Tuesday 30 September 2014

Great White Egrets and Night Heron

Tuesday 30 September

Juvenile Night Heron Martinete Comun Nycticorax nyticorax
I took Jenny down to her Spanish class in Puente don Manuel which would then give me a couple of ours at the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar.  However, upon arriving we discovered that there were no classes today so a couple of stops in Velez Malaga and Torre del Mar left me with about an hour at the Rio Velez before it was time to head back home.  Jenny dropped me off in the usual place below the main road and then drove the car on down to the new hide to continue with her homework whilst I walked down with bins and camera.

The recent rain had helped freshen up the area albeit adding very little water to the river.  I was greeted by a good-sized flock of Spotless Starlings and a couple of demented Monk Parakeets screeched over and away towards the town.  Approaching the river bank, a juvenile Night Heron lifted from the wet area and perched in a neighbouring tree opposite.  Almost immediately a single Grey Heron departed downstream to be quickly followed by a lone Little Egret.

No sooner had I started to walk towards the hide than I noticed the ten Cattle Egrets following the tractor busily harrowing the field on my left.  A Kestrel rested on top of the next pylon whilst, looking down at the river, a White Wagtail also took off downstream but the lone Blue-headed Wagtail remained on site.  No sooner had I noticed the first than a lone Green Sandpiper whisked away upstream.

Arriving at the hide I was able to set up the scope to see what else might be lurking about in the deep vegetation.  Ere long I had found my first Moorhen but the three Coots were more difficult to spot.  At least another five Grey Herons spent tome in the river opposite along with a single Cattle Egret and a second Little Egret.  Very few hirundines about but I did manage to record a handful of Barn Swallows and a pair of House Martins.  Until almost time to depart, the small birds in front of the hide were exclusively Goldfinches but later joined by a single Willow Warbler and very small number of both House Sparrows and Serins.

Yellow Wagtail (Blue-headed) Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae

With ploughing taking place on the normal gull roost in the field on the opposite side, the birds had taken over the beach and even passing nudists seemed not to distract them from their rest.  Mainly Black-headed and Mediterranean with a few Yellow-legged Gulls thrown in for good measure.  Where were the usual Mallards? I could here the occasional bird but see nothing and then, almost by accident, I found a small flock of eight birds well-concealed in the long grass.
Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea
Time to set off home and as we approached the original parking place a clear gap just before the tall trees revealed a pair of Great White Egrets which had obviously arrived within the least hour.  What lovely birds these are.  As they moved away downstream  it was a case of quickly retrieving the camera in the hope that they had only moved a sort distance.  just a glimpse of white as they carried on downstream and with a thick curtain of bamboo between me and the river I left them to happily continue on their way.  Finally, crossing under the upper bridge to avoid navigating the now very rutted and muddy track back to the road, we first had a male Blackbird fly across our path and then came across a pair of Spotted Flycatchers along with a few more House Sparrows and a very "tame" juvenile White wagtail that I thought for one minute was, had the door been open, actually going to walk into the car!

Just the 25 species seen but the Night Heron and White Egrets were rather special.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Monk Parakeet, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information. 

Thursday 25 September 2014

Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

Thursday 25 September

John and Jenny Wainwight were able to visit  the Dulce and Fuente de Piedra yesterday and seem to have found more birds than I did on my visit nearly a fortnight ago.  it would appear that the birds of choice at the moment might Pied Flycatcher and Whinchat so keep your yes open.  I am especially envious of the sighting of not one but two Sparrowhawks!

Piedra & Dulce Lagunas:  24 September
A warmish day but quite overcast later in the afternoon.   As we approached the laguna at Piedra, the lake dazzled us in the sunlight, just a couple of small puddles with a group of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on one and next to nothing on the other, just fourteen Greater Flamingos to be seen.  We could see the water in the lagunetta, so we headed for that.

Adult and juvenile Flamingo Flamenco Comun  Phoenicopterus Roseus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
The small bushes held Goldfinches, Cetti´s and Sardinian Warblers, Corn Buntings and House Sparrows, a flock of some eighteen Jackdaws flew off the roof of the centre and a few Spotless Starlings were to be seen.  At the open hide we watched two Moorhens sizing up one another, but nothing else was there.  So moving along to the closed hide and the first thing logged was the sheer number of Sand Martins, interspersed with Barn and Red-rumped Swallows.  A movement in the bushes to our front gave us a Pied Flycatcher, then a pair of Sardinian Warblers moved her on  and they were moved on themselves by a Whinchat.

