Saturday 29 March 2014

Huetor Tajar with John & Jenny

Saturday 29 March

Is it me or does everybody happen to go to the same site at the same time?  Yesterday my holidaying neighbours from Holland, Gilbert and Ely Houtekamer, spent the day in the Cacin Valley after their climb up the Sierra Loja with Mick Richardson whilst, at about the same time, it would appear that John and Jenny Wainwright were also in the vicinity at neighbouring Huetor Tajar.  At least they both got in a good day's birding before today's horrible, miserable wet weather.  John's report follows:

Huetor Tajar:  28th March

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava ibereia (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Quite a warmish day but there is still that chilly wind.  As we passed over the bridge to access the north side of the stream, below us we saw Little Egret, Moorhen,and Green Sandpiper, and in the small bushes here we found Great Tits, House Sparrows, Sardinian Warbler and Goldfinches.
Up to the crossroads and in the old tree we had good views of Greenfinches and in the fields around we saw Crested Larks, White Wagtails and a good number of Cattle Egrets.  Parking at, and overlooking the stream, we found a Green Sandpiper (this was moved on when a motorbike went past), lots of Linnets coming down for baths, on the banks more Crested Larks and Greenfinches, Serins, Blackbirds, House Sparrows and two blue-headed Yellow Wagtails (Iberia).

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
As we were photographing the latter two Little Ringed Plovers flew in and several Barn Swallows flashed past going upstream.  Moving up towards the ford we found a second Green Sandpiper and a Water Pipit - the latter having a passion for having a go at the Barn Swallows when they got close to him - which didn´t give us any chance to photograph it, he finally gave up and disappeared over the far bank and wasn´t seen again.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
At the ford we found White Wagtails and another pair of Little Ringed Plovers - we could still see the first pair on the other bend - the Green Sandpipers flew past us and landed up on a small island upstream.  Also here three Meadow Pipits, a Grey Wagtail, a Moorhen and in the surrounding trees were Spotless Starlings, Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons and a Common Magpie.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Winds picking up so heading home.

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

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Ventas de Zafarraya & Sierra Tejeda

Serin Verdecillo Serinus serinus (PHOTO: Gilbert Houtekamer)
Monday 24 March

A beautiful start to the day and, whilst we prepared for a cold breeze up at the old railway track above Ventas de Zafarraya, in the event it was pleasantly warm and with very little wind.  So the three of us, Gilbert and Elly Houtekamer, visiting holiday makers from Holland, made a start to a very long day and, whilst we did not see all the birds I expected, Gilbert did manage to record 16 new species for himself.  And we finished up coming down the mountain track to Alcaucin via the picnic areas only to discover that the track was closed whilst the loggers played lumberjacks (think "Monty Python").  But, as I so often find when the Spanish close a road for road-works, they only put the sign at one end and we had started our journey at the top, finding the closed sign on a barrier at the very bottom (8kms away); no wonder we got some very strange looks from the men, including the Junta's representative, when we casually drove past.  And another thing, what are the chances when you book a holiday in a foreign land, on a mountain top miles from anywhere, and then arrange a day's birding to discover that our host lives right opposite you?  But, I have to say, Gilbert and Elly were marvellous company and Gilbert managed to produce some wonderful photographs using his Nikon with a 300mm f2.8 lens.

Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros  (PHOTO: Gilbert Houtekamer)
Now to the birds.  Thekla Lark as left the mountain and both Collared and Rock Doves along with Barn Swallow as we drove (Rather, Gilbert drove) up to the pass.  No sooner had we arrived than we also discovered Hilary MacBean and her friend Lesley, fellow ABS members who had been with me in Cabo de Gata at the week-end, were also in the car park awaiting to undertake the same programme as ourselves.  We did not see the early Rock Bunting but there were Spotless Starlings about along with calling Choughs as they glided pass the face of the nearby cliffs.  Crag Martins seemed particularly active as we made our way up to the old tunnel.

Displaying Crag Martins Avion Roquero Ptyonoprogne rupestris
On the rocks and cliffs to the right we had our first Black Wheatears and a quartet of Rock Sparrows high above us.  The first Blue Rock Thrush of the day was spotted quickly followed by another couple of male birds.  Whilst we also saw many Stonechats and Serins, it took a long time to record Goldfinch but there certainly seemed to be Linnets about.  Before we returned to the car we had also seen a number of Black Redstarts and then a lovely Peregrine Falcon roving around the cliff, only to be set upon by a couple of Choughs willing to take the risk!

