Sunday 23 February 2014

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Charca de Suarez

24 February 2014

Already early evening here in Wangarai, on the coast north-west of Ellington, and just received news from my friend Steve Powell that five members of the Axarquia Bird Group were able to visit the Charca de Suarez reserve on the outskirts of Motril yesterday morning.  Steve's report can also be found on the Group's Facebook group account "Axarquia Birds and Wildlife" and you, too, can access this and place your own comments and photos by simply applying to join.  I may be half-round the world and down at the bottom end for another few weeks but, hopefully, will still have Internet access most of the time.  I will now paste Steve's report and photos below and, all being well, they should be published by the time you wake up!

Sunday 23 February

Five Group members at the Charca de Suarez this morning treated to views of a Little Crake, Kingfisher, Moustached Warblers (2), Little Bittern, Marsh Harriers (2), Red-knobbed Coot (4), Pochard (7), Purple Swamphens (5) and a single Teal amongst others. - with Yvonne Hartley and Allen Hartley.

Steve Powell 

Kingfisher  (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

Kingfisher (PHOTO: Allen Hartley)

Little Crake  (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

Little Crake  (PHOTO: Allen Hartley)
Moustached Warbler (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

No mention of all the usual "stuff" to be seen but, for a newco  how can you beat Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Moustached Warbler, Little Bittern and Little Crake for starters?  I still think that there is some sort of conspiracy out there that produces all these great sightings that I keep reading about the minutes I depart the country!  For my sins, I was unsuccessful in finding a Blue Duck today but did have more paradise Shelducks, feeding and soaring Australasian Harriers (also known as Swamp Harrier and very similar to our Montagu's Harrier), Silvereye, New Zealand Fantail and wild Peafowl.  They also have Feral Chickens here!!!!

Keep up the good birding


Friday 21 February 2014

Dave and the Arboleas Bird Group to Las Norias

Come one day later and Dave and his Arboleas Bird Group were of to that often "hot spot" birding paradise of Las Norias providing that you ignore all the surrounding plastic!

Las Norias & Roquetas: Wednesday 19th February
As Gilly & I left Arboleas early this morning the weather was dull & cloudy, but by the time we got down beyond Roquetas the sun was out and there was a slight breeze. We met up with Colin, Sandra, Rod, Linda, John & Charlie at a motorway cafe before making our way to Plastic Greenhouse land at Las Norias. The water in the lake to the left of the first causeway was as flat as a tack so swimming birds were easy to spot. There were loads of Cormorant with smaller numbers of Great Crested & Black Necked Grebe, all at a distance. Grey Herons were seen before Colin spotted, not one, but two Great White Egrets down the far end. We had a flypast of half a dozen Red Crested Pochard. We also saw Common Pochard, Shoveler & Mallard. Yet again Colin came up trumps with a distant Purple Swamphen. Above us there were a fair number of Crag Martin. As the others continued to check out the lake I wandered round the other side of the pump house. I was rewarded with a brief view of a Bluethroat before it disappeared into the reeds. There was also a Magpie, Chiffchaffs & Stonechat in the area. The Bluethroat failed to appear for the group, but a Barn Swallow did. A pair of Common Sandpiper was seen & a Gadwall & Little Grebe were observed on the right hand lake.
Colin, Rod, Linda and Sandra  (PHOTO: Dave Elliot-Binns)
We headed round to near the old heronry. The best birds were 5 more Gadwall. We then drove to the second causeway. The large swathe of Bamboo by the dry meadow had been cut down. Along the lane we had Robin and a John spotted Northern Starling. On the meadow was a Yellow Wagtail, Black Redstart & more Stonechat. The group, apart from Gilly who was vehicle security, walked up the road passed the new heronry.....except the only birds in it were loads of Chiffchaff. As so often happens the one left behind saw a good bird, a distant Booted Eagle! We added a Lesser Black Backed Gull to the list. Slightly disappointed we headed towards Roquetas, seeing Kestrel on the way.
Chiffchaff  (PHOTO: Dave Elliot-Binns)
Over a coffee, John suggested we have a short walk along one of the tracks across the salinas to the right instead of heading straight to the main lake. After an " interesting" drive we parked up. There must have been nearly 100 Shelduck at rest together with Greater Flamingo. I spotted a distant Marsh Harrier before Gilly saw a pair of Black Tailed Godwit. John spotted a Redshank.
John and Charlie  (PHOTO: Dave Elliot-Binns)
 We then convoyed to the main lake where amongst the numerous Coot I spotted some Wigeon & red Crested Pochard. John spotted a Pintail. A pair of Marsh Harrier were seen as were a small raft of White Headed Duck. We decided not to yomp up to the " Red Knobbed Coot" pond due to to their non-appearance the last three times we'd visited. 
Cormorant (PHOTO: Dave Elliot-Binns)
And that concluded a good days birding. Have to admit I thought we should have seen more herons, egrets & swallows. We still finished with 48 species.

