Wednesday 29 March 2017

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birdwatching Group

Wednesday 29 March

To celebrate the presentation of the six-page letter to the EU announcing the UK's imminent departure, Dave and his merry band of mainly ex-pats that make up the Arboleas Birdwatching Group spent the day at Cabo de Gata and nearby Ramble Morales where they seem to have a marvellous day's birding away from all the political nonsense going on to the north of the continent.  Sanity returns and even my friend Steve Powell was able to confirm that our resident Dippers are once more back on their traditional nesting site, a location that has most probably been in use for at least the past twenty years.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales
Wednesday 29th March

John picked me up from Los Gallardos & we headed towards Cabo de Gata.   Our bird log begins once we come off the motorway heading for Retamar Sur. By the time we'd reached Pujaire we'd already logged 9 species, the best being a Common Buzzard near the Visitor Centre.  Others included Kestrel, Jackdaw and some Barn Swallows. We had a coffee before making our way to the first hide. Colin & Sandra were due to catch up with us once they'd dropped friends off at the airport.  As we arrived we saw lots of Pallid Swifts flying above us.  We were delighted to see 18 Spoonbill on and around the rocky causeway.  Also there were a couple of Little Egrets and a selection of gulls :- Black-headed, Slender-billed and Yellow-legged.  On the wader front we spotted numerous Avocet, about 6 Grey Plover, a few Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilt and a Redshank.  Apart from the Mallards, John spotted a different one.  It was some distance away and obviously female.  It eventually flew.  We believe it was a Garganey.  Smaller birds included " Iberian" Yellow Wagtails and a Thekla Lark.  Oh yes, forgot to mention the Greater Flamingos!  At this point a coach arrived. John said, " A coach load of children.  That's all we need!"  Thankfully these "children" were a group of British birdwatchers being led by Jesus Contreras, a local guide.  Thankful we were indeed as one of them found a Collared Pratincole on the rocky causeway that we'd missed.  Our first of the year.

Distant Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I spotted a Blackcap, followed by an Iberian Grey Shrike on the power line behind us.  At this point Colin and Sandra joined us.  We showed them the Spoonbill, Pratincole and others before we all headed for the second hide.
Some of the Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia flock (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The beach sea-watch proved disappointing.  As we walked to the hide I could hear  a Corn Bunting. Eventually I spotted it on top of a shrub.  The only other bird we added to the list was a Cormorant which flew over.  Got back to the vehicles and I spotted two duck far out to sea.  They were at least 5-700 metres out.  Got excited anticipating some good birds.  Got the scope on them.  What were they?  Mallard!
Thinking the British birders were now in the Public hide we headed to the lighthouse.  En route we saw a Sandwich Tern flying close to the beach, a  pair of Audouin's Gulls on the shoreline and a Black Wheatear flew across in front of us.  From next to the lighthouse I spotted what appeared to be a Cory's Shearwater way out to sea.  If so, it would be a very early arrival!  The British birding group were actually up by the mobile mast behind us.  We trudged up there for a scan, but heard only a Corn Bunting.

Colin and John near the lighthouse (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We retraced our steps to the Public hide.  Here we added Lesser Black Backed Gull, a flotilla of about 18 Black Necked Grebe and some Shelduck spotted by John.  More Sandwich Tern were on the rocky causeway to the right.
We adjourned to Cabo village for a bite to eat.  Some House Martins flew by.  We then drove along the beach-side track to the Rambla Morales.  Bird-wise, things had improved.  Last time there were only Moorhen and Coot.  This time there were also Avocet, Black Winged Stilt, Kentish Plover and a flitty flight of Sanderling.  I found a distant Kestrel.  We heard Zitting Cisticola.  John spotted what he thought was a Raven flying along the beach.  This was confirmed on our drive back.  In fact we saw two.  Our final bird was a Red-rumped Swallow as we headed through the short cut by the plastic greenhouses.
Record shot of the Raven Corvus corax (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We ended with a respectable 44 species.  Slightly disappointed by the lack of expected migrants though.
Regards, Dave
Interesting report and especially the mention of local guide Jesus Contreras who I last met at least seven or more years ago.  A fortnight ago we recorded a pair of Garganey near the first hide as you approach Cabo de Gata and again on the lower Rambla Morales.  Given that our bird seemed to be always on the move, then I certainly expect that you were correct in identifying your bird as such. 

