Monday 29 February 2016

Tenerife - Day 3

Monday 29 February

Today was the turn of the north-west corner of the island with a visit to the lighthouse at Faro de Teno.  A quick drive up the motorway and then the new (for us) road to Santiago del Teide passing many Collared Doves and Common Kestrels on the way before taking the twisting road up and down over the sierras with some magnificent views in the sunshine and shade, including the isolated village of Masca, before finally reaching Buenavista del Norte and the narrow road west to the lighthouse.

Two great sightings on the way, apart from the four Ravens, more Kestrels and the occasional Buzzard, when we came across a Laurel Dove on the road looking just like some sort of elongated partridge before it hopped up onto a side rock and then disappeared from view.  Similarly, a stop to scope the cliff face for the resident Barbary Falcon was unsuccessful but then, seeing a movement in a bush outside the car window as we were about to carry on, a closer look found our first Tenerife Blue Tit.  How different it looked with its dark cap and almost giving the appearance of a diminutive Great Tit.

On to the lighthouse car park where we had the pleasure and privilege of meeting local birder Beneharo Rodriguez  who introduced us to some of the birds of the area and scoped one of the three current Osprey nests on the opposite cliff, albeit no bird seen.  He also passed on news of is study of the local Osprey, Kestrel and Barbara Falcon population.  Incredible to think that in 2002there were only two breeding pairs of Barbary Falcon and now there are fifteen in the Teno area.

Time to move on and we quickly found the designated area which held a good-sized flock of Rock Sparrows along with both Linnet and Canary.  Two Sky Larks were in the air as we arrived and a short walk produced a very close pair of Berthelot’s Pipits.  Soon we came, once more, across Beneharo and he offered to take us to the best viewing point for a male Barbary Falcon, the female, as he stated, being hunkered down on its Cliffside nest.  No sooner had we gone a few hundred metres than he stopped the car and as we approached pointed out the male Barbary Falcon high in the sky above us.  What a wonderful sighting which we most certainly would not have had with his help.  Whilst stopped we also had Common Kestrel, Buzzard and Raven pass over.

Berthelot's Pipit Anthus berthelotii

Saying our goodbyes and exchanging contact addresses, we then travelled to the far north of the island where B had informed us there had been an (American) Blue-winged Teal last week.  This we did rather than hang around near the Bellavista Golf Course just to see a Common Teal.  This must have been the longest journey any of us has made just to see a handful each of Moorhen and Common Coot on the very small lake beyond Tejina as we approached Bajamar!  But we did hear another Canary Chiffchaff and also recorded Rock Doves. Leaving the short shower of rain behind us we then made our home via Santa Cruz and the T1 motorway.  Passing the local golf course we noticed a Little Egret flying in and then, as we parked the car, noticed that the tree in front was full of Spanish Sparrows.

Only 21 species but a further two new endemics plus another new species for the year.

Birds seen:
Little Egret, Buzzard, Barbary Falcon, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Laurel Pigeon, Collared Dove, Sky Lark, Berthelot’s Pipit, Blackbird, Blackcap, Tenerife Chiffchaff, Canary Blue Tit, Raven, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Canary, Linnet.

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

Sunday 28 February 2016

Tenerife - Day 1

Sunday 28 February

Arriving in the early afternoon we had a week’s birding with Barbara and Derek Etherton to look forward to as we drove to our large one-bedroom apartments at the nearby Parque Verde development on Tenerife’s Costa del Sur golf complex.  In terms of accommodation, probably only up to the local hostal quality in Malaga province but at a little over 9 (nine) Euros per person per night were we complaining?

Kestrel - the common raptor of Tenerife
So to our first full day yesterday (Saturday) as we set off towards Mount Teide with the aim of finding the picnic area near KM59 on the TF21 where, according to our guidebook, we were guaranteed to find the endemic Blue Chaffinch.  Twisting and turning ever upwards in the sunny weather with a lovely warm interior even if the outside temperature was gradually falling, especially after passing above 1500 metres, we experienced sun and cloud along with our first common birds including Collared and Rock Doves, Blackbird and then our first Canarian Chiffchaff.  All was going swimmingly until we reached Vilaflor and found the road blocked and a queue of pedestrians stretching back a couple of hundred metres on the feeder road.  Having been forced to take a right turn onto the same road we found the accompanying cars and, on making further enquiries, were informed that the road was closed at the week-end with free bus transport to Teide. All very well but we only wanted to go a further ten metres to reach our destination.

