Saturday 30 April 2016

John and Jenny in the Doñana - Day 4

Saturday 30 April

The final day in the Doñana National Park and now John and Jenny Wainwright are calculating how best to bird their way home to Salar in Granada Province.  No surprise that they Osuna on the menu and be not surprised if the final account also refers to Fuente de Piedra!  With John's camera in need of major repairs, it looks very much as if Jenny is taking over the David Bailey role!

Doñana National Park: Day 4 Thursday 28 April 2016 - Homeward bound

Another very hot day, but clouded over later.

Marsh Ponies at El Rocio (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Just prior to leaving the hotel we had a last look at the marismas, still a lack of ducks about with only a few Mallard and Pochard but lots of Spoonbills across the marsh with a small group of Greylag Geese.  Overhead Black Kites, Buzzard and a Common Kestrel represented the raptors and Barn, Red-rumped Swallows, House Martins and one Sand Martin represented the hirundines.  In the reed beds Reed and Cetti´s Warblers were singing and in a small bush a Melodious was noted.  It was then a herd of marsh ponies decided to cross the marsh, putting up everything in sight.

Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

So making our way back to home, just on the ring road at Sevilla, a Monk Parakeet was spotted, then onward to Osuna.

Southern (Iberian) Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Coming off at km80 on the A92, and after a coffee break, we headed inland.  En route to the first of the road bridges we saw Red-legged Partridges, more Black Kites and a Sardinian Warbler.  The crops are well up now and even scanning the ploughed fields that were few and far between, we could not get a sighting of any Great Bustards, but we did get an Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus). 

Ocellated Lizard Timon lepidus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Nothing showing at the second bridge either so we took to the track that runs parallel to the railway line, here we picked up our first Ravens of the day and a lone Cattle Egret.  More Red-legged Partridges took off as we progressed down the track, then we noted House and Spanish Sparrows, a Whinchat, Corn Buntings (no shortage of these birds),Crested Larks and a few Bee-eaters.  Common Swifts were about here in good numbers, as were Barn Swallows and House Martins.

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Moving onto the Alamillo track that heads down to the "roller ruins", we parked up the hayrick as there was a flurry of excitement overhead, with a huge flock of Ravens leaving the copse and attacking a Griffon Vulture; we even saw one bird pull a feather from the vultures wing!   A few minutes later a pair of Common Buzzard came in sight and from the opposite direction a Honey Buzzard flew into view.  Black Kites were perched in the copse and in the field below a Hoopoe was feeding.  On the power lines several Spotless Starlings and three Turtles Doves, an Iberian Grey Shrike and a Common Magpie were logged.  Moving down to the "dovecote" or should we say "starlingcote", we noted a Common Kestrel perched at the rear of the building, and looking in the area we spotted two Rollers on the fence.   As we came to a dip in the road which had a small amount of water in, two Mallard flew away and as we passed through the groves Ravens were leaving en masse.  On reaching the ruins we noted a Red-legged Partridge perched on a roof-top, then we spotted Rock Doves, Lesser Kestrel and it wasn´t until we passed through the farmyard that we saw more Rollers - eight in total.

Roller Coracias garrulus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

We then headed back to Salar a bit peeved at not getting Great Bustard, but, pleased to see the Rollers again.
Quite a successful trip overall, but disappointed on the amount of waders and ducks seen.

Sounds to me as if you had a good break despite not seeing many waders and ducks but, at least, you had the first Honey Buzzards.  And no time for a stop at Fuente de Piedra.  Looking forward to meeting up again in the very near future.

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

John & Jenny in the Doñana - Day 3

Friday 29 April

Just received the report form John of his and Jenny's third day in the Donana National Park and surrounding area.  This time they were off to the Odiel Marshes (Marismas del Odiel) and Jenny managed to capture some lovely shots of that delightful little exotic, the Common Waxbill.  I wonder here they will be on Thursday?

Doñana National Park: Day 3 Wednesday 27 April

Another glorious day to start with but clouded over in the pm.

