Thursday 28 November 2013

Away in the UK at Rutland Water

Thursday 28 November

still no rain and yesterday, Wednesday, was pleasantly mild with even a little sunshine.  What better to do than spend the morning at Rutland Water with my close friend Ron from, relatively, nearby Wigston in Leicstershire as I found my first Redwings and Fieldfares of the winter along with those specialist birds (!) the Dunnock and Pied Wagtail.  And what an assortment of ducks to be seen.

A full illustrated report is on my LTERNATIVE BLOG, axarquiabirder,AND CAN BE FOUND BY CLICKING and can be found by clicking anywhere in the BLOCK or coloured letters.

Not all good news though as upon returning home I not only discovered that the Internet was done but it sounds like a router problem.  The engineer will call next Thursday morning between 7 and 9am.  Just as well as I will be travelling back the following day.  Ah well, at least we have a public library that I can access for a couple of hours of free Internet use and, with the kids at school, no shortage of machines available.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Sierra Loja

Saturday 23 November

Just clearing up odds and ends before I fly back to the UK for a couple of weeks and I receive an email from John Wainwright.  He may be confined to quarters and Steve, Elena and I did not get to the Sierra Loja yesterday but it appears Jenny Wainwright did manage a visit along with John's brother.  It must be John's way to stay in touch with the outside birding world and it certainly appears to make a mark.  Might be a written report to follow which  I can add when I get back to England, but here follows a prime example of what they recorded.  It makes me feel really envious and I hate to think what Steve will say, nevermind think, when he sees the Ring Ouzel shots!

Looks like, from the following report, that Jenny's visit took place on Thursday rather than Friday.

Sierra Loja: 21 November

A very chilly day with a brisk breeze.

As I am still convalescing Jenny and my brother Dave (over from the UK), decided they would pop up the Sierra Loja to see if the Ring Ouzels were in yet.  They called in at the hidden quarry en route and saw Jackdaws, Stonechats and heard Dartford Warbler.  Several Spanish Ibex were seen here also.

The tree line area was very quiet, so onward to the cliff area, where more Jackdaws and a smattering of Choughs were seen.  Also here were Black Redstart, Meadow Pipits and Red-legged Partridges.

As they approached the old marble quarry a Griffon Vulture was seen and then a Bonelli´s Eagle
stuka-dived across the sky and down into the quarry.  A tad further up and their first Thekla Larks were spotted and a couple more Stonechats.

Jenny said that it was really getting cold about now with the temperature gauge showing 3C, but they carried on through the substation valley and over to the ponds.  Both of these ponds were covered in ice and hence the birdlife was non-existent.  So along to the fossil cave area where they picked up three Mistle Thrushes, a single Fieldfare and five Ring Ouzels (three male, two female); several Blackbirds here also.

Retracing their steps and carrying on towards Salar they found more Mistle Thrushes and three Ring Ouzels.  Also in the area were Black Redstarts (all female), House Sparrows and Blackbirds.

As they came back down the mountain to Loja they found a Little Owl.

Chough Chova Piquirroja Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua

Ring Ouzel Mirlo Capiblanco Turdus torquatus (above and below)

A magnificent male Ibex Capra pyrenaica

All above photographs by Jenny Wainwright

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

Friday 22 November 2013

Alcaucin and the Sierra Tejeda

Friday 22 November

With the promise of rain all day, Steve and Elena Powell plus myself cancelled our proposed visit to the Sierra Loja in search of Ring Ouzels.  After all, who wants to be exposed on the top of the mountain in freezing rain and even the possibility of snow?  So, come this morning when I pulled back the curtains I discovered a an almost clear sky and the sun thinking very much about putting his cap back on.  But, of course, it was going to rain, wasn't it?  All my priority jobs done, not long after 11 o'clock and still the sun was shining in an almost clear be sky.  Somewhat chilly when exposed to the cold, strong breeze but, nevertheless, dry.

Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra
Enough is enough so putting o an extra layer I took myself off to Alcaucin to drive up the mountain track into the Sierra Tejeda, followed by a quick look in the "Magpie Woods" and the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarraya before returning home less than three hours later.

