Saturday 30 March 2013

Ventas de Zafarrya and Sierra Tejeda

Friday 29 March

Eldest son, David over for five nights with Caroline and they were keen to join me on a little birding to see how our Spanish birds might differ form those regularly seen in their large, wooded garden.  Rain promised for the first two days so we manage to get a visit over to the Alhambra at Granada completed but, instead of rain, we had some lovely sunny weather.  Serious rain promised for their last two days and sun and probable rain for Saturday so it was an easy choice in selecting Good Friday where, at least, we had the promise of dry weather id some what cloudy.  And "good" it was in just about all aspects.  The Ventas de Zaffarya railway track was a little on the very cool side with a gusty wind behind us on the outward journey but thereafter the clouds cleared away and the day became quite warm with glorious sunshine and very little cloud.  Wonderful and just goes to show that you accept weather forecasts as sound advice but not necessarily a "God given" as they say.

The four of us, including brother-in-law Chris who had also arrive the same day, had no sooner driven round the corner form Casa Collado and we had a lovely Rock Bunting on the track in front of us.  Finding it in the nearby shrub also produced a Sardinian Warbler and these were quickly followed by a pair of Great Tits and yet another Thekla Lark and we had only travelled less than 500 metres.  Add on a number of Spotless Starlings and we were well on our way to "non-British" birds.

Greeted by a Collared Dove on arrival at the Ventas de Zafarraya mirador we were soon hearing the Chough calls and before long were seeing the birds in front of and over the usual nesting cliff face.  Great silhouettes as they flew over and then on up the track and through the tunnel picking up numerous Black Wheatears.  Once through the tunnel, we picked up a pair of Ravens followed by a male Blue Rock Thrush.  A single Blackbird made an appearance followed by a quartet of Rock Buntings.  Checking out the distant slopes I suddenly had a rather lovely male Montagu's Harrier slowly quartering the slopes until it disappeared from view below the track.  Returning to the cars we had but one single Crag Martin come out and fly round the tunnel.

However, very few birds were seen, but we did have a good sighting of a pair of Ibex watching us from the top of the cliffs, and we decided to head off towards the "Magpie Woods" in the hope of some flashing blue but we were to be disappointed.  We had our first Mistle Thrush and another Blackbird, not to mention House Sparrows as we drove through the growing fields, and so we continued westwards to try and locate some close views of Corn Buntings and lark.  In this we were to be successful.  A number of Corn Buntings on the wires and both Spotless Starlings and Crested Larks on the stony ground just beyond the last farm on the road towards the "broken" road leading to Loja.

Departing Short-toed Lark Terrera Comun Calandrella brachydactyla
Stopping to check out the fields for Calandra Larks, Caroline was the first to spot the many small flocks of little brown birds.  Finally, I manage to get my bins on the birds, they were so well camouflaged once on the ground, but I had managed to pick up a handful of Calandra Larks, also seen by the others, before locating many of Caroline's Short-toed Larks, no doubt recently arrived back from their winter holiday.  Whilst Caroline was also the first to find a (common) Magpie, a pair at the far side of the field, my bird of the day was a Black-eared Wheatear sitting in front of us at the side of the road; my first for the year.  

Mission accomplished, the plan was to make our way back to Ventas de Zafarraya for a coffee (to be accompanied by a small party of Mistle Thrushes immediately outside the venta) and try out a little "off-roading" as we tackled the mountain track down through the Sierra Tejeda to Alcaucin, calling in at the picnic sites on the way.  But bonus after bonus, no sooner had we returned to the Magpie Woods that we had first a single Wood Pigeon and then a small flock of those rather handsome Azure-winged Magpies which gave very good sightings of both their coloured wings  and lovely head markings.

Record shot of Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
I thought I was joking when I said "off-roading" knowing that at the top end of the track there was a short section with deep ruts that we would have to carefully navigate by either driving close to the edge or straddling the ruts themselves.  What I did not expect to find was that heavy vehicles had returned and churned up another section into a mud hole with deep ruts before we even reached the "promised" land. To continue or turn back, that was the question.  We had only added Goldfinches to the day;'s total and their seemed to be a very narrow width of unused grass between the track and ditch which might accept the off-side wheels so, placing the car into locked four-wheel drive the decision was taken to push on.  (Hopefully not literally as I dread to think how deep the mud might have been and we were all wearing trainers!)  Hairy, scary but a successful navigation both through mud and over the ruts to reveal a pair of Booted Eagles above us. 

