Thursday 30 January 2014

A very wet England - and sleet at Rutland Water

Thursday 30 January

Back for a week now before we drive down to Southampton on the morrow and then fly off to new Zealand next Tuesday, 4 February.  It was wet when we landed at East Midlands last Saturday evening, more of the same for an over-night drive up to Sheffield and still the rains continued most of Wednesday and Thursday; probably less than two hours of dry in the whole period.  But today was dry as I set off early for Rutland Water; very dull and gloomy but no rain.  Spoke to soon as no sooner had I watched the Great Spotted Woodpecker on the nuts at the feeding station when I arrived than a light drizzle commenced.  Retreating to the Visitors Centre encouraged more rain and the next thing I knew the wet had become white with the advent of sleet and even signs of it starting to lie on the ground.

Waste of time staying and getting really soaked so back home within ninety minutes but I did, at least, manage to record 33 species in that short time.  The full report along with three "rubbish" record shots int eh gloom can be found on the alternative blogsite, or simply CLICK HERE TO BE REDIRECTED.

Dave Elliott-Binns and his Arboleas Bird Group

Thursday 30 January

For those of you, like me, who enjoy reading about David and his Arboleas Bird Group up on the other side of Almeria you will, I would imagine, be beginning to think what has become of this band of nomadic birders as they wander the wastes and wilds of Almeria Province.  With Andy Paterson in New Zealand, I think he actually arrives this week-end, unles you are actually on David's mailing list you may have missed the past two outings so, in Andy's absence, I have great pleasure in bringing you all the latest news from Dave.  Indeed, if I play my cards right I might even be able to continue top provide readers with the latest updates whilst I, too, am down in NZ.  At the moment back in the UK prior to departure and suffering the wet, wet, wet followed by the white stuff!  

Two great reports and, as far as I know, all photographs by Dave unless Gilly has once again got her hands on the camera!

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales  -  Wednesday 29th January 2014

The weather forecast on the TV was predicting rain coming in from the west as 16 of us hardy birdwatchers drank coffee in Pujaire before heading for the first hide on the Cabo de Gata nature reserve.  We already had 6 species in the bag, the most notable being a Southern Grey Shrike spotted by Phil. It was cloudy & a bit windy.  There were at least 3 large rafts of Black Necked Grebes to be seen, each containing between 40-50 birds. To the left in the more sheltered bay was a small group of Black Tailed Godwit and a Redshank . Paul later spotted a Greenshank there as well. On the narrow rocky causeway numerous birds were hunkered down sheltering from the wind.  An Audouin's Gull, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Kentish & Ringed Plover, a pair of Avocet and some more Godwit, one of which Gilly noted was different and was identified as a Bar Tailed. Checking the water edges I came across a single Spoonbill near some Little Egret. On the wildfowl front we saw Shelduck & Mallard, then Kevin spotted a single Brent Goose, a remarkable find so far south!
We then drove to the second hide, parking up adjacent to the beach.  Considerably windier here with good sized waves crashing on to the beach. We disturbed a group of maybe 25 Eurasian Curlew on the savannah.  I noted at least one Whimbrel amongst them as they landed on the beach. Out to sea a couple of Gannet were seen as were small flypasts of Balearic Shearwater.

Brent Goose  Branta bernicla  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Sanderling  Calidris alba  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Lesser Black Backed Gulls patrolled up & down. I was hoping the Brent Goose was still close to the hide, but it had moved away so was only able to get a "record" shot.  A Slender Billed Gull was swimming in the ditch to our right. On the scrubland there was very little to be seen, just Sardinian Warbler, House Sparrow, Serin & Stonechat. Gilly counted 290 Greater Flamingos.
We moved on to the public hide. Colin spotted some Linnet. More Serin were seen and a Thekla Lark. Nothing new was added to the list from the hide. As we left some Greenfinch flew over.  We headed for Cabo de Gata village for a coffee, noting Sanderling and a passing Cormorant. 
Wind increasing now as we drove along the beach track towards the Rambla de Morales.  As we parked a low flying Greater Flamingo struggled against the wind. At the beach end of the brackish lake, numerous Sanderling were feeding together with a few Kentish Plovers.  Above the reeds we saw Crag Martins.  We added White Headed Duck to the day list. As Gilly was feeling increasingly unwell with an overnight hacking cough I decided enough was enough and left.  I suspect the others followed shortly afterwards. We returned via the campsite route adding Common Pochard & Shoveler on the water & a pair of Cattle Egret near the visitors centre.
44 species for the day, the bright star being the Brent Goose.  The weather god was also kind considering the forecast.

