Tuesday 28 February 2017

Caleta de Velez

Tuesday 28 February

last day of the month and a public holiday.  Lovely warm sunshine albeit  more than a little on the breezy side, so Jenny and I took ourselves off for a walk down to Caleta de Velez.  On arrival  a few Rock and Collared Doves along with single Blackbird and White Wagtail.  The sea was decidedly choppy to say the least but hundreds of resting gulls on the water.  Whilst the Monk Parakeets screeched away overhead a check on the beach revealed all four resident gulls of Mediterranean, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged.  Whilst no sign of Razorbill, Black-necked or Great Crested Grebe, the single Common Gull had returned and was resting on the beach with the mainly Yellow-legged Gulls and, in near proximity, a quartet of Sanderling and a single Common Sandpiper.  Add on a small flock of Serin, a Spotless Starling and a few House Sparrows and quite a collection for a pleasant stroll.

Mediterranian Gull Gaviota Cabecinegra Larus melanocephalus (left) and Black-headed Gull Gaviota Reidora Larus ridibundus

Birds seen:
Sanderling, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Blackbird, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin.

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

Monday 27 February 2017

Alcaucin Picnic Area

Monday 27 February

All rather quiet on the birding front this morning on a visit to the picnic area above Alcaucin on the lower Sierra Tejeda.   Could well have been because many seemed to be taking an extra day of work with the national holiday tomorrow following the week-end so lots of campers.  Also not helped by those going for a hike accompany by one of more dogs with the owners seeming to think it would be great for the four-legged creatures to be able to run free.

Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra

Having said that, apart form Blackbirds and Chiffchaffs I did manage to record both Nuthatch and Crossbill and a number of Chaffinches as I departed.  Put another way, two new species taking the annual total up to 160 and now awaiting the arrival of Red-rumped Swallows and assorted swifts.

 Male (above) and female Chaffinch Pinzon Vulgar Fringilla coelebs

Birds seen:
Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Crossbill.

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

Saturday 25 February 2017

Rio Vlez, Torre del Mar

Saturday 25 February

Lovely clear, warm and sunny day - at last, so off down to the local Rio Velez just west of Torre del mar for a couple of hours.  All very green from the damp conditions and lack of any real, consistent rain over the winter has meant that the river bed is much overgrown with reeds, weeds and goodness knows what else.  Parking above the road bridge I soon had sightings of both Grey Wagtail and Green Sandpiper before starting the walk down river, under the road bridges and on to the sea and back.  Before reaching the bridges I had also added a couple of White Wagtails.

Lots of resident Rock Doves about and a couple of Mallard "hiding" in the narrow water channel along with the odd Moorhen. Both male and female Blackbirds were recorded and then the first Zitting Cisticola of the morning.  Approaching the hide a number of Cormorant put in an appearance as they came in off the sea to refresh themselves in the fresh water.  Both Collared Doves and Heron were recorded and on meeting a Spanish birding friend was informed that the local Spanish birders had seen both a Common Gull and Kittiwake this morning at the Caleta de Velez fish harbour.

Female Serin Verdecillo Serinus serinus
From the hide i had good views of a couple of Serin on the track and then Zitting Cisticola, Stonechat and Chiffchaff in front of me.  Cetti's Warblers were calling loudly and then a lone Little Egret flew upstream.  Only a few Black-headed Gulls seen overhead but no hirundines.

Female Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus
A walk to the sea revealed that the water level was really high an much of the beach gone.  Resting just off shore a good-sized flock of Black-headed Gulls and, looking up river, about a score of resting Cormorants.

Cattle Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis
The walk back to the car revealed Goldfinch and a pair of Red Avadavat, the first sighting here of the latter for probably a year or more.  After a handful of Monk Parakeets had flown over I arrived back at the road bridge where I found a single Cattle Egret.  Once on the other side of the road I once again picked up more Grey Wagtails and a single female Kestrel.  A quick trip round the growing fields produced a Hoopoe but then time to head towards home.

Four of the five Razorbill Alca Comun Alca torda off Caleta de velez
However, I did stop at Caleta to check out the gull situation but no sign of either Kittiwake and Common Gull.  But there were good numbers of Mediterranean, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls along with a score of Cormorant.  Out on the water, not only a single Great Crested Grebe but a quintet of Razorbill.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Green Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Razorbill, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Grey wagtail, White wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Serin, Goldfinch

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

Friday 24 February 2017

The Spanish Imperial Eagle

Friday 24 February

A Day in the Life of a Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti

As a result of my recent visit to Extremadura and having the privilege of seeing a true pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles, I thought I might use some of the photographs taken to present a little story of what might be an everyday occurrence in the life of these magnificent raptors.