Distant Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra
I think the last time until further notice that I will want/ be able to complete the full track but, soon after, we were at the top picnic site.  Second disappointment, for us, the masses had arrived for eater week-end and were obviously not wanting to camp at the lower site.  However, apart from a few Chaffinches and more Serins we did manage to locate a handful of Crossbills so that we could all get good views, albeit the sun produced more of a silhouette than a good colour identification.  Next it was down for a quick check  of the lower picnic site but this was really busy.  We simply stayed long enough to find at least three Nuthatches before continuing on down and back to Casa Collado.

John and Jenny might have rushed home to avid the arriving rain whereas we were probably trying to get out of the heat!  Greenfinches driving back up the track and then David had a go at capturing a distant Stonechat to take our final tally for the day to a not-too disappointing 30 species.

Male Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus (PHOTO: David Wright)

Birds seen:
Booted eagle, Montagu's Harrier, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Short-toed lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Azure-winged magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Rock Bunting and Corn Bunting.

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

Laguna Dulce with the Wainwrights

Whilst I am still trying to sort myself out and get my short blog posted I was very pleased to received the following from John and Jenny Wainwright who had ventured forth along the A92 to Fuente de Piedra and the Campillos lakes.  My word they seem to have had a good morning's birding but somewhat indifferent weather.  Shame really as we had lovely weather that got better, rather than worse, as the day went on!

Read on for John's report.

Laguna Dulce & Redonda  Friday 29 March

Overcast with scattered showers, a few sunny periods en route to one of our favourite destinations, Laguna Dulce, we saw Spotless Starlings, Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons, Jackdaws, four Chough and a ring-tail Montagu´s Harrier.

Great Crested Grebe Somormujo Lavanco Podiceps cristatus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

The wind had picked up quite a bit by the time we had parked outside the hide - but at least it wasn´t blowing directly into the hide - which made birding more comfortable.  The water level was so high here - it had almost reached the hide - but in a good way, as it had brought the birds that bit nearer for photos.  Our first sightings were of Common Coot and Great Crested Grebes, the latter was parading in front of a female with a newt in its beak. This occurred several times during our visit here . The next sighting was of a Crested Coot (uncollared), this stayed in and round the area - calling the whole time we were there. Then a dark mass appeared up the top of the reed bed, this turned out to be a Purple Swamphen, it was shadowed in the water below by another.  Also to our front we could see Common and Red-crested Pochards, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Shovelers, a single Mallard and a couple of Moorhens.

Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

In the bushes a Cetti´s Warbler was heard and several Chiffchaffs were noted along with Goldfinches, Corn Buntings, Serins and a Hoopoe. The plaintiff call of a Little Owl was heard but we never saw the bird.

Across the laguna we spotted a Buzzard and a female Marsh Harrier, which in turn put up several Whiskered Terns and a Green Sandpiper and as the harrier flew over the back of the reed beds it was mobbed by a couple of Lapwings and then a Grey Heron joined in the mobbing.  On the water at the far end of the laguna we found White-headed Ducks in the company of Teal, Shovelers and Gadwall.  Lots of gulls about with Black-headed being the most numerous, mixed with  a smattering of Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backs.  On the grass bank behind the laguna a pair of Shelduck were spotted. 

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

The sky started blackening over now and this brought massive influx of hirundines, including three Alpine Swifts as well as Common and a couple of Pallids; a few Barn Swallows were seen also.
Everything seemed to quieten down for a while then a Zitting Cisticola flew across the front of the hide and in the distance over by the ruin a Booted Eagle soared, this put up a small group of seven Little Bustards, which we hadn´t seen skulking in the grasses.

