Thursday 29 September 2016

Magical Day Tour of central Malaga Province

Wednesday 28 September

My friend Derek Etherton has been at it again along with wife Barbara, Mick Smith and Luis Albert Rodriguez.  Not sure what the eventual maximum will be but this latest attempt at a "Hundred Up" produced a magnificent 114 species.  Is this the current record; I must ask Derek?  All very well but your need a good alarm clock or a restless sleeper and then manage to survive all the daylight hours presented.  It also helps to have a variety of habitats with reasonably close proximity and as you can read in Derek's report some great birds recorded, including many surprises.

Find a hundred in a day: Wednesday 28 September

Back to the early mornings, well not so early as we are into the Autumn equinox, so early means meeting at 0630hrs in the pitch black.  A journey through the torturous back roads of Malaga and in the Montes de Malaga before first light.  No owls calling, but a fox came to investigate us whilst we stood at the car.  Showing no fear, and pleasingly looking well fed, he moved to within a couple of metres of us before wandering away.

As the sky lightened the first sounds of the early birds could be heard, a Robin 'ticking', Blackbird calling and many Crossbills chatting on their first flights.  Within 45 mins. we had a list of 23 birds including very close views of Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tits and Firecrests.

Moving on to stop for breakfast at a favourite stop, the top notch Catalania and the best coffee we carried on towards El Torcac.  But we stopped just outside of Villanueva to scour the freshly harrowed fields.  Large flocks of Corn Buntings had joined Thekla Larks making the most of the opportunity.  A single small tree in the next field held Serins, Stonechats, Northern Wheatear whilst a very low Sparrowhawk flew over causing some mild panic.

Stonechat Saxicola torquatus (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
On to El Torcal - stopping at the derelict farm hoping for the Little Owl.  We were disappointed but clocked up Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Griffon Vulture and Black Redstart.  Continuing the ascent  we stopped again at a higher altitude to view bramble and hawthorn scrub.  Very productive with Garden Warblers, Whinchat, Whitethroat, Common Redstarts, Sub-Alpine Warbler and 3 female/juv Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes.  

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Continuing to the top for the obvious Rock Bunting we were not to be disappointed as they were seen around the car park.  But Barbara spotted something different, possibly a female Cirl Bunting over by some rocks.  We moved over there and fortunately LA had his camera with him enabling a couple of good pictures to be taken, so we could check when back at the car.  Wren showed as did Green and Gold Finch, then a male Cirl Bunting posed atop of the brambles.

Back at the car we examined the picture, compared the book and had little doubt the photographed bird was an Ortolan Bunting, the facial markings, eye ring were all very clear.  Leaving the top to start the descent a call was made for a large raptor in front of us.  Stopping we admired the passing over us of a Golden Eagle, soon to be joined by a Pergrine as its 'fighter' escort - wonderful!  

Find the Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
So 50 birds so far, oh, did I mention we were going for a 100+ day?  No, well we were so onward to the next stop.  Normally that would have been Fuente de Piedra but there seems little point in that for now, at least until the rains and the Cranes appear.  So it was back to Malaga and more precisely Zapata.  What's the chance of the Grasshopper Warbler still being there?  Sadly zero but the Stone Curlew remain, 6 of them viewing well.  Common Waxbills, Crested Larks, Common Kestrel, Linnet, Cetti's, a smashing Yellow Wagtail, 2 White ones and the Grey came a little later.  Down at the ford 5 Booted Eagles circled, 4 dark and one light morph.  Marsh Harrier and one Osprey on a pylon eating its lunch.  Hoopoe, Common and Green Sand, Greenshank, Little and Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Moorhen and Coot viewed well as did Little and Ringed Plover, Mallard and a very active Kingfisher. Common Swift, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins flew around.  Can't forget the Monk Parakeets, or can I?  Plenty of Pied Flycatchers, so many this year and more Common Redstarts.

