Friday 27 November 2015

Fuente de Piedra

Friday 27 November

The Common Cranes Grus grus are back in force at Fuente de Piedra (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

Please to read that whilst I am back in the UK enjoying the cold winds of the North Norfolk coast and the multitude of ducks at Rutland Water, friends Derek and Barbara Etherton enjoyed a day's birding at Fuente de Piedra, calling in at the Teba Gorge on the way, with their old neighbours Paul and Muriel from Yunuera.  Whilst I may have enjoyed the sunshine on my local visits I am sure that my daytime temperature was probably less than half of the night temperature in Andalucia.  Anyway, lovely report from Derek to confirm that water has returned to the Laguneta at Fuente de Piedra and with it the birds and in the surrounding area the wintering Cranes are returning in their hundreds so something to look forward to when the Axarquia Bird Group visits in mid-December.  And, as Derek reports, they also had a good sighting of yet another Wryneck so, perhaps as last year, there will once again be some over-wintering individuals.

Fuente de Piedra: 27 November

We had a lovely day today with our old friend Paul and Muriel from Yunquera, where we used to live. Neither of them are 'real  birders', but she has binoculars [that I arranged for her] and when she uses them the right way round she see things, and Paul likes taking photos.  We met for coffee at Zalea, mid way for us both, and continued up to Fuente de Piedra, dropping into Teba rock en route.  Not much at the rock except for a lone Griffon Vulture that eventually rested on their nesting area and meanwhile plenty of Crag Martins flew around.  A small flock of Rock Doves seemed very active but no reason, such as Peregrine, seemed to be the cause.
You may try and hide but the Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus was still found! (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
So on to Fuente via the back road, always the most interesting way we find.  Lots  of finches, Gold, Chaff and Green, large flocks of Serin, Stonechats, Linnets and Sardinian Warblers were busy at the side of the road.  It's here that the joys of birding in Spain come to the fore, i.e. just stop and watch!  Turning right to do an anti clockwise circuit we stopped at the ruined casas to look across the lakes.  A large, some 200+ flock of Common Crane flew in from Sierra Yegas direction to land. Searching amongst the olive grove we soon found the usual flock of Stone Curlew affording excellent 'scope views for all.  The verges here were noisy with the chatter of Serin and Goldfinch feeding in the seeded fennel, but then our eyes were drawn to a ploughed field where among the White Wagtails some Calandra Larks were on view.  Around the back road to the Visitors Centre, wow that road's improved somewhat, and an Iberian Grey Shrike posed beautifully for us.  Chiffchaffs littered the tamerisk by the sewage works and Robins sat up to be viewed.  
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
On to the centre and a little stroll round to the hides via the viewpoint.  Little to see from the viewpoint except some very distant Greater Flamingo, Yellow Legged Gull, 6 Shelduck and a couple of patrolling Marsh Harriers.   Around to Laguneta hide and there is water here!  Loads of Shoveller and Mallard, some Moorhen and Coot, plus a couple of Little Grebe.  In front of us Linnet, Goldfinch and Stonechat posed on the scrub top.  Casting an eye to the waters edge a Snipe was enjoying a bath and a preen and a Green Sandpiper likewise on the other side of a stand of reeds.  Whilst watching these my eye was alerted to movement in the nearby scrub, thinking another Linnet I just casually looked only to be rewarded with a Wryneck busy feeding on ants.  Now I hadn't seen this species for years in Spain and this year I've seen 3, 2 of these in the past month.  Paul and Muriel had never seen [or heard of] this bird and to be able to 'scope it for everyone get a super view was rather special.  I got a couple of pics, poor quality as it was so camouflaged in the scrub, but it's a record.
Record shot of the Wryneck Jynx torquilla hidden among the sticks (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Rather elated we all walked back to the car and into nearby Fuente for a Menu del Dia.  After a somewhat 'patchy'  meal we continued the 'circuit' of the lake, I use that term loosely, desert would perhaps be better.  Not much en route except for a couple of Common Buzzard, some Lapwing, plenty of Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows.  The bottom end with the 'dry marsh' area is somewhat depressing.  Just desert conditions and some very distant Greater Flamingo [about a hundred].  Moving down to Las Latas flocks of Common Crane flew low over us to land on the mud that was once a lake.  Walking up to the viewpoint a couple of Lesser Short Toed Larks were on view along with their Crested cousins, nice to view 3 lark species around the lake.  Looking down from the viewpoint the Common Cranes were restless and noisy, soon they started to rise, presumably as it was an hour to sunset, and flew off in batches beautifully illuminated by the low winter sun.
More Common Cranes Grus grus flying in to feed (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Time to leave,  and no point calling into Laguna Dulce as it's dry,  we had an uneventful drive back home, for Paul & Muriel  a special day - always is when you get a first!
Many thanks Derek for a very enjoyable and descriptive report.  I shall have to make sure, now that the water is promising a return, that I check closely for any lesser Flamingos arriving at the old salinas. 

