Thursday 26 June 2014

More sightings from the Charca de Suarez visit

Wednesday 25 June (continued)

I was not the only one recording the events of our visit to the Charca de Suarez.  John and Jenny Wainwright travelled over from Salar so had a few "extras" on both the journey and whilst waiting for the rest of the Axarquia Bird Group to arrive at the site's entrance.  Similarly, after the remainder of the follow-on group made their way back to the coast, John and Jenny called in at Padul on their inland return journey back to Salar and added even more species for their day.  The list for the visit has now been updated to included John's sightings at Charca along with Andy's Little Owl on the old ruin in "Turtle Dove Alley" and Steve's Zitting Cisticola.

John's day report is as follows:

A hottish day with some light breezes.

On the way down from Salar we spotted Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, Jackdaws, Goldfinches,
Common Kestrels, Wood Pigeons, Common and Azure-winged Magpies, Barn Swallows, House
Martins, Common Swifts and a single Bee-eater.
On arrival at Suarez - rather early by 45 minutes - we headed for the beach, lots of hirundines here all 
Barn Swallows and House Martins. Looking over the beach we found Auduoin's, Black-headed and
Yellow-legged Gulls, two Sandwich Terns and one Mediterranean Gull. Three Little Ringed Plovers 
flashed past the gull and landed further down the beach, putting up a few House Sparrows in the doing
so.  A Blackcap sang from a small tree situated on the feeder stream bank and a Crested Lark was seen
along the bank.
Young Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Returning to the site entrance we noticed a Turtle Dove perched high up on the residential apartments 
and above it two Common Kestrels circled.  And on entry to the site another Turtle Dove and several
Collared Doves were seen at the rear of the small marshy area here, along with Spotted Flycatcher, 
Greenfinch and a Blackbird.
Moving down to the area overlooking the new laguna, Marcus spotted a Pallid Swift, we then followed
this up with Yellow-legged Gulls, Common Swifts, Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins. While
on the laguna we added Black-winged Stilts, Common Sandpipers and a Mallard to our  total. We then
moved off and was able to see into the laguna from the track and here we picked up Wood Sandpiper 
and Greenshank along with a Green Sandpiper and another Common Sandpiper - this was extra to the
two already logged.  On the muddy areas a Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail was pointed out to me and 
along the waters edge a juvenile Grey Wagtail and two White Wagtails were also noted, along with two
Little Ringed Plovers.
Through the gate and turning left on the old track we stopped to search the reeds, here we saw a beautiful
marked male Red Avadavat and a female as well, two Reed Warblers, several juvenile Goldfinches and
a few Serins.  Two Green Sandpipers lifted off from a small wet area and a Bee-eater  was heard then
located over the same area, also a Common Kestrel was seen hovering.  Lots of hirundines about here
as well.
Juvenile Reed Warbler Carricero Comun Acrocephalus scirpaceus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

On the island in the main laguna, we found eight Cattle Egrets (all in full breeding plumage) and one
Little Egret, Mallard and Common Coots, whilst on the water a female Ferruginous Duck was located 
in the far right hand corner and the Red-knobbed Coot was found, close to its nesting site. Lots of 
Common Coots and Little Grebe here also.
The walk up to the next hide - lots of workmen about here today - was uneventful, although Blackcaps
and Goldfinches were heard.  From the hide we saw Red-knobbed and Common Coots and in the reed
bed several House Sparrows were seen.  Between here and the next hide we had great views of a 
Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexipplus) as well as another couple of Bee-eaters and a Great Tit.
Monarch Butterfly Danaus plexipplus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Moving on to the next hide (the last before the exit) we finally found the Purple Swamphen,also seen
here were Spotted Flycatcher, Common Kestrel, Common Coot, Moorhen, two more Monarch butterflies
and a Mallard.  We then moved round to the open hide where we were told on arrival that we had just 
missed the Little Bittern, still a bit of patience and it emerged again albeit briefly,then, a Nightingale, a
Cetti´s Warbler, two more Purple Swamphens, and last but not least great views of a Night Heron.
Little Bittern Avetorillo Comun Ixobrychus minutus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Four cars then took a detour down “Turtle Dove Aalley”, none of the latter were seen but the car in front 
of us spotted a Little Owl in an old building.
The Weir Picnic site: 
Four cars went in convoy to the above site and after parking, we were told by Bob that this was a  
somewhat renowned spot for Dippers – sadly not today but there were a lot of children about. We did,
however, pick up a few more trip ticks in the shape of Chaffinches, Golden Orioles (male and female),
Crag Martins and a Southern Grey Shrike, and on our way out as I was last in leaving, more Golden
Orioles, a Sardinian Warbler and a Grey Wagtail.
Spotted Flycatcher Papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Padul laguna and area.
Just Jenny and I moved on to Padul, the wind had picked up here, but we still managed to find three 
Grey Herons from the main hide. In the remainder of the area we saw Serins, Reed Warblers, Mallard,
House Sparrows, Turtle and Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons, Crested Larks, Woodchat Shrike, Barn and
Red-rumped Swallows and two Thekla Larks.  Two Quail were heard calling at different locations, a
Great Reed Warbler serenaded us as we photographed a Whinchat. Corn Buntings were in good numbers
and a male Marsh Harrier was seen twice, quartering the meadows and reedbeds.
Whinchat Tarabilla Nortena Saxicola rubetra (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
A long day but very productive indeed.
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Charca de Suarez