Hoopoe Upupa epops (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
So down to Guadalhorce Desembocadura to finish the day.  Cormorants as we walked in with Grey Heron around but nothing new.  Standing on the green bridge it was sad to see so many dead and floating fish in the water - polution, lack of oxygen?  Who knows.  We soon added Spotted Flycatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Shovellers [back with vengeance] White-headed Duck, Avocet, Teal and Zitting Cisticola from the Escondido hide.  Moving onto Laguna Grande hide plenty of Kentish Plover plus Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Shelduck, Gadwall, a solo Audoin's Gull, hundreds of Lesser Black-backed and a resting Grey Plover in front of the hide.  

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica (centre) with Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (above) 
Down to the beach clocking juv. Woodchat Shrike and another Northern Wheatear en route we stopped to sea watch for a short time, Cory's and Balearic Shearwaters skimmed the waves reasonably close to shore.  A couple of adult Gannet were feeding and Black-headed & Yellow-legged Gulls flew over.  Down to the watch point [averting eyes] but comforted by National Police presence [looking for illegal fishing/dogs not on leash etc.] we reached the watchpoint to be greeted with 10 Turnstone flying in and above us.

Grey Plover Pluvialis aquatarola in front of main hide (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Walking up the track on the last leg of the journey the wader pool was full of birds; Greater  
Flamingo, Ruff plus more of the earlier waders and gulls.  2 more Osprey's were in the trees, one tackling a fish, and another Booted Eagle was close by.  First hide up contained Snipe [one of my favourites], a short view of Bluethroat and Jackdaw flew over.  Next up, via the police again, the next hide had Pochard and a Pallid Swift fly by.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
So a trudge, it was now gone 19.00hrs - a long day birding, back to the car and collapse and tally up over a drink.  A total of 113 declared - dreadful for me as I hate odd numbers, even the individual digits added up odd, couldn't allow that so Barbara and I added our calling Tawny Owl when we eventually arrived home at 21.30hr.  Late, well we had stopped for a couple of tapas en route - couldn't face having to cook!

A few pictures of the day attached, first 3 digiscoped including the Rock Thrush, but you get the idea.

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

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa, Almeria

Wednesday 28 September

Dave and his Arboleas Bird Group seem to have another eventful day and even managed to record a good shower.  Not to worry, dave we also had spots of rain down on the coast here in Mezquitilla between Torre del Mar and Torrox.

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa
Wednesday 28th September

Today I drove Steve down to the Rambla de Almanzora.  We joined it from the Cuevas de Almanzora end to check out the birding state heading towards the estuary.  At the first patch of water below a small dam there were three Little Grebe.  The next area was a shallow pool which contained three Ruff, a Green Sandpiper, a Snipe and some Black Winged Stilt.  The area where the Solitary Sandpiper was last February was an arid scrape.  We drove on to the "ford" where we met up with Dave, Kevin, Colin, Sandra, Rod and John.  The latter had also seen a Kingfisher and, out to sea, a Gannet.  It began to rain, but luckily it was only a passing shower!  There was very little water in the rambla at this point and all on the far side.  An occasional Black Winged Stilt was seen or heard.  We walked up towards the rather smelly sewage works. Colin found a Stonechat on a power line.  Also seen were Moorhen, White Wagtail & Blackbird.   At the sewage pools we had Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper.  Barn Swallows were quite regular, together with the odd Red-rumped Swallow.  Steve spotted an Iberian Grey Shrike perched in a tobacco shrub.  On the large pool next to the Sewage works were numerous Mallard with one eclipse male Shoveler.  It was a good day for Grey Heron. There were three in this area.  We heard Sardinian and Cetti's Warbler.  We added Magpie on our walk back to the cars, where we met up with Richard, who added Chiffchaff to our list.

White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
After a refreshing cuppa in Villaricos village we made our way to the beach. There was a strong inshore breeze making the sea quite choppy, hence there were no birds on the harbour rocks.  There were however a small flock of variously plumaged Sanderling on the shoreline.  They were joined by a Turnstone. We walked over to the estuary. There were a couple of juvenile White Headed Duck, which Rod suggested had come from the now dry pools opposite the Vera Playa Consum supermarket, and a female Common Pochard.  Also seen was a male Kestrel, some Coot, a Little Egret and a Cormorant.  Three more Grey Heron were seen.  On the beach itself there was a mixed flock of Audouin's Gull and Sandwich Tern.  I spotted "Johns" Gannet far out to sea.  The waders in the shallows consisted of a Ringed Plover and 12 Turnstone.  We walked back along the beach seeing more Sandwich Tern.  Kevin spotted the returning/resident Whimbrel on the rocks.

