Wednesday 26 June 2013

Once more to the Serra Loja with the Wainwrights

I may be back in "Blighty" but there is no way that is going to stop John and Jenny Wainwright going about their birding adventures.  Last week, would you believe, they were once more up their favourite mountain, the Sierra Loja, as can seen from the following report received from John.  All photos by Jenny so, presumably, John is about to become the official "camera carrier!"

Now we will all be able to leave our 4x4's at home and join Mick in his little Fiesta!

Sierra Loja Round-trip 21st June 2013

Just a short report from a round trip of the Sierra Lojas- starting from Salar and over to Loja.  A lot of roadworks going on and sometimes a wait for the road to be laid and machinery to get out of the way.
The attached six photos are all by Jenny.

Another really hot day, though cooler higher up.

Little Owl  Athene noctua
As we left the village we saw Woodchat Shrike, Crested Lark and Wood Pigeon then up towards the first quarry we saw House Sparrows, a Little Owl on an old stump, Jackdaws and Spotless Starlings.

Rock Sparrow  Petronia petronia
Up at the small disused quarry we came across fourteen Ibex with quite a few youngsters in tow, also here we found Rock Sparrows, Rock Buntings, Sardinian Warblers, Goldfinches, one Northern Wheatear, Stonechat and further on we found a family of Black-eared Wheatears.  As we came over the top of the rise we were met with a huge earthmover; he was scraping and rolling the road - which is something that was in dire need of doing.  Where puddles had formed the places were alive with butterflies including Cardinal, Mallow, Small and Sage Skippers, Western and Spanish Marbled Whites, Cleopatras, Bath and Small Whites and Pale Clouded Yellows.  A few Chough were seen on the ground and also circling over the hills here, while at the water catchment, a Corn Bunting and Woodchat Shrike were noted.

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus at rest but keeping an eagle-eye on the observers
As we were having a short break a Short-toed Eagle soared along the ridge to our right.  It circled for a short while then disappeared but luckily we found it later on perched on a rocky outcrop.  Other birds seen on the way toward home were Red-legged Partridges, Spectacled Warblers, Stonechats, Linnets, Blackbird, Mistle Thrushes and a Black Redstart.

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata at its favoured site on the mountain

On the way down towards Loja we were held up for over half an hour by more road works - scraping and filling - which will give access for most vehicles once it is completed.

Black-eared Wheatear  Oenanthe hispanica

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

Monday 17 June 2013

Rutland Water

Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris
Monday 17 June 2013

Back in the UK and my first birding trip was a visit to the local Rutland Water.  Not so much the Little Gull, Common Terns, warblers but the resident Ospreys, where three successful nests each contain three young, but the close sighting of a (Great) Bittern which was included in the morning's 43 species.

A full report can be found on the alternative blog site that I use for visits outside Spain: CLICK HERE.

A few samples of the Bittern taken with my (soft) 400 prime lens on a Canon D50 but without any enhancing facility at my Stamford house.

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

Sunday 16 June 2013

Spanish journey: 10 - 11 June

With only jut over a week in Spain during June and having reached the hundred bar two species thanks to the previous week's five days in Extremadura, I decided to call in at the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarrya on our journey north as we set out for the drive to Dunkirk and onward ferry to Dover.  After all, you could guarantee that you would record both Chough and Black Wheatear almost as soon as you got out of the car so job done.  Or so I thought!  But first, no sooner had I left the house to drive down the mountain than we had first a Great Tit and then a female Red-legged Partridge with a handful of chicks in toe.  Thekla Larks were all over the place along with Serins and a pair of Ravens passed overhead before we encountered the Barn Swallows once into Los Romanes.

Arriving at the mirador above Ventas de Zafrarraya I was welcomed by a most handsome Black Redstart but then the bird life, just after 9.30 in the morning, seemed to dry up.  Approaching the tunnel I had a quartet of Rock Sparrows (one new for the month) and then, just on the other side, a Subalpine Warbler.  Not many Crag Martins about so, complying with strict instructions, I started to make my way back to the car so that we could continue on with our long journey.  However, re-emerging from the tunnel it soon became obvious that the Alpine Swifts were once again in residence in the nearby large cave and totalled at least a score.  A female Blue Rock Thrush put in an appearance followed by a Goldfinch.