Redonda Laguna:

The rain started blowing into the hide so we made our way over to the Redonda lagoon.  Here on the flooded fields to our right we saw Coots, Moorhens, Black-winged Stilts and Little Grebe.  From the hide at Redonda we found Black-winged Stilts, Pochard and Little Grebe.  Across the fields here we could see Common Swifts and Barn Swallows, Corn Buntings and six Common Kestrels were hawking the crest of the hills.  A lone Calandra Lark rose up from the fields singing but quickly dropped down out of sight again, as the rain started again.

We decided to make our way back as it was getting quite cold now.  On the flooded fields along the Antequera road (A384) we found Greater Flamingos, Avocet, Black-winged Stilts, a Sandwich Tern and a huge raft of mixed gulls were present. A little further on and just prior to the Bobidilla turn-off, a Black Kite appeared putting up a flock of some eleven or twelve Little Bustards - from the area we had seen them a fortnight ago.

A nice end to the day as the rain started in earnest.

Great report John, lovely photos Jenny and what marvellous birds.  So completely different from the small selection that I had up in the Sierra Tejeda.

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

Wednesday 27 March 2013

The Bee-eaters are back!


First morning of their holiday and having arrived in the late evening the first opportunity for our son to see our house and the surrounding vistas.  No sooner had we breakfasted and taken a walk along the terrace to take a look at the sea than we heard that unmistakable call of the Bee-eater.  You would hardly call it a song, let alone the "voice of a Nightingale;" more a Thekla Lark with a stomach ache was how I first described it  upon arrival out here in Spain and that still seems to best fit what I look forward to hearing about this time every year, somewhere between the last week of March and first week of April.

Bee-eater  Abejaruco Europeo  Merops apiaster

Wonderful and so please that we could welcome our birds back at the same time as our family.

Then it was off down to Torre del Mar to walk the promenade and town centre before a Menu del Dia and back to Casa Collado.  By the time we got back we had also added Cattle and Little Egret, both Thekla  and Crested Lark, Stonechat, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Spotless Starling, Serin and Goldfinch.  Not bad when you think  that five of the above are new birds for a British resident and many will have not picked up either Little Egret a or Stonechat.  Come the week-end I think a drive up the mountain to Ventas de Zafarraya might be in order so that we can add Black Wheatear, Crag martin, Rock Bunting, possible Alpine Swift and maybe even a Griffon Vulture and/or Short-toed Eagle if we are lucky.  We shall see.

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

Tuesday 26 March 2013

First Wheatears and Purple Herons for Year

Pochard Porron Europeo Aythya ferina

Needed to be at the airport for 3 pm to collect brother-in-law so left early so that I could spend a few hours at the Guadalhorce in Malaga.  Greeted by Collared Doves when I arrived at 10.30 and then a trio of Mallards flew over the western arm followed by the first of a number of Cormorants that are still at the site.  Naturally, there were Spotless Starlings to be seen and a sole Woodchat Shrike as I made my way to the Laguna Escondida to check out the  small water.  On the whole very quiet with just a handful of White-headed Ducks, a couple of Shovelers hiding at the far end and a few Barn Swallows feeding over the water.  But a Hoopoe did fly past to give a little variety.

Booted Eagle Aguila Calzada Hieraaetus pennalus
Leaving the hide and making my way to the main hide at the Laguna Grande I could see a Booted Eagle resting on the "feeding post" which, very conveniently, remained on post until I arrived at the main hide and could take some distant photographs.  The main water itself held a good number of White-headed Ducks, they are certainly pouring in now, along with both Little and displaying Black-necked Grebes.  Lots of Black-winged Stilts and about a score of Cormorants whilst on the island at the far right back a trio of Grey Herons, a Little Egret and a Spoonbill were either resting or feeding.  To my left and in front more Shovelers, a Pochard, a small number of Coots and the occasional Moorhen.  In the nearby bushes I had a number of both Serins and Goldfinches and then Andy Paterson and his sister Gay arrived, having already checked out the eastern arm of the river and walked the beach.  With them they brought news of a first Northern Wheatear so I immediately took my leave and walked down to the beach path to check for myself.  Yes, found the bird within a couple of metres where Andy had seen the Wheatear and then a quick look at the beach produced a pair of Black-headed Gulls resting on the sand before heading back to the hide.  The Wheatear was now exactly where Andy had described but, much to his chagrin, had been joined by two others.  Meanwhile, a pair of Greenfinches were recorded along with a male Blackcap immediately in front of the hide and then a single, swimming Avocet.