Berthehol's Pipit
Change of plan and the need to look elsewhere for our birds.  At the lower end of the village we had our first challenge as stopped to identify an LBJ on the wires.  Very pale below giving a Bonelli’s Warbler appearance but too large.  The bird flew across the road to settle n a stone wall giving a closer look as it was joined by a second bird.  But this was a definite Meadow Pipit so we started think Rock rather than Water Pipit but somehow wrong.  Try and check later when we looked at photos and consulted better illustrations.

Raven at the picnic site
Next on to a side road towards San Miguel where first we stopped to find the calling Chaffinch and (Derek and I) had our first sighting of a Blue Chaffinch, and my word it was very blue in the sun, whilst above a Common Buzzard was making lazy circles in the distant sky.  A quick sighting of a pair of Stonechats as they crossed the road and then on to the nearby picnic site where we picked up a pair of Ravens and a couple of Common Kestrel.  Around the corner we stopped o search the scrub and were soon rewarded with Sardinian Warbler and a number of (true) Canaries.  Then on down the mountain where we came across a group of five restless Little Egrets before finally hitting the coast for a late lunch break.
The afternoon saw us on the coast itself at Las Galletas, slightly west of our base for the week, and amidst what could only be described as a “hippy colony” with a large assortment of tents and not-so-young residents in a range of attire – or not!  It was here that we to have our best sightings.  First a Canarian Grey Shrike was flushed and came to perch on a nearby cabin giving excellent views and where was the camera?  Don’t ask!  Camera now in hand we set off on a short walk along the volcanic rocky coast where we had regular sightings of the local Yellow-legged Gulls and then a Berthelot’s Pipit that simply refused to fly away as it gorged itself on something and enabled us to take scores of photos from, at times, less than five metres.

A very friendly Berthehol's Pipit

Back to the car and as we looked at the photos Barbara pointed out that there were hirundines coming over the bank towards us.  Back out of the car to discover that we were experiencing a sudden fall of Common Swifts but accompanied by at least a couple of House Martins.  What a great way to end our first full day and including the Grey Wagtail that had come down to bathe at the edge of the swimming pool when we arrived at our hotel, we had now reached 20 species, four of which were not just new for the year, plus with the Common Swift, but also our first endemic species of the Canaries.  And, weatherwise, we had seen sun and cloud (as forecast) and a temperature range from 10 to 24°C.

A fresh fall of Common Swift

Birds seen:
Little Egret, Buzzard, Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Berthelot’s Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Canary Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Canary Chiffchaff, Canary Grey Shrike, Raven, Blue Chaffinch, Canary

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

Thursday 25 February 2016

Fuente de Piedra with John and Jenny

Wednesday 24 February

Fresh from their morning with us yesterday, John and Jenny Wainwright took off for Fuente de Piedra today and were well rewarded with a sighting of a visiting Pallid Harrier.  Now I wonder if this is the same bird that was reported as being seen last week at Zapata and, most winters, we get a sighting of the bird(s) at La Janda so, perhaps, this is a returning migrant on its way north.  Whatever the reason, certainly a great bird to add to anyone's Year List down here in Andalucia.  Here follows John's report:

First it was warm then a bitter wind.

As we drove into the car park and set the scope up a person came across and asked if he could use the scope to ID a bird and then asked me to have a look.  Although it was a long way away, the pale colour and the obvious full collar, gave us a Pallid Harrier.  I said to the man, it would be good if another raptor came over to put it to flight and lo and behold a female Marsh Harrier came and gave us good views of it flying but when it landed it was hardly visible.  Jenny and I did get more views of it flying later on but we couldn´t get close enough for photos.

Anyhow, after the excitement we looked over the boardwalk area, but only White Wagtails were noted, so we moved along the stream and saw Chiffchaff, Spanish Sparrows, Crested Larks and Black-winged Stilt. From the mirador we spotted Greater Flamingos in the distance along with three rafts of Gulls.

From the Laguento hide we saw Shovelers, Mallard, Teal, Pochard, more Greater Flamingos, including several juvenile birds.  Two Common Snipe were spotted in the weeds along the foreshore as well as Moorhen, Common Coot and White Wagtails.  Lots of Jackdaws, Black-headed Gulls and a few Yellow-legged Gulls whilst, in the bushes, Sardinian and Cetti´s Warblers were heard.  Goldfinches, a Greenfinch, Black Redstarts and Great Tit were noted and House and Crag Martins, Barn Swallows were in good numbers.  A movement in the reed-bed over the far side of the laguento gave us two Purple Swamphens and then three Ravens flew over the left edge of the water.