Odiel Marshes were our target for today but we stopped off at km13 to pick up the Common Waxbills.  Lots of Nightingales were singing as we parked up at the brick hide, a few Barn Swallows and House Martins were noted above as well as two Cattle Egrets and three Purple Herons.  The water level is quite high here today but we did see Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Coots, Moorhen and two Purple Swamphen.  A Night Heron flew across the back of the lake and above it a Little Egret circled before coming to land over to the left of the lake, but out of sight.

A Reed Warbler flew into a small fir tree to our front, and then a Common Waxbill appeared in a bush directly to my front.  It spotted me so it flew onto a fence post, where I managed to get a couple of photos.  It then disappeared for a few minutes and came back with two other birds.  This occurred several times and gave us great views of this "foreign", but very pretty bird.

Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Then a Squacco Heron flew overhead not stopping her though and a Green Woodpecker was heard but not seen, but not in the case of the Cetti´s, Sardinian Warblers and the Zitting Cisticolas.

There was one small patch of mud to the very right hand side of the lake and we saw Ringed Plover and another Purple Heron here.  As we left this site for the Odiel Marshes themselves a few Azure-winged and a Common Magpie came out of the strawberry tunnels.

After parking at the Centre we scanned the estuary mud for waders whereupon we found Dunlin, Curlew Sandpipers, Grey Plovers, Whimbrel, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers and two Turnstones flew upstream.
Over in the shrubs on the far side we spotted two Blue-headed Wagtails, and on the mud below a Little Egret landed, while above Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, House Martins and Common Swifts were feeding.  We had to keep out of the way of several coach loads of young children here today, so we headed for the small pier.  Here we found Common Sandpiper, Turnstones, more of the afore-mentioned plovers and three Kentish Plovers.  A juvenile Sandwich Tern was preening on a buoy and three Avocets flew past.  On one of the old wooden piles in the estuary a good number of House Sparrows had taken up residence.

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

We then moved on to the road to the lighthouse, having forgotten about the construction work and the amount and the speed of the lorries using the road.  Stopping along this road is now forbidden and we had quite a trek before we could get any good views of Little Terns that we could hear along the way.  Finally after parking we managed to get photos of Yellow-legged and Auduoin's Gulls, the hundred and ten (plus) Little Terns, Kentish Plovers and Whimbrels.  Just then my camera on/off switch broke. Oh Well, its all down too Jenny now.

Little Terns Sterna albifrons (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
We did find Spoonbills, more Grey Plovers, Sandwich Terns and a very splendid Black Tern.  Back to the hotel to pack for our leaving tomorrow.

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

Thursday 28 April 2016

John & Jenny in the Donana - Day 2

Thursday 28 April

Just received a report from John re his present visit to the Donana National Park.  It certainly sounds as if John and Jenny are enjoying good weather as well as good birding.

Donaña: Day 2  Tuesday 26 April

A very hot day 35C, with a few breezy moments.

The centre held nothing different as from Day 1, so we quickly made a move for the Vivaldi Centre route. Lots of Black Kites seen today and one Buzzard, also two Ravens en route.  We entered the area from the Villamanrique end and were immediately looking at a very pale Buzzard.  A Common Cuckoo was heard from the poplars here and in the bushes lining the track we found Spanish and House Sparrows, Melodious and Cetti´s Warblers, while the fences heralded Bee-eaters, Corn Buntings and Goldfinches.  A Booted Eagle circled overhead but quickly vanished in the increasing heat haze.

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

At the bridges we saw Red-rumped Swallows, Reed Warblers, Blue-headed Wagtails, Zitting Cisticolas while in and around the channels we saw Coots, Mallard, Little Egrets and Grey Herons.  Several Lesser Kestrels were noted as well as five Griffon Vultures and three Ravens.  In the very few and far between watery areas we found Great White and Little Egrets.

On arrival at the Centre we saw at least twelve Purple Swamphens, Little Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Glossy Ibis, Common Coots, one Moorhen and a male Gadwall.  Grey Herons were in good numbers here as well as Goldfinches, Nightingales, Bee-eaters and a huge flock of Whiskered Terns.

