Wednesday 30 July 2014

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Spotted Flycatcher Papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata
Wednesday 30 July

Jenny off down tot the local village to have her hair "done" so a chance, at last, for me to grab the car and spend almost an hour and a half at the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar.  No sooner out of the house and we had Sardinian Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting before even started the descent into Los Romanes.

What a treat to be back at the local patch where the weather was warm and sunny but, I must admit, a little on the humid side for my liking.  But then I did have all that green vegetation and whilst very little water in the river itself there was a considerable lagoon at the approach to the beach.  Parking the car near the N340 road bridge I noticed a feeding Spotted Fycatcher low down in the reeds on the far side of the bridge and the local Rock Doves were all either in the air or feeding in or near the water in front of me.  A White Wagtail walked the river's edge and a couple of Blackbird busied themselves in and under the neighbouring bushes.  On the far side, a movement onto the reeds drew my attention where I quickly found a feeding Reed Warbler.  No Common Kestrel in the trees, rather it was resting on the cross beams of the nearby electricity pylon.  This led me to check out the two "pigeons" on the wires where they were also quickly identified as a pair of Turtle Doves.  The pair were happy to remain even though the appearance of about thirty Spotless Starlings on the same stretch or wires and post caused quite a stir.

No sooner had I started to walk down the track than a Grey Heron saw me coming and decided to make a hasty retreat.  This in turn, drew my attention to both the Common and Green Sandpipers that were also feeding nearby in the shallow waters.  A little further on I could also make out a Little Egret that also moved away, this time down stream where I knew that it would reappear in due course.  Meanwhile, the Barn Swallows continued to feed over and near the water and a couple of Mallard could be seen hiding under the far bank.

Two Egrets: Cattle Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis (lower left) and Little Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta (above right)
The Little Egret was duly relocated alongside a Cattle Egret with another of the former nearby.  Nearer me, the first of very many Serins and a a number of Goldfinches along with a healthy supply of House Sparrows.  The first of the breeding/visiting Little Ringed Plovers was noted on the far bank before arriving at the hide which gave the first opportunity to really check out the river bank.  The final stretch of the track now has a dense hedge of bamboo making sight of the river almost impossible and, I must admit, there was also a lot of vegetation restricting viewing from the hide.  I wonder when the "authorities" will give this some thought in terms of site management or has the building of the hide and creation of the lagoon completed their wildlife acyivities?

Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius (adult above and juvenile below)
From the hide I watched more Little Ringed Plovers and the feeding flock of local Rock Doves accompanied by numerous Barn Swallows and, eventually, the sight of a single Coot.  More Serins and Goldfinches and then the sight of waders in the river slightly upstream.  There must have been at least five Dunlin along with a Purple Sandpiper in very smart uniforms beside the single Black-winged Stilt.  Judging by the summer plumage of the Dunlin I would think that they were all of the alpina sub-species from the Arctic which winters in our region and has longest bill and richest rufous when seen in such plumage.

Curlew Sandpiper Correlimos Zarapitin Calidris ferruginea and with feeding Dunlin below

A pair of the alpina sub-species Dunlin Correlimos Comun Calidris alpina
Immediately in front of me a small number of feeding House Sparrows and then a single Zitting Cisticola.  On the lagoon itself a number of mixed gulls were taking their rest and then being put up every time a "beach walker" strolled along the shoreline ridge.  Not really a prety sight as every time I tried to focus on the gulls a naked body seemed to appear; perhaps it was same chap just walking up and down hoping not to be cra**** on from above (although I would have preferred the opposite!).  A very mixed group which appeared to be mainly Audouin's plus a small number of both Black-headed  and Mediterranean Gulls.  Accompanying them were a mixed age group of Yellow-legged Gulls.

A lovely little Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis
Time to work my way back upstream to the car where I duly saw more Spotted Flycatchers and a couple of Greenfinches.  The Barn Swallows were now joined by the occasional Red-rumped Swallow and on the wire above the car a juvenile Woodchat Shrike.  Finally, I heard the call and then found my first Moorhen of the morning.  Driving under the bridge to park on the other side in the shade and record what had been seen in my notebook, I watched yet more Spotted Flycatchers and a pair of Collared Doves on the far side along with a Wood Sandpiper and juvenile Moorhen on the only small puddle to be seen in the area.  But right in front of me, having left the camera in the car, was a most handsome Hoopoe.

