Monday 30 March 2015

Never on a Sunday, a Sunday - but sometimes!

Monday 30 March

I tell visiting and local birders and I am sure so does everyone else, avoid birding in school holidays and especially at week-ens if at all possible.  Sunday is notoriously bad in sunny weather when every Spaniard and his dog(s), nevermind the extended family, is present at every accessible picnic spot.  Yes, I have been known on the odd occasion to slip down early to the Rio Velez before the workers, dog walkers and nudists arrive but friends Derek and Barbara Etherton have gone one better as can be seen from the report I received late last night.  Out all day at well-known picnic/walking spots and yet they still manged to see some great birds, many firsts for the year, and ended with a tally in excess of seventy species. 

Sunday 29 March

Broke a golden rule today and went birding!  Well we don't usually go on SFPD [Spanish Family Picnic Day], but made an exception today.  A quick visit to Zapata showed most of the heavy rain water had flowed through leaving a perfect terrain for the numerous Little Ringed Plovers and countless Yellow and Red-rumped Swallows.  House Martins were busy too but guess the Sand Martins had gone through.  Still a couple of Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails around.  Plenty of Linnets, Goldfinch, Cetti's Warbler were around the water.  Grey Heron, Cattle and Little Egret around.  Green Sandpiper were feeding well.  
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandrsa (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
On to Rio Grande and the picnickers were out in force - somehow I just love the closeness of Spanish families.  Black-winged Stilt, more Little Ringed Plovers, Greenshank and a Marsh Sandpiper [two weeks running!].  Common Kestrel was about and picked up a distant large raptor. As it came closer I could ID it as a Golden Eagle when suddenly it was 'ambushed' by two [a pair?] of Booted Eagles and the 'fighters' saw off the 'bomber'!  More Yellow Wagtails; are there more than ever this year?  

On to Teba rock; Griffon Vultures, Chough, Crag Martin and round at Teba Tajo [gorge] about 20 Alpine Swifts.  Plenty of small stuff, Corn Buntings by the dozen but a lack of shrikes.  Then off to Laguna Dulce.  Very sad to see one of the Mongoose we sometimes view here squashed on the road, shame it didn't know the Green Cross Code!  The lake held the usual suspect quite a few Flamingo [greater], Gadwall, so many Red-crested Pochard, Little Grebe, a female Marsh Harrier resting, seemingly hundreds of Coots, Moorhen, Shoveller and Common Kestrel and, as we left, a lone Collared Pratincole flew over.  
Snipe Gallinago gallinago (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Leaving here we turned up the Sierra de Yegas road [road??] to look for early Woodchat Shrikes, but a shock awaited us.  Wow!  after 5 years of enormous potholes and tank traps,  a form of repair to the road.  Repair is perhaps too much to say, but the worst holes have been filled with loose 'scalpings' and it certainly makes it easier to drive, at least until it rains again!  Entering Fuente de Piedra visitor centre by the back road a fine pair of Mediterranean Gulls were on the water treatment plant. The lake on the left entering the visitors centre still had a couple of Black-tailed Godwits, three Ruff, a couple of Redshank and a super Wood Sandpiper in with a 4/5 Yellow [blue headed] Wagtails. Other notables were Black Terns,  Lapwings and a lot more water after a week's rain!  
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola (centre) with Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae (right) (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Driving on to complete a circular tour,  7 Lesser Kestrel were seen at the ruins near Canterras mirador.  From the viewpoint itself a surprise were 2 White Storks along with 4 Purple Swamphens, a fine pair of Marsh Harriers amongst the 'usual'.  Time was against us now so didn't enter Las Latas but spied a Raven sitting sitting on the Lesser Kestrels nesting site.  On the road back home near Campillos a 'clod of earth' materialised into a Buzzard.

No full list to bore you with but a total of 76 species today.  Not too bad for an 'ad hoc' day.

Derek & Barbara Etherton

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

Thursday 26 March 2015

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Thursday 26 March

A mixture of cloud and blue skies as I set on a windy trip down to the Guadalhorce "ponds" this morning and, upon arrival, could feel the strength of the wind albeit less than yesterday. leaving the car at the primary school i soon encountered both Blackbird and House Sparrows as I made my way to the track leading up the river bank.  All here was remarkably quiet with not a bird to be seen until I crossed the footbridge when I found a single Rock Dove under the motorway bridge.  No point in stopping so carried on to the eastern arm and the hide overlooking Laguna Casillas.  As I approached the eastern arm I watched an Osprey work its way upstream against the prevailing wind and a couple of Sardinian Warblers presented themselves to my left followed by a wind-swept Zitting Cisticola to my right.

