Sunday 31 August 2014

Sirra Loja with John and Jenny

Sunday 31 August

It looks as if Steve Powell and I (see later report) were not the only ones to take advantage of the last day of the month and get in a final morning's birding.  John and Jenny Wainwright ventured forth once more to tackle the Sierra Loja with a successful tally of birds.  No doubt, like most of us, they, too, will be hoping that September brings some cooler weather more encouraging to good birding; even a little rain to freshen up the ground and vegetation would be quite a blessing - but too much!  John's report follows.

Sierra Loja  31 August

A hot day although with breeze only 25C at top.

We started off from Salar about 9am and on the way out of the village we saw a Little Owl, lots of Collared Doves , Spotless Starlings and a few House Sparrows. After visiting the restaurant for coffee we headed up the track we saw the usual Collared Doves, four Blackbirds, Serins and more House Sparrows.

A couple of Wood Pigeons were the only thing seen until we reached the cliff areas, where a party of climbers were getting kitted out and a couple of dogs were running loose, so we carried on to the second cliff area where we saw Jackdaws, Stonechats and a Crested Lark.

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Moving on and up to the old marble works, here we found a family of Thekla Larks, two separate families of Red-legged Partridges, a lone Southern Grey Shrike and as we entered the substation valley two rather bedraggled Woodchat Shrikes.  Lots of Northern Wheatears here with a few Black-eareds mixed in.  Three families of Stonechats as well as lots of juvenile Goldfinches.  A Little Owl was calling and it took us a while to locate him hidden behind a line of grasses, and as we left the valley a Blue Rock Thrush sat on a one of the many black and white signs that line the track.

A rather dishevelled Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Onwards to the ponds seeing more Northern Wheatears and a couple of Rock Bunting as we turned into the track leading to the ponds.  The lower one was very, very low, probably no more than half a metre in the centre.   There were a few Sharp-sided Newts coming up for air, and around the edges the odd Linnet and Rock Bunting were bathing.  The top pond being totally dry.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

On and around the cliff face where we found Rock Sparrow, more Goldfinches and Linnets.  Above the cliff were House Martins, Sand Martins and a lone Barn Swallow.  I could hear Bee-eaters high up but it took a few moments to locate a flock of some 80 birds, but we lost them as they flew across the suns path.  A couple of Striped Graylings were about - albeit one decided to have a swim - also a Brimstone was noted here, plenty of little moths but moved too fast for me!!  An Iberian Wall Lizard was spotted by Jenny while we were looking over the new addition to the stone wall.
Striped Grayling  Pseudotergumia fidia (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

So then on to the fossil cave area where we picked up our first Crag Martins of the day followed by
Black Redstarts and more Rock Sparrows.  In the mouth of the cave a Hoopoe flew in to feed and
down in the meadows Jenny located our first and only Black Wheatear, as well as more Northern
and Black-eared Wheatears.  A group of five then a pair of Spanish Ibex hi-tailed it up the slopes as we passed.

A part of Spanish Ibex Capra pyrenaica (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Further on around and below the Sierra Gordo watchpoint a group of seven Griffon Vultures appeared and while we were watching them a juvenile Golden Eagle took off from one of the ledges and gave us great photo opportunities, which we naturally took.  More Crag Martins and a Common Kestrel came over the cliffs later and in the hawthorn bushes - which are well laden with berries - three Chaffinches and a flock of Corn Buntings were seen.  We parked up for a bite to eat and a few more of the earlier hirundines passed over including Common Swifts.

The magnificent juvenile Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

On the way down a Great Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper and Chaffinches were heard but not seen, and as we reached the bottom of the track a Spotted Flycatcher, Serins and House Sparrows took off from the bushes.

A nice finish to the month of August.