Wednesday 25 June

Up early and with Ellie Wallbank and Bryan Stapley over to Motril to meet up with those members of the Axarquia Bird Group who could take advantage of the private visit to the lovely, much enlarged and well-preserved Charca de Suarez reserve.  What a surprise upon arrival and meeting the Warden, Manu, to discover that we had our largest ever attendance for a field meeting with 27 of us present.  This figure included a number of new members joining us for the first time and they were certainly able to see some special birds.  Welcomed by Manu and told about the latest developments including a new,large lagoon, in size about equal to the existing main water, we were left to our own devices and able to stay as long as we wished.  We certainly took Manu up on the offer and it was almost 1pm by the time the last members departed after a thoroughly enjoyable morning.  Twenty-seven!  I'm still trying to get over the fact of such a marvellous turn out and yet we never seemed to be in each others way as we all separated to select our preferred routes around the reserve; and no running-around children or general tourist, just we members of the Group.

Since my last visit much work has been undertaken by the wardens and their, mainly voluntary, assistants.  The two new scrapes on the right near the entrance are taking shape and much clearing and maintenance work has been undertaken including laying out new paths.  Meanwhile, the large, overgrown stretch down the main track beyond the recently-built Centre and opposite the old gate has been cleared and a new, large lagoon created.  The water is clear and showing some lovely muddy banks and shallows but, no doubt, within the next six months the reed growth will develop to provide a different habitat.

Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius

Entering the reserve we were greeted by a number of Collared Doves and the occasional Blackbird as a small group of us walked down to the new lagoon.  Over the water were good numbers of feeding Barn Swallows and House Martins and, as we watched, they were joined by regular appearances of Red-rumped Swallows and even a couple of Sand Martins.  At the back of the water were a number of Mallards, almost a dozen Black-winged Stilts and a small flock of mixed gulls, mainly Black-headed but also Yellow-legged Gulls.  To the right a couple of Common Sandpipers were happily feeding and nearer the main water on a small island we found both Wood and Green Sandpiper.  To our right we then found both White and Grey Wagtails.  A very good start to the morning.

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta
Passing through the old gate to enter the main reserve (as was) we had a number of Turtle Doves calling and flying overhead and then many stopped to watch a mixed flock of Goldfinches and Serins feeding on the grass seeds.  Even better, they were joined by a pair of Red Avadavats.  To the corner a lovely view of both Nightingale and Reed Warbler, not to mention the resident House Sparrows, as continued on to the main hide.

Lots of Mallards and Coots along with Moorhens to be seen and on the island in front a quintet of resting Cattle Egrets in full breeding condition along with a couple of Little Egrets, one mainly concerned with its appearance in front of the observers and their cameras!  We finally managed to located a "collared" Red-knobbed Coot right at the back and persistent scoping and use of the many binoculars finally found the Ferruginous Duck and four ducklings.  We had been informed that these youngsters were probably hybrids, the duck having bred with a Common Pochard.  However, whilst there we certainly saw a lovely male Ferrunginous Duck so, perhaps, the youngsters are pure-bred after all.

Also on the water we had a number of Little Grebes and whilst a couple of Bee-eaters flew over a lone Grey Heron dropped in at the far right corner quickly followed by a passing Purple Heron.  No sign of a Purple Swamphen but the members at the neighbouring hide had both this iconic bird and a much closer sighting of another Red-knobbed Coot.  With more Blackbirds seen and a Common Kestrel overhead I made my way back to the new lagoon where a couple of Little Ringed Plovers had duly arrived with a closer Wood Sandpiper.