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

More Rutland Water

Thursday 26 November 

With my expected parcel arriving late last night and jenny out for the day with her friend, what better opportunity to slip over to Rutland Water and try out the new Kowa scope.  But first a quick call at the feeding station where very little activity going on, still very mild, but in addition to the Great and Blue Tits I actually also observed both Marsh and Coal Tit along with a Robin and Moorhen. In the trees near the feeders I managed to find a small number of Greenfinches.  As usual, there were plenty of Wood Pigeons and Jackdaws about with the occasional Magpie and both Crow and Rook observed as I approached the site.  Also on the neighbouring field was a pair of Egyptian Geese.

Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus
Looking out over the lagoon from the Visitors Centre I could see one of the Great White Egrets along with Cormorants, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall.  A Shelduck hove into sight and then a few Mute Swans, Pintails and Coots.  Still plenty of Black-headed Gulls to be seen along with a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls.  Similarly, there were plenty of Lapwings to be seen before I took myself off to check out the inflow to the water but very little to add other than a freshly-killed (hit by a car - not mine) Kingfisher which had been laid out on the bridge parapet.

Then it was up to the Northern Arm to find the geese and anything else.  Still very many Greylag  along with a good number of both Canada and Egyptian Geese.  here I was able to add many of the missing ducks including Tufted Duck, Pochard and Wigeon.  A pair of Goosander were also on the water and the main reservoir and, unlike Tuesday, were not accompanied by the female Smew so no chance of mixing up the photographs.  Unfortunately, by the time I took the photograph the female had disappeared and the male decided it was time for a late morning nap!  The main water held a good number of Great Crested Grebe along with a few GoldeneyeStarlings were moving about and on the far bank a number of Rooks were feeding.  Then, at last, the first sighting of a Common Gull.The sighting of both a Pheasant and Collared Dove took the total up to a round 40 species in the allotted two hours.

Sleeping male Goosander Mergus merganser

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye, Goosander, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Robin, Blackbird, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch

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

North Norfolk

To the land of the Brent Geese Branta bernicla
Wednesday 25 November

With a parcel arriving from Amazon tomorrow and the good weather forecast moved forward a day, this seemed like to good an opportunity to miss.  So, up in the dark and away with all lights burning before 6.30 and arrived at RSPB Titchwell at 8 o'clock and before the staff.  I even got the best spot in the car park and then set off in the early morning light in the hope that i would pick up Bearded Tits, Bramblings and a good selection of ducks and geese.  The sky was clear and the day was to be full sun and no cloud but with a cold breeze coming out of the north-west.  But before arriving I had already had some of my birding dreams come true.  Not the fort birds of the day which were Crow, Rook, Wood Pigeon and Blackbird but  that silent white ghost, the Barn Owl.  Not having seen a Barn Owl since my last one in Norfolk almost three years ago, this individual swept slowly past the front of the car and even managed to kiss the windscreen leaving a weird impression on same.  Fortunately, the bird did not go to ground and managed to recover, no doubt with a severe head ache, and managed to fly off on its dreamy flight.  Not only this ghostly apparition but a large flock of Fieldfares almost immediately afterwards who appeared to be tucking into a breakfast of juicy red Hawthorne berries.

Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus
A small flock of Pink-footed Geese were seen as I approached the reserve but no Bramblings as the feeders had been removed over a week ago in a bid to try and restrict the rat problem with the said rodents enjoying their free feast.   But there were the friendly, welcoming Robins along with a couple of Moorhen, Magpies and a couple of Pheasants.  Similarly, no Bearded Tits as the the breeze was too strong so off in the cold to the hides and eventually the beach.  From the first hide I had a view of what was to follow with numerous Lapwing and ducks and by the end of the visit I must have seen just about every member of the tribe.  No shortage of Mallards and Gadwalls and plenty of Tufted Ducks to be seen.  A couple of Marsh Harriers drifted over which put up the first of the Brent Geese and then it was back to more ducks including Shelduck, Shoveler, Teal and Pochard.

Brent Goose Branta bernicla
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
 Also present were a few Curlews and Whimbrels along with Herons, Redshank, Greenshank and Green Sandpipers plus a handful of Dunlin.  A single Grey Plover was a welcome surprise and on the beach numerous Oystercatchers and Sanderlings.  Walking the path between Visitors Centre and beach I saw a couple of Wrens and a Reed Bunting plus a Little Grebe, Little Egret and many of the recently-arrive Common Starlings.  There were indeed many Brent Geese and I also managed to find a pair of Ruff before encountering Great Tit, Chaffinch and Dunnock.

Redshank Tringa totanus (above) and Curlew Numenius arquata (Below)
A stop at Holkham produced thousands of Pink-footed Geese, in the air and on the ground.  Those feeding were inter-mixed with hundreds of Wigeon whilst, on the opposite side of the drive, a large flock of Jackdaws were also searching the grassy fields for the odd grub or two.

Only a few of the thousands of Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus
Just the short stop before continuing on to Cley with brief stops at both Brancaster Staithe and Morston where more Redshanks, Brent Geese and Turnstones were recorded along with a single Ringed Plover at the latter and a Kestrel during the journey.

Turnstone Arenaria interpres turning stones!

Cley seemed very exposed with a handful of Avocets on Pat's Pool along with a Curlew, the latter not a common sighting at this site.  I eventually braved the sea breeze and walked the beach to the ruined hide but very little to see.  A flock of about an hundred Golden Plovers were resting on the grass near the beach along with more widespread Lapwings and I though my luck had changed and picked up Snow Buntings feeding on the beach but, no, turned out to be a small charm of Goldfinches with a number of Linnets inter-mixed with their cousins.  But I did pick up a couple of Blue Tits and a handful of House Sparrows at the nearby Cley Spy shop before starting out on the return journey to Stamford.  Sixty birds for the day so not too disappointed.

Almost a hundred Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria resting near the coast
Birds seen:
Pink-footed Goose, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Curlew, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Barn Owl, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.

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

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Rutland Water

Smew Mergellus albellus
Tuesday 24 November

A calm, dull day with much damp on the ground but still able to get in almost three hours at Rutland Water before the light rain arrived.  I say "Rutland Water" but when you see both Little and Great White Egret you get a touch of deja view and feel as if you are birding back in southern Spain!  Still, almost every duck going was seen along with all the local corvids and a rather lovely supply of passerines.  No Fieldfares this morning but I did have a quartet of Redwings.

Distant Great White Egret Egretta alba
In addition to seeing a rather fine female Bullfinch I also had a flock of about eighty Greylags Geese accompanied by a score or so of Canada Geese and a couple of Barnacle Geese.  Strange to say, having only seen the one Egyptian Goose at the main reserve the Northern Arm turned up not only the above geese but at least a score of the former including a pair perched high in a bare tree.

Male Goosander Mergus merganser (above) and female below
Lots of Blue and Great Tits to be seen but just the single Longtailed Tit.  A couple of Robins but no Dunnock although I did have Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch.  Two Jays flew across the track but I suspect it was the same bird seen on the return walk to the car park.

