Monday 31 August 2015

Charca de Suarez, Motril

Sunday 30 August

Quite cloudy when I collected Steve and Elena Powell for our onward journey to Motril and the Charca de Suarez but no sooner over the Malaga border than the cloud clear to give a warm and sunny morning which seemed to become more humid by the minute.

Spotted Flycatcher Papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata

Thought about the direct route but, at the last minute, decided i would take our usual diversion along "Turtle Dove Alley" and just as well we did so - even if the camera and bins were in the boot. Welcomed by the usual Collared Doves and a few House Sparrows but we were soon amongst small charms of Goldfinches and then a couple of posing Zitting Cisticolas.  No sooner had we stopped to retrieve said bins and cameras then we spotted a "small" black and white bird resting at the top of a bare bush not fifty metres away from the road.  My immediate thought was that lapwings do not perch to give some idea of size so very much a question of taking to the bins.  Yes, a rather lovely Black-shouldered Kite posing nicely and showing it yellow legs and even giving us the occasional "evil eye" as w tried to get a decent picture.  Obviously a bird moving through and our luck to be in the right place at the right time.  Continuing on we quickly picked a Crested Lark, juvenile Woodchat Shrike and a dozen Cattle Egrets on a distant electricity wire before reaching the reserve entrance.
Black-shouldered Kite Elanio Comun Elanus caeruleus
No sooner through the gate than a pair of Spotted Flycatchers and a very noisy, calling Cetti's Warbler.  Straight to the Laguna del Traraje where a most handsome male Little Bittern was well-exposed and awaiting our arrival.  The bird remained for a considerable time before climbing away through the grasses but not before we had found a second, female, Little Bittern close by.  The odd Mallard, Moorhen and Little Grebe added to the bird life and even a most fleeting glimpse of a Purple Swamphen.  Meanwhile, mainly) Red-rumped Swallows, Barn Swallows and House Martins fed overhead.  A Kingfisher dashed past and a fleeting glimpse of our first Red Avadavat.

Little Bittern Sison Comun Tetrax tetrax with nearby female (below)

Leaving the hide to walk down to the new hide overlooking the Laguna del Alamo Blanco, which is now well-overgrown with rushes and no longer the great wader pool with just a little exposed water at the front, we picked up a trio of juvenile Flamingos and a few scattered Goldfinches.  On the other hand, the track between the two hides was alive with Blackbirds including a feeding party of seven.

The odd Spotless Starling passed over along with more hirundine sightings and then we were at the main hide overlooking the very green Laguna de la Aneas.  But there is definitely a sign of returning bird life with a good number of Moorhens, Coots, Mallards and even a distant Red-knobbed Coot. However, best of all was the little collection at the far right where below the two resting Grey Herons was a couple egrets close together, one Cattle and one Little Egret.  Immediately below the egrets was a n adult Night Heron and with a couple of feet close to the water a juvenile Night Heron.

Juvenile Red-Knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata
Then it was time to concentrate on the small bird, a delightful pair of Red Avadavats that were working the foliage on the small island immediately in front of us.  The male was looking most resplendent in his scarlet chest with those white spots and, one or the other, even managed the ionic fly-past of a small white feather hiding the Red Avadavat carrier hidden behind.  Obviously getting ever closer to the start of their breeding season and, if anything, slightly earlier then the norm.

A very active pair  Red Avadavats bengali Rojo Amandava amandava
Viewed from both hides overlooking the Laguna del Trebol, we had a good number of Common and Red-knobbed Coots including evidence of successful breeding of the latter.  Just the one Little Egret and a family of Little Grebes but also a second Kingfisher sighting.  Overhead, a couple of Common Swifts moved through and our return walk produced a Kestrel to give a final tally of 30 species for the morning.  And we must not forget the lovely Chameleon that Elena spotted near the Laguna del Trebol.

Chameleon Camaleon Comun Chamaeleo chamaeleon

 Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Grebe, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Black-shouldered Kite, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Bittern, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Goldfinch.

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

Thursday 27 August 2015

A day in the mountains

Wednesday 26 August

Feeling much better and anxious to once again get out and about, blow away the cobwebs and see some real birds rather than just the monosyllabic Collared Dove on the roof, the occasional foraging House Sparrows and passing Lesser Black-backed Gulls overhead.  So what better way to return to the birding fold than spend a day out with special friends Derek and Barbara Etherton.  The day promised to be a mixture of cloud and sun so should be good albeit in the event it was very cool and cloudy at the start but by early afternoon the cloud had dispersed to leave a very hot and sunny day - and for most of the time we were birding at an altitude well over 600 metres.  Leaving Alhaurin before 9 we made an interesting stop at the Rio Grande before heading off to Ardales for our morning coffee stop.  The it was up and of-road to take the mountain track to Teba.  Looking back, we realised that this birding track had taken us over five hours to complete; wonderful scenery with beautiful vistas and some very good birding including two new, unexpected, birds for the year, indeed Spain. Now, if only I knew the name of this particular sierra.  Sierra Ortegicar suggests Derek.