White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucopephala pair
Time for Andy and gay to depart so I walked back to the car with them, recording House Martins on the way, to exchange the camera for my scope in readiness to return to the eastern arm and the wader pools.

Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia with Grey Herons Garza Real Ardea cinerea
Returning, I had the usual Rock Doves under the bridge and a very close Zitting Cisticola just after crossing the footbridge.  Approaching the Laguna Casillas and its hide a quartet of squawking Monk Parakeets dashed over whilst a handful of Linnets were feeding in a bush opposite the hide itself.  From the hide it was, again, very obvious that the White-headed Ducks had returned with a vengeance but there were also a couple of Pochards and Mallard.  A pair of Gadwall and it was time to move  on to the Wader Pool.

Black-winged Stilts  Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
Approaching the Wader Pool I came across my Danish friend Claus Pedersen who was busy trying to locate Bluehroats between the two pools but did join me at the hide from where we could see a single Avocet and fifty-five Black-winged Stilts.  Having already had at least thirty on the Laginua Grande and a further seventy-five were to be counted on the Rio Viejo, it was most apparent that a serious movement of these birds was currently underway.  The, from south to north, the appearance of four Purple Herons heading inland up river.  At this point Eric and Pat Lyon suddenly appeared in front of us and they, too, were on airport duty but having just deposited their passenger. Again, more news of what might be seen if we ventured forth to the beach.

Purple Heron Garza Imperial Ardea purpurea

A couple of Crested Larks were seen to the left and, apart from all the Black-winged Stilts, there was also another Avocet (the third), a pair of Redshank and a single Ruff to be seen on the Rio Viejo.  Behind these birds we also found two pairs of Teal.

At the Sea Watch we picked up a good-sized mixed flock of Gulls, mainly Yellow-legged but also a number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  To the right a small group of Mediterranean Gulls were also identified with a couple if full black headgear.  There must have been at least thirty Common Scoters split into two distinct rafts and then a very hungry/greedy Great Skua arrived and put the whole flock into the sky whilst it selected its victim and harried it all around the bay in front of us until it gave up whatever ii had caught for lunch.   From the Sea Watch we also saw the Blue Rock Thrush that Claus had discovered last week, and on the same post near the river.  It certainly sounds like a lost soul to me!

A very timid male Blackcap Curruca Capirotada Sylvia atricapilla
Black-necked Grebes  Zampullin Cuellinegro  Podiceps nigricollis
Returning to the previous hides I added a swimming Purple Swamphen at the first and by now the air was alive with feeding Barn Swallows and House Martins as the skies cleared the temperature rose and rose to give a very warm session.  Nearing the footbridge a couple of White Wagtails were on the footpath and then, at the car, the first Kestrel of the day along with a number of House Sparrows.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Common Scoter, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ruff, Redshank, Great Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail,  Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Zitting Cisticola, Blackcap, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Linnet.

 A record shot of the newly-arrived Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe

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

Monday 25 March 2013

Birding Bonus!

Amazing!  Just when you think you have had a marvellous day's birding with the Axarquia Bird Group last Thursday - and in glorious sunny weather - picked up Golden Eagle, Cirl Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crossbill and most of the resident tits, along comes another bird to add to the already good list. 

There were lots of Serins and Goldfinches about that we tend now not to bother to photograph them. But then comes along an individual who posses very conveniently so, almost out of habit, you point, focus and grab a photo just for record purposes.  Imagine, then, the pleasure, if not utter surprise, on Steve's face when looking at the said picture of the "Goldfinch" something seems wrong and the proverbial bells start ringing.  This is not a Golfinch nor Serin; all those black markings can mean only one thing, I have found me a Siskin.  I bet now that Steve wishes he had realised at the time, and apart from drawing the attention to the rest of the group, taken far more shots!