The lake itself, at first, seemed to hold just a couple of Mallards but within minutes others revealed themselves including a pair of Gadwall, at least eight White-headed Ducks,  a similar number of Common Pochard and a couple of Little Grebes.  At this point I was joined by Jerry Laycock who provided great company for the rest of the morning.  The Coots put in an appearance and a handful of Moorhens busied themselves about the water as a good number of Barn Swallows fed overhead. Eventually they were joined by just the single Red-rumped Swallow and a handful of House Martins.  A White Wagtail flew by beneath the hide and then a small warbler started feeding in the bush below.  The bird remained long enough to be identified as a Bonelli's Warbler, the first new bird of the day for this year's list.

Lots of White-headed Ducks Malvasia cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala on show
Walking towards the Wader Pool we had a good view of a female Common Kestrel resting in a nearby tree to the left and found the first Little Egret of the day as we approached the new water. Just the one Redshank on the water but a quartet of Avocet brought some colour (black and white?) along with a pair of Black-winged Stilts, more monochrome!  Spotless Starlings and a few Goldfinches were moving around in small numbers and a large flock of House Sparrows were feeding at the back of the pond beyond the Little Grebes.  Whilst the Barn Swallows fed we were entertained by a single Common Sandpiper as Grey Herons appeared beyond the far trees on their way the Laguna Grande.  A male Marsh Harrier passed over the back of the water and a few moments later we had a single raven at relatively close quarters.  See one corvid and another appears with a pair of Jackdaws in the trees to to our left.  Only the occasional Cormorant was seen so we left to speculate on how many, if any, we would find when we eventually reached the main pool.

Common Sandpiper Andarrios Chico Actitis hypoleucos
Time to move on and see if anything was about on the old river, Rio Viejo, the waste land or the beach,  A first Willow Warbler of the year was found and then a score of Back-winged Stilts on the far bank of the river.  Another single Redshank plus over-flying Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  The sea seemed deserted albeit a large flock of Yellow-legged Gulls was following the single fishing boat and, on the shore, a couple of Kentish Plovers.  Meanwhile, we had been joined by a male Kestrel which seemed happy to rest on a fence post.

Kentish Plover Chorlitejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus
Returning by the same route we picked up Greenfinch and the first Collared Doves along with one adult and three juvenile Flamingos on the river.  From the Wader Pool we also added a Crested Lark, a second was to foll an hour later, sitting on the dead tree in the far island.  The it was on to Laguna Escondida and no sooner had we turned left off the main track than we were confronted by a most handsome male Common Redstart.  The bird stayed long enough to be watched and a quick photograph was taken as the bird disappeared in to the lower branches of a large bush on the left. The next hide presented nothing new other than a howling wind direct into our faces along with a handful of White-headed Ducks at the back and a couple of Little Grebes.

Record shot of the male
 Common Redstart Colirrojo Real Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Approaching the Laguna Grande a single Booted Eagle gradually floated slowly away and, upon arriving, we could see that the Cormorants had not departed for distant shores as we counted over sixty along with a few Grey Herons.  At least one pair of White-headed Ducks was on the water and a friendly Common Sandpiper was active below the hide along with a pair of Black-winged Stilts.  Well over an hour was spent at this hide and over time we were rewarded with a number of sightings.  Amongst the feeding Barn Swallows one, lonely Crag Martin put in an appearance and then a pair of Yellow Wagtails of the "blue-headed" Iberian subspecies. A pair of Greenshank were taking a well-earned nap at the far side to the of the water to the right of the island but they did eventually wake up long enough to lift their heads out of their backsides.  No sooner had we got used to the nearby Redshank than it was joined by another five, one very much larger than the rest - until the birds landed and we saw that the odd-one out was a rather handsome Black-tailed Godwit gradually coming into breeding plumage.  This individual was with us till we left and, for most of the time, out in the open.  We seemed to have seen all the expected waders bar one when, right on cue, a single Little Ringed Plover put in a brief appearance below us.