Arriving at the Rio Grande to the accompaniment of a few House Sparrows and Collared Doves there was very little water and, as Derek stated, far less then a week ago with no water now passing over the ford.  The truncated stream did produce a couple of Little Egrets and a Grey Heron and stopping at the ford we had views of both Green Sandpiper and a Little Ringed Plover along with the first White Wagtail.  A single Moorhen was paddling around to the rear.  Another Little followed by a Cattle Egret as we drove alongside the river and up to the distant bridge, recording both Crested Lark and a single Spotted Flycatcher, where a little more excitement was to be found.  By now we had a pair of Green Sandpipers down stream whereas on the other side of the bridge a quintet of Mallards sheltered on a small stream of the previous mighty Rio Grande and further up more Little Egrets and another Grey Heron.  The area was a mass of Rock Doves (Feral pigeons), especially on the recently harvested corn field.  We could hear Bee-eaters and the first of a few Spotless Starlings and then more concentrated use of the bins and scope started to produce the smaller birds.  A small party of Long-tailed Tits was moving through the nearby Eucalyptus tree and overhead both Greenfinch and a Chaffinch were recorded.  We may have heard Sardinian Warblers but it was the briefest of views followed by some distinct calling that identified the single Golden Oriole.  On the opposite hilltop a small number of Common Swifts were feeding close to the ground.  In addition, a single Cetti's Warbler was heard.

Then it was back to the main road and half-way back along the track near , probably, the only pool in the area a male Kingfisher was buy searching out hos morning breakfast.  Crossing the dry river and passing more Crested Larks we stopped below the Booted Eagle's nest and, sure enough, there was one adult resting on a branch to our right along side the nest with the youngster busy feeding on the nest itself.  Lovely site, especially when one of the adults decided to take a local flight. leaving the area we had both Blackbird and a Hoopoe to enjoy.

Booted Eagles Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus - at nest and in flight
Following the drive up to Ardales and coffee stop, we took the mountain track up into the high sierras.  A stop for the first Griffon Vultures of the day and a calling Jay, we later to hear many more before finally actually seeing a bird, and then an early stop with the ringing sound of passerines soon produced a wide variety of species including all the Tits (Crested, Coal, Long-tailed, Blue and Great), a calling Crossbills, sights of Short-toed Treecreepers and Goldfinch.  naturally, there were Chaffinches to be seen and heard.

The next short stop produced a Subalpine Warbler and then it was time, at about 700 metres, to stop for our picnic lunch.  As the car pulled up in the shade at the side of the road Derek had a Wood Warbler almost in te car before it settle in a nearby larch (?) where we all followed its journey through the tree and then over the car and into the trees on the opposite side of the track. meanwhile, I was look straight ahead at a Southern Grey Shrike sitting proudly on top of a small tree immediately in front of the car.  It gave all three of us great views until it saw the camera slowly rising and decided enough was enough!

And so we continued along the rising track until we over 800 metres up and passing a single Mistle Thrush on the way.  Funny how things turn out.  We had stopped to finally get a look at our first Stonechat of the day on the right, and there were to regular sightings from now on, when looking to my side we had a very yellow bird feeding in the Tamarisk.  Sometimes obscured by branches but so concentrated on its feeding that it was always able to be seen and photographed and it became more and more obvious that we were looking at something different and unexpected.  This was no melodious warbler, at what would have been an excessive height and alien habitat, that we resorted to the "Collins" for clarification.  Yes, no doubt about it, we were looking at an Icterine Warbler which was obviously on passage south and probably pushed slightly off course by last week's strong winds. Bright yellow underneath with the colouring continuing through the vent and to the under-tail feathers.  We even saw what appeared to be a faint, pale shadow at the end of the secondaries but they do not seem to appear in the photographs.

Our Icterine Warbler Zarcero Icterino Hippolais icterina which, within five metres, was larger than a Willow Warbler but had similar coloured markings on the head but so very deep, custard yellow below from throat to the end of its tail.
Our next prolonged stop was on reaching the rocks with many caves on the cliff face.  A Short-toed Eagle was playing the sentinel on the end peak and as we searched we found numerous Crag and House Martins along with both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows.  First a Blue Rock Thrush and then our only Black Wheatear of the day whilst a Spotted Flycatcher played hide-and-seek above us.  A Wood Pigeon drifted over behind is and then we found a number of smaller birds feeding below the scrub.  easily enough to pick out the Serins but what about the other, obvious, warblers?  The female Blackcap was relatively easy to identify in the bushes but the other pair, after much observation through the scope, proved to be a pair of Isabelline Warblers, and very nice too.  having recently seen our only Thekla Lark, the sight of a couple of Black Redstarts completed, possibly, the missing birds that we had yet to see.  And all the while the air was full of feeding a Bee-eaters who seemed to be also enjoying these small trees to enjoy they recently caught prey.  And all the while the solitary Short-toed Eagle perched above on the cliff top watching the activity going on below.