This is the Manfrague home of our raptors near the top of a well-leafed tree that can just be seen to the left of the bare tree where "hubby" is having a brief rest after all his travels in search of an early morning meal.  If you look carefully, about two-thirds to the right and at about 4 o'clock from the resting male, you can just make out the female.

 It's been a busy start to the day both looking for food and making sure that the neighbours know their place and keep to their own side of the fence, etc. But there is always one interfering neighbour, in this case an adult Griffon Vulture, that has to be reminded that this is my territory and if you enter you have to expect a reaction.

Time to check that all is OK at home so the female has come out to meet her partner and see how he has spent the first part of the morning.
Oh no, there's that pesky Griffon Vulture again.  This time make a better job of seeing off the bird once and for all.
 Still not got the message?  Well I can follow you as far as you can fly.

  Time to get back and see if lady wife is all right.

Just the one nosey neighbour observing us but as long as the Griffon Vulture stays there I'll just ignore him.

Yes, all is clear so time to drop in, literally, on the wife and see if she is ready to think about starting a new family this year.

No point hanging around up there, I need you down here.

Ah, there you are.  Is this the morning when we finally stop thinking and get on with producing a son and heir?
All right for you but I've been working on the nest all morning; I need a little rest first.

OK but I'm on my way down to you.
This is not the easiest of actions given our size and the nature of this marriage bed!

 Wow!  I feel as if I'm in heaven.  So in love I need to take a soar around the sky above.

  Back again, dear.  My word I needed that soar above to tell you how much I love you.

Have you finished messing about?  What about getting on with some work?  We need more twigs for the nest and I'm actually beginning to feel a little peckish.

  Go on, off you go!

Oh happy day!  The sun is shining, hardly a breath of wind and the neighbours have all settled down.  If it wasn't for that pair of birders down there looking up at us we'd have the world to ourselves.  Looks like Robert Luecke all the way from Wuppertal in Germany down there and still sat on his stool; must have been there for days.

And, if I'm not mistaken, it looks as if the Axarquia Birder has also turned up to point his telescope and camera at us.  You'd think he would have something better to do with his time!

And so I moved on to find the newly-arrived Black Stork along with a pair of Black (Monk) Vultures not more then 500 metres away.

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

Thursday 23 February 2017

Extremadura Day 4: Monfrague National park

Hme of the Spanish Imperial Eagle Aguila Imerial Iberica Aquilla adalberti
Monday 20 February

Finally time to complete the trip reports for last week-end's visit to Extremadura.  Having spent a most enjoyable evening at the Hotel Rural Hojaranzos in Tejeda de Tietar I said good-bye to friends and headed off to the Monfargue National Park entering, for the first time, from the east so that I could ext and start my return journey to Mezquitilla by joining the motorway at Trujillo.  With the hotel right on the border of the park, I soon picked up Spotless Starling and an early rising Red Kite before entering the narrow road down to the river Tietar and its well-known cliff face on the opposite bank where I hoped to see some magnificent birds.  Continuing along the lane I soon added both Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon quickly followed by Stonechat and Corn Bunting.  A White Stork drifted over the adjacent dehesa and a Great Tit popped off the fence before rounding the last bend to meet up with the river.

Managing to find just enough space to get the car off the road in front on an already parked car, I was in time to see a Great White Egret slowly flying up stream.  Then round the bend immediately in front of me, I cam across a birder sat on a low camping stool with hos telescope facing the cliff on the opposite bank.  Enquiring about any possible sightings of the local eagle owl i was told that he was watching the nest of a Spanish Imperial Eagle and in addition to its mate he had been listening to a third individual calling from behind.  I very quickly discovered that we actually new each other and Robert was another ABS member who just happened to be here on a birding holiday from Germany; small world.

Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba
Having been shown the eagle's nest i son had my scope set up and was able to get a good view of the female's head.  The female was then joined by the male Spanish Imperial Eagle who, after a few circuits, settle on its favourite, nearby perch and  ten minutes later was joined by the female.  Copulation took place and eventually the female returned to the nest and the male set of on another short circuit of its nearby territory before re-settling in the tree.  Marvellous views.

The breeding pair of Spanish Imperial Eagle Aguila Imerial Iberica Aquilla adalberti

Behind me a noisy Jay was foraging in the small trees whilst back on the cliff a mixture of resting and early morning flights by the resident Griffon VulturesCrag Martins patrolled the cliff face and I made my way along to the next view pint where I was able to park the car and, as an additional bonus, had the pleasure of watching my first Black Stork of the year in the air above me.