A pair of the many Pintails Anas acuta
Whilst it was lovely to see so many handsome Pintails and their bright cousins, the Wigeon along with scores of Gadwall, I think pride of place goes not so much to the Goldeneye but the Smew.  Indeed, I even found a second individual and this, along with a male and three female Goosanders and a single female Scaup quite made my morning.  On this occasion no Red Kites were seen and the female Kestrel was the only raptor noted all morning.

Female Smew Mergellus albellus

Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
If you ignore the hundreds of Lapwings then waders were conspicuous by their absence.  A small flock of about sixty Golden Plovers was a distant surprise but the I only had a single Greenshank, a couple of Green Sandpipers and about a dozen Redshanks to add to the ten or so Dunlin seen from the Visitors Centre.

Redshank Tringa totanus
All in all a very satisfying time with a final total of 54 species.  Come the morning, if dry, then I shall venture forth over to Norfolk and see if I can add a few more species to this month's UK list.

Female Teal Anas crecca
Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Goldeneye, Smew, Goosander, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Blackbird, Redwing, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, Chafinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor

Time for the Wigeons Anas penelope to depart

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

Sunday 15 November 2015

Sierra loja with John and Jenny

A quick report from John Wainwright re his visit up the Sierra Loja with wife, Jenny but it seems that they might have been bettered by the fog at lower levels and then a mixture of Sunday shooters and the massed hordes at the higher levels!  But at least they managed to find some Ring Ouzels.

Sierra Loja 15th November

A chilly, foggy start, with a brisk breeze (12C).

After coffee and toast at our regular spot we started up the mountain.  Due to the light fog, we couldn´t see anything much until we hit the tree line.  Here the fog had dissipated quite well and we saw Crossbills, Coal and Great Tit, Chaffinches, Robins, Mistle Thrushes and a very obliging dark-phase Red Squirrel.

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
The cliff areas were barren, not even a Jackdaw to be seen (or heard), so we moved up to the substation valley.  Here we found two Chough, Thekla Larks, Red-legged Partridges, Stonechats, a Black Wheatear, Meadow Pipits and a Southern Grey Shrike was noted atop the bare tree here.

Thekla Lark Galerida theklae (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Lots of "shooting" about here today so we made our way up to the Charca de Negra ponds area.  This was swamped with people and all we had here were Goldfinches.  Along at the Fossil Cave a single Crag Martin and more Meadow Pipits were spotted, so we moved further along to the hawthorn bushes.  Here we found over a dozen Ring Ouzels, four Mistle Thrushes, Rock Buntings, Black Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers, Robins, Blackbirds, House Sparrows, Chough, a Dartford Warbler and a single Hoopoe.

Male Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
All things worth waiting for judging by John's report.  It just shows that you have to keep right on till the end of the road, or track in this case, if you want your share of the birds to be seen.

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

Friday 13 November 2015

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Thursday 12 November

Wonderful morning out with the Axarquia Bird Group at the Paraje Natural de Desembocadura del Guadalhorce reserve in Malaga with a total of sixteen present including Danish and Scottish visitors as well as long-time friends.  As ever, I am grateful to John wainwright also sending in a report on the visit so I have been able to add any missing birds to the following report.  In the end, great company with a finally tally of over fifty species and, on returning home, found that Jenny had slept through much of the morning as she recovers from her broken wrist and had then been visited by friends so not on here own.  Even better, she was well enough for us to attend the local Torre del Mar cinema and enjoy a performance of  Verdi's "Aida" from La Scala, Milan.  What a wonderful way to end the day!

