Friday 31 May 2013

Collared Pratincoles and a Roller at the Guadalhorce

Friday 31 May
Sleepy Garganey Cerceta Carretona Anas querquedula

With a dozen of us up in Extremadura for the first week and myself and others away for much of the rest of the month, the June meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group was held at the Guadalhorce, Malaga on the last day of May, what you might call "June's Eve" or even, being the day before June 1st, June 0th!  A beautiful sunny morning with not a cloud in the sky as we set off for the reserve with a final group of thirteen members present for most or part of the morning including Pat and Eric Lyon, Marcus and Liz Rootes, Lesley Laver, Ian Kirk, Ellie Wallbank from Marbella, visiting and welcome back Ian Templeton from Fuengirola, Patrick Raines from Canillas de Albaida with his two small grandchildren, met up at the Laguna Escondida, James Moore, Dan Wilkinson and Brian Green from Triana, my friend Andy Paterson from Torremolinos and myself.  Indeed, along the way we also came across Micky Smith and the ever-present Ted Lord so loads of birders about this morning, which was more than could be said for the birds!  We may only have recorded 50 species but what a selection; it really was a case of quality rather than quantity.

Latest news from Pat to inform me that not only did I miss the Zitting Cisticola seen by James and others but I also managed not to record both the Blackbird and House Sparrow seen by she, Eric and neighbours in the hide.  So unless any further responses come in, it looks like we eventually reached the magic 50 mark.

Lots of White-headed Ducks Malvasia  Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala now in residence
Setting off from the church in Guadalmar we had a single Jackdaw pass over plus a few Collared Doves then on and up to the river.  Here we had many feeding Barn Swallows and House Martins accompanied by even more Swifts, mainly Pallid at the beginning but soon we were seeing both Pallid and Common Swifts.  The message came from Micky about a rather special duck on the Laguna Cassilas so we were up and running and upon arrival were delighted to find a single male Garganey along with a number of White-headed Ducks, very many Common Pochards plus the odd Mallard.  Not to be outdone, there were also Coots and Moorhens to be seen, the latter with a couple of very young chicks.  A Red-rumped Swallow flew over the water and, in the reeds on the far bank, one of the resident Black-headed Weavers was seen gathering nesting material.  Finally, before moving on tot he Wader Pool, a pair of Gadwall put in an appearance along with a Little Bittern that did its best to entertain those present and watching from the hide.

Ringed Plover Chorl;itejo Grande Charadrius hiaticula above and Kentish Plover Chorlitejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus below

At the Wader Pool a small number of Black-winged Stilts, most seemed to be sitting on nests on or near the Laguna Grande, along with a couple of Redshank, a Little Ringed Plover and three Ringed Plovers.  At one time or another, a total of three Little Egrets wee present and in the distant trees that separated the pool from the Laguna Grande, a small number of Bee-eaters.  Below the hide the occasional Goldfinch and Greenfinch were seen along with a Sardinian Warbler and a very obscured sight of a single Greenshank through Eric's scope.

Lots of Avocets Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta to be seen this morning
Moving to the Rio Viejo (the Old River) produced far more activity with many Black-winged Stilts and, probably, at least twenty-five Avocets.  A handful of Redshank along with a small number of Little Ringed, Ringed and Kentish Plover plus at least five Grey Plovers lifted the wader tally and then another couple of "rafts" with over a dozen Sanderling, most in summer plumage, a few Dunlin, a single Curlew Sandpiper and two Little Stints to add to our delight.  On the other hand, the sad sight of the injured Spoonbill which appeared to have a broken leg, or even a foot missing, was not the best way to record this delightful bird.  However, there was more excitement to be had as first we found a nearby resting Whiskered Tern and then to our left on a sandy island a single Collared Praticole.  As we left a quartet of raucous Monk Parakeets passed overhead and, on looking up, we also recorded a few Yellow-legged Gulls.

