Tuesday 26 May 2015

Arroyo Marin

The Cuckoo found!
Tuesday 26 May

Lovely bright and sunny start to the day as I drove over towards Archidona and the Arroyo Marin. All quite passing the new prison so, presumably, still no occupants at his majesty's pleasure.  Does this mean that everybody is well behaved in Malaga Province; no corruption, no evil-doers, no future guests?

Setting off down the track opposite the cement works, I was greeted by a single Wood Pigeon and a good number of Blackbirds.  I took the first track on the right and found a Woodchat Shrike, Spotted Flycatcher, Barn Swallows and the first of very many Azure-winged Magpies.  All around me, and later when walking both up and down stream from the broken bridge near the ruin, I was accompanied by many singing Nightingales.  A Sardinian Warbler popped up onto a tree and, once back on the main track, saw the three Rs - not that school thing, rather a Robin on each side of the track with a rabbit in the middle.  Well, it takes all sorts.

Spotted Flycatcher papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata

Before arriving at the usual parking spot I had a Golden Oriole dash across the road in front of the car and then a handful of Linnets exploring the verges.  Leaving the car in the shade of a tree near the old ruin I crossed the stream and walked a good distance upstream listening to a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, singing (if you can call it that) Golden Orioles and a Cuckoo in the distance. Both Goldfinches and Chaffinches were close at hand and these were followed by a young Great Tit being fed by its parents and a female Blackcap.

The wonderful Common Cuckoo Cuco Comun Cuculus canorus

A large silhouette on the hillside drew my attention and I had found the calling Cuckoo.  Lots of photos taken at various exposures and again as I got a little close and when the bird suddenly appeared overhead I followed it to its new destination and managed a few more distant shots.  Near here I also found my first Wood Lark of the year and then a small group of House Sparrows before retracing my steps back to the bridge.  Approaching the latter, I also found the Great Spotted Woodpecker and, again, managed a distant shot or two.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Pico Picapinos Dendrocopos major

Other than the group of grazing horses nothing new found downstream so I made my way along the track to the main bridge.  Here, more Robins coming out onto the road just to have their photograph taken, or so it appeared.  On to the ford where I picked up a Grey Wagtail with a beak full of food for youngsters in the nest somewhere nearby.  Similarly, the nearby pine trees produced a beautiful male Cirl Bunting to add the memory chest.

One of many Robins Petirrojo Europeo Erithacus rubecula

Time to return home so on reaching the motorway I continued under and took the country road to Zafarraya, where a pair of Mallards flew over the road, so that, eventually, I could drive down the mountain track to Alcaucin.  This part of the journey produced first Spotless Starlings then a couple of Corn Buntings followed by both Rock and Collared Doves.  A Thekla Lark was feeding at the side of the road and then, at probably the narrowest part of the road beyond Villanueva del Trabuco, a lone Red-legged Partridge tried to outrun the car!  Finally, House Martins and I was ready to start on the track to Alcaucin with a call in at the picnic sites on the way down.

Juvenile Chaffinch Pinzon Vulgar Fringilla coelebs making use of the shade

You could say that this was a wasted journey for although I saw a White Wagtail at the start and a couple of Jays along the track there was very little bird life about.  Single Crossbill and Nuthatch at the lower, main, picnic site and a small number of Blackbirds, Chaffinches and a couple of Goldfinches and that was about it other than a Common Kestrel on the way home.  But, overall, it was a most enjoyable day and away from the on-going worries and stresses of the prospective house sale.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Thekla Lark, Wood Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Nightingale, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, 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.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Back home with John & Jenny Wainwright

Roller  Carraca Europea Coracias garrulus
Sunday 24 May

Whilst the rest of our little group was travelling home from Punta Umbria on Thursday, John and Jenny Wainwright stayed another night to give them more time in the Donana National Park.  It seemed like a great idea at the time but then an earlier email from John on their travails and woes gave an unwanted insight to the perils of birding in the area during the main festival at El Rocio.

