Monday 31 December 2012

Last birding trip of 2012

The weather is promising rain for New Year's day so I took the opportunity to make one last forage before the end of the year.  Out by 9.15 and up and over the local Sierra to Loja where a few hours were spent driving to the top and back, but with very little success, and then on to Huetor Tajar to see if any of the local celebrities were about - yes and no!  Meanwhile, the hills were not so much alive with the sound of music but carpeted in a beautiful sway of the lovely Broad Leaf Iris - and there were White Wagtails to be seen everywhere.

Song Thrush Zorzal Comun Turdus philomelos through the windscreen
 A steady stream of birds as soon as I left Casa Collado with Rock Dove, Serin and Goldfinch quickly followed by White Wagtail and Collared Dove. On past Ventas de Zafarraya and then sightings of Black Redstart, Azure-winged Magpies and Blackbirds.  Both Corn Bunting and Mistle Thrush on the wires as I approached the motorway and the start of the mountain track up into the Sierra Loja.  The upward journey produced first a Robin followed by Song Thrush and then the first of the Jackdaws.  Both Thekla and Crested Larks were added along with Rock Bunting before reaching the top.

Chiffchaff  MosquiteroComun Phylloscopus collybita

Too much activity in the cave area so I took a long trip up and over the top but no sign of any Ring Ouzels, Fieldfares or Redwings today.  I did have more Red-legged Partridges and both Stonechat and Goldfinch before descending with a close view of a Southern Grey Shrike.

Brambling  Pinzon Real  Fringilla montifringilla
No sign of any Little Bustards at Huetor Tajar but I did find a handful of Stone Curlews asleep in the usual field.  I was greeted by a Cormorant as I crossed the river into the village and there was a single Mallard along with a Greylag Goose below the bridge when I returned.  However, the short drive alongside the river not only produced a couple of Green and a single Common Sandpiper but a large flock of mixed finches.  Surprisingly, the majority were Bramblings but also present were Serins, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and LinnetsChiffchaffs darted here and there feeding at the river's edge and a single Grey Wagtail was also recorded.
Linnet  Pardillo Comun  Carduelis cannabina

Back home via the Salar road towards Alhama de Granada and Ventas de Zafarraya where Magpie, Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush were also added to the day's final tally of 34 species.  And so endeth the year's birding and a Happy New Year to all readers.

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Mallard, Cormorant, Stone Curlew, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Serin, Goldfich, Linnet, Rock Bunting and Corn Bunting.

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

Sunday 30 December 2012

Short-eared Owl x Four!

Sunday 30 December

Friends back to the airport in the late afternoon for their return journey home so down at the Guadalhorce, Malaga jest before 5 pm in the hope that we might see the current resident Short-eared Owls.  Greeted on arrival by a pair of over-flying Jackdaws and a Collared Dove plus a gorgeous male Black Redstart, we were up on the river bank and crossing the entry footbridge amidst numerous White Wagtails and a few Coots on the river itself along with the resident Rock Doves under the road bridge.  In front of us there was a constant flow of the numerous Cormorants as the winter roost continued to increase in size and must now total in excess of 150 individuals.  In addition, there were scores of Grey Herons to be seen plus the occasional Little Egret.

Short-eared Owl Buho Campestre Asio flammeus on the prowl

I had no sooner crossed the bridge and started to walk to the Laguna Grande and the main hide when, not so much a couple of Zitting Cisticolas bu the first Short-eared Owl flying low over the path in front.  But where was Jenny?  She had started going back tot he car but, from the bridge itself, was able to follow not only this individual but a further three that were quartering the area.  Thinking that I had not seen the owls, she telephoned to let me know but the conversation was rapidly ended as I concentrated on trying to follow the birds and obtain a half-decent photograph.  In the end, there would appear to have been a pair of the birds quartering the large field between the bridge and the Laguna Escondida whilst a bother couple were working the narrow stretch between my path and the (western) river.