We then moved over to the Cantarras Mirador, where there is still no water, but here we found about 200 or so Common Cranes in the far fields.  A Marsh Harrier and the Pallid Harrier were having a ding-dong over the reed-beds.  We also saw Common Buzzard, Little and Cattle Egrets, Sardinian Warblers, Great Tit, Blackcap and Lapwings.

It certainly sounds as if you had a good visit and, not yet being the end of February, there were still Common Cranes to be found.  No doubt they will all be gone within the next week or so.

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

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Huetor Tajar, Granada Province

Tuesday 23 February

A beautiful ,clear, sunny day and becoming quite warm by mid-day.  Arriving at Huertor Tajar I met up with Barbara and Derek Etherton who had brought Micky Smith with them and, within minutes also joined by John and Jenny Wainwright who live in nearby Salar.  Then off we set for the fields on the far side of the town with our target birds the winter residing Stone Curlews and Little Bustards.  Whilst we were busy birding during the afternoon, John and Jenny had returned home so that by the time I got back John's report of the morning activities had already arrived.  This forms the start of today's birding account.

A very warm day with a breeze now and then.
One of at least forty Stone Curlew Burhinus oedionems at Huetor Tajar
We met for coffee at the km 204 hotel and then proceeded through the town centre and parked up opposite the small track that heads out towards the railway line. Here we saw Collared Doves, male and female Black Redstarts, Crested Larks, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and a few Goldfinches.  Moving along the track - watching where we put our feet - at the bare tree we found Tree Sparrows, a House Sparrow and Stonechats, whilst in the fields to our right three Short-toed Larks, Meadow Pipits, Crested Larks and yet more Tree Sparrows were noted.

Lots of Tree Sparrows Passer montanus about

To our left, firstly it was two Lapwings then it was three Stone Curlews, then lots more of the latter were found in the furrows and the greenery.  Above these birds we saw House Martins and Barn Swallows and a few Spotless Starlings.  White Wagtails were in good numbers as were Linnets and Stonechats, while a couple of Zitting Cisticola were spotted.  In the area by the railway line we saw Serins, Dartford Warblers, Sardinian Warblers, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows and scanning the wires for Starlings a Little Owl was seen close to a telegraph pole.

Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata

Retracing our steps and heading across country, we stopped and searched the irrigation canals and Rio Genil where we found Grey Wagtail, Common Waxbills, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Goldfinches and Greenfinches, House Sparrows and White Wagtails.  Crossing over the Vva. Mesia road we saw Corn Buntings, Grey Wagtails, Chiffchaffs, Cattle Egret and looking over the Rio Genil we saw Blackcap, Black Redstarts, a Water Vole, then above us a Greater Cormorant went over.  As we  reached the car, a Buzzard was heard mewing in the distance.  Moving then along to the poplar copse we heard Chaffinches but they were not seen, likewise the Bramblings.
Then, parking up at the stream, we saw Azure-winged Magpies, Blackbirds, Chaffinch, Crested Larks, Linnets, and downstream a tad a Green Sandpiper was spotted.  This gave us good views as it took off and flew upstream past us.  Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were also singing. From here, across the back track that leads to the Loja road, we located two Little Bustards (where are all the others), two Magpies, Mistle Thrush, a small flock of Calandra Larks and both a Little Owl and Hoopoe were heard calling.

Distant record shot of one of the two Little Bustards Tetrax tetrax seen in the area
 We then split and went our different ways, thanks for the company guys and gals!!

Little Owl Athena noctua hoping not to be shot!
Whilst John and Jenny were driving home we four were enjoying a roll and coffee before setting off towards the Cacin Valley in the hope that we might find a few Black-bellied Sandgrouse.  Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons and Spotless Starlings on the way and then a stop to admire a Wryneck posed at the top of an almond tree and as I drove off the others had a lovely view of a Cirl Bunting.  A stop at the track entrance to our target site to admire a pair of Stonechats and a Corn Bunting and then we were there but, sadly, no sandgrouse.  Looking to the edge of the distant field we had a good sighting of a Buzzard and then a Little Owl flew out of the ruins behind us and posed on top of a sign, shame it was not a "No Parking" sign!

On down the Cacin Valley seeing a few Chaffinches and then a Jay flew across the road.  The first stop on the bend near the rock face produced a brief glimpse of a Blue Rock Thrush but the pair of Long-tailed Tits were very close. before we crossed the outlet stream from the reservoir.  Here we stopped to see more Chaffinches and Wood Pigeons along with a "croaky" Moorhen.