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera   -   Wednesday 22nd January 2014

I travelled on my own to the Rambla de Almanzora as Gilly had a Christmas Lunch to go to.....yeah, don't go there!  There, above the "ford", I met up with 13 other members and two guests of Les & Lynn's, Eileen & Dolores...see, I did remember your names!  It was good to see returning holiday makers Phil & Sue again.  Checking on the birds in the pools opposite, we saw Black Winged Stilt, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover & Little Stint. Also seen were Black Headed Gull, White Wagtail, Moorhen, Chiffchaff & Crested Lark.  We then walked up towards the desalination plant. Brian spotted the first Snipe of the day.  A Southern Grey Shrike showed well on the power line crossing the rambla whilst a Kestrel perched in a similar position but further away.  I spotted a Meadow Pipit and a Grey Wagtail was also seen. Lagging behind, Phil was lucky enough to spot his first ever Bluethroat, but it disappear into the shrubbery never to be seen again.   Near to the weir I added a Water Pipit & Les spotted a Dunlin with a pair of Little Stint.
After our usual coffee break in Villaricos village we headed for the beach.  On the harbour rocks were a couple of Audouin's Gulls, Cormorants, a Yellow Legged Gull, a Grey Heron and later a Little Egret.
The rocks closer to us eventually revealed a Kentish Plover & a Turnstone.  Out to sea at least 4 Black Necked Grebes were seen.  We then walked over to the estuary.  More Grey Herons were seen. Also Coot, Little Grebe and distant but good views of at least two Kingfishers.  A female Marsh Harrier came over, putting the flock of Black Headed Gulls to flight. A Sanderling was also seen.  The walk back to the vehicles along the beach added Grey Plover, Sandwich Tern, Lesser Black Backed Gull and a well spotted Mediterranean Gull sitting out to sea by sharp eyed Les.
We then convoyed to the dual carriageway above the pools at Vera.  We saw more Teal and at least two female Red Crested Pochard. In the pool opposite the Consum supermarket we added Common Pochard & White Headed Duck. A Cetti's Warbler was heard.  The star was an Adult Booted Eagle soaring above us. A large number of Crag Martins were feeding over the reeds & water.   We met up with Colin Harrison, who lives nearby. Interested in birds, especially photography, so hopefully he'll join us on our trips.
Ended up with 51 species for the day. Good to be back on my local patch. On a personal note, had to take Gilly to A&E last Thursday.  Her heart kept missing a beat. She's been put on beta-blockers and has an appointment with the cardiologist in February.........which reminds me.........I had my annual heart check up in an Almeria hospital yesterday...all ok....but on the way down the E15, between the prison & Almeria Airport, 8am, Eagle Owl flew across in front of us.  Cardiologist wondered why my blood pressure was slightly up....that could explain it!
Chiffchaff  Phylloscopus collybita  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Southern Grey Shrike  Lanius meridionalis  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)


Sunday 26 January 2014

Charca de Suarez, Motril

Sunday 26 January

left a very windy Malaga yesterday afternoon for a rocky flight where the toilet and moving around was off-limits more than it was on to arrive in a very wet East Midlands Airport.  Collected the rental car and greeted with the promise of heavy rain from tomorrow (it is now pouring down as we get ready to drive up to Sheffield to visit youngest son) and cold weather and snow arriving by Tuesday, even on low-lying ground.  As if that was not enough, I now hear from both Mick Richardson and John Wainwright that everybody seems to have been up at the Chatrca de Suarez yesterday and enjoying good views of not one but three Moustached Warblers!  I must pop over to Rutland Water on Wednesday morning to check if the Long-tailed Duck and two species of Divers are still about.

John's report of yesterday's visit follows including all photos taken by himself.

Charca de Suarez  25th January 2014

A very bright and warm day though very windy on drive down.

We arrived at 9am to find the gates open so we parked inside the reserve, this we found out is a cardinal sin and I was politely repremanded later on in the day.  We were greeted by a very raucous Cetti´s Warbler, followed by a flock of Serins and two Great Tits.  Lots of Chiffchaffs
on the path and in the bushes as we made our way in the reverse order of hides to try for the Moustached Warbler - as told by Bob Wright.  At the Laguna del Lirio we found Common Coot, Little Grebe, Blackbird, Gadwall and Mallard.  Along the track we saw a Cattle Egret, a pair of Blackcaps, Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, Serins, several Crag Martins and one House Martin.  Just as we came to the workmen's hut on the right a Kingfisher flashed across the path.

Moustached Warbler Acrocephalis melanopogon  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
At the next hide we met up with Mick Richards and it was here we located a Moustached Warbler along with Common Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails, Stonechats, at least three Purple Swamphens, three Crested Coots (all nicely collared for us) , a male Teal, Moorhens, Great Tits, Cetti´s Warblers, Grey Heron and Cormorants.   Lots of Tree Frogs sounding off as we headed for the next hide - but we could not locate one of them.  Still, at the hide we saw Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Shovelers, Cormorants, Gery Herons, Mallard, Pochards, Black-winged Stilts, Coots and Moorhens, Purple Swamphens, Black-necked and Little Grebes, Common Kestrels and lots more Crag Martins.

