Thursday, 29 August 2013

More from the Sierra Loja

You just can't keep John and Jenny Wainwright away from this wonderful birding site.  Still, if we all live  that near then no doubt we, too, would be hot-footing it up the mountain in search of raptors, Rock Thrushes, Black-eared Wheatears, Spectacled warblers, etc.  Here follows John's report and all the photographs used are his as taken during the visit.

Sierra Loja - 29 August

As the forecast was for storms today and tomorrow (Thursday), we thought we would chance our arm for a couple of hours up the local spot.   The dark clouds followed us around the mountain but only one spot of rain was felt.  At least it was fresh here and with a temperature of 20C and a gentle breeze.

Black-eared Wheatear  Collalba Rubia Oenanthe hispanica
En route we saw a few Wood Pigeons, a Turtle Dove and House Martin.

At the hidden quarry - in the small conifer copse - we saw Crossbill, Sardinian Warbler, Chaffinch, Common Kestrel and Stonechats.  A Scarce Swallowtail was seen here also.

On the slope below the giant cross we saw more Stonechats and Red-legged Partridges, heard Dartford Warbler and Jackdaw, and we found in a small bush a Rock Bunting and another Sardinian Warbler.  As we dropped down to the main track a Wood Lark started to sing (I wasn´t expecting that today!) and a Spotted Flycatcher left the safety of an oak tree to catch an insect.

The first cliff face was being used by climbers so we by-passed that and headed for the next one.  All we saw was a single Jackdaw and nothing else until the working quarry.   Here we had a job locating a juvenile Woodchat Shrike finally finding it secreted at the back of a bush and the first of a huge number of Black-eared Wheatears was noted.

Again nothing more - not even a Thekla Lark - until the substation valley.  An adult Woodchat Shrike was spotted in the large bare tree here and then our first Northern Wheatear.  Also a flock of some forty Chough was seen feeding and lots more Red-legged Partridges were about.

Small Copper  Lycaena phlaeas
Striped Grayling  Hipparchia fidia

Then off to the pond (Charco del Negra).  The water level is down to about two foot but there were still a few butterflies here including Striped Grayling (Hipparchia fidia), Common Grayling (Hipparchia semele), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and Common Blue (Polyomattus icarus).  On the bird side we saw Rock Sparrows, another Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatears, Linnets, Thekla Larks and Goldfinches.

Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe
Moving on to the fossil cave area we found a Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstarts, four Black Wheatears, two of these were juveniles being fed, also one large flock of Goldfinches and a smaller flock of Linnets.  A strange sight here was of a Black-eared Wheatear which was perched in a small bush and every now and then it would fly round to the opposite side of the bush and hover like a hummingbird, as in the photo.  I couldn´t see any insects in the area so anybody any idea what it was doing?

Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra
On the track leading from Sierra Gordo we found more Northern Wheatears and further down at the small fir copse, five Mistle Thrushes circled us before heading away.

As we left the wind turbines behind, two Bonelli´s Eagles were spotted by Jenny and we spent a good fifteen minutes watching them through the scope and also they were close enough at times, for the use of binoculars.

On our return and passing the cliffs, the climbers had gone, we found Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, a Lesser Kestrel, more Chough, Spotless Starlings and two Rock Buntings.  A single Azure-winged Magpie showed itself in the tree-line and three more Spotted Flycatchers were seen in the smaller oaks - where we were serenaded by countless Cicadas - which made locating a singing Crossbill difficult.  Jenny found it in the end though, along with several others.  A Chaffinch was also seen in this vicinity.

It was nice to see so many Northern Wheatears at one time - well seven,anyhow - our best day total all summer.

Many thanks John for an informative report.  Just goes to show, make the effort and there are still lots of birds to be found.