One of many Red Kite Milvus milvus seen on the journey north
So on with the journey following the back road towards Granada and then the motorways north, picking up the A4 to the outskirts of Madrid followed by the A1 to Burgos and  just beyond Vitoria where we found a hostal for the night at Alsasua.  On the way, apart from Hoopoe and Jackdaw, we had regular sightings of Wood Pigeon and even an Azure-winged magpie before encountering the regular sightings of both Black Kite and Buzzard.  Similarly, there were regular sightings of both Blackbirds and Corn Buntings along the way.  Finally, east of Burgos, we had our first Carrion Crows (100) and a Red Kite.  Soon we had also added both Booted Eagle and Griffon Vulture and one or two of the villages on the old N1 between Burgos and Miranda del Ebro had White Storks nesting on church towers.  We also noted more Common Kestrels than we had the previous week in Extremadura.  Alsasua had its resident Common Swifts in town for the breeding season and the last bird of the day was a single Grey Heron making its way down river to its overnight roost and/or nest.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor with Gadwall Anas strepera
The following morning, Tuesday, was calm and still with dampness in the air following the very heavy rain that had recently fallen and a walk alongside the river produced a lone Red Kite drying itself out in the top of a dead tree before setting off on the hunt for breakfast.  Then it was on to the Spanish border arriving in time at Irun to spend and hour at the last Reserve before leaving the country.  The monthly count increased as we picked up some norther Rooks on the way and increased again by the time we had left the reserve.  The water levels were very high so very few waders to be seen though we did encounter a couple of Little Ringed Plovers and two pairs of Whimbel were seen on the estuary "woodwork" and a pair of Curlews seemed to be nesting on a small grassy island.

A pair of "nesting" Curlew Numenius arquata our on the marshy estuary
How lovely to listen to the song of the Melodious Warbler Hippolais icterina

On the pools themselves we recorded both Mallard and Gadwall plus Moorhen and Coot along with Mute SwanMelodious Warblers were singing and showing themselves next to the path and everywhere feeding Blackbirds with, no doubt, chicks in the nest waiting for food.  We even had a very busy Song Thrush on the athletics field with a beak full of worms to feed its young somewhere in the immediate vicinity.  Nearer the river's edge we picked up Little Egret, Grey Heron and Cetti's Warbler along with House Sparrow, Spotless Starling and Greenfinch.

And then a single Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides dropped in to feed

Visiting the last hide overlooking a very sheltered pool we came across three Grey Herons and then a Squacco Heron flew in to pay us a visit.  Meanwhile, the "black lump" sleeping on a gravel island in the centre did eventually wake up and stretch itself long enough for a better photograph and reveal itself as a Black Swan.  So ended our journey  through Spain and now all must be put aside until we once more re-enter the country and start the southern journey back to Casa Collado.  But at least I did get my June total well over the hundred mark in just eleven days.

A lone Black Swan Cygnus atratus sleeping on the lagoon

Birds seen in Spain:
Gadwall, Mallard, Mute Swan, Black Swan, Red-legged Partridge, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, White Stork, Griffon Vulture, Red Kite, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Little Ringed Plover, Curlew,  Whimbrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Great Tit, Azure-winged magpie, magpie, Jackdaw, Crow, Rook, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

Pictorial reminiscence of Extremadura

Five days in Extremadura: 3 - 7 June 2013

Following our five days in Extremadura where we did manage to record both Great Bustards and Rollers along with many other wonderful birds, the following is a selection of photographs taken during the visit by Steve Powell.  More of his wonderful photos can be found on his personal website, "Wild About Spain" by CLICKING HERE.  The group photo at the end was taken by myself using the lady wife's camera and Steve can be found second from the back on the right.

Cormorant Phalacrocorus carbo with enough fish to last the day!

One of a few Great Bustards Otis tarda seen on three of the days
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus on the prowl

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo of which there were many
Three shots of one of Steve's favourite raptors, the delicate Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
The diminutive and delightful Little Owl Athene noctua
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus posing for the camera

The ever-popular Roller Coracius garrulus, perhaps the endemic species of Extremadura
Jenny's right; I do need to lose some weight!  No; I think it must be Steve's camera!
Our happy band of pilgrims - Left to right:  Liz Rootes; Marcus Rootes; Ellie Wallbank; David Jefferson; Ann Jefferson; Janet Fisher (at top) Eric Lyon; Steve Powell; Pat Lyon; David Fisher; Jenny Wright.