Finally, round the corner to park and walk across to the edge to look down over the reservoir.  Lots of Coots and Pochards and, as we looked, a handful of Mallard and a pair of Shoveler.  At least three resting Cormorants plus a very static Azure-winged Magpie.  Meanwhile, over the water, scores of White Wagtails feeding just above the top feeding on insects as if they were Flycatchers and above them scores of hirundines, mainly House Martins with good numbers of Barn Swallows along with the occasional Crag Martin, a couple of Sand Martins and Smithy manged to locate the single Red-rumped Swallow.  All good things must come to an end and time to make our respective ways back down to the coast.  As we turned the cars Derek managed to locate a single Teal and as he was showing me the duck a splendid female Marsh Harrier came into view over the reeds (no wonder the ducks took flight!) and was closely followed by the most handsome male.  They then proceeded with a little courting display before returning to roost in the nearby dead trees.  With that final display we set off having recorded, I think, a magnificent total of 64 birds.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Green Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Bluethroat, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Waxbill, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Sunday 21 February 2016

Andalucia Bird Society visit to Osuna

Saturday 20 February

What a glorious start to the day with clear blue skies, no wind and by late morning, beautifully warm as we met for the monthly filed meeting of the Andalucia Bird Society in Osuna.  First mistake of the day was get up early and out of the house by 7.45 so that I could arrive with fifteen minutes to spare to catch u with people only to discover that it was a 10 not 9.30 start!  Even then we did not get away till nearly eleven so lots of early morning lost but still had a great day's birding, accompanied in the car by John and Jenny Wainwright, and recorded over fifty species including some real choice birds as will be seen later.  In all there were 32 members present travelling in thirteen cars but I did manage to get away ahead of the pack and most of our morning was spent with no more than one other car present.

Meanwhile, John and Jenny had arrived half-an-hour before me and finding no other members present at the meeting point proceeded to check out the immediate area before returning in time for the "grand assembly."

Now, as I start to write this report, I have just received an email from John with his account of the day so, with thanks and appreciation, I will us his words to continue.

As we headed for the meeting place at km80 on the A92 motorway towards Sevilla, we saw Ravens, Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows.  On arriving in Osuna there were no other cars or people about so we headed in the direction of La Lantejuela and at the first culvert we picked up Moorhens and Serins, the second culvert we spotted Spanish Sparrows in good numbers, with a few House Sparrows thrown in.  Moving further along we noted a Buzzard, while along the fence on the right we saw two Iberian Grey Shrikes and a few Corn Buntings.  At the second road bridge we found fourteen Great Bustards and also in the area we saw Linnets, White Wagtails, Collared Doves, Ravens, Wood Pigeons, Crested Larks, a Cattle Egret, Spotless Starlings and two Hoopoes. Returning to the cafe/bar we met some of the group and was told that the meet wasn´t until 10am not 9.30 as published.

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
At about 11am we moved off again in the direction of La Lantejuela and stopping at the second culvert we noted Stonechats, Spanish and House Sparrows, a Barn Swallow flew over us here as did a Sky Lark, whilst in the distance a Red Kite was seen circling on the thermals.  Below him nine Great Bustards were spotted in the distant fields along with a good flock of Calandra Larks.

very distant record shot of the nine Great Bustards Otis tarda (PHOTO: Bob Wright)

Moving along to the second road bridge we found the fourteen Great Bustards and above them a female Marsh Harrier was seen.  Suddenly a flock of twenty two Little Bustards took flight as the harrier came over their location, took a circular flight path and returned to virtually the same spot as they had left.  Also about here we saw Ravens, Crested Larks, the Red Kite was spotted in the distance and a Black Redstart was spotted in the field just below us.  It was on to the third road bridge now, where we saw more Calandra Larks, Crested Larks, Linnets and a Red-legged Partridge was noted hiding in one of the hedgerows.  (There were certainly plenty of sightings of this game bird all morning.)

Bob decided to get an early start for the back track - running parallel to the new railway - here we saw (and photographed) Spanish Sparrows and Iberian Grey Shrikes, several Red-legged Partridges were seen in the fields as well as some birds flying over the railway line.  Sardinian Warblers were seen as well as House Sparrows, Corn Buntings, a Common Kestrel and more Ravens.

Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: Bob Wright)
Passing over the new railway bridge we noted a Little Owl on the ruined building, more Ravens, a Buzzard and another Common Kestrel.  It was here that we were joined by another of the cars, as all the rest had travelled along the new railway track to where we did not know until later.  We now headed for the Alamillo track that heads down to the "Roller ruins".  Along this track we spotted Sardinian Warblers, Crested Larks, Spotless Starlings, Chiffchaffs (singing), Black Redstarts and House Sparrows. As we approached the ruins we spotted the missing group convoy away in the distance at the railway arches.  Looking towards the convoy, we found Lapwings, Golden Plovers, four White Storks and we are 99% sure that it was a Peregrine Falcon that put all the plovers up.   (Meeting up later with the rest of the party this was confirmed and, indeed, it put up most pf the large mixed flock of Lapwings and Golden Plovers.  Also seen in these shallow "pools" were Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Little  Stint and the above-mentioned White Storks.) 

