Saturday 28 January 2017

Pictorial celebration of a special pair

Saturday 28 January

Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis and Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus.  What better way to celebrate the sighting of this wonderful and rare observation of these two birds than to publish some additional shts taken on 24 and 25 January respectively.

Long-tailed Duck

Looks like a female in winter plumage and all on its own for a number of weeks mixing with about a dozen Mallard Anas platyrhynchos.  Whereas the Mallards seem to accept human attention and will leave the very small lake to take bread from passing golfers, the Long-taild duck seems to prefer to remain within the safety of the water, albeit she will move very close to the shore.  This, according to the Collins Guide is a bird that breeds in the Arctic on tundra pools and marshes and usually winters at sea, often in large dense flocks close to land.  Strange then that we keep finding individuals in Andalucia that appear to have lost their way.  My last sighting was also an individual but this time at the Dehesa de Abajo on the edge of the Donana National Park.


 Trumpeter Finch

Lovely little finches with a large beak.  Note the red of the males compared to the orange colour of the females as theses birds come into breeding plumage.  They love to remain in small groups and live and breed together. At the moment, the attraction would appear to be the small yellow petals on the flowers that can be seen around them.  Most flocks seem to consist of no more than between a dozen and twenty individuals but it would not be unusual to find other similar sized flocks in the near locality.  Judging from the experience of others, the total population of the Cabo de Gata flock would appear to be about 40.  But is this the same flock that that is also seen near the hides on the other side of this peak between salinas and light-house?  Again, it is thought that the birds probably move slightly inland and a little higher to breed.  There is now also a record of a couple being seen in Granada province so there may be more of these delightful finches about than previously thought.

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

Friday 27 January 2017

Ventas de Zafarraya and El Robledal

Thursday 26 January

The last of the three-day car rental so up to the mountains and the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarraya then along to the woods of El Robledal in the shadow of Maroma, the highest mountain in Malaga province.  Not as cold as we had anticipated but my guest for a few hours, Lisette, and I had no luck with the resident Choughs.  House Sparrows feeding in the car park at the mirador and then, looking gown towards the road, our first Rock Bunting of the day.  What a lovely little bird this is with its distinctive head markings.  Off along the track towards the tunnel and we soon added both Robin and Black Redstart.  The first of many Black Wheatears put in an appearance and even a lone Serin came to call at a nearby tree.  Lisette could hear both Blue and Great Tits calling but I was unable to see or hear either.

More Black Wheatears and Black Redstarts on the far side of the tunnel along with a couple of Crag MartinsStonechats popped up here, there and everywhere, a Greenfinch and then the first special of the day, a high drifting immature Golden Eagle.  We had hardly got over the delight when Lisette spotted a tiny speck above the cliff tops and as it drew nearer we could see that it was one of the resident Pergrine Falcons.  The bird seemed to drift away but then, very suddenly, it turned and flashed by to our left before turning and passing almost overhead as it made ts way back to home territory on the cliff face above the tunnel.  What an amazing sight, especially so soon after the Golden Eagle.  We saw a couple of Sardinian Warblers then finally found our first Bue Rock Thrush.  Having seen one of the latter the bird seemed to appear time and again as we made our way back to the car.  As we arrived back at the mirador the Rock Bunting was feeding on the track immediately in front of us and a Great Tit took its rest on one of the railway lines.

Our friendly, inquisitive Robin Petirrojo Europeo Erithacus rubecula

Approacjhing El Robledal we had already recorded Spotless Starling and Collared Dove and the first up was a Robin.  Hearing a variety of tits and Short-toed Treecreeper is one thing, finding them another matter.  But we eventually record Great, Blue, Coal, Crested and Long-tailed Tits. Also seen was a handful of feeding Barn Swallows moving away above the tree tops and very many Chaffinches.

A stop at the "Cirl Bunting Tree" was too late to identify the lone observer at the peak of the tree but trees on the opposite side of the track held a number of Corn Buntings along with a more distant Iberian Grey Shrike.  Similarly, we also had many sightings of the feeding Chiffchaffs and more Robins and then, as we drove back towards Ventas de Zafarraya a Mistle Thrush was seen resting on one of the wires.

