Saturday 31 May 2014

Alcaucin and the Sierra Tejeda

Saturday 31 May

Blue Tit  Herrerillo Comun Parus caeruleus
Up and out of the house by 8 o´clock to be at the Alcaucin picnic area before the thriving masses arrive with their various picnic baskets, noisy games, radios and general disturbance in the hope that I might find a few LBJ´s to add to the monthly list.  Jut the occasional Thekla Lark to see me off the mountain and then a Collared Dove to watch me start up tghe mountain track onthe other side of the valley.  All very quiet apart from a couple of walkers coming down the trail followed by a car.  Did this mean that the track was still blocked off by the bottom area near the venta?  No, just a very quiet start to the day; a mere coincidence.  A couple of House Sparrows, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and a male sardinian warbler before  I arrived at the main picnic area with, already, two small cars in my usual parking area overlooking the "Crosbill tree".

I coud hear sounds from above and began to think that the picnicers had already arrived to save their favourite table but, no, a trio of campers sitting in bags having roughed the night.  Straight passed them and up to the top to walk along the narrow water channel.  All very quiet with hardly a bird to be heard nevermind seen apart from the occasional Goldfinch.  Yet, on the retrn walk back down to the main picnic area a Great Spotted Wodpecker flew overhead.

Well-concealed Nuthatch Trepador Azul Sitta europaea
I was beginning to winder why I had bothered but walked down the steps at the far side to the lowere slope where i had a good view of a feeding Blue Tit.  Then, near the main steps down, an adult  Robin was feeding in the shade under the nearby tree. Suddenly, muuch more activity as the Blackbirds flew here, theer and everywhere and, near the overhang, my first Nuthatch of the day.  No sooner had I seen one than another two were seen; always the way.  A Firecrest was busy feeding above me and then both Serin and Goldfinches appeared in the area.  Now we were getting really busy as a large family of Crossbills decided to make their enrtrance and commced feeding immediately in front of me.
Juvenile Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra
Time, eventually, to move on nd the drive up to the upper picnic area produced more Blackbirds and Chaffinches along with a pair of Red-legged Partridges.  very little to be seen on arrival other than a single female Crossbill.  Continuing to the top of the mountain and exit towards Ventas de Zafarraya, I first had a Mistle Thrush in the nearby company of a male Blackcap and then another Wood Pigeon.  There were Corn Buntings on the wires near the former "Muck heap" so I mad my way up to the old railway track above the village.

Many House Martins as I passed through the village and, on arrival, I was greeted by the calling Choughs who duly presented themselves to be seen.  A handful of Rock Buntings on the track up to the tunnel and a good number of Rock Sparrows also present.  But I had specifically come to see if teh Alpine Swifts were back in their breeding cave.  Unfortunately, just the one short glimpse of a departing specimen  so,presumably, the birds have returned and area either sitting tight on egss or are way up above feeding; they certainly did not reappear whilst I was parked up at the tunnel entrance.

Chough  Chova Piquirroja Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Apart from the Choughs, therewas a trio of Linnets to be seen and, of course, a number of Black Wheatears on te nearby rocks.  A pair of Blue Rock Thrushes flew past during my short walk on the far side of the tunnel but I was back in time to see the resident Peregrine Falcon being seen of by a resolute Chough.   I thought that Crag Martin numbers were down for this time of the year and there was only the very occasional Barn Swallow to be seen.  Only 30 species in total but I was pleased with the sightings of birds not previously seen this month and back just after noon to enjoy the afternoon and email out the bi-monthly e-magazine  Malaga Birds.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Pererine Falcon, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Alpine Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Robin, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Firecrest, Blue Tit, Nuthatch, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chafinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Friday 30 May 2014

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Friday 30 May

Back from my wanderings and a couple of hours down at the Rio Velez in Torre del mar just to remind me that the sun shines here and there are birds to be seen!  All the usuals in show including Moorhens and Coots and, I notice, the local Mallards have had a successful breding season with Mum leading her chicks out on the river.