Short-toed Eagle Culebrera Europea Circaetus gallicus 
What a way to end the day and nothing else produced before we finally reached Alhaurin and a very welcome long, cold beverage.  A final total of 54 species so a very worthwhile, for me, welcome back to the land of the birders.  Now where shall I go on Sunday?

Birds seen:
Mallard, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Moorhen, Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Isabelline (Western Olivaceous) Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Sub-alpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Wood Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Short-toed Treecreper, Golden Oriole, Southern Grey Shrike, Jay, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill.

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

Misty weather!

Sunday 23 August

You can't win them all!  Received a very short message from John Wainwright on Monday to let me know that he and Jenny had ventured up their local "hot spot" of the Sierra Loja for a day's serious birding only to find that the clouds had descended and were so thick it was all they could do to see the track in front, nevermind birds, bushes and sheet drops off the edge!  Read on see that Cloud was not their only problem and if thy could not see then goodness knows what the hunters were shooting at.

Went up the above yesterday but the cloud came down so thick that it was impossible to see anything at a distance, there were hunters about, so it was a quick up and down. I did see - possible - the last Rock Thrush (juvenile) for this year and Dartford Warbler. It was a tad chilly up there!  At the pond it was 11C.

As John reports, only two birds and one would be a great sight for most and the second a sight worth seeing on its own and a possible lifer.  Now is the time to keep your eyes peeled for these Rock Thrushes as they start to disperse and can often be found on much lower mountain slopes, especially the juveniles.  Think a very large juvenile Woodchat Shrike sitting on a wire.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Zapata and the Rio Grande

Saturday 22 August

They are at it again; will they never get a decent night's sleep?  Derek and Barbara Etherton were up early and collecting mutual friends Lindsay Pheasant and Micky Smith for yet another visit to their local patch to take in both the Guadalhorce at Zapata and the Rio Grande.  As with my visit earlier this month, still no sign of the elusive Barn Owl but I am sure that one of us will get another chance soon.  meanwhile, read Derek's report of another wonderful morning's birding and some very good species recorded to make it all the more worthwhile.  Now I wonder what Derek and Barbara will produce for me next week?  Whinchat and Bonelli's Eagle would be very rewarding.

Friday 21 August
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

The insomniacs meet up with Mick Smith and Lindsay Pheasant yesterday morning in the car park of Lidl's.  We get a lay in now that Autumn seems to be approaching and light does not appear until about 0700hrs.  We drove down the track at Zapata looking for the elusive Barn Owl that has stayed hidden for the last few weeks.  No luck again yesterday but as usual several Red Necked Nightjars were on the track affording superb views in the car headlights.  Several Iberian Hares crossed over together with a few Rabbits.  As the first glimmer of dawn broke and the early Crested Larks started to move a slightly different approach, one B and I tried last week, was suggested.  This entails driving to the weir/ford as daylight breaks [it happens so quickly], stop with the engine off in the middle of the water, and just sit and watch!  It's amazing, as your eye adjusts so much is happening, Common Sandpipers were bathing, 2 Night Herons busy fishing, Grey Herons behind them.  A male Kingfisher landed on the reeds a bare 5 metres. from us.  Little Egrets soon appeared with many of the Cattle variety rising from the roost in the reedbeds behind.  Little Ringed Plovers were plenty and a Green Sandpiper flew in up the river, over the car and landed to feed.  Luckily nobody was coming from the village to cross the water, few do very early, and in the 10 minutes we were there the first glimmers of sunlight were starting to show.  Sufficient for us to move the car 10 metres or so to dry land and get out to walk.  Moving up the side of the river a large flock of finches, Green, Gold and Linnets were joined by 5/6 Turtle Doves feeding in the bone dry scrub.  Viewing them it was thought that there was a Lesser Short-toed Lark among them, but even with the help of a 'scope the bird stayed too well hidden.  Moorhen and Coot were active and a flock of 30+ Mallard flew overhead and several Yellow Legged Gulls wheeled around.  Barbara was scanning the river edge some 400mtrs+ up under the motorway bridge and asked for the 'scope.  Yes, she had found the Little Bittern that seems now to be in residence in this area.  Super views for all for a good 5 minutes until it disappeared back into the reeds.