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

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Ventas de Zafarraya and the nearby Sierras

Wednesday 28 August

Today is the first of four days in which we have been promised rain and even lightening.  Overcast with a few breaks early on so I took the chance to drive up the mountain to the walk the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarraya before the onslaught.  Strange that because, on returning to the car and signs of bigger breaks in the clouds and it getting quite warm and sunny, I decided to press on via the "Magpie Woods" to take a look at the circular route on the other side of Zafarraya followed by a quick hop over to the pantaneta at Alhama de Granada and, finally, a drive down the mountain track through the Sierra Tejeda, stoping at both picnic sites, to Alcaucin before heading home.  Told Jenny I could be gone for maybe as little as an hour if it rained or, if not, maybe a couple of hours or so.  Still thinking about to explain away over five hours!  I even had time for a swim and, late afternoon, the rain has still not come.  Perhaps it was just a vicious rumour!

Moulting Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia
Distant Peregrine Falco peregrinus
The usual Thekla Larks, House Sparrows, Stonechats going down the mountain where I passed through the Barn Swallows and on through Los Romanes to the lake and so on up the mountain to the pass at Ventas de Zafarray to walk the railway tack up and through the tunnel and on to the ruined track-side building before retracing my steps.  Greeted by more House Sparrows and Collared Doves, the first bird of interest was a distant Black Wheatear and then a rather scruffy looking Rock Bunting in a sate of moult.  From here on there were numerous sightings of small charms of Goldfinches including many juveniles still without their red blaze.  The first of a handful of Stonechats put in an appearance quickly followed by another, closer, Black Wheatear and then the first of many Blue Rock Thrushes seen on this walk.  As well as the Blue Rock Thrushes, I even had a male Blackbird flip past below me.  Meanwhile, having caught a short glimpse of a Peregrine Falcon swooping round the cliff face, I looked at an odd "lump" on the top of the cliff on the return walk and, jut to be sure, took a couple of very long distance shots.  Quite please to note on putting same on the computer that it was, indeed, a record shot of the, presumably, same Peregrine.  The only other bird recorded on the walk back was a single Crag Martin.  Where are all the others?  And no sign of a Chough anywhere.

The lovely Bee-eater Abejaruco Europeo Merops apiaster
Next it was to the "Muck Heap", nothing to be seen and then on through the Magpie Woods where, again, there was no sign of an Azure-winged magpie.  Turning left at the bottom I travelled out through the arable fields where I did find Spotless Starlings and a Thekla Lark along with a single Kestrel but nothing else other than a score of Wood Pigeons.  Then I took the left turn at the far end to complete a clockwise circuit of the sierras behind Zafarraya.  Not as many birds as I expected but I did come across two large flocks of Bee-eaters, one at each end, along with a Hoopoe and a pair of Common Magpies.  The other interesting discovery was the number of Northern Wheatears to be seen, a hunting Kestrel and, finally, a female Black Redstart.

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike  Alcaudon Comun  Lanius senator
Returning by road to, eventually, continue on my way to Alhama de Granada for a quick look at the pantaneta, I cam across a rather lovely juvenile Woodchat Shrike that remained long enough for me to get off a distant shot.  The water itself was relatively quiet with a couple of Little Grebes and a little more than a handful of both Common Coots and Common Pochards.  Over the water the hirundines feasted away and comprised mainly of Barn Swallows with a few House Martins.  But then I found at least half a dozen Red-rumped Swallows in the feeding hirundines.  Leafing the site, I stopped long enough at the start of the gorge walk to look into the drainage channel and found a couple of Grey Wagtails.

Time to rest for this male Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra
The journey back to Ventas de Zafarraya duly produced a trio of Azure-winged Magpies and on taking the mountain track down to Alcaucin the upper picnic site had good numbers of Crossbills present with a small family of Serins nearby.  The lower picnic area eventually produced a handful of Crossbills in the usual Eucalyptus tree and then they were joined by a very yellow member - but appearing somewhat smaller.  No scope so a photograph was taken to help me when I got back home.  Have a look at the "mystery" photograph where you can compare the sizes but it does not represent the very yellow of the smaller bird.  Me thinks it must be a Melodious Warbler gone high to see what the other birds were doing in the top of the tree!  Then it was off home collecting a Chaffinch on the way.