Moving away from the Centre down the no through road (except for the Doñana specials), we located a large group of eighteen Griffon Vultures and more Black Kites, while on the fences we found Hoopoes, Corn Buntings, Blue-headed Wagtails, a few more Ravens and a Whinchat.  A nice viewing of a Montpelier Snake was also appreciated.  Just before going past the Vilvadi Centre and opposite the new screen we found a family of fifteen Moroccan Geckos, warming themselves on on the double concrete pylon here and they appear to live between the two pylons in the space provided. Also in the area we saw more Lesser Kestrels, Black Kites and a female Marsh Harrier, while a tad further on a huge raptor turned out to be a Spanish Imperial Eagle.

Moroccan Geckos (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Crested Larks were in good numbers as we headed for the Night Heron roost where we counted just eighteen birds, more Little and Great White Egrets about and a couple of Purple Herons as well;

Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Just then an Egyptian Mongoose ran across the path to our front and disappeared into the weed covered banks.
So onto the "Green Lane" where Nightingales were the dominant songster, followed by the Great Reed Warbler and then Corn Bunting. It was here we located a raptor preening in a tree it turned out to be our quarry, a Black-shouldered Kite, then another Whinchat, a Quail was heard in the adjacent field and as we picked up the El Rocio road a Golden Oriole gave us great views, but sadly no photos. 

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

As it was early we drove round to the El Rocina reserve to pick up a few more woodland birds.  We did get Serins, Nuthatch and Golden Oriole while Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon were appreciated.  The ponds here held Purple Herons, Greylag Geese, Red-crested and Common Pochard, Spoonbills, Mallard, Little Egrets, Glossy Ibis, Little Grebe, Common Coot, Grey Herons and a nice surprise was two Common Sandpipers.

So back for dinner, after a long days birding. tomorrow sees us hopefully at the Odiel marshes.

Lots of good birds seen John including a few which, so far, have eluded me this year.

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

Andalucia Bird Society visit to the Sierra Loja

Thursday 27 April

A little nip in the air upon arrival to join the April meeting of the Andalucia Bird Society's field visit to the Sierra Loja and I began to think I had, perhaps, made the wrong choice in leg cover having turned up in shorts.  But not to worry, the sun was out, getting higher along with the temperature and, until we reached the top, very warm indeed. With over twenty members present, leader for the day Mick Richardson split the cars into two group wit me taking four of the cars off to the old quarry in search of the Eagle owl whilst he led the other cars nut with all of us coming together for lunch at the ponds above Charca de Negra.  Indeed, whilst at the quarry we were joined by another car as John and Pauline eventually discovered us!  By the time we had returned to the filling station on the motorway above Loja our little group had recorded almost 50 species.

Part of the forty-strong Ibex herd
Setting off for the old quarry we were able to record both Collared and Rock Doves along with Mistle Thrush, Blackbird and Spotless Starlings.  A Chaffinch rushed through the trees and a Raven rose from another and then, arriving at the quarry, most soon had views of a Dartford Warbler and the first of many Red-legged Partridges.  Many House Martins and Barn Swallows above with a few calling Choughs but no sign of the host at the Eagle Owl's nest.  However, on the cliff top we did count a handful of Ibex.  Looking back down the track we saw a rather lovely Woodchat Shrike.and a Red, or should I say, Black Squirrel ran up the tree in front.

Before leaving the area a walk into the quarry itself produced Black Redstart, Black Wheatear and Rock Bunting.  A Great Tit was seen and then the wonderful sight of a Goshawk working it way round the side of the mountain.

Male Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica above and female below

Working our way up the track we stopped to find the few Azure-winged Magpies in the area and were also rewarded with a close sighting of a Wren.  before long we were seeing many Jackdaws and Choughs along with regular sightings of Linnets and very many Stonechats.  The first of a few Blue Rock Thrushes was recorded and a Kestrel drifted away.  We even had a pair of Lesser Kestrels hawking above the water pool at the granite quarry.

Linnet Pardillo Comun Carduelis cannabina

Then the first of a number of Black-eared Wheatears and a couple of Hoopoes followed by a steady procession of Crested Lark sightings before we reached the pool above Charca de Suarez, seeing a (common) Magpie on the way, and joined the other half of the group for our picnic lunch.  Even here we had more Black-eared Wheatears along with both Linnets and Rock Sparrows.  In the far distance a lone Griffon Vulture was spotted and a small flock of Common Swifts passed overhead..