The rather lovely Black-tailed Godwit Aguja Colinegra Limosa limosa that dropped in below the main hide
Returning to the car a Monk Parakeet landed in a tree immediately in front of us to take the morning's total up to 48 species.  As I approached Los Romanes I had at least a couple of Pallid Swifts above the car (Jerry also had Swifts above the river after I had departed) and on climbing the mountain track I was greeted by both a Stonechat and Thekla Lark  within an hundred metres of home to bring the tally to 51 species.

Other birds on show at the ponds:
Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus

(Blue-headed) Yellow Wagtail Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae
A rather sleepy Common Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

Redshank Archibebe Comun Tringa totanus

Only two Little Egrets Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta seen during the morning

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Pallid Swift, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

Four Avocets Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta came sailing in to the Wader Pool
Whereas the quartet of Greater Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus merely buried their heads!

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

Wednesday 25 March 2015

When a quiet day goes mad

Wednesday 25 March

I use the word "quiet" figuratively as up here on our mountain top it was anything nut quiet as the bitingly cold wind charged in off the mountains behind us.  Time, therefore, to take a drive down to the coast where at least we found some shelter (and recorded Collared Doves!) before returning to Casa Collado.  And that's when the madness started.

Late afternoon and time to check out the emails knowing that I would be off to the Guadalhorce in the morning and friends David and Ann Jefferson were hoping to pay a return visit to El Robledal in search of some elusive Crested Tits.  As far as I knew, it was a day at home for all we birders.  First a short email from Steve Powell to inform me that he was relaxing on the beach, in Thailand, with his daughter and very young grandson and that he had already seen some gorgeous birds.

Next up an email report from John and Jenny Wainwright to pass on news about their visit to Fuente de Piedra and the Laguna Dulce earlier in the day.  Lots of good sightings and an acknowledgement that water levels had certainly risen as a result of the past week's rain.  John's account, complete with three photos appears below.

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
Then a short email from David Jefferson to say that he and Ann had paid a visit to the Guadalhorce and, amongst other birds, thought that they had found a Red-rumped Wheatear.  Wow!  Now that would have been a cracking find and I just hope that the bird might be about on the morrow when Jerry Laycock joins me at the site for the morning.  However, when studied closely on the computer it was found to be a Common Redstart; still a good find.  (But check out the two in your "Collins" and see how closely they resemble each other.)  Gave Andy Paterson to pass on the news and also discovered that he, too, was at the "ponds" for the earlier part of the morning before having to return home early.  He then informed me that Pallid Swifts were pouring in off the sea and over his apartment and as he spoke, were being joined by a good number of Common Swifts.  So that was Common, Pallid and Alpine Swifts recorded today along with a good number of Woodchat Shrikes.

Then, earlier this evening, a second email from David including a photograph of this extremely rare wheatear to the area.  Meanwhile, the wind is still howling outside so I just hope things will be a little quieter tomorrow for my little birding expedition.

John's report follows:

Lagunas Piedra and Dulce  Wednesday 25 March

A bright, sunny day but a bitterly cold wind.

The journey across was very uneventful seeing only Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings and a few House Sparrows.  As we approached the centre we could see a good amount of water in the flood meadow and also around the boardwalk, which is normally a poor wader sign, which indeed it was; only a single Common Sandpiper on the flood.  We did, however, find three Black-tailed Godwits, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Black-winged Stilts, Black-headed Gulls, three Snipe, Hoopoe and a White Wagtail.

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
At the boardwalk we saw Avocets, more Black-tailed Godwits, Shovelers, a lone Lapwing, Common Coots, Moorhens, two Shelduck and in the grasses here we found Yellow Wagtails (iberiae), Meadow Pipits and a Sardinian Warbler in the small bushes here.  Looking over the laguna from the mirador, a few - very distant - Greater Flamingos, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Redshanks and another Lapwing.  While I was scanning the laguna, Jenny located four Alpine Swifts in a small flock of Common Swifts.  Lots of Jackdaws about here also.

