Monday 30 September 2013

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Monday 30 September

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta
Up early so that I could go down to the post office in La Vinuela to collect the post before driving on down to Torre del Mar to complete other business.  But with no hurry for the latter I decided to spend some time at the Rio Velez before hand and, as a result, had a fruitful ninety minutes which produced almost thirty species; more if you also included the mountain birds.

On arrival I was greeted by a handful of Mallards with even more further down stream and, of course, the resident Rock Doves made themselves known along with a few alarm-calling Blackbirds.  A Little Egret was feeding below and I was to see another three as I moved down the track towards the beach.  A White Wagtail took off downstream and a Heron decided that its tree-top position might not have been as safe as it first supposed.

One moment the Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea  is resting and then it is on its way

This all led to me looking at the actual river.  We had had a little rain on Friday and the water levels were up and had refreshed the muddy banks.  However, once again, either naturally or by design, the river has changed its shape.  The lagoon now seems quite deep and expensive with a prominent island in the lowest reaches.  The narrow sand bar separates the sea from the river but the lagoon not only reaches the western bank but has now extended some fifty metres to the west of the main track down to the sea.  At the far end there is still a high bank between the eastern growing fields and the beach and every scrap of land has been deeply ploughed; not much here then for our wintering Golden Plovers and, on the other hand, all the drainage ditches are overgrown with weeds, the concrete channels filled with rubbish so the same problem with trying to find Bluethroats and Reed Buntings during the coming winter.  Perhaps matters might be a little better on the western fields.
Little Stint  Correlimos Menudo  Calidris minuta
Little Ringed Plover  Chorlitejo Chico  Charadrius dubius

A short way down the track I stopped to watch a couple of Common Sandpipers depart, more Mallards and the first Moorhen.  Then, a few metres further on, the first of the waders, a Little Ringed Plover and a handful of Ringed Plovers along with a Turnstone and a Little Stint.  The single (I originally thought) Redshank was wearing coloured labels on both legs and was feeding in the company of its larger relative, a single Ruff.  However, when looked at through my bins I could see that the smaller bird was indeed a Ruff as well giving the impression of Redshank with Greenshank.  Once the one had been proved wrong it did not take seconds to realise that both were wrong; they were indeed both Ruffs.  But why was the second bird so much bigger and with dark rather than light legs?  Only the single Barn Swallow seen but more Blackbirds crossing the river and a pair of noisy Monk Parakeets.

One well-marked Ruff Combatiente Philomachus pugnax
Spotless Starlings were moving about above me and, nearer the water, a small flock of House Sparrows and a charm of Goldfinches.  As I approached the pumping station I had a small flock of Serins and a single Blue-headed Wagtail moved off from the meadow quickly followed by a Hoopoe.  However, the biggest surprise was the newly-constructed stone platform with concrete floor opposite the pump house where all the vegetation on both sides of the track had been cleared away.  Hardly a loading bay but looking suspiciously like the foundations for an observation hide.  If the latter, it will not have the best of views over the water and given the nefarious activities that seem to go on down bear the beach, and not just at night, one wonders how long a potential building might survive.  And if it did, would it be fit to use!

Three Turnstones Vuelvepiedras Comun Arenaria interpres recorded during the morning
Very little on the lagoon itself save for twenty Yellow-legged Gulls, mainly immatures, and a dozen Coot on the now deeper water with a pair of feeding Turnstone on the edge.  Returning in the same direction I recorded first a calling Cetti's Warbler followed by a female Black Redstart that dashed across the track into the trees and a Pied Flycatcher was bathing in a convenient puddle on the path.  The last bird seen, other than more Little Egrets, was a single Grey Wagtail that flew across the river to rest on a low, waterside branch.

When you got to bathe, you got to bathe as represented by this Pied Flycatcher papamoscas Cerrojillo Ficedula hypoleuca

Then, jobs done, it was back home to be welcomed by a good number of hirundines, mainly House Martins but also a few Barn Swallows and a pair of Red-rumped Swallows.  The Thekla Larks continued on in their normal way and a couple of Chaffinches retreated to the neighbouring almond trees.

Naturally, there were also a number of butterflies to be seen along the river and track.  Mainly Large and Small White, constantly on the move, (what I always refer to as "Cabbage Whites" from my previous gardening experience back in the UK), but also lovely to see a few Orange Tips by way of a change.