Birds seen:
Golden Eagle, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Collared Dove, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

A day's birding in Almeria

Trumpeter Finch Camachuelo Trompetero Bucanetes githagineus
Wednesday 25 January

Car still in the garage so making the most of using the miles on the three day rental.  Lovely sunny day with not a cloud in the clear blue sky and the temperature reaching 27C by afternoon so no wonder I wandered up to Almeria.  Long day and needed to stop for a half-hour sleep on the way back - and also try and compensate for the bright evening sun coming straight at me, disadvantage of spending a day travelling eastwards!   So it was off to Las Norias first and even with a normal start still on site by 10 'clock thanks to the new, continuous, motorway.  Then followed the salinas at Roquetas de Mar and finally almost a couple of hours at Cabo de Gata so that I could still start the homeward journey by just after 5pm.  More than a little tired by the time I got home so this report is going to be a day late, especially as I am using the final day of the rental to drive up to Ventas de Zafarraya, the woods at El Robledal and then back down the mountain track to the Alcaucin picnic area.

A few of the many Red-crested Pochards pato Colorado Netta rufina
A Flamigo flew over the road as I approached Las Norias and once parked up on the first crossing I was immediately greeted by a Moorhen feeding on the grass verge on the right and, with the sun fully in my eyes to the right, looked left to see the mass of Cormorants and Coots at the far end.  Nearer to mind a plentiful supply of Red-crested Pochards with just a handful of Common Pochards.  No Mallards and very few Shoveler but I did find a single Gadwall.  Not to be outdone, Little, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes were in front of me and, ironically so, more of the Great and less of the Little!   A White Wagtail wandered by and on the far bank a single Green Sandpiper.

Greenshank Archibebe Claro Tringa nebularia feeding in the track puddle
Moving down to the last crossing neat the waste plastic factory, I soon added a Hoopoe, Crested Lark and Robin.  Just the one Grey Heron but then a pair of roosting adult Night Herons.  No shortage of House Sparrows, Spotless Starlings and Collared Doves along with busy-feeding Chifchaffs and, over the water, my first Barn Swallow of the year.  The visit was completed by adding both Black Redstart and Stonechat.

One of the Night Herons martinete Comun Nycticorax nycticorax
Arriving at the salinas near Roquestas de Mar the first stop was on the waters near the lighthouse.  Not a lot to be seen other than scores of Flamingos and the off Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Then, high above in front of me, first a Buzzard followed by a Marsh Harrier.  Leaving the site I had the pleasure of a winter plumage Reed Bunting on the track in front of me.  Driving round to the fresh water lake I added a single Magpie and a couple of Kestrels before encountering the feeding Crag Martins over the water and a whole host of Common Coots including the "piebald" Coot.  Lots of Gulls and mainly of the Back-headed variety.

The weirdy, "piedpald" Common Coot Focha Comun Fulica atra on the fresh water lake
The final part of the morning was spent wandering along the sandy tracks, dodging puddles and holes, around the swampy salinas on the far side of Roquetas.  Strange to see a Black-tailed Godwit feeding on its own andthen, almost immediately, a single Greenshank feeding in one of the track puddles.  Mallards to the fore and then hundreds of Shovelers on most of the larger waters along with a good smattering of Coot and Flamingo.  The shallow edges to my right hosted feeding Little Stints and a Common Sandpiper along with a single Turnstone.

The very bold and lonely Turnstone Vuelepiedras Comun Arenaria interpres
Taking a right turn  I came across my first of many Black-winged Stilts. The next water through up Redshanks and then a single Great White Egret took fright from almost under the wheels of the car.  This final, large, water also held a large colony of mixed gulls, mainly Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged but also a handful of Slender-billed Gulls.  Working my way back to the road I also recorded a small flock of Greenfinches and a couple of Blackbirds.