Dave Elliot-Binns

It certainly looks as if everyone is out busy birding in Spain!  Hoping to get my big chance whilst on the South Island of New Zealand next week.

Osuna area and Laguna Dulce with John and Jenny

All the latest from John and Jenny Wainwright on their latest birding expedition.

Osuna area and Laguna Dulce:  18th February

Very misty to start, then sun, then rain.   We started off from home (Salar) at 8am with it being a very foggy morning, this was with us until well after Antequera, regardless of this, enroute we managed to see Blackbirds, House Sparrows, and a couple of Ravens flew parallel with us. Several Buzzards were seen atop pylons and on the power lines Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings and Wood Pigeons.  Just prior to turning off the autovia at km80 we saw a group of five Ravens, a Common Kestrel and superb views of a male Sparrowhawk as he flew across the autovia.

Crested Lark  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

After breakfast we headed for the "new railway bridge" and in the fields and groves alongside the road leading to the latter we found Red-legged Partridges, Crested Larks, large flocks(or charms) of Goldfinches, Linnets and Meadow Pipits.  Corn Buntings were seemingly everywhere, as were Ravens - well over twenty in this short journey - Buzzards, Common Kestrels and Spotless Starlings.  As we were scanning for Pintails a male then a female Marsh Harrier  came into view - alas, the Pintails were not to be found anywhere.  Lots of Stonechats and at least six Southern Grey Shrikes, a Hoopoe, a female Black Redstart (the only one of the day as it turned out) and a Zitting Cisticola was just caught a glimpse of as we reached the bridge.
Going over the bridge and stopping just over the top, Jenny spotted a Red Kite sitting in a tree across the field from us, it then flew behind the old ruin here - in doing so putting up the Rock Doves perched on it, as well as a large flock of starlings which were settled in the bare tree behind the ruin - several of these turned out to be Common Starlings, the Red Kite disappeared from view.

Common Starling (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

We then headed for Vereda del Alamillo, across three fields we spotted two large white birds, they were a couple of Egyptian Vultures preening.  In the bushes lining the track we found Blackcaps, Stonechats and Chaffinches.  Another Sparrowhawk was seen skimming over the olive grove and a couple more Rock Doves flew out of the barns at the end of the track.  Two more Ravens were spotted at their nest site and a Lesser Kestrel emerged from one of the old buildings.  Driving back to the  "new railway bridge" a single Barn Swallow was seen over the catchment pond.

Egyptian Vultures (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Continuing on from the latter we turned along the road to Marchena along here in the flooded fields we saw White Storks, Grey Heron, Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Red and Black Kites, Buzzard, Ravens, and Meadow Pipits, also here were Barn swallows, Crag and House Martins.  As we moved off another two White Storks landed on the pylons and a male Marsh Harrier was seen.

Common Buzzard (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

We now moved on to the laguna at Lantejuela - the Laguna de Gorbieno (or something like that) - the hides were shut but we could just see into the laguna from the side of the hide.  Here we saw Black-necked and Little Grebes, Shovelers, Mallards, Gadwall, Coots, Moorhens, Cetti´s Warbler, Serins, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Black-winged Stilts, White-headed Ducks, Black Redstart and two more Southern Grey Shrikes.  On the way across country to Laguna Dulce, Jenny spotted a Stone Curlew in amongst the olive trees, when we stopped to get photos, at least thirty birds either flew or ran off, a Mistle Thrush was seen here also.