Yellow-legged Gull  Larus cachinnans  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
At the last small bamboo screen we met up with Mick again and here we found another two Moustached Warblers - they were calling at times.  Also here a male Red-crested Pochard, Coots, Chiffchaffs by the score - with at least one singing, Little Grebes and another Purple Swamphen.  It was here I was "told off" about my vehicle, and as it was 1pm,  we left the reserve and headed for Padul.

At Padul the wind was really sweeping across the waters here and consequently the birding was very poor for the first hour, then the wind dropped and out came the birds.  Here we saw Crested Larks, a small flock of Spanish Sparrows, a lone Tree Sparrow, House Sparrows, Meadow Pipits, Corn Bunting, two male Common Kestrels, Mallard, Cormorant, Moorhen and an early - very skittish - Whinchat.  At the boardwalk we saw more Meadow Pipits, Stonechats, four Water Pipits,a single male Bluethroat and two Water Rails.

Stonechat   saxicola torquata (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
On the way home at km218 on the A92, a Black-winged Kite was seen on top of a telegraph pole and along further, a small group of Jackdaws and  some Wood Pigeons.

Speckled Wood Butterfly  Pararge aegeria  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Great report John and what a fabulous selection of birds.  And he even managed to pick up a Speckled Wood butterfly.  Always when I am not there!


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

Friday 24 January 2014

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus
Friday 24 January

A lovely start to the day even if somewhat breezy up here on the mountain.  However, by the time I arrived at the Rio Velez at 9.45 following necessary last-minute shopping it was gloriously warm and hardly a breeze at all.  The r4cent rain had not only freshened up the river but also raised the water level a little and presented a good-sized, muddy puddle to drive through to reach my usual parking soot just beyond the last road bridge in readiness for the walk down to the beach and back via the new hide.  As usual, I was greeted by the resident Rock Doves who were out if force along with a good number of Mallards, the first of two Little Egrets and the same with the Grey Heron.  The single Cattle Egret seen was perched very high in the top of one of the riverside trees.  Not so many White Wagtails about but still plenty of Chiffchaffs darting here, there and everywhere.

A trio of Sanderling Correlimos Tridactilo Calidris alba on the Rio Velez
No sooner had I started walking tan I cam upon a trio of Sanderling.  On the outward journey these delightful little birds seemed to spread along the course of the river but on the return walk they were back together and I counted a maximum of thirty-two in one flock.  Just beyond the Sanderlings I first found the quartet of Black-winged Stilts and then the pair of Golden Plover which seem to have been in residence for the past couple of weeks or so.  By this time also a number of Moorhen had been seen and a couple of male Blackbirds recorded.

One of the Golden Plover Chorlito Dorado Europeo Pluvialis apricaria pair
A Zitting Cisticola, the first of at least a handful, was in the nearby bush and then I picked up a couple of Ringed Plovers.  By the time I left I mist have recorded at least a dozen so certainly food here to keep the waders active, especially a I then found a single Little Stint.

Record shot of Little Stint Correlimos Menudo Calidris minuta in background
The Coots were all gathered in and around the main laguna along with a plentiful supply of Cormorants and a small number of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Meanwhile, out on the sea itself, a couple of good-sized rafts of gulls made u mainly of Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged with a few Black-headed Gulls.  However, on the field on the other side of the river, the usual roosting field was full of gulls and this time the larger gulls were in the minority wit a large number of Mediterranean Gulls, many of them rapidly moulting into their summer plumage.

Best effort at trying to capture a Meadow Pipit Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis near the hide
The meadow in front of the hide was alive with Chiffchaffs and a couple of Meadow Pipits plus a pair of Stonechats and a single Crested Lark.  Both Serins and Goldfinches were around the hide along with the occasional House Sparrow and Spotless StarlingCetti's Warblers were noisily calling from below.  One female Shoveler was found at the back of the laguna and the return walk also produced a single male Teal.  So, a couple of hours on the local patch before disappearing for a few weeks and a total of 30 species recorded.

A very wide-awake Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

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

Thursday 23 January 2014

Guadalhorce, Malaga

"Pepe" the Superb Starling Lamprotornis superbus
Thursday 23 January

Off from the mountain at daybreak and up to Nerja to collect English birder Chloe Reeves from London so that we could spend a very full session at the Guadalhorce, Malaga plus a quick detour on the way home to the Malaga Golf Parador to see if "Pepe", the remaining Superb Starling, was still in residence.  It was.  As we left Nerja to head west there were scores of newly-arrived House Martins above the houses and the promised sunny day had yet to arrive, with much cloud and a cold breeze to see us on our way.  A coldish start to our visit but as the morning progressed and the cloud broke up the day became quite warm and very pleasant.  By the time we got back to Nerja we had had a very good biding day with 46 species recorded including to more for my year total to date, Gannet and Penduline Tit, and very pleasant company.

No sooner out of the car and we were greeted by a male Blackbird quickly followed by our first Robin and a small charm of GoldfinchLittle Egrets were seen on the river along with a couple of Coots and a male Sardinian Warbler was exploring the rocky bank.  Making our way to the eastern canal and the Laguna Casillas we were very much aware of the comings and goings of the wintering Cormorants and the occasional Grey Heron.