Full speed ahead now towards Cabo de Gata and a picnic stop at KM4.  Nothing to be seen but I did get chance for a rest.  Approaching the village I had Collared Doves on the wires and a coupe of hovering Kestrels.  But it was straight to the lighthouse for my target bird picking up both Black Redstart and Black Wheatear as I climbed up the last peak and then down to the road's end.  Only House Sparrows and Crested Larks to be seen so I quickly moved round behind the area on the service road to the customs station or whatever it is on top of the hill.  Parking in the same place as three weeks ago I just looked around, found the Trumpeter Finches and happily took photos as the birds went about their bust feeding activity.  Indeed, driving on a short distance to turn round I then parked within five metres of the Trumpeter Finches and was able to continue photographing albeit across the empty passenger seat.

feeding Trumpeter Finches Camachuelo Trompetero Bucanetes githagineus
From the "Public Hide" I was able to get good views of Flamingos to the left along with a small number of Avocets and many Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls to my right.  Looking closer at the gulls as they rested on a rocky bar I was also able to pick out the score or more of Sandwich Terns.  Smaller waders included Dunlin and Little Stint along with Black-winged Stilt and Redshank.  Needless to say, there were also Cormorants to be seen.

Little Stint Correlimos Menudo Calidris minuta

My final stop was at the last hide on my way out of Cabo de Gata before setting off on the long journey back to Mezquitilla.  Here I found a good number of Shelduck along with some rather delicate looking Mediterranean Gulls.  Just two Little Egrets and the final birds of the visit were Collared Doves and Greenfinches.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Night Heron, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Stint, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Trumpeter Finch, Reed Bunting.

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

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Half-successful "twitch"

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
24 January 2017

After yesterday's visit to my eye specialist friend it would appear that the healing process following the cataract operation four weeks ago, despite some minor complications, is going well and the message is to go out and use the eye, get some practise, make the little orb do some work.  So I did.  Took off for the coast west of Malaga to try and find the two winter visitors that are presently, as seen in the past few days, with us but may not be next winter.

Late morning in blazing sunshine and not a cloud in the sky I was at the hide overlooking the beach/sea below the Fuengirola lighthouse.  However, with a very stiff on-shore breeze the sea was rough and virtually no beach as a result of the accumulated rubbish following last month's storms and most of the feed rocks covered.  Not a single wader in sight so did not find the elusive Purple Sandpiper; one twitch down.  On the other hand, there was a mixed flock of Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls resting on the sea and to my left a pair of Audouin's Gull resting along with a single Cormorant on a larger rocky isle.  Behind me a small number of Golfinches and Serins were feeding on grass seeds.

Female Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Next further along the coast to the golf course that was reported to be hosting a winter-plumage female Long-tailed Duck.  Drove up the road looking down at two small lakes, more like large ponds, and stopped at the upper hand where there was some convenient parking.  Moorhens, Little Grebe and a passing Cattle Egret but no ducks.   I watched the White Wagtail messing about in front of m and then drove back down the hill, noticing a number of Mallards on the lower lake. Having found a nearby piece of waste ground to park the car I than walked back up the buggy track alongside the drive and lake.  Coots in the water and both House Sparrows and Collared Doves on the opposite bank and then, immediately in front of me, about a dozen Mallard on the track being fed bread by a couple of golfers.  Just my luck, I thought, only Mallards.  But as I drew nearer and the golfers moved on, I noticed that the Long-tailed Duck was immediately to the side of me, not five metres away very close to the bank.  The duck might be on winter holidays but obviously not as brave, or stupid, as his Mallard cousins.  But there the bird was, paddling round and round and not at all bothered by my presence as I snapped away.  Wonderful sight with the sun on the bird; second twitch a success.

The lovely female Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis
Nothing like a good scratch to make you feel better
All completed so I made my way back to Malaga city to pay a very short visit to the Guadalhorce reserve, sort of make up for missing out last Saturday due to the rain.  No shortage of either Spotless Starling  or Cormorants and, on reaching the Laguna Grande, took a quick count and estimated that any one moment there were over 200 present.  A Heron was resting on the far bank as I made my way to the hide and I also recorded Zitting Cisticola, a couple of Stonechat and Black Redstarts.  On the water both Little and Black-necked Grebes, at least ten of the latter, and about a score of Shoveler and handful of Pochcard.  A few Moorhens, a small party of Black-winged Stilts on the far island and just the single Yellow-legged Gull.

Male Shoveler Anas clypeata
The Lagua Escondida produced a number of White-headed Ducks  and Crag Martins feeding overhead.  The sun still shining so took the opportunity to walk over to the eastern arm and found Coots and Little Grebes on the Laguna Casillas.  The Wader Pool was very quiet with just a quartet of Black-winged Stilts and a single juvenile Flamingo.  A Marsh Harrier appeared overhead along with a trio of screaming Monk Parakeets and then White Wagtail and Greenfinch as I made my way to the old river .  Here I did find a few waders in addition to another handful of Black-winged Stilts.  A single Black-tailed Godwit, a couple of Sanderling and a single Green Sandpiper.  A Sardinian Warbler fussed about the bushes and my walk back to the car produced a couple of Blackbirds and a resting Kestrel.