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

Thursday 28 August 2014

"All quiet on the western front"

Thursday 28 August

Out of the house before 8.30 this morning with the use of the car fr a couple of hours before being back on the mountain to let jenny go to her Spanish class.  Times like this that you miss having the second car.  no sooner round the corner from the drive and the resident Thekla Larks came out on to the track to see me on my way accompanied by a single Sardinian Warbler and then a male Blue Rock Thrush.  Then followed tow surprises, one very large.  Only on very few and far between occasions do I find a Backbird on the upper slopes of our mountain but it was certainly the first time since arriving here eleven years ago that I have recorded a Wren.  What on earth was little Jenny doing up here so high unless she was taking a breather from some lesser or greater migration?

Green Sandpiper Andarrios Grande Tringa ochropus
Arriving at the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar I was in time to see a departing Heron fly over and assumed that would be the only record of the morning.  But no, in the event there must have been at least a handful at the lower reaches of the river.  With only a solitary Rock Dove to be seen from the bank below the N340 bridge, I decided to drive up and park in the shade under the trees opposite the open hide.  From here I walked back to the bridge and return before making use of the hide to see what was about on and near the meadow and lagoon.  Until a late flurry just before setting off for home via a quick look on the other side of the bridge, there was certainly very little to be seen, a question of not so much "all quiet on the western front" as no birds on the western front.  But I must not complain too much as, having missed the spring arrival, I had a small flock of Willow Warblers feeding immediately in front of me at the hide.  There was also a small number of House Sparrows and looking at some of my photographs on returning to Casa Collado I see that there were also at least two Penduline Tits.  Now that was another welcome surprise for the morning.

Pair o f recently arrived Dunlin Correlimos Comun Calidris alpina

Young Green Sandpiper with very white front?
Other than the terminal lagoon there is presently very little water in the river and birding is certainly not helped by the now thick bamboo barrier.  This is quite acceptable but, with or without the bamboos, very little is going to be seen if cyclists on their mountain bikes decide to use the river bed as their preferred route rather than the track!  Making my way back to the hide I picked up a quartet of Mallards and then a pair of Dunlin in the company of a Green Sandpiper.  The were the only waders to be seen other than another "mystery sandpiper" for which I shall have to access some guidance.  It looked like a Green Sandpiper but the chest markings are not quite correct unless it, maybe, is a juvenile.  I even thought both Wood and Marsh Sandpiper so, Mick, Eric, Steve, John and anybody else reading this take a look at the photo opposite.

Arriving at the hide I found the rest of the resident Rock Doves who were busy feeding and drinking in the area along with a large flock of Spotless Starlings.  I even had a five Collared Doves and, on many occasions, I can visit here and not see a single specimen of this bird.  Just the one Zitting Cisticola but a good number of Serins.  Then I hit upon the feeding Willow Warblers below me to the left.  There were also a small number of House Sparrows and the occasional Goldfinch.  Thinking I had photographed the latter feeding with te Willow Warblers you can imagine my surprise when, on enlarging the photograph, I found myself looking at a Penduline Tit with its long tail.

Penduline Tit Pajaro Moscon Remiz pendulinus

Willow Warbler Mosquitero Musical Phylloscopus trochilus
A Grey Heron flew over which also revealed a few House Martins and more of the former were then found on the edges of the main lagoon along with a single Coot.  Still good numbers of Moorhens about with their now well-grown chicks and with the gulls returning to either roost on the sea or lagoon I was able to pick out Black-headed, Leser black-backed and Yellow-legged individuals.  After a handful of screaming Monk Parakeets had passed overhead I once more experimented with the new mini-scope, this time hand-holding rather than using the lightweight tripod.  Very successful and this little Opticrom gives a very clear view even when the eye-piece is at full magnification.

Also seen on the river was a single,and very handsome, Blue-headed Wagtail whilst resting on the wires I recorded my only Spotted Flycatcher of the day.  Also, late in the visit, I was joined by a trio of Little Egrets.  Departing the hide I drive slowly down the track and under the bridge to park and look at the river bed just upstream from the old metal bridge.  A good number of Collard Doves drinking, far more than you normally see flocked together, and then a single, feeding Hoopoe with another couple moving about on the far side.  The small mixed finch flock feeding below me were mainly House Sparrows but also a number of Greenfinches.  By now not only had I just about run out of time but t was becoming very hot so I set off for home and duly recorded a single Red-rumped swallow.

This Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops was busy feeding without a care in the world

Back up the mountain and the Thekla Larks were still about but had by now also been joined by some of the Bee-eaters that have been with us for the past week or so.

The Collared Dove Tortola Turca Streptopelia decaocto looks immaculate after its early morning ablutions.  Now if only the year was 1964!

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Thekla Lark, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Willow Warbler, Penduline Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Laguna Dulce with John and Jenny

It may be very hot, reached 38C in the shade here today following last night's minimum of 28, but, despite the on-going painting job, John and jenny wainwright managed to get out of the house and across to the Lagauna Dulce earlier today.  I seem to have become somewhat lazy and relying upon the Bee-eaters, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and migrating Common Swifts visiting me on the mountain top.  But, if I wake up early tomorrow morning I might just drive down to the Rio Velez - unless jenny demands the car again in which case it might have to be Friday morning!

Laguna Dulce: Wednesday 27 August

A very hot and windless day.

We arrived at the laguna at about 11.30am after getting a bite to eat at Antequera. The journey down had been pretty uneventful seeing mostly Collared Doves, a few Barn Swallows, Wood Pigeon, a Common Kestrel and some House Sparrows.

White Storks Ciconia ciconia in the sky (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
The water level is doing very well considering the temperatures we are having and long may it last (the water level I mean).  Just as we entered the hide a White Stork landed on the tall bushes across the far side of the laguna and while I was watching that bird, two others flew over the hide towards Campillos.  A few Common Coots on the foreshore to our direct front and on the shoreline to the left of the hide several waders were spotted, these being two Kentish Plovers, a Green Sandpiper, two Little Stints, two Curlew Sandpipers and three Black-winged Stilts.  A juvenile Marsh Harrier was spotted in the distance quartering the reed beds but it dropped into the
reeds and we never saw the bird again, although we did see a female Marsh Harrier about half an hour later.

On the laguna itself several Common Pochards, Mallards, Common Coots were noted as well as  Black-necked, Little and Great Crested GrebesWhite-headed Ducks were in good numbers today - I counted at least sixty and amongst them juvenile Greater Flamingos and adults were feeding.

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Across the laguna and spread out in the skeletal trees - were a good flock of some twenty plus Cattle Egrets.  As the female Marsh Harrier came out of the reed bed - all the small waders over the far side of the laguna - moved over to our left foreshore, this flock contained another two Kentish Plovers, a Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper along with several Black-winged Stilts.
The reed bed to our front was full of song - but very little came into view.  I heard Reed, Sardinian and Cetti´s Warblers and saw Goldfinches, Corn Buntings and more House Sparrows.  Not that many hirundines close in today but the sky was full of them over the far reed beds including Common Swifts, Barn Swallows and House Martins.

Looking back over the laguna, a flock of Shovelers emerged from the reeds along with  some Gadwalls and more White-headed Ducks and a bit closer to us a female Tufted Duck emerged from it´s dive.

On the return journey, just past the workings on the right, a Woodchat Shrike was seen and another about a kilometre down the road, and on a pylon - just after the new high-speed rail bridge - sat a Common Buzzard.

Female adult Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
 Good to see at least one dragonfly recorded by John and Jenny.

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

Sunday 24 August 2014

Montes de Malaga

Saturday 23 August

Female Chaffinch  Pinzon Vulgar Fringilla coelebs

Strange how suddenly it was dark very much later this morning when I awoke at 6.50 and decided I might as well get up and get ready for our morning in the Montes de Malaga with the Andalucia Bird Society on its month field visit.  Indeed, I had to go into the kitchen to check the clock as I presumed, being so dark, it was probably nearer 4.50 and the clock had been incorrectly re-set.  No, the correct time but just, so very suddenly, darker this morning for whatever reason.  At least it meant that Jenny and I were away on time for the drive over to Colmenar and then the old Malaga road (A7000) up into the Montes de Malaga.  Thekla Larks and White Wagtails as we passed through Los Romanes and then both Buzzard and Kestrel as we drove through the higher range at approaching 900 metres to take the turn-off into the park and the meeting point a the Hotel Humaina.  Barn Swallows and House Martins recorded on the main road along with House Sparrows and the first of the many Chaffinches.