Nine of the scores of Grey Herons Garza Real Ardea cinerea on the Laguna Grande

Lovely to see these birds but I did press on to check out the main water and all its Cormorants and Herons plus both Little and Black-necked Grebes, Mallards and a trio of Shovelers.  There was even a single juvenile Flamingo resting on the water.  Add on a Robin, a small flock of Spotless Starlings, Yellow-legged Gulls, a number of Chiffchaffs and those noisy the neighbours the Monk Parakeet and the species count was increasing by the minute.

Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuellinegro Podiceps nigricollis

The short walk round to the Laguna Escondida produced Teal, Pochard and White-headed Duck along with a lone Black-winged Stilt.  A female Marsh Harrier and a pair of Sardinian Warblers plus both Serin and Goldfinch added to the count and then it was back to the main track to try and get a further view of the target bird, the Short-eared Owl.  Success but only for a short while as the bird was now in front of the sun but did come to rest in the grass where I was able to get a further look.  Finally, both Stonechat and Blackbird to left the final tally to 33 species in just over the hour before making our way back home.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Short-eared Owl, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

And off we go for some more hunting!

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

Saturday 29 December 2012

Loads of Bramblings

Got and hour to spare?  If so, you had better follow John Wainwright's suggestion and pop over to the well-known Stone Curlew and Little Bustard fields on the outskirts of Huetor Tajar judging by the latest report received earlier today from John and Jenny.

Huetor Tajar  28th December 2012

Quite a warm day with very little wind.

Brambling Pinzon Real Fringilla montifringilla (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Calling into Huetor Tajar on our way back from Granada we drove round to the small stream at the north side of Huetor on the road to La Fabrika.  Here we found Green Sandpipers, Moorhens, Chiffchaffs, Woodpigeon, Collard Doves, Spotless Starlings, Goldfinch, Black Redstarts, Meadow Pipits, Crested Lark, Robin, Blackbird, House Sparrow and Chaffinch.  In the small poplar copse we found several Bramblings amongst good numbers of Chaffinches.  Lots of Lapwings about, but could not locate any Golden Plovers.

Going around the area in a circle we stopped at the ajo factory and here we found the Stone Curlews and over two dozen Bramblings feeding in the stubble fields, along with countless White Wagtails and a few Mistle Thrushes.

Continuing along the back road to Loja we located some Little Bustards in the alfalfa fields.  All this in an hour and a half of easy birding.

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

Friday 28 December 2012

A "thrushing" Good Time in Loja with Fieldfare, etc!

Sierra Loja  26th December 2012

What a report from John and Jenny Wainwright who most certainly got the best birding out of Boxing Day with almost a full-house of the common thrushes.  On the other hand, strange to miss out on the Song Thrush which would have been the one winter visitor I would have expected to have been seen.  But Redwings, Ring Ousels and a Fieldfare?  Wow!

A bright sunny day but quite low temperatures and cold wind..only 3C up top.

An Azure-winged Magpie, two Wood Pigeons, Mistle Thrush,Black Wheatear, Robin, Thekla Lark and a Chaffinch were some of the few birds we saw today on the way up to the Ring Ousel area catchment area.  Here we dipped out on the Rousels but did find twenty or so Blackbirds, lots of Mistle thrushes, a few Jackdaws and Black Redstarts.

Magpie Urraca Pica pica  (PHOTO:  John Wainwright)

We doubled back and took the track to the Charco de Negro - nothing moving here - but the ponds are full up. We carried on up to the fossil cave, here we found a huge flock of some two hundred Meadow Pipits. Moving on from here another 1.5km and at the turn off to the Puento Alto we found two Ring Ousels. The road is a dead end - three km past here - but we located a flock of ten Magpies and a Common Kestrel. Back tracking to the Puento Alto turn we sat for coffee and while doing so we found two Redwings, a single Fieldfare (only our second in Spain), several Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds all feeding in the same area. 