Distant Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Long-tailed Duck, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinh, Goldfinch.

Two of the Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis
A final shot of our Long-tailed Duck with her new friend, Mr Mallard Anas ynchosplatyrh

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

Sunday 22 January 2017

Fuente de Piedra with the ABS

Saturday 21 January

I left Mezquitilla in beautiful sunshine and clear skies with the temperature just topping 8C but by the time I had reached the low mist where the A45 split for Sevilla and Granada the temperature had dropped to zero!  Onwards towards my destination at Fuente de Piedra for the January meeting of the Andalucia Bird Society and the temperature continued to fall finally reaching -2C.  Ouch!  Arriving to join my fellow ABS members we could now bask, once more, in clear blue skies and full sunshine but, unlike the coast, a starting temperature of 0C.  But id did improve during the day reaching a dizzy 8C before I arrived back home with the car now registering an outside temperature of 16 and told by Jenny that it had been over 20C during the day and shirt-sleeve order.  Such is the life of a birder.

Before parking up I stopped to check out the almost flooded scrape on the left of the drive and discovered, other than a very small area at the back, it was a sheet of ice so explaining the few birds of of which were at the back.  But before seeing what else was present apart from the Black-winged Stilts one could not but notice the very large flock of sparrow-like birds hungrily feeding on the sandy grit on the far side of the water/ice.  Closer inspection revealed mainly Greenfinches but also very many House and Spanish Sparrows plus a handful of Rock Sparrows.  Lovely to see the last come and present themselves in full view.  Also present the odd Chaffinch.

Apart from the Chiffchaffs feeding in the tamerisk bushes, the Black-winged Stilts were accompanied by a Green Sandpiper and a couple of Dunlin. A good number of White Wagtails running about the edges and at least one Grey Wagtail.  Resting up the grass a score of more of Lapwing and then the first of the Jackdaws put in an appearance.  Just four Teal, albeit a quintet of Mallards flew over, before we moved on towards the boardwalk.  On the dry scrape a couple of Meadow Pipits but on the ground in front we found a lovely adult Bluethroat along with Robin and Stonechat and more Spanish Sparrows.  A Kestrel rested on a distant sign post and then we made our way towards the main hide overlooking the Lagunetta.

Still a lot of water here with the islands mainly covered and plenty of ducks on view including, mainly, Mallards and Shoveler but also a small number of Pochard, a couple of Shelduck and a single White-headed Duck.  Probably a score or more Coots and a handful of Moorhen plus more Lapwing and a constant movement of Jackdaws with Rock Doves in the distance on the far side.  A Little Grebe was recorded along with the first of many Spotless Starlings and a lone Heron posed on the island.  Other passerines noted included Black Redstart, Blackbird, Serin and a large charm of Goldfinches.

The main lake itself looked very sorry for itself with only a distant site of any water.  Hundreds of roosting Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls but Flamingos could be counted in fives rather than hundreds, nevermind thousands.  Indeed, it need the telescopes to actually get a half-decent view.

Following the Annual Finance Meeting of the Society, a quick sight of some distant Cranes on the far water before departing, and noting the feeding Snipe at the edge of the (now) water at the side of the road, to drive to the other end of the lake  in the hope of closer views of these lonely birds before heading for home.  Approaching the Mirador de Cantarranas we stopped to look at seventeen Cranes showing well and then on the viewpoint.  Very little to be seen but  some very distant Cranes on the shore until a flock of, maybe, two hundred arrived at the far end to our right so that we could appreciate numbers if not good views.  Leaving here we had a single Raven sitting in the opposite field and, finally, a Hoopoe flew off as we drove through the olive groves to wards the main road.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Heron, Flamingo, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Dunlin, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Back-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Hoopoe, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch,

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

Friday 20 January 2017

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 19 January

Dave and his bird group my be "hardy up in the north-east of Almeria and "mad dogs and English may go out in the midday sun"  (must have spent July in the region), but it tales a Welshman and a Dutch lady to go birding in the cold, wind and rain!  Dry when I collected Lisette and left Algarrobo for Malaga for the monthly meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group but once skirting the city some light rain and then, arriving at the Guadalmar church, more persistent  and heavy rain.  So, we sat in the car for fifteen minutes and watched the antics of a Robin, Black Redstart and White Wagtail and then, with no other members putting in an appearance, spent fifteen minutes trying to work our way through the maze of one-way streets on the Guadalmar estate until we finally reached the western-most chiringuito, recording House Sparrow, Blackbird and Kestrel on the way.