All photographs courtesy
John Wainwright.

Birding Trip Day 5: Osuna 22nd May 2015
A hot day but clouded over later.
We started off for the Valverde Centre and all was OK until we turned off at El Rocio.  We had wanted a coffee here but the place was crawling with Guardia Civil and masses of people.  We could park up the road for 5 Euros and walk back but we decided to head out towards Villa de Condessa.   Part ways along this road we were stopped by the Guardia again and asked where we were going, so I explained where and he said just be careful there are lots of people about. 

Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua
Moving along the road where all the "road humps" are, we were stopped again and told to pull off the road, as the Romero was about to cross.  We waited here for about half an hour and I then went to a Guardia officer and asked when he thought we could carry on to Condessa.  He replied that the road was closed for today and we should turn round and find and alternative route.  Heading back I picked up a massive screw in my tyre, so we headed for Almonte to try for a repair.  Just as we got to the autovia exit slip road the tyre went flat.  Anyhow we got it fixed and decided to cut our losses and head for Osuna which we reached about 15.30.

Black-shouldered Kite Elanio Comun Elanus caeruleus
Coming off at km80 we  headed for Lantejuela and just past the polygono area atop a mast sat a Black-shouldered Kite.  Also here were Collared Doves, Crested Larks and a few House Sparrows.  The area was alive with Black Kites, they were sitting on every conceivable place, even the rock piles in the fields (as was the case when we called last Sunday and counted over an hundred).  As we passed over a road bridge we spotted a male Montagu´s Harrier, then a couple of Ravens lifted off the field to our right.  A few Wood Pigeon clattered out of an olive grove and we then spotted a Red-legged Partridge.  No signs of Great Bustard were seen as we traversed the fields, although we did see Hoopoe, Thekla Larks, heard Calandra Larks and the a few Turtle Doves were spotted.

Part of the huge flock of Black Kites Milano Negro Milvus migrans

We picked up the track to the farmhouse and at the "dovecote", on the sign, sat a Roller.  More Black Kites over the stubble fields here and as we approached the farmhouse four more Rollers came out of the olive grove.
At the farmhouse we noted Lesser Kestrels, a Little Owl, Turtle Doves, Collared Doves, Hoopoes, Ravens, Crested Lark and a Red-legged Partridge with at least seven chicks.  As we came back to gain the metalled road again, Spanish Sparrows were having dust baths and a Cetti´s Warbler and Nightingale were heard here.

Spanish Sparrows Gorrion Moruno Passer hispaniolensis

Heading for the railway bridge, more Ravens, a few Linnets, Black Kites, a Buzzard, Bee-eaters and yet more Turtle Doves were seen.  Getting onto the track that runs alongside the railway track, we saw Cattle Egrets, Spanish Sparrows, Corn Buntings, White Wagtail, a Brown Hare put in a fleeting appearance as did thirty or more Rabbits and a pair of Stonechats.  Gaining the road again I spotted a movement in a field to our right where we picked up a male Great Bustard.  While over the corn-field, Red-rumped and Barn Swallows, Common Swifts and House Martins were noted.

At last, a Great Bustard Avutarda Comun Otis tarda
A fitting end to a great birding trip.

Trust John to end up with all the excitement - but I bet he and Jenny wished they had not!

The lovely, delicate Turtle Dove Tortola Europea Streptopelia turtur

Four days in the Odiel & Donana with the ABS:4

Day 4:  Thursday 21 May

Our last day and everybody, save John and Jenny Wainwright who were staying an extra night, made their farewells and set off for their respective homes by about 9.30.  Not really a coincidence that all bar a couple made a return visit to the Odiel Marshes on their way, even, if like my group, we only visited the top section covering the the river by the Visitors Centre and the nearby ancient salinas.