At the closed hide just prior to getting engulfed with forty schoolkids, we saw White-headed Ducks, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, but nothing different than that which we had already seen.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Moving over to the Mirador Cantarranas we located a Woodchat Shrike, two Pallid Swifts, lots more Common Swifts, Barn Swallows and House Martins, Crested Larks, Serins, Sardinian Warblers and House Sparrows, while on the back edge of the lagunetta we found three juvenile Common Cranes.  Also about were at least eight Shelduck, Shovelers, Mallard, Redshanks, a Common Kestrel, a male Marsh Harrier and more Avocets.

Onwards to the Laguna Dulce, en route seeing a pair of Ravens, and on arrival at the laguna two rafts totalling some sixty Red-crested Pochards and a smaller group of Gadwalls, also several Greater Flamingos were noted along the back edge of the laguna along with Shovelers, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Mallard and TealCommon Coots, Moorhens and Little Grebe were seen in the shallows to the left of the hide and on the shoreline another Yellow Wagtail.  A female Marsh Harrier came across, but dropped into the reed bed and then over by the ruin we spotted a male Montagu´s Harrier, which flew away in the direction of Campillos.  Another male appeared over the reed bed to the right of the hide. Cetti´s Warbler, Blackcap, Goldfinches and Great Tit were about in the reed beds and small bushes. Pallid Swift, Barn Swallows, House Martins and more Common Swifts were seen also. 
Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

The wind had picked up now and as it was coming directly into the front of the hide, so we decided to move across to the smaller lagunas.  At these we had a few Greater Flamingos and afore-mentioned gulls but nothing else, although coming back from them we did spot a ring-tail Montagu´s Harrier, another pair of Ravens and a Black Kite.

A lot of great birds here including the mention of the first Montagu's Harriers for the year.  However, it was the reference to the three juvenile Cranes that really took my attention.  Cranes have normally gone by the end of February and, occasionally, you hear of a few during the first week of March but less than a week before April seems very late.  And why just juveniles?  Are these birds that have lost their parents?

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

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Return of the Nightingale

Tuesday 24 March

Just had a quick email from friend Derek Etherton who has managed to locate his first Nightingale of the year on a very short visit to the Rio Guadalhorce at Zapata, just at the back of Malaga airport.  I suspect that offering to take taking Barbara to the dentist was just a lowly ruse to get in a little birding whilst the sun was shining.  (All fell flat though when the heavy rains arrived as he was leaving!)

On the other hand, a good show of small birds sen in a very  short period as can be seen from Derek's report:

Nightingale Ruisenor Comun Luscinia megarhynchos
Took B to the dentist this morning in Fuengirola and we decided to pop into Zapata on the way home to see what havoc the rain had caused.  Well not too bad except I was glad of a 4x4 in a couple of places.  Too much water for the crossing to be used by cars so not much disturbance for the birds.  Plenty of Little Ringed Plovers, very 'active' too!  Leaving we came across dozens of hirundae, House and Sand Martins, Barn and at long, long last Red-rumped Swallows!!!!  A Common Swift and a dozen or so Yellow [Blue-headed] Wagtails plus a good view of our first Nightingale of the season.  Then the rain threatened and within a short time it started.

It seems I need to go down to the Rio Velez and see if any Nightingales have turned up my local patch.  Just goes to show what even twenty minutes or so can produce if you take the opportunity to look.

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

Monday 23 March 2015

Cabo de Gata Week-end

Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus (PHOTO: Barbara Laycock)
Monday 23 March

What a fabulous birding week-end based at Cabo de Gata in Almeria Province.  The March field meeting of the Andaluica Bird Society was on Saturday so Jenny and I travelled up on the Friday calling in at Las Norias on the way.  Similarly, after a brief return visit to the hide on the bend as you approach the village it was off home once again with  repeat break at Las Norias just in case anything new might have turned up; and it certainly did in the shape of both a Night Heron and a pair of Marbled Duck.  This was a really great week-end with lots of birds, I managed to record 83 over the period with a total of 62 on the actual birding day and, in total, this included thirteen new species for the year so I was a very happy chappy.  In addition, there is nothing better that actually finding your "target bird" (in this case the Trumpeter Finch) and having the pleasure that all twenty-one members present had good, personal views - not a departing silhouette with someone shouting out what it was.  But even more to come as not only did we manage to find a Marsh Sandpiper but the company was perfect and, I hope, all very much enjoyed the week-end, the more so as we all spent a couple of nights nearby, nineteen of us in the Hotel Blanca Brisa, right opposite the salina.