The talk was of a Little Bittern that had been seen at the top of the small reed-filled pool so off we went and were duly rewarded with very good views but, again, not the female Purple Swamphen with her youngsters.  On the way I had a Nightingale cross the path in front of me and then a pair of Reed Warblers.  With lots of talk about the Red Avadavats seen close by Bryan I went back for an extended period of observation.  No success but we did enjoy the families of both Serin and Goldfinches busy feeding on the grass seeds whilst the occasional Spotless Starling flew overhead.  Whilst there we did manage to locate a Spotted Flycatcher and then, no sooner had we moved on, than Steve and Elena arrived and picked out the Red Avadavats straight away; such is life!  We may not have seen these little imports but we did watch the Purple Heron fly directly overhead.  Finally, Gerry was able to pass on the news as we gathered to leave the reserve that a single Night Heron had also joined the pair of Little Bitterns in the reeds of the previous sighting.

Little Bittern  Avetorillo Comun  Ixobrychus minutus
At this point members went their various ways but ten of us drove up the picnic area on the banks of the Rio Guadelfeo at Velez de Benaudalla.  Greeted by Chaffinches as we drove down the track this is a Spotted Flycatcher hotspot and we were not to be disappointed with numerous close sightings.  No sign of the Dipper but I was able to point out the traditional nest site but compensation came in the way of a couple of White Wagtails, a Great Tit and then a couple of Golden Orioles.  Only brief views at first of the last but, eventually, some of this group got very clear sightings of the handsome male.  Our last birds of the day were a handful of Crag Martins on the opposite side of the river near the cliff face and, finally, John and Jenny Wainwright managed to find a single Southern Grey Shrike resting in a tree in the same area.

Spotted Flycatcher  Papamoscas Gris  Muscicapa striata

I made the final count for the day 45 species with a Hoopoe crossing the road as we approached our restaurant for lunch but, as usual, somebody will have recorded something that I have missed so a little editing may be required in the next few days.  One raptor that is out with the jury is the "small" bird seen by Steve; smaller than a Kestrel but not a Merlin.  With a few dragonflies about and Swallows a plenty, might he have actually seen a Hobby?  A mystery waiting to be solved.

NB: Since writing this report, I have received further updates re additional birds seen by members of the group and the total now stands at 57 for the morning.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Audouin's Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Great Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch and Goldfinch.

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

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Catching up with the past

Tuesday 24 June

Tomorrow sees the June visit of the Axarquia Bird Group to the Charca de Suarez reserve near Motril so, all being well, I hope to publish a report on the visit by Thursday.  Meanwhile, other reports have been coming in and are yet to be published.  Our return from the New Zealand visit in February coincided with the computer being out of action for almost six weeks and then a very busy period of visits and magazines to be completed, etc.  However, I have now processed the pictures and saved to a memory stick in the hope that during my week back in the UK next week I might find some quiet time to get something out to readers.  But what to do?  Probably a selection of photos rather than an actual trip report.

Meanwhile, Jenny's friend Mitzi had her annual visit from "Birding Barry".  I was unable to take him out this year but he did manage to get down to the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar for the morning of 15 June and managed to record at least thirty species.  Looking at the list it would appear to be in family rather than sightings order:

Squacco heron, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Barn swallow, House martin, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin.

Good to see that both the Squacco Heron and Black-winged Stilts are still in residence but no mention of the recent Little Bittern.  Rather surprising to see a Grey Wagtail recorded as, very often, they move further upstream for the summer months.  The same can be said for the Siskin.  Whilst the bird may be quite common back in Barry's native Britain it tends to be, but not exclusively, a winter visitor out here.  Similarly, lovely to see that the Spotted Flycatchers are still on their traditional breeding territory. But, as I so often find at the Rio Velez, it is the birds that you do not see!  Still no raptors present.

All in all though, a great morning Barry with lots of interesting birds recorded.

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

Monday 23 June 2014

Day 3: The Odiel Marshes

Saturday 21 June

It takes about an hour to drive from El Rocio to the Odiel Marshes via the coastal resort of Matalascanas so with a 9.30 start I was up early and looking out over the El Rocio lagoon from my bedroom window as the Flamingos got to work on their daily diet, the White Storks looked for an early morning snack and the local Blackbirds, House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings busied themselves around the stables in the courtyard below whilst, on the far side of the water, a lone Hoopoe was heard "hooping."  Ere long the air was full of the local Barn Swallows and House Martins, the Black-tailed Godwits had moved into view on the water below and it was time for me to set off once more.  Both Magpies, Common and Azure-winged, were quickly recorded along with a number of Black Kites and approaching the fuel depots on the eastern outskirts of Huelva I felt I had time to make a quick stop at tone of the small ponds, choosing that at the 13km boundary.  A lot of Common Swifts about and a couple of Coots on the water but just before beating a hasty retreat back to the main road I did find a skulking Purple Swamphen.