One of many Short-toed Larks Calandrella brachydactyla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
By now it was half past eight and time to move down to the reed beds to find the usual and unusual suspects.  Walking along in the now warming sun several Common Waxbills, Zitting Cisticolas, more Turtle Doves, Barn and Red-Rumped Swallows, Common Swifts, House Martins flew over the reed bed.  Two more Kingfishers were having a game of chase low over the reeds.  We were fortunate enough to see the second Little Bittern of the day fly over the reeds to land quite close by and spend 5 minutes 'chuntering' away.  Walking down to 'Short-toed Lark corner' we were not to be disappointed.  I'm sure these little birds know us now as they seem not to fly away quite so quickly.  Stonechat, House Sparrows, Spotless Starlings and Sardinian Warblers were a plenty. A wander back to the car at Spanish breakfast time had 3 juvenile Red Rumped Swallows perched performing their morning ablutions.

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica at their ablutions (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
So 39 species in under three hours and a well deserved breakfast for all.  After that it was up to the upper reaches of the Rio Grande where some interesting birds have been found recently.  We soon added Purple Heron, White Wagtails, the family of Booted Eagles we have followed recently and discovered their nest area.  A Grey Wagtail eventually was found and as we scanned the area between the two bridges on the track we found a Lesser Short-toed Lark, lovely 'scope views for all of us.  Many Bee-eaters were wheeling around, gathering perhaps to leave us, amongst them were many House Martins and the adult Booted Eagles were above.  A Golden Oriel was briefly spotted flying up in the eucalyptus trees.  Another Kingfisher was seen fishing away [5 for the morning!] and several Little Ringed Plovers, Green and Common Sandpipers were by the water.

You can never see too many Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Returning to the car, two Black Storks glided in low above us to land in the nearby water.  Sadly not to stay long enough for a picture.  Still another ten species added for a morning total of 49.  

By now it was too warm, so home and lunch was the general consensus, a good mornings birding and nice company. 

It sounds like an absolutely fabulous morning and I especially like the thought of the Booted Eagles, Little Bitterns and the fleeting view of the gorgeous Golden Oriole.  Similarly, you can never see too many Red-rumped Swallows.

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

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Arroyo Marin, Archidona

19 August 2015

Leaving Mezquitilla with a couple of Common Swifts feeding above the main road, within the hour I was passed the "white elephant prison" and arriving at the Arroyo Marin just before Archidona. Entering the valley track I was immediately greeted by a number of Bee-eaters and managed to get a couple of quick photos through the windscreen.  Then, having decided to get out of the car for a better shot, I was suddenly confronted by another car right behind me so had to move on.  Indeed, this was the only other vehicle i came across all morning!

taking the first side track on the right I had more Bee-eaters along with a couple of Blackbirds and a male Blackcap.  A few Barn Swallows were feeding above and the bee-eaters were joined by a handful of Spotless Starlings on the distant wires whilst a small flock of Rock Doves took to the skies.  The dead weeds seemed to be providing plenty of food for the foraging Serins.

Bee-eaters Abejaruco Europeo Merops apiaster through the windscreen
Back onto the main track and down to the usual parking place in the shade near the ruined farm.  A good walk both up and down stream from the broken concrete bridge produced a number of species including Chaffinch, an out-of-place Rock Bunting, Blue Tit and a pair of Cirl Buntings. Returning downstream I had a lone Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin, Collared Dove and clucking Red-legged Partridges nearby.  Over the hills a good-sized flock of Crag Martins were quartering the hillsides.

Cirl Bunting Escribano Soteno Emberiza cirius
Closer to the ruins were a small charm of Goldfinches and even a male Blue Rock Thrush on the roof of the ruined building.  A young Stonechat was in a nearby tree.  A drive down to the bridge only produced Great Tits and then it was time to make my way home picking up a trio of Azure-winged Magpies and Spotted Flycatcher before reaching the main road.

Distant Blue Rock Thrush  Roquero Solitario Monticola solitarius
The scenic return via Ventas de Zafarraya rather than the motorway to Malaga duly found Corn Buntings, House Sparrows and a resting Short-toed Eagle.  Even a small flock of Mallard on the irrigation pond at the back of Zafarraya.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Short-toed Eagle, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Robin, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Azure-winged Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Saturday 15 August 2015

Sierra Loja AND Zapata's Guadalhorce

Friday 14 August

As I said only a few days ago, never mind the continuing heat wave as there are birds to be found and seen if you put your mind to it.  John and Jenny Wainwright proved a point with a visit to their local and favourite site, the Serra Loja and had no sooner completed their day when Derek and Barbara Etherton were off down to their favourite local site on the Guadalhorce at Zapata behind the local airport.  Not just birds to be seen but exciting species that make the journeys even more worthwhile. What is also interesting, is that both make a point to say what was not present so that you have a better feel for the day, Barn Owl in the case of Derek and Barbara and Eagle Owl with John and Jenny, but a timely reminder of what might be observable on a more fortunate day.

