Tuesday 30 December 2014

Kill or cure treatment - even at zero dgrees

30 December 2014

Having spent yesterday and the latter half of Sunday either in bed or wrapped up in more layers than I thought possible, I think I have managed to break the cold before it got its icy claws into me.  So, nothing ventured nothing gained, I set off down to Benamargosa to collect the accumulated post and by just after nine I was  my way over to Alcaucin to take the mountain track up through the Sierra Tejeda and then on to El Robledal with a very short stop at Venta de Zafarraya on the way home.  Did I cure the cold?  You'll find out if I manage to take part in a New Year's Day bird with Steve and Elena Powell.

A good start on the way down with Thekla Lark, good numbers of both Goldfinch and Serins plus the usual Rock and Collared Doves and then into some really lovely birds with many sightings of Black Redstart, especially the handsome male, and White Wagtails.  No sooner in the woods proper and numerous Chaffinches.

The lower picnic site proved quite interesting with Chaffinches and then a single Song Thrush followed by a single Crested Tit that landed right in front of me in the dead leaves - but ling enough for me to lift the camera.   A walk along the water gully produced Rock Bunting and Robin and at least three drumming Greater Spotted Woodpeckers.  Once the Blackbird had disappeared I had time to watch a very hungry Nuthatch attacking the cones as if his very life depended on finding some seeds. it probably did.  A Greenfinch next but then the unexpected sight of watching two Coal Tits in pre-breeding display as thy chased each other round and round the nearby trees.  It hardly seemed worth mentioning the lovely blue Blue Tit, an adult male.

This Nuthatch Trepador Azul Sitta europaea knows there's a seed somewhere in there!
Just as I left so a couple of Crossbills appeared in the usual Eucalyptus tree and more Rock Buntings were encountered on the drive up to the upper picnic area, including one very large example who had obviously found a discarded Christmas pudding to feast on, which his now devoid of all the old, rotten trees that the Crossbills used to favour.  But one lovely male did present itself and, apologies, I messed up the camera settings.  What a great opportunity missed.  Mind you, the temperature was now down to zero and the hands were also a little on the shivering side!  That's my excuse.  Before leaving the area I also added both Mistle Thrush and just the single Spotless Starling.

Female (above) and male Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra

No sooner back on the main road than I recorded a Crested Lark and arriving at the picnic area car park at El Robledal I was welcomed by another Song Thrush and a pair of Great Tits.  Also added here were Chiffchaff and a pair of Meadow Pipits.  But disappointed was finally averted when a Jay flew over the track in front of me as I was leaving revealing another already settled in its intended bush.

This Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia that crossed the track in front of me to feed in the grass was so large I thought it must be an Alpine Accentor.  I even stopped the car to take these photos.  Look at the length of the tail!

The old railway track at Ventas de Zafarraya was very disappointing with almost no birds at all.  Eventually, during my walk up to and through the tunnel and back, I did find a number of Black Redstarts and a pair of White Wagtails.  A single male Blue Rock Thrush was on guard atop the far end of the tunnel but for the first time I can remember, not a single Black Wheatear was seen.

Spring must be on the way when you see the flowering Broad-leaved Irises.  (Correct name?)
By way of variety, driving down to Torre del Mar to fill up with fuel I did come across a couple of Cattle Egrets!

Again, many apologies for the rubbish photographs and I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year as I suspect that this was my last bird outing of 2014.

Birds seen:
Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jay, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Rock Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Anyone seen a wader?

Monday 29 December

Very windy here this morning but clear apart from the clouds over the mountains and the sun trying to warm up the pace as I set out for the Guadalhorce in Malaga in the hope of better weather on the coast.  Arriving at 9.15 I was greeted by clear blue skies, sunshine and only a gentle breeze, not even strong enough to ruffle the sea.  On the other hand, by midday there was a more active breeze so glad that I was ensconced at the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande.