This Goldfinch Jilguero Carduelis carduelis waited until the last possible second before moving away

Reaching the Sea Watch the water looked quite inviting and even the fishermen on the beach were dressed in minimal attire. Just when we had concluded that there was nothing at all to be seen, up cam the sight of twenty-five Common Scoters, including at least two adult males.  It is amazing to see these dark "blobs" gently drifting on the water and then, suddenly, a mass dive before all returns to normal once more.  As we left the viewpoint, the party split into half with the choice being beach or returning the way we had come.  A rather large and lovely female Common Kestrel rose in front of us to bis us farewell and I joined the "return route" group.  Good job, too, for on reaching the Wader Pool we had a good, albeit distant, view of a single Roller in the top of a bare tree at the back of Laguna Grande.  What a sight and what was that doing here?  First a Collared Pratincole and now another bird that ought to have been long gone.  At this rate, there are going to be no new birds to see in Extremadura next week!

The distant Roller Carraca Europea Coracias garrulus passing through the site
Meeting up with the "Beach Party" at the Laguna Escondida we discovered that they had seen a Sand Martin whilst walking the beach.  Very little on the water itself but we did add a Little Grebe and picked up more White-headed Ducks.  So, finally, to the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande.  What a quiet water this turned out to be with just the occasional White-headed Duck and Black-winged Stilt.  But, after a short while, we did find a resting Whiskered Tern plus a single Black-headed Gull and a lone Slender-billed Gull.  Amongst the feeding swifts we suddenly saw two feeding Collared Pratincoles in the sky.  Matters were not helped when the two wardens present upon our arrival informed us that had we been ten minutes earlier we could have had a clear view of a Golden Oriole in the trees to the left below the tall feeding pole.  Always the ten-minute rule!

Slender-billed Gull  Gaviota Picofina  Larius genei
So, time to call it a day and make our way back to the cars but, as we walked down the track towards the footbridge a rather splendid Booted Eagle drifted over to say goodbye.  I wonder what the July meeting will bring when next we meet at the Rio Velez on Thursday the 18th?

A Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus to see us on our way home

Birds seen (until informed otherwise):
Gadwall, Mallard, Garganey, Pochard, Common Scoter, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Spoonbill, Little Bittern, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin,Collared Pratincole, Slender-billed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Roller, Bee-eater, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Goldfinch.

Photos from James Moore

Greenfinch Verderon Comun Carduelis chloris

Female Common Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

Departing Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

The diminutive Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis

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

Thursday 30 May 2013

What a privilege; absolutely spondiforous!

Thursday 30 May
Dipper Mirlo-acuatico Europeo Cinclus cinclus

Late afternoon on the Rio Guadalfeo, well above SalobreƱa, and the sun was streaming down from a clear blue sky to give a lovely warm feel to the day.  But amongst the trees on the western bank of the river I was not only sheltered from the sun’s rays and the strong breeze but also had the sun behind me reflecting on both the water and far bank.

Above the water lots of low-flying Barn Swallows and House Martins feeding as if there would be no tomorrow and whilst the latter had a brown look about them, the iridescence of the Barn Swallows backs gave the impression that the river had been inundated with a plague of Kingfishers.  On the far bank, less than fifteen metres away, a number of both Grey and White Wagtails feeding on the edges and shallow mid-stream banks.  Above me the constant calling of Chaffinches and Golden Orioles whilst, the longer I stayed enjoying this avian wonderland, I was able to pick up not just the resident House Sparrows and Collared Doves but singing Blackbirds, calling Cetti’s Warbler and a rather lovely Nightingale.  Before leaving, I even had a pair of Spotted Flycatchers also make use if the neighbouring bamboos for a quick insect forage and there were Goldfinches to be seen in the neighbouring trees and bushes.

Dipper at nest and making rapid departure
But all this paled into insignificance as I found the Dipper’s nest in some slimy green growth nest to a torrent of local water emptying into the river.  First the Dipper would arrive from downstream and rest on a cane below the bamboo screed opposite me.  After, usually, less than a minute whilst he sorted himself out, the Dipper turned to face the river (and me) he would fly up to the nest to feed, presumably, the fast-growing chicks of the first brood.  Then it was away back downstream like a startled bumble bee.  This action was repeated about every three or four minutes but, occasionally, a bird would appear from upstream and fly straight to the nest site then beat a hasty retreat.  Did this signify that both parents were out gathering food?   It was almost as if the south-bound Dipper was checking all was right with the brood for he/she either simply stopped to look in or was in and out before you had time to take note.
White Wagtail  Lavandera Blanca  Motacilla alba
Amazing what you can observe and enjoy in no more then thirty minutes!