The morning started surprisingly cool with much cloud instead of the promised full sun but it certainly made for better birding as, when the cloud finally cleared, it became very warm indeed.  Welcomed by a good number of Blackbirds and a foraging Sardinian Warbler along with a pair of White Wagtails on the road and both Cetti's Warblers and a Mistle Thrush as we awaited the remainder of the the group.   A rapidly departing Green Sandpiper was seen overhead along with the usual screeching of the marauding Monk Parakeets which kept us awake as we made our way to the entrance footbridge.  A pair of Grey Wagtails disappeared down stream and there was no shortage of either Black Redstarts or Zitting Cisticolas about and these were to be found all over the reserve.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Crossing the footbridge the river seemed completely deserted save for a handful of the resident Rock Doves on their usual perch under the motorway bridge.  But John Wainwright managed to find the lone Kingfisher resting in the reeds below a small tree upstream of the above bridge and, I think, seen by many.  Then it was on towards the Laguna Casillas passing a Great Tit, Greenfinch and more Zitting Cisticolas.  As walked we were aware of the movement to and from the Laguna Grande by the wintering Cormorants and there was always a Grey Heron or two to be seen plus small, isolated flocks of Yellow-legged Gulls.

All in a frazzle Little Egret Egretta garzetta
As expected and fore-warned, the water level in the lagunas was very high but, unexpectedly, very few birds about.  Jut the one Coot and a Little Grebe albeit a pair of Mallards flew over.  However there was a dozen or so Crag Martins feeding above along with a handful of Barn Swallows, so somebody is still finding sufficient food to put off the long migration south to furthest South Africa for at least a few more days.  In the tamerisks below a little movement and a pair of Blackcaps were revealed along with  very small charm of Goldfinches in the bushes neighbouring the hide.  Naturally at this time of the year, it was not long before we started to add regular sightings of Chiffchaffs to the list.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis (PHOTO: Jenny Wright)
Walking on down to the Wader Pool it was not so much the pair of Collared Doves passing overhead that caught our attention as the single Whimbrel which seemed to appear out of nowhere.  The pool itself contained very few birds but we did manage to locate a pair of Snipe and then a rather lovely Reed Bunting immediately in front of us and only partly obscured by the covering reeds.  Steve thought he had found a second individual only to discover to his, and the rest of us, surprise that it was a juvenile Bluethroat he had photographed.  The beautiful shot by Steve can be seen.

Juvenile Bluethroat Luscinia svecica (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Better seen from the track overlooking the old river, Rio Viejo, was the resting Osprey along with scores of Cormorants and then a single Booted Eagle.  A couple of Hoopoes, seen by Ivan and his wife, passed low near the river bank and, at the far end of the now large pool, were four Greenshanks and a single Common Sandpiper whilst near the far bank we found a pair of Shovelers just when we began to think we were not going to see a single duck on the waters!  A pair of Moorhen made their way across the water and beyond the trees we caught sight of a Marsh Harrier drifting by. no doubt looking for a little light refreshment.  Robins were also seen as we walked in both directions but the amazing site was that of a total of 31 Grey Herons arriving in the area en masse from, what appeared to be, off the sea.  In addition, a Common Redshank was heard but not located.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
The open ground towards the Sea Watch produced a number of Stonechats and Crested Larks along with at least a pair of Lesser Short-toed Larks.  The odd Blackbird and a handful of Goldfinches were forever swapping sides and then the first of a few Meadow Pipits to add to the list.  More Black Redstarts and, looking out to sea, a fair number of both Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls plus a single Gannet but, even better, the Osprey had decided it was time to go a fishing and it passed immediately overhead as we all suddenly remembered that we had cameras somewhere or other.  The return walk towards the Lagunas Escondida and Grande produce both a point of discussion and an amazing surprise in terms of raptors.  First, resting well up the ladder on the side of the left-hand tall chimney, what appeared to be a Kestrel or could it possibly be a Peregrine Falcon from way it was posed?  It took at least another two observations from further along the track to confirm the former as it s colouring became more evident and no sooner had we resolved the matter than the cry went up from John that there was a Short-toed Eagle overhead.  There was indeed and a very late specimen it most certainly was.