Black-tailed Godwit Aguja Colinegra Limosa limosa
Having all met up on time at the northern end of the spit that contains the well-known birding hotspot of the Marismas del Odiel, our leader and fellow member of the Andalucia Bird Society, local resident and professional guider Manu Morajo, had a party of tweny-four to guide for the day.  What an enthusiastic and knowledgeable young man Manu is and he was rewarded by a very responsive audience.  Our first exercise was to checkout the small fresh water pool at the back of the visitors centre where we encountered a small party of Spoonbills drinking and cleaning themselves.  Also on this rapidly filling pool as the water levels gradually receded were a good number of Black-tailed Godwits along with a quartet of Redshank and and  number of Black-winged Stilts.  Ducks included mallard, Red-crested Pochard and Gadwall and both Little and Great Crested Grebes were present.  There were more Coots than Moorhens along with a number of small waders including Kentish Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling.

Mostly Black-tailed Godwits Aguja Colinegra Limosa limosa on the fresh water pool
Also on the water and coming and going were Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls along with a number of Little Terns.  Feeding above in addition to the Barn Swallows and House Martins were a good number of both Common and Pallid Swifts.  We had feeding White and Yellow Wagtails (Iberian sub-species) but the real excitement started when a Little Bittern decided to fly right across the water from left to right immediately in front of us all.  Then, just before leaving to explore the neighbouring river upstream, we had a couple of Red-rumped Swallows put in an appearance.

A quick shot of the passing Caspian Tern Pagaza Piquirroja Sterna caspia
The main attraction walking alongside the river was the close sighting of a Caspian Tern.  What a large white bird this is with its dominant red beak (so much so that Manu refers to it as the "Snowman" bird with its beak representing the traditional red carrot stuck into the head of a snowman to represent its nose).  Also seen on the opposite bank was  pair of Shelduck and there were at least three Marsh Harriers quartering the far fields.  Nearer to home a single Zitting Cisticola rose from the vegetation and the remains of a very large eel was found at the side of the track, further evidence of the presence of at least one Otter.

In with the Spoonbills Espatula Comun Platalea leucoroda at the fresh water pool
The dominant birds of the area were certainly Flamingos, Little Egrets and Grey Herons with the occasional White Stork flying over.  The gulls and terns, mainly Little Terns, were regularly seen as was a number of Avocets.  This area is best about a couple of hours either side of low tide but, unfortunately, having arranged the visit date many months in advance we arrived at virtually high tide so had to work very hard to find our birds.

Distant Curlew Zarapito Real Numenius arquata
Moving on down the spit we eventually stopped to watch a large number of Curlew take flight.  However, some remained and, in amongst them, we were also able to find a few Whimbrel.  All this was after a stop to check on an Osprey nest relatively close to the road.  Whilst the female roosted on a perch next to and above her nest, the male flew around giving good views of himself.  There were lots of anglers on the road side along with their parked cars so just as well the tide was not out or we would have been adding to the traffic jam!  On the other hand, there were some small areas of sand beginning to appear on the Odiel side and more Little Terns, Kentish and Ringed Plovers were recorded.  Indeed, it was whilst looking at these Little Terns that I found the larger Black Terns which Manu was able to confirm that he, too, had observed them in the same area only a couple of days earlier.

The absolutely gorgeous Osprey Aguila Pescadora Pandion haliaetus
Further on down and on the narrower part of the spit we eventually reached the site of the breeding Little Terns and Collared Pratincoles but, unlike my previous visit at this time of the year, the nests were much further away rather than, literally, the other side of the fence.  Our last stop before retracing our steps was at the tradition gull roost.  Here we found a flock of about an hundred gulls, mainly Audouin's but also Yellow-legged and Black-headed along with the odd Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Audouin's Gull  Gaviota de Audouin Larus audouini (centre right)
Back at the Visitors Centre not long after 2pm we had our picnic lunch accompanied by a short, heavy rain shower.  I did not think that that was forecast and even more so when I got home later that evening to be told by Jenny that we had had a very hot day so lots of use made of the swimming pool!  Following lunch the rest of the party moved off to the other side of the spit and on down to the area near  El Portil where, no doubt, they eventually found the local chamelions.  For me it was a revisit to the nearby fresh water pool where I also added Ringed Plover before starting out on the three and a half hour drive back to Lake Vinuela.  On the way home I did record Woodchat Shrike, Buzzard, Lesser kestrel and Sardinian Warbler.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill, White Stork, Flamingo, Osprey, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Little Bittern, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Caspian Tern, Little Tern, Black Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow,  Yellow Wagtail (Iberaia), White Wagtail, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow,