Sierra Loja 13th August

A warmish  25C, down below only, but a cool 19C up the Sierra.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
We started off from Salar about 7.45am and it was with a nice breeze that we gained the base to the
Sierra Loja´s.  Here we found a good flock of Crossbills and disturbed five Collared Doves that were
foraging on the main track.  A few Goldfinches about here and a couple of Blackbirds.  Going directly up to the hidden quarry, no Eagle Owl was seen, but we did get two Dartford Warblers, a Sardinian Warbler and yet more Goldfinches. Scanning the mountainside we located five Spanish Ibex, and the a Short-toed Eagle appeared above the "owls roost", followed by two Black Kites.

Moving up through the tree line, several Great Tits, Chaffinches were noted as well as a dark-phased
Red Squirrel, while at the cliff face, Stonechat, Rock Buntings, Chaffinches, a Wood Pigeon, Thekla Larks, two Chough (no Jackdaws at all today- which is very surprising as this is their main roost-site), a Black Wheatear, Common Kestrel and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike were logged.

Between here and the substation valley it was very quiet, but as we descended into the valley a large
 - very young - family of Red-legged Partridges scattered in all directions.  Here we picked up Southern Grey Shrike, our first of many Northern Wheatears and also lots of Black-eared Wheatears (in various stages of plumage),  A few more Rock Buntings and Thekla Larks were also noted.

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

As we approached the ponds (Charca de Negra - which are both bone dry), Black-eared Wheatears
were everywhere, several Black Redstarts, Linnets another two Northern Wheatears and a sprinkling
of House Sparrows.  Moving round to the "fossil cave area", a large flock of Chough were feeding on the down slopes and our one and only Little Owl of the day was spotted here, in and amongst the rock piles.  A couple of dozen Spotless Starlings flew over and on the cliff face Rock Buntings and Linnets were seen.

Backtracking and then heading off in the direction of Salar, at the walnut grove we found a Hoopoe,
 Stonechats, more Blackbirds and Black Redstarts, the latter being  forever harassed by Black-eared
Wheatears.  The fir copse held more Hoopoes plus three Mistle Thrushes, Chaffinches, another Southern Grey Shrike and a female Sardinian Warbler.  Dropping down to the catchment area a Black Wheatear flew off at our approach, then a flock of some twenty two Bee-eaters came across the face of the mountain heading west,  House Martins and Barn Swallows were noted here as well. We had a cuppa  and a sandwich here before moving off, when a wasp landed on my hand, I though it had landed for a drink as my hands were wet, but it turned out he was after a chunk of skin from between my fingers.

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Retracing our steps and scanning the area around the stone trough, a pair of Bonelli´s Eagles circled and gave us some great views and as they disappeared from sight a Short-toed Eagle came over from
the opposite direction.  A little further down four Griffon Vultures were spotted and a Short-toed Eagle (probably the same one as before) came over breaking up a party of Common Swifts, Barn and
Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins.  A couple of Crag Martins were seen on the downslopes
and to finish up a Spectacled Warbler and a family of Long-tailed Tits were seen and a Coal Tit was heard.

Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

A few butterflies were seen today,ie: Small Copper, Striped Grayling, a Scarce Swallowtail and some
Small Whites.

Guadalhorce, Zapata and Rio Grande: Friday 14 August

Short-toed Lark Calandrella  brachydactyla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Now whilst John and Jenny were up the mountain on Wednesday, Derek and Barbara were off to their local and ever-poplar site down at the verdant area of Zapata checking out the Guadalhorce just behind the airport, on Thursday morning..  It never ceases to amaze me what they find here and when you visit you see beautiful green countryside as you look upstream with its wide bubbling brook (well perhaps not a brook!) you easily forget that you are just a couple of miles from Malaga town centre.

Yet another Red-necked Nightjar Caprimulgus ruficollis caught in the headligjhts (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
As usual, no hanging around in bed of a morning for D & B as they are up with the lark (actually on site before the lark is up!) but, unfortunately, no Barn Owl again although lots of Red-necked Nightjars and all the usual water birds including Little Bittern and Night Heron.  This is also a a great place for seeing Short-toed Larks and having seen the fly-past by the extended Black Kite squadron it was breakfast and the short hop up to the Rio Grande to complete their birding morning and a final tally of 57 species including Purple Heron and Short-toed Eagle.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

All this positive birding and me just about recovered, test results  due back next week when I have the return visit to the Doc and hope the outcome will not be that I have had a serious dose of Gastro-entritis, as got me dreaming of birds, birds and more birds.  But where to go?  me thinks I might have a wander up to the Arroyo Marin next Wednesday and then play it by ear.