After lunch we drove on up and past the "fossil cave" and finally managed to achieve our target for the day when we found a pair of Rock Thrushes.  Great that every member of the group eventually had good sightings of these iconic summer visitors to the Sierra Loja.  No sooner had we seen our birds than an extra bonus on the other side of the track from the cliff face with both a resting Pied Flycatcher and a pair of Orphean Warblers in the upper branches of the same tree.  Leaving the top, not four but nearly forty Ibex feeding below.

The Rock Thrushes Roquero Rojo Monticola saxatilus in their summer habitat
Time to start working our way back down the mountain with a final visit to the quarry lest the Eagle Owl was showing, it was not, but not before stopping to watch a passing Golden Eagle, then finding a female Spectacled Warbler moving around its traditional breeding site and yet a another Golden Eagle heading northwards.  However, the last new bird of the day was a single Black Kite with a well-worn tail seen over the quarry.  A wonderful day in great company and almost perfect weather.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheater, Black-eared Wheatear, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Spectacled Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Great Tit, Pied Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Golfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting.

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

John & Jenny in the Donana - Day 1

Thursday 27 April

Just back from the ABS field meeting to the Sierra Loja and discovered why John and Jenny were not on their favoured home patch; they were off down in the Doñana National Park and a report of their activities on Day 1 had just arrived.  Let's hope John's cold does not curtail his birding activities.

Doñana National Park: Monday 25 April: Day 1
A chilly start but very warm (35C) later
Traffic was quite heavy as we headed for Sevilla, but we did get views of Black Kites, Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows, Cattle Egrets, Blackbirds and a few Barn Swallows.

Upon arrival we unloaded then headed for the SEO centre (forgot it was Monday, it´s closed), but we did see Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, Mallard, Red and Black Kites, Greater Flamingos, while in the small bushes here we found Reed Warbler and Magpie, above us Common Swifts, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and a few House Martins were also noted.

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

So now we turned our attention to the Dehesa de Abajo, where our first sighting was of Greater Flamingos, Common and Red-crested Pochards, Great Reed Warbler and Moorhen.  Looking up the left hand side of the lake we located a Purple Swamphen being severly chastised by a Black-headed Weaver, several times he actually hit the Swamphen before it flew off.  We noted three nests here although only one appeared occupied.  Several Common and Crested Coots about - the latter being all collared, one Night Heron and two Squacco Herons plus numerous Great Crested Grebes all "neck dancing" and several of its smaller cousins the Little Grebe.  A Cetti´s Warbler was seen in the reeds as was another Great Reed Warbler while above us lots of White Storks and Black Kites circled endlessly.  We then headed for the cafe (La Crux - on the roundabout), en route putting up a Purple Heron from a small pond plus Grey Heron and Little Egret.

Male Black-headed Weaver Ploceus melanocephalus "seeing off" the Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphurio with female Black-headed weaver below (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Heading back for the "Green Lane" we found Black Kites, Buzzard, three Whinchats and several Woodchat Shrikes.  In the bushes alongside the stream we saw Melodious Warblers, Nightingales, Sardinian and Cetti´s Warblers, more Grey Herons and Little Egrets.  As we passed one of the tracks leading to the Valverde Centre, a Booted Eagle flew over then a very pale Buzzard was noted on a fence post.

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Two Roe Deer were seen as we passed through the bumpy road as well as good numbers of Bee-eaters, two Stonechats, a White Wagtail and more Woodchat Shrikes.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Now back to the hotel for a few well earned beers.

Yellow (Blue-headed) Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

 Lovely report and hope that your cold is soon gone so that you really enjoy your birding experience down south and west!