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike Alcaudon Comun Lanius senator
Just when I thought it could not get any better, driving up Los Romanes from the lake I pulled over to watch a gorgeous Short-toed Eagle as it drifted slowly overhead on the lookout for a scrumptious snake that make a good midday snack!  Thekla Larks were also recorded as I drove back up the mountain so bringing the species tally for the morning to 40.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus

Common Sandpiper Andarrios Chico Actitus hypoleucos

Birds seen:
Mallard, Short-toed Eagle, Kestrel, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, White Wagtail, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler,  Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, Hoouse Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting.

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

Bermejales with John and Jenny Wainwright

It would appear that I am not the only one otherwise sidetracked form Birding judging by the report i have just received form John and jenny Wainwright's last birding trip, yesterday, to the Bermejales reservoir and area.  I can only presume that the exterior painting and chimney works are now complete and the couple have been given permission to take a day off!!  Once this report is published then I will be able to start on the next blog.

Bermejales: Tuesday 29th July

Quite hot (40C), but with breezes off of the embalse.  En route seeing Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows, Magpies, Blackbirds and a few Crested Larks.

Blue Tit Herrerillo Comun Parus caeruleus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
After tapas at La Crux by the embalse, we found a suitable parking spot in the cool of the pines.  A lot of people here today mainly a scout troop, canoeing and a party learning to ride, but in the main peace and quiet reigned.  I left Jenny in the shade and I went on my constitutional, across the road and into the pine copse.  Lots of Goldfinches and Serins and lots of noise from the Wood Pigeons as they clattered out of the trees at my approach - its a job trying to walk quietly on the ultra dry pine needles and leaves.  Common Magpies and a few Azure-winged Magpies about in the open areas, while on the power lines I counted three Bee-eaters and soaring above them two Bonelli´s Eagles.

Around me the "peeping" of a family of Coal Tits was heard, along with a single Blue Tit and another hundred metres on a Crested Tit was noted and a Kestrel was heard but not sighted.  On my way back to the car, I found a couple of very young scorpions (Buthus occitanicus) - no more than 15mm long, then stood and watched a Melodious Warbler feeding.

Sitting back under the pines we watched a White Wagtail feeding along the water´s edge and the air was filled with the calls of House Martins and Barn Swallows and then a lone Common Swift came into view - I thought all these birds had left the area, as they have been missing from Salar since last Wednesday 23rd July.  A Little Ringed Plover flashed past, probably having being disturbed by some bathers further along the waters edge and two Crossbills passed overhead.   We left the embalse, but not before seeing a Yellow-legged Gull sat atop the dam tower.

Young Scorpion Buthus occitanicus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
We then took the "rough road" that runs parallel to the Cacin Gorge, here we saw Crag Martins, another Common Swift, Barn Swallows and House Martins, a couple of Sardinian Warblers and several Stonechats along with Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Crested Larks and Wood Pigeons.

We stopped for a while at the Cacin dam lake, where the water level had left some mud exposed.  Mostly Mallard and Common Coots which were put up by a Booted Eagle circling over the lake, and in the branches of the dead trees - over the other side of the lake - we found some more Bee-eaters, White Wagtails and a Magpie.  Lots more hirundines here among them more Common Swifts and a very small swift (possibly Pallid) but not good enough sighting to verify that.  As we neared the slip road off to Salar, a Common Buzzard was seen.

Not a big count, but an enjoyable day by the water.

Sound like a very pleasant morning to me John.

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

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Scintillating Swifts

Tuesday 29 July

Following an email from my friend Bryan Stapley of the Axarquia Bird Group checking up that all was OK with me as there had been no publications on this blog for a fortnight, was I even still in  country, etc. I thought I had better put pen to paper - or at least fingers to the keyboard.  Not as dramatic as above but, rather, the fact that whilst back in the UK at the start of the month the X-Trail took its own decision and decided to drive of the road below Los Romanes and ended up in an open manhole with cascading water all around.  A write-off as the damage was considered to be more than the value of the car, even if the interior was a delight and looked at from three corners the car was a delight to see.  But then there was the front off-side, or what was left of it!  So, with only the little Citroen C4 and jenny still with lots of activities to undertake, I came back to no car and, as a direct result, no birding.  But I am hoping to get down to the Rio Velez for a couple of hours tomorrow morning just to remind myself that there are birds to be seen.

So, for me, for these past two weeks birding has been a question of what is happening at the house and on the neighbouring mountain tracks plus what might be seen when we drive down from the mountain.  I even recorded my first Monk Parakeet of the month last week!