Retreating Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
As previously mentioned, the pools at the back of Vera Playa were dry, so we next stopped at the laguna near the Millionaire's bar.  There were lots of Mallard there waiting for bread from the tourists.  Further back John found a good flock of mainly male Common Pochard.  I spotted a Little Grebe.

Common Pochard Aythyaferina (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We ended up with 38 species for the day.  Suppose it wasn't bad considering it was just after the summer season.  Boy, could we do with more rain, but not as much as we had 4 years ago today when the whole area, including Tony and Val's flat near Garrucha got flooded out!

Dave Elliott-Binns

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

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Grasshopper Warbler at Zapata

Tuesday 27 September

A trip to that delightful spot on the Guadalhorce just above the airport near the hamlet of Zapata this morning with Steve and Elena Powell certainly turned up a most wonderful surprise.  We had arranged to meet up with Mick Richardson at 10.30 when the other two chaps were after a photograph of some rare dragonfly that had been reported frequenting the ford.  Me? I went along for the ride to try and get my right eye focusing again and in the hope of seeing more birds than I saw yesterday.

In the event we all arrived earlier than expected with Mick less than five minutes ahead of us.  He was just parking up to get best advantage of the dragonfly should it appear so I must have missed the sight of the day (forget that, call it year or even since coming to Spain) by no more then two or three minutes.  There, right in front of Mick, a Grasshopper Warbler wandering around the edge of the ford barely five metres away and if the car that crossed the ford towards us had been a couple of minutes later then we, too, might have seen this mega bird for Andalucia.

A rather lovely Pied flycatcher Papamoscas Cerrojillo Ficedula hypoleuca
So, what did we see apart from the Sardinian Warbler and Blackbird as we approached the ford?  A rather lovely distant Pied Flycatcher that came to the ford to feed when the chaps had gone off searching for dragonflies.  Upstream both Common and Green Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plover along with a pair of Greenshank and a couple of Little Egrets plus the occasional Heron and Moorhen.  Above, lots of feeding barn and Red-rumped Swallows along with a few Sand Martins.  To give a little colour, a pair of Kingfishers happily dashed up and down posed for us on the reed edges whilst a Grey Wagtail also put in a brief appearance until chased off by the next crossing car.

Distant Kingfisher Martin Pescador Alcedo atthis 
Smaller birds included a few Common Waxbill and a number of Goldfinches and Linnets and, near "Short-toed Lark Corner" a flock approaching an hundred Serins on the fence, track and opposite trees.  Certainly, there was always the odd Crested Lark about and in terms of raptors we saw Kestrel, Osprey and even a Sparrowhawk before the last sighting of the morning, a Cattle Egret sitting atop a lone horse.

One of the newly-arrived Greenshank Archebe Claro Tringa nebularia
Birds seen:
Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Osprey, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Grey Wagtail, Blackbird, Grasshopper Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet.
Another departing individual, this time the Pied Flycatcher

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

Sunday 25 September 2016

Late news

Sunday 25 September

For those who have read the latest blog re searching for Back-bellied Sandgrouse, the good news is that I have had a fist stab at removing the rubbish from the camera and downloaded the remainder to the computer in readiness for selecting and uploading.  However,the bad news is that I still have a terrible ache in the eye/head area which make prolonged concentration both tiring and painful.  But I do, I think, have some good shots of Northern Wheatear, Tawny Pipit and possibly both Common Redstart and Little Owl - when I finally get to see a full-size picture.  saw doctor this morning and he is not too happy so have instructions to present myself at A&E tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock.

Meanwhile, further to next June's visit to the north of Spain as mentioned at the end of the blog, I have the following information from Mick Richardson.

Apologies to Mick and readers that I seem to have broken the carefully arranged borders!

Saturday 24 September 2016

Seeking the Black-bellied Sandgrouse - again!