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

Sunday 24 April 2016

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Sunday 24 April

What a beautiful, warm and sunny start to the day so I took myself off down to the local Rio Velez in Torre del Mar to see what was about, especially having just read the local paper which features "Wetlands hit by Wildfires" (Euroeekly, 21-27 April, Axarquia Edition, Page 10).  On arrival, and welcomed by a pair of Red-rumped Swallows,  it was very evident that we have had a dry winter but regular showers of late as the riverbed was an absolute jungle of overgrown grasses and weeds.  But the birds seemed happy as Nightingales, Cetti's and Reed Warblers singing their little hearts out. The resident Rock Doves were distributed between the tall trees opposite and under the road bridge and even a Common Kestrel popped in for a few minutes.  But with all the ground cover and trees in lea it was very difficult to see any birds albeit all were observed before I returned to the car.

Walking down to the hide I had a coupe of Goldfinches and then looking for a singing Reed Warbler a Great Reed Warbler popped out and posed in its usual fashion right in front of me.  Lots of House Sparrows about and , overhead, the occasional passing Spotless Starling drew attention to the small number of feeding Common Swifts.

Resting a while in the hide to wait for the birds, and not just the House Sparrows, to put in an appearance I could small the smell of burnt vegetation, more later.  House Martins were also now feeding above me and I watched as half-a-dozen Mallards flew in to land on the hidden river.  A Melodious Warbler spent a short time feeding low in a bush opposite the hide and beyond it I was fortunate enough to see a Purple Heron jump up and straight down in the thick vegetation.. Simply birding luck that I happened to be looking at the warbler and the movement was immediately behind as it was the only sighting obtained.  Also seen were a couple of Serins and over the water a quartet of Black-winged Stilts were continually moving around, presumably looking for somewhere to land away from the occupied beach.

Melodious Warbler Zarcero Comun Hippolais polyglotta

Walking to the beach I passed what can only be described as "Armageddon" the way that all the bamboo on both sides had been removed and then the ground either accidentally or otherwise set fire so leaving a black scar on the landscape.  This area was one of the prime areas for breeding Nightingales, Reed Warblers and the local colony of Common Waxbills.  The article referred to above makes great lay of how the area will now b monitored and all readers were reminded that it is illegal to cut and remove bamboo after 15 March so as to protect the breeding birds.  And what could I hear on the other side of the river?  Yes, active harvesting of the bamboo with the continuous slashing of blades.  As we all seem to think and say, lots of laws in this country but none to implement then; no winder it s not unusual to come across smokers in bars and ventas, etc.  One Blue-headed Wagtail seemed to find something to feed on the burnt land and the first f a few Blackbirds was seen flying overhead to the other side of the river.

The well-concealed Nightingale Ruisenor Comun Luscinia megarhynchos
Looking up river from the beach I recorded both Coot and Moorhen along with more fly-pasts from the Black-winged Stilt quartet and two Mallard ducks with accompanying ducklings.  By now Barn Swallows had joined the House Martins and Common Swifts and I managed to see not only Reed Warbler and a close Nightingale but also a Cetti's Warbler on the way back to the car.

A quick drive under the bridge and upstream found not only a Great Tit but a rather unusual feeding behaviour.  Looking a the Great Tit I noticed that there was a Monk Parakeet on a lower branch of the bus and busty feeding.  What did surprise me, however, was that its meal was a Serin with the parakeet busy plucking the bird.  Not a lot of comfort for the male Serin which hovered nearby, especially with another five Monk Parakeets in the next tree and possibly thinking that they, too, might be partial to a little meat.  The only other birds recorded were Bee-eaters and Crested Lark.

Monk Parakeet Cotorra Argentina Mylopsitta monachus

Birds seen:
Mallard, Purple Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

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

Saturday 23 April 2016

Zafarraya and Alcaucin

Friday 22 April

A beautiful morning and as I had seen Golden Oriole yesterday rather than a long journey over to the Aroyo Marin I decided to seek out an Alpine Swift up at the pass at Ventas de Zafarrya and then follow on down the mountain track to the Alcaucin picnic area in the hope of some small passerines.  A sort of bad news all round as now swift and very little else to be seen a s I walked the track up through the tunnel and as far as the old ruins.