For those living in Malaga Province you will know that the rains that made their way towards us earlier in the week took on monsoon proportions over the week-end and have even given us a further soaking this afternoon.  Driving up to Cabo de Gata was horrendous with torrential rain and even hail at times with the temperature gauge indicating 13 on departure and then working its way down to 8C. However, somebody must have taken pity on us as we made a short stop on the way to drop off some furniture in a five minute dry period and the rain stopped as we approached the motorway exit for Las Norias, the sun came out and the temperature soared to 19C so that we could enjoy an hour's birding. No sooner had Derek telephone to check where we were (just back in the car and about to depart) than the rains started again and did not cease until we were almost in Cabo de Gata.  Thereafter we had a perfect birding week-end with a gorgeous sunny day on the Saturday and more of the same on Sunday morning; definitely shirt-sleeve order for me.  But then when we set off for home from Las Norias the cloud gradually arrived so that by the time we were approaching Malaga Province the rains were back with once again!

Las Norias is still as filthy as ever and it seems to have rubbish and waste all around the edges of the pools at the far end, the sheep were penned up in a small smelly field along with a rotting carcase of one of their flock and yet the birds seem to survive.  Lots of Barn Swallows making the most of the insect life along with House Martins and a few Sand Martins.  We even had a couple of Crag Martins but, best of all, a good number of Red-rumped Swallows, my first of the year.  Another first was the arrival a small number of Common Swifts.  On the water itself, plenty of Red-crested Pochards and a few Common Pochards along with Mallards, White-headed Ducks and Shovelers.  All three Grebes, Little , Great Crested and Black-necked were present, the last coming into breeding plumage, along with both Coots and Moorhens plus a single Purple Swamphen.  A good number of Grey Herons and Cormorants were present but neither Squacco nor Night Heron.  Yellow-legged Gulls were expected and it was no surprise to find a few Sandwich Terns but the couple of Gull-billed Terns and a Mediterranean Gull were a welcome addition.

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Whilst wandering to the back of the pool along the path adjacent to the smelly farm, a Little Egret beat a hasty retreat as a Magpie flew over and disturbed the feeding Green Sandpiper below. Resident Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows and Collared Doves were duly noted along with a rather handsome Blue-headed Wagtail.

Then it was on through the monsoon to Cabo de Gata where I joined up with a few early arrivals to see what was about at the western end of the salinas.  In addition to more Little Egrets, Barn Swallows and House Martins we quickly added Flamingos, Black-tailed Godwit and noted the scores and scores of Avocet that were present an all waters.  A little more diligent observation duly added Black-winged Stilts, a handful of Spoonbill, many Kentish Plover, both Greenshank and Redshank (many of the latter) and a distant Marsh Harrier.  Derek even managed to find a lone Stone Curlew.

One of very many Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Having then checked into the hotel and unpacked, I then took a drive down tot he far "Public" hide where we added a very fine Spotted Redshank, male Ruff, Sanderling, Golden and Grey Plover along with many Corn Buntings.  Out to sea we were in time to see a lone Gannet drifting eastwards just off the beach.

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica (PHOTO: Arthur Oliver)
Saturday dawned calm, bright and sunny as we all met up at the hide on the bend to sort out transport and where we might make a start.  All of yesterday's birds were present and we soon added the single Curlew that strutted along the skyline with some also recording. The Spoonbills seemed restless and we added both the Grey  Plover that had moved up from the far hide along with a male Blackbird. Leaving the Greenfinch to continue singing from the wires and, I suspect, watched over by a Common Kestrel we mad our way westwards to the middle hide , passing a couple of cars at the first hide.  However, no sooner had we removed our scopes than the message came through that the Trumpeter Finch had been found on the waste ground behind the light house; the same area on the mountain road adjacent to the unoccupied and proposed visitors centre.

The distant Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus (PHOTOS: Arthur Oliver)

Arriving to be told that the bird had flown we had to be content with Black-eared Wheatear, lots of Corn Buntings and House Sparrows, Black Wheatear then Black Redstart along a with an Iberian Chiffchaff.  But rescue was at hand.  Bou Peters arrived having had car problems at his hotel in San Jose and casually remarked that hew was looking at a small sparrow-like bird with a flush of pink and a red beak; what better description could one ask.  This bird seemed happy to remain and feed for ages so that we were able to focus telescopes as well as bins and everyone present had  a really good look at the Trumpeter Finch.  Marvellous!