Derek and Barbara Etherton managed to find a pair of Avocet further down the spit and for my pleasure I discovered a lone Whitethroat working the bushes behind the Centre adjoining the river bank.  Then, as they departed Huelva towards the Donana, Derek and Barbara managed to record the first Black-shouldered Kite of the week, another lovely sighting which, I think, takes our final tally of sightings up to a magnificent 126.

For those visiting the Odiel we were rewarded by most of Tuesday's waders along with sightings of the Osprey, Black Kite, White Storks and numerous Greater Flamingos.  No sign of the Western Reef Egret but a Purple Heron flew across the road in front of the car whilst scoping the Osprey on its nest.  Common Swifts and Barn Swallows in the air along with House Martins and Zitting Cisticolas, Sardinian Warbler and Yellow Wagtail near the VC pond along with the usual ducks.

Osprey Aguila Pescadora Pandion haliaetus over the Marismas del Odiel

Following on behind John and Jenny managed to find a very "skittish" Dartford Warbler followed by three male and a female Marsh Harrier on the other side of the estuary and whilst enjoying the view an Osprey along with three Purple Herons arrived on the scene.  Unable to reach the area where he had seen the Collared Pratincoles, the road being blocked by a barrier and an accompanying security guard, John and Jenny returned to the marismas and on leaving the reserve saw both Shelduck and a pair of Montagu's Harriers.

Purple Heron  Garza Imperial Ardea purpurea (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

It would, therefore, appear that we saw just about everything we might expect but still left us with that birding urge to return as soon as possible, and for some of us that means early October.