 Birds seen:
Pochard, Little Grebe, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Coot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Grey Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Melodious Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting.

Juvenile Serin Verdecillo  Serinus serinus

Stonechat  Tarabilla Comun  Saxicola torquatus
Can this be an inquisitive Melodious Warbler Zarcero Comun Hippolais polyglotta to the right of the Crossbills?

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

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Saturday 24 August

At last, back in the birding saddle with a visit to the Guadalhorce in Malaga for the monthly field visit of the Andalucia Bird Society and over 60 species recorded including Thekla Lark and Stonechat on the way down the mountain and a welcome home by this week's small resident flock of Bee-eaters.  a clear,dry and sunny morning but, pleasingly, not quite as hot as the previous few days. 

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Eventually, seventeen of us set off from the rear of the primary school to cross the footbridge into the reserve where we met up with member Eric Lyon.  Having reached the Sea Watch, the majority reversed their steps and then took in the Laguna Escondida on its way to the main hide at the Laguna Grande.  Meanwhile, those few that took the beach walk ended up at either/both of the above where we were able to compare notes on what had been seen during the morning.  As might be expected, each group managed to identify a few different birds not seen by the other but, I think, most if not all of the group, would have recorded a minimum fifty species.  Indeed, some had arrived even earlier than the posted start time and Luis was able to record over a dozen Glossy Ibis heading up river from the reserve.

Starting out there were a good number of swifts to be seen feeding overhead, mainly Common but also a number of Pallid Swifts.  Likewise, plenty of Barn Swallows about plus a handful of Red-rumped Swallows and a few House Martins.  Naturally, we were greeted by a raucous flock of Monk Parakeets.  From the footbridge we were able to see Coots and Moorhens plus the off Little Egret along with the resident flock of Rock Doves and a scattering of Spotless Starlings.  Up river to the right of the first bridge a Kingfisher rested for very many minutes showing off his salmon-coloured breast.  From here and regularly throughout the morning we had views of Zitting Cisticolas and even produced a couple of Sardinian Warblers.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

The first hide overlooking the Laguna Casillas produced a few Coots and Little Grebe plus a White-headed Duck and single male Common Pochard.  However, pride of lace must have gone to the Little Bittern that kept us entertained from the top of the opposite reed bed.  The first Little Egret was seen and more were to follow during the course of the morning.  Around us we had a movement of Serins, Goldfinches and House Sparrows plus a single Greenfinch.  From the neighbouring hide overlooking the Wader Pool the first sight of waders.  A few Black-winged Stilts and about twenty Little Ringed Plovers along with a Kentish Plover.  A pair of Green Sandpipers were feeding to the left whilst a Common Sandpiper did likewise from the centre island.  Then, there in the old tree at the front of the nearest island, another Kingfisher to entertain us as he fished away to his heart's content.

Fishing lessons about to commence from this Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
The expose old river, Rio Viejo, certainly contained a mass of gulls.  To the right mainly Yellow-legged with a sprinkling of Lesser Black-backed but the, towards the centre on the far side the Audouin's Gulls.  Meanwhile, on the near shore, the smaller gulls made up mainly of Mediterranean but a few Black-headed Gulls.  Also, to the right , another Kentish Plover and a couple of Little Ringed Plovers but also a single Little Stint and a pair of Dunlin.  About a dozen Black-winged Stilts worked the area and a couple of Turnstone were identified working the nearside edge of the water.  Walking towards the old river from the Wader Pool we had a single Sedge Warbler resting on the side of the track which gave a good view to many whilst, in the vegetation below, the first Cetti's Warblers of the morning were heard.