Siskin Lugano Carduelis spinus at the higher picnic site above Alcaucin (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

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

Sunday 24 March 2013

Great Bustards, Sandgrouse and all the Harriers

Saturday 23 March

The recently postponed meeting of the monthly field visit of the Andalucia Bird Society was duly completed yesterday with the forecast promising dry, cloudy weather until midday followed by cloud and rain for a couple of hours and then more persistent and heavy rain.  We may well complain about rubbish weather forecasts but this was spot on (forget "spot" more like "buckets" on)!  On the other hand we did get to see a great variety of special birds.

Meeting on the outskirts of Osuna in Sevilla Province, for the first time I covered the Osuna, La Lantejuela triangle in a clockwise  direction, the intent being to concentrate on trying to find the small resident population of Great Bustards.  Over twenty of us present and all of us managed to get distant, but very clear, views of this magnificent bird including displaying males.
Marsh Harrier  Aguilucho Lagunero  Circus aeruginosus

Leaving Osuna on the back road we soon had regular sightings on the fences of both Crested Larks and Corn Buntings and a fast departing Hoopoe took to the trees before regular stops as first Marsh Harrier and then a rather large female Montagu´s Harrier passed overhead - and what stick the latter gave the Marsh Harrier.  Before reaching the first high railway bridge over the new trackbed for the high-speed train, we had also recorded Hen Harrier and a single Common Buzzard.  However, it was to be the second bridge that gave the first sightings of Great Bustards with a pair being picked up by some of the group, one either side of the railway.  A number of marsh Harriers were resting on the fields and there was a constant passage of Montagu´s including some rather handsome male birds at close quarters.  Why did I not think to get the camera out of the car_  Too bust watching the spectacle. me thinks.  Also from this bridge we had our first of many Red-legged Partridges and a pair of Ravens.  Meanwhile, sitting ans singing away of¡n the track fence was a rather lovely Common Whitethroat and three small brown birds.  Forget Passer domesticus, these were Spanish Sparrows and, again, I think all managed to get good views of both species.  It made the movement of the local Spotless Starlings seem almost irrelevant. 

Montagu´s Harrier  Aguilucho Papialbo  Circus macrourus
 Before finally reaching the third bridge with its road over leading towards La Lantejuela, we also had the first of quite a number of Black Kites and a single Red Kite in the distance.  The fields to our left also produces a pair of "grazing" Mallards and a single Grey Heron just to break up the "monotony" of all the raptors that were being seen and recorded.

Then, having determined that the Great Bustards were probably in field that could be seen from the above third bridge, we all moved on once again.  How right we were were!  Whilst one member thought he had a distant Great Bustard I had a nearer, and very clear, fertiliser bag on the edge of the field.  At least it was until it turned round and moved a step or two!  From then on we all had great views through the scopes and managed to pick up a total of about eight individuals of ths resident flock including some great displaying males.  In future I shall have to think "fertiliser bags" rather than "sheep" when trying to locate these marvellous birds!  Some also managed to record a Little Bustard as it popped its head up from the covering grass.  Whilst on the bridge, not only did we have the first Red-rumped Swallow of the morning fly over to add to the Barn Swallows and House Martins already seen but also a first Lesser Kestrel.  The arrival of a single Alpine Swift had members looking skywards and next the shout went up as a trio of Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew over our heads.  One other stranger was seen from this vantage point; a very pale Black Kite had quite a number of us trying to solve this little mystery.