Stone Curlew (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Laguna had stopped raining for a while and a large rainbow lay across the back of the lagoon,and the water was only fifteen foot or so from the access road.  We did however see here Red-crested and Common Pochard, Gadwall, Shovelers, Mallard, Lapwing, Black-winged Stilts and plenty of Coots.  In the distance we found at least two hundred Common Cranes feeding at the edge and among the olive groves, and at the rear of the lagoon we found two Purple Swamphens, Black-necked, Great Crested and Little Grebes, White-headed Ducks and a Grey Heron. Good numbers of hirundines namely Barn Swallow, Crag and House Martins.  The reed beds held Goldfinches, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Cetti´s and Sardinian Warblers and a Blackbird.

White Stork (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
 It was coming over quite dark now and it was getting very chilly so we made our way home, a long day - ten hours - but well worth it.
Linnets (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
What a report, John.   As you say, long day but lots of great sightings to give you that "satisfied" feeling.

Monday 17 February 2014

Sierra Loja with John and Jenny Wainwright

Tuesday 18 February

Still the 18th down here but the day is rapidly disappearing and it will soon be time to throw a couple of prawns on the barbie!  Meanwhile, I can catch up with John and Jenny's latest birding expedition and soon,no doubt, they will be off again on their next trip out.

Sierra Loja  17th February 2014

Warm spells, overcast and chilly at times, very misty later.

As we left the village a few Collared Doves were on the telegraph wires as were Spotless Starling and House Sparrows.  As we drove up to the old workings we saw Chaffinches, more Collared Doves and a beautiful RedSquirrel.  As we parked at the old workings we disturbed a Rock Bunting feeding in the grasses onthe down slope, also about were Blackbirds, two Great Tits, a Robin and three Crag Martins were noted through the tree tops.

One of the local Red Squirrels.
Up to the hidden quarry and here we found a mixed flock of Serins and Goldfinches, a male Black
Redstart was calling in the quarry itself, Red-legged Partridges and a couple of Jackdaws.  Going through the tree line we saw Crossbills, Chaffinches, Short-toed Treecreeper, Chiffchaffs,
Blackbird and another pair of Great Tits.  As we approached the cliff areas  several Jackdaws and two Chough were noted as well as a male Black Wheatear, two Linnets and a couple more Crag Martins.
Just above the cliff area we found our first Thekla Larks, then Stonechats, three female Black
Redstarts,  a Common Kestrel and a Little Owl

Lots of water in the ponds!
The ponds were very full today and all we saw here were Mistle Thrush and a Blue Rock Thrush.
We ventured along to the Fossil Cave and it was then the mist rolled in with a vengeance, so we
headed back down, we didn´t get any respite from the mist till well below 800metres, which more or
less put a blanket on the afternoon. 

A Wood Pigeon was the only new sighting in the journey back home.  Let´s hope we can get a few more species on our Osuna trip on Tuesday 18th.

Both photos by John Wainwright

I still seem to have the best weather a the moment!

All the latest news - via New Zealand

Tuesday 18 February

Eldest son's birthday and now settled in at our latest abode in Tauranga, Bay of Islands on the North Island of New Zealand.  Not only David's birthday but also that of our hostess, Coral.  But, very important, we have Internet access again so I can bring you up to date with what is happening with you in Spain.  Both Dave and Gilly along with John and Jenny Wainwright have been out and about and I get the feeling that you are all experiencing more than a little of the wet stuff!  Here the water is very much of a horizontal nature as the waves drift in on a very sandy coast whilst the sun shines down.  We are well down here apart from the fact that my back has finally gone completely but I refuse to let it dictate our activities.  Thousands of Bar-tailed Godwits along with Red Knot, Wrybills and Royal Spoonbills at Miranda yesterday - and even a report from the Warden to let me know that Andy Paterson passed through last week!!! 

Now to the received reports and photos:

John and Jenny Wainwright:  Huetor Tajar 15th February

A very nice "Spring" day, bit of mist about though.

We had an hour or so to spare while our friends car was in for service, so we decided to have a look
at the stream on the Fabrika road.  The stream was running very fast due to the "drop" of rain and the
tractors had made such a mess of the ford, we drove around south track.  Here we saw Crested
, Goldfinches, Stonechats, House Sparrows and a few Meadow Pipits.  Lots of Wood Pigeons and Spotless Starlings (couldn´t find a Common Starling though), Black Redstarts and yet more Crested Larks.