A feeding Woodchat Shrike above me on the wires was a pleasant interlude and there were certainly plenty of House Martins and Barn Swallows about over both water and neighbouring fields.  Nearer the beach, the main lagoon was alive with feeding Common Swifts.  In addition to regular sightings of both Serins and Goldfinches, along with many Blackbirds, a couple of Zitting Cisticolas and numerous singing Nightingales, I did also pick up a Melodious Warbler and it was here that I watched a single Squacco Heron in front of me and, barely thirty minutes later, a Little Bittern resting on the reeds on the opposite bank.

Squacco Heron Garcilla Cangrejera Ardeola ralloides (above and below) deciding where to next land.

Both Little Ringed and Ringed Plover were recorded along with a pair of Black-winged Stilts but no other wader.  Also near the water's edge a pair of (Blue-headed) Iberian Yellow Wagtails were recorded and a brief display from a rather stunning Black-headed Weaver.  I knew that we had both Red Avadavats and Common Waxbills on the site but, I think, this was my first recording of yet another "foreigner" which seems to have settled into the local birding community.

So, along with the Hoopoe that greeted me on the track a I set off down the mountain and the Thekla Lark that welcomed me back, not to mention some very active Monk Parakeets in the Caleta area alongside the Lesser black-backed gulls, I feel as if I am back and can concentrate on my birding once more.  All being well, the Alcaucin picnic areas tomorrow to see if the Nuthcatches and LBJs are still about - always assuming that the track is open and I can drive up from the village!

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Bittern,  Squacco Heron, Little Egret,  Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Common Swift, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail (Iberian), Nightingale, Blackbird, Ziting Cisticola, Melodious Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, Serin, Goldfinch, Black-headed Weaver.

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

Around the Ventas de Zafarraya area

Friday 30 May

Back from my week´s work in Southampton dealing with mother´s bungalow, etc and, just so that I will not get withdrawal symptoms, an new email from John and jenny wainwright with details of their latest birding exploit.  This time they were over towards my neck of the woods and managed to find a good selection of birds.

Alcazar  - Zafaraya area Thursday 29th May

A very warm day with a nice breeze up in the Tejadas.

We left Salar about 9.15am to go to one of Bob´s favourite areas - Alcazar, as we past out of the village, a Raven flew down from a telegraph pole. Also en route we saw Collared and Turtle Doves, Spotless Starlings, our one and only Bee-eater of the day, Corn Buntings, Crested Larks and a couple of Woodchat Shrikes.  As we approached Alhama del Granada we saw a Common Kestrel, Blackbird, House Martins, Common Swifts and Barn Swallows and as we departed the town a Hoopoe, Jay, Serins and then a Common Buzzard were noted.
Serin Serinus serinus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

At Venta de Zafarraya we called in at the old railway tunnel.  Here we saw Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush, House and Crag Martins, Chough, Rock Sparrows, Wren, Black Redstarts and Stonechat.  While watching the cave, two Alpine Swifts swept in and almost immediately out again, then a single Griffon Vulture circled the cliff-top.
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

After calling in at Arkwrights, we headed for the track towards Alcazar.  It was pretty quiet all the way to the first picnic site where we picked up two Grey Wagtails, two young Robins and one adult, Short-toed Treecreepers, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, a family of Sardinian Warblers and a Blackcap.
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
So on up Alcazar picnic site, where we saw Crossbills, Nuthatches, Short-toed Treecreepers, Chaffinches and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers.  A large group of Chough flew over with their usual noise and acrobatics and as we walked along the small irrigation canal we saw Long-tailed Tits, Great and Crested Tits, Blackbirds, a Mistle Thrush and Wrens.  Then as we headed back to the picnic site we located a Firecrest, a Sardinian Warbler, a small flock of House Sparrows and a Jay, also a Chiffchaff was heard singing.
Nuthatch Sitta europaea (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
From here we headed up to the Alcaúca picnic site, most of the trees lining the road have been cut down and bird life was pretty non-existent, so we headed over to the old Zafarraya road.  Here the larks were in control with at least five Calandras singing and Short-toed Larks on the roads, in the air and on the fields.  Crested Larks were in good numbers also and in the meadows, Corn Buntings sang out from their perches on the weed tops.  Only three Zitting Cisticolas were heard, but more Spotless Starlings, Serins, a Common Magpie, two Lesser Kestrels and a Little Owl were seen.