At last time to find some shelter, both beach side chiringuitos were closed, and take a look out to sea where the choppy waves were constantly hiding any resting gulls.  No shortage of both Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls followed by the arrival of Black-headed Gulls.  A handful of Cormorant were feeding off shore and then Lisette, whilst I was answering a phone call, was able to see both a dozen or so Gannets and a small number of Sandwich Terns.  By now Lisette was feeling the cold so made a dignified retreat to the nearby hotel for some warmth and an expensive copy whilst I picked up some very close Monk Parakeets feeding on the grass along with Spotless Starlings and a ringed BlackbirdChiffchaffs were flitting about the hedges and Lisette also recorded a Crested Lark.

We could see the lighter, brighter sky to the south and once we had found an open bar for a coffee the rain had stopped and it even felt a little warmer, probably up to 5C!  So, the short ride round to the mouth of the Guadalhorce where we could check out the lower reaches of the river, shore and relatively sheltered sea.  A single Grey Plover and Turnstone on the shore were joined by a handful of Sanderling and even a Kentish Plover put in an appearance.  A lone Little Egret flew down river, took one look at the rough sea and then promptly returned from when it had come.  Collared Doves and more Chiffchaffs feeding around us along with a couple of Meadow Pipits, House Sparrows and a Stonechat.  Strange to sea a female Kestrel on the opposite shore of the river standing in the water and, presumably, taking a drink.  Not too many Crag Martins feeding in the air  but an almost last look out to sea found a "floating black blob" which, when scoped, was revealed to be a Common Scoter.  Finally a rather lovely Sardiniian Warbler as we made our way back to the car to head off via the airport to the Guadalhorce at Zapata.

No sooner had we arrived at Zapata where by now the clouds were breaking and the temperature had upped another couple of degrees or so, than we found numerous Chiffchaffs and stopping to take a closer look at the exposed water in the reeds we picked up our first of a number of Bluethroats recorded.  Overhead we had the sudden appearance of a female Marsh Harrier and quickly followed by a second, giving the appearance of mother and juvenile.  Also in the battered reed bed we found Greenfinch and a Heron. Working our way along the track towards the turn to the ford, now almost certainly inaccessible unless you have a death wish or a very large-wheeled tractor, we picked up White Wagtails, Serin and Goldfinch plus a couple of Little Egrets along with a passing Cattle Egret.  Similarly, no shortage of Stonechat, Spotless Starlings and more Robins.

Passing the devastated flood meadow we came to the turn to the ford which looked wet and treacherous, especially for a two-wheel drive car.  Ant to think less than twenty-four hours earlier I had driven right down to the river.  A Hoopoe on the grass next to the car as we turned near the bridge the we sat and observed the large puddles at our end of the track more Bluethroats and a Meadow Pipits came to drink and even a pair of Green Sandpipers.  A single Greenshank put in an appearance whilst overhead we had our first sighting of the circling Booted Eagle.  This bird seemed to stay with us for the rest of our stay and was later joined a second individual.

It was whilst we were on this track that we received a call from Corrinne and Oliver Hibbett to say that they ,too, had turned up at the Guadalmar church, slightly late and no other members present so made their way to the two hides, Casillas and Wader, on the far side of the reserve.  Here they recorded White-headed Duck, Booted Eagle and Black-winged Stilt amongst other common ducks and passerines.