In the fields we found Cattle Egrets, White Wagtails and Stonechats.  As we approached the
crossroads by the old tree, we saw male and female Blackcaps, Tree and House Sparrows,
Chaffinches and a Blackbird.  A huge Brown Rat was seen collecting olives from one side of the
road, swimming a large puddle and disappearing down into an irrigation channel, it did this several
times while we were there - so I can only assume it has a nest close by.

Brown Rat (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Moving on to the small poplar copse where we saw three Great Spotted Woodpeckers - two adults
and a juvenile - feeding in an old oak tree.  Also in the trees were Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Chiffchaffs and more Black Redstarts.  Along at the northern side of the stream we found a Green Sandpiper, Mistle Thrushes, Wood Pigeons, Meadow Pipits, two Collared Doves and lots more White Wagtails.  Retracing our route back to the main road we saw Stone Curlews - close by the ajo factory - and on a telegraph pole a Common Buzzard.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
On the way back to Salar we saw Serins, Azure-winged and Common Magpies, Mallard and a
Cormorant.  We don´t seem to have the amount of Bramblings with respect to latter years, maybe it´s not cold enough in their host countries for them to leave !!

Mick Richardson:  14 February at the Rio Vilano, Huetor Tajar 

Taken by Mick Richardson - see Axarquia Birds and Wildlife Facebook page.

Dave Elliott-Binns:  14 February

I popped back down to Villaricos Estuary this morning for some photography. Here are some of the results.
Kingfisher  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)

Above and below Great White Egret (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera:Wednesday 12th February
At last the wind had died down and the sun was shining as Gilly & I met up with 18 other Arboleas Group members above the Rambla de Almanzora near Villaricos. We were glad to see Dave, Myrtle, Charlie & Val back after varying lengths away. We also welcomed Colin from the Vera Camera Club.
Great White Egret  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
After a quick reminder regarding noise levels as there were so many of us, we started off by scanning the pools below us. All the usual suspects were there, Mallard, Black Winged Stilt, Teal, White Wagtail and Moorhen. As we carried on up further we added Snipe, Green & Common Sandpiper, Water & Meadow Pipit and Grey Wagtail. In the shrubs were numerous Chiffchaff plus Stonechat, Black Redstart, Serin, Goldfinch, Sardinian Warbler and a calling Cetti's Warbler. Further waders seen included Ringed & Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Dunlin and a Redshank that John spotted. I also spotted Southern Grey Shrike & a distant Kestrel.
Shoveler; male above, female below  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
After a refreshing cuppa in Villaricos we headed down to the beach where numerous camper vans were parked up. On the harbour rocks were a number of Cormorant, together with an Audouin's and Black Headed Gull. A Turnstone was seen flying off. A Gannet was seen far out to sea. Nothing else of note was out to sea. No Black Necked Grebes or Red Breasted Mergansers that Les Senior had reported seeing at Garrucha previously in the week. We walked over to the estuary where we saw Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Coot, Little Ringed Plover and Little Egret. Phil was the first to spot the Great White Egret which showed well. A pair of Kingfishers was seen, albeit they were each end of the estuary! Feeding up & down the water were Sandwich Tern which were being harassed by both Black Headed & Mediterranean Gulls if they scored a fishy meal. On the shoreline were more Sandwich Terns, Audouin's Gulls & Cormorant, 62 according to Brian. A Grey Plover & a Whimbrel were also seen.

Sandwich Tern 
We then made our way down to Vera after assisting Val with her vehicle after the spare wheel dropped down after going over a small gully. There were hundreds of Black Headed Gull, but only a very small number of Crag Martins. The pool opposite Consum was virtually deserted apart from Grey Heron and a few duck. Most of the White Headed Duck & Common Pochard were in the pool nearer to Villaricos. As Gilly & I headed for lunch  we saw a Marsh Harrier over the reeds nearer Garrucha. 
White-headed Ducks  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We finished with 51 species for the day. A great days birding with great weather for a change!
All rather lovely and brings great images of back home, especially given that my birding "Down Under" is very much a case of finding the opportunity.  Very few small birds but Miranda certainly produced the goods yesterday with thousands of Bar-tailed Godwits and we have also seen, i think, all the varieties of Shags available.  No "Cormorants" here; they are all called "Shags" but, there again, they still have a small number of "Hedge Sparrows and as for Purple Swamphens (Calamons), they seem to be on every field and behave more like wild chickens!!!