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

Day 2: The Donana National Park

Friday 20 June

Today it was take a quick, close look at the lagoon behind my hostal at El Rocio and then head off for the very long drive down the track through the National Park itself to visit the Juan Valverdes Visitors Centre.  The local waters still held all of yesterday's Flamingos and Black-tailed Godwits but I could also see the numerous Black-winged Stilts and Avocets along with feeding Barn Swallows and House Martins.  The resident House Sparrows, Collared Doves and Spotless Starlings were all up and about but I did have my first Wood Pigeon as I made my way back to the car from the SEO Cente.

Bee-eater  Abejaruco Europeo  Merops apiaster
The long drive to the start of the track produced both Azure-winged and common Magpies and there were to be numerous sightings of Black Kites along with a few BuzzardsCrested Larks were on the road side and Bee-eaters on the fences and in the air as I entered the track. A single Red Kite made a pass overhead and, naturally, there were Cattle Egrets amongst the horses and cattle and certainly no shortage of White Storks.  Driving on a handful of Spanish Sparrows were playing around a small bust by a water course and then the first of many Grey Herons along with the occasional Little EgretRed-rumped Swallows overhead near the bend across the first drainage channel  and a single Zitting Cisticola hove into sight.  Similarly, it was a rather strange site to suddenly come across a handful of Corn Buntings.

Green Sandpidper Tringa ochropus
Opposite the retaining pools a number of Linnets were feeding whilst on the pipes across the main stream on the other side of the track a family of Green Sandpipers were resting.  Not far on I stopped to look at a pair of Purple Herons and noticing the small number of Little Egrets further away put my scope up and found the single Great White Egret.  Then it was on to the main bridges where the track takes on an off-set crossroad near the reed bed.  Lots of Barn Swallows feeding overhead but no sign of the Marbled Duck see here at the beginning of May.  However, both Reed and Great Reed Warbler were singing/calling and a Montagu's Harrier drifted over with a few Black Kites for company.

All the Lesser Kestrels were away from their traditional nesting site whilst the local birders completed their studies of the nest and, presumably, ringed the youngsters.  Even the Common Kestrels seemed to keep their distance.  The, approaching the end of the track and once again near the water, I could see the Spoonbills, a number of Glossy Ibis and, of course, more Little Egrets.  On the other hand, it was whilst taking a short detour down the "no exit" track to the right that I came across my only Northern Wheaters of the day.

Magpie  Urraca  Pica pica
At the Visitors centre there was still plenty of water and the local colony of breeding Little and Cattle Egrets along with some Glossy Ibis were still in residence.  A pair of young Common Kestrels from the bird box above the panoramic window had fledged and seemed quite happy to sit on the path on the outside of the glass giving lovely views, especially of their large shining eyes. Also on the water were a number of Mallards, Flamingos and Coots along with a pair of Little Grebe.  Eventually, the Purple Swamphens put in an appearance and there was also a pair of Great White Egrets to be seen.

Purple Heron  Garza Imperial  Ardea purpurea
Eventually, having arrived back at the main road near Isla Mayor, I drove across to the pool below the Dehesa de Abajo to see if anything different was on that water.  A good number of Mallards, Pochards and Great Crested Grebes but, at last, I also found two pairs of Marbled Duck.  Could these be the same two pairs that had been seen in the Donana on my last visit?  There were White Storks and Jackdaws at the back of the water and Barn Swallows and both Common and Pallid Swifts feeding over the same.  Even a couple of Collared Pratincoles put in an appearance.  Nearer the road, both Cetti's and Great Reed Warblers were calling and then my return drive to El Rocio picked up both Woodchat Shrike and a Raven.  Finally, a late evening call to the SEO Centre did not locate the Spanish Imperial Eagle (it had turned quite windy and cloudy so I suspect the adults were hunkered down in the foliage of their favoured tree) but a single light morph Booted Eagle drifted overhead.