Four days in the Odiel & Donana with the ABS:3

Day 3:  Wednesday 20 May

A very different day with all morning spent in a small coach taking us well north of Huelva to the Sierra Pelada mountains through most beautiful scenery and extensive woodland.  Also a very hot day, and even hotter in the coach, as we made our way to Aroche to collect our bird guide and accompanying birders and Junta escort to venture into the home of the resident Black Vultures.  Not knowing what to expect, the day became what can only be described as a "magical mystery tour" made all the more different when we realised that even the driver knew not where he was intended to take us!  I very much suspect that we left the garage to collect us form the apartments at 9 o'clock he has no inclination whatever that he would on and off-road experience all afternoon - including wrecking his door on the return journey to the main road which resulted in us travelling back to Huelva with the door held shut by a length of string!  Hey, ho.
Whilst we had regular sightings of birds along the route, by midday it became very evident that this was not going to be a birding trip so we all sat back and accepted what was to be and a marvellous day it turned out in the end, even if was 11.15 and very dark when we finally returned home.
The first part of the journey - all four and a half hours of it - produced Corn Buntings, House Martin, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and Common Swifts . On the power lines we saw Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows and Collared Doves and in the air we noted Common Kestrels, White Storks, Black Kites, Azure-winged and Common Magpies plus acouple of Ravens. After the driver finding out whether we were to head for Portugal or Seville, we located a small number of Griffon Vultures and one Black Vulture. Next up what we suspect was a Booted Eagle sailing over us followed by a definite Short-toed Eagle and a Black Kite. We finally arrived at Aroche at 13.30, where we were met by our "birding guides" Antonio and Itor, plus the head of the Huelva Tourist Board ( I never got his name) and a couple of Park Rangers.
Black Kite Milano Negro Milvus migrans
Following a toilet stop here and a few dozen ice creams put away, we headed up a very dusty and not too well maintained track, to see the Black Vultures nesting site. I must admit that the trip up was uneventful, and very little was seen or even heard through the dust cloud that at times enveloped the mini-coach, especially when the log lorries passed up to collect the eucalyptus trees that had been felled. We stopped a kilometre away from the site, where we had a small breather, and here we saw a Sparrowhawk, Griffon and Black Vultures, Chaffinches, Short-toed Eagle, Blue Tit, Great Tit and heard Wood Lark
At the "vulture viewing site" area we were given a small packed snack - which most of us thought    was our total lunch for the day.  From here we were driven up to the viewing area in groups of four.  Personally, we were so disappointed see the "speck on a stone pine", at a distance of a kilometre or  maybe more and was told it was the Black Vulture shielding its 45-day old chicks - it could have been a cardboard cut-out for all we knew!While we were here John wandered around and located twoChaffinches and more Griffon Vultures - the location was sterile apart from that.
Black (or Monk) Vulture Buitre Negro Aegyplus monachus
We then headed across the mountains in the mini-bus - the driver being none too happy about this part (if not all) of the journey - it really was only fit for 4x4 vehicles or tractors.     At about 16.30 we arrived at the finca in a beautifully situated area of the dehesas. Here we had an amazingly sumptuousmixed lunch of cheese, biscuits, crisps, pork in various guises, jamon, spicy sausages, black sausage  and pastas - all local produce, also three different gespachos, interspersed with lots of wine and beer.  The pool was available to those whose wished to use it, or maybe just to paddle their feet in it and four of us, along with our apartment management team of Marta and Sanda, ventured forth into the "cool" water.   The few birds were noted through this period being House Sparrows, Serins, a Bonelli's Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Raven and a Jay.
After this very late lunch we took a walk down through the dehesas, led by the owner/farmer Pepe, locating Raven, Short-toed Eagle, Red-rumped Swallow, Nuthatch, Chaffinches, Barn Swallows, House Martins, Bee-eaters and Hoopoe, whilst along by the river, were Nightingales, Blackcaps, another Raven, more Chaffinches, a White Wagtail, Serins, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, two Crested Larks, a dashing Kingfisher and a Cetti's Warbler.
Walking back up through the dehesas to the finca, Pepe showed us his tomorrow's lunch in the shape of his Iberico pigs.  Here he called them and they came running to him like puppies, even some of thegirls managed to touch them. Common and a Pallid Swift were seen along another Short-toed Tree-creeper, Great and Blue Tits and a Wood Lark.  We then headed for Pepe's farmhouse where he    gave us coffee.
After leaving Pepe's place we started down the track where the driver passed over a cattle grid and almost ripped his side sliding door off leaving us to drive back to Aroche, a distance of twelve km before we could obtain some rope to tie the door partially shut.      But before we reached Aroche we did see a Red Deer and Little Owl.  And on the journey back to Punta Umbria in the twilight we had five Red Fox cubs cross the road in front of us, after a short game of "chicken" whilst they decided  who would be last to leave the road!
As stated above, we finally arrived home at about 23.15, totally cream-crackered but I think well satisfied.  A big thank you to Marta for working with the Huelva Tourist Board to organise the trip even if we on board were more expert birders than those guiding us!   It was a very enjoyable day enjoyed by all but, I think we would all agree, a little on the long side and scope for much improvement with experience.

Four days in the Odiel & Donana with the ABS:2

Day 2:  Tuesday 19 May

The "big day" in terms of birding with the hope that we might get a good selection of waders along with breeding Little Terns and Collared Pratincoles at the Marismas del Odiel (Odiel Marshes).  With us all staying at the same apartment complex it meant that we could not only share transport but arrange to travel independently but remain in contact with each other.  The result was the early arrivals had the riverside to themselves behind the Visitors Centre whereas later arrivals were confronted by two coach loads of small, noisy children.  But the day was a success with just about all the target birds duly recorded.

Another very hot day but luckily there was a good breeze most of the time.  Arriving at the Visitors Centre pond the first on the scene recorded Black-winged Stilts, Gadwall, Common Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Little Egret, Spoonbill and Common Magpies.  Moving along to the Centre itself and looking out over the estuary we found more Spoonbills, Grey HeronsLittle Terns, Ringed Plovers, Little Stints and two Dunlin.  A few Zitting Cisticola and House Sparrows in the car park as well as Common Magpie, Blackbird and Spotless Starling.

Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia
Progressing up the road Corn Buntings were in good numbers as were Little Egrets, Whimbrels 
and Curlews.  A raptor was spotted to our right and was found to be a Black Kite.  Close to him was an Osprey, but the former was not too happy with Osprey in its territory and gave him the dive bomb treatment.