Mistle Thrush  Zorzal Charlo Turdus viscivorus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

On the return journey we saw four more Ring Ousels, Rock Buntings, Corn Buntings, Jackdaws, Little Owl, Chough, Common Kestrel, a pair of Sparrowhawks and a Dartford Warbler.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Fuente de Piedra

Cranes Grulla Grus grus in flight
Thursday 20 December

Not a cloud in the blue sunny sky when we set off from the Axarquia area for the last 2012 field trip of the Axarquia Bird Group at Fuente de Piedra this morning but, upon arrival, a complete cloud cover but very still and calm.. It was lovely to see so many friends in attendance with the final tally being seventeen - obviously we had either all completed our Christmas shopping or we were going to give it a miss this year!  For myself, I was rapidly going down hill with a heavy cold and very sore throat so even more miserable than usual.  Indeed, leaving Fuente to take our guests to both Cordoba and Sevilla for a couple of nights the condition rapidly deteriorated but, thankfully, feeling much better now as back at Casa Collado and well enough to tackle writing up the blog.  Looking back, it was a really productive morning with well over sixty species recorded, see list at end, and now await the first email to let me know what I have forgotten!

I think Andy Paterson may have been first to arrive and he was greeted driving down the entry road by a low-flying Merlin crossing his bows like a Scud missile on operation breakfast.  Do these lovely, lithe little death machines ever rise above ten metres?  Next up were probably John and Jenny Wainwright who managed to find the Ruff on the pool next to the boardwalk whereas the rest of us had to wait until we were actually departing the site.  Mick Richardson was probably a few minutes late but he had travelled over via the Laguna Herrera which held a good assortment of species in very wet and muddy conditions - the site that is, not the birds!  Liz and Marcus Rootes along with Bryan Stapley were present from Competa area and it was good to see Eric and Pat Lyon back with us along with their new, four-legged, addition to the family.  Yet another welcome returnee following a lengthy spell back in the UK was Malcolm and Susan Austin from Lake Vinuela.  Always good to have Janet and David from relatively nearby Antequera with us which just left Jenny and I plus our guests from Northamptonshire, England, Gordon and Sylvia Lerigo.  What they must have made of us all I have no idea but they certainly enjoyed the experience and had a chance to meet many of our friends and see what we get up to in Spain.

A small selection of the Cranes Grulla Grus grus opposite the Mirador Cantarranas

Introductions completed all round it was time to head off for the Mirador and take a general look over the main laguna and nearby pools.  Thousands of Flamingos on the main water and good-sized flocks of Gulls (mainly Black-headed and Yellow-legged with a fair smattering of Lesser Black-backs thrown in for good measure) and Shelduck were recorded.  We had already recorded Teal on the flooded field as we entered and now we found more on the small pool ion front along with Mallards and Shovelers.  Good numbers of Moorhens and Coots along with Black-winged Stilts and there seemed to have been a fresh influx of White Wagtails to the area judging by the numbers seen.  Regular view of Kestrel kept us occupied but the arrival of the first Marsh Harrier of the day certainly livened up the scene.  Similarly, every bush seemed to contain at least one feeding Chiffchaff and Sardinian Warbler was also seen.

Yet more Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus

A closer inspection of the fringe areas recorded both Little and Black-necked Grebes with Meadow Pipits moving about in the grasses.  The regular passage of flocks of Spotless Starlings also produced the occasional Common Starling (the latter having already noted the extremely wet conditions back in Britain so deciding that southern Spain was a better option for Christmas!) and, of course, you did not have to look to hard to find either Collared or Rock Dove.  Eventually, having watched a small number of Lapwing fly across the front of the main water, we also managed to see the first Jackdaw of the day.

Song Thrush Zorzal Comun Turdus philomelos

The walk round to the laguneta at the back of the Visitors Centre produced not only a small number of Gadwall but at least four Tufted Duck.  A few Pochard were added to the list.  On the way to the hide, first Greenfinch and Serin but then, when watching a very active Dartford Warbler, at least four Song Thrushes put in an appearance, posing very nicely on top of the bushes to give good vies, albeit against the light.  Lots of rabbits about but no Egyptian Mongoose on this occasion.