Juvenile Barn Swallows Golondrina Comun Hirundo rustica

Around the house we have our resident Sardinian Warblers along with the surviving young of the year and the Stonechats are once more in evidence.  Above and around us both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows continue to feed, drink from the pool and rest on the wires at the side of the house.  I say drink but more often than not they arrive after we have covered the pool.  But you can always count on the young Swallows not yet getting their timing right when it comes to drinking; either not getting low enough or bottoming out when they hit the water.  But they will learn before they set off for Africa.  No eagles overhead this past month but we have the occasional visit form the local pair of Common Kestrel.

Juvenile Red-rumped Swallow Golondrina Daurica Hirundo daurica

On the tracks immediately outside Casa Collado there are still lots of Thekla Larks of varying ages and even the occasional visit from a Red-legged Partridge or two.  Unfortunately however, we have also heard the guns so somebody does not understand "close season" in this part of the world.  At the moment we also have a pair of Hoopoes and, of course, in addition to the local House Sparrows there are many Serins and Goldfinches.  We are used to seeing local Blue Rock Thrushes but a Blackbird crossing the track and up over the terrace was a little different on Sunday.  Only the second one that I can recall in over eleven years as they always seem to prefer the lower slopes of our mountain.

Bee-eater Abejaruco Europeo Merops apiaster
Are you still seeing Bee-eaters?  Every day, usually early in the morning about 9am, I hear rather than see small numbers of Bee-eaters over-flying the house.  Although  at the beginning of last week whilst Derek and Barbara Etherton were with us a dozen or so decided to welcome our guests by flying low over the pool.  Migration is certainly underway with these noisy and colourful birds.

Alpine Swift Vencejo Real Apus melba
Migration is also very much under way with the swift family.  Invited down to our neighbours Steven and Barbara for a curry with other local friends from the mountain top (and the curry was definitely top order as was all the alcohol that was consumed but, there again, we had only a hundred metre walk home up the drive when we finally returned), I sat and watched the arrival of the first Common Swifts as the heat began to cool down.  A few arrived just after 8pm and then numbers continued to increase as these flying aces fed on the midges that had also begun to descend with cooling temperatures.  Then I was suddenly aware of large swifts with white undersides.  Yes, a small number of Alpine Swifts were also present on this migration south.  Strange to say but as the evening wore on the species changed.  Still a number of both Common and Alpine Swifts about but by 9pm we were starting to see the first Barn Swallows and even later a small number of House Martins using the pass (think what our house name "Collado" might mean).  After a mass passing of three good-sized flocks of Goldfinches, the final group to appear and continue the aerial feeding frenzy were little fat animals with no distinctive tails.  Yes, the Bats had arrived.  I know very little about these animals but I am pretty sure that they were too big and fat to be Pipestral Bats.  Any suggestions from those who might be reading this account?

Birding, who needs a car with all this activity going on?   Me!!!!!!

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

Wednesday 16 July 2014

More Sierra Loja with John and Jenny

Wednesday 16 July

The weather continues to be very warm with our usual afternoon breeze but without transport, having to share the small car with Jenny and her many pursuits, birding seems to have very much take a back seat.  Also, not helped by the fact that I have to remain near home awaiting a call from a courier bringing equipment over from the UK to our neighbour.  So it was rather a delight to receive John and Jenny Wainwright's report from their trip up their favourite local site at the Sierra Loja.  Despite the heat, even hotter inland than where we are on our mountain top, John and Jenny managed to find both the summering Rock Thrushes and Black-eared Wheatears.  Strange to see no mention of Northern Wheatear as they were also conspicuous by their absence in the Serrania de Ronda last Saturday.  On the other hand, Alpine Swifts seem to be on the move so certainly keep an eye open for these large swifts if in the mountains during the next week.
John's report follows and all the photographs on this occasion are by Jenny Wainwright.

Sierra Loja Tuesday 15 July

Very hot 38C/98F, this with a good breeze.

We started off from the village at about 9.30am and saw to our delight a Little Owl - if you have read my last report we had three owls killed - the delight was not too last as another one was dead in the middle of the road and just as we entered the slip road to the A92 another bird was found.  Also about were Spotless Starlings, Collared Doves, House Sparrows and a Blackbird.  After coffee and tapas at our regular stop we headed up to the old workings, en route seeing Chaffinches, Spotted Flycatchers, Stonechats and yet more Collared Doves.   It was good to note that the family of Crag Martins - who had nested under the autovia bridge - had fledged.