White Wagtails, Thekla Larks and House Sparrows approaching Los Romanes followed by a few Spotless Starlings and Rock Doves as I started up the mountain track.  Then, at the lower picnic site, there were my all-to-familiar Crossbill families waiting in their usual tree to welcome me back.  A quick walk along the back via the water course provided Great Tit, Rock Bunting and Chaffinches and then it was time to climb higher.  But not before I sought out the slow repeated knocking of the Great Spotted Woodpecker and got a clear, distant sighting and photographs.  Before reaching the end of the track I had also recorded more Rock Buntings and a very shy Robin.  However, at the farm, on the track in front, was a small group of feeding Chaffinches picking up grit and in their midst a couple of male Bramblings.  Time for a photograph and then nothing, the camera control wheel had been rubbed into the "Bulb" position.  Just a fraction of a second to turn it back to "M" and, there rapidly approaching, was the first vehicle I had seen all morning!  So much for getting a photograph despite hanging around for another ten minutes or so; only the Chaffinches returned to the track along with a passing male Blackbird.  That "Murphy" and his law have an awful lot for which to answer!

Great Spotted Woodpecker
A Kestrel was hovering overhead as I drove straight to the Magpie Woods and had soon found both Mistle Thrushes and Black Redstarts.  The lone Dartford Warbler was a rather lovely addition and I also managed to observe both a dozen Azure-winged Magpies and a departing Jay from the side of the road.

Finally, a quick stop at the tunnel on the old railway track duly presented both Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush (it was, after all, too much to expect the Alpine Accentors to still be in the same immediate vicinity of the tunnel entrance) and so back home with the accompanying Collared Doves and Stonechats.  And still the sun shines albeit there is a little more cloud now that the day is rapidly drawing to a close.

Birds seen:
Kestrel, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Thekla Lark, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Dartford Warbler, Great Tit, Azure-winged Magpie, Jay, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Rock Bunting.

Juvenile Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra

Great Spotted Woodpecker Pico Picapinos Dendrocopus major

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

Thursday 21 November 2013

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Thursday 21 November

Bluethroat Ruisenor Pechiazul Luscinia svecica

It might have started cold and cloudy but, as the sun forced its way through, it certainly started to warm up.  Eleven of us this morning for a relatively short visit to the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar and, as usual, we were welcomed by the local Rock Dove and Moorhen population as we gathered under the N340 road bridge at the start of the track down to the beach fir the November meet of the Axarquia Bird Group.  Now that during this past month saplings have been planted and a new hide erected opposite the pump house, the track itself has been widened at the start so giving ample parking space.  And it was here that we were able to welcome Tony and Karen Scott to our group for their first, of many we hope, monthly sorties with us.  Tony and Karen only yesterday moved in to their new home above Lake Vinuela having "transferred" from Dave and Gilly's Arboleas Bird Group.  Anyway, you are both very welcome.  After what seems a long break it was also good to see Gerry Collins from Salobrena and Leslie Lave for Nerja back with us.  Also present were Pat and Eric Lyon from Sayalonga, Steve Powell from Frigiliana, the Triana trio of Jim Moore, Dan Wilkinson and Brian Greene plus myself.

One of scores of Chiffchaff Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita at the Rio Velez
Introductions completed under the watchful eyes of yet more Rock Doves, Collared Doves and a male Blackbird, not to mention a rather handsome male Black Redstart on the field behind us, it was time to go birding.  At the water's edge below us we had both White and Grey Wagtails and at least a dozen Mallards were drifting about on what was left of the river.  A Heron flew by and a Kestrel was picked up above the trees on the opposite bank but, most of all, there ere Chiffchaffse everywhere.  Trying to hang onto their traditional territory, the few Cetti's Warblers were screaming their heads off and we did mange to find a single Zitting Cisticola.  A "swarm" of raucous Monk Parakeets flew over s we walked down toward the pump house.

A "peek-aboo" Water Pipit Bisbita Alpino Anthus spinoletta
Before reaching the above and taking a look at the newly- installed wooden hide, we had both Water Pipit, at least three seen during the morning, and a handful of Meadow Pipits.  The latter were found all the way down the grassy side of the river but, on this occasion, only as singles or pairs rather then the usual handful.  A number of Ringed Plovers were also found and my only single Little Ringed Plover remained absent until we return walk to the cars.  A Snipe took off in its crazy zig-zag flight upsteam and then a small flock of sixteen Sanderlings but this week with out their solitary Dunlin friend.