Orange Tip Butterfly Anthocharis cardamines

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Redshank, Ruff, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Yellow-legged Gull, Hoopoe, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch.

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


Sunday 29 September 2013

La Herrera, Fuente de Piedra and Laguna Dulce

Saturday 28 September

Lots of low cloud but calm following the overnight rain and, with Jenny out all day, I decided to drive over to Fuente de Piedra and Laguna Dulce but also call in at La Herrera on the way.  Kestrel and Thekla Larks to see me off the mountain and then welcomed by House Sparrows and Collard Doves as I left the old Cordoba road from the motorway to enter La Herrera.  However, no sooner had I reached the stubbled fields and I came across a covey of eighteen Red-legged Partridge in the space of twenty metres.  On the track itself a lone Northern Wheatear watched me approach and flocks of Linnets and charms of Goldfinches regularly took to air from the bushes on either side of the track.  A dozen Cattle Egrets flew over and then a Kestrel on a wire.  No water in the winter laguna but plenty of House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings in the track-side bushes.  A Southern Grey Shrike put in an appearance then a few Serins and a Blackbird before regaining the main road back to the motorway for the short drive in to Fuente de Piedra.

Flamino Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus
Lovely to arrive at Fuente de Piedra at 10.15 following a wet night as the place was completely deserted, other than the Visitors´ Centre receptionist.  So, straight away round past the mirador to the laguneta at the rear where I had almost an hour before being disturbed by the arrival of three young and excited children along with their distant parents.  My cue to make my departure!  On arriving it was apparent that the main laguna had lost a little water and most of its Flamingos, albeit the numbers could still be counted in thousands if not the previous tens of thousands.  Still a huge difference tin the sizes and development of this year´s youngsters.  Along with the Flamingos, there were good numbers of Mallard and Teal on the main water along with many Black-winged Stilts, especially Black-necked Grebes.  Both the Visitors' Centre roof and the main tree at the mirador were playing hosts to at least a score of Jackdaws with the ever-watchful resident House Sparrows.  Below, in what is usually a very productive pond, an area had been fenced off so that a small flock of sheep and a couple of horses might graze the grass.  Needless to say, there were plenty of Black-headed Gulls.

At the laguneta the water level had dropped considerably, so much so that there were no Flamingos to be seen until a solitary individual dropped in just before my departure.  There were a number of Mallards, Shoveler and Teal along with a few Black-winged Stilts and many Moorhens.  On the far side a pair of Avocet were busy feeding along with a very small number of Ringed Plovers and a single Little Ringed Plover.  A half-dozen Little Stints were also present and then I found a trio of Snipe to add to the list.  As a Little Egret flew across the water it revealed a couple of Common Sandpipers and these were then joined by an incoming small flock of Sanderling along with a few Dunlin.  Meanwhile, in front of the hide, a single Blue-headed Wagtail (Iberian sub-species of Yellow wagtail) was wandering the grass in search of sustenance.  Time to move on and, stopping at the road junction to check out the distant pylons and find the resident Buzzard, I also had a Hoopoe fly through my vision.  Only a very brief stop at the Mirador de Cantarranas, where I saw many more duck species and Flamingos and also a pair of Marsh Harriers, as the weather had turned quite dark and, on getting back into the car for the drive over to the Laguna Dulce, the heavens opened with some very heavy rain showers.  Indeed, approaching the mirador I had a Hare, probably a leveret of the year, standing in the road debating whether or not it was worth the effort to cross to the other side.  As they say, "hare today, gone tomorrow!"
To cross or not to cross, that is the question for this young European Brown Hare Lepus europaeus
Ten minutes later I had arrive at Laguna Dulce and the rain had stopped and the clouds were quickly breaking up.  Indeed, it became very warm so I was able to scan the water in good rather than poor light.  Hundreds of Coots on the water plus a few Moorhen along with a number of Little, Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes.  Again, hundreds of ducks which seemed to be mainly Mallards and Shovelers but also good numbers of White-headed Ducks.  Searching the far side found a couple of Red-crested Pochard, followed by a handful of Common Pochard and a small number of Gadwall.  The little reed-covered pond to the left of the hide had a mixture of Coots and a juvenile Great Crested Grebe and, as I watched, a Cetti's Warbler landed in front of me.  On the far bank a trio of Snipe were feeding whilst I also managed to find a single Flamingo and a few Black-winged Stilts on the furthest left-side bank.  Behind them on the recently ploughed field were at least fifty resting Cattle Egrets.