Aerial antics of the Chough Chova Piquirroja Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
An early Blue Rock Thrush promised much especially as the Choughs started calling and reeling around the rock face.  A Black Wheatear was quickly added to the list and then a rather long wait before finally recording a number of Stonechats.  A lone Woodchat Shrike was found on the wire beyond the ruins and the return walked picked up a Crag Martin.  Above the tunnel entrance a couple of Rock Sparrows were much appreciated.  All quite disappointing and as I sat in the car completing the list unaware of each other John and Jenny Wainwright had turned up.  Reversing the car I saw Jenny and John who had passed by my car minutes before returned so that we could get up to date with all sorts of news.

Female Stonechat tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus above with male below

Hearing about the orchids beyond Zafarraya I left John and Jenny in the company of the Spotless Starlings that had turned up and dove over to take a look.  Whilst on the bank I also saw Blackbirds, Azure-winged Magpies and Chaffinches then it was taking the back roads through the village, recording Mallards on the pond, and on to the "Muck Heap", where I recorded Blue-headed Wagtail and Crested Lark, then up to the "Magpie Woods" picking up Mistle Thrush  and Barn Swallow, and back to start on the track down to the picnic sites.

Orchid species (Bee-orchid?)

The drive down the mountain track was very quiet.  My usual circular walk following the stream only produced a Wood Pigeon, Blue Tits, Goldfinches and Chaffinches but upon returning I did at least have a couple of Crossbills drinking from a puddle.  Only 21 species in a couple of hours but at least I was out of the house and enjoying the beautiful weather and countryside.

Juvenile Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra enjoying hits morning drink

Female Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra
Mum and off-spring Crossbills Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra at the water hole

Birds seen:
Mallard, Wood Pigeon, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow,  Blue-headed Wagtail, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Blue Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill.

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

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce

Thursday 21 April

Six of the happy band (PHOTO: Ian Kirk)
Having finished breakfast the five of us drove over to the other side of the airport the Guadalhorce reserve to meet up with other members of the Axarquia Bird Group for our monthly field meeting. Joined by Arthur Oliver, Liz and Marcus Rootes and Lesley Laver we st off towards the eastern canal and its three hides with numerous Barn Swallows and House Martins overhead having already observed Collared Doves on arrival.

Rock Doves under the bridge along with the feeding hirrundines and then a number both Blackbirds and Sardinian Warblers as we approached the eastern canal along with the first of many Goldfinch sightings.  At the Laguna Casillas we were greeted by a number of White-headed Ducks and Pochards. A pair of Red-crested Pochards were on the far side along with the Mallard and even a pair of Gadwall in front of us along wit the odd Little Grebe.

Overhead Common Swifts with the House Martins and Barn Swallows but the real excitement was behind us as Barbara, and I have no idea how, managed to find a gorgeous male Golden Oriole well-hidden in a distant small tree.  Fortunately, the bird remained in the vicinity long enough for all to get a sight through Derek's scope.  Moving on we had a brief sighting of a Red-legged Partridge below the rock slope to the left.

On the Wader Pool more Black-winged Stilts and a couple of Little Grebes along with Little Egret and Moorhen.  A pair of Avocet were feeding and a Kestrel rested in a distant tree at the back. Moving on we had Greenfinches to the right and Bee-eaters overhead along with a passing Yellow-legged Gull.

Reaching the Rio Viejo (Old River) we found the waders and a little more.  Not just Avocet and Black-winged Stilt but Redshank, Grey Plover and many Great, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers.  Lovely to see the Curlew Sandpiers with many coming into full breeding plumage and then a couple of Sanderling.  A pair of Flamingo were out in the main body of water along with a couple of Shelduck.  Whilst watching the Little Stint we found a Great Reed Warbler displaying on a tall reed in its well-recognised pose.

One of the playful distant Dolphins (Bottlenose  Tursiops truncatus?)
Very little to be seen from the Sea Watch other than a pair of Great White Egrets flying westwards and a small school (*) of dolphins feeding out at sea and returning by the same route, noting the pair of Slender-billed Gulls that alighted on the Rio Viejo, we made our way to the Laguna Esconida but stopped on the way to admire a small Chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon as it headed for cover.  The water itself included nothing new but lovely to see more White-headed Ducks and Pochards along with the Little Grebes.