Marauding Monk Parakeets about as I arrived (and as I left) accompanied by both Collared Doves and the resident House Sparrows so along the embankment track to the footbridge.  A couple of Sardinian Warblers about and at least a dozen Black Redstarts whilst the occasional Cormorant either entered or departed the reserve.  A lone Kestrel rested on the other bank in a tree top and the first Rock Doves made their way to their favourite roosting bridge.

A "peek-a-boo" male Black Redstart ColirrojoTizon Phoenicurus ochruros
Just the one Coot on the river and a rather sad looking Grey Heron but, almost immediately, a small charm of Goldfinches passed over me along with a handful of Serin and I even picked up a single female Greenfinch.  Then I was at the Laguna Casillas and a quartet of White-headed Ducks to the right along with a trio of Common Pochard and a handful of Teal.  A small number of Coots on the water and a family of Little Grebes but the single Purple Swamphen was a pleasant surprise.  A couple of White Wagtails were working the path outside the  hide and then a juvenile Marsh Harrier drifted over  front of me.  Meanwhile, the Chiffchaffs were busy on the vegetation bordering the water.

A well-concealed Purple Swamphen Calamon Porphyrio porphyrio with watching Coot  Focha Comun Fulica atra
The Wader Pool, like the rest of the reserve, was full of water so very little chance of finding any waders here.  But, diligent searching, did produce a pair of Snipe along with more Chiffchaffs and Little Grebes.  A recently trimmed tree to the left seemed very inviting and here I found both a Robin and a Stonechat.  A pair of Mallards were sheltering on tte near side of the large island and as a female Blackbird flew into the above-mentioned tree so the wintering Osprey passed over the back of the water.

Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus ablutions  - before and after
The Rio Viejo was also very full so only one sighting here, a pair of juvenile Flamingos.  On the other side of the track I managed to find a single Crested Lark and a small flock of Meadow Pipits.  The same was true of the beach once I reached the Sea Watch.  No people, no birds, no nothing.  But then, wait a moment, I found the single, forlorn Grey Plover near the water's edge to the west; and what a sad, miserable looking individual he appeared to be.  No doubt gone within the hour when the walkers and their dogs arrived.

Robin  Petirrojo Europeo  Erithacus rubecula
Returning by the same route  I managed to see a light phase Booted Eagle overhead and the Laguna Casillas held a single Little Egret.  Then on round to the Laguna Escondida and had two Cattle Egrets fly over the track and away to the east before finding, again, a rather empty pool, of birds not water.  A few more White-headed Ducks, Pochards and Coots but nothing else save an arriving male Blackbird.

Booted Eagle Aguilills Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus seen from above and below as well as at rest
The Laguna Grande held a good number of both Grey Herons and Cormorants.  There were two good-sized flocks of Spotless Starlings and in one, only a meter away from a resting Booted Eagle, was a Common Starling; just the one.  A trio of Shoveler and a pair of Teal rested to my left and I even found another Little Grebe.  At the far right, five Flamingos rested and fed near the barren island and then, just a few metres to the right, a quartet of Knot.  Now that was a very pleasant surprise, my first of the year.  There were very few gulls about all morning and the only birds recognised were a small number of immature Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Whilst at this hide I met a charming young Spanish lady from El Palo (whose father has a house just below mine in Los Romanes) with a good grasp of English so we were able to exchange sightings and ideas, etc.  Details passed on, so hopefully Mari will come and join us in the Axarquia Bird Group or the Andalucia Bird Society - or both.

Record shot of the Knot Correlimos Gordo Calidris canutus quartet at the back of the Laguna Grande
Not exactly a world-beating total with 39 species recorded but very enjoyable to be out birding again.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Grey Plover, Knot, Snipe, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

A distant pair of Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago on the Wader pool

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Saturday 27 December 2014

Alcaucin and the hills above with John and Jenny Wainwright

27 December

A very ephemeral setting for the morning's departure from Salar  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Goodness me, it's become just like the number 9 bus; no sooner are John and Jenny Wainwright back on their birding feet and they are out again with just a few hours sleep!  Yesterday if was almost on my own doorstep with a visit to the picnic sites on the mountain track from Alcaucin to the top and then on to both El Robledal and Ventas de Zafarraya.  Having just read about my friend Andy Paterson's Christmas Day visit to La Janda and his arrival in thick mist, I see that John and Jenny had a dose of the "blanket" when they set out from their Salar home but, with the clearing mist and the arrival of the warm sunshine they also managed to pick up some butterflies - and we are only a handful of days away from the end of the year.