This Chough Chova Piquirroja Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax made no advance on the passing Peregrine  Halcon Peregrino Falco peregrinus (PHOTO: Gilbert Houtekamer)
Passing the House Sparrows and Collared Doves, next it was off through the "Magpie Woods" where we recorded a rapidly disappearing Jay as we climbed the first slope.  The first of many Mistle Thrushes put in an appearance but, at this point, we had seen the sought-after Azure-winged Magpies.  They would come a little later on when we saw dozens.

A very alert Mistle Thrush Zorzal Charlo Turdus viscivorus
At the back of the woods we turned left to seek out the many larks to be found near the arable fields.   At first there seemed to be a Corn Bunting sitting on the top of every coil of water pipes not to mention the Common Kestrel that looked down at us from atop the second electricity pylon.  Blackbird and Chaffinch were duly noted then a whole series of Crested Larks; every where we looked.  More Corn Buntings and Linnets but surprise, surprise, a single Lesser Short-toed Lark amongst the rocks.  Disappointingly, only the one good view of a Calandra Lark before heading off towards the old, ruined Loja road to take the anti-clockwise circle round the back of area.

One of very many Crested Larks Cogujada Comun Galerida cristata  (PHOTO: Gilbert Houtekamer)
This short drive produced a number of (Common) Magpies and Wood Pigeons whilst the actual circuit produced another Kestrel then the first of very many Azure-winged Magpies.  A close view of a Hoopoe whilst a couple of Meadow Pipits and more Crested Larks fed to the rear of this particular spot.  Towards the end of the circuit we eventually found a single Northern Wheatear and, upon returning to thee main road, a pair of Red-legged Partridges.

Off to the long grass for this Red-legged Partridge perdiz Roja Alectoris rufa
Following a stop for lunch where we took a very welcome menu del dia, we headed off for the mountain track down through the Sierra Tejeda to Alcaucin calling in at both picnic areas.  The top area proved very quiet but we did find a handful of Goldfinches (Putters), a single Nuthatch and just two Crossbills.

A rapidly departing Black Wheatear Collalba Negra Oenanthe leucura  (PHOTO: Gilbert Houtekamer)
So off we went and managed to find a pair of passing Short-toed Eagles before reaching the lower picnic area.  What a noise as the lumberjacks went about their business felling trees immediately below the site.  No wonder we saw very little but we did manage another Nuthatch, a few Crossbills, Chaffinch and a rather lovely Grey Wagtail feeding in the narrow stream above the main seating area.  We even had a single Robin followed by both Great and Blue Tits.

Attentive female Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra
Finally, if you include both the Great Spotted Woodpecker heard drumming and the yaffling Green Woodpecker we managed to record a total of 41 species.

Grey Wagtail Lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea at the picnic site stream

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Short-toed eagle, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird,  Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill, Corn Bunting.

And not forgetting the Meadow Pipit Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis

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

The old Loja Road from Ventas de Zafarraya

The start of a new week and more birding to be undertaken.  No sooner had I got back form a trip with my holiday neighbour than I received an email  to inform me that John and Jenny Wainwright had also been out in the same area.  John's report follows below and mine once I have completed the write-up.

Old Zafarraya Road area 24th March

A warm day but still that chilly breeze about.

After completing our chores at Alhama de Granada we went across country in the direction of Sierra Loja. Our first sighting was of a Little Owl sitting on the roof of a small cottage. Then a few Crested Larks and Linnets were seen, along with Blackbirds and Chaffinches.

Jay  Arrendajo  Garrulus glandarius  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Onto the the main track and the Black-eared Wheatears were beginning to show themselves as well as Thekla Larks and Mistle Thrushes, also an Ocellated Lizard was spotted in this area.

Ocellated Lizard  Lagarto Ocelado  Timon Lepidus  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

A couple of Southern Grey Shrikes were noted and a few hirundines appeared mostly Barn Swallows with the odd Crag Martin.  Several Wood Pigeons left the trees as we progressed along the track and Mistle Thrushes were in good numbers, also about we spotted four Chough, Rock Buntings, and a few Azure-winged Magpies.  In the small oaks we found a Sardinian Warbler, a Great Tit, two Blue Tits, House Sparrows and more Chaffinches.