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
As always, very many thanks to both John and Derek for sending me their reports and photos so that I can enjoy them along with readers of the blog.

Black Kites Milvus migrans on their way south (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

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

Monday 10 August 2015

Guadalhorce and further upstream

Monday 10 August

Just received a lovely report from Derek and Barbara Etherton who, along with Micky Smith, have been exploring the Guadalhorce from Zapata upstream.  Certainly proves that there are birds to be found and seen if you put yourself out as can be seen by Derek's report.

Zapata and Rio Grande

Met Mick Smith this morning, later than usual, to try and find this elusive warbler.  We headed straight to the area we had seen it on Friday last, but our combined luck was out.  Locking the car with several Red Rump Swallows seemingly within touching distance we walked on to see a Spotted Flycatcher  busy feeding and numerous mixed finches, Gold, Green, Serin and Linnet were feeding on the ground.  A Hoopoe walked a few yards in front of us and several Little Ringe Plovers were on the large rock.  House Sparrows went from the ground to the bamboo and Cetti's Warblers seemed to be everywhere, and not just calling but highly visible.  A couple of Jackdaws flew by the motorway bridge & a flock of 30+ Mallard flew over going down river, perhaps they just enjoy flying because 10 minutes later they were back again!  Walking through the dried river bed to where the Guadalhorce still flows quite strongly a Kingfisher flashed past up to the top weir.  It passed over several Blue-headed Yellow Wagtails feeding and in the grass, semi hidden, there appeared to be a Sandpiper of sorts.  It soon revealed itself to be a Green Sandpiper but then from behind us another Sandpiper flew in and low and behold we had a cracking Wood Sandpiper right in front of us.  Long green legs and the white eye stripe prominent.  A couple of Barn Swallows were resting in the reeds & a solitary Common Swift passed by.

By now it had started to rain, yes rain, that weird stuff we seem just hear about but seldom experience.  So we hopped in the car and drove over to the reed ditch to what was about.  Now, two hours later than I normally visit, it seemed so different, and dare I say so quiet.  However we saw a Purple Swamphen climbing the reeds and ten minutes later saw it fly past us to land.  A debatable Spanish Sparrow [think it's that hybrid] was feeding.  A small flock of Common Waxbills flew past and several Short-toed Larks showed themselves.  I suspect the birds were confused by the falling rain.  A Nightingale posed well for Barbara and the Zitting Cisticola's were there usual affable selves.  Sardinian Warblers were active along the fence.  Collared, Rock and Turtle Doves all flew over.  Flying from the placed rocks towards the water deposit a Black Eared Wheater [they bred here this year] showed very well.  A solitary Blackbird issued it's usual warning call of our approach. By now we actually sheltered under the landing light pier and as soon as the rain eased made our way to obtain essential supplies, coffee and tostada!

Whilst munching we decided there was time to visit the upper reaches of the Rio Grande to see what else we could add.  At the very top end between the road and the water pipe we were fortunate to find and see Grey & White Wagtails, many European Bee-Eaters, a super Squacco Heron [juvenile], Woodchat Shrike and Black Winged Stilt.  Among the many Cattle and Little Egrets were two 'Little Egrets' that looked decidedly different.  Not at first sight but when 'scoped they showed many grey feathered areas particularly around the neck and wings.  We put them down as juveniles, but something just didn't seem right.  I now have second thoughts, just look at page 83 of the current 'Collins' and you'll see what I mean!  Doubling back on ourselves we were lucky to see a Golden Oriole [male] fly up into one of the eucalyptus trees that abound around here.  He moved from tree to tree affording super views.  Crossing back over the water by the goat farm something caught my eye by 'crashing' into the trees on the bank.  Stopping the car and getting out we witnessed a juvenile Booted Eagle being as clumsy as you will ever see; falling off branches, hanging on by looping a wing over a branch, so untidy!  It's concerned parents were constantly calling to it and circling close by and eventually it untangled itself, had a shake and took to the skies, right place, right time!  A lone Common Kestrel completed the morning.

A total of 50 species and yes we did record the noisy, raucous green parrot-like bird! (Those "Monkeys" seem to get everywhere.)

Sounds like a great day was had by all and most definitely the real fifty shades of grey!  Your "strange" egret reminds me that Steve and I saw a "strange" Barn Swallow on Sunday morning down at  the Rio Velez.  We both were thinking Hobby as the bird looked so big but decided, watching it with our 'bins' that it was, literally, just a rather large individual rather than the hoped for raptor.