Osprey Aguila Pescadora Pandion haliaetus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
So onto the "Sendero Cabeza Alta" car park where our first bird was a Whimbrel, then a small flock 
of Serins and a family of Thekla Larks flew out of the coarse undergrowth as we walked along the 
boardwalk.  Passing over a small stream, hundreds and hundreds of Fiddler Crabs disappeared
into their mud-holes.  At the beach we located Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, more Curlews and Whimbrels, some stunning Grey Plovers in their summer plumage, a few Sanderlings, more Little TernsLittle Egrets and Spoonbills.  A couple of Crested Larks were running about here at the beach also.

Whimbrel Zarapito Trinador Numenius phaeopus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Lots of wonderfully summer plumaged Grey Plovers and Turnstones were noted as we continued. Also about were Lesser Kestrel, Common Magpies and then a Spoonbill in company with a very
resplendent Western Reef Heron.   Fortunately. the Reef Heron was seen by all members of the party and numerous photographs were taken from what seemed every angle possible as this obliging individual regularly returned to its favoured feeding spot immediately below the road.  Another Lesser Kestrel, a Grey Heron and several Crested Larks were also seen before we reached the colony of breeding Little Terns and a little further on a largish flock of some 50-60 Collared Pratincoles suddenly appeared.

The Western Reef Egret Garceta Dimorfa Egretta gularis seen by all on the Odiel

After an uneventful trip along to the lighthouse we went round the back of the Little Tern colony and picked up an even greater number of Collared Pratincoles at least a hundred plus.  Heading back to the visitors centre we found Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, a Purple Heron and
an Osprey on its nesting site.  Also on the river sand bank was a small group of Sandwich Terns along with a similar number of Little Terns accompanied by a pair of Whiskered Terns.

A "peace offering" from a shunned Little Tern Charrancito Comun Sterna albifrons
Resting Sandwich Terns Charran Patinegro Sterna sandvicensis in varying plumage
Off now to the El Portil fresh water lake, where we found Common Coot, Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper, Gadwall, Shovelers, Mallard, Pochard, two or three Greater Flamingos, Little, Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes.  A few passerines including House Sparrows, Goldfinches, Serins, Greenfinch and Chaffinch, while above us Red-rumped and Barn Swallow were noted along with House Martins and Common Swifts.  A few of us took to the boardwalk and found Azure-winged Magpies, WoodpigeonsHoopoes, Great Tits, Sardinain Warbler, Magpies and Zitting Cisticola.  As we drove home a male Marsh Harrier was seen.

Great Crested Grebe Somormujo Lavanco Podiceps cristalus

Grey Heron  Garza Real Ardea cinerea off for a paddle - just like we humans!

Saturday 23 May 2015

Four days in the Odiel & Donana with the ABS:1

Day 1: Monday 18 May

What a fabulous four days even if the birds were short on the ground, or even in the air, in quantity terms but our little group of fifteen members of the Andalucia Bird Society still manged, as a group, to find 111 species and, no doubt, I will have missed a couple of others.  Beautiful weather, lovely apartments at Punta Umbria and, best of all, great company with lots of fun and friendship to add to the birding.  My special thanks to John Wainwright for compiling most of the report and, hopefully, I can add to the photos as members email them over to me.

One of scores of White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia

With the meeting point set at the northern Donana lake of the Dehesa de Abajo, most arrived in time to take a coffee or something at the nearby El Croce venta having already discovered very many White Storks.  The added attraction on the journey west of Sevilla was to come across the numerous caravans of the pilgrims making their way to El Rocio for the most importantant gathering of the year.  Fortunately, we were not held up too long, even on the motorway, as more Guardia Civil than you would normally like to come across, escorted the pilgrims, most dressed in traditional costume, on their way.