Friday 23 September

Up early and collected by Steve and Elena to drive over to Huetor Tajar for 9 am to meet up with Mick Richardson and the off to the upper Cacin valley to try and find at least one of the reported forty pairs that breed in this area.  leaving we had a couple of White Wagtails in the car park and then Rock DoveStonechatJackdaw, Collared Dove, on the wires after we left the motorway along with a few Barn Swallows hunting for breakfast.  However, as travelled north for a short section of motorway Mick mentioned that there were now four pairs of local breeding Black-winged Kites including the almond orchard on our right.  No sooner said than whilst the others noted the resting Buzzard I had the self-same Black-winged Kite lift its wings for a good stretch; marvellous and beautiful.  Just round the corner we picked both Spotless Starlings and a number of small charms of Goldfinches before taking to the numerous tracks through the almond orchards.

Then it was in and out, up and down, just about covering every almond orchard in the territory.  By the time we gave it up after almost four hours we must have seen just about every tree within many, many square miles!  And not a single Black-bellied Sandgrouse in sight. Perhaps it did not help that a few farmers were out at the beginning working on removing old and dying trees and preparing the ground for replacements but even so.  Now if only just one of these ground-loving birds had had a transmitter on its back we might well have been successfully rewarded.

Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe
Instead we could well have been accused of larking about as we continually came across both Crested and Thekla Larks.  two small fifty-plus flocks of Sky Larks passed over and even two or three sightings of small numbers of Short-toed Lark.  To cap it we finally found a flock of at least 100 Calandra Larks.  But the outstanding and most common sight was the number of Northern Wheatears recorded they were simply everywhere and especially on the open, ready for ploughing fields.

Tawny Pipit Bisbita Campestre Anthus campestris
As we meandered around we came across magpie and Hoopoe and then not only found a Green Woodpecker on one end of a thick log but a Little Owl on the other end, not three metres away. Indeed, the second Little Owl was immediately above in the tree and were to see two further owls before departing.   We even had three Kestrel sightings.  Smaller birds seen were more Goldfinches and a good number of Greenfinches.  A Blackbird flew across and then it was time to find a few warblers with Orphean, Bonelli's and Willow duly logged.

Little Owl Monchuelo Comun Athene noctua
But there were also some special sightings and these included a number of sightings of Common Redstart, an early Tawny Pipit then many more as the morning progressed.  We even had a Common Whitethroat and Pied Flycatcher, Iberian Grey Shrike before finding our last bird and, from my point of view, the enigmatic Whinchat.  The happiness was short lived as passing by a low branch of an almond tree a small twiglet snapped off, shot through the car window missing both nearside passengers and managed to catch me smack in the right eye.  Sad to say, end of real sightings, literally, from my point of view.

Distant Common Redstart Colirrojo Real Phoenicuras phoenicurus
Leaving the almond orchards we called in at a small lake nearby motorway on our way back to Huetor Tajar to check out some dragonflies, piking up Barn and Red-rumped Swallow along with House Martin and Wood Pigeon.  On arrival we quickly added Coot, Mallard and nearby Little Grebe.  Scouring the distant water also revealed a few Shoveler, Moorhen and Grey Heron.  Nearer we also had calling Cetti's and Reed Warblers and the sight of both a Blackcap and a Grey Wagtail.

Despite not finding our target bird it was certainly a great morning's birding and my special thanks to Steve for all the driving and Mick for his superb birding and wildlife knowledge and experience. Talking of Mick, I believe there may still be one or two places available on next June's visit to the Pyranees with Loja Wildlide.  Lots of opportunities for Wallcreeper and some exotic birds so make contact with Mick via lojawildlife  (telephone  (0034) 958339630) or, if in difficulty, contact me by email and I will pass on your name to Mick for further information.  Or you could just CLICK HERE for a link.

Tome to say goodbye to the Northern Wheatears

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Heron,Black-winged Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark,  Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Tawny Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Common Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Bonelli's Warbler, Willow Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

Thursday 22 September 2016

Arboleas (solo) visit to Las Norias & Roquetas de Mar

Wednesday 21 September

The latest report from David and his Arboleas Bird Group, albeit on this occasion travelling solo,suggests that they found some great birds up at Las Norias.  Just a little more rain and, perhaps, I, too, might have to venture north-east to plastic city followed by a slight detour to check out the old salinas around Roquetas de Mar.  All photographs by David Elliott-Binns.