Buzzard Buteo buteo (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

So onto the ruin where we heard first then spotted a male Blackcap, more Chiffchaffs, Crested Larks, Jackdaws, a female Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstarts, Goldfinches, a female Marsh Harrier, Zitting Cisticolas and our second Barn Swallow of the morning.   It was here that Bob noticed we were out of time and we needed to get to the small reserve at the back of La Lantejuela for lunch and visit to the private Laguna del Gobierno reserve.

As we arrived a small group of Glossy Ibis left the reserve and as we settled down to eat our lunch I could hear Greenfinches, Great Tits, House Sparrows, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps.  All these we saw later in the reserve.  A male Marsh Harrier then the female were seen before we entered the reserve and again good views were had later.  In the reserve itself we found Serins, Goldfinches, House Martins, Barn Swallows along with Greater Flamingos, Black-headed Gulls,one Lesser Black-backed Gull, Stonechats, Mallard, Shovelers, Pochard, Moorhen, Common Coot, Black-winged Stilts, Cattle Egrets, Little Grebe, White Wagtails, Collared Doves, Crested Larks, Cetti´s Warblers and Spanish Sparrows. And as I was leaving a few of us caught up with the Green Sandpiper that arrived in the first pool.

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

As Bob drove us back to our car at the meeting point we noted several Common Kestrels, Ravens, Buzzard, Rock Doves and Calandra Larks.  All in all a good days birding with a bird total of over 60 species.

Birds seen (by the group as a whole):
Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe,Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, White Stork, Flamingo, Red Kite. Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Little Bustard, Great Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Little Stint, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola,  Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chafinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

But if you lean across your passenger then take the photo through the opposite window, get the exposure wrong, than you will most likely end up with under-exposed shots such as these of a Buzzard and a Spanish Sparrow!!!!


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

Friday 19 February 2016

More from the Axarquia meet at the Guadalhorce

Thursday 18 February

As ever I am most grateful that John Wainwright sends in regular reports of all his visits with Jenny and yesterday was no exception.  All the birds previously mentioned in my report are included but when Chris and I left Jenny and John remained a little longer.  Just goes to show that you should never make a definitive statement such as, "No Chaffinches were seen" by reading the final paragraph of John's report!

Female Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
In the muddy and scrubby areas below us more Blue-headed Wagtails were noted as well as White Wagtails, a Common Sandpiper, Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaffs and Zitting Cisticolas. Across the laguna we saw two Grey Herons, another Common Sandpiper and a Ringed Plover.  A couple of Collared  Doves flew past us as did a Common Snipe and a Spotless Starling.  Lots more hirundines here same as at the Escondida less the Red-rumped Swallow,and as Bob and Chris were about to leave the hide I spotted two Kentish Plovers land on the mud on the far side of the laguna.  After we had packed up to leave the hide and was walking back along the track a female Chaffinch (take note Bob), was seen in the trees to our right.

Blue-headedWagtail Montacilla flava iberiae (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

On our way back into our village, the now almost resident Buzzard and a few Azure-winged Magpies were seen, putting a nice finish to a good days birding. 

All these additional photographs are courtesy of John Wainwright 

Penduline Tits Remiz pendulinus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Fourteen of the flight of twenty Greater Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
One of two Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos seen at the Laguna Grande  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Part of a raft of 49 Common Scoters Melanitta nigra  (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

So it looks very much as if we five, as a group, managed to finally find the sixtieth bird for the visit.

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

Thursday 18 February 2016

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 18 February

At least 49 Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra seen off the Sea watch

Certainly wet with light rain falling as I set off with brother-in-law Chris Sprinks for the Guadalhorce in Malaga and already emails had come in stating that, inland, it was absolutely tipping it down.  Arriving by 9.15 at the church I thought we two idiots would hang around till half-past and then, perhaps, wander off to Zapata for some in-car birding.  But no, there are more than two idiots in the neighbourhood as we noticed John and Jenny Wainwright walking towards the river and upon catching them up also discovered that David Hird had braved the elements.  In the event, it was more dam than wet as we five headed over to the eastern canal where once ensconced in the Casillas hide it absolutely through it down.  A break in the rain enable us to move on down to the Wader Pool and, again, more rain whilst there.  Next we headed for the Sea Watch and were able to spend some time in the area before returning to the previous two hides for a very short stay  where, once more, we had renewed interaction with the wet stuff.   The same was true of Escondida; dry walking and showers once inside but, at least, Laguna Grande was dry.  By the time we left at 2 o'clock we had had a a fabulous morning's birding recording, by my reckoning, 59 species.  By now it was simply damp, dismal and cloudy but, would you believe it, the journey home was once more accompanied by heavy rain but all had stopped as we arrived back in Mezquitilla.  I must have done something good in the last twenty-four hours!