Butterflies included Grayling, Cleopatras,Spanish and Common Gatekeepers, Spanish Marbled Whites, Speckled Woods and a Cardinal.

Quite a productive day overall.
What a wonderful day and, with luck, much might still be about when I venture up to the Alcaucin  picnic areas tomorrow, Saturday.  But unlike John and Jenny, I shall have to contend with the week-end revellers!
 Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.  

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Eagle Owl

Tuesday 27 May

For those members, and others, who have seen this year's chicks at the traditional Eagle Owl nest on the Sierra Loja and are wondering how the birds are progressing, John Wainwright has just sent me his latest photograph of same.  The more keenly-eyed of you will notice that the youngsters have moved up from the nest site to the small recess above (check out the photo on the report of the Axarquia Bird Group visit a couple of weeks ago).  Now, did the chicks fly, certainly not, or did they climb?  No sign of any ropes or supports on the cliff face so it must all be down to their little claws and a good head for heights!  And why are they at opposite ends of the ledge?  Sibling rivalry, sexual prejudice, "non-brotherly love" or just pain independent and selfishly hoping to be first to the meal when it arrives!

Eagle Owl  Bubo bubo chicks on ledge above nest (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

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

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Arroyo de Marin with John and Jenny

Back in the UK for a week to sort out mother's bungalow now that she has moved into a care Home so no time for any birding other than the "incidentals" you see during the various journeys between East Midlands airport, Stamford and Southampton plus returns.  But I still manged to add another eight species for the month and, who knows, what might show up on my return journey to the airport which takes me alongside Rutland Water.  Meanwhile, John and Jenny Wainwright are back in the birding business with a delightful account of yesterday's visit to the Arroya de Marin, a truly delightful spot near Archidona.

Marin: Monday 26 May

A very warm day with a breeze, strengthening later.

Not a huge count on the way down to Archidonna a few Collared Doves and Spotless Starlings and a couple of Bee-eaters.

On the track down to our picnic site we saw good numbers of Greenfinches, Serins and a Robin feeding its young also plenty of Nightingales – singing - and a single Cirl Bunting was seen.  In the same area were Long-tailed Tits, Great Tits, Goldfinches and Azure-winged Magpies.

Hoopoe  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
After parking below the ruin , I went for my first walk downstream.  I seemed to have the company of singing Nightingales on the stream side and screaming Azure-winged Magpies on the meadow side all the way down.  I disturbed a pair of Blackbirds as they were searching for food in the grasses and a pair of Woodchat Shrikes were noted also.  A few House Sparrows again in the meadow grasses were put up as I walked across to the strawberry tree for a possible Two-tailed Pasha - no luck here.

In the trees I found Short-toed Treecreepers, Hawfinches, Wrens, two Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, a Wryneck and walking back to join Jenny at the car a Golden Oriole called - not seen though.  At the car Jenny tells me she saw Pied Flycatcher, two male Golden Orioles, a Blue Rock Thrush, Hoopoe, Red-rumped and Barn Swallows, as well as three Spanish Ibex.  I did sit a while and get the latter four species, before going for a walk upstream.

Golden Orioles were calling as we walked the track - but I never got a glimpse of one today -but we did see Blackcaps, Chaffinches, Great Tits, Serins, Wren and yet more Nightingales.

Once more back at the car I walked downstream on the cliff side, here I saw Goldcrest, Short-toed Treecreepers, Wrens, Wryneck, and Red-legged Partridges.

Butterflies were everywhere with the majority being Gatekeepers and Spanish Gatekeepers, with Cleopatras, Large Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and Mallow Skippers.  Only one dragonfly and one damselfly recorded today they being, Large Pincertail (Onychogomphus uncatus) and Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis).

Large Tortoiseshell  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Mallow Skipper  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

A short sub-note, the washed out bridge and the concrete ford have been repaired and most of the potholes have been sorted, making access very pleasant - if not very dusty!!   One sorry point is that they have dug up the site of the Man Orchid.