Lots of butterflies about today, the majority being Bath Whites with Brimstones, Speckled Woods, Provence HairstreaksSmall Heath, Scarce Swallowtail, Wall Brown and Small Tortoiseshell.  As we were photographing the latter, a Wryneck called from the bare trees on the ridge.

Provence Hairstreak Tomares ballus  (PHOTO: John Wainwright

In a small oak copse we found a lone Robin, five Jays, a Short-toed Treecreeper and some Common Magpies.  While on the scrubby slopes Stonechats, Corn Buntings, Linnets and Spotless Starlings were seen.

Back on the fields and a flock of some twenty Calandra Larks flew in while above us two Lesser Kestrel were hovering.

As we left the old road a Buzzard sat on one of the many pylons hereabouts.

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

Sunday 23 March 2014

Two days in Almeria Province

Sunday 23 March

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Yesterday saw the Andalucia Bird Society in Cabo de Gata but too far to travel for the day so, with Eric and Pat Lyon, Steve and Elena Powell, Ellie Wallbank and Gerry Collins we travelled up on the preceding day; birdng our way up via Las Norias, the salinas around Roquetas de Mar and a quick look at some of the venues I would be take the ABS group to on the Saturday.  On both days, early morning mist gradually cleared away to leave very warm weather, so sun and/or wind burning for all of us!


Leaving home with Ellie at 9 o'clock we had recorded both Linnets and Hoopoe before we were off the mountain and, once we had all met up in Salobrena the birding started in earnest.  As usual, Las Norias was surrounded by the dreaded plastic but, unexpectedly, there were relatively few birds and no Night nor Squacco Heron.  Lots of Coots and Cormorants along with many Red-crested Pochards and Great Crested Grebes to welcome us and then the search for the rest.  We started with a god selection of White and Yellow (blue-headed Iberian sub-species) Wagtails which had a single Meadow Pipit to keep them company.  Barn Swallows over the water along with Black-headed Gulls and Moorhens, Little and Black-necked Grebes on the water.  A Grey Heron flew over whilst more and more Little Egrets became visible on either side of the causeway.

Meadow Pipit Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis at Las Norias
Loads of Chiffchaff in the surrounding hedgerows along with Collared Doves and House Sparrows, not to mention Rock Doves, but the Blackcaps and singing Reed Warbler long with a lonely Robin were more to our liking.  A very fleeting view of a couple of Black Redstarts at the water's edge and then the first Purple Swamphen of the day.  Before leaving the area we also managed to find a couple of Gadwall along with a very small group of Common Pochard.

Slender-billed Gull  Gaviota Picofina  Larus genei
Our next stop was at the western end of the Roquetas de Mar salina near the lighthouse.  Crossing the water we had very good views of a lone Slender-billed Gull and a trio of Black-winged Stilts.  Off to the right the first views of White-headed Ducks and Greater Flamingos whilst to the left a small mixed flock of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls in their summer plumage.  However, best of all was the Tawny Pipit that sat patiently beside the track waiting to have it's photograph take, unfortunately through the car's windscreen.

A surprise Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris on the westen most salina at Roquetas de Mar (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Sitting at the far end enjoying our lunch we could appreciated the variety of birds to be seen.  More gulls, as already recorded, along with a single Cattle Egret, another Purple Swamphen and, amongst the Pochards and Mallards, a single Garganey with a couple of Teal further back towards the far bank.  At that point an adult female Marsh Harrier decided it was time to take an interest in the proceedings.  Then, of course, we had to find a trio of Glossy Ibis (on looking at the resulting photographs at least one was bearing a ring), more White-headed Ducks along with Yellow-legged Gulls and a departing Common Kestrel.  Also recorded were a number of Yellow-legged Gulls,  a single Lesser Black-backed Gull and a small party of Audouin's Gulls.  The pool at the back of the housing complex duly presented us with a Red-knobbed Coot wearing its neck collar (are there any un-ringed/tagged members of this species left in AndalucĂ­a?) and the shallow pools left after the last rain seem to have adopted a number of Kentish Plover; and gorgeous birds they looked in their best summer apparel.