Northern Shoveler Cuchara Comun Anas clypeata
A great morning but I had been up early so decided to call it a day and head home on the hope that Casa Collado had been bathed in sunshine and I might even get a swim before the afternoon was out.  Approaching the car a Willow Warbler crossed the road in front of me to perch in a conveniently nearby tree and then, above me but forever putting the sun between me and the bird as tied to take a photograph, an immature Bonelli's Eagle circled and moved away.  My last view as I looked back over the laguna was of a Marsh Harrier quartering the far reeds.

Female White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala
The return journey was not without incident for, as I approached the motorway, a flock of at least a dozen Lesser Kestrels were hunting over a stubbled corn field to my left and a Corn Bunting posed nicely on the wires above.  Returning via Los Romanes rather than take the wet track around the back of the village, I was greeted by almost 300 House Martins either feeding or resting on the wires, appropriately opposite the well-known and frequented restaurant, and a Stonechat greeted me back to our mountain.  A final total of 52 species was very rewarding but, on the other hand, Casa Collado had also received the rain showers and was quite cool and cloudy up my return so, sad to say, no swim today.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Bonnelli's Eagle, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Little Stint, Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Northern Wheatear, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Willow Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

Saturday 28 September 2013

Embalse Bermejales, Granada Province

Friday 27 September

Coal Tit Carbonero Garrapinos Parus ater
With the suggestion that today might be the last dry day of the month, even if cloudy, I arranged to meet Steve and Elena down at Puente don Manuel so that we could pay a visit to the Embalse Bermejales, one of John Wainwright's favourite sites.  In the event the weather was rather pleasant with much clear sky and some warm sunshine as I drove down the mountain passing the flock of 250+ House Martins sitting on the wires in Los Romanes waiting for their embarkation tickets and visas to arrive prior to their winter holiday south of the Sahara in Africa.  Add on Thekla Lark, Kestrel, White Wagtail, Collared Dove and Spotless Starling, not to mention the local House Sparrows, and my daily list was up and running before I reached the lake.

Now what breed of fish might you be?  And would like a plate of chips as a friend?
Off we went for our morning and approaching the dam of the Bermejales reservoir we recorded both Blackbird and Common Kestrel along with a solitary Yellow-legged Gull keeping watch from the tower mid-way across said dam.  We parked in the picnic area recommended by John and commenced our walk through the woods towards the dam.  To our left a couple of Cormorants skimmed the surface as they headed for the far end and a large flock of hirundines fed over the water, mainly House Martins but also a few Barn Swallows.  Resting in a tree immediately n front of us was a single Wood Pigeon and a couple of Collared Doves, along with a small number of Spotless Starlings were also recorded.  And then, of course, there were the butterflies.

Carline Skipper  Pyrgus carlinae
Speckled Wood  Pararge aegeria
Just when we began to think there was nothing about we had our first LBJs and by the end of the session had recorded just about all bar a Firecrest and Crested Tit.  First up was a pair of Long-tailed Tits quickly joined a pair of Coal Tits. The same tree also held at least three Great Tits and, a little later, we were also able to add Blue Tit to the list.  Lots of House Sparrows about and then  a lovely charm of Goldfinches followed by Spotted Flycatcher, Serins, Chaffinches and Crossbills.
Spotted Flycatcher Papamocas Gris Muscicapa striata
A walk over the dam revealed a number of very large fish in the water (no idea what sort!) but they seemed to be crying out for a bag of chips to go with them whilst, on the downside of the dam, a large flock of Jackdaws and another of Rock Doves seemed to quite active.  A handful of Goldfinches found a small puddle in which to bathe and a lone Grey Wagtail flew down to join in the general melee.  The return journey to the car park found more Short-toed Treecreepers and a rather lovely Red (more like black out in Spain) Squirrel was sitting on the wall trying to demolish a rather large nut or other source of food. These small bushes provided more Long-tailed Tits along with Sardinian Warbler whilst, in the picnic area itself, we managed to find both Pied Flycatcher and White Wagtail along with more, to be expected, House Sparrows.