My first Black Stork Ciguena Negra Ciconia nigra of the year
Climbing up the first hill to the mirador overlook the bend in the river I had a Heron on the far bank and both Black and Griffon Vultures in the air above me.

The magnificet Black (Monk) Vulture Buitre Negro Aegyplus monachus
From here I drove on to the dam where I found scores of House Martins and a number of Azure-winged Magpies in the trees below the picnic area.  No house Martins  or anything else as I crossed the long bridge other than some resident Rock Doves.  But parked on the far side I did find a number of Chaffinches, Blackbird and Robin with, finally, a handful of feeding Long-tailed Tits.

A sort of Griffon Vulture Buitre Leonado Gyps fulvus "King of the castle" exercise
Approaching the mirador at El Salto del Gitano opposite the Pena Falcon I had a single Rock Bunting in a tree and then the first sight of the numerous Griffon Vultures and feeding Crag Martins.  Most of the former were still resting and it appeared to me that there were far fewer than on previous visits.  Below me a male Blue Rock Thrush came to rest on top of a large boulder.

Male Blue Rock Thrush Roquero Solitario Monticola solitarius
As I made my way to Trujillo and the motorway I also picked up Magpie and then White Wagtail, Crested Lark, Mallard and Kestrel at the Almonte river crossing.  But there was still time when I reached Castuera to take a diversion up and over the steppe covered yesterday morning and eventually exit at Cabeza de Buey.  This journey along some different, and smaller, tracks produced Hoopoe, Magpie, Meadow Pipit and Iberian Grey Shrikes, not to mention the occasional Marsh Harrier and a flight of a dozen Black-bellied Sandgrouse.  Naturally, there were both Golden Plover and Lapwing to be seen.  However, nearing the end I had a flock in excess of fifty Choughs feeding on the land to my right.

Iberian Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionallis

It was now full speed ahead for Cordoba and the motorway to Malaga and home.  But, again, time for a short detour south of Cordoba to visit, after seeing my first Buzzard back in Andalucia, the largest of the Cordoba lakes, Laguna de Zonars, just south of Aguilar.  However, on arrival the entrance track through the olive grove was definitely fit for only 4 x 4s so I had to park above the lake and use my scope.  Not a lot about but I did manage both Common and Red-crested Pochard along with Mallard, Great Crested Grebe, Coot and Barn Swallows over the water.  I thought that that was it for the day as evening drew nearer but then, to my great surprise and pleasure, a single Black Kite, again my first of the year) crossed the road above me to the front.  What a way to end my tour with almost 100 species recorded and including 16 new species for the year.

Only ever going to be one winner between Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquilla adalberti and GriffonVulture Gyps fulvus

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Great White Egret, Heron, Black Stork, White Stork, Red Kite, Black Kite, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Maria with the Arboleas

Wednesday 22 February

Just had a short email from my friend Dave Elliott-Binns re his group's visit to Maria today.  Evidently Dave is training up a new scribe so I might get a more "formal" report at a later date.

However, along with the three photographs, Dave commented on the number of Rock Sparrows, over 100, seen on the power lines and the sighting of a first, male, Lesser Kestrel of the year.  Able to refer Dave to our recent visit to Extremadura re the latter.  Dave also stated that the weather was somewhat chilly!

Crested Lark Cogujada Comun Galerida cristata

Male Lesser Kestrel Cernicalo Primilla Falco naumanni
Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua

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

Caleta de Velez

Wednesday 22 February

A very early evening walk along the coast to the fishing harbour produced a very useful 14 species.  Arriving near the port, Jenny and I had screeching Monk Parakeets in the trees behind us along with both Blackbird and Spotless Starling on the neighbouring roofs.  Both Collared and Rock Doves were also present.

In the marina a small number of mainly Black-headed Gulls and, at the back, a quintet of Razorbill sheltering from the rough sea.  On the fenced-off beach just outside the harbour a gathering roost of mainly Mediterranean and Yellow-legged Gulls along with many Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Resting with the on the stones was a single Little Egret and on the beach a solitary Little Stint busily feeding along the shore line and amidst the roosting gulls.

Little Stint Correlimos Menudo Calidris minuta with Yellow-legged Gulls Gaviota patiamarilla Larus michahellis

A walk out to the red lighthouse gave views over the sea where yet more gulls were resting and a returning fishing boat was swamped with scavenging gulls and at least a quintet of Gannets.  Returning to the harbour and the walk back home we noticed that a pair of Turnstones had arrived to  feed amongst the gulls resting on the stone wall.

Birds seen:
Gannet, Little Egret, Little Stint, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Razorbill, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Blackbird, Spotless Starling.

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