Eventually we moved off and drove to the top of the hill overlooking the coast in both directions for some absolutely beautiful views.  The journey produced a few Cormorants at sea level and Crag Martins at the top along with a Rock Bunting on the descent.  A further stop upon return produced further views of the Black-eared and Black Wheatears, but no Blue Rock Thrushes on this occasion, along with another Black Redstart and the Iberian Chiffchaff plus a pair of Ravens over the mountain top.

Redshank Tringa totanus

Driving down towards the "Public" hide to take in the three hides along the coastal road, we all stopped to watch a Peregrine Falcon being driven away by a Common Kestrel.  On to the hide where we duly recorded more of the same including many Sandwich Terns, Avocets and Kentish Plovers along with Dunlin, both Ruff and Reeve and a few Shelduck.  The first and only Stonechat was added to the list along with both Sardinian Warbler and Sky Lark.

Distant Ruff  Philomachus pugnax

Nothing further to add so it was off along the beach track on the far side of the town to reach the river at the end of the ramblar.  No shortage of water here as our journey was curtailed by a flooded track so we simply stopped and enjoyed the local bird life which included many feeding Barn Swallows, House and  Sand Martins.  For good measure we had a number of Pallid Swifts above us and on the main water a couple of Shoveler, White-headed Ducks and a Coots.   The field to our right produced Linnets and Meadow Pipits and then about eight Blue-headed Wagtails.

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta

Returning to the hotel there was still time to make a little sortie down to the Public hide to see what might have dropped in for the evening and along with Linda, Tom, Derek and Barbara we had further views of the male Ruff coming into breeding plumage along with a rather lovely, if somewhat sleepy, Greenshank.  Many, if not most, of the Sandwich Terns were now in the air and Derek managed to find a pair of Turnstone whilst looking for the Little Stint that I had found walking the spit just beyond the terns.  However, it was Linda who found the odd one out which could only be eventually, described as a miniature Greenshank, like some runt of the litter.  Much searching of the grey cells until finally the proverbial penny dropped and we realised that we had been looking at a rather delicate Marsh Sandpiper,  I told Derek it was worth all that soul searching and lack of sleep!

Sunday brought another beautiful sunny day for our various homeward journeys once goodbyes had been completed.  Gerry and Barbara returned to the lighthouse area where they duly found the Trumpeter Finch perched on the overhead wires whereas a group of us stopped off at Las Norias and added Night Heron to our ever-growing list of sightings.  Even better, no sooner had we added both Gadwall and Common Swift than Derek, who had been checking out the distant ducks and grebes with his scope, made the best discovery of the morning with a pair of Marbled Duck (or Marbled Teal if you prefer).  What a way to end a week-end before heading back to the rains of Malaga.

Very distant record shot of Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris behind Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus


Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Marbled Duck, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Magpie, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch. Linnet, Trumpeter Finch, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Ventas de Zafarraya & El Robledal

Wednesday 18 March

Not often, very rare in fact, that the monthly field meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group falls on a wet day but today was one of those days.  Very cloudy with continuous light drizzle and a bitingly cold wind up at the Ventas de Zafarrya as six hardy souls or brave idiots, not sure which is the more apt description, met up for the March field visit.  needless to stay we did not stay that long and were soon back our cars so that we could make the relatively short trip up to El Robledal where at least it was mainly dry, but still damp, and out of the wind.  Good to see David Jefferson and birding friend Paul Coulthard from Torrox along with Eric Lyon from Sayalonga plus John and Jenny Wainwright from Salar and fresh back from their birding adventure down in the Donana.  For John and Jenny, what a difference a week makes in term of weather change!

Nuthatch Trepador Azul Sitta europaea (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
As we all donned as much wet weather clothing as we could muster, a couple of Ravens were noted above the peak on the opposite side of the road and a pair of Rock Buntings were foraging around near the railway terminus.  The occasional Chough put in an appearance, as they did for the next forty minutes or so, and we set off towards the tunnel with a pair of Linnet passing overhead and picking up Great Tit, Wren and our only Blue Rock Thrush.  Once through the tunnel we did not walk too far before heading back but also managed to find a single Crag Martin followed by a female Black Redstart, Blackbird and Stonechat and David managed to see the only Black Wheatear of the morning.