Unlike recent visits, we were greeted by numerous Blackbirds, many sightings of Sardinian Warbler and over thirty marauding Monk Parakeets.  The first Cormorants were seen flying to and from the reserve and a couple of Moorhens and Coots were seen on the river as we crossed the footbridge.  The best treat, however, was the very close sighting of the local Osprey working itself up river.  Naturally, there were a couple of Rock Doves under the motorway bridge and the neighbouring bushes held the first of many Greenfinches seen during the morning.  Goldfinches were heard then seen as was the constant singing/calling of Cetti's Warblers.  Moving across to the Laguna Casillas we had many more sightings of Sardinian Warblers along with a plentiful supply of Robins and Blackbirds but both outnumbered by the busily-feeding Chiffchaffs.  On the other hand, it was a change to come across a couple of Crested Larks so early in the morning.  A Great Tit was a new addition.

Laguna Casillas held relatively few birds consisting of a pair of Mallards, two pairs of Common Pochard and maybe four pairs of White-headed Ducks.  We picked up a couple of Little Grebes and three Teal plus a few Coots and Moorhens but right in front of the hide along with many more sightings of both Sardinian Warbler and Chiffchaff we had at least five feeding Penduline Tits.  Now that really was a treat, especially when they gave good views rather than feeding behind the rushes.

Penduline Tits Remiz pendulinus busy feeding below the Casillas hide
Rather quiet at the Wader Hide with just a pair of Black-winged Stilts and a couple of Ringed Plover.  More of the small birds and then three Hoopoes flew across the back.  We also saw a trio of Teal, a couple of Little Grebes and a pair of Meadow Pipits.  A White Wagtail landed on the track behind us before moving down to the water's edge in front whilst a Mediterranean  Gull was found in the flock of Black-headed Gulls over the eastern river making their way towards the sea.  Below the bank to our left we also, with great surprise, found a pair of Red-legged Partridge.  Whilst a lone Redshank may have put in a late appearance, maybe the bigger surprise was to find a single Blue-headed Wagtail (Iberian sub-species of the Yellow Wagtail), our first of the year and somewhat early on 18 February.

Common Pochard Aythya ferina
The walk down to the beach produced a Grey Heron in the Old River and the first Stonechats along with more Crested Larks, Robins, Meadow Pipits, Goldfinhes and Greenfinches.  Fortunately, we also managed to fins a couple of Serin and a small number of Black Redstarts then, overhead, the first sighting of a skein (?) of 18 Greater Flamingos.  We were to see these lovely adult bird on a number of occasions during the morning and it was if they were unable to relax and land but were constantly on the move.  The highest count confirmed that there were about twenty individuals in the group.  The large trees at the back, in addition to Cormoranats, held a single Kestrel and a Booted Eagle and as we watched these a lone Marsh Harrier passed in front and then trough the trees and a Collared Dove flew over our heads.

Female Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
The beach seemed completely empty when we arrived at the Sea Watch, and I mean of all life including fishermen, naked men and even birding men, but out on the water was a small mixed flock of gulls, mainly Lesser Black-backed but also including a few Yellow-legged and Mediterranean Gulls.  Whilst a feeding Black-necked grebe was not too surprising we certainly did not expect to find a (true) pair of Shoveler.  And having found the Shoveler that led us to the raft of Common Scoters.  Despite their collective feeding activity which usually resulted in one or two birds remaining on the surface, we finally agreed on a total of 49 individuals.  Then four Turnstones sped round the rock below us before coming to rest in a close eastern bay.  Naturally, there was a regular movement of Cormorants and the Flamingos put in a repeat appearance.

Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus overhead
The walk back to the previous two hides produced more of the same plus a handful of House Sparrows and a single Crag Martin.  To the west we found another resting Booted Eagle and a check at both hides provided nothing new.  Even the Wader Hide produced a Little Egret.