Working our way back along the track to the airport end exit and homeward journey we stopped to watch a Sparrowhawk shooting swiftly left with a Marsh Harrier behind.  then, to the front, we had a Buzzard and in the distance, near the hills a good, long observation of a Bonelli's Eagle. We also had a couple of Ravens in the area for about ten minutes.   Crested Lark, Stonechat and a two trees full of Collared Doves on and near the fields to our left with, finally, at the end of the track more feeding Chiffchaffs in the reeds along with another Robin and a Great Tit.  For such a bad start, a total of 43 species plus the additional two from Corrine and Oliver made a very respectable total for the day.  By the way, not taking a camera paid off with the number of species recorded but, on the other hand, we had very near sightings of both Bluethroat and Hoopoe that were just calling out for a photo.  I must check my telephone ans see if I was successful!

Birds seen:
Common Scoter, White-headed Duck, Gannet, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Buzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Zapata, behind Malaga Airport

Wednesday 18 January

Only barely thirty minutes before needing to get to the airport and collect Jenny.  But what a mess this site has become as a result of the December floods.  But nature is a marvellous healer, if we can keep the humans away, and I am expecting it to return to its former birding paradise within the next six months or less.  I even managed 17 species, as below, and at least it was fractionally warmer than inland, especially with Dave's Arboleas Bird Group up in Almeria Province.

Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea
The lovely Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus
Time for the Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops to depart
A few of the large flock of Serins Verdecillo Serinus serinus
Birds seen:
Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Green Sandpiper, Moorhen, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Stonechat, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

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

The end of Andlaucia with the Arboleas Bird Grou[p

Wednesday 18 January

Whilst I managed a little over thirty minutes checking out conditions at Zapata whilst awaiting jenny's return flight from the UK, Dave and his hardy crew were up north, well east I suppose, in the far reaches of Andalucia.  I thought it was cold in Malaga with a temperature of 8C at 1 pm but as can be seen in Dave's report some place can reach depths that no sun-lover should ever contemplate!  For me, not so much the feeding Crag Martins over what was a gentle ford but now a raging torrent but rather the lovely female Marsh Harrier that drifted over opposite the airport's boundary fence and quickly followed by a magnificent and handsome male.  A local breeding pair?

Wednesday 18th January:  Rambla de Almanzora & Vera
We're hardened birders up here in north-east Andalusia!  Was 3 degrees in a fresh wind going to put us off?  Never....but a close run thing!  We were meeting at the ford in the Rambla de Almanzora.  Reports had suggested that birding wasn't that great due to pipe-laying works.  Gilly and I motored in from the Desert Springs end.  Most of the usual pools had disappeared.  On the ones that were left we managed to see Green and Common Sandpiper and some Mallard.  Also saw Goldfinch, White Wagtail, Magpie and Moorhen. At the ford we had another Green Sandpiper.  We met up with John, Alan, Les, Rod, Colin, Val, Trevor & Ann.  We were all suitably attired for the freeze!  A male Black Redstart flitted between the cars for shelter.  Walking up towards the sewage works we saw both Northern and Spotless Starling, Grey Heron, Blackbird, Hoopoe, Robin, Iberian Shrike, Serin and ChiffchaffBlack Headed Gulls flew by and a male Kestrel was seen to catch prey and fly off.
The motley crew of birders - and not one wearing shorts! (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
An executive decision was then made to warm up at the Villaricos cafe.  Suitably refreshed we moved to the beach.  The sea was quite rough.  A few Cormorant were on the harbour rocks.  A Turnstone and a Sanderling flew by and a Sandwich Tern was diving for fish.  Alan then spotted a single Razorbill in the harbour entrance.  Quite difficult to see as it only spent a second or two on the surface before diving again.  We then walked over to the estuary where Les was the only one to see a Kingfisher shoot fast and low back behind us.  A group of mainly Black Headed Gulls took flight on our arrival.  Les clocked at least one Mediterranean Gull amongst them.  Also seen were Little Egret, Coot, Dunlin, Kentish Plover and Little Grebe.  I spotted a Great Crested Grebe just offshore.  An island of resting seabirds included Audouin's and Mediterranean Gulls and Sandwich Terns.  John located a distant Gannet, confirmed by Alan.  Walking back towards the vehicles I found a Grey Plover, some Sanderling and Kentish Plover on the rocky isthmus.  As we were leaving Les saw a Black Necked Grebe on the sea.
Male Common Teal Anas crecca (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
We then convoyed to the dual carriageway overlooking the pools opposite the Consum Supermarket behind Vera Playa.  The water had returned.  Crag Martins were flying above the shrubs.  We found Black Winged Stilt, Teal and Shoveler.  Alan spotted a Grey Wagtail.  A White Headed Duck was also seen.  Gilly and I left before a male Marsh Harrier appeared.
Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus (PHOTO: Gilly Elliott-Binns)
John and Alan checked out the laguna by the Millionaire's Bar and added Lesser Black Backed Gull and Water Pipit.
Considering the cold weather and the works on the rambla a species total of 51 ain't bad! Thank you to John for being in charge this week.  John, Alan and I are sharing the leadership of the group from now on.  Photos by Gilly.
I'm off to El Fondo this Saturday with more of the group.  Snow is possibly on the cards! Regards, Dave
Sounds as if some birders are determined to make the most of El Fondo whilst the possibility of a rarity or two still exist. 