Given the continuing very hot and dry weather, I suppose if you are going to go birding in id-August then the wooded shade on the sloes of the mountain were perhaps the best option.  In the event, jenny and I joined twenty-two other members including our guide for the morning, Luiz Alberto Rodrigues, a fellow member and professional guide living in Malaga.  Always good to have an experienced and enthusiastic local with you to show you the best routes even if you have been to the general area on previous occasions.

Scruffy Wild Boar Sus Scrofa
Whilst waiting for late arrivals I managed to grab a coffee and toaster and no sooner had returned with same to the patio area when I was being requested (I use this word with some reservation!) to throw my breakfast over the edge to where a small family party of Wild Boar Sus Scrofa were passing through the bushes.  I did throw a very small piece over which was soon accompanied by sugar lumps (had to react very quickly to make sure that i got a couple into my cup before the bowl was emptied).  And there below us was the extended family, ranging from adults to very young, probably a "baker's dozen" in total.  I use this phrase with feeling as, no doubt in one form or another, these animals are eventually going to end up inside a bread roll!!!!

So on with our morning's birding as Red-rumped Swallows and Chaffinches moved above us quickly followed by a passing Short-toed Eagle.  Some hardly soles had even arrived in time to join the six who stayed overnight at the hotel for an early morning (7am and just getting light) walk around the area where, in addition to the birds seen by the rest of us, they also managed to record Nightingale, Dartford Warbler, Blue Tit and a passing flock of about a dozen Black Kites.  A relatively short drive further into the park took us to the start of our first walk.

Male Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra

Lovely and cool in the shade of the trees but still mot comfortable in just a short-sleeve shirt as we had to listen carefully for bird song and seek out any movement in the tall trees and gaps above to see the sky.  Crossbills were up first and the a slow and steady identification of woodland birds including Coal and Crested Tit along with Firecrest and Short--toed Treecreeper.  A couple of Nuthatches were seen whilst above there was obviously a passage of swifts with first a single Pallid Swift then plenty of Common Swifts with the occasional former.  A Blackbird crossed the track behind my group and the a Booted Eagle drifted overhead above the skyline.  Eventually, we found a couple of Great Tits and then two small families of Long-tailed Tits moving through the trees at the side of the track.  Surprisingly, I only saw a couple of Goldfinches during the walk.  We had an occasional glimpse of the odd Barn Swallow and also added a Robin as we made our way back to the cars.

The final walk was based at the small museum where I normally park on visit the Montes de Malaga.  W were greeted in the car park by the sight of a silhouetted Spotted Flycatcher and then set off down the steps to take the path through the picnic area behind the building.  However, we all stopped to see the trio of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in a dead tree to the front of us before continuing on.  The day was now really heating up and with less and less cover we decided it would be better to return to the cars by the same track rather take the exposed road.  A Collared Dove was added tot he list but very little else as far as I am aware.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Pico Picapinos Dendrocopus major

Not a large number of birds but given the very hot conditions it had been a very pleasant stroll through the woods in great company.  In addition to the Wild Boars, we also had a couple of sightings of the local Red Squirrels Sciuruss vulgaris (almost black in colour out here in southern Spain) and a rather pale Common Swallowtail Papilio machaon butterfly posed in front of us.

Birds seen:
Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House martin, Red-rumped Swallow, White Wagtail, Robin, Nightingale, Blackbird, Dartford Warbler, Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Crested tot, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill.