Las Norias and Roquetas: Wednesday 21st September

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncitis
As Gilly was working and no other members were able to come today, I was "Billy no mates," so I set out at 06.30hrs from Arboleas, in the dark, heading for Las Norias. I was parked on the first causeway by about 08.15hrs enjoying a cup of thermos coffee (enjoy?) when I was disturbed by a tern flying over.....A Black Tern, a good start!  Having finished my coffee I began birding in earnest.  As I've mentioned before, there's a problem with vegetation here.  Very difficult to find gaps where you can see the expanses of water.  There were, in fact, workers in the pump house compound removing wayward shrubs.  On the water to the right were loads of Great Crested Grebe, including one with young boarders. Also had Coot and Little Grebe.  A Reed Warbler showed well and I heard a Cetti's Warbler.  Also saw Grey Heron, Little Tern, Black Headed Gull and Zitting Cisticola.  I checked out the waters to the right.  With the vegetation and now the low, bright sun in my face, I had no chance, but I was well rewarded with an immature Olivaceous Warbler in the shrubs.  As I was about to drive off, there was a Common Sandpiper on the muddy strip between the road and a plastic greenhouse.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus with chicks
I drove round to the next side.  A Cormorant flew over. Low above the nearest greenhouse there were hundreds of hirundines...mostly Barn Swallow, but also some Red-rumped Swallows and Sand Martin.  They were obviously attracted by the thousands of flies and midges that were harassing me! On the water there were again loads of Great Crested Grebe.  There were also some Mallard and Gadwall.  I spotted a Turtle Dove posing in the sun on a bare shrub.  A small flock of Bee-eaters flew over.  On the ground there were quite a few Yellow Wagtails.  Another surprise was a small number of Pallid Swift swirling round above me.  I moved back to the vehicle and found a group of 5 Turtle Dove resting on an earth pile.  A Kingfisher flew past.

A lovely trio of Turtle Doves Streptopelia turtur
I drove onto the second causeway.  Here the vegetation virtually completely blocked any view to the smaller pool and island.  Through a couple of gaps I managed to see the inevitable Great Crested Grebe!  I walked up to the small bridge where to my delight I found eight adult Night Heron, sunning themselves.  As I walked back a Hoopoe flew over.

Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
I drove directly to the Punta Entinas Sabinar natural park on the outskirts of Roquetas and headed along the very bumpy in places track towards the Cerrillos Salina.  On the way I stopped to observe Stonechat and Northern Wheatear.  Three Spectacled Warblers were flitting between bushes.  A Zitting Cisticola posed beautifully.  On one of the rocky causeways was a line of resting gulls which included Lesser Black Backs, Yellow Legged and Audouin's Gulls.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio

Atthe salina there were many different types of birds but in small numbers.  The biggest and most impressive was a Great White Egret.  Less impressive Little Egrets were there also.  The waders included Black Winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Avocet, Turnstone and a few Greenshank.  There were Little Tern, eclipse Black Tern and a single Common Tern.  A Jackdaw was also seen.  I added a Kestrel on the way back to the ex-Red-knobbed Coot pool.  Here I added some female Common Pochard and a Western Swamphen....I think that's what they're called this week!

Eclipse Black Tern Childonias niger with Common Tern Sterna hirundo (front)
In all I saw 54 species. A cracking morning's birding.  Pity I was on my own though.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Great White Egret Egretta alba
A further shot of the delicate Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Sunday 18 September 2016

Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga

Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis
Saturday 17 September

The second field visit this September for the Andalucia Bird Group and, on this occasion, nineteen members in attendance led by local professional bird guide, Luis Alberto Rodrigues.  However, before the meet proper eight of the above including Luis Alberto and myself were up in the middle of the night to be at Zapata, on the Guadalhorce just above the airport, in the dark at 7 am to see the nocturnal specialist, the Red-necked Nighjar and a total of five recorded along with an early-rising Crested Lark.  Then, as the light improved, we had a quartet of Night Herons fly over followed by many arriving Little Egrets and, after them, the scores of Cattle Egrets moving away from their overnight roost.  Naturally there was the odd Grey Heron and we even had a pair of Mallard then early feeders on the river's edge including Green and Common Sandpiper along with Little Ringed Plovers and a single Grey Wagtail.