An interesting walk over the boardwalk and along the far path produced first a Cattle Egret followed by a number of Reed and Corn Buntings but then, amidst the small flock of House Sparrows we had some rather attractive Spanish Sparrows.  This was also the area to pick up some handsome male Stonechats.  Other species recorded included a small flock of Sky Larks and Linnets.  A Little Egret flew over as we returned towards the boardwalk.

Distant Tufted Duck Porron Monudo Aythya fuligula on the Launeta at Fuente de Piedra

Time to circumnavigate the laguna and no sooner had we left the site, first stopping to admire the lone Ruff now on the flooded field on the right along with the Teal, Black-winged Stilts and a single Snipe, than the early cars had views of a pair of Avocets, a small flock of Stone Curlews and a at least twenty Golden Plover to the left.  For some of us, we had to be content with the resting Buzzard on top of a nearby pylon.  Indeed, I was led to believe that the Stone Curlews were only seen as a result of stopping to admire a Southern Grey Shrike.

Stone Curlews Alcaravan  Burhinus oedicnemus (John Waniwright)

No sooner had we taken the left turn to follow the lake than we had our first Cranes of the day.  The more you looked the more you saw and by the time we had reached the farm to turn back towards the  village we must have recorded at least four hundred individuals.  The Mirador Cantarranas produced a number of Marsh Harriers and at least three, well hidden, Purple Swamphens.  A flock of a dozen Wood Larks was most pleasing in addition to the occasional Crested Lark on the other side of the road as we continued to watch the Cranes.  Yet another Blackcap to add to those seen near the Visitors Centre and it was time to ignore the Lapwings, Flamingos and mixed ducks to start the return leg to the village which produced first a Raven and then a Little Owl sitting happily on a stone at the side of the road and, amongst the good-sized flock of Chaffinches at least a couple of Bramblings were identified.  Some having noted Red-legged Partridge on the road and yet another Robin, the final bird seen before reaching the bar restaurant for lunch was an over-flying female Hen Harrier to take, I think, the grand total to 64 species - at the moment.  And I have a sneaky feeling that somebody mentioned both Black Redstart and a singing Cetti's Warbler so still time to amend the final total within the next few days!  Yep, they did!  So that now makes 66 species for the day!

Little Owl Mochuelo Athene noctua (Jenny wainwright)

After our lunch, John and Jenny Wainwright drove over to the Laguna Dulce to where Mick had already travelled on (picking up Red-crested Pochard) whilst we made our way to Cordoba recording many Buzzards and Ravens on the way.  Having struggled to get a good view of the Purple Swamphen, a well-exposed individual was seen wandering along a scrubby island below the road bridge over the Guadalquivir whilst Grey Herons rested a the side and Cormorants flew over.  By the time we returned on Saturday evening we had also added Hoopoe and Red Kite so a very enjoyable three days despite not feeling too well.

A very peaceful Christmas and a most happy and healthy New Year to all readers.  May 2013 be an even better birding year.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrioon the Guadalquivir at Cordoba

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle  Egret, Little Egret, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew,  Golden Plover, Lapwing, Ruff, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Crested Lark, Wood Lark, Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting and Corn Bunting.

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

Sunday 16 December 2012

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
Saturday 15 December

Awake early to a calm and cloudy day so, with rain forecast be mid-morning, I was down at the Guadalhorce in Malaga by 9 o'clock.  In the event, whilst remaining very dull and cloudy, there was no rain.  Lovely to meet a fellow birder, Malcolm Mitchell, who comes over on a monthly basis from Edinburgh to do a little birding in the area and then on to Torremolinos to see my old friend Andy Paterson before driving back up the mountain to Casa Collado.  And still no rain for the rest of the day; we could have gone over to Fuente de Piedra as originally intended after all.  But what of the birds, all 44 of them?