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

Thursday 13 June 2013

Guadalhorce, Malaga with John and Jenny

John and Jenny Wainwright managed to spend an interesting morning down at the Guadalhorce, Malaga on Tuesday and, in addition to the selection of birds, managed to record a number of "creepy-crawlies" as per the following description and photographs.

11th June 2013

A very hot day but mercifully a nice breeze and after dropping our friends off at the airport we headed for the reserve.  Only one car here today so plenty of room to park.

Little Bittern  Isobrychus minutus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
On the track our first sighting was a Moorhen followed by Zitting Cisticola, Barn Swallows, House Martin and House Sparrow. We headed for the "Sea Watch" area and en route stopped at Laguna de la Casilla; here we saw two Little Bitterns, Common Swift, Mallards, White-headed Duck, Reed and Sardinian Warblers, Common Coot, Black-winged Stilts, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Yellow-legged Gull, Bee-eaters, Crested Lark and Monk Parakeets.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
At the Rio Viejo we found Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers, Little Egrets - over a dozen of them, all being hassled at some time or other by the Black-winged Stilts as their chicks were feeding in the shallows, a Turtle Dove, Jackdaw, Cattle Egret and the lame Spoonbill.

Juvenile Black-winged Stilt  Himantopus himantopus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

As we headed towards the Sea-Watch we saw Avocets, Black-headed Gulls, Sardinian Warbler, Collared Dove.  A Short-toed Lark was put up as a Common Kestrel swooped low over its resting place.

Short-toed Lark  Calandrella brachydactyla  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

The sea-watch area was deserted not even a gull was seen there, so we back tracked round to the Escondida hide.

Egyptian Grasshopper Anacridium aegyptium (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Here again very little to speak of although we did get good views of a Ladybird Spider (Eresus cinnebarinus), Egyptian Grasshopper (Anacridium aegyptium) and a Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica).

Grasshopper Acrida ungarica (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

At the entrance to the Laguna Grande hide we saw the very handsome Acrida ungarica (grasshopper with blade antenna) and from the hide Little Ringed Plovers, two Gull-billed Terns, Wood Pigeon, Redshank and a Yellow Wagtail (Iberiae).

Ladybird Spider Eresus cinnebarinus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

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

Sunday 9 June 2013

Five days in Extremadura

Red Kite Milvus milvus (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
What a five days!  The weather was perfect as we drove up to Trujillo on Monday 3 June and it remained that way for the following two days.  Thursday turned out a little on the cloudy and cool side but did, eventually warm up by mid-afternoon.. Some justification, therefore, for turning out in shorts and no jumper to put on!  By contrast, Friday was promised to be cloudy but, having already packed the cases, etc and loaded the car, I did not expect the heavy rain showers during the morning!

Great Bustard Otis tarda
The week started with a total of five cars making their way up through Cordoba Province to meet up at the convent just inside the Extremadura boundary for a midday lunch and the opportunity to watch the good number of Montagu's Harriers as we waited for each other.  Needless to say, on this occasion my car was the last to arrive so only a limited time to eat our packed lunches before setting off to try and find the Rollers and Great Bustards before our early arrival in Trujillo itself.  I think we all managed to record a number of Black Kites on the way up through Andalucia but Marcus and Liz, I think, were the only ones to see a Black-winged Kite.  All the more disappointing as this was one expected bird that did not reappear for the whole week.  Lots of Iberian Grey and Woodchat Shrikes and, for our car, the close sighting of a Golden Oriole as it passed immediately in front of the windscreen and circled to our right before disappearing into the neighbouring trees.