Approaching El Robledal John and Jenny had a pair of Buzzards and the first Jay of the morning was noted when a pair disappeared into the trees on the left.  The dominant species of the woods seemed to be Blue Tit, of which there were many and seen by all, Mistle Thrush and Nuthatches. A Crested Lark was recorded during the main journey and, once off the main road, we also managed to fins a Thekla Lark resting at the top of a small tree along with a single Serin.  Indeed, we saw a number of individual Serins but only one Goldfinch sighting when a cloud, I can hardly call it a charm, of about 200 individuals crossed immediately in front of the car at roof-top level as a large lorry approached.

Jay Arrendajo Garrulus glandarius (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
Regular stop s as we approached the picnic area park produced Short-toed Treecreeper, Nuthatches and Blue Tits along with a number of Great Tits.  Eric managed to locate both Coal Tit and Wood Lark and there were a good number of Mistle Thrushes.

Long-tailed Tit Mito Aegithalos caudatus (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
A lovely sighting of a Robin was followed by that of a Jay which seemed to pose forever and then we had both a pair of Long-tailed Tits and a small flock of Wood Pigeons and a Firecrest.   A single pair of White Wagtails observed and strange Spotless Starlings acting like "woodpeckers" was amusing to watch and we all heard Green Woodpeckers and estimated that there were at least three present in the immediate vicinity.  Towards the end we (finally) also heard Great Spotted Woodpecker to add to the brief call of a Peregrine Falcon whilst walking to the tunnel on the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarraya.  needles to say there were regular Chaffinch sightings.  Just the one mystery bird in our final count of 38 potential species when a large raptor drifted away from us, high and distant.

Distant Short-toed Eagle Culebrera Europea Circaetus gallicus (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
This was a large bird with upturned primaries ruling out Buzzard and in what appeared to be a major moult.  The tail looked straight across the end, almost triangular, and with curved edges we could also rule out eagles. My gut feeling was Griffon Vulture but there was "too much tail" so I suspect it was a returning Short-toed Eagle.  No doubt when/if we get to see some record shots that were taken we will be able to either confirm or amend - I hope!

Bonneli's Eagle Aguila-azor Perdicera Hieraaetus fasciatus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Meanwhile, having already recorded Lesser Kestrel and Barn Swallows on the way to the meeting point, John and Jenny also managed to see a small flock of five Lesser Kestrels and both Southern Grey Shrike and a Bonelli's Eagle on the way home, both photographed by Jenny.  And even the weather had turned sunny so helping with the photographs.
Southern Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Whilst all this was going on, Paul and David managed to locate both the Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker as they made their way back from the El Robledal parking area to the main track and also, for good measure, even heard a Common Cuckoo calling.  Heard did I say?  No sooner back on the main road and driving towards Ventas de Zafarraya and they actually saw another individual on the wires at the side of the road.  And to cap it all, not only did they see the resident Peregrine Falcon but they also managed to record an Osprey drifting over the pass!  Some people seem to have all the luck.

Great company and just a shame that, on this occasion, the weather let us down and restricted the number of species that we might have observed.  Illustrations depend upon whether or not anybody managed to capture same during the morning.

Birds seen:
Osprey, Short-toed Eagle, Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Common Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Wood Lark, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Wren, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Jay, Chough, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting.

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

Donana Summary

Tuesday 17 March

Now that John and Jenny Wainwright are back home in Salar from their wanderings down in the Donana National Park and the Odiel I can reveal that the latest email from John confirms that not only did they make the "hundred mark" but that they finally recorded 115 species.  A truly great five days even if the return journey via the "Osuna triangle" failed to deliver a Great Bustard.

Home from Donaña Monday 16 March
Quite a nice day with lots of cloud but sunny periods
The old adage of pride comes before a fall is pertinent here as we were expecting a number of good sightings on the way home, a veritable crash was therefore inevitable.