And what of my festive birding?  All being well I shall pay a visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga in the morning and even try to get up to El Robledal via Alcaucin on either Monday or Tuesday.  Will I succeed?  Watch this blog for the answer.

Alcacuin, Zafaraya &V El Robedal:  26th December

Another fairly misty day to start and very cold in the shade, but  warmed up later

It was hard work spotting anything due to the misty conditions but where the mist had lifted we did manage to see Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, Azure-winged and Common Magpies.  As we were coming from Salar - the roads were very icy - we took the reverse route making for the Mirador Pedro Agueria (I think the spelling may be incorrect) en route seeing Jays, Crossbills, Chaffinch and a couple of Great Tits.  At the mirador I had a walk round the small wooded area and picked up Nuthatches, Crested Tits, Sardinian Warblers, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Great Tits, Chaffinches, Crossbills and, as we pulled away from the mirador, a group of Serins.

Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Next port of call was the Alcacuin picnic site and again the Crossbills were in the majority.  Also about were two Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, Coal Tits, Great Tits, Nuthatches, two dark-phased Red Squirrels, superb views of Firecrests, Sardinian Warblers and a Robin.  At the El Rio site not a peep was heard, so we headed for the Zafarraya railway track.

A hard-working Firecrest  Reyezuelo Listado Regulus ignicapilla seeking out his breakfast (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Quite a few people about here today - walking off their festive lunches no doubt.  Our first encounter was with a pair of Black Wheatears and several Crag Martins.  Emerging out of the tunnel, Jenny spotted a Blue Rock Thrush, then a Black Redstart.  Our first lark of the day in the shape of a Thekla which was noted along with a huge flock of some two hundred Chough which arose from the mountain top.  The reason became apparent when a Sparrowhawk was seen being chased across the face of the cliff by several of the Chough until he had enough and disappeared.

Lots of Stonechats ( male and female) about as well as Sardinian Warblers (males) and a pair of Great Tits. A small flock of Corn Buntings flew overhead and landed in the small bushes on the down slope, then another Black Wheatear and a Southern Grey Shrike.

Moving on to El Robledal camp site area (the track has been repaired here at last), more Jays were seen as well as Crested Tits, a family of Long-tailed Tits, a single Greenfinch, a Green Woodpecker and two more Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, Wood Pigeons, Great Tits, Nuthatches, Chaffinches, a Chiffchaff, a couple more Red Squirrels (one dark-phase and one very light one) and our last birds of the day were Crested Lark and another Southern Grey Shrike.

A not-so-dark-as-usual Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
A few butterflies about including Small White, Pale Clouded Yellow and several Long-tailed Blues.

Long-tailed Blue butterfly Lampides boeticus  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

It certainly sounds as if you had a good day, especially when coupled with the previous twenty-four hours.  What next I wonder?

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Friday 26 December 2014

Forget Christmas turkeys, look at the Great Bustards!

Friday 26 December

It would appear that there are always good-sized birds to be found on Christmas Day and not just on the dining tables of the Christian world with their legs up in the air and stuffed with seasonal goodies!  Whilst I was on cooking duties preparing the festive meal and Jenny at church as we awaited the arrival of our guests, John and Jenny Wainwright took off from their Salar home to visit the "triangle" just south of Osuna in search of our own Andalucian answer to the turkey, albeit not for human consumption, and in this they were not to be disappointed. Not only Great Bustards but, as John's report states, good numbers of Southern Grey Shrikes (I still can't bring myself to call them "Iberian Grey Shrikes") and even a wintering Wryneck.  But, most of all, my delight was receiving John's email that he and jenny had, at last, been able to return to the birding world which can only mean that Jenny is at least much better or even recovered; the best Christmas news I could hear from Salar.  Now I look forward to seeing John and Jenny again as soon as possible and wish them, along with all readers, a very happy and healthy New Year with some super birding to come in 2015.