Where can you find a Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata without a neck brace?
Time to move on and head up to Cabo de Gata, passing more Kestrels, Crested Larks and Magpies on the way but, instead of booking into our hotel for the evening, we took the opportunity to check out the pool and feed river tot he west of the village.  A couple of feeding Sandwich Tern over the sea and then lots of White-headed Ducks and Coots along with both Little and Black-necked Grebes and the occasional Moorhen on the main lagoon.  Barn Swallows by the dozen overhead along with a single House Martin.  On the shore-end beach a single Oystercatcher was recorded with a small number of Redshank.

Breeding White-headed Ducks Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala everywhere; female above and male below

Driving along the riverside track to reach the main road and once more enter Cabo de Gata to check-
out the public hide, we first saw more Crested Larks followed by a single Corn Bunting and then a small party of Greenfinches. Unfortunately, not having Elena's incredible eye-sight all of us bar Steve missed out on the Great Spotted Cuckoo that she found hidden in the centre of tree below the said Greenfinches!  It was whilst trying to locate the cuckoo that we first found the small charm of Goldfinches in the company of a single Serin and the lone Stonechat along with another Zitting Cisticola.

No shortage of Kentish Plovers Chorlitejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus this week-end
Arriving at the public hide it was amazing to see so many Avocet feeding in the water and, again, the large number of Kentish Plover.  Also rather lovely was to find a trio of Little Stint along with a single Grey Plover .  A number of Shelduck were also present as were the scores of Flamingos.  Lots of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls but the light was rapidly failing so the correct identification of the terns would have to wait for the 'morrow, even if we were pretty sure of their identification.


And so the ABS meet where, for a first , we split into small groups rather than travel in convoy.  Just as well, as it is difficult to get half-a-dozen into most of the hides let alone thirty of us!  Off we all went in different directions having been given a map of the local area , sites to visit and contact details.  Foe out two cars it was case of visiting the hide at the back of the salinas (very little to see that could not be seen from the from hides), the on to the mountain road followed by the lighthouse.  Back to the three hides on the beach road than a circuit taking in the lagoon and  the feeding ramble followed by the initial hide.  All seemed finished and phone calls made to say that we were just starting off for the almost three hour journey home when I had a second thought.  More later.

Awaiting the call to breakfast (rather late at 8.30 so we must get that sorted before a future visit) I had Collared Dove, House Martin, Spotless Starling and House Sparrow flying around the hotel.  But before setting off, whilst making sure that everyone was aware of the programme, there were a trio of Stone Curlews and a couple of Eurasian Curlews to be seen on the grassland off to the right along with many Flamingos and Avocets in front of us.

Typical beady-eyed Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemusat Cabo de Gata (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
The rear hide produced a good number of Kentish Plovers and Black-winged Stilts plus the odd Redshank and a single Little Stint.  We had already seen a single Corn Bunting and very many Crested Larks on the long track down to the hide so it was good eventually see a pair of Sardinian WarblersAvocets to be seen along with distant Flamingos but we knew that there would be scores more once we moved to the opposite hides.  In addition, we also had the first Shelduck of the morning and a raft of Cormorants were taking their ease at the back of the water.

Next it was up the   no-through road to the mountain top where we encountered Eric and party returning who had seen a pair of Trumpeter Finches.  For us, we had lovely views of a beautiful Black-eared Wheatear which remained loyal to the same site for an hour or more.  The road produced a single male Blue Rock Thrush at the top and a number of Black Wheatears.

Black-eared Wheatear Collalba Rubia Oenante hispanica and Black Wheatear Collalba Negra Oenanthe leucura (below from car window) on the mountain road nearthe lighthouse, Cabo de Gata

Returning via the lighthouse, nothing to be seen, to the public hide we took stock of the variety of birds in front of us including the many species of Gulls; Black-headed, Mediterranean, Audouni's, Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and Slender-billed.  There was also a goo collection of Gull-billed Terns resting on the end salina. On the water and near its edges fewer waders than yesterday but still very many Kentish Plover.  Also recorded were Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, a single Grey Plover and lots of Flamingos and Avocets.
No reason not to see a Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

It was whilst here that we received an urgent mobile call from Pat Lyon to inform us that a Great Bustard had, literally, just flown past their hide (two down towards Cabo), landed in the distant, made a short display then retreated to cover.  So off we all dashed down in the hope that it could be relocated.  It seemed that many others had the same idea!   No chance and no one had a camera to take a photograph other than another birder who also happened to be near the hide and grabbed a quick shot on his small camera - or was it a mobile?  Time to also catch up and point out that we had seen our first Peregrine of the day.  Leaving the hide, a number of us took the track to the far end of the fence in the hope that we might get closer to the Great Bustard and, perhaps, get a chance to see this huge bird.  No such luck albeit one or two struggled to retrieve their cars from the soft sand on the track for their troubles!