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

Saturday 25 March 2017

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birdwatching Group

Saturday 25 March

My apologies for the late publishing od Dave's report onhis latest Arboleas Birdwatching Group outing.  I got tied up with the worry of my visit to hospital on Thursday to hear the latest on the cataract operation progress, fell asleep when I got home then forgot to get the job done.  All my fault so sorry chaps and chapesses!  By the  way, good news on the eye front so all should improve every day until the left eye is worked on in about a year's time.  Now to Dave's report.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 22nd March 2017

After our aborted visit to the Sierra de Maria last week due to inclement weather, we tried our luck this week. Gilly, Richard and myself managed to see Crag Martin, Serin and Wood Pigeon before reaching the meeting place in Maria, but later arrivals had Griffon Vultures, Raven, Robin, White Wagtail and Blackbird on their travels.  In total there were 16 Arboleas Birdwatching Group members out today, so I won't list them.  I apologise in advance if I get who spotted what wrong!   Weather-wise, the sun was out. High clouds, but a cold breeze. 
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
After a coffee in the Repsol garage cafe, we made our way to the chapel area.  There was a steady flight of Griffon Vultures moving along the ridge from Velez Rubio towards the plain.  At one point they were joined by a hawk.  Les managed to lock on to it with his scope, confirming a Kestrel.   In the area of the trough we saw a female Black Redstart and a Goldfinch.  Gilly found a Blue Tit high up in the poplar tree and a Great Tit was also seen.
Lovely to see the trees in full blossom (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
On the walk up to the Botanical Gardens, Alan and Les's group saw a pair of Stonechat and a Rock Bunting.  The walk round the lower path was virtually devoid of birdlife.  The group which stayed near the Information fared little better with Richard, amongst others, seeing a Long Tailed Tit.  On the walk back to the cars we heard a Cirl Bunting singing from a tree in full blossom.  Also seen were some Magpies.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We convoyed to the ruined farm buildings where the early arrivals saw a Hoopoe.  (Adrian said he'd seen a Kestrel the other day killing a Hoopoe!)  Above us were more Griffon Vulture plus two Raven soaring with them.  Barrie spotted a Short Toed Treecreeper in the nearby trees.  As we were driving off I found a pair of Mistle Thrush on the rocky grass field.
Male Chaffinch Frigilla coelebs (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Moving on to the goat/sheep water trough area, one or two birds were feeding under the galvanised troughs.  A pair of Cirl Buntings, some Chaffinch and Crested Lark.  Les found a Skylark as well.  We then moved in convoy along the plain towards the hamlet.  Us up front didn't see much, but behind Barrie saw two Stone Curlew and Alan reported a Short Toed Lark.  At the hamlet a farmer was getting his 4x4 out of the building where the Lesser Kestrels nest in the roof tiles so, once he'd driven off, six individuals returned.  We were then spoilt by the arrival of a pair of Red-billed Chough and taking an interest in possibly looking for a nesting site in that same building.  A Barn Swallow flew by.

Crossbill Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Here the group split temporarily.  Some of us retreated to the La Piza forest cafe whilst the rest ventured a bit further along.  They saw Calandra Lark, Corn Bunting and Linnet.  We had a single Calandra Lark and a Thekla Lark on our way to the cafe.  Once there we birdwatched whilst lunching.  There were numerous Crossbill, Chaffinch, Great and Blue Tits using the water pool and feeding station.  The others joined us.  We also saw a Jay, Crested Tit, Long Tailed Tits and a ground feeding Short-toed Treecreeper.  An Iberian sub-race Red Squirrel was also spotted. After lunching we all went our separate ways.  We spotted a Common Buzzard one the way to Velez Blanco.
We ended up with 41 species.  Lovely day out with so many of the group.
Regards, Dave
Iberian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

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

Wednesday 22 March 2017

First Woodchat Shrike, Pallid and Common Swift of the Year

Wednesday 22 March

An interesting morning down at Zapata on the Rio Guadalhorce with Derek and Barbara Etherton in warm sunshine but quire breezy which resulted in us recording our first Woodchat Shrike of the year along with both Pallid and Common Swifts.  A short follow-on visit to the Rio Grande found the river much changed, as with Zapata, following the recent heavy rain storms and resulting flooding.  Nevertheless, good to record almost 50 species between us.

No sooner had we entered the site than we were recording Red-rumped Swallow, Collared Dove, Serin and House Sparrow and our first riverside stop added Little Egret, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot and Greenshank.  Not much scoping required to quickly add Little Ringed Plover along with both Green and Common Sandpipers.  Meanwhile, all around us, there seemed to be "swarms" of Barn Swallows feeding low over the grasses and, again, with a little extra care we soon also picked up both Sand and House Martins.  Both Greenfinch and Goldfinch were recorded before we saw our first Pallid Swift of the year to be followed shortly afterwards by both another and a couple of Common Swifts.