Time to move on so we headed towards Jatar so that we could call in at the pantaneta above Alhama de Granada.  No sooner had we got the car back on the road than a rather dishevelled Southern Grey Shrike hopped up onto the power lines and then a pair of Magpies.  Other than a quick stop at the far end of the embalse where we found our Cormorant duo there was little else to see until we arrived at our destination.  A very few Coots, a handful of Pochard, a couple of Little Grebes and about a dozen Mallards just about summed up the water bird population.  More Spotted Flycatchers were found and we even had a couple of Bee-eaters resting in the dead trees at the far end of the water. Also along with the Barn Swallows and House Martins feeding over the water was a small number of Crag Martins.

Onwards towards Ventas de Zafarraya where we found a quartet of Lesser Kestrels feeding over the stubble, a few Thekla Larks and then both a Blue-headed Wagtail (Iberiae sub-species of Yellow wagtail) and a lonely Northern Wheatear.
Male Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra
The final leg was to take the mountain track down through the Sierra Tejeda to Alcaucin and a stop at the upper picnic area did not disappoint.  The Crossbills were in their usual trees to welcome us and we had soon added Chaffinch.  Checking out the bushes above the track we found numerous Spotted Flycatchers and then two fleeting glimpses of Hawfinches as they moved from bush to bush.  Adding Rock Bunting to the list was not surprising but the a trio of Cirl Buntings, first on a higher branch and then on the ground really was icing on the proverbial cake.  And we even picked a single Jay as we made our way down the mountain track from the lower picnic area.  It now being almost 3.30 Steve asked what time was Jenny expecting us back for lunch.  I told him that I said about 2pm, Jenny will have taken that as meaning 3pm and would only be in touch if it got to 4pm.  One minute from home, literally round the corner from Casa Collado, and I got the phone call to ask where we were and what time were we expecting to be back!

Cirl Bunting Escribano Soteno Emberiza cirlus
All in all then, a good morning's birding with a final tally of over forty species.  And I even managed to take the Canon 7D camera so that I would have something to work on now that the "retard" computer had been replaced.  Hopefully, no more orange demons!

Birds seen:
Mallard, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Lesser Kestrel, Kestrel, Coot, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Bee-eater, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Southern Grey Shrike, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw,  Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting.

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

Thursday 26 September 2013

Spanish Bird Day -Día mundial de las Aves 2013

The Spanish "Day of the Birds" - October 2013

As in the past few years, SEO (Spanish Ornithological Society - Sociedad Espanola de Ornitologia) will once more be celebrating its birds over the first week-end of October.  The Malaga branch of the Society will , as in past years, be setting out its stall at the Guadalhorce, almost certainly in the area immediately beyond the Laguna Escondida.

The publicity material has come spread over five pages, including maps and illustrations and is, as might be expected, in the native Spanish language.  However, all seems very clear and if necessary, you can stick and paste sections into "google" translate to get a good enough English translation.  If I can find sufficient time, I will try and do the same and paste the results at the end of this blog; so watch out for an update!  (NOTE: Details about Sunday 6 October translated at the end.)

Anyone requiring the original, and much "cleaner" version please email me and I will email the PDF file back by return.

So, if you are going to the Guadalhorce on Sunday 6 October remember that, whilst there will be some practical bird ringing (banding for those form the USA) going on and offering the opportunity to actually see some rather lovely birds in the hand (last year there were Kingfishers, a range of warblers and even a few Wrynecks to be seen) there will also be loads of people about.  Also, remember the current problems with car break-ins so take care where and how you park your car.


Now to think about that translation; well, possible a little!
Sunday 6 October

Birds in Nature at the Mouth of the Guadalhorce
TimeFrom 9:00 to 13:00 hours

Information Bureau.
Birdwatching activities.
Workshops for children.
Open Day demonstrating bird ringing.

Bring binoculars, walking shoes and sun protection.