Sunday 9 August 2015

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar and Frigiliana

Sunday 9 August

Off to lunch with Steve and Elena Powell but time first for about an hour with Steve down at the Rio Velez.  Our first visit to our local patch for about six weeks and what a difference.  Everything seemed green and overgrown and even difficult to see where the river, if there was any water, should be.  Yes, we had the resident Rock Doves drifting around but noticeable was the number of Barn Swallows present, and, it seemed, mainly adult birds.  We were also greeted by a single Collared Dove and a dozen plus juvenile Barn Swallows on the wires.  Nothing but it but to head towards the hide and hope that there might be some breaks in the tall bamboos at the track side.  To make matters worse, the cloud began to clear and the weather became very hot and also humid, so unlike this part of Spain but, on the other hand, norm for the past couple of months.

Barn Swallow Golondrina Comun Hirundo rustica (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

No sooner had we mad fifty metres progress than we came across a pair of displaying Cetti's Warblers very close to the track but, unfortunately, with much obstructing vegetation.  Meanwhile, House Sparrows were making the most of finding food on or near the ripening tomatoes on the other side of the track and a quintet of Cattle Egrets made their way downstream - where we later found them roosting in reeds on the far side of the "hidden" river.  A single Mallard flew upstream.  As with last week at Zapata, it seems that the flocks of Spotless Starlings are beginning to increase in size.

Cetti's Warbler Ruisenor Barstado Cettia cetti (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Once at the hide we were able to watch the many Barn Swallows with the occasional House Martin and even a Common Swift feeding both in front and above the hide.  Also present, as expected, a small band of marauding Monk Parakeets and then a lone Reed Warbler.  Plenty of gulls about, mainly Black-headed and Yellow-legged but also lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Continuing on to the beach we found a single Crested Lark and a pair of Common Waxbill and on the reed-infested water both Coots and Moorhen.  A pair of Blue-headed Wagtails flew over our heads and into the reeds.  The walk back to the car found very little else other than a solitary Little Grebe.

Relaxing on the terrace after lunch we were able to follow a high passage of Bee-eaters whilst being entertained by the resident Collared Doves.  The pine trees at the edge of the terrace produced first a Great Tit and later a single male Sardinian Warbler.  House Martins were busy feeding overhead and making frequent visit to their nests above and we even had a few Common Swifts and a visiting Kestrel.

But best of all, given that I am yet to see a Coal Tit this year, as we sat drinking a late cup of tea on the terrace, a Coal Tit decided it could not wait any longer to be omitted from the annual record and suddenly popped up on the terrace railing less than three metres away.  Talk about,, "If Mohammad won't go the mountain then the mountain must come to Mohammad!"

Black Percher Diplacodes lefebvrii seen at the Rio Velez (PHOTO: Steve Powell)

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Crested Lark,Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow.

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

Saturday 8 August 2015

Forty Shades of Grey!

Thursday/Friday, 6 & 7 August

No, not some filleted female fantasy, rather the fact that Jenny and I spent Thursday evening and Friday staying with our friends Barbara and Derek in Alhaurin de la Torre (and, no that's not the fantasy either!) so that in the darkening grey of Thursday evening we could visit the Guadalhorce at Zapata just to the north of Malaga Airport to try and find Red-necked Nightjars and the illusive Barn Owl that appears to hold a local territory and then Derek and I returned in the lightening grey of Friday morning for a second shot at the targeted birds plus anything else that might be found in the early morning dawn as the little brown jobs rose from their overnight slumbers.  In the event, by the time we returned for a late breakfast we had managed to record a respectable forty species.  Just imagine the title if we hand found a further ten species!

So, Bee-eaters over the pool along with passing barn swallows and House Martins, not to mention the growing numbers of Collared Doves, and as the grey of evening approached we set off for the river.  Always a late Blackbird to seen dashing between bushes and as the grey darkened it was apparent that the Red-rumped Swallows were going to be one of the last to retreat to their bulky clay nests under the overbridge.  A lone Night Heron headed away from the river to seek the shelter of nearby reeds and we continued our search of the "usual" sites fr our targeted birds.

No sign of a Barn Owl although we dd have one very brief and distant image of something white suddenly disappear behind the bushes and vegetation and not to be seen again.  Was it the local Barn Owl?  We will never know.  But more luck with the Red-necked Nightjar.

Night photography of a Red-necked Nightjar Chotacabras Pardo Caprimulgus ruficollis
Returning to the narrow, banked track as we turned the car the headlights picked out the familiar double red dots of the bird's eyes.  Great views of the resting bird at the side of the track albeit trying to describe to Jenny where to look took a while and then "bingo" she was on the ball.  At that the bird took off to the right but was soon down again and in a position that enabled us to search the area.  We thought we had it in our sites so Derek turned the car slightly, headlights on full beam and there was the bird all lit up like a Christmas tree.  Strangely the bird seemed happy to remain and although it made two very short flight it, on both occasions, returned to almost the same spot.