No doubt the most numerous birds to be found, other than the white Storks, were the scores of Black Kites.  (The previous day near Osuna we found an arable  field holding over 100 resting Black Kites.)  Similarly, there was no shortage of either Little Egrets, Grey Herons and even Spoonbills.
Stopping at a pool just before the main water, John and Jenny Wainwright spotted a Night Heron landing here - this we subsequently found hiding under a tree.  Also there they saw Red-knobbed Coot, Cattle Egrets, Cetti´s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler in addition to the Grey Herons and White Storks.
Night Heron  Martinete Comun Nycticorax nycticorax (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

The next small pool produced a very secretive Marbled Duck, Sardinian and Cetti´s Warbler with overhead yet more Black Kites.  When all were finally gathered at the laguna at the Dehesa de Abajo, where the sky at times seemed to be just wall to wall Black Kites, the water itself produced numerous Great Crested, Little and Black-necked Grebes, Common and Red-crested Pochard, Mallard, Purple Swamphens, Jackdaws, Ravens and huge numbers of Greater Flamingos.  Jenny called our attention to three Spoonbills overhead and still higher were a flock of eight Glossy Ibis, whilst down in the reeds here the main songbird was the Great Reed Warbler, interspersed with a Cetti´s and a few Goldfinches.  John also found a female Great Tit and a Melodious Warbler
Marbled Duck  Cerceta Pardilla Marmaronetta angustirostris

Other species noted here included Spanish Sparrows, a single Tawny Pipit, Blackcaps and a Little Owl by Steve and Elena Powell.  Moving further along the laguna we spotted Gadwall, Little Egrets, Common Coots, Moorhen and a Grey Heron.  Two Linnets flew past us and a Purple Heron landed in a reed bed to our front and at the "dam" a Bee-eater flew past us and a Southern Grey Shrike was noted on the power lines.  Lots of Common and Scarce Swallowtails about ( mostly around the Spanish Oyster plants) as well as Large Whites, Pale Clouded Yellows, Painted Ladies and several Violet Carpenter Bees.
Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

After the group got together again we all headed for El Rocio, seeing on the way, Hoopoes, Azure-winged  and Common Magpies, a few Corn Buntings, Serins, House Sparrows, a Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallows, Common Swifts and House Martins.  Not a single Buzzard to be seen on the long straight road but we did record both Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrike and even a solitary Raven gave us the "evil eye" from atop a pylon next to the road.

At the SEO Visitors Centre - the place was shut again - we all clambered round the left hand side of the centre to see close at hand Nightingales, Barn Swallows and House Martins, while across the marisma we spotted Spoonbills, Mallard, Greater Flamingos and Glossy Ibis.  In the skies above the marisma umpteen Black Kites circled and displayed, then a Booted Eagle and a Short-toed Eagle were seen.  A beautifully marked Red Kite came over only to be slightly harassed by a Black Kite.  Next, over the tree tops, a male Marsh Harrier gave us some great views and, just as we were leaving, a Chaffinch flew past.

The track running alongside the old road into El Rocio was taped off, but we did gain access a little further down the road, where Barbara and Derek Etherton noted three Greylag Geese on one of the small grassy islands and as we progressed down the track a Woodchat Shrike was seen as well as a male Stonechat, a Northern Wheatear and a single Griffon Vulture.

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

And so on to Punta Umbria and our accommodation in individual luxury apartments at Apartamentos Cost Luz courtesy of the owner and ABS affiliated member, Marta Jariod.  A long, but great, start to our birding adventure down west!

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Osuna Steppes

Sunday 17 May

Long with Jenny and friends Q and Judith Hill we met up with special birding friend Linda Roberts at Osuna during the late morning to explore the Osuna steppes before spending the night with Linda at relatively nearby Machena on our way down to the Donana National Park and the Odiel Marshes for four days with the Andalucia Bird Society.  Beautiful warm, if not hot day albeit a little on the breezy side, for some wonderful sightings.