Sunday 9 February 2014

Charca de Suarez with the Wainwrights

10 February (NZ time)

It would appear that I managed to get away from sunny Spain before the rains came, especially judging from John and Jenny Wainwright's experience today (your 9 February) as reported by John below.  Here, we have just completed a hot and sunny day (now 5.30 pm compared with your 4.30 in the morning) and our visit to the relatively local Aroha Island reserve, north of Kerikeri in the Island of Bays, produced new Zealand Dotterel, both Oystercatchers, Australasian Harrier, Royal Spoonbill, Sacred Kingfisher, New Zealand Fantail, Califonia Quail and loads and loads of Common Myna.  I really must download some of the photos and if somewhat decent post on the Axarquia Birds and Wildlife Facebook page.

Now for John's report and all photos are his, taken on the day.

Charca de Suarez  9th February
Dreary day, rained on/off all day.
A dreary day as we started away from Salar, but en route we saw Buzzard, Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves , Spotless Starlings, Common Kestrel and House Sparrows.

On arrival at the reserve the weather had dried up a bit although there were huge puddles as we entered the main gates.  Overhead the Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls were mewing and in the hedgerows at least two Cetti's Warblers were singing.  In the firs by the main gates a Black Redstart and several Serins were seen as were two Mallard on the scrape.

Chiffchaff  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

As we headed for the open hide a female Blackcap flew across our front and up into the lightly foliaged trees, then a Chiffchaff was heard singing.   At the hide the reed bed was alive with Chiffchaffs and on the lagoon there were Common Coots, Mallard, Moorhens and Little Grebes.  A female Marsh Harrier was spotted as it flew over the back of the lagoon an a Reed Warbler was singing in the rear of the reed bed.  The rain started so we moved onto the hide at Laguna del las Aneas where we saw Black-winged Stilts, Cormorants, Grey Herons, Shovelers, Mallard, Common Pochard, Crested Coots (collared of course) and Yellow-legged Gulls.  In the bushes and reeds we saw Great Tits and Chaffinches and above the lagoon Crag Martins and several House Martins.  We waited here until the rain stopped - be it only for ten minutes or so - which gave us time to get to the hide at Laguna del Trebol.  More Chiffchaffs were seen here as were Stonechats, Cetti´s Warblers, Goldfinches and White Wagtails. 

Little Grebe  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

In the reeds across the lagoon we located two Purple Swamphens and on the water four Crested Coots, Teal, Mallard, Moorhens and Common Coots.  Above the lagoon plenty of Crag Martins and more House Martins were spotted.  In the trees Jenny found a small group of five Barn Swallows who seemed deign to fly about in this rather wet weather.  A movement in the bottom of the reeds to our front gave us some very quick views of the Moustached Warbler, but a Chiffchaff wasn´t going to have it in his feeding area and made several attacks at it, but it did return thirty minutes later, only for twenty seconds though. 

Just about sight of the local Moustached Warbler  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

The rain stopped again for a few minutes so we headed for the hide at Laguna del Lirio, where we picked up Gadwall and Blackbird and a Buzzard, also a male Blackcap, two more Purple Swamphens, Chiffchaffs and Goldfinches.  Another break in the rain so we decided to have another quick look at the open hide where we found another Moustached Warbler.

Grey Heron  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

The rain is getting harder now so we made our way back to Salar, seeing Cattle Egrets, Lapwings and two more Buzzards on the way. 

Quite an eventful day, John and Jenny!

Friday 7 February 2014

Fuente de Piedra with John and Jenny Wainwright

Saturday 8 February

I had hope to post this latest message from John and jenny Wainwright following their visit to Fuente de Piedra last Tuesday but, having just posted the latest news received from Dave  and his Arboleas group received the same day, I got the "Get off the bloomin' computer, they've just called final boarding for Auckland!" message from "'er Indoors!"   Anyway, no Internet at last night's hotel so have just arrive in Kerikeri on the Bay of Islands to the north of North Island so able to try and catch up.  Apologies for the delay, John.