Facts about the mouth of the Guadalhorce:
Two kilometers before reaching the sea, the Guadalhorce river divides into two branches.
Bounded by these and the sea is an island of 120 hectares. inside which is Paraje
Natural mouth of the Guadalhorce
, included in the network of Natural Areas protected Andalusia. In this island you can find different environments, such as:
an old meander of the river and open land, formerly occupied by crops and tailings, a series of small gaps created by former gravel pits and an unspoiled beach. This diversity allows observed throughout the year to a variety of species.

Birds we can observe:
There have been over 260 different species recorded; you can enjoy in times of passage and
wintering about 80 species in one day. Given the small size of this natural area and its location next to the city of Malaga and the Costa del Sol, is a remarkable fact.
At this time of the year you can see both the first sedentary species such as wintering and migrating birds, so it is a good time to visit the place. Some of the birds we can observe are: Little Egret, Heron, Little Grebe, Shearwater, Spoonbill, Common Pochard, Gadwall, White-headed Duck, stilts, plovers,
Redshank, sandpipers, several species of gulls and terns as well as some raptors (Osprey, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, etc.) and many passerines (Bluethroats, wagtails, warblers, etc.).
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Osuna area

Up the mountain, round the lake and now out to the steppes beyond Osuna, over the birder in Sevilla Province, for John and Jenny Wainwright as they set off to find our heaviest flying bird, the Great Bustard.  An area also well-blessed with a variety of raptors, Rollers and scrub-liking birds.

Osuna Steppes: 25th September

A hot day with a slight breeze every now and then.

On the way to Osuna we saw Common Buzzard, Raven, Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows and White Wagtail.  We came off at Km80 on the A92 and followed the signs for Lantejuela.  Lots of Ravens about today, a few Goldfinches, Crested Larks and more House Sparrows.

We turned off this road onto to a track that takes you to the railway bridge - from where we could scope the steppes for Great Bustards.  Along this track we found Red-legged Partridges, Willow Warblers, more Spotless Starlings, Red-rumped Swallows, Stonechats and two Southern Grey Shrikes.

Whilst I was waiting for Jenny to photograph the Shrike I spotted two Black-bellied Sandgrouse in the ploughed field - and as I was telling Jenny about them - surprise, at least six birds flew off to the far end of the field.  I tried to scope them but the heat-haze was too much.  A few Barn Swallows were seen here also, as well as several Northern Wheatears.

Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Back onto the main road and on the ruined buildings we saw Rock Doves and two Lesser Kestrels.  Here we disturbed a Common Buzzard from the pylons and, while watching it circle away, we spotted a huge flock of White Storks - probably a hundred or so - some of these birds came down to land in the fields by the large railway bridge where they joined another couple of hundred which were already feeding in the field.

Common Buzzard Busardo Ratonero Buteo buteo (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
We branched off down another side track and found Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warblers, Stonechats, a Little Owl, three more Common Buzzards over the fields and a Black Kite.

Rejoining the main road again we put up a flock of some fifty Ravens that had been feeding in the olive groves to my left and to our right Jenny found a Red Fox crossing the fields then crossed the road behind us and disappeared into the olive grove.  Along this road we saw at least eight Lesser Kestrels feeding in the stubble fields and above us three Honey Buzzards circled - right in the path of the sun - which made photographing very difficult .

Red Fox Zorro Rojo Vulpes vulpes (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

On retracing our steps another two Common Buzzards were seen as well as two more Black-bellied Sandgrouse which were feeding on the track we were driving down.

Then across country to Laguna del Gosque at Martin La Jara where we saw Greater Flamingos, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, hundreds of Common Coots, White-headed Ducks, Little Grebes, Black-winged Stilts and a Pochard.

Nothing different than already stated seen on the way home - a bit miffed not to find the Greater Bustards but "an otra dia" perhaps !!

No Great Bustards but some good sightings of both Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Kestrels and Ravens is not to be sniffed at!


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

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Back to the Sierra Loja with John and Jenny

John and Jenny Wainwright once more returned to, what must be, their favourite birding site and  had a truly wondrous range of birds.  Following all these exploits up and down the Sierra Loja, I have come to the conclusion that John and Jenny have it all wrong.  Now that they, and their car, are so well known to the local and visiting avifauna, I think it may be not so much that they go to watch the birds as the birds all flock out to come and watch them!  Enjoy John's report.

Sierra Loja - 23rd September

A very chilly breeze to start (14C), warming up later.