Collared Pratincole Canastera Comun Glareola pratincola
All the target birds were recorded including a single Great Bustard wandering through a wheat field with just its head showing before exiting to cross a narrow track and enter an olive grove.  Lovely. A small number of Collared Pratincoles were found on their usual field which appeared to have the fist shoots of cotton plants just appearing whilst above a good range of raptors including well over 100 Black Kites, a single Red Kite, Buzzard, Griffon Vulture, a handsome male Montagu's Harrier and both Lesser and Common Kestrel.

One of very many Black Kite Milano negro Milvus migrans
Having found our first Roller we than had close views of the bird with it showing very well and revealing all its true colours in the bright sunlight.  Also present in this area were a good number of both Ravens and Jackdaws.  Only the occasional Bee-eater but we did see a pair of Hoopoes and House Martins along with both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows.

Smaller birds included Spanish Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail and numerous Crested Larks and Corn Buntings.  Needless to say there were plenty of Goldfinches and Serins to be seen.  This area is well populated with Red-legged Partridges yet we only saw a couple of individuals; hopefully they have not been over-culled by the local shooters.   At least the Turtle Doves were singing well having survived the Spring onslaught as they passed through the Mediterranean.

Lovely to have close views of the Roller Carraca Europea Coracias garrulus
Driving down the long track to the ruined farm buildings, not only did we get magnificent vies of Rollers, as well as scores of Rabbits and an Occelated Lizard, but we found the local Rock Doves and Lesser Kestrels on site at the latter.  A great surprise, though, was to find a pair of Tawny Owls which gave good sightings as they mad a few sorties between trees and buildings and the, to add to the fun, we also found the first Little Owl of the day.

I'm watching you!  A very serious looking Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua
Following dinner with Linda, we venture out just before night-fall to seek out the resident Red-necked Nightjars at a nearby olive grove.  We were not to be disappointed as a number of individual could be heard chirring away, along with a Common Cuckoo and a distant Stone Curlew.  With the light now gone we found an individual which had take to the top of a tall tree right next to the parked car!  Wonderful silhouetted views of the bird as it sand away, made short flights to, presumably, pick up a moth and then back to its favoured perch and more wing flapping before repeating the exercise all over again.  A truly magnificent experience.

Record shot of a rapidly disappearing Tawny Owl Carabo Europeo Strix aluco
And so ended a lovely day and we were all ready for a good night's sleep in preparation for the drive down to the Donana in the morning.

The Rollers Carraca Europea Coracias garrulus were very active

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Cattle Egret, Great Bustard, Griffon Vulture, Red Kite, Black Kite, Montagu's Harrier, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Collared Pratincole, Stone Curlew, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Tawny Owl, Little Owl, Cuckoo, Red-necked Nightjar, Roller, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crrested Larl, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

Thursday 14 May 2015

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Sierra Loja

Wednesday 13 May

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
Always a pleasure and delight to visit the Sierra Loja and today's visit by the Axarquia Bird Group was no exception.  Twelve of us at the start including a good contingent from west of Malaga city albeit we lost three when we came across another friend and member, Mick Richardson, leading a private birding visit.  A most enjoyable, and very warm with the temperature reaching 38 C on the top at 1550 metres, with some great bird sightings even if the main target, Rock Thrush, was short on the ground to say the least with just one sighting at lunch time whilst at the Charca del Negro pond.  Even more is the pity that the four who sought shelter under the cliff actually missed sighting!  Another disappointment was that the Eagle owl was either away from home or very deep in her cave to try and keep cool so no sighting today - but there is always a tomorrow in birding.

Yet another frustrating evening and day as I await further news on the house sale, albeit more hopeful now than yesterday, so many thanks to my dear friend John Wainwright for sending in his report of the day so I can basically copy and add.  Thanks John.