Pied Flycatcher Papamoscas Cerrojillo Ficedula hypoleuca (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
On the lagunette itself we found eleven juvenile Greater Flamingos but only one adult bird.  Also about were Common Coots, Moorhens, Mallard, Shovelers, a female Teal, a female White-headed Duck, a single Little Egret and just a few Black-winged Stilts.  A Green Sandpiper gave us a fly past and while I was watching that, Jenny spotted some Yellow Wagtails  -  with at least one of these birds being an adult "flavisima", the remainder were  (iberiae).  Little Grebe were in good numbers - as is the norm here - but no Black-necked here today, or rather we didn´t find them.  The cronking of a Raven could be heard but we never spotted it, still, as we were walking back to the car, along by the large (empty) scrape more Pied Flycatchers and Whinchats were noted along with several Willow Warblers which flitted from tree to tree (all just having been pruned) alongside the empty stream.

Whinchat Tarabilla Nortena Saxicola rubetra (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
We headed for the Cantarranas mirador, enroute we saw Hoopoe and Serin and at the mirador (only the smallest of puddles here also) a Spotted Flycatcher, Red-rumped and Barn Swallows, House and Sand Martins, Crested Larks, Stonechats, Sardinian and Cetti´s Warblers and Goldfinches.

So a short bumpy ride (when will they get this road fixed?) and joining up with the main road to Campillos and Laguna Dulce.  Here we met a couple of our English birding friends and had a very comfortable afternoon with them, despite being mobbed several times - once by a Speyside birding group then two smaller groups.

Again lots of Sand Martins, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and also a couple of Common Swifts here.  The foreshores were more or less empty bar a small group of Mallard who never moved all the time we were here.  A Common Sandpiper paid a couple of visits along with two Black-winged Stilts, a Redshank and a couple of  juvenile Yellow Wagtails(iberiae).  Scattered around the far side of the laguna were fifty plus Greater Flamingoes (juvenile and adults), also White-headed Ducks, Shovelers, Mallards, Common Coots and Moorhens, a juvenile Marsh Harrier made a few passes across the reed beds and took to landing on the far foreshore before ensconsing itself in the bushes, during its flights it disturbed the waders and ducks just enough to let us see some of the hidden birds, including Redshank, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-winged Stilt, Snipe and a couple of plovers which we couldn´t id - although Kentish and Little Ringed are quite local here, also two Great Crested Grebes put in an appearance - so nice to see these very elegant birds.

Willow Warbler Mosquitero Musical Phylloscopus trochilus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
The reed bed to our immediate front contained Zitting Cisticola, Goldfinches, Reed Warbler, Cetti´s and Sardinian Warblers, Corn Buntings, House Sparrows and to our right a Great Tit was calling.  A couple of Sparrowhawks were noted throughout the time, as was a large raptor, high up but the light was so, that only a vague silhouette was made out.  Looking around the laguna  - Jackie one of English friends - spotted two Grey Herons ( adult and juvenile) dropping in for feed, this gave the group of Common Coots a bit of a scare as they all took to the water and the Moorhens scattered into the reeds. 

A bonus was a small party of six Gadwalls (three males, three females) coming into the small bay to the left of the hide, but didn´t stay long.  The clouds were darkening and the breeze had freshened, threatening rain, so as the afternoon had been quite good, we all opted for home.  I think considering the lack of water - although I am still amazed at Laguna Dulce having so much - the birding we had was very enjoyable.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information. 

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Wednesday 24 September

had an interesting morning down at the Guadalhorce today with visiting holiday-makers dawn and John Mundy staying at nearby Alcaucin.  Off from their house by 8.30 to a very warm and sunny coat but, at least we duly recorded over fifty species before making our way back to Alcaucin via the mountain rather than coastal motorway.

Arriving at the site we were greeted by Grey Herons and overflying Cormorants, a couple of Sardiniun Warblers and a pair of Jackdaws heading off towards the city.  Even a Banded Groundling dragonfly on the track before reaching the footbridge over the western arm of the river.  The river itself was very quiet with just a couple of Coots, a male Blackbird crossing the water and the odd Rock Dove under the motorway bridge.

Straight to the eastern arm and picked up the three resident hirundines on the way.  Very good sightings of a quintet of Red-rumped Swallows followed by House Martins and, eventually, a few Barn Swallows.  A small flock of Mallards passed overhead heading into the reserve.  The Laguna Casillas held a large family of Little Grebes plus a single Little Egret along with a pair of Mallards and about half a dozen White-headed Ducks.  Two Common Pochards appeared below us and then took off to the far side of the water.  Just the one Moorhen to be seen.  And no sooner had we arrived than we all saw the newly-arrived Osprey passing overhead upstream in search, presumably, of his morning breakfast.