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

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Huetor Tajar, Granada Province

Tuesday 17 January 2017

What a difference you notice at this time of the year when you travel both inland and to higher altitudes.  Clear, warm and sunny on the Mezquitilla coast with night temperature of about 11 rising to 20C+during the day.  Approaching Loja the temperature had dropped to just 2C and the first part of my morning visit to Hueter Tajar started at a a very chilly 4C!  The idea was to try and find the wintering flock of Little Bustards but with field workers operating on the opposite field no sign of one.  I re-visited along with twice checking out the other popular site for these interesting birds but the little b stards always seem to know I am coming and make themselves scarce.  On the other hand, well over a hundred Lapwing seen and a count of 156 Stone Curlews, and given how they manage to almost disappear whilst they rest up on the ploughed fields, probably suggests that there were more than two hundred of the latter present.

Just a few of the hundreds of Stone Curlew Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedicnemus
The visit had started at the top of the town with a walk down the praised path separating the fields and a Grey Wagtail as soon as I set off quickly followed by a number of House Sparrows, Linnets and Black Redstarts.  As I walked the path I found a handful of Tree Sparrows using the bare tree as a resting place then a number of feeding Meadow Pipits and the first of many good-sized flocks of Spotless Starlings.  A couple of Cattle Egrets flew in to feed on the greener field and also a White Wagtail.  Also seen on the path were Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat and Goldfinch.  Just one more new species when a couple of Short-toed Larks put in an appearance.

The track just beyond the Stone Curlew field produced a lovely Little Owl on the roof of the corner house and then a Blackbird.  Whilst on the outskirts of the village near Mick Richardson's house I had a number of Azure-winged Magpies along with Collared Doves.  More Crested Larks in the fields and then a handful of Serin along with many more Linnets as I stopped to admire a resting Iberian Grey Shrike.

The local Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua
A Kestrel posed om top of a tall bare tree as I turned to follow the now flowing Cacin river which produced a Green Sandpiper, a few Chaffinches and many feeding Chiffchaffs and finally a first Bluethroat of the year.

Birds seen:
Cattle Egret, Kestrel, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Short-toed lark, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

Monday 16 January 2017

It may be sunny birding here but in the UK?

16 January 2017

Having reported on my Saturday visit to the Charca de Suarez and bemoaned that the weather was cool and cloudy but leasing to very warm, clear and sunny, my friend Chris Bell from Worksop in Nottnghamshire emailed me to report on his birding day at Blacktoft Sands near Goole on the Humber in East Yorkshire.  Not only very cold but a lengthy journey to boot.  On the other hand, he at least is able to sit in the warmth at home and look out of his window to watch the recently-arrived Waxwings!  Now that's a bird that always seems to make a bee-line to the furthest point the minute it hears that I am back in the country and on the lookout.  Read Chris's message and see what I mean.

Blacktoft Sands, River Humber: Saturday 14 January

I am very sorry that when I read your Saturday visit report to Charca de Suarez on Saturday, that I smiled.

I visited Blacktoft Sands on Saturday and it was probably my most disappointing visit to that site.
The first hide I visited, Xerox, had approximately 30 Wigeon and about the same number of Gadwall plus a pair of Teal.  The second hide, Marshland, had a single Snipe, and a single Lapwing.
Well it was cold, but not as cold as expected and the wind diminished during the day, so that the -7 C wind chill factor did not materialise, and it was sunny.   There was a dusting of snow on the Wolds enhancing the view.