Record shot of well-camouflaged Snipe Gallinago gallinago

Very little to be seen at sea or on the beach so the group split to make their separate ways to the remaining two lagunas. Those travelling via the beach managed to record both Nightingale and Olivacious Warbler and at the Laguna Grande found a juvenile Redshank.  Meanwhile, the other group had a surprise visit from a close Booted Eagle at the Laguna Casillas and a few Grey Herons had arrived at the Wader Pool.  Also at the latter, the visiting Snipe reappeared and remained well-concealed but, in the end, all were able to find the bird.  Finally, leaving the pool, a large flock of Barn Swallows were taking a well-earned rest in the shade.

Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis with Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legged and Audouin's Gulls Larus fuscus, Larus michahellis & Larus audouinii
The small Lagua Escondida duly provided a handful of White-headed Ducks along with a pair of Gadwall and Shoveler plus a family of maturing MallardsLittle Grebes were busy diving and there were also a few Coots present.  So on to the main hide at the Laguna Grande.  Lots of gulls present representing all five species previously seen.  A couple of Sandwich Terns passed through but then three Little Terns arrived and remained long enough for all to watch their fishing expertise.  Closer study revealed that a single juvenile Greater Flamingo was feeding amongst the gulls and then a couple of juvenile Cattle Egrets arrived on the scene immediately in front of the hide.  Members of the first group to arrive were able to report the presence of a Grey Wagtail in front of the hide and then a small flock of Blue-headed Wagtails (Yellow Wagtails of the Iberian sub-race) flew in from behind the hide.  Meanwhile, at the back of the water, five Avocet drifted from left to right followed by three Black-necked Grebes moving in the opposite direction.  To add variety, the single Grey Plover, still mainly in summer plumage, remained long enough on the far bank for most of the second group to get a quick view before the bird moved away.

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus over the Laguna Casillas
Two more birds remained.  Having seen only the one raptor all morning a lone Kestrel appeared in the distance behind the hide and settle in the top of a Eucalyptus tree and, on leaving the hide to make our way back to the cars, a lone Purple Heron flew over us towards the Laguna Grande.

Resting flock of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica but can you find the Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica?
Audouin's Gulls Larus audouinii
Record shot of Little Tern Sterna albifrons over Laguna Grande

Birds seen:

Gadwall, Mallar, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Flamingo,Booted Eagle,Kestrel,Moorhen,Coot,Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Dunlin, Snipe, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Kingfisher, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sedge Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch

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

Friday, 23 August 2013

El Torcal

There must be something about mountains with John and Jenny Wainwright.  Just for a change they drove over in my direction to drive up that geological experience know as El Torcal and, as well as taking in the fabulous rock formations, managed to find some birds and other life as per John's report below.  As John says, ".... it may  be a short (report) this time, but really to let people know there are still sightings out there in all the branches of nature." 

Torcal  21st August 2013

A very hot day with not much breeze about.

As we were in Antequerra we thought it may be nice to visit El Torcal for an hour or so.  Lots of people on our arrival but not many at the viewpoint.

Griffon Vulture  Buitre Leonardo  Gyps fulvus   (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
En route we saw Black Redstart, Griffon Vulture, Blackbirds, Blue Rock Thrush, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Woodchat Shrike and Spotless Starlings.

The viewpoint was quite quiet at this time and we did locate, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstarts.  A couple of Spanish Ibex appeared,  then two more a while later.  While we stood at the viewpoint at least eight Griffon Vultures flew overhead.

Potter Wasp  Delta unguiculata  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

We headed back down the road and turned onto the track that leads to the microwave station.  Here we saw two Spectacled Warblers, Thekla Larks, Sardinian Warblers, Goldfinches and Blue Rock Thrush.  I know there isn´t a lot of birdlife here but insects/butterflies were quite numerous, including Tree Grayling, Spanish and Southern Gatekeepers, Hummingbird Hawkmoths, Potter Wasp (Delta unguiculata) and some very late fruiting Sloes or Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa).  It also looks like it will be a good year for Blackberries or Bramble (Rubus sanctus) if the birds don´t beat us to it - not a lot tastes better than a Blackberry and Apple pie.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth  Macroglossum stellatarum (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

I quite agree John.