Great Bustards  Avutarda Comun Otis tarda near Osuna (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Osuna 25th December 2014

A cold (-2C) and foggy start to the day but warmed up later

As we were leaving the village we saw Collared Doves,Spotless Starlings, two Jackdaws, House Sparrows and a Chaffinch.  As we turned off of the autovia a few Cattle Egrets were feeding at one end of a field whilst two men were rabbiting in the ditch at the other end.  Along the road to the first bridge there were several small flocks of Spanish Sparrows, also about were Corn Buntings, Sardinian Warblers and Stonechats.

Male Spanish Sparrow Gorrion Moruno Passer hispaniolensis (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
We stopped at one of the small streams here we found Moorhen, more Spanish Sparrows and a Hoopoe, whilst on the fence alongside the railway line House Sparrows, Linnets and yet more Stonechats were noted and in the field in the front of them we picked up our first of many Crested Larks. Then a Great Bustard flew over our heads, heading for the olive groves alongside the Vereda de Rabadanes.

More Great Bustards  Avutarda Comun Otis tarda  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Turning off onto the Vereda de Rabadanes we spotted two Great Bustards feeding in the field, then another five arose from the ground.  We sat in the car waiting to see what they were going to do but they were quite settled and carried on feeding allowing us to take some forty or fifty photos (well, you can never take too many).  As we left the track and rejoined the main road a Marsh Harrier came around the back of the road bridge and off into the distance.  Meadow Pipits, more Corn Buntings and Stonechats were seen before we left the road for the track leading to the new bridge.

Hare today; gone tomorrow  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Our first encounter down the track sitting on the top strand of barbed wire was a beautiful Wryneck, it stayed long enough for one photo through the screen, but then vanished as a Malaga bound train passed by.  Our one and only Serin of the day was then seen along with Goldfinches, Stonechats, White Wagtails, Chiffchaffs and a superb looking Hare was disturbed from the new railway track.  Then our first Raven of the day (this is surprising as we have normally notched up twenty or thirty by now) followed by a second, then a Common Buzzard followed by a Black Kite.  In the fields to our left more Crested Larks and a small group of Calandra Larks rose as we passed, and back again to the fences, where more Spanish Sparrows were seen. Over the "bridge" and along this road a few Common Kestrels (only females though) were seen on the pylons along with several Southern Grey Shrikes.  From over the olive grove on our left, two Red Kites made their entrance showing us their wonderful colouration.  A Common Buzzard approached  from the field on our right and  perched on top of a pylon, displacing its former resident a Sparrowhawk, while below in the grove a large family of Red-legged Partridges scattered in all directions.

A wonderful, wintering Wryneck Torcecuello Euroasiatico Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
We parked in the Vereda del Alamillo for lunch - the rabbiters were here as well, and here - while in between sandwiches and sausage rolls - we spotted Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Corn Buntings, House and Spanish Sparrows a large flock of Black-headed Gulls and a lone Black Stork circled overhead. 

Returning over the "bridge" and turning onto the Marchena road, more Ravens started appearing, then another Common Buzzard and a Red Kite.  As we reached the largish "lake" by the new railway bridge, a huge flock of  some two hundred White Storks were in the fields and on the lake itself we found Black-winged Stilts, Shovelers, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls while in the field to the front of the lake another thirty or so Ravens.

Following the road round we found two occupied storks nests; on one a single White Stork and the other a pair of White Storks.  Another Black Stork was seen here alongside another flock of White Storks circling high above the lake area and as we slowed down watching the olive grove for Stone Curlews (which we dipped on), a Green Woodpecker was seen feeding there but didn´t stay around for a photo session.