Lovely Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis on the river (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

Lunch called so we made a stop on the shore, and saw a feeding Gannet thinking the same thought, before driving on down to the river and its lagoon.  Loads of White-headed Ducks on the water along with Coots and Moorhens.  A few Little and a couple of Black-necked Grebes were also recorded.  Above the water, very many Barn Swallows plus a single Red-rumped Swallow and a couple of House Martins.  Other ducks included Mallard and Common Pochard.  Whilst Eric's group manage to catch sight of a trio of Common Snipe taking off, we returned to the original hide at Cabo de Gata in preparation for our good-byes and journey home.  The track towards the main road  produced Greenfinches and, in addition to more Crested Larks, a lovely singing Skylark complete with white edges, etc.

Yet more White-headed Ducks Oxyura leucocephala (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Back at the original hide, we duly found the Spotted Redshank in the company of a Common Redshank and Greenshank along with a single Black-winged Stilt.  It seemed that all four individuals were so bust feeding that they were in and out between the legs of the sole Flamingo in this stretch of water!

Spotted Redshank Archibebe Oscuro Tringa erythropus in the fading light

As mentioned above, we made our goodbyes to those who were staying on for another night and Gerry phone on ahead to let his wife know that we were just starting off on our way home.  At this point, Derek and Barbara announce that they, too, had paid a visit to the far end of field and the Great Bustard had risen from the depths before settling back down again. I wonder? Why not, it would only take less than five minutes to drive straight along the back track to the last known sighting.  And so we did.  Taking just binoculars and camera we once more walked the fence to its end and scanned the area.  Nothing; what a waste of time.  I'll just take a general photo of the area out of interest and then I catch up Gerry who was almost back at the car.  Meanwhile, Eric and Pat had called in to check if there were still any Dotterels about, there were not, and for their trouble were rewarded by a first Woodchat Shrike of the summer.

Very distant record shot of the Great Bustard Avutarda Comun Otis tarda
The journey home was uneventful, other than the Southern Grey Shrike who flew across the road between Retimar and the motorway and with no hold-ups Gerry was back in Salobrena by 7.15 and I reached Casa Collado just over an hour later.  Very tired after the full day and all the driving but chance foe a very quick look at the day's photos and, maybe, delete all the obvious rubbish.  Imagine my surprise when looking at the last photograph, the general view over he grassland at Cabo de Gata when, upon enlarging, the small concrete post turned out to be the illusive Great Bustard!  What a way to end a fabulous two days.  And I make that 82 species by our little Axarquia group over the two days and, probably, still a few more to add.

Always lovely to see a Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

Birds seen (with lots more on the Saturday by other members of the group):

Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Garganey, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot,  Great Bustard, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Spotted redshank, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Gull-billed tern, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow,  Tawny Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail (Blue-headed Iberian), White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat,  Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Trumpeter Finch, Corn Bunting.

Can you find the Great Bustard?  Remember, this is a bird as big as a large turkey!

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

Friday 21 March 2014

More from the Axarquia Bird Group

Thursday 20 March

No sooner had I published my report of today's Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar followed by the relatively short trip up to the Alcaucin picnic area than I received a similar report from from John Wainwright.  As I had previously said, no sooner do you publish than somebody informs you about a missing bird.  And so it was with John.  From John's report you will note that a Willow Warbler was also recorded early on at the Rio Velez, making his migratory journey north from sub-Sahara Africa whilst, from the beach, a distant Gannet was recorded.  Upon leaving Alcaucin, John and Jenny also managed to find a single Wren on the track down to the village having also recorded Sardinian Warbler at the site.  Forget fifty-six, we are now up to 60 species for the meet.