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

Back home in Spain

Thursday 22 August

Following my week in Stamford, Lincolnshire so that I could attend the annual British Bird Fair (very good yet again and met many old and new friends) at Rutland Water, I returned to Spain Tuesday evening and had the occasional escort home with Jenny driving and out-riders on both sides of the car on the mountain road towards Rio Gordo drawn from the local Barn Swallow community!

And what a welcome back it has been.  The first day at home I had flocks of Bee-eaters flying around the house with their screechy song and , going out from the studio to get a better view, was greeted by a Short-toed Eagle perched on top of the nearest electricity pylon below me.  Today, I not only had more of the Bee-eaters but on driving down to Velez Malaga for my annual check-up at the local hospital I was greeted by my local Thekla Larks and Barn Swallows and House Martins and on the return journey up from the lake towards Los Romanes a gorgeous male Golden Oriole flew across the road immediately in front of the car.  Two days back; it doe not get much better than this by way of a welcome home.  Oh, and even the hospital check-up was out of this world with my PSA score the lowest ever; lower than my original test over six years ago and last year's score reduced by over 50%.  Now who is in a good mood for the coming weeks!

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

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sierra Loja with the Wainwrights

Looks like whilst I was checking out the local waters John and Jenny Wainwright were up the mountain, once more taking a close look at the Sierra Loja.  Only a limited time for this visit but John and jenny still seemed to find some lovely birds; birds that I have missed whilst being over in Blighty.

Sierra Loja 19th August 2013

Very hot down below (40C+) but a nice breeze up top (27C).

After the storm on Saturday evening that had laid a lot of the dust to rest, we decided to venture up the Sierra Loja again.  En route we saw Azure-winged Magpies, Blackbird and heard Bee-eaters. The cliff areas held nothing but a few juvenile Black-eared Wheatears and Stonechats.  In the tree area Short-toed Treecreepers were calling as were Great Tits.  On the flats area we saw Red-legged Partridges, Bee-eaters, a large family of Thekla Larks, lots of juvenile Stonechats plus several  juvenile and one adult Black-eared Wheatear.  Just as we were entering the next valley a Southern Grey Shrike was spotted on top of a tamarisk bush.

Black-eared Wheatear  Oenanthe hispanica (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Down in the sub-station valley more juvenile Black-eared Wheatears, a Little Owl, four Chough and more Red-legged Partridges with very small chicks in tow (maybe a second brood !!).  As we approached the Charco del Negra - we exchanged pleasantries with the Duty Security Ranger - and at the Negra we saw Crag Martins, Rock Buntings and Rock Sparrows, Linnets, a Northern Wheatear and Black Wheatear.  A few butterflies here including Striped Graylings, Pale Clouded Yellows and a few Large Whites.

Black Wheatear  Oenanthe leucura (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Around to the "fossil cave area" where we saw more Black Wheatears, heard the Little Owl (but could not locate it) and while I was scoping for the Owl a Peregrine Falcon swooped across the valley . As we left here a party of five Choughs lifted off from the cliff face area as well as two more juvenile Black Wheatears and a beautiful Great Banded Grayling butterfly (Brintesia circe).  Back onto the track to Sierra Gordo we found - in the conifer copse - Hoopoe, Goldfinches, Spotted Flycatcher and Black Redstarts.

Striped Grayling  Pseudotergumia fidia  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
On the return trip a Blue Rock Thrush put in an appearance, and at the cliffs we saw Crag Martins, one House Martin, a huge flock of Chough in the distance, more Black-eared Wheatears, three Spectacled Warblers, Rock Buntings and a party of some fifteen Bee-eaters. 

As we came onto the back road to Loja a Spotted Flycatcher and a Spotless Starling were noted.