Now to John's report:

A very hot day (40C),thankfully there was a light breeze 

As all met up at the cafe/restaurant, the temperature was knocking on 35C, so it was just as well that most adjourned to the cafe for refreshment.  As we progressed up the track to Sierra Loja we spotted Mistle ThrushAzure-winged Magpies, Wood Pigeon, Collared Doves, Chaffinches and a Spotted Flycatcher was seen.
As we headed for the hidden quarry (our target bird being the Eagle Owl - which was a big dip) we saw Serins, Spotless Starlings, Spotted Flycatcher (a lot of searching for the last bird), Greenfinch and Goldfinch and  Short-toed Treecreeper.  A a couple of Ravens were noted as well as Great Tit and a Wren. The first Woodchat Shrike of the day flew past.

Just the one Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis seen today
From the quarry we noticed Blue Rock Thrush - on the lower workings, Stonechat, two Common Kestrels and above them Crag and House Martins, Barn Swallows and Common Swifts along with a lone Alpine Swift seen by at least five of the group.  Also in the area were Rock Buntings, Stonechats, Black Redstarts, Red-legged Partridges and an Orphean Warbler was heard at first and then noted by a good number of the group - best views were had to the left of the fir copse in the small bushes/trees there - albeit rubbish photos!   Several Spanish Ibex were also here.

Moving on up to the cliff areas and more Jackdaws were seen as well as two Raven, Black-eared Wheatears (male and female), Rock Sparrows, Black Wheatears, Chough, two Hoopoes and a Spectacled Warbler singing.  This delightful warbler was eventually found and good views enjoyed by all. A pair of Hoopoes was also recorded.

The rather delightful Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata

The substation valley held little except a Little Owl in the centre of two trees, a few Chough feeding in the area and Thekla Larks.  As we climbed out of the valley high above the cliffs a Griffon Vutlure soared and the mountain sides were alive with Black-eared Wheatears.  Even a lone Crested Lark put in an appearance but no sign of any Corn Buntings today.

Distant Little Owl Athene noctua near the electricity substation
It was quite an uneventful up to the next stage of the journey  - to the Charca del Negro  - but here House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Black-eared Wheatear, Chough, Goldfinch, Linnets, Greenfinch and a very distant view of a male Rock Thrush, were logged.  Not as many as usual but no shortage of Red-legged Partridges on the mountain.

Moving on to the " fossil cave " area, apart from the two local horses, a few more Chough, more Rock Sparrows, a male Black Redstart, Greenfinch and a Black Wheatear were seen.  From here we turned back on our tracks and headed for the Sierra Gordo viewpoint.  On the way we stopped at the small fir plantation, where we noted  Mistle Thrush, Goldfinches, a distant Woodchat Shrike, Wood Pigeons, Great Tits, Black-eared Wheatear, Linnets, Chaffinches and the inimitable House Sparrows.

Evan female Black-eared Wheatears Oenanthe hispanica to be seen
Moving on to the viewpoint several Chough were seen and then Gerry spotted a large raptor, which was id´d as an immature Golden Eagle,and as we watched the eagle, four more Griffon Vultures were seen in the distance and a Common Kestrel was noted here also.  The return journey was more or less uneventful although we did locate the Spectacled Warbler again, more Black Wheatears and two Lesser Kestrels.

Lots of butterflies about today including Spanish Marbled White, Large White, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Adonis Blue and a very pretty moth, the Clouded Buff Diacrisia sannio.

Quite a hard days birding overall, with a total yet to be determined by Bob.

Another look at the lovely Black-eared Wheatears Oenanthe hispanica

Leaving the site, I stopped close by on the way back to Ventas de Zafarraya to show Malcolm the traditional Montagu's Harrier site where we immediately saw a single male and two females.  Whilst watching these beautiful birds a single Turtle Dove flew into a nearby tree and, on departure, I managed to disturb a quartet plus a further pair a little way along the road followed by a couple of Corn Buntings.  Given the heat today, 44 species was not a bad result, especially when you consider the quality of the sightings.

(Mainly) John Wainwright

About to add some photographs and noticed that I had not loaded my EOS program up at Casa Collado so pictures will be added later when I get down to the coast and the new house, either later today or tomorrow.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Golden Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Alpine swift, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Orphean Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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