Great Bustards Avutarda Comun  Otis tarda

By now it was midday and, as we moved off, the first spots of rain began to decorate the cars.  But the primary objective had been achieved; find the Great Bustards.  A stop near the old farm produced a flock of Lesser Kestrels plus a solitary Common Kestrel whilst, in the fields opposite, a small flock of Calandra Larks was located.  And so it was on the the village of La Lantejuela for lunch but not before checking out the small reserve in the village which, once again, was closed.  However, from the upper viewing platform we did locate Moorhens, Little Grebe and a pair of Shoveler.  Indeed, driving down the small lane to this reserve the latter cars even had the local White Stork accompany them carrying its latest contribution to the nest.  (We were to be informed in the bar that the village holds just the single pair of breeding White Storks.)
After a short coffee break I was off to explore the Laguna de la Ballestera whilst the remaining members of the party enjoyed their meal.  Catching me up a little later, and now quite wet with a steady rainfall, we were all able to confirm the sightings of many Flamingos, Coot and Shoveler. A Red Kite flew over, having already passed a rather bedraggled individual resting on an electricity pylon.  Also on the water were a number of Black-winged Stilts, a small number of Black-headed Gulls and a pair of Avocets.  A distant Yellow Wagtail (Flava Iberiae) was recorded before a single Stone Curlew came out of the olive grove and flew over the water.  Meanwhile, on the rise at the top of the field, we managed to record a Woodchat Shrike resting in a small bush and as we made our way back to the cars the single Red-crested Pochard at the back of the laguna took off to find better company.

Greater Flamingos Flamenco Comun  Phoenicopterus roseus
 So we left accompanied by a single passing Blackbird to our next stop, final stop for many of the party, at the weed-infested, overgrown water of Laguna de lasTurquillas, where, apart form a number of Coots and a pair of Mallards, the predominate duck present was at least fifty Red-crested Pochards.  (That´s where our previous bird was off to!)  Frank picked up a calling Cetti´s Warbler from below. Overhead and over the water and reeds numerous Barn Swallows and House Martins were busy feeding along with the occasional Red-rumped Swallow and a handful of Pallid Swifts.  However, it was pleasing to also see a couple of early Common Swifts also present.

Red-crested Pochard  Pato Colorado  Netta rufina

Moving round the corner and on to a very small parking place opposite the Laguna de Calderon, I found Peter and his car party looking at yet more Flamingos and Shoveler but, in addition, they had also managed to find both a Black-necked and Great Crested Grebe plus a single Green Sandpiper.  However, their best sighting whilst we were still at the last water, was a distant Osprey which managed to put up the Flamingo flock a passing Peregrine Falcon on the road side of the water as it shot past like the proverbial "bat out of hell".  Very lucky, too, for them to get this view.

With the thought that the rain might ease off and having to pass the salinas of Fuente de Piedra on the way home, a mere thirty minutes or so ahead of me, I decided  to drop in and check out the flooded fields towards the Mirador Vicaria.  It also seems that I was not the only one with this thought in mind seeing the cars that were in the main car park!  Whilst much of the observation was done from the car, although the rain did ease off sufficiently for me to take a closer look at both of the main flooded areas, I did manage to add a handful of waders to the day´s list in addition to the Cattle Egret and both White and Yellow Wagtail.  Only a couple of Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff, both now looking quite splendid in their rapidly-approaching summer uniforms but at least five Snipe, a handful of Redshanks and a single Common Sandpiper.  Finally, it was pretty obvious judging by the movement over the road, that the Gull-billed Terns had also returned from their winter migration.

I am not sure how many species as a whole the group recorded but, given the conditions from midday onwards, I was more than pleased to get home with a final total of 50.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Heron, Osprey, Red Kite, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Montagu´s Harrier, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Little Bustard, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Ruff, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Collared Dove, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-crested Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Cetti´s Warbler, Whitethroat, Woodchat Shrike, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Corn Bunting.

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

Sierra Loja with John and Jenny

Whilst we were enjoying the sunshine down at the Rio Velez and the Sierra Tejeda, John and Jenny Wainwright were once more up their local, and I suspect favourite, mountain at the Sierra Loja.  Looks like they, once again, managed to find some good birds including the first Black-eared Wheatear of the year.

Sierra Loja  21 March

A  very warm day even at the top of Sierra Loja.  

We could not attend the next meeting of the group as we had prior appointments, but we did manage two hours up the Sierra Loja.  Our first encounters were of Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, Wood Pigeons, Rock Buntings, Chaffinches, Great Tits, Mistle Thrushes, Blackbirds and Serins, Crossbills and Wrens were heard but we couldn´t locate them. 

Black Wheatear  Collalba Negra Oenanthe leucura  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
At the hidden quarry the air was inundated with House, Crag and Sand Martins and a few Barn Swallows were seen also. It is also good to see that the Yellow Violet (Viola demetria) are in flower again.

