Monday, 2 June 2014

Cuckoos and Hawfinches a Plenty!

Monday 2 June

A lovely clear, calm and sunny morning as I set off to meet John and Jenny Wainwright just south of Archidona so that we could explore the wooded valley known as the Arroya Marin.  In the event, arriving on site just after 9.45 it turned out very warm after yesterday's rain with everything looking green and lush.  The only real drawback was the fact that for most of the time we were looking at birds either in bushes or the tree canopy and all was in the shade, hence the poor photographs.

Smelly Iris
Lots of flowering plants but the Smelly Iris had just about gone over.  On arrival we were welcomed by a cacophony of bird sound and calls, if not sightings.  There were at least two Cuckoos calling along with Golden Orioles, Nightingales, Wrens and Short-toed Treecreepers.  However, before we made our final departure to our respective homes we had manage to finally see all, the Cuckoo and a male Golden Oriole coming right a the end of our four-hour visit.

Starting off down the upstream path from our parking area near the old ruin, we soon had a brief sighting of a Wren and then a couple of Robins and a Long-tailed Tit plus a calling Red-legged Partridge.  With so many singing/ calling Nightingales it was not long before we had a few sightings.  In the trees we recorded first a couple of Chaffinches and then, in total, a handful of Nuthatches.  The Golden Orioles, at least two, were in good voice but not a sighting to be had.  The same with the Cuckoos; one to our right and one further ahead.  No matter how hard and how long we looked we just could not find the birds.  On the other hand, as above, when one of the Cuckoos moved nearer us we thought we would be in luck but, no, we had to wait for another bird working down stream along the skyline before both Jenny and I finally got a good view as it moved southwards.

Now well along the narrow path and it also became very apparent that we were surrounded by Blackcaps, mainly males but we did find a female with a single fledgling.  A female Black Redstart made a dash from cover to cover and then a male Sardinian Warbler slipped away to the left.  As might be expected, there were numerous Blackbirds foraging in the trees and bushes and they remained with us all morning and on every part of the site.  One of the later Blackcaps, moving to the lower branches of a good-sized tree, did us a favour by dislodging a pair of Bonelli's Warblers.

It was whilst walking this path and crossing the open spaces that we had our first fly-past of three Red-rumped Swallows.  The birds reappeared at fairly regular intervals along with a number of Barn Swallows.  (The only House Martins had been seen as we left the main road to enter the track down to Marin.)  This space also provided a number of Spotless Starlings and many calling Azure-winged Magpies.  But, just like the proverbial number nine bus, once we had seen our first magpie were seeing them all the time.  Then  the call followed by the tapping of a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Just in time we were able to see it move across in front of us and disappear into the nearby canopy.

Time to return to the cars for a short break and also time to pick up our first Goldfinch of the morning and a couple of Serins.  A pair of Greenfinches were roving around the tree top and, yes, we definitely heard a Hawfinch.  Whilst refreshing ourselves we were able to observe the male Blue Rock Thrush on the cliff face beyond the main track.

One of the handful of Hawfinches Picogordo Coccothraustes coccothraustes seen during the morning

Next a short walk down stream and no sooner had we started than a couple of Short-toed Trecreepers put in an extended appearance.  The first visible Hawfinch suddenly arrived in a neighbouring tree and left to join a second bird on the other side of the stream.  Returning to the car we then had a good sighting of a female Cirl Bunting low in a bush to our front.

More refreshments, lovely coffee John, and we walked downstream on the other side adjoining the olive plantation.  John could hear Wyrnecks, it seemed, all the time but it was right at the end of this patient observation period that a specimen flew in to our immediate area and let out its piercing call.  Very lovely, thank you very much.  There were Wood Pigeons calling and moving in the trees on the far side of the main track along with many more Blackbirds and Azure-winged magpiesBlackcaps were in and out of the olives and then the first of the Hawfinches.  Whilst watching we must have recorded at least half  a dozen of these large nut-crackers.  Also in the area we picked up both Great and Blue Tits.  A second Woodchat Shrike was feeding near the cars and giving good views.

