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.

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