A lone Squacco Heron Garcilla Cangrejera Ardeola ralloides in the Egret colony

Birds seen:
Mallard, Pochard, Marbled Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Red Kite, Black Kite, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot,  Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Northern Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

Osuna and the Donana National Park

Monday 23 June

Iconic Black Kite Milano negro Milvus migrans
Thursday saw me off relatively early to drive down to my hostal in El Rocio at the centre of the Donana National Park and, naturally, undertake some serious birding on the way, as an introduction to joining the Andalucia Bird Society's July field visit to the Odiel Marshes last Saturday, 21 June.  To that end I missed out Fuente de Piedra (where I suspect there was very little water and nothing that would not be seen in the next three days) and headed straight for Exit 80 on the A92 motorway towards Sevilla so that I could follow the almost parallel road and take in the local steppes.  I was not to be disappointed.  By the time I returned home late on Saturday evening I had recorded an hundred species including four new birds for the year to take my running total up to 213 for 2014.  I had hoped for two more iconic birds of the Donana but, not surprisingly, I was unable to find a late or over-summering Black Stork and the local Spanish Imperial Eagle managed to avoid my eyes, not helped by the strong winds and cloudy weather on the Friday evening which should have been my best opportunity when looking across the lake at El Rocio to the bird's new nest site.

The diminutive Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis

Day 1 Thursday 19 June: Osuna and El Rocio

All the birds seen driving off the mountain, save the Thekla Larks, were picked up once I left the motorway at Osuna to check out the road parallel to the new high-speed railway track and the neighbouring fields and steppe-like habitat.  Collared Dove, House Sparrow, Crested Lark, Barn and Red-rumped Swallow plus House Martin were seen as soon as I drove beyond the petrol station and before the meeting the new track I had seen a couple of Common Kestrels.  The first high railway bridge came up trumps straight away with a distant Great Bustard in the centre of a ploughed field.  Having tried to get a few record shots the bird then took off and was joined in the sky by another pair of Great Bustards.  Whilst two of the birds circled away, the third made its way my way giving me another chance for a nearer sighting.  Majestic; just like watching a flying turkey!

Great Bustard Avutarda Comun Otis tarda in flight
Moving on towards the second bridge I had my first of many Red-legged Partridges including a hen with four well-grown chicks.  A couple of Buzzards were seen on electricity pylons and a small number of Calandra Larks were in the field to my right.  I could here Turtle Doves calling but had to wait until I had crossed the third bridge before finding a couple of the wires just waiting to be photographed.  Meanwhile, the quartet of Cattle Egrets were happy to graze the edge of the recently harvested corn field and then, before reaching their presumed nesting field, I had a whole number of Collared Pratincoles  both in the air around me and resting on the road immediately in front of the car.  The birds were happy to rest on this very quiet road, not another vehicle seen during my drive along this stretch, so very easy to pick out both males and females along with the, distinctive spotty, juvenile Collared Pratincoles.

Collared Pratincole Canastera Comun Glareola pratincola (adult above, juvenile below)
As mentioned above, I did turn right and cross the third bridge and there, as I always seem to find it, was my first Roller of the morning.  Rather than stop to photograph through the opposite front window, I drove on up to the first bend where, in addition to the feeding Lesser Kestrels, I found a family of Southern Grey Shrikes.  Watching one cross the road and perch on the bars of a pylon I realised that there was a Woodchat Shrike immediately above giving a superb comparison but, unfortunately, the latter moved off before I could lift the camera.  A Zitting Cisitcicola "jumped" up from a low bush and then I made my way back to the Roller but, I suspect, he saw me coming and was nor prepare to wait to have his photograph taken.  But, in departing, he did give me a rather strange, if not unique, view.

A strange looking departing Roller Carraca Europea Coracias garrulus

Back over the bridge and then onwards to rejoin the motorway but not before recording both a number of Jackdaws and the first of the many White Storks that were to be recorded in the next three days.  But there were still new raptors to be added to the list.  The Black Kites were to be expected and I did eventually catch up with a very "tatty" looking Red Kite undergoing a very serious wing moult.  However, it was the small "blob" on top of a pylon that drew and attention and then brought a grateful smile to my face.  More interested in watching than photographing, I was able to see the Black-shouldered Kite take off and head back towards the tree line.  The first new bird for the year had been seen.