Feeding behaviour of the Dipper: Arriving from downstream, perch and check everything is in order the proceed to nest.



Wait for the Barn Swallow to get out of the way

That's it; all clear so off up to the nest to feed the kids

Birds seen:

Collared Dove, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Dipper, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch

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

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Rio Velez, Torred del Mar


Blue-headed Wagtail Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flave iberiae
A beautiful, warm and sunny start to the day but somewhat windy as I made my way down to the Rio Velez to the west of Torre del Mar.  Before parking in my usual place just under and beyond the N340 road bridge, I drove down to the chimney factory so that I could take a walk up stream until I was fenced out.  The walk produced a few Pallid Swifts and Barn Swallow plus many Serins and House Sparrows near the works.  As with south of the road bridge, there were numerous Goldfinches on the wing and especially this year's juveniles with their plain faces.  A Reed Warbler was singing on the opposite bank and a brief sight of a Cetti's Warbler followed by a couple of Collared Doves flying across the river.  On the water itself were two pairs of Mallards gently paddling their way upstream.

Female Grey Wagtail Lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea
Re-parking the car having driven under the old, low, bridge I was confronted with very good numbers of Swifts feeding low over the water and meadow; probably an equal proportion of Common and Pallids.  There were also a small number of Barn Swallows and the occasional House Martin.  Four Monk Parakeets were busy feeding in the area and always seemed to be "popping up" whenever I turned the next corner.  Lots of Blackbirds to be seen but not a single gull of any description.

Lots of hungry chicks to be fed by Mrs Blackbird Mirlo Comun Turdus merula
Lovely to find a family of Grey Wagtails and then a single White Wagtail not so far away and, near the mouth of the truncated river, a single Blue-headed Wagtail of the Iberian persuasion.  On the water itself the occasional Moorhen and, naturally, the resident Rock Doves were out in numbers near the bridge itself.  Likewise, there were plenty of feeding House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings but it was also reassuring to see a small flock of Greenfinches.

Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius
Waders were represented in small numbers with a couple of Little Ringed Plovers, half a dozen Ringed Plovers and a couple of Redshank.  Four Black-winged Stilts seem to have taken up residence on the far side of the terminal lagoon.

Well-concealed Nightingale Ruisenor Comun Luscinia megarhynchos
The return walk to the car produced a pair of Sardinian Warblers followed by a calling Cetti's Warbler and then, first the song, followed by the sight of a rather lovely Nightingale to conclude my short visit to this local biding patch.  Both Thekla Larks and a few Linnets on the way home along the mountain track to take the day's tally to 28 species.

Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Grande Charadrius hiaticula
Just a short rest from feeding for this Monk Parakeet Cotorra Argentina Myiopsitta monachus

Birds seen:
Mallard, Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

That's the way to enjoy the sun; let it all hang out!

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

Sierra Loja with John and Jenny Wainwright


It looks as if, once more, John and Jenny have been visiting their local birding hot spot and have discovered, yet again, that climbing the Sierra Loja in search of all three Wheatears and both Blue and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush comes at a cost in term of the cold weather as you climb over the thousand metre mark.  Read on for John's account of yesterday's (Tuesday) visit.

 "Peak-a-boo" male Rock Thrush Roquero Rojo Monticola saxatilis
(PHOTO: John Wainwright)

A warm day below but freezing up top only 7C with bitter wind.

A few hours to spare so up to our favourite area in the whole of Granada, on the way seeing Collared Doves, Common Swifts, Mistle Thrush and two Song Thrushes and Barn Swallows.