Juvenile Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phonicopterus roseus

The Wader Pool proved far more productive with a number of Little Egrets plus a pair of juvenile Flamingos.  A single Curlew Sandpiper and a pair of Greenshanks accompanied the three Little Ringed Plovers seen along with a pair of Black-winged Stilts.  Further study produced a small flock of Spotless Starlings in the top of the bare trees to the back which, in turn, led to the discovery of a roosting Booted Eagle.  Meanwhile, below us, a pair of Teal drifted into sight on the water which enabled me to find a further five resting under a fallen tree.  First one then a second Snipe were also found below us and to the right.  Listening to the calling Cetti's Warbler was more for pleasing than that of the screaming Monk Parakeets that passed overhead.

Moving on to look at the Rio Viejo (Old River) we soon found more Little Ringed Plovers but also both Ringed and Kentish Plovers.  Just the one Sanderling, still partly in summer plumage, and a Common Sandpiper on the far bank.  Whit a Common Kestrel hovered overhead there was a constant stream of gulls making there way back and forth from the sea.  Mainly Yellow-legged it seemed but we did later find a good number of Black-headed Gulls.  There were also very good numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the sea itself.  The return journey from the Sea Watch o the hides produced singing and sight of Crested Larks along with another Sardinian Warbler and a Whitethroat, the last, I am sure, feeding in the same bush a the individual seen last Wednesday with the Axarquia Bird Group.  Finally, three more delightful sightings in the shape of single Chiffchaff, Robin and male Serin.

Very little to add at the Laguna Escondida save more Coots, White-headed Ducks and Little Grebes so on to the main hide at the Laguna Grande.  All appeared relatively quiet at first save for the number of Yellow-legged Gulls on the island to the right of the hide but then we started to find the birds.  A single juvenile Flamingo was very busy feeding below us and a single Oystercatcher followed by last week's ringed Audouin's Gull was found amongst the gull flock. Lots of herons to be seen and always at least three Cormorants in view.  A single Spoonbill to the far left island later turned into a trio including the ringed juvenile also seen last week.  The Booted Eagle was joined by a second before both departed only for one to turn up fairly close to the hide below the Osprey feeding pole.  The last species recorded before departing was the trio of Dunlin that alighted on the far bank to our right and, of course, we must not forget the single Cattle Egret that followed the horses wherever they went.

All in all then a very enjoyable morning with a reasonable number of sighting and the very good company of John and Dawn.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Auouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Robin, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information. 

Sunday 21 September 2014

Marsh Harrier, Waxbill and Cirl Bunting

Sunday 21 September

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta
The rental car has to returned in the morning and empty of fuel.  Still a little in the tank so I offered to take Jenny down to church in Velez Malaga and then drove on to the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar for an hour or so.  Calm and cloudy with bright bright breaks in the sky and still very pleasant as I parked up for a walk down to the hide and back from the N340 road bridge.  below me the area looked o dry as we desperately await the first heavy rain since mid-may.   A Little Egret took off down stream and a few Goldfinches fiddled about in the neighbouring trees.  The resident Rock Doves were roosting in the trees opposite along with a couple of Collared Doves a little further on and then a noisy quartet of Monk Parakeets flew over as to welcome me - or was it meant to scare me away?

Walking down with even fewer gaps in the bamboo hedgerow, I had another Little Egret and a Heron take of down stream whilst a White Wagtail headed in the opposite direction.  Just the one wader as a Green Sandpiper beat a hasty retreat down stream.  Not long before my first and only Moorhen of the morning (how strange is that?) before the Spotless Starlings put in an appearance.

On this occasion I carried on straight to the beach where I found a number of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls plus a small number of Mediterranean Gulls on the lagoon.  Four Common Coots were seen but no sign of the introduced Red-knobbed Coot seen a week or so ago.  Walking back I had lovely views of both Willow Warbler and Zitting Cisticola.  Before reaching the car I had both a male Blackbird and a couple of Common Kestrels and then I drove back down to the hide and then settled in with the scope to see what else might be about.

Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis
Lots of feeding House Sparrows and Goldfinches which were then joined by a small number of Serins and Greenfinches.  Checking out the gravel at the back I was delighted to find a female Cirl Bunting and, with little to add, decided to ring my pal Andy Paterson, check how he got on with his eye op last Monday and wish him well for the second session tomorrow and Tuesday.  having jut told Andy there was nothing about, I lifted my binoculars and immediately had a Comon Waxbill in view.  camera up and just about to take the shot when a Marsh Harrier drifted through the view.  I, therefore, followed the raptor to try and get a picture hoping that it would either clear or move away fro the bamboo and reeds and, needles to say, when i returned to the original position the Waxbill had moved on.

Meanwhile, there were fewer than a dozen hirundines to be seen feeding over what remained of the river but these birds did include all three of the common species; Barn and Red-rumped Swallow along with a singe House Martin.  All too soon it was time to pack up and collect Jenny from Velez Malaga but I had see 27 species, a better ratio than my Tarifa visit!

The Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus is seen once again at the Rio Velez

Birds seen:
 Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Willow Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Serin, Greeninch, Linnet, Cirl Bunting.


Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.   

Two days in Tarifa

Friday & Saturday 19  & 20 September


With the September field meeting of the Andaluica Bird Society scheduled for Saturday to check out the autumn raptor migration at Tarifa, I drove down on the Friday and arranged to meet a member being from Belfast travelling over using public transport for an extra day's birding.  Although an hour late arriving in Algeciras as a result of low cloud and mist in the mountains between Ronda and San Roque she eventually arrived and we proceeded on to the Algarroba raptor watch point where raptors were both high and few and far between.  Mainly Booted Eagles and Honey Buzzards but we also picked up Griffon Vulture, Black Kite and Short-toed Eagle.  In the nearby trees at he car park we also managed to find Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Goldfinch.   However, one new bird for the year when a couple of Black Storks drifted over to make up for missing them  back in the spring.  Other birds seen included both Barn Swallow and Common Swift but in very small numbers.

A majestic Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
Next it was on to the central viewing point where the highlight was another first for the year.  Watching what we though were going to be a pair of Griffon Vultures coming towards us, as they neared we could make out, and had confirmed to us, that they were the same pair of Ruppell's Vultures that had been seen about an hour ago and had been in the area most of the week.  A young Stonechat posed on the distant fence.
Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea

Our final stop was at the Cazorla site at the Tarifa end of this mountain range.  Lots of birders present but, again, very few birds.  Another Honey Buzzard, more Griffon Vultures and both Short-toed and Booted Eagles.

A change of plan after booking in at our hotel for the evening when we joined by another couple of members and set off to find the Bald Ibis at the Barbate Golf Course.  Duly found in the car park where we had a "baker's dozen" sat on the roof of the building including, eventually, one that posed on the other end of the weather vane.  On leaving the course, others had come down on the fairway and greens at the back.  Meanwhile, we also watched another Short-toed Eagle and a low-flying Booted Eagle along with Pallid Swifts, Sand Martins, Barn Swallows and House Martins.  There were also lots of Jackdaws to be seen and we were to see more later.

The Bald Ibis Ibis Erenita Geronticus eremita tribe and their antics:

This is me strutting my stuff
Some of the gang
"Got my hair cut this morning"
Fred playing around with Metal micky
"Where'd it go?"
Enough of this, time to peck around the fairways
Leaving the Bald Ibis behind we set off for La Janda and, for the first time, travelled in the opposite way to my usual course.  Hundreds of White Storks to be seen and, eventually, we found about ten Glossy Ibis resting alongside one of the flocks.  Our first Marsh Harrier drifted across and seemed to be quartering the whole area as she was with us for the next thirty minutes.  These early fields also produced numerous Little Egrets but we had to wait until almost the end of the circuit before finding our one and only Grey Heron.  Perhaps it had something to do with the lateness of the afternoon.

A lovely golden Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus
What we did have, however, were hundred and hundreds of Cattle Egrets.  At one point, where a tractor was turning over a large field, there must have been somewhere in the region of a thousand individuals with the field looking like a giant white carpet.  A drive towards the smelly farm then produced another start bird with one resting Black-shouldered Kite and a second in the sky above.  In addition, this area also produced scores of Wood Pigeons.  A air of Turtle Doves midway along the canal track was a very pleasant and welcome sighting.  Near the bend and small bridge we found, amongst the House Sparrows and Goldfinches, a single Zitting Cisticola.  Driving backup to the road there were more Stonechats and Goldfinches but also Greenfinch and a single male Chaffinch.  Back to the hotel and a swim in the salt-water pool when I looked up recognising the calling bird.  A single Bee-eater overhead and later part of a small flock of ten.  Now that brought the other members of the group staying in the hotel out into the garden are to take a closer look (at the birds!).

Turtle Dove  Tortola Europea  Streptopelia turtur
A small selection of the White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia of La Janda


After breakfast straight off for a morning tour of La Janda with friends Steve and Elena Powell.  What, in many ways, a disappointment this turned out to be in terms of both quantity and quality of what might have been expected.  House Sparrows at the hotel and then straight into more plus Stonechats, Crested Larks and Goldfinches as we drove down towards the canal.  It was, though, the number of Chaffinches that really caught our attention.  What were they doing here in the wrong sort of habitat unless part of a migrating group?  Before reaching the water we also added Serin and the first of many Little Egrets.