Roller Coracias garrulus
What a disappointment in terms of the targeted birds; no Great Bustards and we were up at the old railway station before we found our first Roller, and then late on n the afternoon.  The close sightings of about three individuals cam so suddenly as we started the last leg of the outward journey that they were unable to be photographed.  On the other hand, we did have lots of Azure-winged Magpies, Spanish Sparrows, a Short-toed Eagle and the sight of our first Little Bustard.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Tuesday saw us off to the Arrocampo Reservoir to the north-est of Trujillo and, again, no Black-winged Kite but we did have loads of Purple Herons and a Little Bittern. Raptors included Black and Red Kites plus the first of very many Lesser Kestrels.  The water produced a few Cormorants and our only ducks; Mallard, Shoveler and Gadwall.  Near to the hides we had very good views of Little Egret, both Little and Great Crested Grebes, Great White Heron and a couple of Purple Swamphens.  Both Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns were hunting over the water but , for me, the sound and then fleeting views of a Savi's Warbler was a particular joy.  The journey out to the reservoir also produced a Nightingale and the sound of our first Common Cuckoo.  In addition, both Great and (common) Reed Warblers were also seen.

Little Owl Athena noctua (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
Wednesday was the day of the Griffon Vultures as we drove over and through the Monfrague National Park.  Not only Griffons but a small number of Black (Monk) and a single Egyptian Vulture.  Raptors also included numerous Black Kites, Buzzards and Lesser Kestrels with the occasional Common Kestrel.  Whilst at the Mirador we also enjoyed the spectacle of a Peregrine Falcon trying to chase off the Griffon Vultures whilst, at the bottom of the cliff face there were two Black Stork nests, both with young albeit probably at least a week's difference in the ages of the respective youngsters.  Here also we recorded Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart and Short-toed Treecreeper.  meanwhile, at the long river bridge, there were scores of nesting House Martins; most feeding over the water along with both Barn and Red-rumped Swallow and also in the company of all three larger Swifts, Common, Alpine and Pallid.

Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
With it being much cooler (cold?) on the Thursday we had made an earlier start and arranged to return to the apartments in the early afternoon.  This was the day to try and find both Great Bustards and Great Spotted Cuckoo.  We were successful with the former and a group of six mainly males but it was left to David and Ann, who stayed out all day, to find not only a Great Spotted Cuckoo but a pair of Common Cuckoos.  A Booted Eagle was an added bonus and, for some of us, a gathering of well in excess of an hundred Black Kites was somewhat spectacular, even if by then we had grown tired of seeing so many at the expensive of other raptors.  Lots of Calandra Larks, Hoopoes and Bee-eaters about and then an over-flying Little Bustard was a special delight.  Of course, we could not forget the quick sight of a Little Owl, though David and Ann were able to get a better sighting later on, and who would say no to the Pintail Sandgrouse that passed overhead.

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
So we came to the last day and our individual return journeys.  With David and Ann having found the Cuckoos it would appear that at least two cars had another tour of this area before setting off south, in our case not leaving until gone 1pm.  Yes, we found the Common Cuckoos along with loads of Rollers between the showers - but not a many or as near as David and Ann had the previous afternoon.  Strange to say, we even came across a flock of over thirty Ravens (collectively "an unkindness of Ravens") which was rather unexpected.

Roller Coracias garrulus (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
So, we all duly arrived back in Malaga Province, all bar Ellie, Janet and David in the Axarquia.  Totting up the lists for each day and comparing with additional birds seen by the other cars, it would seem that the dozen of us eventually recorded 103 species for the five days.  Amazing when you think that the high water levels reduced wader species to less than a handful and only three ducks were recorded.  But what a great introduction to the wonders and potential of Extremadura for this making their first visit to the region and such lovely company.  Even the apartments were a joy to behold and so very reasonably priced considering wee were staying in the centre of the town.

Birds seen during the five days:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-legged partridge, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Black Stork, White Stork, Black-winged Kite, Red Kite, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Little Bustard, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Pintail Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Common Cuckoo, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Little Owl,  Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Pied Wagtail, White Wagtail, Wren, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Savi's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Short-toed Tree-creeper, Golden Oriole, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

A selection of pictures form the visit:

Tree-nesting White Storks Ciconia ciconia
But Black Stork Ciconia nigra on the cliff base immediately below the Griffon Vulture nests

Great White Egret Egretta alba
Black (Monk) Vulture  Aegypius monachus
Egyptian Vulture  Neophron percnopterus

Record shot of a distant Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus following his battles with the local vultures
Little Ringed Plover  Charadrius dubius
Short-toed Treecreeper  Certhia brachydactyla

Blue Rock Thrush  Monticola solitarius

Calandra Lark  Melanocorypha calandra
Yet another departing Roller Coracias garrulus
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus on the prowl

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