Other early birds included Blackbird and Sardinian Warbler along with both Coot and Moorhen on the water.  Overhead, good numbers of Red-rumped Swallows, Spotless Starlings and a small passage of Common Swifts.  A handful of Jackdaws passed by and a single Kestrel managed to disturb the local Rock Doves under the motorway bridge.  Nevermind the calling Cetti's Warblers, the few Yellow-legged Gulls or even the lovely sight of a quartering female marsh harrier, it was the male Little Bittern in the reeds below that was probably the star bird of the post-Red-necked Nightjar experience.

Leaving the river bank and a few newly-arrived House martins, we made our way through the site to take breakfast in San Julian before gathering together for the main meet.  On the way we added more Serin, Stonechat, House Sparrows, Collared Dove and Common Waxbill.  Near the underpass a large flock of Red-rumped Swallows was gathered on the fence but closer inspection also revealed both a Barn Swallow and a single Sand Martin.  Stopping at Derek's favourite "Short-toed Lark corner" we duly recorded a couple of the species along with what could only be described as a croaking Purple Swamphen before also adding Chiffchaff and Greenfinch.  A couple of Hoopoes moved across the neighbouring field to complete this first part of the day.

Wood Sandpiper Andarrios Bastardo Tringa glareola

Walking up to the western canal of the Guadalhorce between here and the footbridge into the reserve five birds record of which only the Grey Heron had previously been seen this morning.  Distant views of a couple of Cormorants on the Laguna Grande, overflying and screeching Monk Parakeets, a very secretive Turtle Dove and, best of all, a hunting Sparrowhawk.  Once over the bridge we soon added a Melodious Warbler and at the Laguna Casillas added both Little and Cattle Egret along with a number of Little Grebes, a pair of White-headed Ducks, a female Common Pochard, Moorhen and Coot.  No shortage of Spotless Starlings moving about and we did eventually locate the "local" Kingfisher.

Hiding Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago

On to the Wader Pool where we soon found the main party of Black-winged Stilts along with a small number of Little Ringed Plovers.  A couple of restless juvenile Flamingos were on the move and we were to find the main handful when we reached the old river and, in turn, they even turned up on the Laguna Grande at the end of our visit.  Once settle in at the hide we had time to watch and observe the newly-arrived Greenshank which was quickly followed by a Wood Sandpiper.  Immediately in front both Cetti's and Reed Warblers but then the added bonus of a pair of Sedge Warbler and a single Bluethroat.  Larger birds here included both Mallard and a couple of Teal with a Chiffchaff in the fringes and a passing Blackbird.  But before moving on we also saw the arrival of a Ringed Plover and feeding alongside his smaller cousins gave an ideal opportunity to compare Greater with Little Ringed Plover.

Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus
The Rio Viejo (Old River) seemed very busy with good-sized flocks of Gulls, mainly Yellow-legged and Black-headed but we did also locate both Lesser Black-backed and Mediterranean.  In addition to the Little Ringed Plovers we managed to find a couple of Kentish Plover, Dunlin and a quintet of Bar-tailed Godwits.  Whilst watching the Flamingos we also became aware of the "stranger" as a Ruff mover through the gulls in front of us and we also locate a female (Reeve). Walking further along the track we also managed to locate Greenfinch and Goldfinch plus a couple of Black Redstarts on the eastern side of the track.  Indeed, it was here that a male Northern Wheatear presented itself and remained long enough to get the scope focused on the bird.  In the sky Common Swifts, many Red-rumped Swallows, a Barn Swallow and both House and Sand Martins whilst, on the bend in in the river, we also noted the juvenile and eclipse-plumaged Shelduck.