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

Thursday 21 August 2014

Thursday 21 August

Just back from ten days in Blighty where I was able to attend the opening day of this year's British Bird Fair just down the road from our little Stamford house at Rutland Water.  Even arriving before the official opening time I still had to queue and, unlike the three previous years, it remained warm and sunny all day.  By the time I left in the late afternoon to drive down to Cardiff for a family wedding the next day, the site could well be described as "heaving" so let's hope lots of visitors paid their entrance fees which all contributes to many exciting birding initiatives.  Lots of friends seen and made a special point of visiting both the Andalucia stall along with that of our local professional birders who were also promoting the Andlaucia Bird Society.  Not sure where Peter Jones was hiding but good to see Manu from Huelva, Jose Luis from Jaen and Luiz from Malaga.  Told they were all kipping down together in a neighbouring village so, no doubt, lots of alcohol would have been consumed over the four days!

As for local birding I found it very poor.  I paid a first visit to a relatively close site at Baston Fen and found nothing other than a single feeding Cormorant.  The nearby flooded gravel pit did have a few birds but nothing very exciting.  On the other hand, whilst at the Bird fair i did look up in time to see one of the local Ospreys fly over and, of course, a visit back to Stamford would not be complete without a local Red Kite.

So it was back to Lake Vinuela and I find that John and Jenny Wainwright have also ventured forth, despite the on-going heat and sun, with a visit to the Laguna Dulce.  Some interesting birds in John's report below along with a quintet of photographs.  Just a shame Jenny did not have time to get a shot of the family of three Otters that dashed out in front of them.

Laguna Dulce 20 August

A hottish day, with a lovely breeze coming in off the water.

After shopping in Antequera, we grabbed a snack and headed for Laguna Dulce for a couple of hours.  Lots of hirundines over the fields on the way there (through Bobadilla village) and lots more as we approached and parked up opposite the hide.   These composed of Barn Swallows and House Martins with a good smattering of Common Swifts but only the one Red-rumped Swallow and one Sand Martin noted.

On the foreshore to our front, several Black-winged Stilts were seen as well as one Kentish Plover, whilst on the foreshore to the left of the hide another Kentish Plover along with two Common Sandpipers, a Wood Sandpiper, more Black-winged Stilts, Moorhens and a few Common Coots.  Two Grey Herons emerged from the large area of bushes in the water here, but took off virtually straight away - never to be seen again today.

On the laguna - quite spread out though - I counted over forty Greater Flamingos and also about were Common Pochard, Gadwell, Mallard, two Teal and good numbers of White-headed Ducks.  It wasn´t until about an hour into the visit that our first Marsh Harrier, a female, took to the skies over the far reed beds followed quickly by a juvenile.  I did notice that when the female Marsh flew over the reed beds all the waders, coots and ducks took off, but not in the case of the juvenile.  Still, this movement of waders did bring to our notice three Black-tailed Godwits, more Kentish Plovers, Common and Green Sandpipers and Black-winged Stilts.

Marsh Harrier Culebrera Europea Circaetus gallicus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright) [and above by John Wainwright]
As Jenny was watching the waders settle down, three Otters Lutra lutra ran across the shoreline and into the reeds.  I managed to see the back end of the last one.  We scanned the waters and reed over the far side but we never got another glimpse of them.  Large numbers of Black-necked, Little and Great Crested Grebes about and a small flock of Black-headed Gulls plus some Yellow-legged and three Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

In the reed beds across the front of the hide we saw Sardinian, Cetti´s and heard a Reed Warbler.  Great Tits were very vocal as were the Goldfinches.  A couple of flocks of House Sparrows were about and a small group of Corn Buntings and Serins were seen.
The female Marsh Harrier rose out of the reed beds clutching something in her talons, but I could not make out what it was.
A raptor was spotted over the ruin; this turned out to be a Short-toed Eagle but the bird gained the thermals and was quickly out of sight.

