was the Bonaparte's Gull still there when you arrived?", which confirmed my suspicions!  Two lifers in 15 minutes for me!

Bonaparte's Gull Larus philadelphia (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Duly elated we retraced our steps and headed for the public hide.  My sciatic nerve was playing up so we missed out the second and middle hides.  The first thing we saw as we drove down the track towards the parking circle were three Eurasian Curlews and close by a flock of about 12 Trumpeter finches! Kevin found a line of a dozen or more Sandwich Terns on the rocky causeway to the right.  Kevin also spotted a couple of Avocet.  Also seen were Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls.  We exited via the church track, hoping to see the Trumpeter Finches again, but only saw Greenfinches.
After a snack lunch I added a Magpie en route to the motorway. 

We ended up with 44 species. A cracking day. Great birds, weather and company.

Despite all my attempts I failed to get a decent photo of the Blue Winged Teal, so you'll have to be satisfied with the Bonaparte's Gull!
Regards
Dave

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Monday, 10 January 2022

Eyeworth & Fishlake Meadow

Male Mandarin Duck  Aix galericulata

 Monday 10 January

Our last day in the UK before returning to Spain and with so many reports coming in about the Mandarin Ducks at Eyeworth Pond I just felt I had to make an early morning visit to the New Forest, especially as the site is less than forty minutes away.  Arriving on scene with the children now back at school and hoping for a site devoid of all others, I was somewhat disappointed to not only find a dog-walker but the beast off-lead and running around.  However, by the time I was set up in the car park to walk all of five metres to the water's edge the dog was under control and within five minute dog and owner had departed to an alternative car park,  Great!

Once at the water's edge it was obvious that the two score of Mallard at the water's edge were used to receiving their daily bread, so to speak, and a little further away I could see a lone male Goosander.  Whilst a couple of Wood Pigeons wandered about soon to be joined by both a Magpie and a passing Jay I watched a couple of Moorhens heading for the tall grasses.  But where were the Mandarin Ducks?  A walk to the far end and look back through the bins soon found a drake and right opposite where I had been standing.  So back to the original position and found not one but a total of five individuals, three males and a couple of females.

Male Goosander Mergus merganser

Meanwhile, a couple of Robins were bobbing about between shore and neighbouring bushes which drew my attention to the number of garden birds in the same area.  Later I discovered a couple of feeders albeit both were empty having presumably been stocked for the week-end.  At one point no less than five Dunnocks feeding on the gravel and later joined by a couple of House Sparrows whilst to my immediate right there was a constant movement of Blue Tits.  

Robin Erithacus rubecula

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus

Having got used to the Blue Tits it  was a lovely surprise to see the visit of a single Marsh Tit before both Great Tits and Chaffinches put in an appearance.  Time to take a little walk along the wide path into the woods as I waited in the hope that the Mandarin Ducks might venture further from their resting place under a large bush. The walk revealed not just the local Blackbirds but a passing flock of about a score of Redwing.  Further on, after the Redwings had moved off, I found a single Song Thrush.  As I returned to the pond a couple of Carrion Crows had appeared but the Goosander had disappeared into a reedy section of the pond which did not lend itself to a photograph and all five of the Mandarin Ducks seemed more than happy to reman in their sheltered spot.  Time to move on if I was to be home before midday and as I left the pond area first a couple of Starlings and then a Mistle Thrush flew across the road.

Three of the five Mandarin Ducks Aix galericulata

Being well ahead of time, a very short deviation allowed me to travel back via Romsey so that I could stop in the main road as it ran along the broad edge of Fishlake Meadows.  The water looked white there were so many roosting Black-headed Gulls but a little searching soon found a handful of Herring Gulls.  Lots of Coots at the front of the water and a number of Cormorants roosting in the trees at the back.  On the water between the flooded trees and the back mainly Wigeon and Mallard but also a pair of Shoveler, a handful of Gadwall and about a dozen Tufted Duck.  The Pochards seen when I first arrived seemed to have moved behind the reeds but the I found the huge flock of Teal.  What put up most of the ducks?  Certainly not the few Greylag Geese but not long in finding the culprit as a Marsh Harrier eased its way to the left.  Just the two Mute Swans and also a couple of Wood Pigeon and a solitary Robin to make up the total of sixteen species at this site. And after fifteen minutes checking the water and surrounds, still home by 11.35 to make a start on packing the car and sorting out the Spanish health form in readiness for tomorrow's departure.  

Carrion Crow Corvus corone

Birds seen:

Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Mandarin Duck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Goosander, Cormorant, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Redwing, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Marsh Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jay, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch.


Male (below) and female Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Dunnock Prunella modularis

A final look at our Mandarin Ducks Aix galericulata

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

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Lower Hamble River

Redshank Tringa totanus

Sunday 9 January

Beautiful, sunny start to the day with lovely blue skies but by the time we were ready for a late morning walk, some cloud had arrived to partially block the sky and it still felt much colder than the reported temperature. By 1 o'clock Jenny and I were by the ferry pier having already seen both Magpie and the first of many Black-headed Gulls.  A Little Egret was sleeping on the bank of an empty muddy creek on the meadow side of the path and ere long we were also seeing regular Redshanks. With the tide almost in and relatively little exposed left for the feeding waders we saw a good number of Dunlin and the main flock, probably exceeding an hundred individuals, was further upstream on the mud flats to the meadow side of the path.  Amongst the Dunlin the occasional Ringed Plover and a couple of Greenshank.  

Ringed Plovers T.totanus with 5 Dunlin Calidris alpina

Near the water's edge we had our first sighting and counted fifty Wigeon.  On the opposite side of the inlet almost as many Teal along with a Curlew and an Oystercatcher.  Moving on we had a couple of Brent Geese and then at the seaward end on a neighbouring large garden fourteen Canada Geese and a half-dozen Wood Pigeon.  Lots of Carrion Crows moving about the general area as we made our way to the conservation area.

A section of the large feeding Dunlin C.alpina flock

Once at the conservation area I thought I had a distant glimpse of a Little Grebe on the main river but is seemed to disappear for more than the expected time under water.  Eventually the "shape" reappeared to reveal itself as a Grey Seal and whilst waiting for a second, longer surface a Little Grebe did appear on the scene.

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus in the Hamble river

Meanwhile, on the mudflats on the meadow side of the path hundreds of Dunlin with a smattering of both Ringed and Grey Plovers.  In addition a couple of Oystercatchers and more Curlew along with the main resting flock of both Wigeon and Teal. A lone Heron was eventually found hiding in the long grass at the back o0f the meadow and as we mad our way home, not only a pair of Greenshank just waiting to be photographed but also a Great Spotted Woodpecker hammering away in the trees at the back.  Nineteen species but still an enjoyable walk and that sighting of both the close Greenshanks and the Common Seal made it all most worthwhile.

Greenshanks Tringa nebularia

Birds seen:

Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Carrion Crow.

Feeding Dunlin and Ringed Plover on Bunny Meadow

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola

Herring Gulls Larus argentatus

Distant record shot of the Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

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