Short-toed Treecreeper  Agateador Comun Certhia brachydactyla
There were a number of butterflies to be seen and a special sight was the lovely yellow Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra with its orange tips.  But these butterflies never seem to land so no chance a photograph.  For me, a rather special moment, whilst trying to find our persistently calling Cuckoo, was to see a male Goshawk take off out of the trees and head up a narrow valley before disappearing once more into the trees.  And then, of course, Jenny and I finally had the view of the Cuckoo flying off along the skyline.  I happened to mention that it would be great to hear the bird call again confirming we were correct and no sooner said than the bird duly obliged!  And that was about the time that we had our very near call from the Wryneck.

A great morning in lovely company so thank you very much John and Jenny.  John and Jenny headed back to Salar via Archidona picking up House Sparrows, Collared Dove and more Serins whilst I headed the other way past the long-completed but unoccupied new prison picking up a Corn Bunting on the wires followed by House Sparrows, Collared and Rock Doves and a White Wagtail in Rio Gordo.  Add to this the Thekla Larks as I drove up the mountain to Casa Collado and the Turtle Dove I saw near Los Romanes on the outward journey (my first in the local area this year) and I had had a very enjoyable and profitable day. 

Birds recorded:
Red-legged Partridge, Goshawk, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Wryneck, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, White Wagtail, Wren, Robin, Nightingale, Black redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Bonelli's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreper, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Two for the price of one!  No sooner finished my report and John's had arrived.  You can now compare both and see if either of us has missed one or the other's sightings!

Marin 2nd June 2014

A very warm day but nice and cool in the shade.

We(Jenny and I) met Bob at the weighbridge a little earlier than planned and headed for the parking spot below the ruin, en route seeing Serins, Blackcap, Nightingale and Long-tailed Tits.

As we parked up the Cuckoo was calling and a Wryneck was heard downstream of us.

We crossed the broken bridge and headed upstream. Our first views were of a Wren and then a Robin, followed by two Nuthatches a bit further down the track. Lots of Chaffinches calling along with Nightingales and a Golden Oriole was heard. Azure-winged Magpies were in good numbers and their screeching could be heard, but only fleeting glances as they darted in between trees.A few Blackcaps could be heard and then a Red-legged Partridge started calling. A single female Black Redstart was noted and three Red-rumped Swallows flew by.

A little further down the track a Greater Spotted Woodpecker was heard, but not seen until on the way back, also about were Spotless Starlings, and a Sardinian Warbler was located in an arcacia bush.

Jenny left us here to return to the car, but a little further down the track we spotted two Bonelli´s Warblers, these were given short shrift by a male Blackcap, and they weren´t sighted again. We did sight a Greenfinch though a bit later.

A horse approached us on the track and we met it and four others feeding later also a young colt so we turned about seeing nothing extra to our return journey, although we did hear Short-toed Treecreepers, but didn´t see them until later.

Back at the car we spotted the Blue Rock Thrush over the ruin on the cliff face, the Cuckoos - actually two of them - were heard quite frequently now, but still not seen.

After refreshments Bob and I walked downstream and here we had good views of two Short-toed Treecreepers, Blackbirds were numerous as were Chaffinches. another robin, more Nightingales and Azure-winged Magpies then a Cirl Bunting was heard as well as a Great Tit. Two Hawfinches flew into the tree tops but views were difficult and the Wryneck started to call again. Returning to the cars Bob located the Cirl Bunting.

Jenny then joined Bob & I and we walked downstream on the meadow side, hoping to find the elusive Wryneck.

Here we saw Great and Blue Tit, Blackbirds, Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed Treecreeper, Goldfinches Hawfinches, and Wood Pigeons.

Short-toed Treecreeper  Agateador Comun Certhia brachydactyla (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
The Cuckoo was spotted flying across the face of the firs, but the Wryneck which was so tantalisingly close was still unsighted. At the cars we had coffee/tea and watched a Woodchat Shrike in the fig tree, the a male Golden Oriole flew at the back of the ruin and landed in an olive tree.

We drove down to the first concrete ford but very little about as it was at the next ford and then down as far the cars can go, where we parted company.

The journey home gave us Collared Doves, House Sparrows and Serins.

A very pleasant few hours.

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

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