Friday, 20 May 2016

Rivers and Mountains

Thursday 19 May 2016


Early morning Night Heron Martinete Comun Nycticorax nicticorax
Up very early to collect Chris bell, birding friend visiting from the UK, so that he could enjoy his final day in Spain in search of raptors.  Next it was to the "usual" breakfast haunt to meet up with Barbara and Derek Etherton, all into the one car, and off to Zapapta for a couple of hours before returning to feed the inner man - and lady.  The rest of the day was pent in glorious, very warm sunshine and clear skies as we took in the Rio Grande, the back fields between Laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra before heading off towards Ardales where we enjoyed some magnificent scenery on the mountains above the lakes.  Finally back to the original "breakfast bar" before returning home like the tired little teddy bears who had been down in the woods or evening!  But not before ratcheting up almost 70 species for the day.  What a glorious time in splendid company.
Little Bittern Avetorillo Comun Ixobrychus minutus

Before Chris had got off his 7.15 train at Plaza Mayor I had recorded very early Blackbird, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow and Sardinian Warbler and a soon as we all arrived at the Guadalhorce in Zapata we were inundated with calling Nightingales and Cetti's Warblers.  The odd Crested Lark on the tracks along with the first of very many Goldfinches and, not so many, Serins.  Obviously there had to be the odd Collared Dove about but approaching the ford we enjoyed the sight of an adult male Night Heron whilst his Grey Heron cousin took to the air.  No shortage of Little Ringed Plovers here or, indeed, all over the site, but pride of place went not to the pair of nearby Black-winged Stilts but the two Little Bitterns that took off upstream and were later followed by another, female, happily resting in the thickness of a small tree at the far end of the site.

Other birds picked up at the site included a small number of Common Waxbill, lots of Zitting Cisticola, just the single Little and Cattle Egrets along with an Iberian sub-species of Wagtail. Overhead mainly Barn and Red-rumped Swallows but later on the Common Swifts did put in a welcome appearance.  A single Turtle Dove was very welcome but perhaps not so the handful of screaming Monk Parakeets.  Eventually the Reed Warblers began to sing and call but the single Short-toed Lark was very secretive and difficult to spot.  Not unusual to find a pair of Mallard making the most of a large puddle left over from last week's heavy rains and then the arrival of both Bee-eaters and a good number of both Linnets and Greenfinches along with a Great Tit.  Not to be left out we must mention the good number of Sardinian Warblers seen along with the first Jackdaws of the day.

Bee-eater Abejaruco Europea Merops apiaster through the car window

Moving on to the Rio Grande after a very brief stop to check out the local Bonelli's Eagle nest (have chicks now fully developed?) one of the adults was sen high above the rock face with more Jackdaws lower down on the grassy edges.  On arrival at the river there were good numbers of Black-winged Stilts and a handful of Little Egrets.  A single Cattle Egret flew over and nearby we had both Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Serins and Linnets to accompany the singing Blackcap. Chris managed to find the Great Reed Warbler and then it was up to the bridge to be rewarded with the sight of a couple of Golden Orioles.  A distant Corn Bunting was seen on the wires and below us both White and a juvenile Grey Wagtail plus Moorhen.  "Hooked beaks" made themselves know with both Common and Lesser Kestrels and a single Woodchat Shrike.

Lovely to drive through fields of beautiful red poppies
Moving across to Campillos we stopped at the cliff face mirador near the Teba turn and picked up Blue Rock Thrush along with an adult Peregrine Falon and one of its juveniles perched at the nest entrance.  Overhead, a handful of Honey Buzzards continued with their migratory journey whilst both Choughs and Crag Martins skimmed along the cliff face.  Moving on, the "lump" on the pylon eventually took off to confirm a Common Buzzard.

Young Peregrine Falcon Halcon peregrino Falco peregrinus at cave entrance way up on the distant cliff face
From Campillos we took a circular route along a couple of tracks through the arable fields and olive groves where we had wonderful views of both male and female Montagu's Harriers along with a very close Booted Eagle.  Near the ruined farm we managed a handful of Black Kites along with a single Little Owl accompanied by a number of JackdawsSpotless Starlings and a single Red-legged Partridge.  As we made our way back another male Montagu's Harrier along with our only Raven of the day.In addition to the more "common" Crested Larks, this area also produced a number of Calandra Larks and also a family of Hoopoes.



Much closer and this Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus would have been  in through the roof light!
And so, finally, to the sierras above the lakes near Ardales where we duly found a number of Griffon Vultures along with many Choughs and House Martins.  Lovely to be able also to find some of the local Alpine Swifts whilst lower down we had both Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear.  No shortage of Corn Buntings here and Derek managed to see the only Rock Bunting whist we other three had to walk a short stretch of the bad track.  Looking down at the lake below we were able to pick out a familiar Little Grebe and, as we descended, another Woodchat Shrike and Blue Rock Thrush.

One of very many Corn Buntings Triguero Emberiza calandra
Finally, it was whilst we enjoyed a refreshing drink before setting off towards home that we watched not just the local Chaffinches in the pine trees but also a couple of Nuthatch.  Lovely way to end a marvellous day - and still the sun shone on.

Distant view of male Montagu's Harier AguiluchoCenizo Circus pygargus quartering the corn field


Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Little Owl, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike, Chough, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

A rather subdued Blue Rock Thrush Roquero Solitario Monticola solitarius


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

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