Mainly Common Pochard Porron Eeuropeo Aythya farina with the odd White-headed Duck Malvasia cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala at the Laguna Casillas
Casillas contained a good number of ducks in addition to more Coots and the odd Moorhen, including Pochard (mainly), a pair of Mallard and Gadawall, a few Teal and also a small number of White-headed DucksChiffchaffs chased around the shrubbery below the hide and numerous Crag Martins were feeding over the water.  A single White Wagtail was on the scrape and then a pair of Little Grebes put in an appearance.

One of many Crag Martins to be seenAvion Roquero Ptyonoprogbne rupestris
Moving on to the Wader Pool we found the water level very high and, probably as a result, very little bird life other than six Black-winged Stilts.  The first of the many Monk Parakeets then out in an appearance and a distant Booted Eagle was recorded.  Not satisfied with also adding a pair of Kestrels, a search of the trees on the opposite bank then produces a Buzzard hulking low down in the branches.  Chiffchaffs and Crag Martins to the front we also had a few Serins behind us. A female Black Redstart put in an appearance and a little later on we were also able to record a most handsome male.

Walking down to the Sea Watch we had a small number of Black-headed Gulls above us and, upon arriving, we soon found a larger number of gulls, mainly Lesser Black-backed but also a fair number of Yellow-legged Gulls.  Further out to sea, using the scope, we were able to watch a couple of adult Gannets busy feeding.  A little closer to the shore we had a single Black-necked Grebe.

Returning to the Wader Pool we noted that the Black-winged Stilts were still present and had been joined by a Little Egret.  Then, beautifully concealed, we were able to find the first of two Snipe.  So on to the Laguna Escondida with a Crested Lark as we approached.  Lots of White-headed Ducks here along with both Teal and Pochard but also both grebes and a few Coots and Chiffchaffs below us.  But not just Chiffchaffs as they were joined by a female Penduline Tit.

Common Teal Cerceta Comun Anas crecca
As expected the main water, the Laguna Grande, was a mass of both Cormorants and Grey Herons with over sixty of the former ans almost thirty of the latter counted.  To the back near the island the three juvenile Flamingos were still in residence and there was the occasional Little Egret.  This was the water that also held the Shoveler but less than a dozen on this occasion.  A single Redshank was found on the far bank and a single Common Sandpiper visited the mud flats immediately in front of the hide.

Common Sandpiper Andarrios Chico Actitis hypoleucos
Leaving the reserve we drove round to the Golf Parador and had very close views of the Superb Starling as soon as we arrive along with a good number of Monk Parakeets and House Sparrows.  It must have been approaching feeding time for suddenly, as we were about to leave, the Spotless Starlings arrived to join in the frenzy along with some very fat looking Collared Doves.  Siting in the car and about to depart we watched the antics of a Magpie as it followed drivers as they approached their respective cars and then, almost by magic, the bird was sitting on our door wing mirror as if waiting to be fed.  We duly obliged!

"Where's our dinner?"  Superb Staling Estornino Soberbio Lamprotornis superbus and male House Sparrow Gorrion Comun Passer domesticus
The drive back to Nerja, following the coast road as we approached Torre del Mar, not only produced a number of Cattle Egrets but also a very large flock of Mediterranean Gulls.  All in all, along and enjoyable day.

Monk Parakeet Cotorra Argentina Mylopsitta monachus at the Mirador Golf

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Snipe, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested lark, Crag Martin, House Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Penduline Tit, Magpie, Spotless Starling, Superb Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

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

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Woodchat Shrike and Purple Heron

Wednesday 22 January 

Received an interesting email from Sussex birder Roy Kent late this evening telling me about his birding experience whilst working on a farm house renovation in Velez Blanco.  Not just two iconic owls but the first report I have heard this year of both Woodchat Shrike and Purple Heron.  Just goes to show what a crazy season, weather wise, we have been experiencing for the past six months.

Report from Roy covering the Velez Blanco area

Woodchat Shrike [presumably passing through] spent most of the time on a cross valley cable.
Black Redstart, both male & female
Blue Rock Thrush, a resident pair others in the vicinity
Sardinian Warbler, resident
Eagle Owl, just the one day so far active in broad daylight, not seen only heard for several hours
Griffon Vulture, 55 counted in air at one time
Spanish Sparrow, too numerous to count constantly raid the stables picking up grain & seeds from the hay
Serin, resident flock approx.50 
Scops Owl, heard at the twilight hour and on other occasions throughout the night
Purple Heron, landed on the wall of the water reservoir  today
Stonechat, a pair resident in the small holding
Robin, just the one
Kestrel, occasional visitor to the valley
Not a bad list I think you will agree.