Stonechat  Tarabilla Comun  Saxicola torquatus

Not so many White Storks as yesterday abut a few more Glossy Ibis and many Grey herons.  Similarly, a regular, isolated appearance of Barn Swallows.  There were Goldfinches and House Sparrows everywhere albeit we did eventually find a good-sized flock of Spanish SparrowsZitting Cisticolas seemed to be in abundance and we also managed to record a Cetti's Warbler.  Again, no shortage of Cattle Egrets and, as before, a number of Jackdaws making use of the pylons plus a pair of Raven to give a little variety.  A lone Hoopoe was an added bonus.

Hoopoe  Abubilla  Upupa epops

The first  of a number of  Marsh Harrier was recorded followed by Common Kestrel and then a few Lesser Kestrels.  The only Montagu's Harrier was a resting female but she remained long enough to get some photographs.  Much searching of the irrigation structures also, finally, produced a Black-shouldered Kite.  Only a very small number of Wood Pigeons seen but we did have another pair of Turtle Doves to follow on from yesterday.  A couple of additions on this main track alongside the canal gave a Green Sandpiper and Hoopoe along with a very "fawny looking" juvenile Moorhen.

Female Montagu's Harrier Aguilucho Cenizo Circus pygargus at rest

The large puddle that produced many Goldfinches beyond the main bridge towards the smelly farm where the track leaves the afternoon was still producing the goods with Goldfinches, House Sparrows and Linnets.  Also in the same area we added both Greenfinch and Serin.  The area just beyond here where we recorded the Black-shouldered Kite also saw the start of the Pheasant area where many were recorded and then a couple of Red-legged Partridge.   very little beyond the farm but we did see a Little Owl resting on a lower wire of the roadside fence and a Cirl Bunting on the way back.  There also seemed to be far more Greenfinches today.

Distant record shot of Black-shouldered Kite Elanio Comun Elanus caeruleus

Back to the hotel to collect my car and then on to the Los Lances beach to see some water birds.  Another Little Egret plus a number of Ringed Plover and a few Black-tailed Godwits along with many Sanderling.  A number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls present along with a few Black-headed Gulls but the better sight was the fifteen or so Sandwich Terns.  From here I called in at the two main raptor points but only seemed to add both House Martin and Barn Swallow so mad an early start for home and good sleep.

In summary, a very pleasant couple of days in good company but somewhat disappointing in birding terms with barely 60 species recorded.  Perhaps the Donana will make up for it if I am able to get down for a couple of days in late October whilst Jenny is away in Morocco with her Spanish class.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Bald Ibis, Black Stork, White Stork, Griffon Vuture, Ruppell's Vulture, Honey Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull,  Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin,  Black Redstart, Stonechat, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.   

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce

Wednesday 17 September

Out of the house and accompanied by Thekla larks and Goldfinches as I made my way down the mountain to collect Ton and Rian van Dijck, visiting birders from Holland staying in nearby Alcaucin, and on to the Guadlahorce in Malga for the first field visit of the new birding year for the Axarquia Bird Group.  Reasonable weather on the way down but Malaga was calm and somewhat cloudy with some heavy black accumulations in the distance.  All held well until about midday when we thought we heard a few spots of the wet stuff and had no sooner commenced our walk from the Wader Pool to the Sea watch when the heavens opened for the first of two heavy drizzles, to bring a fresh smell to the nose whilst, at the same time, rinsing our clothing and equipment!  But I digress.  There was a splendid turn out of members finally totalling 22 and including Arthur Oliver and Gordon Barratt from far away Almeria, the Salobrena group comprising Gerry Collins, Louise Gray and Audrey Bates, Lesley Laver from Nerja, Steve and Elena Powell for Frigiliana, Bryan Stapley and Marcus Rootes from the hills of Competa, relatively local to the venue Ian Kirk from Arroya del Miel, John and Jenny Wainwright from Salar, Howard Slade and Jurgen Breuer from Almarche across the valley from me above Lake Vinuela and a very pleasant surprise to s Ian Templeton back from Britain for a short stay in Frigiliana and, of course, not forgetting the most welcome return of David and Ann Jefferson.  A great morning's birding which resulted in a final tally of  60 species.

At least ten juvenile, but no adult, Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus present at the Guadalhorce
We were greeting with hordes of screaming and demented Monk Parakeets along with a Heron that seemed to have been frozen stiff in its tree rest.  Many saw the small number of Black-headed Weavers that have been around for the past week or so and, naturally, there was still a number of House Martins feeding in the air above us.  From our elevated vantage point we could see the first of the Cormorants resting above the Laguna Grande and there appeared to be a constant, if small in number, stream of Herons moving onto the site.

Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinrea
From here it was over the footbridge with views of Spotless Starlings, Rock Doves, Coots and Moorhens on the river and bridge below before we finally made the first hide overlooking the Laguna Casillas.  Apart from the occasional Coot and family of Little Grebes we also had a family of White-headed Ducks and a single Common Pochard, albeit by the time we returned the Pochard numbers had somewhat increased.  A Collared Dove flew over and a Sardinian Warbler put in an appearance behind us.  then came the first of many Kingfisher sighting as a flash of blue shot down the water and then cam e to rest not far below us.  The best sight, however, was when Elena found the Little Bittern that gave good views before flying off to the Wader Pool giving even better views to those still present.  Leaving, we were much delayed as we enjoyed watching a family of Red-rumped Swallows immediately below and around us.

Lovely to watch the Red-rumped Swallow Golondrina Daurica Hirundo daurica chicks being fed by parents

Arriving at the Wader Pool we had already seen our first juvenile Flamingo and we were to find another.  Indeed, I believe our total for the morning, all juveniles, was ten individuals.  In front of us we had a quintet of Curlew Sandpipers and a single Greenshank.  Also resent were a few Little Ringed Plovers, most of which seemed to be this year's juveniles.  Not too many Black-winged Stilts and just the two Little Egrets.  Similarly, a pair of Snipe were picked out on the far bank with the help of John's scope.  meanwhile, below us, we had a foraging Reed Warbler and both Barn Swallows and House Martins above.  More Kingfisher sightings.  Checking the large trees in the background we picked out not one but two Booted Eagles.  Whilst I was watching a Greenfinch fly past the hide others were recording both Serins and Goldfinches.  Whilst others moved on towards the sea, those remaining saw the lone Teal drift into view on the water below and the arrival of the first Common Sandpiper of the morning.

One of two Booted Eagles Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
A rather lengthy stop at the Rio Viejo (Old River) as we tried to identify the stationary eight Sanderlings and the three Turnstones descended onto a small island and immediately brought our attention to the Kentish Plover standing next to them.  A Green Sandpiper departed eastwards with a great flash of white to be replaced by a Sand Martin travelling in the opposite direction.  Similarly, a couple of Crested Larks were active to our left and then, for me, the bird of the day.  Having just watched a single Mediterranean Gull over the eastern channel and a single Little/Whiskered (?) Tern above it and then dropping to fish in the water, Ian Templeton had a small, nondescript bird in the bush below.  Very difficult to find as all we could see were the occasional movements of the branches as the bird moved around in the interior gorging itself on the mass of red berries.  Ian thought Garden Warbler and then, at last, a clear view as the bird paused in an opening.  The first Garden Warbler in about four years for me and John remarked that it was his first in Spain.  And whilst we were watching our Garden Warbler, Marcus and a couple of others were doing the same with a Whitetroat. Now here is a bird that seems to be in plentiful supply at the moment.  Finally, our attention was drawn to the first Redshank of the morning.

Having reached the furthest point from cover at the Sea Watch to check out the water and confirm mainly Lesser Black-back Gulls and a few Black-headed Gulls, the heavy shower of very thin drizzle caught us on our return o the Wader Pool hide.  It certainly brought the hirundines down and so revealed a couple of Common Swifts.  The Garden Warbler was till active in the same bush but we also had a Sardinian Warbler make a hurried exit and away.  Whilst a few of us continued the return journey to visit both hides, others took the beach to complete the circuit and managed to come across a Woodchat Shrike.  More Flamingos at the Wader Pool along with a lone Ringed Plover plus another Redshank and Little Egret.  Even a pair of Mallards.

Ringed (AZYY) Audouin's Gull Gaviota de Audouin Larus audounii
Nothing to add at the Casillas hide other than the increase in Pochard numbers so it was on to the Laguna Escondida.  mainly Moorhens and more White-headed Ducks here along with Little Grebes and Coots.  However, there was a pair of Gadwall at the far end.

Plenty of White-headed Ducks Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala to be seen
And so we finally came to the Laguna Grande where we, too, saw the lone Avocet as it delicately fed below us with a ringed Audouin's Gull (AZYY) watching on.  A large number of resting Yellow-legged Gulls with an immature Audouin's Gull  but also a quartet of Oystercatchers.  John eventually counted 37 Grey Herons on this laguna along with half a dozen Cormorants.  Before leaving at the end of the session we were also able to add a single Dunlin with a very strange, crooked beak and also had the delight to welcome a trio of Spoonbills, one carrying an assortment of coloured rings on both legs.  At the back of the water two Shovelers hove into view and the previous group also managed to find a Spanish Sparrow.

It looks like mother Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia looks after junior whilst dad takes a well-earned rest!
Returning to our cars we finally manged to find a Blackbird and having had one had soon recorded another four.   Then, as we were approached by four horsed and young foal, a a Cattle Egret flew in to take up its position on the rear end of one of the mature horses.  The last bird was a calling Cetti's Warbler from the reed below as we walked away from the footbridge.  One short of sixty for the day as we ate our Menu del Dia in San Julian when we looked up to find a Common Kestrel in the sky above.  A perfect ending to a most enjoyable visit in very good company.  On the other hand, the moment this is published somebody will tell me of the bird(s) I missed!

