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 passé 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.

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