A very busy Nuthatch Trepador Azul Sitta europaea (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Then we could, perhaps, note some of the birds mentioned as recorded on either/both the outward and return journeys to the meet.  Steve and Elena manage to come across a pair of Short-toed Eagles on their way from Frigilliana to Torre del Mar and John had Cattle Egret, Magpie and Mistle Thrush in the Ventas de Zafarraya area.  As John reports below, rather than drive straight back to Salar he and Jenny took in a short visit to Robledal where they duly recorded Green Woodpecker, Azure-winged Magpie, Jay, Cirl Bunting and Long-tailed Tit.  To cap it all, they even managed to see both a Southern Grey Shrike and a couple of Lesser Kestrels when they finally set off for home. Me?  All I managed was a pair of Thekla Larks as I drove back up the mountain to Casa Collado.

Now, by my reckoning, that makes a grand total of 71 species for the day and, who knows, what else might eventually be reported back to me. All in all, a fabulous day's birding.

John's report follows:

Quite a warm day, a very light breeze.

A warm day greeted us as we headed for the Rio Velez meeting, en route we saw Jackdaws, Mistle Thrushes, Corn Buntings were in good numbers along the telegraph wires, a few Spotless Starlings and a couple of Barn Swallows, as we came through Venta de Zafarraya we found a few Cattle Egrets, two Hoopoes along with Common Magpies in the lettuce fields.

After meeting up and saying general hello´s in the proximity of the road bridge we saw here Cetti,s Warblers, Goldfinches, White Wagtails, House Sparrows, Blackbirds, Moorhens, Mallard, Serins, Rock Doves, Barn Swallows and a group of five Cormorants flew over us.  In the fields opposite a Zitting Cisticola was very plainly heard and a few Meadow Pipits were seen in amongst the grasses. A Blackcap was heard in the reeds but we didn´t locate one until later and a Willow Warbler was noted in the area.

In the Velez estuary we came upon Mallard, Moorhens, a lone Sanderling and four Little Ringed Plovers; one of the ladies spotted a Snipe - but this disappeared into the lush greenery before we could scope it. Further down a Grey Heron was having quite a time swallowing a Grey Mullet - probably due to being the wrong way round in its bill. Here also a Redshank was pointed out just to left of the Heron.

Above us we saw Red-rumped and Barn Swallows, Sand and Crag Martin, lots of gulls wheeling around - being put off of the beach by some walkers.  A good number of Sanderlings flew in and one Dunlin was found amongst them as well as a Kentish Plover.

At the hide a Yellow Wagtail (Iberia race) was seen, as well as more Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaffs, Serins, Blackbird, Stonechat and a Crested Lark.  On and around the river banks we found more Sanderlings, Little Ringed Plovers, Cormorants, Grey Herons, Little Egrets and Common Coots.

On the sea we found six or seven Mediterranean Gulls, a few Black-headed, some Yellow-legged and one Lesser Black-backed Gull.

From the beach we spotted a Black-necked Grebe and a couple of adult Gannets.  Walking back through the reed beds, two Ravens were seen over the distant hill and in and around the small bushes we saw Stonechats,

Zitting Cisticolas, Chiffchaffs and Meadow Pipits and atop a group of tall bamboo a Corn Bunting was noted.

As we arrived back at the hide a Common Kestrel and more Serins were located.

Sierra de Tejadas:Picnic sites.

Not a lot to note on the journey up to the picnic sites but there was a lot of forestry work being carried out here.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Pico Picapinos Dendrocopos major  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
At the first picnic site we found Great Tit, Chaffinches and Serins. Onward to the second site where we a tad more fortunate seeing Nuthatches, Crested Tits, Serins, Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps, Rock Bunting, Short-toed Creepers, Crossbills, Coal Tit, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Chough, Woodpigeons and Chaffinches.

Crested Tit Herrerillo Capuchino Parus cristatus  taking a well-earned bath (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
As we (Jenny and I) descended back to have lunch we saw Wren, Collared Doves and a Common Kestrel.