One of scores of Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Piegadis falcinellus
More White Storks, BlackKites and Spotless Starlings were seen and then I was in the Donana and heading for Isla Mayor.  Much to my surprise and delight the harrowed brown fields of barely six weeks ago had now been flooded and the lush, green rice seemed to be about fifteen centimetres clear of the water.  The end result was not only hundreds of White Storks but numerous heron-like birds, especially Grey Herons and Little Egrets.  There were a few Cattle Egrets scattered about but these were more than surpassed by the very large flocks of Glossy Ibis and then the sight of numerous Squacco and accompanying Night Herons.  Lots of Whiskered Terns were feeding over the fields and Marsh Harriers made regular quartering moves in their search for supper.  A fine-looking Sedge Warbler was a good sighting and I was also able to add Common Swifts and Corn Buntings to the day's list before heading on to El Rocio and, as expected, recording more Azure-winged Magpies along with the first (Common) Magpies.

Adult Night Heron martinete Comun Nycticorax nycticorax
Squacco Heron Garcilla Cangrejera Ardeola ralloides

Squacco and Night Herons happily feeding together in the flooded rice fields

Having checked in to the Hostal Cristina and the SEO Centre closed, I mad my way over the nearby Centre at La Rocinas - and what a great decision this turned out to be.  Lots of water on site and, in addition to the numerous Bee-eaters, I was able to start finding some smaller birds including a pair of Coal Tits which had managed to elude me to date in Spain but not Britain.  First I had found Goldfinches and then a couple of Great Tits but things got even better as I made my way to the first hide and, before startling a Jay which quickly departed the scene, I had a pair of Tree Sparrows.  Below the hide there were resting Spoonbills and Mallards whilst a couple of Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers walked the water's edge.  A small Moorhen family wandered out from the reed cover and then I decided to walk on towards the next, hidden, hide where I found both White Wagtail and more Spoonbills along with some CootsBlack Kites quartered the skies above.  There were numerous Azure-winged Magpies in the area and looking out over the grasses surrounding the main inlet to the ponds I found a small group, maybe no more than a dozen, of very small brown birds which looked suspiciously like, and then confirmed on the camera, as Common Waxbills; yet another new species for the year.  Just as I was thinking there was nothing else to add to the days list and a pair of male Blackbirds broke cover.

Tree Sparrow  Gorrion Molinero  Passer montanus
The drive back to El Rocio produced a couple of Stonechats and on the lake were many Flamingos and hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits.  Add on Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Mallards, Black-winged Stilts, Barn Swallows, House Martins, Spotless Starlings and Black Kites and it was not surprising that the day's total eventually reached 59 species.

Tutle Dove Tortola Europea Streptopelia turtur

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Grey Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Black-winged Kite, Red Kite, Back Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Swift, Bee-eater, Roller, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark,  Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sedge Warbler, Coal Tit, Great Tit,  Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Waxbill, Serin, Goldfinch and Corn Bunting.

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

Saturday 14 June 2014

Rufous Bush Chat, Golden Oriole, Hawfinch and much more

Rufous Bush Chat Cercotrichas galactoles
Friday 13 June

It may be unlucky day back in the UK (the equivalent in Spain is Tuesday13th) but for me the day could not have got off to a better start. Leaving the house at 8am I disturbed three Blue Rock Thrushes that had roosted in a bush at the bottom of the drive, drove round the corner and a Turtle Dove took off in front of me and I had not gone 500 metres!  Naturally, there many Thekla larks to be seen as I drove down the mountain and off to Torre del Mar where I joined Steve and Elena Powell (Monk Parakeets resting on the overhead wires) for the drive over to the Antequera area where we met up with Mick Richardson to see if we could find that elusive Rufous Bust Chat (Rufou-tailed Scrub-robin) of which it is reported that there may only be a couple of breeding pairs in Malaga Province.

No sooner had we arrived on site (protected and "secret" for obvious reasons) than, amidst the numerous Blackbirds, Barn Swallows and House Sparrows. we found our bird.  Sitting on a fence top about fifty metres ahead we were bust taking record shots, even if the Rufous Bush Chat was facing away from us, just in case this might be the only opportunity.  A Collared Dove wandered about, Crested Larks seemed to be in good supply and even a handful of Common Swifts flew over us at low level.

Crested Lark  Cogujada Comun  Galerida cristata
With the bird apparently at ease and regularly using the same stretch of fence we moved the car closer and sat inside hoping for that closer look.  Yes, up on the fence it came again and again along with the Crested Lark that was obviously also nesting nearby.  A pair of Linnets joined the far end of the fence and Mick even had a couple of distant Gull-billed Terns over the far hill.  But could we get an even better view?  Once more we moved the car and backed up the return fence in the hope that the Rufous Bush Chat might actually perch on the corner post and so enable us to take a photograph or two without having to try and focus through the near fence.  The bird only made one such move; but we there ready and waiting and all three of us got some great shouts of this very scarce bird.  Absolutely marvellous!