Now where's Mum gone? A family of juvenile Red-legged Partridges Alectoris rufa

The workings was dead apart from some Goldfinches, House Martins and Red-legged Partridges.  Moving up through the tree line good numbers of Azure-winged Magpies were seen - and heard, with Chaffinches and a few Serins.  At the cliffs, even with the climbers being back, we did find Southern Grey Shrikes, Stonechats, Woodchat Shrike (a Spectacled Warbler surprised me here) then a Corn Bunting and a Common Kestrel.  A bit further up at the second cliff section we found another Southern Grey Shrike feeding its young, small numbers of Linnets, a Sardinian Warbler and another Woodchat Shrike.  A male and female Blue Rock Thrush were located on the cliff face itself.

The curious Little Owls Athene noctua
Around the quarry area we saw our first Black-eared Wheatear, one of a large number in total today, along with Thekla Larks, Stonechats and a Hoopoe.  Reaching the sub-station valley we found firstly a single Little Owl then across the other side of the road we found another two together on the top of a rock-pile.  More Black-eared Wheatears (juveniles and adults) and another Southern Grey Shrike. Five or six Striped Grayling butterflies ( Hipparchia fidia) were seen here also.

Black-eared Wheatear  Oenanthe hispanica
Just prior to the ponds we stopped to look at a flock of Common Swifts, when a juvenile or female -  very hard to separate them - Rock Thrush posed for us.  Parking up at the lower pond - which at the moment is having it´s retaining stone wall raised - we again started scanning the swift flocks for Alpines, of which we found four, and three Pallids as well.  Above the flock a lone Griffon Vulture and then a Short-toed Eagle flew past and over the cliff in the direction of Venta del Rayo, a flock of some hundred or so Chough took off.  On the small cliff face by the pond a female Common Kestrel landed and put the local Rock Sparrows to flight, along with House Sparrows, a male Black Redstart and a Hoopoe. The lower pond with its very minimal amount of water, was being used as a bath by a dozen Linnets and a few Goldfinches

Juvenile/female Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis
Lots of butterflies here including the Striped Grayling, Clouded Yellow, Adonis Blue, Marbled White and a Humming-bird Hawk Moth.   The top pond was totally dry.

Striped Grayling Hipparchia fidia butterfly
Moving along to the fossil cave area we found our first Black Wheatear of the day.  Also here we saw a single Meadow Pipit, female Black Redstart, two Common Kestrels, a Hoopoe, more of the prevoiusly named Swifts including Alpines and a male Greenfinch.

Female Woodchat Shrike  Lanius senator
Round to the small fir copse where we located five Hoopoes, Goldfinches and above, on the small cliff top, sat two Spanish Ibex.  On the way back down we called in at the hidden quarry where we saw Crag Martins, Barn Swallow, Crested Larks and two more Spotted Flycatchers.  The cicadas had started up their chorus from the firs here.

Well worth a bit of effort in the heat, glad of the breeze up top though!!!

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

Monday 14 July 2014

New Zealand - Part 10: Other Birds

Part 10:  Other Birds

This final section covers just about anything else that has not already been featured; mainly passerines and raptors.

Black Swan Cygnus atratus

Swamp Harrier Circus approximans

New Zealand Falcon  Falco novaeseelandiae

Purple Swamphen (Pukeko) Porphyrio melanotus melanotus

Australian Coot Fulica atra australis

Kereru (New Zealand Wood Pigeon)  Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae

Barbary Dove Streptopelia roseogrisearisoria

White-backed Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen

Time to go home; holiday over and birding done!

Sunday 13 July 2014

Serrania de Ronda

Saturday 12 July

The July monthly field visit of the Andalucia Bird Society was to the Serrania de Ronda but with an early start scheduled Jenny and I decided to drive over on Friday afternoon and spend the night in the town.  Who could possibly drive past the Laguna Dulce without taking a quick look?  We were no different so we spent a good thirty minutes checking out the lake late on the afternoon of Friday.  It would seem, at last, that the water levels are starting to drop as there is now a definite shore line, albeit not very deep, in front to of the hide. On the other hand, with so much vegetation the views are somewhat restricted.