After lunch we headed for El Robedal, with a few Crested Larks and Spotless Starlings on the way.  No sooner had we parked than the yaffle of a Green Woodpeckers was heard - one on either side of us, the not to be outdone a Greater Spotted Woodpecker had a drumming session. More Nuthatches were seen as well as Long-tailed, Coal, Crested and Great Tits, Serins, a Cirl Bunting was calling but we couldn´t find it.  Several Jays were seen as well as Azure-winged Magpies,a Mistle Thrush, House Sparrows, Stonechats and a few Chaffinches.

On the way home three Lesser Kestrels, a Southern Grey Shrike, Corn Buntings and more Mistle Thrushes were seen.

A great day and nice to see so many friends again.

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

Thursday 20 March 2014

March Field Visit of the Axarquia Bird Group

Thursday 20 March

Fresh back from New Zealand and anxious to get some local birding under my belt after a seven week absence, this month's field visit of the Axarquia Bird Group was attended by thirteen members at our local patch, the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar followed by a visit (six present) to the lower picnic area above Alcaucin.  By the time we adjourned for lunch we had finally recorded 56 species but, no doubt, having read the following someone will make contact to let me know which bird I have missed!

A strange old morning to start the day with increasing cloud to accompany the calm dry weather but no sooner had we travelled down to the beach that the cloud eased back and the temperature sored; where to put the extra layer of clothing?  However, upon arriving with Ellie Wallbank from Marbella I was soon greeting old friends including Gerry Collins from Salobrena and Lesley laver from Nerja.  Also from Nerja, it was good to once more see Patricia Saw with us.  Nearer home, only Brian Green from nearby Triana but we did welcome a new guest, now living in France but holidaying nearby, in John Clayden.  Eric and Pat Lyon along with Steve and Elena Powell were also present and a meeting these day would not be the same with the company of John and Jenny Wainwright.  A special mention of the latter as it was great to see John looking so well after his recent operation (must be all that birding he is undertaking or Jenny's cooking) and Jenny herself managing very well. 

To the birds.  As might be expected we were, as always, welcomed by the resident Rock Doves, Moorhens and White WagtailsChiffchaffs fussed around the undergrowth and numerous Cetti's Warblers were both seen and heard.  In addition, the two later-arriving cars even managed, much to the chagrin of the rest of us, to record at least one Hoopoe.  Similarly, there seemed to be a plentiful supply of Blackbirds about and Mallard numbers had yet to be depleted albeit there was to be no repeat sighting of either the Garganey or Night Heron seen earlier on the week.

Little Ringed Plover  Chorlitejo Chico  Charadrius dubius
Off down the track to the recently-erected public hide whilst watching the Barn Swallows overhead and regular sightings of Zitting Cisticola around the river margins.  Also noticeable were the good numbers of Blackcap and then the waders started to appear.  Five Black-winged Stilts and many Little Ringed Plovers but only the occasional Ringed Plover.  Meanwhile, a score or more of Sanderling seemed to be very gittery, moving up and down the water like demented ghosts. To the left over the field a disappearing Crested Lark and whilst looking at the canes and bushes to the sides a number of both Goldfinches and Serin were recorded.  Suddenly, a single Snipe made a very brief appearance and the n very soon disappeared from view in the lush vegetation.  Spotless Starlings appeared on both the pylons and to bathe in the river whilst a couple of screeching Monk Parakeets passed overhead flying towards the town.  Not to be missed were the two Kestrels seen in this area.

Goldfinch  Jilguero  Carduelis carduelis
One small surprise was to see a pair of Crag Martins feeding above the river (why had these birds not yet returned to the higher breeding slopes?) and a single Sand Martin along with another single Red-rumped Swallow but no House Martins were to be seen.  Having reached the hide by now we also very soon picked up a small number of both Iberian (Blue-headed) Yellow Wagtails along with a couple of Meadow Pipits and a solitary Stonechat.

Cormorants were very active flying up and down the river as well as sunbathing on the edge of the lower lagoon along with a quartet of Grey Herons and a couple of Little Egrets.  Just the one Redshank but in the far distance, over the "Spanish bull" a pair of Ravens passĂ© along the ridge.

One of a score of Sanderling  Correlimos Tridactilo  Calidris alba
The walk to the beach confirmed a small number of Mediterranean Gulls on the water along with a very small number of Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls.  A single Black-necked Grebe dropped on tot he water and was very obligingly recorded before it disappeared in the swell.  Returning to the hide via the water's edge we duly noted a trio of Kentish Plover and a couple of Dunlin amongst both the Little Ringed Plovers and Sanderling.  Finally, a Corn Bunting put in an appearance just to remind us that there are other birds to be seen at these lower levels.