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike Alcaudon Comun Lanius senator (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

A Hoopoe flew across from the right of the hide and on a small skeletal tree in the water a juvenile Woodchat Shrike was seen.
Only one dragonfly (Red-veined Darter) and one Damselfly (Common Blue Damselfly) were seen today.  A  nice couple of hours visit - enhanced by the Otter sightings.

Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

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

Sunday 10 August 2014

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius
Sunday 10 August

Back to the UK at first light tomorrow so decided to pay a short, farewell visit to the local patch down at the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar.  Even as I left it was already hot and the temperature still rising in the clear blue sky and without a breath of air.  But I did pass the usual Thekla Larks on the way down the mountain and, as I drove through Trapiche, a lone Kestrel was resting, or he was just plain tired and exhausted in the morning heat, on top of a nearby pylon.

The riverside still looks quite lush with all the green vegetation growth but there is very little water upstream from the beach-side lagoon.  A couple of large, somewhat stagnant pools and just the occasional glimpse of water that actually looked fit to drink, for the birds and animals.  The bamboo has put on tremendous growth this year and, coupled with the riverside vegetation mentioned above, looking at the river has become impossible for long stretches of the walk down tot he pumping station.  The latter is where, no doubt at great public expense, a hide and facilities were erected less than twelve months ago.  Obviously, it would seem, the expense was in the provision and not the following maintenance.  The lovely wooden racks provided to encourage cyclists to dismount and make use of the hide to observe the local wildlife have gone.  Were they removed to be placed elsewhere or has some individual either done the same of taken them away as firewood?  The two wooden seats are still present , presumably because they are fixed to the concrete base, but one is now submerged in the growing vegetation.

Blue-headed Wagtail Lavendara Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae
And then there is the hide itself.  A typical three-sided hide (no back at the entrance side) with no glass in the windows and solid benches fixed to the floor you would think it would be safe from vandalism.  Yes and no.  Look through the window and you can see where very many visitors have simply thrown their empty paper and plastic bags along with tins and bottles.  Inside there is also paper on the floor and it is then that you realise that is tissues used to wipe backsides and on the seat itself two human faeces (I refrain from using the vernacular much as I am tempted) where the ignorant, inconsiderate user has used the bench as a toilet seat.  Even worse, the suspicious stains further on suggest that this is a regular practise.  Why do we bother to erect these facilities to see them so violently abused?  For we birders, in many ways the hide is in the wrong place and we would, in any case, have stopped here to look over the meadow, river and distant lagoon using the slight elevation to our advantage.  Now you will see why I spent far less time than I had intended at the river this morning.

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta gularis and note the skulcking Moorhen Gallineta Comun Gallinula chloropus in the background
But what about the birds themselves?  Again, probably due to the heat, there were far less than on my last visit.  I was welcomed by a single Collared Dove on the wires where on the last occasion I had seen a pair of Turtle Doves.  Down below me a Common Sandpiper foraged on the muddy edge of the water and so revealed the first Little Egret along with a handful of well-grown juvenile Mallards.  Even a lone Moorhen ventured out from the undergrowth.  Also in the trees were four bright green Monk Parakeets that had just arrived and at the tops of the same some of the resident Rock Doves.  As I prepared to walk down the track a White Wagtail walked across the green "slime" disturbing another Common Sandpiper and the first Little Ringed Plover of the morning.

Common Sandpiper  Andarrios Chico Actitus hypoleucos

Only limited opportunities to actually see the river as I walked down but there were a few more Little Ringed Plovers to be seen along with another Little Egret.  A small flock of Spotless Starlings were occupying the top of the next pylon and a couple of young Serin were feeding on the track in front of me.  Indeed, Serins were to be the birds of the morning for a soon as I reached the hide and could look out over the meadow family parties seemed to be everywhere, well outnumbering the few House Sparrows present.  Above me just the occasional visit from a Barn Swallow but then a family of Red-rumped Swallows decided that it was time to go off in search of food.  Whilst at the hide I also had a visit form both a Zitting Cisticola and a rather lovely juvenile Woodchat Shrike.