And then the Osprey Pandion haliaetus suddenly appeared overhead
Arriving at the Escondida we were greeted by a school party of over forty youngsters so decided to give it a miss and head straight to the Grande, thus making sure that we had the seats and uninterrupted views.  Perhaps a little spiteful on our party as we were soon joined by the teenagers and some were quite interested and enjoyed the opportunity to share our experience and look at the birds through our scopes and binoculars.  What did we see?  Apart from the Osprey which had now returned to its previous resting place, and the Booted Eagle there were numerous Cormorants and Grey Herons along with very many Shovelers and a smaller number of both Pochard and White-headed Ducks and just the single Gadwall.  There were very few Mallards on view but a small number of Coot could be seen.  Whilst looking the other way a pair of the original five Great White Egrets flew overhead to add to the couple of Little Egrets that had been noted in the adjoining water.

A pair of Shovelers Anas clypeata (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Making our way back to the footbridge, we managed to add both Serin and Linnet whilst our Danish friends called in at the Escondida and found a single Black-necked Grebe.  Anything else to report?  A quick visit upstream, by car via the road through the airport to Zapata in order that others might discover Derek and Barbara Etherton's "home patch" revealed a good number of Common Waxbills, a first sighting for some.

Resting Osprey Pandion haliaetus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
All in all a splendid day which I hope others enjoyed as much as i did despite not still having recovered from whatever bug it was that I picked up at the beginning of the week.,

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Osprey, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel,  Moorhen, Coot, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark,  Crag Martin, Barn Swallow,  Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.

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

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Sierra Loja

Tuesday 10 November

A early start and taking the direct, motorway route accompanied by Paul Coulthard, we were gone by 7.45 and at the first, lower quarry which is a now a picnic area before 9 o'clock to start our day's birding.  Should have left mu jumper on, but at least I was not wearing shorts, as the temperature was only just into double figures and there would be sign of the warming sun until we would be well up the mountain.

Entering the service station to take the track up to the picnic area we had White Wagtail, House Sparrows and a couple of Collared Doves and even a lone male Blackbird ut in an appearance.  Arriving at the picnic area we had first a Black Wheatear and then a Wood Pigeon flew over.  So on and up to the main quarry but no sign of the Eagle Owl and its nesting hole very vare.  But we did find both Black Redstart and Stonechat with Choughs, Jackdaws and Crag Martins overhead.  However, perhaps the best sighting from Paul's point of view was a clear shot of a male Crossbill in the scope.

Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia
Continuing on up with very few birds seen but we did eventually have both Thekla and Crested Lark along with a close Hoopoe.  A Southern Grey Shrike posed rather nicely and we were to see a second individual at the top.  From this point on we began to see the occasional Red-legged Partridge and the first of the Rock Buntings.  No shortage of Chaffinches, the most numerous species to be seen, and occasional small charms of Goldfinches.

Now on the top and as we moved alongside the Charco del Negro barn we had more Spotless Starlings and the first Corn Bunting.  At the small pond, very little water, we had our first Meadow Pipit followed by a second and third as well as more Chaffinches and Black Redstarts.  Then it was round the back to see if we could find the newly-arrived Ring Ouzels.  There were probably at least twenty individual but well spread out and very flight giving poor views in terms of trying to get a photograph.  On the other hand, there were some very handsome males showing off their white chest crescent.  But before this, almost in front of the fossil cave, we had good but distant views of a pair of Alpine Accentors.  In addition to the Ring Ouzels we also recorded a couple of Blackbirds and a single Song Thrush plus a solitary Blue Tit.

Distant record shots of our Alpine Accentor Acentor Alpino Prunella collaris
More Corn Buntings before we made ou way back to Charco del Negro and then up to the top and the long track down to Salar.  Just a glimpse of a single Ring Ouzel at the alternative site but we did find a trio of Tawny Pipits.