Approaching the footbridge there was a steady stream of Cormorants moving in and out of the site along with the first of a number of Robins.  The stone bank to the river contained many Serins and a large charm of Goldfinches along with Blackbirds, House Sparrows and Rock Doves.  The river itself was very quiet with just a single Moorhen.  However, a Blue Tit did take the opportunity to cross over to the west.  Passing the first Black Redstart I approached the Laguna Cassillas hide where, not really surprising, I discovered that water levels were extremely high.  The same was to apply to all the ponds and river with water stretching from bank to bank and, as a result, other than a handful of Black-winged Stilts, not a single wader was seen all morning.  The water itself was not over busy with a few Coots, a handful of Mallards a female White-headed Duck and a dozen or so Teal.  Then a pair of Gadwalls appeared whilst, overhead, the Crag Martins were busy feeding and the same was true of the Chiffchaffs on the bank in front of the hide.

One of three juvenile Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus

The neighbouring Wader Pool was even quieter with just a pair of Black-winged Stilts and a lone juvenile Flamingo at first.  However, patience did reveal both a Little Grebe and a few more Teal.  A pair of screaming Monk Parakeets flew over and then more Chiffchaffs appeared to feed below me. On the opposite side of the track a handful of horses had been delivered to feed on the grass and these attracted a handful of Cattle Egrets.  The first Marsh Harrier of the day pt in an appearance as it drifted inland over the  waters and then back towards the sea.

Cattle Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis or should it be a Horse Egret?

The walk down to the Sea Watch produced a Sardinian Warbler, Stonechats and White Wagtails.  The old river, Viejo Rio, held a pair of juvenile Flamingos and a couple of Teal but nothing else.  From the Sea Watch the sea held a reasonable number of Gulls, mainly Black-headed plus a small number of Yellow-legged.  However, I did manage to see a couple of Sandwich Terns feeding alongside the gulls.  The return walk to the previous hides produced Meadow Pipit, Crested Lark and calling Cetti's Warblers plus a female Pochard had appeared on the Laguna Cassilas.

Female Common Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

Again, very few birds on the Laguna Escondida but we did have a small number of White-headed Ducks at the far end and a similar number of Pochards.  A couple of Little Grebes and a single Black-necked Grebe made up the numbers.  A "colony" of Spotless Starlings (no Waxwings here) were settled in the old tree near the footbridge and so on to the Laguna Grande and its main hide where, a little later, I was joined by Malcolm.

Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus taking to the air

No gulls present but good numbers of Cormorants and at least ten Grey Herons settles around the pool.  The three juvenile Flamingos had crossed over form the far waters and were now resting on the distant island to the right.  At least three Marsh Harriers were also at their ease and then the sight of the first Booted Eagle roosting in a tree to my left and later joined by two more individuals.  Also with the Cormorants in the trees at the back of the water we had a restless Kestrel and then she was joined by a much more settle Peregrine Falcon.  In front of the hide the ever-active Chiffchaffs were joined by a Zitting Cisticola whilst in the neighbouring pool I was able to watch the movement of a Shoveler between the trees.  Finally, a second Little Egret arrived looking very white as if it had just flown out of the shower.  Whilst watching the distant resting Marsh Harriers we had the pleasure and surprise of seeing a close-to-land Gannet above the tree line and also what appeared to be an unsuccessful dive into the sea,   Meanwhile, a single Black-necked Grebe kept us occupied as it busied itself in the water immediately in front of the hide.

Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuellinegro Podiceps nigricollis
And so the morning ended as I bade my farewells to Malcolm and headed off to Andy, passing a lovely male Black Redstart on the final stretch of track, where I was greeted by a Collared Dove in his garden below which, I suppose, meant that I actually recorded 44 species during the morning!

What a tired-looking Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental Circus aeruginosus

Just in time or too late for this departing Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin and Goldfinch.