As I packed the fridge in the back of the motor three House Martins flew over and down the road out of the village we saw Azure-winged Magpies, Collared Doves, Blackbird and Spotless Starlings.

Red Squirrel (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Our first stop was the hidden quarry. On the way up we found Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, a Blackbird and a large covey of Red-legged Partridges.  Also in this area we saw Black Wheatear, Chaffinch, Short-toed Treecreeper, a female Orphean Warbler and three Rock Buntings.  On the top ridge to the right of the cross we found three Ibex. In the firs at the junction to the main track we located several Crossbills, a Coal Tit, Great Tit and another Short-toed Treecreeper.  A Kestrel was heard calling but I couldn´t locate it anywhere.

Continuing up through the tree-line Jenny spotted a Red Squirrel, then nothing more until the cliff area where we saw Little Owl, a few Jackdaws - one with a illusions of being a jockey - more Spotless Starlings, another Black Wheatear, Goldfinches, some Thekla Larks and a Southern Grey Shrike.

This Jackdaw Corvus monedula certainly has a future in the 3.30 Sheep Stakes! (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Between the cliffs and the substation valley we saw Northern Wheatears, Rock Sparrows, a few Stonechats and a Common Swallowtail butterfly.

By the substation another Little Owl was located and one - of the two only - Black-eared Wheatears were seen.  Also good views of a Tawny Pipit, Chough and more Northern Wheatears - one having a shindig with a Spectacled Warbler about "perching rights" on a bush.

Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Onward and upward to the Charco del Negra here two Griffon Vultures were spotted as well as Black Redstart, Thekla Larks, Rock Sparrows and Chough.

At the fossil cave we found another two Black Wheatears, and a Lesser Kestrel flew no more than fifty metres from us but I couldn´t stop the car quick enough to get a shot of it.  More Chough about, as well as Black Redstarts and Thekla Larks.

Southern Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)


Round to the Sierra Gordo car park we found Rock Bunting, another Griffon Vulture was spotted in the distance, lots of Goldfinches on the thistles, our second Black-eared Wheatear, Stonechat, another Southern Grey Shrike and yet more Northern Wheatears.

Record shot of Short-toed Eagle Culebrera Europea Circaetus gallicus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
On the down trip the only extras to what had already been seen were a Short-toed Eagle perched on the head of a pylon, a female Sparrowhawk, two Crag Martins and, at the entrance to the hidden quarry, a male Pied Flycatcher, plus six more Ibex.

Group of resident Ibex Bucardo Capra pyrenaica on the Sierra Loja (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

A very well spent four and a half hours.

What a fabulous morning's birding, John and Jenny.  Once again, you make us all so envious that you have this iconic site virtually on your doorstep.

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

Monday 23 September 2013

Tarifa and La Janda

Juvenile Collared Pratincole Canastera Comun Glareola pratincola
Friday 20 September

Lovely sunny start to the day so the car packed and off to Tarifa in preparation for Saturday's Andalucia Bird Society's monthly field meet.  Seen off the mountain by a lovely Blue Rock Thrush, we arrived at the El Algarobbo raptor site to the west of Algerciras by about 1.30pm where we were immediately greeted by a pair of Sardinian Warblers.  We were also welcomed by a keen breeze coming from the east so we suspected that most of any raptors were more likely to be at the far end of this particular sierra.

Swallowtail Pupilio machaon
However, having discovered that David and Juliette Hird had also recently arrived at the site, we were soon on to a very large Booted Eagle and then a small number of Griffon Vultures.  There was a constant dribble of Barn Swallows passing through and, whilst waiting for the next raptor, we were able to follow a number of feeding Swallowtail Butterflies in the neighbouring area.  Right on cue we had a Black Kite followed by a Short-toed Eagle.  A couple of Common Kestrels were also seen and then a small flock of calling Bee-eaters passes southwards overhead.