Monday 20 January 2014

El Robledal and the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Monday 20 January

It would appear that whilst I was wandering around the hinterland just north of Ventas de Zafarraya others were also out and about and making the most of the beautiful sunny weather, even if here was a somewhat cold and chilly strong wind. Eric and Pat Lyon chose to visit that lovely woodland setting of El Robledal and the start of the mountain track up to La Maroma, Malaga province's highest peak at 2078 metres, whilst John and Jenny Wainwright headed in the opposite direction from Salar to take in the coast at the Guadalhorce reserve in Malaga.  John's report follows at the end.

Meanwhile, Eric and Pat not only completed the "usual" long anti-clockwise circuit from the car park up through the picnic area but actually climbed a length of the Maroma trail.  Indeed, high enough to be at the same level as the handsome Golden Eagle they were able to observe.  During their circuit they managed to find a selection of finches including Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Crossbill and, even more lovely, a Hawfinch.  Just about all the small resident passerines were recorded including Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest and all the tits; Long-tailed, Crested, Coal, Blue and Great Tit.  No doubt they gave up trying to count the numerous Chiffchaffs.  No doubt I will hear about other sightings but I can record that Greater Spotted Woodpecker was seen and Green Woodpecker heard.

Eric's report received today includes a lovely shot of Maroma itself and Pat reflecting all the delights of birding at high altitude; it must be the lack of oxygen!

Robledal: Monday 20 January

After a coffee and tostada at the hostal at the Robledal turnoff we ventured down the track with the 3deg warning light flashing.  Once passed the farm there were lots of the expected bird species in the fields and tress along the track.  But we knew it would be a good day as soon as we stopped by a bush and had great views of a Hawfinch until it realised we were just too close.

The car park area had Mistle Thrush and a departing Green Woodpecker.  And at intervals all along the walk we kept wandering through flocks of assorted tits ... mainly Blue, Coal and Crested but plenty of Long-tailed Tits as well.  Eventually Firecrests and Nuthatches joined but it was only back at the car park woods that I saw Great Spotted Woodpecker and Short-toed Treecreeper.
Looking up to the summit of Maroma
Possibly the bird of the day was seen from the viewpoint half way round when walking up to the cairn we had an adult Golden Eagle - only a tiny bit of white on the base of the tail - at eyeball level.  It soared around for some time but then within seconds disappeared.

Girls will be girls!

We saw about 34 species, had a nice walk and snowball fight before getting back to the coast and 16deg sunshine.  By the way, the blob on one of the pics is Pat's snowball missing me as usual.

John's report from the Guadalhorce is as follows:

Guadlahorce 20th January 2014

A bright, warm day, but a very biting wind.

The run down from Salar gave us a few House Sparrows, Wood Pigeon and Spotless Starlings.  As we reached the riverbank footpath, seven Monk Parakeets screeched overhead. In the bushes lining the riverbank we saw Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Black Redstarts. It was then quiet until we entered the reserve proper, where we found Crested Larks, Goldfinches, more Sardinian Warblers and Chiffchaffs.

Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Lots of Cormorant movements around the reserve as well as gulls, namely Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed.  We headed for the Laguna Grande seeing Shovelers, Mallard, Common Coots and Little Grebe on the way.  At the hide, several flocks of Serins were feeding just below us as well as White Wagtails and a Common Sandpiper was also noted.  The banks of this laguna were lined with numerous Grey Herons, Cormorants and the lone juvenile Greater Flamingo was here too.  Across the laguna a pair of Shelducks were feeding and on a bare tree a female Common Kestrel was seen - the male was hunting further over the marsh.  Good numbers of Crag Martins about here,  a few Stonechats, but only two Blackbirds seen (or even heard).  A very bright male Black-necked Grebe graced us with its presence as did a female Teal, while below us on the mud a Meadow Pipit and another Common Sandpiper were feeding.  As we left the hide a Hoopoe flew from out of the trees.

Serin Verdecillo Serinus serinus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
At the Escondida hide the wind was full in the face here and we could only find Little and Black-necked Grebes, Pochard, White-headed Ducks, lots more Crag Martins and a couple more Stonechats.

Crag Martin Avion Roquero Ptyonoprogne rupestris (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
The Casilla hide was pretty barren except for a group of Pochard and the now iniquitous Crag Martins. So we moved onto Viejo hide.  Here we added Black-winged Stilt and a Redshank to our list.  Also here we saw Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipits, Common Sandpiper, White Wagtail, Goldfinches and Serins.
Back onto the track - heading for the sea view, luckily the wind is at our backs now, which made for a bit of comfort (if that´s the word).  En route a Glossy Ibis was noted - flying quite high and fast - over the reserve, we never saw it again today, but we did see more Crested Larks and Black Redstarts.

At the Sea View we had our lunch and watched at least eight adult Gannets diving - they were very close in today - a lone Sandwich Tern came past us and two Turnstones flew past in the opposite direction.  The only other bird on the sea - apart from the gulls - was a Black-necked Grebe.