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

Monday, 19 August 2013

Last full day in the UK

Monday 19 August
A friendly Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto at Rutland Water

My last full day in the UK so I spent the morning at the two reservoirs on the Leicestershire/Rutland border, namely Eyebrook and Rutland Water, the latter still in recovery from the recent three-day British Bird fair which concluded yesterday.

Almost thirty species recorded a Eyebrook with a further ten at Rutland water n my way home to make a final tally of 37.  Highlights must include the gorgeous male hen harrier approaching the first followed by feeding Common Terns, Kingfisher and who would not be impressed with a pair of Ospreys on their Rutland Water nest platform.  And I even had a lovely Red Kite on the way home.

A full, illustrated account can be found on the alternative blog (CLICK HERE).

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

Sunday, 18 August 2013

UK Birding and Honey Buzzard update

Sunday 18 August

Nearly the end of my visit back to our little house in Stamford, Lincolnshire so that i could attend the twenty-fifth British Bird fair at nearby Rutland Water.  No real chance to visit my local patch for some rewarding birding on this occasion so, last Thursday, i took myself off to Boston to visit Frampton Marsh and, relatively, nearby Frieston Marsh.  The visit duly recorded a good number of waders, especially Ruff, Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwits.  The full report can be found on my alternative blog for visits outside Spain at (CLICK LINK OR HERE.)

One of many Ruff  Philomachus pugax at both sites taken with my old Panasonic FZ50 camera
Meanwhile, speaking to Marieke in Belgium a couple of days ago she had wonderful news about the surviving, undernourished baby Honey Buzzard in her study area.  It would seem that the latest hatch of wasps has arrived just in time and, not only are there loads to be seen in the area but the parent birds are obviously finding good supplies of nests to provide much needed food for their remaining chick.  Marieke reports that the little chap has put on tremendous weight and growth in the past week ans is now back to normal growth for its age.

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

Friday, 16 August 2013

Fuente de Piedra & Laguna Dulce


I may be over in England at the moment for the British Bird Fair just down the road from my Stamford house at Rutland Water but it is good to see that John and Jenny Wainwright are still getting out and about, this time a joint venture to Fuente de Piedra and the Laguna Dulce.  I attach John's report below and would especially draw your attention to his comment about the huge wasp nest at the Laguna Dulce.  You have been warned so make sure that you do not go poking it about with your tripod legs or  long stick!!!

For myself, I spent yesterday at Frampton Marshes near Boston, Lincolnshire on the edge of the Wash.    More about this, when completed, on my other blog but I will, hopefully, post a summary and link tomorrow.  Yesterday, Friday, may have been a lovely day but the opening of the twenty-fifth British Bird fair was greeted with heavy overnight rain which continued today till after lunch.  What a way to park in a wet field and then enjoy the spectacle as we all tried to get off the field in our respective cars and back on to the track!

 Piedra & Laguna Dulce 14th August 2013

A good breezy day but still very hot.

As we headed for Antequera a Black Kite flew over the autovia, and as we approached Piedra we saw Spotless Starlings, Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons and House Sparrows.

The flood meadows at the start of the reserve were bone dry, as were the boardwalk area and the large scrape, but we persevered along the track to the centre´s mirador.  A pleasant surprise was the Purple Heron that arose from the reed bed to the left of the large scrape.

Looking over the laguna from the mirador we saw countless thousands of Greater Flamingos spread over the entire laguna area intermingled with hundreds of Common Coots, Teal, Whiskered Terns and a few Black-headed Gulls.  Hirundines were in good numbers consisting of Barn Swallows, Common and Pallid Swifts (only two of the latter) and House MartinsBlack-necked Grebes, a Little Egret and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike were also here.

At the small laguna we spotted Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Bee-eaters, Dunlin, Common Sandpipers, Little and Ringed Plovers, Redshank, Greater Flamingos, Grey Heron, Cetti´s Warbler, Shovelers and Mallards, a Little Stint, Green Sandpiper, Moorhens, Common Coots, Little Grebe, a White Wagtail and lots of Goldfinches.