Large Pincertail  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Great report John and whilst it was terrific to tread that Hawfinch, Wryneck and Golden Oriole were about, what surprised me was you recording both a Robin and Goldcrest.  Our local Robins always seem to disappear about late march and do not show up again until late September or early October.  I must try and get over next week before Jenny come back from England and always please with your company of you fancy another visit to Marin.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Cordoba with the Andalucia Bird Society

Sunday 18 May

A birding day with a difference.  Along with other members of the Andalucia Bird Society Jenny and I made our first birding visit to the immediate countryside around the city of Cordoba which included a range of habitats from riverside to mountain and back to deep valleys with river dams.  A beautiful day, perhaps too hot, with hardly a cloud in the sky and only the hint of a breeze to add any comfort.

Our first stop, just  couple of kilometres east of the city at Las Quemadas, took us through a recently-harvested corn filed to a shady pond alongside the mighty river Guadalquivir.  The pond was fringed with reeds and a wooded copse separated the track from the river.  A pair of Mallards took departure as we approached and a few members had already seen the single Little Grebe hiding at the back of the pool.  Approaching the pond, we had all seen a good number of Bee-eaters and Lesser Kestrels in the company of both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows along with a few Corn Buntings, House Sparrows, Collared Doves and a rather delicate Zitting Cisticola.  Whilst a number of Wood Pigeons moved through the trees there was an absolute cacophony of bird song from an exciting group of birds including Golden Oriole, Penduline Tit, Nightingale, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcaps and Reed Warbler.  The  Great Reed Warbler eventually climbed to the top of the reeds to expose itself to all along with both Blue and a handful of Long-tailed Tits.  A constant calling from the Turtle Doves and, I think, at least one poor view amongst the higher branches of the riverside trees which were now in full leaf.  Leaving the quartet of Coots to continue feeding on the water and at least eight newly-fledged Barn Swallows resting on the reeds on the far bank we made our way back to the cars to move on to the, relatively, nearby edge of the Sierra Morena overlooking the Guadalquivir valley.

A short stop at a rather lovely meadow produced a large number of feeding Barn Swallows over the field along with a great assortment of butterflies including rather splendid yellow Cleopatras gonepteryx cleopatra.  There was a constant calling from a a couple of Hoopoes, one of which was eventually seen.  Naturally, Blackbirds were recorded and we even had a passing Griffon Vulture.  In addition, at this site I believe, a couple of members managed to find a Pied Flycatcher.

This slope with its panoramic view usually gave views of migrating raptors and we were not to be disappointed as we both watched and ate our picnic lunch.  In addition to a number of Common Swifts we had a Short-toed Eagle almost as soon as we arrived and then, having watched a few Rock Sparrows and an off Serin in the neighbouring trees, a distant, high Golden Eagle slowly made its way p the valley and away.  A number of Crested Larks and even Spotless Starlings were seen in the area and leaving this site for our next stop at the higher river dam we recorded both Azure-winged and (Common) Magpie.

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

What a sight awaited us; hundreds of nesting House Martins on both sides of the dam wall and the air thick with birds, just like a plague of giant insects!  Numerous calling Golden Orioles and, just before leaving, we actually managed to see a lovely male fly across the river and into the trees on the far side near the overflow slipway.  There were numerous Rock Doves, House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings below the dam and then a single Little Egret made its way upstream to a shady spot below the dam.  watching this white apparition led to the discovery of a single Night Heron and, before leaving, we managed to find a couple more including one very close to the dam.   However, the best sight was not the single Common Kestrel resting on the dam but possibly the single Black Kite that spent considerable time patrolling the far bank and its trees before then making very close passes immediately over the downside wall of the dam.  Was he thinking of taking a House Martin?  Now that would have been a challenge and interesting to watch.

Night Heron  Martinete Comun  Nycticorax nycticorax
With one more stop at the lower river dam before making our individual departures back to the city and onwards, we drove along the narrow, winding country lane which, once again, produced some incredible sights.  Frank Hair stopped in front of us so that we remaining cars could watch a quite close Bonelli's Eagle above.  Overtaking Frank to catch up the rest of the party, we had hardly driven a kilometre when a most handsome male Golden Oriole flew out of the trees on the left and proceeded to fly along the road for about an hundred metres not more than ten metres in front of the car.  As if that was not wonderful enough, with a further five hundred meters another two male Golden Orioles undertook the same flight pattern albeit this time for only about twenty metres.  Marvellous.  Next up was a male Sardinian Warbler and then Janet Dixon was the first to see the single Red Kite on her side of the car. We certainly had a tale or two to report to the gathered group at our final stop.  Here, again patrolling the immediate area above the stone dam wall we had another close view of a Black Kite.