Under the autovia and picking up the road to the quarry, it looks like the Eagle Owl has lost its chick as we haven´t seen it for over three weeks now; the adult has been around the nest site - but not in it.

Anyhow, at the quarry we had good views of Dartford Warbler along with Sardinian Warbler, Black Wheatear, Serins, Jackdaws, House Martins, Chaffinches, Azure-winged Magpies,Wood Pigeons and Red-legged Partridges. Several Spanish Gatekeepers and a Small Tortoiseshell, Spanish Marbled White, Provence Orange-tip (formerly Moroccan) and a couple of Large Whites made up the Butterfly list.

In the tree area we picked up Short-toed Treecreepers, Goldfinch and Great Tits whilst two Woodlarks were heard singing but I couldn´t locate them.

Lots of walkers about at the cliffs and the bird count was minimal, just a Rock Sparrow, some Jackdaws and another Black Wheatear.  At the shrub area just above the cliffs a flock of some eighteen Linnets were seen along with a Corn Bunting.

Male Rock Thrush Roquero Rojo Monticola saxatilis showing its white back and rufus tail (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

The sky is blackening now and the wind has picked up, so we headed directly for the pond area.  Here we saw fourteen Griffon Vultures heading west, three Black-eared Wheatears, Thekla Larks, Rock Buntings, Rock Sparrows, Black Redstarts, Chough, Spotless Starlings, Linnets and Stonechats.

From here we went round to the fossil cave area where Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear (sixth today) and, above the caves, a largish flock of Spotless Starlings have taken up residence.  Just the one Common Kestrel today was seen hunting here today along with a few House Sparrows, Rock Bunting, Black Redstart, Black-eared Wheatear (no Northerns today) and another Griffon Vulture ventured over.

We then popped around to the track that leads to Sierra Gordo and here we found male and female Rock Thrush, Thekla Larks, Linnets, Black-eared Wheatears, Rock Sparrows and a nesting Spectacled Warbler.

Breeding-site Spectacled Warbler Curruca Tomillera Sylvia conspicilata (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

On the return journey, which was a tad faster than normal as I had a hospital appointment, two Little Owls were seen.

Good to see that there are still lots of special birds about and like the Axarquia Bird Group's visit a couple of weeks ago where we, too, saw no Northern Wheatear. 

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

Monday 27 May 2013

Alcaucin Picnic Area in th eSierra Tejeda


Grey-leaved Cistus  Cistus albidus
At last the mist and low cloud of the past two days has gone and, even though it started cloudy with a four-hour electricity cut, the sun was trying to break through and it felt decidedly warmer.  So, just as the electricity came back on, I left home and drove over to the local picnic site on the mountain track above Alcaucin to see what might be about.  As it turned out, there may have been few birds about but the flowers were prolific on the mountainside, especially Rock Roses and even some rather beautiful Irises.

Spanish Iris Iris xiphium  (I think!)
Common Swifts feeding immediately above the drive and just round the corner and a family of Great Tits crossed the track followed by a Serin.  A Woodchat  Shrike saw me off on my way down the track where I next recorded Spotless Starlings, Barn Swallows and House Sparrows.

And so to the mountain track up to the picnic area with a White Wagtail as soon as I left the tarmac road and a little later a bonny Rock Bunting sunning itself on the neighbouring fence followed by a Stonechat.  However, on arrival all seemed very quiet and deserted; not a bird or person in sight.  A couple of Red Squirrels were moving about in the top of a tree in the upper picnic area (they actually look a very dark grey out here in Andalucia) but nothing else until a slight movement drew my attention to a single feeding Long-tailed Tit at the very top of the canopy.  The walk alongside the water channel produced a number of Serins, including some very yellow males, and a Wood Pigeon followed by the first of many Blackbirds.  A Chaffinch made a rapid departure and then I wandered off down to the lower picnic areas.

Part of the Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra family including adults and juveniles

Back in the main, wooded picnic area I had my first Nuthatch and (as usual) in the leafless canopy of a Eucalyptus tree a family group of twelve Crossbills.  Another Nuthatch and a pair of Crossbill as I returned to the car and then made my way back home picking up Collared Dove, House Martins and Thekla Larks on the way.  A total of 19 species in less than a couple of hours but still somewhat disappointing.