Black Kite  Milvus migrans  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

En route to the Mirador Catarranas a small party of five Black Kites were seen over the olive groves and at the mirador where we found four Marsh Harriers, more Greater Flamingos, a large gathering of Teal, Crested Larks and more of the same hirundines as at Piedra.

We then headed on to Laguna Dulce - which still holds a fair amount of water -and here we saw Red-crested and Common Pochard, White-headed Ducks, Teal, Common Coots, a Little Egret, a few Greater Flamingos, Lapwings, Black-necked, Little and Great Crested Grebes.

Over the distant large ruin four more Black Kites were seen and closer - above the reed bed to our front - two Marsh Harriers were patrolling, one of these birds put a Purple Heron to flight as well as a mixed flock of ducks.

Cetti´s, Sardinian Warblers and Goldfinches were present among the reeds and thistles, and as I was looking through a small flock of House Sparrows I found one Spanish Sparrow.

As we made our way home an adult Woodchat Shrike was seen as was another Black Kite.

Careful if you enter the hide at Dulce as there is a paper wasps nest in the entrance to the hide itself - just at the rear of the fascia.

Nest of the Paper Wasp just inside the hide at Laguna Dulce (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

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

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Honey Buzzard setback in northern Belgium

Tuesday 13 August

I have just received  lovely email from my Belgian friend, Marieke and in it she comments on the progress of the raptors in her nearby wood that she monitors, and has done for the pas ten tears or more, on a daily basis.  Whilst her favourite Goshawks seem to be having a good breeding season, the Honey Buzzards seem to have hit the proverbial brick wall; one disaster after another.  Such a pity as Marieke for the past couple of years has enjoyed coming out to Spain to greet "her" Honey Buzzards as they make their way south through the Tarifa area and has even come out here in the Spring to welcome them back!  Sad news, yes, but read on to get a feel for Marieke's study area and the pleasure that she gets from monitoring her local raptors.

This year not such good news from "our" Honey Buzzards.  A few days ago my colleague climbed the 2 nest trees.  In the first one, just one young.  Earlier I found the other one after a heavy thunderstorm, which swept the little bird from the tree.  I found it under the tree soaking wet, dead.  The remaining chick is lively, but a lightweight, it weighed half as much as a bird of the same age that we checked on a nest in 2008.  There were hardly any remains of waspcombs in the nest.  I observed 4x the male carrying a frog to the nest.  My searches for waspnest are not very successful, but obviously the HB have troubles finding them too (probably the reason for the meagre young).

The sole, very thin, surviving Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus chick on 8 August
From the second nest even worse news: 2 predated eggs !!!  What a disappointment !  I was so happy with this territory; this was the area where I made my first steps on the HB search. I was so proud to have found this nest last autumn, so happy to see a couple arrive and display in May, to find moulted feathers …. and now …. nothing … gone …. (was this the "sting in the tail"?).

The second, empty, Honey Buzzard nest on 8 August
A Pine Marten was recently seen in the area…. of course you cannot be sure that he was the perpetrator.  Will see if I can find any further clues on his presence.  I have learnt from BBC 4 radio that this marten likes jam sandwiches, I will feed him next year, that will keep him from HB eggs ! see :

I enclose my picture of the dead chick and photos of the 2 nests (by the climber with proper camera).

Washed out, and washed up; the thin dead Honey Buzzard Pernis Apivorus below its nest on 8 August
The other raptors did quite well this season, in spite of the cold spring.  In the study area: 7 Goshawks, 2 Sparrowhawks, 9 Common Buzzards, 2 Kestrels and 1 Hobby.  They all had fledged young.  I find their numbers quite amazing and praise myself lucky to have so many study subjects close to my home.
Marieke Berkvens
You will just have to come back to Spain Marieke so we can once again go in search of your lovely Honey Buzzards. 

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