One of a quartet of Red-rumped Swallows Golondrina Daurica Hirundo daurica

Very little to be seen on the lagoon save for a single Coot and a handful of Yellow-legged Gulls accompanied by a single Black-headed Gull.  A look through a gap at the river revealed both a male Blackbird and a feeding Blue-headed Wagtail whilst, a little further on, I came across one of the pair of Black-winged Stilts that had flown upstream from opposite the hide.  Occasional glimpses of the river did also produce more Little Ringed Plovers and Common Sandpipers along with a single Green Sandpiper.  A little further on and a pair of Spotted Flycatchers crossed the track in front of me to land on a bamboo fern revealing a youngster begging Mum for some food.   And that was just about it with a total of 26 species including the two seen on the way down to the Rio Velez.  Now it would seem I am on my way back to a wet Britain!

Spotted Flycatcher Papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata with begging fledged youngster

Now where's Mum gone?
But, upon returning home and falling into the pool to cool off, I was soon be serenaded by the daily visit from the Bee-eaters with their weird screeching call and, this afternoon, it was the big yellow birds that became the main source of entertainment with at least six fly-pasts (and still counting) for a couple of the fire planes.  Lovely to both watch these planes picking up water form the lake and flying low within, probably, a few hundred metres but it, sadly, does mean that, somewhere, somebody is fighting a major fire to prevent loss of life and damage.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Egret, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue-headed wagtail, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin.

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

Friday 8 August 2014

Charca de Suarez

Thursday 7 August

Off to Velez de Benauldalla this evening and who could go so close to Salobrena without making a t least a short stop at the Charca de Suarez reserve?  The new motorway extension got us to the area in time to allow a maximum of one hour for birding so straight down "Turtle Dove Alley" and the a walk down to the new "open" lagoon followed by a very brief stop at the main hide.  Amazing how quickly an hour disappears so the onward journey to Velez had to be direct rather than back along the alley as above.

Turtle Dove Alley certainly lived up to its name with ten of the species seen on the concrete road along with the resident House Sparrows, a small flock of Greenfinches, the odd Goldfinch and a few Serins.  Even a Zitting Cisticola caught jenny's eye then mine as we made our way on down the road.  Entering the reserve, parking now a problem as it would appear that the bathers/beach-goers take up all the available spaces for free parking for the day, and a walk down to the new pool seeing the fist of a few Spotted Flycatchers.  Upon arrival the water looked very quiet until a closer look with bins followed by scope revealed a good selection of waders.  A couple of Little Egrets at the back right but many Common Sandpipers rushing around, bobbing away and then a couple of Green Sandpipers.  The big wader turned out to be a young Green sandpiper.  next on the list was a single Dunlin with a very black stomach and taking a closer look revealed a lone Little Stint next t it as the breeding Little Ringed Plovers wandered around.

Night Heron Martinete Comun Nycticorax nycticorax
Also on the pond were the resident Black-winged Stilts but no ducks, grebes or wagtails.  Overhead a regular, but small in number, passage of both Barn Swallows and House Martins feeding between here, the neighbouring reed tops and the other nearby pools.

Everything was a bit of a rush but finding Manu in residence at the main hide he showed me his headshot of a male Little Bittern taken earlier in the day when it had been caught by the local ringer ("Bander" if you are reading this across the "Pond").  On the water a much smaller number of Coots than we usually encounter and only a single Moorhen and a one pair of Little Grebes.  The island in front of the hide held a small number of resting Mallards along with single Little and Cattle Egrets.  Just the one Pochard to be found on the water.  Over the water it was more House Martin than Barn Swallows feeding.  A small number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Black-headed Gulls present but the final view before setting off back to the car was a pair of adult Night Herons sitting in the reeds at the back of the water to the left of the scientific hide. 