Turnstone Vuelvepiedras Arenaria interpres with (left) Redshank Archebebe  Comun Tringa totanus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
We then retraced our steps to the car and drove round to the old gas installation - demolished now - and here we found a small flock of Sanderlings, another Turnstone, a Redshank and over a dozen Ringed Plovers.

Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Grande Charadrius hiaticula (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
I am told that a Short-eared Owl has been seen early this morning by the ranger.

From both of the above reports and my own sightings it can be seen that, despite the very strong wind which only offered limited shelter at a few of the inland sites, a very wide selection of birds was recorded during the day.
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

"You're 'aving a lark!" - but ton up.

Monday 20 January

A beautiful start to the day with clear blue skies and a glorious sun.  That was the good news.  Following the coldest night of the winter here despite the above it was blowing a gale and bloomin' cold to boot.  Nevermind, domestics completed by 10.15 I decided to drive up to the pass at Ventas de Zafarraya and the hinterland to see if I could find four new birds for the year and so complete the hundred for 1014 to date.  Four?  In the end I had eight new species for the year so I can now return to England with the ton completed.

Driving down the mountain I had the first of at least seven Kestrel seen during the morning, quite a change that, along with a small flock of Serins.  Again, no shortage of White Wagtails about and then a small feeding group of Crag Martins as I started the ascent up to the pass at Ventas de Zafarraya.  Here it was decidedly windy so I stayed in the car and drove up and through the old railway tunnel to the ruin.  Nothing to be seen apart from a pair of Choughs beating a hasty retreat down the slope towards the main road below. 

Azure-winged Magpie Rabilargo Cyanopica cyanus
No point hanging around so onwards and through the "Magpie Woods" without a bird in sight and on to the arable fields alongside the old road to Loja.  Now there were birds to be seen but, initially, they took some finding.  Spotless Starlings and House Sparrow near the farm buildings but just beyond both Thekla and Crested Larks. A Blackbird chased across the road and then the first of a handful of Meadow Pipits feeding on the ground where I was trying to locate some larks.  At the far end of the road, approaching the crossroad, I eventually succeeded in finding some new birds.  Not the Goldfinches or more Crested Larks but a couple of Wood Larks.  Birds in the shy and almost immediately I also had a large flock of Calandra Larks, probably totalling about an hundred.  Finally, a couple of Greenfinches landed in the same area.

Taking the left turn on the relatively newly-surfaced road it was not long before I had another Kestrel followed buy a large flock of Chaffinches and a smaller charm of Goldfinches.  In amongst the rocks just round the corner I stopped to check out what appeared t be a large gathering of Crested Larks to pleasantly discover that they were indeed Sky Larks.  Four new birds required and three already found and all larks; as they say, "You're 'aving a lark!"  A little further on the century was reached when I came across a small feeding party of Azure-winged Magpies which added to the half-dozen Common Magpies seen only minutes before.  Turning round just beyond the tree line, I re-found the Azure-winged Magpies and this time they had a Jay with them for company, so now 101.  Also in the area where I stopped a pair of Mistle Thrush moved off up the scree.  This was to be the precursor of another six of these thrushes to be seen in the coming hour or so.  With a lovely male Stonechat and a nearby male Black Redstart to see me off, I passed the feeding Chiffchaffs and Corn Buntings and headed back towards home.

Rapidly retreating Common Buzzard  Busardo Ratonero Buteo buteo
Before taking the mountain trail down to the Alcaucin picnic area I made a very brief detour to the Robledal woods where I picked up both Rock Bunting and a Common Buzzard.  There were also lots of Chaffinches here along with Great Tits but the sun seemed always to be in my face and I decided to head off as the wind started to pick up again.

Female Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra at the upper picnic site
The mountain track duly produced a female Crossbill and Robin at the upper picnic area whereas the lower area had a Crested Tit not three metres away from me and a couple more Rock Buntings.  So having doubled the required number of new species required for the century I decided that it was time to head off home in the hope that I could get this blog published before it gets too late.  All now completed save adding a few photos.

Birds seen:
Buzzard, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Wood Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff, Crested Tit, Great Tit,  Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Sunday 19 January 2014

Fuente de Piedra

Saturday 18 January

The Annual Finance Meeting of the AndalucĂ­a Bird Society at Fuente de Piedra this morning so Jenny and I left early enough to call in at the Laguna Dulce before arriving at the Visitors Centre to join other members of the Society.  Much rain overnight and quite cloudy as we set off.  As we travelled on the high road towards Casabermeja we had more light rain but could see signs of a break in the cloud which promised better weather to come - not that you would think that as we climbed up towards the cloud over Antequera.  However, once down on the plain the clouds broke up and, for the most part, the day became  not only dry but quite warm and pleasant with some lovely sunshine, providing you could keep out of the strong, cold breeze.

The journey over to Laguna Dulce produced numerous White Wagtails on just about every road plus the first charm of Goldfinches as I passed through Los Romanes. A couple of Rock Doves and the a Little Owl resting on the telephone wires half-way to the motorway.  Arriving at the water we were greeted by a handful of Moorhens scurrying across the lay-by to reach the shelter of the laguna along with more Goldfinches and even a few Chaffinches.