Bar-tailed Godwit Aguja Colipinta Limosa lapponica
Little to add at the Laguna Escondida apart from the visiting Kingfisher so on to complete the circuit at the Laguna Grande.  As expected, Cormorant numbers are beginning to pick up along with a number of both Grey Herons and Little Egrets - but also a handful of Cattle Egrets.  In addition to more Little Ringed Plovers a Common Sandpiper was added to the list along with two Avocets. Finally, as we made our way back to the footbridge, we added our last bird of the day, a rather lovely Zitting Cisticola.   Considering that others also saw Shoveler and Tree Pipit (at least) then the total for the morning, including the Zapata visit, reached a rather rewarding total of a minimum 69 species.  Not bad for a mixture of darkness and very hot weather!

And then the Kingfisher Martin Pescador Alcedo atthis suddenly arrived

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Red-necked Nightjar, Common Swift, Kingfisher, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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

Thursday 15 September 2016

Arboleas Group visit to Cabo de Gata

A "fencing Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Wednesday 14 September

Seems like another great visit by the Arboleas Bird Group, this time to Cabo de Gata and thanks to Dave for the report.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales
Wednesday 14th September 

(Photographs by David Elliott-Binns)

Early morning reflecting sunlight on arrival
As Gilly & I were travelling down to Cabo de Gata on our own, we set off early to check out the rear of the reserve, the track being only suitable for 4x4s. We got there just after 8am. The sun had not yet risen above the mountains but it just managed to catch the church. We'd spotted Audouin's Gulls flying along the beach towards the lighthouse. We didn't stop to scan the large number of resting gulls on the beach itself. As before there was no water in the closest salinas, but major production was taking place near the village. Gilly spotted a small warbler to our right. We stopped, turned off the engine and waited. Eventually a couple of Spectacled Warblers showed themselves. Carrying on we added Iberian Grey Shrike and Greenfinch before a very obliging Whinchat fence hopped in front of us. By the cultivated field we saw a Willow Warbler, Red Rumped Swallow & numerous Barn Swallows. We then headed to the Pujaire cafe meeting point.

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata
We were joined by Rod, John & Richard. After a couple of coffees while catching up, we made our way to the first hide. Apart from numerous Greater Flamingo (Gilly later counted 578) there were small numbers of Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank, Little Stint & Common Sandpiper. There was one Black Winged Stilt and Gilly spotted a Stonechat. I was first to spot the female Marsh Harrier. We then added Spotted Redshank & Curlew Sandpiper, the latter of which flew to a water-filled gully. The harrier reappeared, quartering towards us & the unsuspecting Curlew Sandpiper. From only a few feet the harrier corkscrewed down, just missing its intended prey. Rod found a female Eurasian Curlew. I managed to spot a single Sand Martin. Also seen were Mallard, Grey Heron & Little Egret.

Female Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus "spiralling down" to find breakfast
Moving towards the second hide we briefly stopped by the previously mentioned flock of resting gull. Mostly Yellow Legged, but John found a few Lesser Black Backs. At this point I'll give you a weather report. Sunny with clouds. A lot cooler, thank god! Gusty westerly wind. Sea state choppy. Not good for migrating birds unless they want to go via Italy!

Possible Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis?
Good for us though as a few were hunkering down near the hide. Firstly Gilly found a juvenile Woodchat Shrike (late?). A Dartford Warbler was seen (resident). Gilly then found a warbler, got a quick photo for ID later. I might be wrong, but think it's a Western Orphean Warbler. No doubt someone will put me right! As we were about to leave Richard spotted a bird of prey above us just as it passed in front of the sun...doesn't it always happen that way. He thinks it was a Booted Eagle.

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator
As we arrived at the public hide parking area, Gilly spotted a Northern Wheatear perched on the vehicle barrier. From the hide we added Shelduck, Avocet, Dunlin, Ringed & Kentish Plover, Sanderling & Greenshank. Gilly spotted a Turnstone. John found about half a dozen Sandwich Terns on the causeway. There were lots of waders about but they were a distance away & the heat haze was problematic. With all the good rare waders seen at El Fondo lately, we could have missed loads! I managed to get a decent shot of a Dragonfly. My insect book doesn't give its identity.

A quartet of Green sandpipers Tringa ochropus
After a hearty lunch in Cabo village, we drove along the beach-side track to Rambla Morales. It was in the local freeby paper last week as hundreds of dead Grayling were discovered. Tests proved that they had died of oxygen deficiency.