Fuente de Piedra and Laguna Dulce  4th February 2014

A bright, warm day but clouded over lately

Looking at the weekly weather forecast it was apparent that today (Tuesday) was the only day that was viable for any birding, so we headed for Piedra and later on Laguna Dulce.

En route we saw Grey Heron, Spotless Starlings, Woodpigeons and Collared Doves. As we approached the centre the flooded meadow on the left held Shovelers, Teal, Black-winged Stilt, Common Kestrel, Jackdaws and Common Coots.

Female Common Teal (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

At the boardwalk we saw Corn Bunting, Stonechats, Chiffchaffs and along the stream we had great views of the male Bluethroat.  The scrape had very little on besides a few Mallard, Teal and Shovelers, but further along at the reedbed we saw another Bluethroat, Cetti´s Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tits, a few Meadow Pipits and as we started walking away a Common Snipe lifted off out of the bracken at the rear of the reed bed.

Bluethroat (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Above the laguna several hundred gulls included Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed, wheeled and mewed, drowning out even the calls of the Greater Flamingos - which were quite close in today as were two Shelducks.  And in the bushes along the path a Robin was heard but not located, plenty of Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Blackbird, Cetti´s and Sardian Warblers.

Common Snipe and Lapwings feeding together (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Down to the closed hide where we found a pair of Blackcaps in the small bushes and further on the grass towards the lagunetta a Lapwing was feeding as were four Common Snipe. On the water Black-necked and Little Grebes were in good numbers, as were Shovelers (being in the majority), Pochard, Teal, Mallard, Common Coots and above a small number of Crag Martins had just appeared.  On a pylon across the other side of the reserve a Common Buzzard was perched and while watching the bird, all of the gulls - mostly Black-headed and Yellow-legged - lifted off of the water due to the arrival of a female Marsh Harrier.

Northern Shoveler  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

So off to the Cantarranas mirador, enroute we saw Red-legged Partridges, White Wagtails and just two Common Cranes - where are the other couple of hundred ?

At the mirador five Marsh Harriers - one male, one female and three juveniles also two Sparrowhawks were seen over the small laguna, while on and around it were Black-winged Stilts, two Purple Swamphens, Teal, Mallard, Shovelers, Black-necked and Little Grebes, two Shelduck (possibly the ones we had seen earlier at the main laguna), four Greater Flamingos and two Lapwings.  Just then a huge swathe of Crag Martins came in then along with at least two House Martins.

On arrival back at the car - OH No - I had left the car keys in the ignition and locked the car..woe is me.  So after calling recovery we looked around the car park, here we found Greenfinch, Stonechat, a Southern Grey Shrike then in the distance the Cranes were heard and in they came back to their normal location, by the olive groves, although there were only just over a hundred.  Then a sudden brainwave to open the car and a piece of wire from the fence and hey presto - entrance gained!! Relief sighs from the it was getting colder and the sky was coming darker by the minute.  We continued on round the laguna - seeing a pair of Ravens and great views of a Hare as it hurtled across our path - making our way to Laguna Dulce.

Male Black Redstart  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

At Laguna Dulce, the sky was really overcast and the wind had risen, although there were still a lot of Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails, Goldfinches and Corn Buntings in around the hide area.  Most of the laguna itself was awash with Common Coots, Black-headed Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Black-necked and Little Grebes, whilst around and under the surrounding trees we found at least twenty male Red-crested Pochards, five Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards, Mallard, Shovelers, Teal and a Great Crested Grebe.  Across the reedbeds two Marsh Harriers quartered  and in the fields at the back of the laguna a Buzzard was found along with several Lapwings. 

Had to leave now as getting late and need to go shopping in Antiquera....

Another very full report John which helps me remember what I am missing by being away from Spain!  Only "casual" birding at the moment in "as seen from car" so the New Zealand total has now reached a grand nine, yes NINE.  Lots of Mynas and good views of Australasian Harriers on the drive up along with the local Tui and, even at the roadside, regular sightings of Purple Swamphens.  But tomorrow I may be allowed out with the camera and bins!