Florent busy at work identifying the "bugs"
Many thanks are due to our leader for the day, local member Florent Prunier, who had a marvellous knowledge of the insect world so lots of identification of all sorts of "bugs" as we moved from site to site.  No doubt, like probably everybody else, we all managed to add White Storks as we passed through a rather large colony approaching Cordoba from the north to give a final total of about 45 species for the most interesting day.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Grebe, Night Heron, Little Egret, White Stork, Red Kite, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Golden eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Coot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Pied Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Penduline Tit, Golden Oriole, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Serin and Corn Bunting.

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

Friday 16 May 2014

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Sierra Loja

Thursday 15 May

Rock Thrush Roquero Rojo Monticola saxatilis
Twelve of us met at the service station on the motorway above Loja for this month's meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group to  the drive up the mountain track to seek out our three targeted birds on the Sierra Loja.  And we were to be most successful.  It was good to welcome new members Howard and Angelina Heerens from Almarche, Arthur Pither, along with Pat Shaw from Nerja, Gerry Collins and Diana Porter from Salobrena, Pat and Eric Lyon from Sayalongs, Jim Moore and Brian Greene from Triana and myself from Lake Vinuela.

Lots of House Martins around the service station and as soon as we had started we had the odd Collared Dove and more Rock Doves approaching the lower quarry which has now been converted into a picnic area.  This first stop produced a pair of Ravens overhead plus more House Martins and Barn Swallows along with the first Rock Bunting.  No shortage of both Goldfinches and House Sparrows.  Moving up through the trees towards the main quarry we had a number of Red-legged Partridge sightings (indeed, they continued to appear from bottom to top of the mountain) along with Azure-winged Magpies, Blue Rock Thrushes, Mistle Thrush and Coal Tit.  Needless to say, very many Chaffinches were both heard and seen.

Stopping at the main quarry we had a whole range of sightings but not the numerous Choughs that had been seen on previous occasions, these were to come as we moved up the track.  We soon had a couple of male Blue Rock Thrushes and Crag Martins were sweeping across the rock face where we even discovered an occupied nest high up on the wall under a slender overhang.  Next up a Black Wheatear and then a female Black Redstart feeding a single recently-fledged chick.  The male was seen later on so maybe the chicks had dispersed but, certainly, the female's efforts were concentrated on the single youngster.

Black-eared Wheatear Collalba Rubia Oenanthe hispanica (Male above and female below)
Whilst another Rock Bunting and the first Rock Sparrows of the day were also recorded, the main joy was the discovery of our first "target bird" as it suddenly appeared across the face of nearby crag and took up station in a little shade above its nest.  Not the clearest of vies of this distant Eagle Owl but everyone present managed to get a good view through one of the two scopes that had been focused on the nest.

Eagle Owl Buho Real Bubo bubo resting above nest (PHOTO: Jim Moore)
Not seen on the day, the two chicks  recoreded last week (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Then it was off up the mountain track again passing both Crested and Thekla Larks, the latter after passing beyond the tree-line.  A couple of Hoopoes put in an appearance and then the cries of the the Choughs alerted us top their presence and, a little later on, we even had the resident Jackdaws for company.

Very close to the marble quarry we all had a reasonably close view of a Southern Grey Shrike and then the rocky area near the electricity sub-station produced the resident Little Owl but, unfortunately, not all the group managed to get a sighting.

Dragonfly laying eggs in the Charco del Nego (PHOTO: Jim Moore above & RNW below)  Species Mick?
Both Linnets and Stonechats were seen as we headed up for our picnic lunch at the Charo del Negro whilst we also saw many Black-eared Wheatears, mainly males but also the occasional female.  Eric managed to find a female Subalpine Warbler and our arrival at the pond was welcomed by a pair of Greenfinches.  Lots of Linnets and Goldfinches, along with Rock Sparrows, were making use of the water for both drinking and bathing and even another Blue Rock Thrush could not distract us from finding our second target bird of the day, the Rock Thrush.  Not only a male but also a female was seen flying above the cliff face carrying food so, presumably, chicks in the nest already. 