Photographs taken through the windscreen, everybody happy to strain and find the bird with their binoculars when I happened to look up and there, on the car's on-board forward-facing camera was the bird itself.  It had been there all the time but nobody until that moment had seen the picture!

Never great to photograph through the windscreen so, having I hoped, got some record pictures I quietly opened the door, on the far side from the Nightjar, and managed to creep out and get a few more shots.  The bird never moved but continued to rest in the full glare of the car's headlights. Nothing ventured nothing gained so a few steps forward and able to get what I thought might be a clearer shot avoiding the stalks sticking up from the ground.  The main question would be whether or not any of the photographs would be usable.

Onwards and upwards as we continued another couple of circuits in the hope that we might find the barn owl but we were to be unsuccessful.  On the other hand, we did have a calling Little Owl before finally returning home via appropriate taps and a late night drink.

Friday morning saw us back on site before the grey of dawn but still no Barn Owl.  The Red-necked Nightjar was back on its favourite track and a further individual was found immediately in front of us on the main track remaining long enough for good vies but not able to photograph.  Also present, as with the previous evening, were good numbers of Crested Larks roosting on the track itself.  How do these little birds manage to avoid predation sleeping out in the open?

With the coming light, having first seen a Little Ringed Plover feeding near the ford, smaller birds began to appear including Blackbirds and House Sparrows whilst, overhead, we had moving Cattle and Little Egrets and the first, a juvenile, Night Heron of the morning.  Next up a very colourful display of Common Waxbills in a flock of at least thirty, feeding on both the track and neighbouring reeds, followed by Greenfinches, Serins, Goldfinchs and Linnets.  A Turtle Dove announced its presence before settling on a fence on the opposite side of the reed-bed and we had many Rock and Collared Doves about us.  Large numbers of Spotless Starlings were seen, a sure sign that autumn is approaching and that theses birds are already beginning to flock up for the winter so, maybe, a few Common Starlings will shortly be joining them from northern Europe.  On the other hand, perhaps it was the quartet of Red-legged Partridges that caught my attention in these early minutes of daylight.

Very early morning shot, little light, of the flock of Common Waxbill Pico de Coral Estrilda astrild
Also putting in an appearance before we mad our way to the riverside near the ford were both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows along with small groups of Yellow (Iberian sub species) Wagtails. Next we had a visit from some of the local House Martins and a single Common Swift.  Still to find the local Short-toed Larks we were but surprised and delighted to see a lone Peregrine Falcon which put on a special stoop display for us and, as looked eastwards we were rewarded by a flock of at least an hundred Flamingos flying high overhead as they appeared to be making their way towards Fuente de Piedra.  But where had these magnificent birds come from?  Too high to have come from the mouth of the Guadalhorce and as they are known to migrate at night it left me wondering whether they had made travelling westwards from as far away as Almeria and possibly Cabo de Gata?

No sooner had the Flamingos disappeared and we had the pleasure of the arrival of a small number of Short-toed Larks, feeding alongside both Greenfinches and Serins and a small number of Crested Larks not too far distant.  It was also pleasing to find a Spanish Sparrow resting on the fence and the shortened black bid might suggest that this was a hybrid with some House Sparrow in its genes but it did have that lovely white cheek and gorgeous chestnut crown.  So it was on to the Guadalhorce proper passing a Zitting Cisticola and with both Cetti's and Reed Warbler calling from the reeds below and the sight of at least a pair of male Sardinian Warblers.

Spanish Sparrow Gorrion Moruno Passer hispaniolensis
Our stay at the river produced more Little Ringed Plovers along with a Little Egret and many Blue-headed Wagtails, mainly juveniles.  The second pair of Jackdaws passed overhead along with a lone Yellow-legged Gull and then, in quick succession, first a Green followed by a Common Sandpiper.  A lone Hoopoe wandered across the area and there were feeding finches on the damp area this side of the main water to the north.  A Mallard drifted across the river and there were regular sightings of Moorhens, mainly juveniles.  But the final mystery was not the very briefest glimpse of a Kingfisher flashing upstream but the little warbler feeding in the low tamarisk.. What was it?  First impression suggested a Willow Warbler but wrong colour on the back; too much yellow on the front and too green to be a Bonelli's Warbler.  Derek had initially thought Iberian Chifchaff and, on reflection and much use of Collins, we also considered both Savi's and Isabelline Warbler.  Whilst we had immediately ruled out Melodious Warbler, on reflection I suspect that the bird may have been a juvenile which is somewhat similar in proportion to Willow but has less yellow, and not the deepness, on the breast - and it was in an appropriate habitat.  Over to you Derek and do I need to amend the list below?

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Flamingo, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Red-necked Nighjar, Common Swift, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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