A very rushed visit but it did produce 27 + 2 species and, meeting completed and driven back to our mountain, I was welcomed home by a friendly Little Owl sitting on the nearby pylon in addition to the local Thekla Larks.  I seem to seen this owl every evening this week so, just perhaps, he has taken up residence to keep me company as I have limited opportunities to go out birding!  And I also had a Hoopoe sitting under the tree at the bottom of the drive this morning (Friday) so somebody still loves me!!!!

Birds seen:
Mallard, Pochard, Little Grebe, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Little Stint, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Zitting Cisticola, Spotted Flycatcher, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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

Friday 1 August 2014

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Saturday 1 August

Just like the proverbial number 9 bus; go over two weeks without any birding and then get two river trips in in less than forty-eight hours!  After Thursday's morning visit to the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar this morning I was out of the house by 6am to take Jenny to catch her coach for a day trip to Gibraltar (not sure whether or not this will actually also included a further day queueing up to get in and out!) and then carried on to Malaga as morning light gradually appeared over the horizon and was entering the reserve by 7.15.

What a disappointment in many ways.  Unlike here where it was warm and calm, the coast was very windy and with a cold edge.  Just as well I had my sleeveless on as I fought the wind over the bridge to the eastern arm and the Laguna Casillas where I saw - nothing, zilch, nada, b--- all!  Eventually, a couple of Mallards put in an appearance along with a single Black-winged Stilt and Little Grebe.  Just as well I had been greeted by early morning feeding House Martins and a lone Kestrel looking for his desayuna.

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius
The Wader Pool was looking very uninviting with only a small amount of water for those present which included a handful of Little Egrets, a couple of Moorhen, a pair of Little Grebes, at least three Common Sandpipers and a single Dunlin feeding next the flock of twenty resting Little Ringed Plovers.  To my let a marauding band of Spotless Starlings and then a female Sardinian Warbler as I walked down to take a look at the old river, Rio Viejo.  Again, the river itself was very short of water but I did find a number of Kentish Plovers and a few more of the Little Ringed flavour.  To my left a lone Cattle Egret was trying its best to find something to eat beneath the legs of the handful of horses that had been put out to graze.  The first of a few Collared Doves passed over and on towards the main pool.

Up sticks, camera on back and scope over I my shoulder I made my way to the Escondida pool, passing a roving band of ten Monk Parakeets on the way, where there was plenty of water.  This is obviously where the Coots have decided to take up temporary residence with at least twenty present along with a Common Pochard and a couple of male White-headed Ducks.  But nothing else save the occasional Moorhen paddling across the water.

Mediterranean Gull Gaviota Cabecinegra Larus melanocephalus
I finally arrived at the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande and, again, water levels were down.  Lots of gull resting here but always, it seemed, on the move.  Much scoping eventually concluded that the numbers of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls were about evenly split along with a few Yellow-legged Gulls.  Still just the one Flamingo, presumably one of last winter's juveniles but now very much approaching full adult plumage.  To my left a Common Sandpiper worked the banks whilst a Little Ringed Plover did the same immediately in front of me.  Not as many Black-winged Stilts as seen on the Wader Pool but yet more evidence o successful breeding with a couple of well-grown youngsters feeding near by.  Is autumn approaching early or was I just lucky to see over a dozen Grey Herons including some very young looking birds?

Common Sandpiper Andarrios Chico Actitus hypoleucos working the edges
Whereas the early hirundines had been House Martins, it was Barn Swallows that fed over the pools albeit in very small numbers.  I even had up to a dozen resting in a small tree to my left who were later joined by a couple of foraging female House Sparrows.  The Spotless Starlings were also in this area and finding something in the trees to draw their attention.

So, come 10 o'clock and the wind still blowing hard but the sun now beginning to really heat up the day, I called it quits and returned home to get on with some other much needed tasks, eventually including preparing this report for publishing.  Back on our mountain it was, once again, relatively calm and the temperature soaring to the high thirties so the much needed swim was called for plus a quick watch of the on-going Commonwealth Games.  Well, that's my excuse for not getting this report published before 6pm!!!

Birds seen:
Mallard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, House Sparrow.


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