So onto the Laguna Escondida, recording Linnet on the way, and given its much smaller size this was the most productive water with a dozen White-headed Ducks, a few Teal and a couple or so Mallards, good numbers of Little Grebes and a at least two Black-necked GrebesChiffchaffs in abundance worked the edges but it was over the water that produced the speciality of this water with a large number of feeding Barn Swallows which were then joined by a good number of House Martins.  Still a few Crag Martins about and then the first of a couple of Sand Martins found resting in a water-side tree.  Just one missing and then Jenny spotted the first and only Red-rumped Swallow of the morning, so giving us a full-hand of hirrundines.

Distant Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis

As we left to set off for the Laguna Grande a Cattle Egret posed atop one of the route directors. On the water itself we found a very small number of Coots along with both Little and Black-necked Grebe and a single pair of Mallard.  Just a trio of Grey Heron to be seen but well over an hundred Cormorants.  In front of us many more Chiffchaffs and the the first Common Sandpiper of the morning and a second a little later on the far right bank.  We thought we had a second Blue-headef Wagtail but then there was another - and another- and another.  Finally, at least a dozen feeding individuals and such a lovely bird to see at close quarters.  A couple of Spotless Starlings were found in the tree tops at the back along with two Booted Eagles (we think there was probably a total of three on site) and on trying to locate the Barn Owl nesting site behind me I missed the Snipe that few up from below the hide and bade a hasty retreat inland.  The final new bird of the day was the pair of Kentish Plover that conveniently dropped in at the back just long enough to be scoped as we had already seen a small number of Zitting Cisticolas either side of the stay at the last hide.

One of a dozen early Yellow Wagtails  Motacilla flava iberiae of the Iberian sub-species
As can be seen, despite the dull day and on-off showers we had a great morning's birding with some very good sightings.  No doubt somebody will enlighten me once read as to the birds I may have missed!

Pair of Shoveler Anas clypeata seen on the sea and later on Laguna Grande

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Common Scoter, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe,Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Snipe, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Penduline Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

Tuesday 16 February 2016

The old Zafarraya road and beyond

Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Monday 15 February

Despite the on and off occasional drip of rain here on the coast, John and Jenny Wainwright managed to find a little more serious precipitation on their birding excursion towards Malaga province which took in the old, now easily accessible, old road to Zafarraya.  Great little road this as you can usually guarantee finches at the top, Mistle Thrushes and Red-legged Partridges as you drive down and loads of Corn Buntings and a mixture of larks at the bottom.  The road then gives you an opportunity to either take a little circuit, which obviously John and Jenny did, or carry on towards the "Growing Fields" beyond Ventas de Zafarraya and through the "Magpie Woods" where, if not already seen along with their more "Common" cousins, one should be able to pick up Azure-winged Magpies.  As far as John and Jenny were concerned, it wasn't so much the prospect of seeing the Teddy Bears would be having their picnics but rather whether the heavy sleet would turn to snow!

Old Zafarraya Road  15th February

Wood Lark Lullula arborea seen at the bottom of the old Zafarraya road (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

A very dull day, with sleet and heavy rain later-

As we had a couple of hours to spare we decided - albeit rather dull and threatening rain - to go up to the old Zafarraya road area.

Lots of Spotless Starlings lined the power lines as we turned off at km16, we parked and got the cameras ready, hoping for the Bramblings to be here, to be snapped.

Just one of the illusive Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
As we drove down the track Mistle Thrushes, Chaffinches and a few Black Redstarts were noted then a huge flock of finches descended on the track to the small puddles.  Searching through the finches we found Chaffinches, Linnets and at least five Bramblings along with a solitary Great Tit.  A Robin flew out of the trees into the field and two Crested Larks were seen here also.

Robin Erithacus rubecula (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Moving down the hill three Calandra Larks were spotted, and in the trees, scores of Corn Buntings
perched until we reached their location.  After turning right more Corn Buntings were seen as well as a family of Magpies, and as we drove down to the ford a large number (twenty one in fact) Magpies were counted in and amongst the grasses along with White Wagtails, Blackbirds, Mistle Thrushes and Crested Larks.  We parked at the ford and had a wander among the bushes, here we found two Woodlarks, Black Redstarts, a Robin and in the trees at the back we saw several Azure-winged Magpies.  From here we drove another kilometre or so picking up Rock Buntings, Thekla Larks, a Little Owl and, amazingly, our first Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum longibracteatum) of the year.

Giant Orchid Himantoglossum longibracteatum
(PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Passing a small cluster of trees we noted Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Bramblings, a Mistle Thrush and a dozen or more Corn Buntings.  The temperature was dropping very quickly now and a huge black cloud dumped an enormous amount of sleet on us, so it was back to the Casa and light the log-burner.