Avocet Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta
No sooner had I saved and closed the above, gone downstairs from the studio and then re-checked my email than I received a report from John and Jenny Wainwright outlining their observations of the day.  John and Jenny were first to arrive at the Guadalhorce and remained behind a little longer after the rest of us had either departed for home or to San Julian to take advantage of a Menu del Dia.   His email confirmed my suspicion that somebody was bound to have seen something else!

Interesting to find a quartet of Oystercatchers Ostrero Euroasiatico Haematopus ostralegus

After we left a further two Spoonbills made their presence known on the Laguna Grande taking the total to five with just the one ringed individual but, as shown below, also picked up a few other species.  Extracts from John's report includes the following:

As we progressed along the track Jenny spotted a Turtle Dove and I a Sardinian Warbler. Cetti´s Warblers were in good voice here today, although I only saw one. A Grey Heron sat on a bare tree on the opposite bank along with two Collared Doves. 

Cattle (Horse?) Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
In the distance a Booted Eagle sat in one of the tall bare trees, just below two Jackdaws and to their right a Cormorant flew in. Also about in the area of the reed beds to our front we saw Chiffchaff, House Sparrows, more Sardinian Warblers and Goldfinches.
And then there were five Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Into the reserve and towards the first hide we spotted a Zitting Cisticola, Blackbird, Crested Lark and a call from Steve gave me my first Banded Groundling (Brachythemis leucosticta) dragonfly though sadly no photo.  (But both Gerry and I managed to get a shot.)

Banded Groundling Brachythemis leucosticte (PHOTO: Gerry Collins)

So, it would seem, a new final total of 64 species.

Juvenile Dunlin Correlimos Comun Calidris alpina

Birds seen (updated):
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Back-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Little or Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler,Sardinian Warbler, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Black-headed Weaver.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.   

Monday 15 September 2014

Laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra

Sunday 14 September

Just a small part of the hirundine roost; Barn Swallows Hirundo rustico and Sand Martins Riparia riparia
Up early and just about to leave for a planned morning's visit to Osuna in search of Great Bustards and raptors when I got the cancellation phone call as a result of my guest's friend having broken his foot last night.  All set to go; so went.  But, rather than all the way over to Osuna I thought that I would check out the lagunas at Campillos and Fuente de Piedra.  Thekla Lark and Stonechats as I drove down the mountain and just past Colmenar got the warning alarm that Satnavs pick up when they sense a speed camera.  Great, I thought until I remembered that I did not have  Satnav in the rental Seat Ibiza from the Hertz subsidiary, Firefly!   Looked down and saw that I had a flashing red light.  What to do?  carry on or go straight to the airport, hang around for hours haggling about changing a car or carry on, reach my destination and have the engine blow up?  Gave it really serious consideration for all of three seconds and then said, "S** it!" and carried on to the Laguna Dulce with a flashing light all the way.  Well, if you have to hang around for the "Grua man" you might as well be somewhere that you enjoy.  In the event, when I cam to leave to drive on round to Fuente de Piedra no more noise or flashing red light.  That being so, I shall the use the car to the Guadalhorce on Wednesday and to Tarifa for the week-end!

Turning off the motorway towards Campillos I had a resting Kestrel on a pylon and just after crossing the railway a Raven drifted over the road.  Arriving at the Laguna Dulce it was obvious that there were numerous hirundines about including a couple or so Common Swifts.  Most seemed to be roosting in the nearby trees just inside the water tot he left of the hide.  Mainly Barn Swallows but also very good numbers of Sand Martins along with the occasional House Martin.  Even a couple of Red-rumped Swallows put in an appearance.

Recently arrived Curlew Sandpipers Correlimos Zarapitin Calidris ferruginea
Whilst the hirundines swarmed around the water was favoured by very many ducks with Shoveler and White-headed Ducks being the dominant species.  probably in excess of 150 individuals of both and supported by a much smaller number of Mallards.  Plenty of Little and Black-necked Grebes to be seen but only two Great Crested Grebes recorded.  The far edges contained many Black-winged Stilts and, to the far left, about forty Flamingos with slightly more of them being mature adults.

Juvenile Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus

Then the fun and games to try and find the waders.  The water level had dropped slightly to give some very inviting wet mud to the left front of the hide and here I found three Little Ringed Plovers busy feeding.  Coots seemed to be thinly spread all over the lagoon but I had to scope the very far right-hand bay to find something "special" with both a distant Snipe and Redshank feeding just in the water below the trees.  Back to the "scrape" to my left and suddenly the Little Ringed Plovers had been joined by a dozen visitors; all Curlew Sandpipers save for a single Ruff.  Even better, same bird or not I do not know, but a Snipe appeared on the water´s edge immediately in front of me and took no notice of the juvenile Flamingo that fed alongside or the Common Sandpiper that also dropped in.