Linnets Pardillo Comun Carduelis cannabina at the Charco del Nego (PHOTO: Jim Moore)
Whilst at the Charco del negro we had numerous Common Swifts, and even both House Martins and Barn Swallows, overhead but, possibly, the better sightings were those of a Griffon Vulture and a Common Kestrel.

Corn Bunting Triguero Emberiza calandria
The short drive round the back of the peak produced very little extra other than many more Red-legged Partridges, Spotless Starlings, Rock Sparrows and our only Corn Bunting of the day.  Black-eared Wheatears continued to show well and finally, just before setting out on the start of the return journey down the mountain, we had a second Rock Thrush.

One of very many Red-legged Partridges  Perdiz Roja Alectoris rufa
The downward journey continued to provide Black-eared Wheatears but, at last, we did manage to find a Northern Wheatear.  Stopping at the breeding site of the well-known Spectacled Warbler, a little concentrated listened identified the bird's song and there, for all to see, was the bird itself.  So, finally, all three targeted birds recorded by all present.

Closer views of the Spectacled Warbler Curruca Tomillera Sylvia conspicillata were eventually seen by all
The final stop was a return to the top quarry to take another look at the Eagle Owl now that the cliff was no longer in shadow.  But no bird at home upon arrival.  Not to worry, the male duly returned to give us yet another special treat but, alas, the youngsters were not to be seen.  meanwhile, a short walk back along the track to find the Sardinian Warbler that flew in front of the car led to pat finding a rather lovely Melodious Warbler in a tree not far above the track and whilst stopping to admire the bird, a male Dartford Warbler decided that the observers were too close, looked out form the top of his gorse bush and decided to move across the track.

Time then to make our various ways back home with over 40 species recorded but for our two cars, eight members, a short stop just after leaving Loja provided a splendid opportunity to watch two pairs of Montagu's Harriers quartering a large corn field.  The raptors seemed to be doing very well and finding plenty of food  judging by that carried in their talons and we even had the privilege of watching an aerial food exchange between one of the pairs.  Magnificent!

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Griffon Vulture, Montagu's Harrier, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Eagle Owl, Little Owl, Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Melodious Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Wednesday 14 May 2014

The glorious Golden Oriole

14 May 2014

Out for a couple of hours this morning to take jenny for a treatment in, relatively, nearby Solarno between Comares and Colmenar.  No sooner had we driven down the mountain to Los Romanes and we were seeing many Thekla Larks, Serins and Goldfinches with Collared Doves as we passed through the village.

Approaching our destination through the olive groves we had first Rock Doves then a solitary Hoopoe to be followed by a Woodchat Shrike keeping an eye on the passing wildlife traffic in search of an easy meal.  Then, no sooner had we arrived, and we could hear the constant calling of the Golden Orioles from the steep, narrow valley below.  But trying to actually see the bird was an entirely different matter!

Male Golden Oriole Oropendola Oriolus oriolus
In the meantime, whilst jenny was receiving here treatment, I had Nightingales below and a singing Turtle Dove.  The Barn Swallows were feeding over the small stream where it was exposed from under the trees and also collecting mud to build-reinforce their nests.  A number of Wood Pigeons about and then a beautiful Jay flew up into the trees and was later joined by another.  House Sparrows kept themselves bust around the house and we had regular sightings of both Serin and Goldfinch.  A rather lovely Blue Rock Thrush flew across the valley in front of me and then I had that flash of yellow low down in the valley near the Eucalyptus trees.  Watching the bird most carefully I saw it disappear into an almond tree and then reappear on its edge, so giving a potential photo opportunity.  The bird must have been at least 150 metres away but the subsequent shots, when enlarged and cropped, confirmed what a magnificent bird this is.

The obvious question, of course, is how does a bird the size of a staling which is custard yellow in colour with a black wing and bright red beak manage to lose itself in the Eucalyptus trees.  To further add to the picture, we had a pair of Red-rumped Swallows fly in front of the car as we made our way back to Lake Vinuela followed by a handful of Linnets.