Thursday 6 February 2014

Embalse de Negratin with the Arboleas Bird Group

Thursday 6 February

More news from Dave and Gilly - received whilst in Hong Kong on way to New Zealand.

Embalse de Negratin   -   Wednesday 5th February
     As Gilly & I drove up towards Baza in gusty winds, we could see dark clouds & rainbows, so birdwatching today was always going to be a challenge. We met up with Trevor, Ann, Josie and a Brianless Mary at the cafe before the Negratin dam for a coffee & tostada. Our first stop was the car park by the dam. A Sardinian Warbler was calling from the depths of a nearby shrub. A small flock of Crossbill flew overhead, one female eventually perched atop of a pencil cyprus. We wandered along the top of the dam and managed to spot two Cormorants and a Yellow Legged Gull. A buffeting wind made us skedaddle back to the vehicles.
     It was much calmer & warmer in the valley below the dam. A flock of Woodpigeon was seen. We heard then saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the leafless trees. Also seen were Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blackcap & Blackbird. Gilly spotted a Southern Grey Shrike, closely followed by a male Blue Rock Thrush. Below the dam itself, above the outlet pool, Crag Martin were feeding and Rock Dove were squatting on cliff ledges. I spotted a Chiffchaff catching midges above the reeds. Gilly eventually spotted some red colour on silhouetted thrushes that flew over above us confirming their Redwing identity. It was then back to the cars in slight drizzle. En route back to the cafe Gilly & I added Jay, Raven and a Kestrel to the list.
     We ended up with 25 species for the day. I should add that Brian was unable to attend as he was waiting for the heating oil man to visit.
     Phil & Sue managed to capture on camera our first reported Great Spotted Cuckoo of the year near Los Gallardos last week. (Can't download it!)  Regards, Dave

Sunday 2 February 2014

Sierra de Maria with Dave & Gilly

Sunday 2 February

Obviously you are enjoying better weather in southern Spain than we are in southern Britain.  Following a very wet week the sun finally put in appearance yesterday, but still managed to throw down a light shower, but today has started bright and sunny with clear skies.  On the other hand, other than a single male Blackbird in the garden, not a bird to be seen.  One more day in this Sceptred Isle, or should it be "sceptic isle." and then off down under in search of Wrybills and anything else that puts in an appearance.

Meanwhile, here is the latest report from our neighbouring Arboleas Bird Group with thanks to Dave and Gilly.

Sierra de Maria   -   Friday 31st January 2014

Since Matthew & Paul were only going to be holidaying for a short time I offered to take them to the Sierra de Maria on their last full day. We met up near Huercal Overa & I drove them to Maria. The weather forecast was clear & sunny.....wrong! It was overcast with some wind. The higher slopes had a sprinkling of snow on them. After a warming cuppa at the garage cafe we headed towards the plains to do a bit of in car birding till the weather warmed up. We first stopped at the old farm buildings and both Matthew & Paul were delighted to see their first Crossbills, closely followed by Cirl Buntings. We carried on to the trough & water deposit. Here a few Corn Bunting were seen with the many Rock Sparrow & Goldfinch. Also seen was a Linnet. Saw huge flock of 100+ Chaffinch feeding on field. Driving further we saw a Carrion Crow and the first of about 6 Calandra Lark. I spotted a Little Owl on rocks. At the hamlet we only added Crested Lark & a female Black Redstart.

The entertaining Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
On the way back we stopped off at the La Piza cafe, watching the bird feeder whilst drinking coffee. Great, Blue, Coal & Crested Tits entertained us. A small number of Crossbill were high in the trees.
It was then up to the chapel. Still quite chilly so not much around, just a few Serin. The sun was at last warming things up. We had great views of passing Griffon Vultures. We only added Mistle Thrush, Blackbird & an obliging Robin to the list.

Robin Erithacus rubecula (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Back to La Piza for lunch.., this time the Tits were joined by some Jays. We then went to check out the Vulture feeding station near Velez Blanco. As we approached the was a large flock of feeding Jackdaws & Red Billed Chough on the ploughed fields. In the feeding compound there were about 10 Griffons. In all we saw at least another 50 odd in various flights around us.
A good days birding. Paul & Matthew saw at least 6 firsts. 28 species total

Regards, Dave