And then the Cranes Grulla Comun Grus grus passed over the hide.
The water itself seemed to be in a state of recovery following the heavy overnight rains and whilst there must have been at least three hundred Coots present, the birds were huddled together in there distinct rafts on the open water.  Even the Lesser Black-backed Gulls seemed to be solace from each other and there were certainly very few ducks about.  Mallards were in a group on the far left along with a small number of Pochards, which left both the Little and Black-necked Grebes very exposed and easy to find.  Scoping the edges produced an exposed Purple Swamphen on the far left and then a good number of Black-winged Stilts trying to feed in whatever shelter they could find.

Meanwhile we did find raptors including a hovering Kestrel and a couple of Marsh Harriers.  However, the distinctive "honking" from behind the hide had us both up and out in the open to see a fly-past of about seventy Common Cranes.  Whilst these birds seemed to be heading for Fuente de Piedra we did, nevertheless, find a large group of about one hundred and sixty grazing on the far, green, field to the right of the ruined far.  Meanwhile, immediately in front of the hide, the occasional sight of a scavenging Chiffchaff.

One of very many Chiffchaff Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita
Then it was off, via the back road, to Fuente de Piedra passing good numbers of both House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings on the way along with the odd Collared Dove and, of course, more White Wagtails.  A Hoopoe entertained us as we passed the back of the laguna and a couple of Stonechats were also recorded.  Arriving at the reserve, it was good to see that there was now a plentiful supply of fresh water both on the approach field to the left and under the wooden causeway to the right - but no Avocets on site as yet.

The Crane family; Mum feeding, Dad ever-watchful and the youngster just plain inquisitive.
From the Visitors Centre we could see that the Flamingos were well-spread over the water but numbers, to me, seemed less than I had expected given the proximity of the coming breeding season.  Lots of Lapwings and Black-winged Stilts on the nearer edge of the main water and a t least one Shelduck recorded.  Coots and Moorhens had returned the no refilled scrape below along with both Mallard and Teal. A single Snipe and a lone Green Sandpiper wee found near the reeds at the back of this water.

A walk to the hide overlooking the laguneta at the back produced more of the same but mainly Shoveler and Pochard by way of ducks.  On the other hand, I did pick up a pair of GadwallBlack-headed Gulls were about along with dozens of feeding Chiffchaff.  Also nearby, both a Stonechat and a Black Redstart.

Walking back along the water's edge towards the wooden walkway we also recorded a trio of Meadow Pipits on the edge of the scrape.  Then, as we approached the wooden bridge, a single Barn Swallow flew past immediately in front of us, the first seen this year.  All that was found on the far side was a long-hovering Kestrel that eventually dropped on his victim - but came away empty-handed, or should I say "empty footed?"

Kestrel  Cernicalo Vulgar  Falco tinnunculus
Then it was time for the Society's meeting at the Visitors Centre and, on completion, Jenny and I undertook an anti-clockwise tour of the main laguna, stopping first at the Mirador de la Vicaria which, as so often is the case with this particular site, nothing was seen.  Approaching the Mirador de Cantarranas we had a Great Tit in the olives and then our first view of the wintering Cranes at his sight with a small number over-flying the car away from the water.  Stopping, we were able to find at least fifty in the distant fields.  From the Mirador itself we could see at least another hundred or more feeding Cranes but very few birds on the water.  Those that were there were very silhouetted and difficult to identify - apart from the Black-winged Stilt and a couple of Flamingos which had moved in from the adjoining main water where thousands could be seen.  At least two Marsh Harriers were recorded and then, amongst the feeding Crag Martins below, a few House Martins and Barn Swallows.

Cranes a plenty on the horizon plus an "After you, Cecil" below.

The final loop round the water and back to Fuente de Piedra did not produced the expected large flock of roosting Stone Curlews, just a pair that were working their way along the back edge of the field on the left having, along with the main group, probably been disturbed by the passing walkers who had their small dogs with them.  The village itself duly turned up more Spotless Starlings and a Jackdaw and, with cloud once more returning, we made our way back home.  Only 41 species recorded but at lest the total included five near species for the year so the 2014 total has now reached 96 and still a few days left to reach the "ton" before the end of January!

Could this be the first four-legged Common Crane?

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch.

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

Thursday 16 January 2014

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 16 January

The weather forecast was spot on; overnight rain followed by more rain!  On the other hand, when contacted to see if we were still meeting as it was absolutely poring down in Granada province, being still dark I had to actually step outside to see what was happening.  Yes, there was a steady light rainfall but in the east I could see a glorious red sunrise and the cloud cover was not dense but broken.  So, on the basis that somebody might turn up I drive down to the Guadalhorce in Malaga for the monthly meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group and parked where I have advised everybody not to park - on the basis that the rain had stopped and I decided, having arrived, to walk over to the eastern arm whilst, at the same time, any late-comer might recognise the car.