Lots of these relatively small butterflies about such as this Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas

Birds seen:
Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Thekla lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Longtailed Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Crossbill, Rock Bunting.

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

Thursday 23 May 2013

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 23 May

A beautiful, warm and sunny day with the temperature rapidly rising a the hours went past.  Just the odd cloud in the sky but a continuous light wind to offer the challenge as I collected a Nikon RAII scope and Velbon tri-pod to try out down at the Guadalorce in Malaga.  And a very good bargain it was, too, with its 27w eye-piece and a very stable mount which remained firmly rooted to the ground as I, eventually, checked out the Rio Viejo just beyond the Wader Pool.

I really ought to have been house painting but it seemed ridiculous to go all that way and not take a look at what was about in the reserve.  Blackbirds, Rock Doves and Monk Parakeets to welcome me and a plentiful supply of Barn Swallows and House Martins.  However, crossing the footbridge it was obvious that the swifts were out in force as they were everywhere; the place was awash with these scythe-winged wonders.  Of the hundreds present in the area and the reserve in general, I would calculate that at least 95% were Common but the remainder were certainly Pallid Swifts.  A Little Egret made its way down the western arm of the river and a small number of Spotless Starlings were feeding and bathing at the river's edge whilst a number of House Martins were busy collecting their building materials from the exposed sandy shore, both watched over by a handful of busy House Sparrows.

Always lovely to come across Little Stints Correlimos Menudo Calidris minuta, here showing different moult stages
Arriving at the Laguna Casillas I had a few Coots and a family of Moorhens along with a trio of White-headed Ducks, a number of Gadwall and the odd Mallard.  A little patience revealed first a few Common Pochard, then a pair of Red-crested Pochard and finally followed by a single Shoveler.  Below me a pair of Black-winged Stilts went about their daily lives along with the other half-dozen on the water.  On the far side a Spotted Flycatcher was found by using the new scope.

Lots of Ringed Plovers Chorlitejo Grande Charadrius hiaticula to be seen
Moving on to the Wader Pool I was able to start finding waders in larger numbers.  In addition to more Black-winged Stilts there were half a dozen Ringed Plovers, four Redshank, three Kentish Plovers and a single Little Ringed Plover.  This promised well for the old river (Rio Viejo) and I was not to be disappointed with more of the same plus three Little Stint, a trio of Sanderling, a few Dunlin and at least one Curlew Sandpiper.  The biggest surprise, however, was the quartet of Grey Plover in their summer breeding plumage; what were they doing here so late in the year?  On the opposite side of the track a female Common Kestrel perched on top of concrete post whilst, near the top left of the old chimney, a male Peregrine Falcon stood guard near his nest.

One of four Grey Plovers Chorlito Gris Pluvialis squatarola seen on the Rio Viejo
It would be easy to say that the walk to the Sea Watch overlooking the beaches was a complete waste of time with sunbathers to the right, fishermen to the left and a couple of Kayaks on the water just off-shore.  Heading inshore, but a good distance out, was a pleasure motor boat but, immediately in front in the line of sight, the only birds to be seen, a trio of Common Scoters.  Again, why were thee birds still present?

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus with two of its four chicks

The walk back to the Laguna Grande via the Laguna Escondida produced both Sardinian Warbler and Stonechat but very little else.  The Escondida was quiet with just a Moorhen and female White-headed Duck and, for its size, the Laguna Grande was all but deserted.  A single Little Egret, a couple of Black-winged Stilts with four newly-hatched youngsters and a pair of Ringed Plovers.  The only new birds were a Blue-headed Wagtail (Iberian race Yellow Wagtail) over-flying the water, Goldfinch and a single immature Yellow-legged Gull.

So with 36 species recorded in a couple of hours I decided to make my way and think about the painting that had not been done, confirming Thekla Lark, Serin and Bee-eaters as I made my way up the mountain track.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Egret, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Redshank, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch

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