Kentish Plover  Chorlitejo Patinegro  Charadrius alexandrinus
Returning to our cars and confirming venues for both April and May (see Axarquia Visits), half the group made their way hone whilst six of us travelled up to the lower picnic area above Alcaucin.  This, I am pleased to record, provided a good number of smaller birds including many Crossbills and Nuthatches.  Also seen were Crested, Blue and Great Tits along with a couple of Rock Bunting and a single Short-toed Treecreeper, even though numerous individuals were heard.  A number of Coal Tits were heard.  The path alongside the little stream provided many of these as the birds washed and drank and they were joined by a single Robin.  At least two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen and photographed.  High on the rocks a couple of Wood Pigeon rested and two Choughs called and then identified themselves as they flew down the opposite valley.  Also present were both Goldfinches and Serins but we had to wait an unusually long time before seeing our first Chaffinch.

Specled Wood Pararge aegeria butterfly seen at the Alcaucin picnic area
A most rewarding day's birding and I get to start all over again tomorrow when I travel up to Cabo de Gata via Las Norias and Roquetas de Mar.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt,  Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Snipe, Redshank, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Chough, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Sierra Loja with John and Jenny Wainwright

Tuesday 18 March

Back in business now that I am once more in Casa Collado, our mountain home above Lake Vinuela.  I thought it would not be long before John and Jenny Wainwright were back up their favourite mountain and, sure enough, I have just received the latest report from John reflecting their visit to this wonderful birding site earlier today.

Sierra Loja: 18th March

A very warm day (22C)but still a chilly breeze at times.

Chores finished by eleven am, we decided to see if there were any new arrivals up in Sierra Loja.  The first part of the drive was very uneventful until we reached the old workings where we saw Wren, Serins, Blackbirds, Azure-winged Magpies, Mistle Thrush and Collared Dove.

Up and into the hidden quarry here we saw four Barn Swallows, Black Wheatears, a distant Blue Rock Thrush was singing from the clifftop, more Blackbirds and a Rock Bunting.

Blue Rock Thrush  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Moving up to the tree line - this too was eerily quiet in respect of birdsong - but we did manage to spot two Short-toed Treecreepers, a small family of Long-tailed Tits, a Coal Tit, a Great Tit, several Chaffinches, Crossbills (these were the only noises heard), a Wood Pigeon and an Azure-winged Magpie.

We could hear the Jackdaws before we got to the cliff area, these were feeding with a few Chough on the slope to our right, then a pair of Black Wheatears flew onto the wire fence, a party of Linnets flew overhead and a Stonechat was seen atop an almond tree.  Just as we were pulling away a Sparrowhawk came hurtling across the tops of the bushes.   Nine Ibex were also seen en route to the next port-of-call.

Just as we passed the entrance to the para-gliding area, we got our first Black-eared Wheatear of the year and as we drove into the sub-station valley another one was seen.  A few Thekla Larks were singing from the rock-piles and another two Rock Buntings were seen.  Then a Northern Wheatear was spotted sitting a lone rock out in the grasses and a Little Owl called from somewhere in the valley here but we could not locate it.

Black-eared Wheatear  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
So up to the ponds, seeing nothing different from our previous sightings, here again you could hear a pin drop.  But we did find in the bottom pond a Sharp-ribbed Newt, Western Spadefoots and Natterjack Toads and as we were having a cuppa, four Goldfinches and a Linnet turned up for a drink - at the pond of course.

Western Spadefoot  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Onward to the fossil cave area where a Honey Buzzard was seen hovering several times while progressing along the cliff top.  Then a male and female Black Redstart, followed by a Blue Rock Thrush which was sent packing by a pair of Black Wheatears.  While we were watching the latter a single Griffon Vulture sailed high over the cliff.

Lots of Spotless Starlings about plus a Rock Sparrow, a Song Thrush and a Common Kestrel.

Over the other side of the cliffs, in a small fir copse, we found Goldfinches, Mistle Thrushes, Chaffinches and a Robin.

On the home journey another Griffon Vulture was seen but nothing extra.

Griffon Vulture  (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)