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Just goes to show what can be found in a very short time if you plan ahead and know your local patch.

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

Saturday 13 February 2016

Zintillating Zapata with Derek Etheton and Company

13 February 2016

Just for your pure pleasure and enjoyment I have copied below a wonderful report received from Derek Etherton with his account of a visit yesterday to the Guadalhorce at Zapata, just behind Malaga airport, which I think, like me, you will thoroughly enjoy.  Of course, having read the report you may well find your reaction meanders from that yellow streak of jealousy and be anything from frustrated though annoyed to well p***** off at the sightings!  But still a great and fascinating day's birding so do make sure that you include Zapata on your regular visits if you live within range of the airport.

Zapata and the Rio Grande: 12 February

We, Barbara and I, met up with Peter Ashley yesterday early morning at Zapata.  One of his 'wants' was to find Penduline Tits [not always the easiest request!] and also to explore further Zapata and to 'discover' the Rio Grande.

So it was an 0815hrs meet, all into our car and the ford was the first stop.  Both Common & Green Sandpiper were busy feeding with below them a lone Greenshank.  Cormorants were actively fishing and both Little Egret and Grey Heron patrolled the banks.  Cetti's Warblers announced their presence as only they can and as usual seemingly hundreds of Chiffchaff went about their business.  A few Mallard flew over as we stopped to view mid stream and then from nowhere a Marsh Harrier appeared, saw us and seemed to panic by seriously altering its course!

The arroyo on the opposite side held the first Bluethroat of the day, a fleeting glance but far better was to come.  A Snipe was in its usual location surrounded by both White and Grey Wagtails, Serins, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Linnet made up the bulk of 'small' stuff in the scrub.

Recrossing the ford to real change had occurred so it was park and walk up the river bed to try for something different.  Many Coots, Moorhen, Collared Dove, Mallard, Little Ringed Plover, and many more of both Sandpipers.  Crested Larks scampered around and as usual the Jackdaws flew around the motorway bridge and Crag, Sand and House Martins joined by Barn Swallow hawked the river.  

So back to the car and drive round to the reed bed, by now a perfect day for viewing, still and sunny, so hopes were raised for the target birds, Common Waxbills and Penduline Tits.  Parking at the usual spot plenty of Stonechats around along with House Sparrow, Blackbird and Zitting Cisticolas everywhere. Before parking we stopped to view a Grey Heron close by and suddenly a Kingfisher [female] made her presence known and then afforded us a long super view as she perched on a Reed Mace in the early sun.  Now standing near the car a couple more Bluethroats were picked up and whilst looking at one in front of the concrete building an Osprey was spotted heading for the river.  A consensus decided to pile in the car and head back to the ford and hope for the spectacular, and as you can guess we were not to be disappointed, arriving back and fortunate enough to see the bird miss it's target on the first run but looping round and breakfast-fished a second time.  The Osprey's do seem to favour fishing here in the shallow, clear waters so can be seen most mornings and afternoons.  

Feeling buoyed  by this  wonderful sight we returned to continue our reed bed searches.  Walking down the track both Crested and Sky Larks were viewed and a 'murmuration' of Spotless Starlings kept us entertained.  Suddenly alarm calls were everywhere and the LBJ's dived for cover as a large raptor appeared from nowhere.  It soon returned from the back of a building with an angry Common Kestrel chasing, but dwarfed by a female Hen Harrier, a first for us here.  After the excitement died down we continued on walking eventually to find a small quantity of Common Waxbills feeding on the flower seeds of a purple coloured flower.  Busy little birds, never still and seemingly always eating, but still no Pendulines.  Getting toward the end of the track hordes of House Sparrows were in the hedgerow and the reeds contained so many Chiffchaffs and Cetti's Warbler in full view.  Suddenly on a stand of Reed Mace 2 Penduline Tits were spied busy pulling out the seed heads and scattering the 'fluff' everywhere.  Super views only some 15 metres away and judging by the colourations a distinct pair.  After a time they moved on and so did we, it was gone 1100hrs and no breakfast yet, so La Cohete to eat whilst Peter returned to exchange his car at the airport.

Regathered we drove up the A357 to the Rio Grande stopping to view a Booted Eagle on the way.  At the river we soon added Black Winged Stilt, Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit.  Other than that nothing extra was added until we reached the upper part of the river where Ravens and a distant Black Stork obliged.  

Returning back to collect Peter's car at 1400hrs we had clocked up 52 species, a satisfactory trip by any standard.
Now that's what I call a great morning's birding with all efforts concentrated on the birding.  Photographs of all can be found by searching the Internet.

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