One of many Red Kites Milano Real Milvus milvus seen on the day (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Our return journey to Salar gave us Red Kites, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzards and as we got to the Antequera area a massive flock of Jackdaws came to settle in the olive groves just past the new but incomplete railway bridge.

Overall a very successful Christmas Day trip and a Merry Christmas to all followers of Bob´s Axarquia blog. 

John & Jenny (Salar)

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Friday 19 December 2014

Fuente de Piedra

Thursday 18 December
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocehala (PHOTO: Dave Jefferson)

A beautiful sunny start to the day with clear blue skies and a temperature of 14C when I left home for the monthly field meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group at Fuente de Piedra.  By the time I got to Antequera the temperature had dropped to 3 and just a little further on bottomed out at 1C.  Could things get any worse?  They certainly could as I then encountered a dense mist which had not really cleared by the time I reached Fuente.  So much for arriving early to take a look at the flooded field on the left as all I could see was a damp grey field with a low-lying mist and dark shadows moving across the still waters.  On the other hand, by the time we eventually moved of from the car park at about 10.15 the mist had started to lift and eighteen members had joined me for what proved to be a most enjoyable morning.  Most birds were seen by most members and our combined total for the session reached 57 and, I have no doubt, somebody will email in to tell what I have missed from the list!

The Jackdaws seemed to be the first birds to recover from the early mist and closely followed by the resident House Sparrows and a few Spotless Starlings.  Next up a couple of Collared Doves and then it was time to take a look over the scrape and main water to see what was resting and/or feeding below.  Lots of Shovelers and a few Teal plus the ever-present Mallards along with a relatively small number of Coots and Moorhens.  All the Flamingos, save one juvenile on the lagunetta at the back, were at the far end and probably totalled about a couple of thousand.  No shortage of Gulls, mainly Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed but also some of the Yellow-legged variety but just the single wafer, a sole Ringed Plover, other than the wintering Lapwings.

Female Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros
From the mirador in front of the Visitors Centre we were able to see a range of little brown jobs in and out of the bushes including Stonechats, Black Redstarts, Blackcaps and Sardinian Warblers.  In due course this are also produced a Zitting Cisticola, Corn Buntings and Crested Larks along with White Wagtails near the water and a single Water Pipit.

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus (PHOTO: Dave Jefferson)
The lagunetta proved, as usual, to be quite reliable with close views of Shoveler, Mallard, Teal and Pochard along with both Little and Black-necked Grebes.  A couple of Marsh Harriers made a pass over the water, but not the male that had been previously seen from the above mirador, and a distant bird perched in the mist over the distant gate had a rather surreal look about it.  Lots of Goldfinches, StonechatsWhite Wagtails and Black Redstarts in front of the hide plus a lovely view of a Meadow Pipit and then the arrival of a Spanish Sparrow immediately in front if many was an added bonus.  Nearer the water we had a s many as eight Snipe foraging on the bank and then the arrival of about a dozen Black-winged Stilts.  Just the one Green Sandpiper when we first arrived. But, possibly, pride of place went to the Little Owl that refused to fly away so that all present were able to take a close look - both through bins and scopes, and then the first of a couple of Blackbirds as we departed.

Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: Dave Jefferson)
Snipe Gallinego gallinago (PHOTO: Dave Jefferson)
The walk to the causeway produced nothing in addition to the species seen before other than a single Southern Grey Shrike and a Little Egret but, on reaching the now visible flooded field, a single
Gadwall and a Kingfisher that dashed over the road and disappeared never to be seen again.

Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops
Cars sorted, we then set out to drive the anti-clockwise route round the laguna stopping at all the miradors but not before a Sparrowhawk had flown over above us in the car park and a resting Buzzard greeted us on the first electricity pylon once we had reached the road.  Nothing to be seen from the Vicaria but approaching Cantarannas we came across the wintering Cranes with a total of 220 feeding in the field to our right.  From the mirador we looked down on more of the same ducks but we also able to add both a Herons and a Purple Swamphen.  A very distant and high Sparrow hawk was also noted and in the olives grove below a pair of Red-legged Partridge were scurrying along between the trees.  It was also here that we got the first real view of the thousand or so Flamingos out on the lake.  Both Serin and Cetti's Warbler along with Greenfinch had already been seen by some and then, at last, conformation of a Common Sandpiper.

A small section of the feeding 220 Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus
Continuing on round the water, a stop at the recently-opened Mirador Las latas produced another Southern Grey Shrike and a Hen Harrier plus a single Linnet and then, on reaching the old ruin on the far side, not a possible Little Owl but a pair of Hoopoes.  A Kestrel flew over.  This ruin sits in the middle of a pair of fields that can usually be relied upon to produce Stone Curlews if present and we were not to be disappointed with the sight of at least 24 birds, about eight resting and another sixteen flying away.  What a way to end a glorious morning's birding in great company and glorious weather.

Stone Curlew  Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedicnemus

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Greater Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Crane, Stone Curlew, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler,Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Spotless Staling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Charca de Suarez

Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo
Wednesday 17 December

A beautiful, clear, warm and sunny afternoon to collect my friend Ceri Levy from Nerja and drive over towards Motril to introduce him to both the picnic area above Velez de Benaudalla and the delights of the lovely Charca de Suarez reserve on the western outskirts of the town.  What and introduction with an eventual sighting of 44 species in less than three hours.

A Kestrel almost as soon as we approached Salobrena and no sooner had we arrive in the village of Velez de Benaudalla for a walk along the top path to the natural spring than we were seeing both Black Redstarts, and lots more later on at the Charca de Suarez, Blackcap, House Sparrows, White Wagtails, Collared Doves and the first, single, Cattle Egret.  The short drive up to the picnic area produced at least a trio of Grey Wagtails and, whilst a Dipper was not seen at least I was able to show Ceri the traditional breeding site.

The it was back down to the coast to visit the reserve by way of "Turtle Dove Alley" and whilst the named birds had long departed for southern climes we did see the first of a number of Wrens, Goldfinches, RedAvadavats, Stonechats and a Greenfinch.  Indeed, as we left the lane we seen on our way by a single Southern Grey Shrike acting as a sentinel for all who passed that way.

A resting pair of Shoveler Cuchara Comun Anas clypeata
Greeted by both Rock and Collared Doves as we entered the reserve we walked past the reception hut and on down to the Laguna del Taraje seeing our first Blackbird on the way but not before a rather lovely female Marsh Harrier had drifted overhead.  Cetti's Warblers were calling and on the water we had a few Coots and Mallards along with a handful of Shoveler.  Chiffchaffs were everywhere.  Chiffchaffs here, Chichaffs there, every chiffing way you looked yet another Chiffchaff. These little winter warblers even made the occasional White Wagtail seem like a rarity!

How many Chiffchaff  Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita can you see in one session?
Leaving the first pool to visit the newly created Laguna del Alamo Blanco we had the delight of a dark morph Booted Eagle and then discovered just how much the reads had grown over the past two tr three months.  A single Little Egret at the back along with a Green Sandpiper whilst  White wagtails wandered about in front and a trio of Ringed Plovers occupied the middle area of exposed mud.  Just to the left we found four Snipe and then the Teals, Shovelers and Mallards hove into sight on the opposite side of the water.

A gorgeous Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea

Next to the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas with Goldfinches flitting around us as we made the short walk and were then greeted by a plentiful selection of birds including, apart from more Chiffchaffs, Coots, Moorhens and Mallards.  A closer look also revealed both Shoveler and Teal and a small number of Little Grebes.   We even found a handful of Common Pochards on the back of the water.   A good number of resting Cormorants and the occasional visit from both Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls added to the attraction and then, of course there were those lovely Grey Herons.  A single Black-winged Stilt posed on the island in front of us.  But, perhaps, best of all was the single Little Bittern that Ceri managed to discover skulking in the tall reeds to the left.