Marsh Harriers were few and far between and only 5 came into roost.  No Hen Harrier into roost what-so-ever.  Even when the Barn Owl put in an appearance, it spent most of the time in the reeds, It obviously  didn’t know I was scoping it there.  Best without a doubt was a Bearded Tit that showed very well, be it that it wasn’t close.  Had a nice Sparrowhawk fly through.

Only real wader species was a Dunlin that touched down on Ousefleet for about 5 seconds, and a couple more that flew through.  There was a disappointing lack of bird movement with neither Golden Plover, Pink Footed Goose, nor Curlew on the move.

So looking on the positive side, I didn’t get my feet wet from flooding nor from precipitation, it was neither as windy nor as cold as forecast, it was sunny and I had the necessary "ticks" to nudge my year total to just above the 100.

Whilst watching the Match of the Day replay this morning (Sunday) spotted 5 Waxwings in front of the lounge window and a walk this afternoon  resulted in finding 39 together (on TV aerials).

Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus (Internet Photo)

Re-reading the message this morning I note that we have similar totals for the year to date, all two weeks.  Whilst I added Cetti's Warbler on Saturday, Chris recorded three birds that I have yet to see, namely Waxwing, Sparrowhawk and Bearded Tit.  Chance are that it will only be the Sparrowhawk that I pick up in Spain during the rest of the year.

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

Sunday 15 January 2017

A rather quiet morning at Charca de Suarez

Saturday 14 January

Off nice and early so that I could be at the Charca de Suarez reserve on the western outskirts of Motril by opening time at nine o'clock.  A calm, cool and cloudy morning with just the occasional break to reveal some blue sky albeit back in Mezquitilla this afternoon it was beautiful warm and sunny with clear blue skies.

Chiffchaff Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita

On arrival straight to the Laguna del Taraje where I was rewarded with a couple of Purple Swamphens, Mallard, Coot and Little Grebe plus the odd Moorhen or two.  But all about me the ever-bust feeding Chiffchaffs.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Porphyrio porphyrio
On to the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas where, once again, there was a good supply of Coot, Mallard, Shoveler and Pochard plus White Wagtails, Cormorants, the long-staying White Stork and a "collared" Red-knobbed Coot at the back of the water.  The arrival of a small flock of Black-headed and two Yellow-legged Gulls added to the variety.  The first raptor of the morning, a Common Kestrel, was seen resting on the top of the adjacent radio mast.  No egrets and just the single Grey Heron a the back of the water.

Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata
Having checked out the main residents it was back to the Laguna del Alamo Blanco so that, at  least that was the intention, I could spend most of the morning watching the arrival and departure of the local waders and await a showing by the resident Water Rail.  What a hope!  The only wader seen all morning was a single Black-winged Stilt and no egrets to be seen.  Lots of Chiffchaffs and about three pairs of Teal and I did eventually locate a feeding Cetti's Warbler.  A female Marsh Harrier made a brief and distant appearance.  In addition to a handful of Moorhen two Purple Swamphens were observed.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
So, change of plan as I looked for a rewarding, and warmer, hide for the rest of the morning and arrived at the Laguna del Trebol.  A Red-knobbed Coot was feeding immediately below the hide and a further half-dozen were also found.  In addition to the Chiffchaffs and Common Coots, the trio of Wigeon were still on site and a Robin flew across to visit the bush immediately in front of us.  Over the water we began to see the arrival of many Crag Martins to feed over the various lagoons.

Wigeon Silbon Europeo Anas penelope with Red-knobbed Coot behind
Walking back towards the entrance I was entertained by first a female then a male Black Redstart and even a male Blackbird.  Just to be on the safe side, I made a quick return visit to the hides at both the Lagunas del Taraje and del Alamo Blanco before deciding to call it a day and leave just after noon.
Black Redstart ColirrojoTizon Phoenicurus ochruros

Both a Robin and Kestrel were seen driving down "Turtle Dove Alley" plus a Crested Lark at the far end and a quick visit to the picnic area at Velez de Benaudalla produced a good mixed flock of Greenfinches and Chaffinches.  It also revealed the over-growth of vegetation on the far wall which, if the Dippers breed here again this year, will make them difficult to observe.

Birds seen:
Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Heron, White Stork, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, House Sparrow, Chafinch, Greenfinch.

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