Yellow Violet  Viola demetria  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
On the cliffs we saw Jackdaws, Chough, Black Redstart, Red-legged Partridges were very vocal here, and then a pair of Black Wheatears.  Just as we were setting off a pair of Lesser Kestrels  were seen.

Black Rubia  Collalba Negra Oenanthe hispanica  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
In the shrubbed area higher up we saw Sardinian Warblers, Stonechats and a few Linnets.  As we climbed the slope to the substation valley a Black-eared Wheatear (first of the year) was spotted along with two Thekla Larks and a Black Redstart.

Nothing extra on the way back home.

Looks like Jenny is once more in charge of the camera as all the photographs are hers!

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

Friday 22 March 2013

Axarquia Bird Group Field visit - March

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
Thursday 21 March

Every year the mouth of the Rio Velez is rearranged with new outlets to the sea following the winter rains but this year we have seen, for the first time in ten years or more, a complete reconstruction of the banks themselves between the lowest road bridge and the beach.  Gone is much of the vegetation and cover so it remains to be seen what effect this will have on our summer Reed Warblers, Cetti’s Warblers and Nightingales.  This month’s field visit by the Axarquia Bird Group certainly let members see the damage to the Rio Velez that has resulted following the rains when, on a beautiful, clear, warm and sunny day nine members met near the old road bridge and proceeded along the track to the beach and back and, by the time we got back to our cars, had recorded a rather lovely, and surprising, total of 39 species.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Great to see Patrick Raines from Canillas de Albaida, Eric Lyons from Sayalonga, Steve and Elena Powell from Frigiliana, Ian Kirk who had travelled over from Benalmadena, new members David and Ann Jefferson from Torrox and visiting UK birder Nigel Smith who was holiday in Nerja.  So we nine set off down the river towards the sea where the water not only stretched from bank to bank but, following the opening of the sluice gates up at Lake Vinuela was a fast-flowing surge heading seawards.  A quartet of Mallards flying over were presumably deciding where best to put down the undercarriage and it was certainly amusing to watch one of the drakes go "flying" past in the current a few minutes later like a latter-day surfer.  With both Steve and David complete with cameras and mine in the car for later, there was to be no shortage of photographs - as will be seen ion this blog!

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti (Steve Powell)
Back to the birds.  Good numbers of Blackbirds were in evidence and from the road to the pump house we had a mixture of small birds including Chiffchaff, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Greenfinch, Cetti's Warbler, and Crested Larks.  The usual gang of resident Rock Doves had not been moved on from favoured resting places below the bridge and atop the large trees on the  opposite side of the track’s start but nothing on or near the water’s edge.  Spotless Starlings were seen on the wires and then our first Woodchat Shrike of the year which stayed long enough for all to get good views.  The occasional Moorhen made a dash for the safety of the opposite bank as we walked down and then a single Little Egret came flying down the river to try and find some sort of feeding place.

At the pumphouse we managed to record both Serin and Goldfinch plus a couple of Hoopoes on the river-side meadow.  A Ringed Plover was found feeding on a very small island along with the earlier quartet of Mallards.  Behind the pumphouse a Little Ringed Plover took off from the fields and headed for the river.  Meanwhile, as we crossed the meadow to the far end of the river to overlook the lagoon, only a handful of Cormorants were seen and, likewise, there was only a small number of gulls in the mixed flock.  However, five species were identified including the over-flying Mediterraneans, the others being Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legged and a single Audouin’s Gull

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus over the Rio Velez (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

On the water’s edges besides a number of passing Crested Larks we found at least eight Sanderlings, a single Kentish Plover and Common Redshank, both White and Yellow Wagtails, the latter of the Iberiae subspecies, and a very obliging Zitting Cisticola which refused to move on until everyone present had both admired and photographed him – apart from me having left the camera in the car.  Still in the same area we managed to hear and then see at least two Cetti’s Warblers.  Meanwhile, the single Avocet that has been in the area for a couple of days flew past giving good views as did a couple of Meadow Pipits.  Also present in the area were a number of Barn Swallows and a few House Martins feeding over the water and fields and on the way back to the cars we naturally picked up a couple of Monk Parakeets.  Finally, whilst sorting ourselves out for part two of the morning’s field visit, we had a mixed flock of Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Serins, House Martin and a single Corn Bunting near most of the cars whilst, on crossing the old bridge to collect their cars, both Ian and David were able to add Kestrel and Cattle Egret to the morning’s list.