Record shot of "Ceri's" Little Bittern Avetorillo Comun Ixobrychus minutus

Next up was the Laguna del Trebol passing a single Robin on the way where, apart from more Coots and Moorhens, we eventually found our first (collar ringed) Red-knobbed Coot along with a couple of Purple Swamphens. However, it was when viewing the water from the hide on the southern bank that we found not only another pair of Red-knobbed Coots but also their, unringed, youngster of the year.  Even more surprising, having not seen one of the local Bluethroats, was the Water Pipit that put in an appearance to our right albeit in a very shady area.  Our final sighting was the first, followed by dozens more, of the local Cattle Egrets as they arrived to take up their roosting spaces for the night.

Juvenile Red-knobbed Coot  Focha Moruna Fulica cristata
Time to press on as it was almost 6pm and closing time and no sooner out of the hide than Ceri picked up a handful of buntings on the left and closer inspection identified the birds as Reed Buntings including a lovely male rapidly developing its black head.  It seemed silly to completely miss out on the final Laguna del Lirio so we popped in for a couple of minutes and added Gadwall to the list as well as finding another Purple Swamphen and our final Wren of the afternoon.

Water Pipit Bisbita Alpino Anthus spinoletta
I trust it was a very successful introduction to the Charca de Suarez for Ceri and now, hopefully, he might find time to pay more regular visits.  And just to add the icing to the proverbial cake, no sooner had  I got Ceri back to Maro and there was Jackie to welcome us in with coffee and chocolate biscuits.  What more could a birder ask for!

The start of the evening roost for the Cattle Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis
Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Wren, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

An evening Purple Swamphen Calamon Porphyrio porphyrio as the sun sinks in the west

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Saturday 13 December 2014

Ring Ouzels, Alpine Acentors and Redwings!

Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua
Friday 12 December

Jenny off early for a day trip to Gibraltar with her friend plenty of time to get ready (comes as a result of having to set the alarm for 5.45) for an early start for a trip over to the Sierra Loja, meet up with Steve and Elena Powell, and set off up the mountain to find some photographable Ring Ouzels and, with luck, a flock or more of Alpine Accentors.  Leaving my mountain top in the early light with the sun already out in a clear sky and a temperature of 9C, I was soon passing through the pass at Venta de Zafarraya where the thermometer had fallen to zero.  Round the corner to Zafarraya itself and it was now -4 and then down to -5C as I crossed over to the Loja side of the mountains.  Good to realise that when I finally arrived at the service station meeting point the temperature had risen to all of -2C!  Meanwhile, Steve and Elena were running a little late having taken the more direct route on the motorway via Granada but got caught u in the early morning traffic.  Reminds me of the story about a certain hare and a tortoise!

All safely gathered in, equipment transferred to Steve's 4 x 4 and off we went up to the top, missing out quarry stops so that we could concentrate on the Ring Ouzels.  Local House Sparrows saw us of from the service station and we soon had a Robin, Chaffinches and our first of very many Black Redstarts during the morning.  A large flock of Wood Pigeons moved over as we travelled beyond the bottom farm and then a stop to take a long look at a resting Little Owl that just refused to fly away, very un-owl like.  Having already recorded Sardinian Warbler and seen a small flock of Azure-winged Magpies as I approached Loja they were not missed as we passed through the trees but soon we above the tree-line and noticing both Crested Larks and Rock Buntings.  A couple of very fat male Blackbirds put in an appearance and then we were passing the power station where we found in excess of 150 Choughs and a few Jackdaws, the later apparently feeding on ticks as they sat on the backs of the wandering sheep.
Southern Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis
The amazing thing was that as went higher the temperature rose rather than dipped.  From -2 we had reached 12C and, once at the top, even allowing for the sun rising higher into the clear blue sky, we were actually basking in at least 15C!  So much for putting on all the extra layers.