Our first sightings were of two Southern Grey Shrikes, Linnets, Spanish Sparrows and Goldfinches.  Lots of Black Kites about (near Osuna) but the Great Bustard we could not find, even after transversing the usual areas that are common to them.  Even at the "Roller site" the afore mentioned bird was not seen (probably two weeks early for them) but the Lesser Kestrels were not about either. Lots of Red-legged Partridge, Crested Larks, White Wagtails and House Sparrows but little all else.

So it was with a saddened heart, but  overall a total of 115, that we are not in a too abjective state.  We hope that you enjoyed our trip around the area of the Parque Nacionale Donaña.
John and Jenny Wainwright

Monday 16 March 2015

Last day in Donana with Spanish Imperial Eagle

Sunday 15 March

I say "Spanish Imperial Eagle" when , perhaps, I ought to be using its "new" - Iberian Imperial Eagle.  As you will see from John's report that follows he and jenny seem to have had a fabulous five days down in that fabulous birding area that covers the Donana National park and the Odiel Marshes.  And just when I think that there cannot be any more surprises as they see bird after bird, along comes the close views of Spanish Imperial Eagle.  I think my awe and wonder can best be summed up in John's words that accompanied his report, "I hope that you are sitting down and that you have no heart pills to take, but have a look at the results of our final day; we are having a job to believe them ourselves."

A truly wonderful five days and, I would imagine, that John and Jenny must have recorded  about an hundred species during their expedition including some really iconic birds of southern Spain.  No doubt John will let me know his final tally in due course and I look forward to hearing about their exciting experience when we all meet up this Wednesday at Ventas de Zafaraya for the March field visit of the Axarquia Bird Group.

Raven Cuervo Corvus corax (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Donaña:  Day 5  15 March

Another hot but comfortable day due to light breeze.

It was a mix and match day today as we had gotten most of our "special birds", so we transversed the countryside around El Rocio/Pilas and ended up with a flourish in the Valverde area.   No fog today and by the time we had emerged from the accommodation the sun was well up.

Our first sightings were Common Buzzard, Corn Bunting, Common and Azure-winged Magpies, Blackbirds and House Sparrows.  Driving across country we located Goldfinches, Woodchat Shrikes, Black Redstarts, Southern Grey Shrikes, Meadow Pipits and a few Barn Swallows.  Several Hoopoes were noted and Zitting Cisticola seemed to be everywhere, as were White Storks, Cattle, Great White and Little Egrets.

Red Crested Pochards Pato Colorado Netta rufina (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Lot of Spanish Sparrows about and the ditches seemed to be alive with Cetti´s Warblers.  We took a small drive down a "green lane" and picked up Black-shouldered Kite as well as Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers.  Up another side track and we located an Osprey, which sat quite contented until a farmer drove under it and he flew off.  Calling in at the Dehesa de Abajo we saw Crested Coot (non-collared), Great Crested Grebe, over twenty five Night Herons, Purple Swamphens and Glossy Ibis.

Osprey Aguila Pescadora Pandion haliaetus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Going across country again, we joined one of the tracks to the Valverde Centre.  Here we found another Black-shouldered Kite as well as Black and Red Kites, male and female Marsh Harriers, a ring-tail Hen Harrier and Purple Herons.

Great Spotted Cuckoo Crialo Europeo Clamator glandarius (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
After lunch we drove along a no-through road where we saw Yellow Wagtails, a Great Reed Warbler, a Great Spotted Cuckoo, two White Wagtails, Corn Buntings, Short-toed and Calandra Larks and above us a group of thirty five Griffon Vultures, circled,  then landed on
a "cow carcass".   A few Ravens were seen on the fence posts and in the fields. When I said to Jenny, "I think three Griffon Vultures have landed by the cattle shed!" but only one of these was the latter, the other two were juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagles, which Jenny promptly photographed while I was identifying them.

Spanish Imperial Eagle Aguila Imperial Iberica Aquila adalberti at rest and in flight (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Well we were not too bothered what happened after that as we were in seventh heaven, so "Goodbye Donaña and Hello Osuna" on our way home!!!!

Swallowtail Butterfly Chupaleche Iphiclides podalirius (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Butterflies today, Common Swallowtail, Painted Lady, Large and Small Whites and Clouded Yellows and an unidentifiable large dragonfly

A great report John and I have thoroughly enjoyed following your birding expedition.

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