Lunch take and a large group of birders arrived so we decided to head off west to the Cazalla site above Tarifa.  On arriving we found that the breeze had now become quite a strong wind.  Difficult to see any raptors although we were informed that, in the calmer previous day, there had been thousands of migrating raptors.  We had to be content with a few more Griffon Vultures, Black Kites and another Short-toed Eagle.
A very curious Stonechat Tarabilla Comun  Saxicola torquatus

Leaving the windy ridge we drove down to the coast and paid a short, windy visit to the Los Lances beach where we immediately noticed that the boardwalk had been re-aligned to, presumably, protect the shore edges. Walking to the beach we had numerous House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings but then a female Pied Flycatcher and the first Stonechat.  A juvenile Blue-headed Wagtail was on the field to the rear of the hide whilst a Northern Wheatear and male Stonechat posed on the wooden fence rail.  Needless to say, there were numerous Cattle Egrets and a few Crested Larks in the area.  However, the real find at the site was a rather lovely Sedge Warbler.  With the tide almost full and scores of wind-surfers on the sea, there was limited scope for waders in the vicinity.  Certainly a number of Yellow-legged Gulls whilst the lagoon in front of the hide held a single Flamingo and a dozen Sandwich Terns rested on the poles in the water to our right.  Returning to the car, we found quite a number of resting Ringed Plovers and a few Sanderling on a rocky edge to the above lagoon and then, in addition to the small numbers of Barn Swallows moving through, the appearance of a single Alpine Swift.  How strange!  Finally, a couple of male Blackbirds and then we were off to Bolonia where absolutely nothing, other than a female Kestrel approaching the beach, was to be seen.

Dusky Meadow Brown Butterfly Hyponephele lycaon
Finally, we made a short circuit of La Janda staying on the main track rather than crossing the bridge up towards the "smelly Farm" and distant fields.  No sooner had we entered the site than we had our first of a small number of Marsh Harriers immediately followed by the first couple of even more Little Egrets.  There were scores of Cattle Egrets following the harvesters whilst, on the far side of the canal, at least fifty White Storks were either feeding or resting.

Working our way slowly down the rack we had a Zitting Cisticola and then a Northern Wheatear flew across the track to the far side of the water.  Eventually our first Grey Heron and then a small flock of Greenfinches.  Half-way down in a flooded area a single White Stork rested alongside a pair of Cattle Egrets whilst, in the water itself, a quartet of Little Egrets were accompanied by seven Glossy Ibis.  More House Sparrows and Goldfinches accompanied us and, over the fields on the far side, a rather lovely female Montagu's Harrier put in an appearance.  Similarly, no sooner had we found another perching Greenfinch than we recorded the only Southern Grey Shrike that had been also resting in the same large waterside bush.  Just beyond the first of two Turtle Doves that were seen whilst driving along the track.

Our first Montagu's Harrier Aguilucho Cenizo Circus pygarus; a lovely female bird.
Reaching the large bend in the track opposite the bridge the field had been well and truly flooded to create a sizable lake.  Here we found a flock of at least an hundred Glossy Ibis along with a number of Black-winged Stilts and and a handful of Coots.  A large flock of Calandra Larks was busy just beyond the eater and closer inspection of the latter produced first a small number of Ruff followed by a single Squacco Heron hidden on a small ridge.  There were also a number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a couple of Red-rumped Swallows overhead but, right in front of us on a parallel track at the edge of the water not ten metres away, a single juvenile Collared Pratincole.  This youngster was quite happy to either just sit, stand and pose or take a short walk whilst all who stopped at this point, as most did, were able to get very close sightings and photographs of the bird.  By now it was well after six so be beat a hasty retreat and carried along the main track passing more Ruffs, Marsh Harriers, White Storks, Herons and both Cattle and Little Egrets to our hostal for the night in Barbate.

Saturday 21 September

Up and away to take a look at the river in Barbate on our way to meet up with half of the Andalucia Bird Society to lead them around La Janda whilst the remainder commenced their day at the raptor sites.  Even more windy than the previous day and, with the tide almost at its top, very little to see other than Yellow-legged Gulls, a few Little Egrets and a small number of waders in the lagoon including (mainly) Ringed Plovers, Sanderlings and single Redshank and Turnstone.  The large area of flood water at the rear of the road produced a good-sized flock of Black-headed Gulls and a large number of Flamingos along with the resident Cattle Egrets.  Then the phone call came to inform me that the group was on its way to our meeting point at the Venta Apollo XI so necessary to get a move on - and we then saw a Hoopoe as we drove inland from Zahara.