Sure enough the water was very green. There were some Greater Flamingos, a few Coot & Mallard. I saw one male White Headed Duck. A small flock of little birds drinking by the beach turned out to be Barn Swallows. We walked back to the cars and said our goodbyes. With our 4x4 we made our way towards the campsite. At the end of the rambla, where the crossover used to be we found a small gathering of Green Sandpipers. Meanwhile John & Richard saw a Kestrel near Pujaire. In total we had 52 species. Lots of waders but in small number and a few migrants. A very good day. Bob Wright is kindly adding my report to the Birding Axarquia blog

Name this dragonfly - presumably a female

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

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Bird Group

Wednesday 7 September

I understand from my friend David Elliott-Binns that another friend, Andy Paterson, is going to give up his "Birding the Costa" blog so we could well be the "home" for future reports from Dave and his Arboleas Bird Group, very similar in so many aspects to our own Axarquia Bird Group.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 7th September 2016

Well, the summer is supposed to be over but we were greeted with temperatures exceeding 30c as we met up with other group members at the garage cafe in Maria town.  Sure, the House Martins had left the garage canopy nesting area, but Barn Swallows were still passing by in small numbers.  John had kindly chauffeured Richard & I up here.  We were joined by Colin & Sandra.  After a coffee and chat about our summers break we headed to the chapel. Above the car park, high up, were hundreds of hirundines.  As they had white rumps our first impression was House Martins, but then we spotted some with swallow tails. It was a huge flock of migrating Red Rumped Swallows. Colin then spotted a bird of prey below the mountain ridge. Obligingly it flew over us. A pale adult Booted Eagle. 

Moving towards the water trough, we added Goldfinch, Chaffinch and a Jay.  Above us we saw the first of many Griffon Vultures and the odd Crag Martin.  From the jizz I found a flycatcher.  Mine was a Pied, but Richard saw a Spotted Flycatcher as well.  I also saw a female Common Redstart, another migrant passing through. But the best was a Whinchat. a first for us at Maria, I think....sure Richard Gunn will confirm or otherwise!  We also had Great and Long Tailed Tits, Serin and Rock Bunting. Richard, I think, then spotted a smaller bird of prey approaching.  A low flying Sparrowhawk.  

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)

We sauntered up towards the Information Centre.  I saw some more Griffon Vultures soaring high above us.  I checked with my binoculars and was astounded to find they were surrounded by at least 100 Alpine Swifts!  Then we could hear the unmistakable sound of Bee Eaters.  Not usually seen at this altitude so obviously migrating through.  There was at least 50 of them.  Moving into the garden area we added Crossbill, a Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff.  We did the lower walk, seeing loads of Chaffinch but not adding anything more.  Once we'd returned to the garden area where little man made pools had been incorporated into the area, Colin found a Crested Tit and I, a Blue Tit, to complete our titmouse collection for the day.  Colin added a Hoopoe and Richard, a Blackbird. There were three Booted Eagles soaring above us.

Crossbill  Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then convoyed to the Farm Buildings where we found a pair of Northern Wheatear and a White Wagtail.  We didn't stop at the farm trough as 50 odd goats had beaten us to it, so we drove slowly along the plain, seeing a single Crested Lark and a few more Northern Wheatear.  We stopped as usual at the hamlet.  Further towards Orce we could see a rising plume of Griffon Vultures, about 20 in all.  When They had got closer I found a single Short Toed Eagle amongst them.

We headed back, stopping briefly at the farm trough with a negative result.  We lunched at the La Piza forest cafe, where we were entertained by Great, Crested and Long Tailed Tits at the nut feeders and water pool.   Also seen was a Pied Flycatcher, Crossbills, Chaffinches and unusually obliging Jays.  We also added Mistle Thrush. John did well to hear a Wood Pigeon over the music coming from the cafe!

Jay Garrulus glanddarius (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Birding in Maria can be hit and miss.  Today was definitely a big hit!  38 species in all.
Sadly my friend and mentor, Andy Paterson, has decided to end his Birding the Costas blog.   Thank you for your advice and help over the years.  Good birding, mate.

Regards, Dave

Thanks Dave.  I look forward to many more of your birding adventure with your intrepid group.

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