Birds seen:
Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole, Jay, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

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

Friday 9 May 2014

Sierra Loja

Thursday 8 May

With my dear friend from Belgium, Marieke only with us for one complete day following her stay near Tarifa to observe the arrival of her beloved Honey Buzzards, where could I possibly take her birding?  Where could I find her a new species and, hopefully, a completely different habitat?  Of course, a trip up the Sierra Loja above the tree-line and a very good chance of seeing a Rock Thrush; a large raptor, Black-eared Wheatear and an Eagle Owl would also not go amiss.  So, on a beautiful clear morning without a breath of wind and some warm sunshine we eventually set off from Lake Vinuela via Zaffaraya to the start of the mountain track next to the service station on the Granada side of the A92 motorway above Loja.

It seemed a good idea at the time as we recorded Blackbirds, Collared Doves, etc along the way plus a feeding Hoopoe beside the the road but then stopped at the Montagu's Harrier site where we enjoyed the watching a couple of males and a female quartering the cereal fields.  The first Azure-winged Magpie of the day appeared out of the adjoining woods, a Wood Pigeon flew over and a Turtle Dove was happily singing away on the far side of the field.  And every so often a Corn Bunting on the roadside wires and fences.  Eventually we reached the service station and stopped for a coffee so it was approaching 11.30 by the time we started our climb up the mountain track.

Record shot of Eagle Owl Buho Real Bubo bubo
No sooner had we started than we were seeing regular sightings of Chaffinches but nothing at the "picnic quarry" other than Rock Doves as we moved away.  More Collared Doves and then we were at the hidden quarry.  A most handsome Black Redstart followed by a Black Wheatear along with a few Crag Martins made a good start.  Overhead we had a handful of Choughs and even a few passing Common Swifts along with the occasional Barn Swallow and then it was time to scan the cliff face for the first of our target birds.  Would we see the Eagle Owl?  Yes, we found the bird well -camouflaged nest to a small bush by its nest site.  Not a perfect view but an Eagle Owl none the less and we were both most pleased that the journey had been worthwhile.  Moving the car and then taking a final look over the ruins below also produced both Serins and a rather lovely male Blue Rock Thrush.  So back to the main track and the remaining three target species to be  to be found

No sooner had we started our drive than a skip lorry cam charging down the hill churning an enormous dust cloud but, on the positive side, this was to be the last vehicle of any sort that we saw all day until we were almost down the mountain on the return journey,  More Azure-winged Magpies, Blackbirds and Red-legged Partridges plus a Mistle Thrush until we were clear of the trees and then the numerous sightings of Choughs.  Also here the House Martins seemed to have found an abundant source of insects on the mountain slopes.  Only one Jackdaw was seen but, conversely, on the way down we saw nothing in this area apart from Jackdaws!

Then a stop to identify and admire another targeted bird as a single Golden Eagle drifted across at a high altitude.  Our first Stonechat was recorded along with a number of Crested Larks and then a very timid Rock Bunting.  Before reaching the Charco del Negro ponds we had yet another sought after bird when we found a couple of Black-eared Wheatears.

First you look at the water, then you bathe and finally dry off in the sun!
Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia
The Charco del Negro made a perfect stop for our picnic as we watched a number of Rock Sparrows on the fence and bathing at the edge of the pond.  The birds were joined by a couple of Linnets and even a Thekla Lark seemed to take an interest in the proceedings.  Naturally, there were still a number of Choughs moving around the area.  Whilst explaining where we might find our final bird, the Rock Thrush, as we were about to set off,  a look through the windscreen (the car was facing the pond) revealed a lovely male sat on the post ion front of us!  So, back out of the car for a closer look and photographs and we then watched the Rock Thrush as it fed on the ground just beyond the fence but, also, with regular return visits to one of the neighbouring posts.

Male Rock Thrush Roquero Rojo Monticola saxatilis

Then it was on up along the track as far as the fossil cave before making the return journey.  Only one more Blue Rock Thrush but very many Spotless Starlings up here and more Rock Sparrows.  We continued to find more Black-eared Wheatears and, finally, also recorded a couple of Northern Wheatears,  In addition, a single male Common Kestrel appeared above us and then it was down to the site for my targeted bird.  Marieke's better hearing picked out the direction and then I found a single male feeding at the top of an isolated young almond tree; a Spectacled Warbler.  Finally, a Sardinian Warbler on the fence along with another Stonechat.