A total of twenty-five species was recorded either at or in the immediate vicinity and included all three native grebes; quite surprising that for me to find a single Great Crested Grebe present at this time of the year.  I was also somewhat surprised to find a couple of male White-headed Ducks on the water; were these resident birds or has the autumn migration started very early given the at the Dulce can hold up to two hundred or more of these ducks come winter?  Naturally, even before the winter build up, there were scores of Common Coots plus the occasional Moorhen and whilst the ducks were mainly Mallards, there was a dozen or so Common Pochards resting up to my left.

Below the hide a single Hoopoe was foraging whilst the Reed Warblers were happy to continue singing.  A small number of Yellow-legged Gulls on the water and feeding overhead a number of Burundians, mainly Red-rumped swallows but also a small number of Barn Swallows, House Martins and a single Sand Martin was identified.  Just a handful of Common Swifts.  It was also pleasing to note that there is at least one Marsh Harrier in residence as the adult female drifted over from the back of the water before returning to the reed bed.  Finally, no need to drive round to relatively nearby Fuente de Piedra as there were two small handfuls of Flamingoes on the water.  No sooner has we started to leave the site than we recorded both Cattle Egret and a pair of Ravens.

Birds seen at laguna Dulce:
Mallard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Coot, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blackbird, Reed Warbler, Raven, House Sparrow.

Serrania de Ronda

Meeting at the Montejaque turn off the main Ronda road we listened and watch a number of Golden Orioles whilst awaiting the start of the trip.  Also in attendance were both Blackbirds and House Sparrows and ere long we had added both Crested Lark and a number of Bee-eaters.  Next up was a single male Common Kestrel and whilst looking at the bird realised the number of low-flying Griffon Vultures in the background.  Both Barn Swallows and Red-rumped Swallows were busy feeding, mainly the latter, and the fist of a few Cirl Buntings was seen perched on a fence rail.  There seemed to be a constant supply of Goldfinches about and we also , finally, had a small flock of Spotless Starlings as well as recording our first of many Woodchat Shrikes during the morning, both adults and juveniles.

The first stop added lesser Kestrels, Rock Sparrows and a small number of Alpine Swifts along with a few Common Swifts.  On the cliff face a couple of Blue Rock Thrushes joined the resident Blackbirds and we duly recorded both Rock Sparrow and Rock Bunting.  The most handsome male Black Redstart was a delight to follow as it fed off the rock face.  A Great Tit was busy feeding in the tree in front of the group.  having also seen both Stonechats and a couple of Crag Martins we continued on our merry way.

The continuous tour round this beautiful scenery produced a number of Linnets, Corn Bunting and a range of warblers including good sightings of Dartford Warbler.  Before making a stop at some high altitude miradors we had both Wood Pigeons and House Martins but, having found our first Booted Eagle, we were soon confronted by the first of two Bonelli's Eagles and at least three Short-toed Eagles.  Our last major stop in an area well known for its Spectacle Warblers produced both Black and Black-eared Wheatears.  A later short stop confirmed not only both Stonechat and Linnet but a single Orphean Warbler.  Having all got out of our various cars, a look across the road produced our only Southern Grey Shrike on top of a wire fence along with both Crested and Thekla Larks in the area.

Whilst my short list may have been only about forty, the group, as a whole, managed to record just about fifty species during the morning including Peregrine Falcon, Melodious, Sub-alpine and Spectacled Warblers.

My bird list for the Serrania de Ronda:
Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Great Tit, Golden Oriole, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Goldfinch, Linnet, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

New Zealand - Part 9: "Little Brown Jobs"

Part 9:  "Little Brown Jobs"

There are not many native paserines in New Zealand but there are now a number of "European imports" including Dunnock, Blackbird, Cirl Bunting and Yellowhammer.  It certainly seems strange that when we have no local Yellowhammers her and I cannot now guarantee one upon returning to England that I fly to, literally, the other side of the worls and then see yellowhammers.  On the other hand, even if they were most hidden in the thick of the bushes or canopy, it was rather pleasing to watch the antics of both the New Zealand Grey Fantail Rhipidura fuliginosa and well-named Silvereye Zosterops lateralis lateralis.

Zealand Grey Fantail  
Rhipidura fuliginosa

 Silvereye Zosterops lateralis lateralis

 North Isand Kokako  Callaeus wilsoni

South Island Robin  Petroica australis australis



North Island Saddleback   Philesturnus rufasater

 Welcome Swallow  Hirundo neoxena

Dunnock  Prunella modularis

 House Sparrow  Passer domesticus

 Yellowhammer  Emberiza citrinella