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

Thursday 13 December 2012

Ventas de Zafarraya & District

Common Kestrel  Falco Vulgar
What a beautiful morning; calm and sunny with a beautiful blue sky so what better thing to do than drive up the local mountain for some pleasurable birding.  Just a shame that the birds decided to stay in bed because finding them was very hard work in deed; virtually silent and hidden I was somewhat surprised that I actually managed to record 31 species by the time I got home in mid-afternoon.

Parking just before the tunnel entrance on the old railway track to avoid the hordes of ramblers who were in the process of organising themselves, there were a good number of Black Wheatears moving about but I had to reach almost the old station ruin before any real activity.  Then a number of feeding Crag Martins plus Black Redstart, Great Tit and Blackcap.  A sole male Blue Rock Thrush flew up to the the top of the nearby pylon and then, as always, the sound of Choughs calling.  Eventually, a trio passed overhead as I headed back to the car adding Stonechat to the list.  From here on there seemed to be numerous Chaffinches about at almost every subsequent stop.

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis

A brief stop at the "Muck Heap" produced a flock of Rock Doves, more Chaffinches and a small number of feeding Chiffchaffs and then it was on through the "Magpie Woods" (no Azure-winged Magpies seen today) and off to the left to explore the arable fields.  This produced Blackbird and the first Mistle Thrush then a rather lovely Southern Grey Shrike warming itself on the wires before adding White Wagtail, Spotless Starlings, Thekla Lark, Serin, Corn Bunting and a single (common) Magpie.

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

The pantaneta above Alhama de Granada was just as quiet with the few birds present all congregated on the dam wall.  Half a dozen Cormorants, a trio of Little Grebes, less than ten Pochards and a handful of Coots made up the numbers.  A lone Collared Dove was awaiting me on the far bank.

Little Owl  Athene noctua

Nothing to it but to head off towards the Sierra de Tereja and look for the Crossbills and what else on the mountain trail down to Alcaucin.  But first Linnets, Goldfinches and a solitary Little Owl as I crossed back from Alhama towards Zafarraya, the last in exactly the same spot as when seen in the November visit.  What a disappointment the mountain track turned out to be.  Nothing until I got down to the lower picnic site (the higher level track is now in a very bad condition) and then just a single Crossbill waiting for me in the usual Eucalyptus tree opposite the car park.  And even she had departed by the time I returned from a short circuit around the area.  You just have to know when you are beaten so home I headed!


Crossbill Loxia curvirostra

Birds seen:
Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Kestrel. Coot, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Thekla Lark, White Wagtail, Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill, Corn Bunting.

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

Sierra Loja & Embalse Bermejales

Now that the new site is up and running I have received a couple of short reports from John and Jenny Wainwright to bring me up to date with what I have been missing out here whilst away in the very cold UK.  Many thanks John.

Sierra Loja  8th December 2012

A bright day; 16C down below but only 5C up top.

Very little to see until the cliff section where we saw Blackbird, Rock Bunting, Robin, Stonechat, Goldfinches, Thekla Larks, a single Dartford Warbler, Red-legged Partridges and Black Redstart.  Again, not a lot of bird movement except the odd Black Redstart and Thekla Lark until we reached the large catchment area, where we saw good numbers of Mistle Thrushes, Rock Buntings and great views of a juvenile Sparrowhawk as it cruised the hillside hoping to flush a meal out.  No sign of Ring Ousels yet!!

The ponds (Charca de Negro) were surrounded by people so we moved on to the fossil cave area where we picked up a Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, a large flock of Meadow Pipits and Linnets.  On the way down a small flock of Jackdaws, a few Collared Doves, a Wood Pigeon and some Spotless Starlings.

Bermejales  11th December 2012

Quite a warm day in the sun, chilly out of it.

We had a busy morning so we decided to pop over to the Bermejales embalse - close to Alhama de Granada.  We took the route through Morelada and then the back road past the Cacin dam.  Water level was quite high here, hence no waders, but, we did get Pochard, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, White Wagtails, Magpie, Azure-winged Magpies and a few Corn Buntings.