Golden Eagle Aquilachrysaetos
Next it was on the picnic sites above Alcaucin to see what LBJs might be found there. Eric, arriving first, had a couple of Choughs passing over at a high altitude along with a Nuthatch on the ground immediately in front of him.  Not to worry, there were plenty of Nuthatches for the rest of us along with many Chaffinches and Crossbills, albeit the latter were further away than usual.  Overhead, at a very high altitude, an adult Golden Eagle made its way westwards.  Once amongst the table below the trees we soon added a variety of tits including Long-tailed, Coal, Blue and Great Tit whilst a single Robin was found skulking in the undergrowth.  A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers arrive in the usual “Crossbill tree” and a Green Woodpecker was heard yaffling away in front of us. 

A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos major at Alcaucin picnic site
Steve managed to find and photograph a female Firecrest and then it was on up to the higher picnic site where we had much closer views of Crossbills and Chaffinches along with another Great Tit and a lone Reed Bunting hiding in the hedgerow.  The track near the top was not a sight for the feint-hearted but we eventually made the main road but not before a Cirl Bunting had moved off from in front of the car.  No sooner onto the main road and heading back towards Ventas de Zafarraya and not a Southern Grey Shrike but a Mistle Thrush on the wires.

Female Crossbill Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: David Jefferson)

Skulking Robin Erithacus rubecula
Time to stop for a well-earned break by taking a Menu del Dia at the usual bar near the old railway bridge.  And having got this far it would have been a shame to carry on home without first checking out the old railway track up to and just through the tunnel.  Lots of Black Wheatears but only a very small number of Coughs on the “wrong” side of the road until the resident breeding pair of Peregrine Falcons took to the air above the cliff and that soon got the bulk of the Choughs out into the open for all to see.  Add on a good number of Crag Martins, a plentiful supply of Stonechats, a couple of Blackbirds and nearly all had been seen.  But then, of course, we had to successfully find both Black Redstart and another Rock Bunting before, eventually, locating a Blue Rock Thrush.  The watchful eyes of a trio of Ibex on the cliff above us was an added bonus.

Displaying Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura at Zafarray (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

Rock Bunting Emveriza cia (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Great Tit Parus major (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
So, eventually, down the mountain to our respective cars and the onward journeys home – but not before picking up a number of Collared Doves on the way to take the day’s final total to 61 species.  And more if members discover any birds that I have missed!

Kamikaze Crag Martins Ptyonoprogne rupestris at Zafarraya (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

Male Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius

And even the local Ibex Capra pyrenaica took an interest in our visit

Birds seen:

Mallard; Gannet; Cormorant; Cattle Egret; Little Egret; Golden Eagle; Kestrel; Peregrine Falcon; Moorhen; Avocet; Little Ringed Plover; Ringed Plover; Kentish Plover; Sanderling; Redshank; Mediterranean Gull; Black-headed Gull; Audouin’s Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Yellow-legged Gull; Rock Dove; Collared Dove; Monk Parakeet; Hoopoe; Green Woodpecker; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Crested Lark; Crag Martin; Barn Swallow; House Martin; Meadow Pipit; Yellow Wagtail; White Wagtail; Robin; Black Redstart; Stonechat;  Black Wheatear; Blue Rock Thrush; Blackbird; Mistle Thrush; Cetti’s Warbler; Zitting Cisticola; Chiffchaff; Firecrest; Long-tailed Tit; Coal Tit; Blue Tit; Great Tit; Nuthatch; Woodchat Shrike; Chough; Spotless Starling; House Sparrow; Chaffinch; Serin; Greenfinch; Goldfinch; Crossbill; Cirl Bunting; Rock Bunting and Corn Bunting.

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