Slender-billed Gull Gaviota Picofina Larus genei

Observing Crested Larks on the way to the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande on arrival we found a good number of Grey Herons and even more Little Egrets.  A Black-necked Grebe patrolled the water nearer to us whilst below on the sandy beach we had both Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers.  On the far left at least a trio of Spoonbills were found.  More Black-headed Gulls arrived and a lone Blue-headed Wagtail worked the grasses below.  Meanwhile, next to the Black-winged Stilt on the far side of the nearby small island, as the Avocets changed places on their nest we could confirm that the nest contained four eggs.

Chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon

Red-rumped Swallows as we made our way back to the  cars and a lovely way to finish the morning spent with good company and in pleasant weather which produced over 40 species plus those seen by others that I may have missed.

(*) Collective noun for dolphins may be herd, pod or school

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Kestrel, Moorhen, coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Backbird, Great Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Golden Oriole, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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


Thursday 21 April

Up early after a restless night and I mean early!  Washed, dressed, eaten and on the road by 5.45 so that I could be at Zapata to meet up with Derek and Barabara Etherton, who also had Micky Smith and Lindsay Pheasant in the car with them, before 6 o'clock.  One more into Derek's car and then off down to the flood plain adjacent to the Guadalhorce below Zapata in search of that nocturnal feeder, the Red-necked Nighjar.

Crested Lark Cogujada Comun Galerida cristata
A few false alarms as we came across the resting Crested Larks but eventually a brief glimpse of five Red-necked Nightjars as they suddenly took off from the bank at the side of the track but a few minutes later we stopped the car and looked at the shining yellow torch on the ground in front of us. Yes, we had found a settled Red-necked Nightjar and where able to get our "bibs" on the bird.  My first or the year.

With dawn rapidly approaching we returned to the ford whilst the Nightingales began their beautiful chorus and immediately found five Little Ringed Plovers and a single Moorhen going about their early-morning feeding along with a Greenshank.  To the right, downstream, the river looked disgusting with the amount of foam that had been gathered as whatever pollution had been emptied into the river further upstream but looking in that direction we had five Night Herons,  Black-winged Stilt and a single Grey Heron resting in the water.  A lone Yellow (Blue-headed) Wagtail worked the edges and a quick drive upstream produced Blackbirds and Common Kestrels.

Early morning Cattle Egrets Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis passing over
The first of many Cattle Egrets passed over on their way to respective feeding grounds and a couple of Common Sandpipers were at the ford and thinking (and acting) thought of a procreational nature. If it works these little waders then the same must be true of the larger birds as within a couple of minutes we stopped having heard a Common Cuckoo calling and almost immediately found the male in a small tree on the opposite bank across the reeds.  No sooner found than the female flew past him.  No doubt some nearby Reed Warbler, and they were also heard singing, is in for an uninvited visit along with an unwelcome present!

Working our way to "Short-toed lark Corner" we had our first Goldfinches and Serins along with a couple of Sardinin Warblers.  At least five Hoopoes were seen on the neighbouring fence and then our first Short-toed Larks on the track.  As we parked the car a Red-legged Partridge crossed the track and  our first of a few Zitting Cisticola's put in a appearance as the Cetti's Warblers commenced their calling from the reeds below.

Serin Verdecillo Serinus serinus trying to catch the first rays of morning sunshine
A walk to the end of the track and back found both a Whitethroat and a couple of Waxbills plus many Little Egrets but not, this morning, the targeted Little Bittern.  Daylight now and more activity with Barn Swallows, Collared Doves, Jackdaws, House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings recorded.  Approaching the car we had a number of Stonechats, Short-toed Larks and a rather lovely Black-eared Wheatear.  Greenfinches to the left and a passing Cormorant overhead. Naturally, we had to have a fly-past from a handful of Monk Parakeets.  Now approaching 8.30 so time to withdraw and take breakfast at a nearby venta.

An unexpected Black-eared Wheatear Collalba Rubia Oenanthe hispanica
Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Little Ringed, Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Cuckoo, Red-necked Nightjar, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Barn Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, Nightingale, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Whitethroat, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Waxbill, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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