Rufous Bush Chat Alzacola Rojizo Cercotrichas galactoles from distant record shot to less than five metres

What to do now?  We were not going to get a better or closer view so we decided it was time to head off to the Arroya de Marin near Archidona for some butterfly and dragonfly searching.  No sooner had we started the drive that a most handsome male Montagu's Harrier passed low to our right and, if one was not enough, a second male Rufus Bush Chat was on the wires less than 150 metres away!  The perfect end to the morning.

No sooner had we arrived at Marin than it was obvious that both Bee-eaters and Barn Swallows were in residence and in good numbers.  Lots of young Barn Swallows taking their first flights and looking quite "grey" against the blue of their parents.  Whilst Steve and Mick had their face almost on the ground, I wandered on along the lower track, looked up in the dead branches at the top of a smallish tree and their was a Hawfinch just waiting to be photographed.  Steve had seen but never photographed a Hawfinch, one of his target aims, so I could not resist the temptation to wander back and ask if he could identify the bird I had just taken.  (What a naughty boy I am!)

The mighty Hawfinch Picogordo Coccothraustes coccothraustes with its cherry-cracking beak

But not to digress.  There were numerous butterflies and dragonflies to be seen, recorded and photographed and whilst i probably only immediately recognised the Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra, no doubt a full sighting report will appear on one or both of Steve and Mick's blogs (see end for links).

Feeding Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra with BumbleBee for company

Swallowtail butterfly Papilio machaon gorganus
 Back to the birds.  Mick had heard a distant Great Spotted Woodpecker and then, almost in front of us, a very loud and clear call from a Green Woodpecker.  The others were looking down whilst Elena and I looked up and ere long I watched a warbler land in the nearby large tree to which the Hawfinch had disappeared and there was a Subalpine Warbler working its way down to the lowest branches at bush level.  Watching this tree we then saw another pair of Hawfinches fly in and managed to get a clear view through the canopy.  Meanwhile, a Chaffinch had disturbed the Hawfinch by the time Steve arrived with his long lens but he did manage to get a shot of the resting Rock Sparrow.  A Greenfinch was seen along with more Bee-eaters as we made our ways back to the cars and then, looking out of the windows on our side, we watched a female Sardinian Warbler moving through a low bush not three metres away.

There were regular fly-pasts by Wood Pigeons, the occasional Spotless Starling and many Blackbirds.  Elena picked up a Blue Tit and we were constantly serenaded by the singing/calling Golden Orioles.  Moving on down the main track we were welcomed by a Hoopoe and a departing Blue Rock Thrush from the old ruin as made our way to the first river crossing.  Once again, Steve and Mick were after their Bs and Ds so Elena and I wandered on up the track to yet more calling Golden Orioles.  A small family of Long-tailed Tits were feeding in the trees to our left on the bank of the stream and then we saw a Golden Oriole fly across the track at a very low level.  Amazingly, it then reappeared and seemed to perch in a shaded but relatively open bush giving me chance to get a few shots from about fifty metres distance.  Before flying of it was joined by a second bird which, being more in the shade, gave the appearance of a female but looking at the processed shot I suspect it was another male.

Down from the evasting tree calling to be seen; the very handsome Golden Oriole Oropendola Oriolus oriolus

Our final stop was at the second ford where there were yet more dragonflies to be recorded.  Serins were moving around along with Goldfinches and a pair of Crag Martins quartered the nearby cliff face.  To our right, on the other side of the stream, Elena and I watched a female Ibex with her new-born youngster as they watched us before moving slowly away.

Female Ibex Capra pyrenaica with calf

Then it was once more to our final site near Salinas where the rare dragonflies that were desired awaited Steve and Mick.  Meanwhile, there was a Lesser Kestrel overhead and a couple of Jackdaws along with a single Rock Dove seemed to have taken over the small ruin.  A number of Azure-winged Magpies were seen and even a Red-rumped Swallow flew over our heads to give a little variety from the many House Sparrows and Crested Larks.

A last look at the Golden Oriole
All in all, a marvellous day's birding and many thanks to my friends for such lovely company.

More on buttrflies and dragonflies visit the blogs of Steve and Mick as follows:

Mick:      CLICK HERE

Birds recorded:
Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Rufius Bush Chat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Golden Oriole, Azure-winged magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sarrow, Rock Sparrow, Chainch, Greenfinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Hawfinch.

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