Bonelli's Eagles Aguila-azor Perdicera Hieraelus fasciatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

We then took the "rough road" that runs parallel to the Cacin Gorge and here we saw Rock Sparrows, Goldfinches, Rock Buntings, Mistle Thrushes, Corn Buntings and a Sardinian Warbler.  A pair of Bonelli´s Eagles soaring above the gorge was spotted by Jenny.

At the embalse - which is very low considering the rain we have had - we spotted  several White Wagtails, Crossbills, Azure-winged Magpies, Wood Pigeon, Chiffchaffs, Great Tits and a Crested Lark.  A Short-toed Treecreeper was heard on my walk here.

On the drive back we saw four Common Buzzards, Spotless Starlings, Collared Doves and a Blackbird.

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

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Where's the Rio Velez?

Now back at Casa Collado and decided that I ought to take a look at the local birding patch so took myself off down to the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar for the morning.  Morning?  An hour would have been plenty of time.  

The new extended lagoon with side arms at the Rio Velez, Torre del Mar
On arrival at the coast end of the site, having been warned that here was a large muddy pool under the bridge, I parked up and set off for the beach with the intention of walking a reverse course to that normally taken.  Reaching the mouth of the river I soon discovered what had been going on over the past three weeks since the torrential rain that we received just before my departure to the UK.  The track had received a delivery of mud, sand and goodness know else and was now about a foot higher than previous.  The large side walls protecting the meadow were now hardly bigger than humps at the side.  At first I assumed that the walls had been washed away but on closer inspection I saw, s above, that rather than the walls being lower the path was higher!  The sea had surged in and reached the old concrete build and has now carved out a metre deep cliff in front of the concrete wall.

Looking upstream towards the N340 road bridge

As for the lagoon, what lagoon?  The water coming downstream and has both washed away and scoured the banks on either side so removing all the bushes and wild shrubs from the meadow.  At the same time, having reached the town-side bank, all the vegetation has been torn out along with much of the bamboo cover.  Where once there was a meandering stream that increased in width during the rainy months, there is now a full-flowing river albeit the water has now receded slightly.  At its peak the water must have been form bank to bank, approaching an hundred metres down stream, so leaving no shingle banks for the small waders and no vegetation for the many warblers and Nightingales when they return next spring.
The newly-created island in the former lagoon

As for the actual mouth of the river, we are used to a range of self-made channels that link the river to the sea but there is now one almighty wide river mouth.  Indeed, the silt brought down by the Rio Velez has created parallel spits on either side which seem to stretch out into the sea for about fifty or more metres.  They must be solid as fishermen were already making use of this natural pier.  And looking closely, I would think that the gap between the end of the two spits is shallow enough to walk across the short distance as they curve in towards each other; but it might be a little on the chilly side at this time of the year.
An overall view showing the wider lagoon

So what of the birds?  I was greeted by a pair of Chiffchaffs and soon added both White Wagtail and Crested Lark.  On the whole, tough, there was very little about apart from the large mixed flock of Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls on the river and I did manage to count three Moorhens and a single Grey Heron as I walked upstream.  The return walk back down the track produced a number of Goldfinches and Serins plus the delight of the morning, a small flock of about a dozen plus Sky Larks.  A few noisy Monk Parakeets passed overhead and, as to be expected, the resident Rock Dove colony had survived the rains.
 Black-headed Gaviota Reidora Larus ridibundus and Yellow-legged Gulls Gaviota Patiamarilla Larus michahellis

The occasional Blackbird flew over the river and I did see a pair of Robins disputing the available territory.  The growing fields produced Stonechat, Black Redstart and Greenfinch along with a few House Sparrows and, as well as the Moorhens, three Mallards seemed to be happy with the new water arrangements.

A final total of a miserly twenty species was supplemented by the sight of Kestrel, Little Egret and some low-flying Crag Martins along with a number of Spotless Starlings.  Finally, a Blue Rock Thrush and a small party of Chaffinches on the mountain meant that I returned home having recorded 25 species for the morning.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Skylark, White Wagtail, Crag Martin, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow

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