From Salar we took the mountain road back towards Venta de Zafarraya and made use of the recently restored road.  Common Kestrel and more Mistle Thrushes and Corn Buntings were added along with a pair of Magpies and a what looked like a very large black Rock Dove.  Initially thought from its behaviour that it might have been a Raven but considerable white on the underside.  Stopping to check out the ploughed fields for Calandra Larks we actually had a lone Grey Heron drift away.  Finally, just when we had given u all hope, the final hundred metres or so of the "Magpie Woods" as we started our descent to the fertile growing field produced about a quintet of Azure-winged Magpies moving slowly over the ground and with a few inches of the surface.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Heron, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Tawny Pipit. White Wagtail, Alpine Accentor, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blue Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffing, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Arroyo del Marin with John and Jenny

Tuesday 10 November

Whilst I was having a somewhat disappointing drive up the Sierra Loja John was bust writing up his report re Monday's visit to the Arroyo del Marin with wife, Jenny.  Whilst I dipped on all three of my potential target birds I, with much envy, noted that John had a Hawfinch fly over.  Me thinks I will have to drive over again come mid-December.

Arroyo del Marin: Monday 9th November

A very warm day with very little wind.

As we entered the area several Goldfinches left the grasses and thistles, and a few House
Sparrows were noted also.  Down the track we saw Azure-winged Magpies, Serins, Chiffchaffs and a few Robins.  As we turned off the track by the ruin two Great Tits were seen in the bushes and as we got out of the car Hawfinches were heard passing overhead.

Making our way down the upstream path - lots of Large Whites and Speckled Wood butterflies about
here - we heard the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, followed by a sighting a few minutes later. Blackbirds were numerous as were Chaffinches, Great Tits but only one Blue Tit seen all day. A Green Woodpecker called several times from across the stream but no sightings were had, but more sightings of the Greater Spotted Woodpecker were logged. A Short-toed Treecreeper was spotted leaving one of the bare trees to be superceded by a Nuthatch and above the latter a Blackcap began singing.  Just a bit further down a Wryneck called, but then flew off to the other side of the stream into the oak trees on the hillside.

The downstream paths held the same varieties as the upstream with the exception of a Black Redstart, so we moved down to the second ford where we had Long-tailed Tits, Serins, a Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinches and a Grey Heron emerged out of the tall reeds a little downstream of the ford - we never came upon it again.  Coming back up the track at the pull-in just prior to the first ford, we walked up to the ford and here another three Hawfinches were seen, also a male Siskin, two Cirl Buntings and a Wren.  A movement on the cliff face gave us our one and only Blue Rock Thrush of the day as well as a small group of Crag Martins. 

On the way out of Archidonna a Common Kestrel, Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings and a Mistle
Thrush were see.  Not a bad number for three hours -quite hard - birding, and not a single photo to be had.

Certainly interesting to see that there are Hawfinches still about and the first Siskins are starting to arrive. 

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

Saturday 7 November 2015

From sea level to mountain top

Wryneck Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Friday 6 November

I was all excited last week-end as Derek and Barbara Etherton along with Linda Roberts and Mick Smith planed a super day to take in Zapata followed by the upper reaches of the Rio Grande and then a drive over to El Torcal for the wonders of that fabulous and iconic mountain top.  All seemed a great idea until I remembered that Friday morning was our monthly dance club and 'er indoors would not be best pleased if I disappeared birding yet again!  Whilst the dancing was fine I must admit I was a bit peeved to receive the following report from Derek on what seems to have been a fabulous day.  Ah well, next time I suppose.

Well as advised, shame you were dancing, we met up with Linda Roberts and Mick Smith for a day out birding, poignant in that Linda returns to the UK next week and will no doubt miss the wonderful Spanish scenery that holds our birds.  However we like to think we did her proud.