Ten Monk Parakeets flew over by way of a welcome and a soggy-looking White Wagtail put in an appearance on the other side of the road.  Walking up the bank to the track I could see in excess of thirty Cormorants roosting in the trees at the back of the main water and another forty or so suddenly appeared in front of me having taken off from the river between the bridges to move in to the main reserve.  Five Blackbirds were on the fence top and a female Sardinian Warbler was feeding below the wooden fence to my right.  Making my way towards the footbridge I also had a couple of Back Redstarts and a pair of very bright Serins.  From the bridge, a single Little Egret downstream and a handful of Coot along with the occasional Moorhen.

The magnificent Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
Leaving the bridge to cross over to the eastern arm and the Laguna Casillas, a single Cattle Egret moved inland and then an adult female Marsh Harrier came into view quartering the field to my right.  A Kestrel was hovering close by, the first of a handful to be seen during the morning and then, on arrival, my mobile took to the airwaves and announced that Gerry and Diana from Salobrena along Lesley from Nerja had arrived, seen my car and were making their way over to join me.  So at least there were four of us present for the monthly meet.  The water itself contained a pair of male White-headed Ducks and a dozen Pochard along with a pair of Mallards, a single Little Grebe and a few Coots.  Overhead the large number of Crag Martins began to descend to feed over the water.  Indeed, we were to see numerous individuals all over the reserve.  In front of us there were numerous feeding Chiffchaffs, as indeed there was at every poolside, and a rather lovely male Stonechat posed close by.  Then, in a bare tree to the far right at the back of the water, a lone Booted Eagle which remained long enough for all to see as well as photograph.  Whilst at this water we also had the pleasure of seeing a pair of Water Voles; what a special treat that was.

One of the two Southern Water Voles Rata de Agua Arvicola sapidus  seen on the Laguna Casillas

There was/is still plenty of water on the Wader Pool if not waders themselves other than a quartet of Black-winged Stilts.  At least a dozen Teal and a couple of Little Egrets arrived and departed as did the single juvenile Flamingo.  A Robin arrived to scratch around below the front of the hide and a single White Wagtail was feeding at the edges.  No sooner had a lone Greenfinch flown seawards in front of the hide, passing a Meadow Pipit on the way, than it was replace by the first Redshank travelling in the opposite direction.  At this point Lesley found the Snipe that quickly disappeared from view only to reappear with another.  In the trees to the back left the Cormorants continued to rest but they were accompanied by a pair of Peregrines which remained through this first stay.  The tree next the Peregrines then provided our second Booted Eagle of the day followed by a resting Marsh Harrier.

Juvenile Grey Plover Chorlito Gris Pluvialis squatarola on the Rio Viejo
All seemed quiet on the old river, the Rio Viejo, but we did find a single Greenshank and a juvenile Grey Plover.  The outlet at the back contained at least five Grey Herons and a lone Sandwich Tern patrolled the eastern canal whilst a male Kestrel followed the action from atop his concrete pylon.  Nothing to see on the sea so back the way we had come, passing more Sardinian Warblers and a pair of Great Tits, with the Wader Pool hide providing a view of a well-concealed Common Buzzard along with more Black-winged Stilts and Little Grebes and a very close view of a Snipe.

The very watchable Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago on the Wader Pool

So it was on the Laguna Escondida and that did that produce some excitement!  Not so much the large number of Little Grebes, nor the constant supply of both Chiffchaffs and Crag Martins, not even the White-headed Duck nor the first House Martin (just the one) of the year, but a very close and exposed sight of yet another Booted Eagle that really let us experiment with camera settings as it posed quite happily in front of us.  Meanwhile, overhead and behind us, we had a constant aerial display from fourteen flying adult Flamingos.

A fly-past from the fourteen Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus
Then, finally, it was on to the Laguna Grande where we were presented with numerous Cormorants, at least twenty Grey Herons and a score or more of Shoveler.  A single Spotless Starling accompanied by a single Coot fed in front of us and the n the only Black-necked Grebe of the day duly turned up, again immediately in front of the hide.  On the far island we could see the resident three juvenile Flamingos nearby along with more Herons.

Only the one Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuelinegro Podiceps nigricollis
Time to call it a day having managed to spend almost four hours on site with only a couple of occasions when we saw, rather than felt, the odd spot of rain.  The walk back to the entrance provided a Cetti's Warbler and a second Zitting Cisticola along with just a handful of Black-headed Gulls flying towards the sea.  A trio of Crested Larks were on the first track and then, right at the end, not only another Crested Lark but also a small charm of Goldfinches, another male Greenfinch and a handful of House Sparrows.  Lovely company and 45 species recorded, including eleven new for my 2014 Year List and guess what, not a single Rock or Collared Dove to be seen in the area!.

Lovely to see so many Teal Cerceta Comun Anas crecca

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-headed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus

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