Record shot of Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Coffees, comfort breaks and transport arrangements completed, we made our way to the nearby La Janda entrance track.  Stopping at the top of the tack we were able to scan the neighbouring fields, pick out the large numbers of White Storks on the distant ground below us and the Zitting Cisticolas that were fence hopping on both sides of the cars.  It was necessary to wait a further ten minutes as the cowboys move the breeding herd of fighting bulls, calves and mothers, down the track in front of us and then across the canal to distant pastures new.  As we waited then slowly made our own way to the canal we had Barn Swallows continually passing overhead in small numbers followed by our first of very many Marsh Harriers.

The slow drive with many stops alongside the canal continued to produce numerous Cattle and Little Egrets plus many House Sparrows, Goldfinches and Spotless Stralings.  We even had a Northern Wheatear fly across the water and, half-way down in the same flooded filed as yesterday,  a small number of Glossy Ibis resting with a handful of Little Egrets.  The first Grey Heron was found and, after that, they became a common occurrence.

The trouble with standing still is that you do need the occasional stretch - so showing the lovely white rump
Carrying on to the bridge, passing Goldfinches, Stonechats, Common Kestrels and Crested Larks, we spent some time checking out the shallow lake on the bend as yesterday.  In addition to Coots and at least 150 Glossy Ibis we also found a quartet of Shoveler, a couple of Teal and a female Red-crested Pochard.  Lots of Black-winged Stilts in the water and careful scrutiny of the ridges and banks duly produced both a number of Ruff and many Snipe.  The juvenile Collared Pratincole was still present on the lower track and, on this occasion, had been joined by a second juvenile.  Indeed, on at lest three occasions we also saw small flocks of flying Collared Pratincoles.  The two large white herons were, of course, resting Spoonbills and then the great excitement as we found a well-concealed Jack Snipe with its distinctive shorter beak and black striped head; for most of us a first sighting in Spain.  Even a couple of Lapwing were found near the Yellow-legged Gulls and all the while the Marsh Harriers continued to quarter the nearby rice fields.

Yet another female Montagu's Harrier
A chance to hide behind a wall and use the telescope duly produced a couple of Griffon Vultures to the rear of the site along with the first Montagu's Harrier of the day.  Then it was across the bridge, through the avenue of trees where we managed to record both Red-legged Partridge and Pheasant to the river and a stop for our picnic lunch.  As we arrived we found a single Turtle Dove very obligingly waiting for us on the wires and it refused to budge even when another Marsh harrier came within a metre.  During our stop we heard Cetti's Warblers calling from the nearby reeds and a rather splendid Sparrowhawk passed over and on to the sloping cotton field.  Whilst checking out this are we found a couple of Lesser Kestrels and were to see another handful a little later on as we approached the smelly farm.  Some of the group even managed to see a Booted Eagle and most of us recorded the single Blue-headed Wagtail.

Time to drive up to the smelly farm and beyond where we reached the junction before turning and making our way back to the road bridge and the "Ibis Pool".  More Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges, then loads of Wood Pigeons plus scores of Jackdaws and Rock Doves, plus a few Collared Doves, at the farm itself.  Beyond the farm we found our only Buzzard and a few members also recorded Sardinian Warbler.  Indeed, one member even managed to find an Oystercatcher at the edge of the "Ibis Pool".

Time to say "Good-bye" to our tame juvenile Collared Pratincole
Still hot and windy as we made our way back along the main road to the Venta Apollo XI and dispersal.  Some were staying a further night in the area so, hopefully, the wind will have abated so that they get the chance to see raptors on the 'morrow.  A couple of cars did call in at the wooden viewing station at Cazalla on the way home where only a couple of distant, unidentified raptors were seen until a large, dark Honey Buzzard flew over and around us.  What a way to end a marvellous day despite the strong winds.

Photographic footnote:
Having experience recent problems with the computer that gave all pictures an "orange" hue when reduced, the above is my first experiment using "Free Online Picture Resizer" to reduce the original converted jpgs from RAW by 75%.  Early days yet but it would seem to make the pictures a little darker and lose some of the sharpness.  More experimentation needed.

Birds seen:
Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Red-legged partridge, Pheasant, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Grey Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, GriffonVulture, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Booted eagle, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Kestrel, Coot, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Ruff, Redshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Alpine Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sedge Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Southern grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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