Sanderlings Correlimos Tridactilo Calidris alba at play

Also seen on the walk down to the pump house were Serin, Goldfinch and Greenfinch along with large flocks of Spotless Starlings, all making good use of the available drinking water at the river's edge.  More Black Redstarts and then a couple of Black-winged Stilts along with a pair of Dunlin.  Whilst the nearby Stonechats were rather cute they could not possibly compare with the lone Golden Plover that posed at the riverside immediately in font of us.

A lone Golden Plover Chorlito Dorado Europeo Pluvialis apicaria at the Rio Velez
Time to leave the Chiffchaffs behind and pause at the new hide.  What a noise but from where?  It would appear that the local secondary school had decided that this would be a good morning for their teenage pupils to undertake a little practical field work.  Unfortunately, the accompanying teachers had take their charges for a walk along the river's bank so disturbing and driving away any birds in the vicinity, if not by presence then certainly by noise.  We did encourage them up away from the river and into the hide; not necessarily a good move.  The moreso when we discovered that this was only a third of the number present.  But, on the other hand, they were all polite and welcoming, just not used to being quiet and observant.

A most handsome male Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros
From the hide we had further views of both Meadow and Water Pipit, Black Redstart, Robin, White Wagtail and another Heron.  A number of Coots had found sufficient dept to justify a stay and on the distant lagoon we were able to identify four gull species; Black-headed, Mediterranean, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls.  A Cormorant or two were also seen whilst, once on the beach, we even managed to pick out a distant adult Gannet on the horizon.

Record shot of the lone, late Red-rumped Swallow Golondrina Daurica Hirundo daurica
But our stay on the beach was to prove very rewarding.  Not just the single Black-necked Grebe that a couple of members saw or even the Crested Larks on the far shore but the two hirundines.  The grebe matched the low-departing Osprey that was seen by a couple of the group as it headed up river shaded by the tall rushes.  Whilst we were not surprised to see the single Crag Martin that had come down from the hills we were certainly not expecting the lone Red-rumped Swallow that fed over the water and flew around our heads.  However, it was the Bluethroat, not the House Sparrows, that really kept our undivided attention.  Indeed, there must have been at least three individuals present.  We thought we were lucky with one feeding in the long grass then a well-exposed individual in front of us and finally a bird that flew in behind us to feed at the water's edge within ten metres.  This was certainly one bird that expressed no fear.

Bluethroat Ruisenor Pechiazul Luscinia svecica

Considering that we were on site for little more than a couple of hours and had up to thirty teenagers wandering around at the lower end of the track, we ought to be very gratified to have recorded at least 42 species.

An ever watchful Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

Birds seen:
Mallard, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron,Osprey, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Golden Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.
Now what could be possibly capturing everybody's attention?  Look carefully at the lower picture.

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

No John with Jenny to Fuente de Piedra

Wednesday 20 November

I am sure that you will all be pleased to know that John Wainwright, whilst still unable to walk, is making excellent progress following his operation and hopes to be out with the Axarquia Bird Group once again come next January.  Merry Christmas and a Happy  New Year John and Jenny in case I forget!
Bluethroat Ruisenor Pechiazul Luscinia svecica (Jenny Wainwright)

Meanwhile, not to be left on the sidelines feeding grapes to John as he reclines in front of the television, Jenny managed to coax, cajole, threaten her brother into talking her over to Fuente de Piedra.  I am not sure where the Cranes were but John reports that only a handful were seen.  On the other hand, perhaps in preparation for the Axaquia Bird Group's visit to the Rio Velez on the morrow, they did get splendid views of both male and female Bluethroats.  Enjoy Jenny's photograph and I wonder what we will see in the morning?

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

Sunday 17 November 2013

Andalucia Bird Society visit to Ventas de Zafarraya and its hinterland

Saturday 16 November

The ever-watchful Ibex (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
The coldest night of the winter so far this year where we live and here I was taking a party of ten members up to the mirador at Ventas de Zafarraya to join the rest of the members of the Andalucia Bird Society on their November field meet.  Lovely to see so many interested birders, I think the final count was twenty-five, and this large number was, indeed to prove somewhat problematical once we started on he third part of our day's venture.  And, by jove, it was even colder as we prepared to start our walk along the old railway track and through the tunnel into the sun and onwards before returning to the (many) cars.  Definitely a case of putting on as many clothes as could be found in the car!  Butthe watching Ibex did not seem to mind as they peered down upon us.

Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
We had already had White Wagtail, Thekla Lark, Collared and Rock Dove, not to mention numerous Black Redstarts and a single male Blackcap as we approached the meeting point to be greeted by more Black Redstarts and the first of very many Blue Rock Thrushes during our stay.  Mick Richardson had already seen and photographed a magnificent Peregrine Falcon as he approached the site so we all pleased when, eventually, we all managed to find another.  However, strange to relate, we only had a single Black Wheatear before the tunnel and only one more on the other side but a couple more as we returned to the cars where further individuals were seen.  Steve managed to get a shot of the Meadow Pipit that had decided to perch on the wires above and, of course, there were a small number feeding on the grass. There were, of course, other great birds seen including Wren, Sardinian and Dartford Warblers, Great Tit, a number of Stonechat, Crag Martins in, out and around the tunnel and a final total of eight Griffon Vultures drifted over.  However, the best sighting, and probably the "bird of the day"  was the Alpine Accentor, even better than the Ring Ouzel seen by one of the members..  Following a distant sighting on the cliff face before the tunnel, as we started our return walk most were surprised and privileged to then find an individual on the rocks immediately to the right and within ten metres.  Then add on a couple of Northern Wheatears, Rock Sparrow and Bunting and a fly-over Peregrine Falcon, even a Sparrowhawk was seen on the other side of the valley, and we really had been treated well.  Wow!

Alpine Accentor Acentor Alpino Prunella collaris (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Leaving the mirador, we next drove through the "Magpie Woods" where most recorded Azure-winged Magpie after a short stop which also revealed Mistles Thrushes, Red-legged Partridge, Robin and Chaffinch.  Next it was to the arable fields, passing charms of Goldfinches plus Serins and a Corn Bunting, before our successful search for both Calandra and Short-toed Lark.  We even recorded a couple of Sky Larks, saw both Kestrel and another Peregrine Falcon along with House Sparrows.  Not long after mid-day and we had recorded five species of lark when you add on both Thekla and Crested Lark.  As we drove away a (common) Magpie flew over.

Thekla Lark Cogujada Montesina Galerida theklae  (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Between here and the pantaneta above Alhama de Granada all seemed to fall apart as we managed to lose three cars towards the rear of our ten-car convoy.  I was later to hear that the "missing cars" had managed to find Brambling at the same site where the Mistle Thrushes had been previously see.  For those us who reach the small laguna, very useful for warming coffee and much appreciated facilities, we duly recorded Moorhen and Coot along with Little Grebe, Mallard, Shoveler and Pochard on the water.  A Cetti's Warbler dashed past below the hide.  A little later a short walk to the adjoining spinney produced Coal and Long-tailed Tit, Firecrest and Short-toed Treecreeper.  On the outskirts we also had three Grey Herons, Wood Pigeon and a couple of Song Thrushes along with the expected Blackbird.

Rapidly departing Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Our final stop of the day was at the woods of El Robledal.  No sooner had we arrived and we were both hearing and seeing Crested Tits, Coal Tits, Chaffinches and the first Nuthatch.  In addition, many if not most, had also seen Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker  as we approached the car park.  Indeed, some also had views of Green Woodpecker and Crossbill.  The hour-long circular walk, as well as more of the above, also confirmed Buzzard and Jackdaws were seen from the car park.  Finally, another Southern Grey Shrike and a Nuthatch were seen on the drive back down the track to the main road and home.

Crested Tit Herrerillo Capuchino Parus cristatus  (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

It may have started out very cold but the day had certainly warmed up, both in terms of heat and the number and quality of birds recorded.  Most enjoyable and a final total of 68 species - until I am corrected!

Now where did that Alpine Accentor go?
With my computer on the "blink" and unable to access my photographs, I am most grateful to my friend Steve Powell in providing the illustrations, all take on the day.

Griffon Vultures Buitre Leonado Gyps fulvus over Ventas de Zafarraya
Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea resting in the trees at the pantaneta
One of many Blue Rock Thrushes Roquero Solitario Monticola solitaries seen from the old railway track
Good news; Computer now fixed and, all being well, a couple of more photos to add as well as the additional photo from Steve of a Crested Tit.

Now how's this for a cheeky Long-tailed Tit Mito Aegithalos caudatus?

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Griffon Vulture, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Wren, Alpine Accentor, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Dartfrd Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Southern Grey Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill, Rock Bunting, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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