Common Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago
It was to the beach on the far left that I had to scope to find the dozen Grey Herons whilst amidst the Black-winged Stilts in the small bay to the far right I also find a couple of Avocets.  And it was form this, the usual, corner that the first of two Marsh Hariers presented herself; one bird with a heavy-moulting tail and an immature individual a little while later.  Similarly, the flock of thirty plus Spotless Starlings also seemed to favour this corner of the site whilst beyond them taking much interest in he tractor harrowing the far field, a group of six Cattle Egrets waited, ever watchful, for the next morsel to be turned over.

The quartering Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus at laguna Dulce
Small birds seemed far and few between.  A handful of Corn Buntings came down to feed and drink near the Little Ringed Plovers and a Zitting Cisticola presented itself on a reed top in front of me.  A very few foraging House Sparrows but nothing else.  Thinking that there might be Serins or Golfinches in the olive trees behind the car I first checked out the picnic area and was in time time to see a movement and rest in a nearby tree; my first Pied Flycatcher for a few months, they are obviously on their return migration.  But the bird had disappeared when I reappeared with the camera and nothing else was to be found.  Time, therefore, to pack up the gear and move on rather than seek out all the calling Collared Doves.

The drive round to the laguna at Fuente de Piedra revealed a Stonechat near the farm junction followed by a small flock of Serins approaching the Mirador de Cantarannas.  However, before reaching this point I had already seen the "water" from the far end and was amazed at the silver light shining up from below me.  The pool was completely dry and without a bird as the salina glazed in the sunshine.  Quite a paradox really; still plenty of water at the Dulce which should have been bone dry by now and yet no water where there is always something at the larger Fuente laguna.  Moving on I stopped to watch and record a Northern Wheatear that was moving along the roadside bushes.  No easy way to get a shot of a bird on the right but, fortunately, no traffic so was able to turn the car almost into the ditch to obtain a shot through the driver's window, first a record shot and then another with the engine disengaged.

Norther Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe
Approaching the main car park there were a good number of Barn Swallows in the air and a look at the lagoon form the Visitors' centre mirador confirmed the empty state of the pool.  But to the far right near the inlet a small, thin pool of about an hundred metres by three and, judging by the 380 Flamingos and a similar number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls resting on the edge, probably no more then five centimetres deep.  So, on to the main hide overlooking the Lagunetta where there was plenty of green, soopy water.  There must be blocked drainage channels here to retain the water and at least make some provision for the avian stock.

A small number of Mallards and Shovelers but also some Teal by way of variety.  Plenty of Black-winged Stilts and a few Little Grebes alongside another forty Flamingos.  A Green sandpiper patrolled the far bank with a Common Sandpiper not far away.  A better sight was the pair of a Lapwings on the far bank to my left and, on the water, a small number of Black-headed Gulls with a single Mediterranean Gull for company.  A few Barn Swallows feeding overhead but the hirundines here were mainly House Martins.

Time to go home for this Shoveler Cuchara Comun Anas clypeata
A walk down to the bottom hide revealed that there was only a small pool of water but lots of green vegetation.  Just as I was about to leave movement below directed me towards the small bushes that were full of berries and caused me to remain and watch the proceedings.  First a male Sardinian Warbler and then at least three or four Whitethroats gorging themselves as if there was no tomorrow.  Necessary really when you think that this bird will probably double its weight before setting off on its migration to south of the Sahara.  Go on fellows, ask your wife of a rather lovely and shapely eight stone or so if she is going to fill up to sixteen stones before the fortnight on the beach/pool somewhere in Spain!  But watch out for the sharp back-hander that will be quickly coming your way!

Common Whitethroat Curruca Zarcera Sylvia communis
Joining the party, a single Great Reed Warbler appeared next followed by a young/female Subalpine Warbler.  What a way to end the morning and a final total of 49 species, more than I expected and, especially, when you realise the birds that were not seen.  Home to discover that the temperature was now really soaring and reached 36C in the shade by mid-afternoon.  It was a case of fall into the pool and just sit there for an hour trying to cool down, hence the lateness in getting this blog completed.  That's my excuse anyway.

Juvenile Little Ronged Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius

More fun come this Wednesday when we restart our Axarquia Bird Group season with a visit to the Guadalhorce in Malaga.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Curlew Sandpiper, Snipe, Ruff, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Thekla Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Zitting Cisticoal, Great Reed Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Whitethroat, Pied Flycatcher, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.