Black-eared Wheatear Collalba Rubia Oenanthe hispanica
So with both of us more than satisfied, we started the return journey home via the farm track from the service station ( what a rough track this is) to meet up with the Zafarraya road.  A Turtle Dove on the road in front of us and then a stop to have a longer look at the Montagu's Harriers.  What lovely birds these are, a couple of males and a single female, and they were obviously finding plenty of food.

Male (white) and female Montagu's Harriers Aguilucho Cenizo Circus pygargus

And so back to Casa Collado with a White wagtail on the road as we started up to Los Romanes from the lake.  A long but very enjoyable day.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Golden Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Eagle owl, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Crested lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Black redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle thrush, Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.


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

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Donana Day 5 with the Wainwrights

The final report from John and yet another great birding day.  No doubt, there will be yet more birds on the long journey back fro El Rocio to Salar.  I wonder where Jonh and Jenny will call into on the return journey?
Collared Pratincole (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Doñana Day Five 5th May

Another scorcher at the coast, and no shade to speak of.

Not a lot of movement as we headed for Mazagon and breakfast, then on to km13 on the N442. Looking out from the brick hide the first bird spotted was a Little Bittern hugging the reed bed across the lake, a couple of quick photos - nothing came of them - and it was gone. Also here we saw Purple Swamphen, Common and Azure-winged Magpies, Nightingales, Southern Grey Shrike, Whiskered Tern, Red-crested and Common Pochard, Gadwalls, Coots and Moorhens. In the treetops we found two Purple Herons which upon the coming of a third made them all leave the trees and squabble in the air. A few hirundines with House Martins being in the majority, with Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and a few Common Swifts. Zitting Cisticolas, Sardinian and Cetti´s Warblers were also present as well as a few Goldfinches.

Onward to the Odiel.

Audouin's Gulls (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

At the first stop - being the riverside restaurant - we found Blue-headed Yellow Wagtails, Turnstones, Dunlin, Whiskered Tern, Kentish and Ringed Plovers, and in the pond by the gate we saw Red-crested and Common Pochard, Mallard, Coots and a Gadwall, whilst the bushes and reeds held Blackbirds, House Sparrows, Melodious and Sardinian Warblers. As we stopped to come out the gate a male Hen Harrier flew across our front and then across the salt workings.

The centre was closed, but we did see on the mud-flats Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshanks, Ringed Plovers, Turnstones, Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper.

Dunlin (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Along the rest of the spit we saw Spoonbills, Greater Flamingos, Black-winged Stilts, Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers, Little Terns, Whimbrel, Curlews, Ruff, Redshanks, Dunlin, Common Sandpipers, a Greenshank, Ringed and Kentish Plovers.

Grey Plover   (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

 Instead of going straight on to the lighthouse we turned left - its a no through road - but here we found Collared Pratincoles and Kentish Plovers nesting, good numbers of Northern Wheatears, Melodious Warblers, Common Chiffchaffs, a single Meadow Pipit, Thekla Larks, Spotted Flycatchers, Common Magpies and in the channel Little Terns were feeding.

Little Tern  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Retracing our steps we found on one of the "beaches" , nine Audouin´s Gulls, Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legged and Herring Gulls and just past the foghorns, a male Golden Oriole crossed the road and along with two other males and one female they landed in a fir tree about a hundred metres away.

Golden Oriole  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Little Egrets and Spoonbills were in good numbers in the marshes here and a good finish was two Turtle Doves .

Kentish Plover on nest  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

We called in at El Rocio marismas and managed to locate the Spanish Imperial Eagle, also about were Common Sandpipers, Ringed Plovers, a Pintail, Mallard, Greylags, Greater Flamingos, Little Egret and Cattle Egrets, Black-winged Stilts and Whiskered Terns, while above circled the inimitable Black Kites and White Storks.

Spot the Spanish Imperial Eagle?   (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

So to end with a total of 131 for the whole period. Just a gentle drive back home to contend with tomorrow(Tuesday).

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