First the track up and past the Charca del Negra where we found plenty of water in both pools and Rock Sparrows on the fence.  A couple of Goldfinches flew over and we were to see more but always in very small groups rather than the usual large charms.  Below , on the right, a small number of Corn Buntings rested in a small bush until most were moved on by the arrival of a Southern Grey Shrike seeking out the highest point to observe the local vegetation in search of a bite or two.

Approaching the first outcrop of Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna trees we saw our first Ring Ouzels of the morning. Unlike my previous visit they seemed to me more dispersed and feeding in very small groups, usually less than a handful of birds, and taking berries from the smaller, more isolated bushes.  Then a huge flurry as a large number of Alpine Accentors were disturbed and moved around looking for better shelter.  Thank goodness they uttered there mixture of lark-like and Crested-Tit-like calls to help conform their identification.  Much time was spent in this area, especially at the two main Hawthorn areas and, whilst we did see many Ring Ouzels, they never seemed to either stay still long enough, let alone in an exposed position, to enable us to get any good photographs.  However, closer inspection revealed that we also a few Redwings present.

Distant record shot of Ring Ouzel Mirlo Capiblanco Turdus torquatus
Time to move on, passing a male Black Wheatear below us, and check out the, usually, favoured area by returning to the main track and up and over the top and down into the valley of the upturned bath tubs.  Before reaching the site, again, it was apparent that the birds were not in large flocks and also seemed to be concentrating on the smaller, isolated bushes.  Imagine our surprise when wondering why the female Ring Ouzel looked so pale and using our bins discovered that we also had Fieldfares resent as well as Redwings!  Too excited for my own good, as on enlarging the photograph back home it proved to be a Mistle Thrush.  No sooner had we seen one than we were seeing more.  Still plenty of Stonechats, Black Redstarts, Rock Buntings and Crested Larks but, on closer inspection, we found that we actually also had a very small number of Skylarks feeding in the area.  Both Greenfinch and a rather lovely male Blue Rock Thrush were added to the list whilst near the summit of our drive but, even tough we saw the Ring Ouzels, it was disappointing not to get get better, clear views from a photography point of view.

Mistle Thrush Zorzal Charlo Turdus viscivorus and size comparison with Ring Ouzel below
Back down the mountain and just like the Little Owl on the way up we now found a very obliging Rock Bunting that nicely posed on the adjacent fence wire whilst we snapped away.  Even the feeding Jackdaws on the slope below were in no hurry to move on.  Strange to say, I think we only saw three Red-legged Partridges all morning.

Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia
Following a quick menu del dia at the service station we went our separate ways with me driving on to Huetor Tajar in the hope of catching up with the wintering Jack Snipe.  Approaching the Rio Cacin from the small lane frequently used by the local residents when taking their constitution, I stopped at the end of the trees just as the track commenced and, looking into the river, had soon found both White and Grey Wagtail along with a single Water Pipit.  No shortage of Chiffchaffs to add to the couple seen on the lower slopes of the Sierra Loja and then a large flock of Collared Doves plus hundreds of Jackdaws, some Rock Doves and even a few Cattle Egrets.  The occasional lapwing took to the sky and, as might be expected, no shortage of Spotless Starlings.

Distant Grey Wagtail Lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea

A drive alongside the river before returning to cross by the ford enable ed me to find both Great Tit and Blackcap to add to the Serins at the start.  The local farmers were busy raking in the old asparagus growth for burning and this seemed to be the main occupation. the result was that there were neither Little Bustards nor Stone Curlews to be found, just more Lapwings and Cattle Egrets taking advantage of the tractors working the fields.  No doubt the birds would be somewhere local and well-known to Mick.

What to do next?  Fill up with diesel at just over 1.10 a litre and then head back to Lake Vinuela with a very strong sun in my eyes but only just make it before dark seventy-five minutes later.  It just shows how little dusk we have out here in the far south of Spain.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Cattle Egret, Lapwing, Snipe, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Alpine Accentor, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Balckcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting, Corm Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.