Starting as the sun burnt through the early morning mist in the Guadalhorce valley at Zapata we made straight for the ford.  Feeding on the edge was a Common Sandpiper soon to be joined by a couple of Grey Wagtails. Looking low in the tamarisk bushes for the usual Bluethroats seen here, we both noticed an unusually marked small bird facing us.  It flew and luckily we tracked it to the top of nearby bamboo and, lo and behold, a Wryneck!  A first for us here and fabulous views it afforded all of us,  posing long enough for a 'scope to be set up and for all four to enjoy a prolonged view - not bad for 08:30hrs in the morning!  Then Barbara noticed a Bluethroat close to where the Wryneck had been, what a start to the day it was proving to be.  Chiffchaff, White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Cetti's Warbler and Linnets were everywhere.  
A lovely view of the back striping on the Wryneck Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
A couple of Cormorants and Jackdaws flew over along with a Cattle Egret and a couple of Barn Swallows. Crested Larks scampered around and Serins were singing and a Kingfisher posed obligingly. With plenty of water now covering the summer dry areas, plenty of birds are enjoying the habitat, we all agreed that we could spend a couple of hours just staying here.  But this was not what the timetable allowed, so it was back up the track and round to the reed bed and 'Short-toed Lark corner' to park.  Stonechats, House Sparrows, noisy Monk Parakeets and Zitting Cisticolas were to the fore and as we tracked a solo Snipe flying we all became aware of an Osprey that had started fishing where we had just left. 
Watching the bird we then became aware of a Common Kestrel and Marsh Harrier flying close by. Several Red-legged Partridge crossed the track and a lone Cattle Egret seemed reluctant to fly from the track very close to us.  Linda wanted Common Waxbill and a few minutes later she had her wish, first a solo bird sitting out asking to be viewed and a little later a 'gang' of 10+ going about their business.  Grey Heron And Little Egret flew in and there were many Gold and Greenfinches feeding busily, joined by House Sparrows and countless Black Redstarts.

We had been here only 90 minutes and recorded a list of 39 species, not bad as a starter.  So off for breakfast at our usual venta and then on to the upper reaches of the Rio Grande - en route we clocked up Common Buzzard.  Plenty of birds to be found here, but the only additions were Great Egret, Green Sandpiper, Crag Martin, Greenshank and Chaffinch.
Great White Egret Egretta alba (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Linda had privately expressed a wish to visit El Torcal, a favourite for us and never experienced by Mick, so on we travelled.  Glorious weather, bright sun, 22c, dropping to 17c at the top,  the only trouble was that it appealed to many others and not birders, but noisy tourists and school children.  We, therefore, took a different route around and first of all found a Great Tit at the picnic tables.  So many Black Redstarts sat up on the low rocks and it took a while to find the first Blue Rock Thrush.  Whilst admiring the Griffon Vultures floating by we became aware of a pair of Bonelli's Eagles treating us to a magnificent display before disappearing down the valley.  Robins were 'ticking' and several Ibex were seen on the rocks. Crossing the road and taking the 'red route' we soon picked up an Iberian Grey Shrike, but parties of loud school children rather spoilt the scene.  One has to ask what do they get out of the day and experience? Certainly not studying flora or fauna!  However, after they passed by we waited a few minutes and then tracked back to the car to be rewarded with superb views, albeit in the shade, of a Cirl Bunting feeding in the grass.
Always Ibex Capra pyrenaica  to be found on the rocks of El Torcal (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
A quick bite to eat and then round to the other small road that leads to the satellite/telegraph towers.  It's here in the past that  we have found Dartford Warblers and Alpine Accentors.  Whilst waiting and hoping, we viewed a large flock of Choughs on the opposite hillside.  Moving on a little we found a Dartford Warbler, another Iberian Grey Shrike and eventually listened to an Alpine Accentor singing [we checked our phone Apps!] but could we see it?  No!
This Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus may be hiding but we can still see you! (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
So back down and a plan to return via Laguna Dulce.   OK we know there's no water here but the Common Cranes are back and pleasingly some 60+ birds obliged.  A couple of Corn Buntings were in the nearby field and a single Yellow-legged Gull flew over.

On the return back to Alhaurin de la Torre we had Jay and Raven pass over us so that our final tally for the day amounted to 59 I dislike odd numbers!

A long, nearly 10 hours of driving and birding, but super birds, weather & company made it all worthwhile.
Not sure which to mention first, the late Barn Swallow, feeding Osprey, pair of Bonelli's Eagles, the Wryneck, etc.  Whichever, it certainly seems as if the quartet had a fabulous day's birding.

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