Blue-headed Wagtail Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae

After watching a couple of Jackdaw fly out from under the motorway bridge and a pair of Cattle Egret pass overhead, we left the newly-arrived Grey Heron and Cormorant and made our way towards the main reed bed.  No sooner had we reached the higher track than we found the Woodchat Shrike sitting quietly on the fence and close by both Corn Bunting and StonechatCrested Larks on the track itself and then under the airport approach lights to discover that the field on the right behind the fence had been recently moved and the grass removed leaving a very inviting, insect field for the score of mixed White and Blue-headed Wagtails along with more House Sparrows, Corn Buntings and Spotless Starlings.  Whilst here we also watched a rather lovely Marsh Harrier quartering the reeds up ahead and a Blackbird flew past along with the first of a number of Zitting Cisticolas to be seen during the morning.

keep yur windows closed as the Marsh Harrier Aguilucho lagunero Circus aeruginosus passes by
Moving between sites we had a Monk Parakeet fly over the car and, upon arrival at the Rio Grande, were greeted by a number of both Cattle and Little Egrets along with the odd Cormorant and a handful of Black-winged Stilts.  A Hoopoe crossed in front of us and then a male Chaffinch sitting on the track itself.

One of verry many (Blue-headed) Yellow Wagtails Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae
From the far bridge over the newly-created "dam" we had first views of a pair of Raven and then no less than five Buzzards overhead.  Lots of Little Ringed Plovers about and, as with Zapata, no shortage of singing Cetti's Warblers.  Our final bird of this site was a male Spanish Sparrow and then a female Stonechat and Black Redstart when we stopped to look at the nesting Bonelli's Eagle - but neither Mum nor Dad were at home!

Spanish Sparrow Gorrion Moruno Passer hispaniolensis
Spanish Sparrow with House Sparrows Gorrion Comun Passer domesticus
Accidental photo of a House Sparrow Gorrion Comun Passer domesticusin glight!

Birds seen:
Mallard, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, WhiteWagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

Monday 20 March 2017

Ferruginess Duck and Jack Snipe at Charca de Suarez

Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo
Monday 20 March

Having seen Mick Richardson's photos of the Ferruginous Ducks at Charca de Suarez, I thought I had better make an urgent visit in case the birds decide not to stay and breed.  So off for the restricted evening opening and, apart from a quick look in the Laguna del Taraje for the Little Crake, which was not seen, on to the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas to seek out said ducks.  All rather quiet with a pair of Shoveler, the same number of Mallards and few Coots which were well outnumbered by the local Moorhens and I was beginning t think that this might have been a wasted journey.  I happily watched the diving Little Grebes and there certainly a good number of Cormorants and Grey Herons lining the eastern bank.  Then, from my left, the pair of Ferrugiunous Ducks paddle rather swiftly across in front of me undertaking regular dives, just like overgrown Little Grebes but showing their white backsides.

Little Grebe Zampullin Comun Tachybaptus ruficollis

So onto the Laguna del Trebol where I duly found more Common than Red-knobbed Coots along with a few Mallards.  Back to the main hide and the Feruginous Ducks were more in the open but there were three together so, perhaps, these are visiting rather breeding birds.  Also present both Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls and only Barn Swallows feeding overhead.

Ferruginous Ducks Porron Pardo Aythya nyroca
Next some time to be spent at the relatively new Laguna del Alamo Blanco which really turned up trumps.  A Black-winged Stilt and a single Green Sandpiper to wards the back right but it was the quartet of Common Snipe that caught my attention along with a trio of Wood sandpipers.  Then, not the Moorhens, Coots, Mallards or even the Teal, but the single little "stripy" bird at the far back up close to the vegetation that caught my attention and demanded that I give it a really good check out with the scope.  This was, indeed, a small snipe, but not Common rather a single Jack Snipe.  And here was I thinking that the wintering individuals had moved on.  (Perhaps they had and this was a new arrival.)

One of the quartet of Common Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago

This individual ignored his larger cousins and continued to feed on its own and, unlike the Common Snipe, very close to the water's edge so that, presumably, if necessary, it could quickly slink away into the reeds.  A single Little Egret departed and having noted the sole Ringed Plover I walked back to the Laguna Taraje, with a very small charm of Goldfinch passing overhead, in the hope that the final twenty minutes might produce the Little Crake.  It did not, just Moorhens, Coots and Little Grebe along with a Chiffchaff and a White Wagtail.  The final bird, flitting around outside the hide, was a Robin.

More photographs of this visit:

Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo dring off and looking like just plucked fo rthe oven!

Two of the three Ferruginous Ducks Porron Pardo Aythya nyroca present on the main laguna

Lots of Grey Herons Garza Real Ardea cinerea on site
Not a head in sight for these two Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago and a Teal Cerceta Comun Anas crecca

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal. Ferruginous Duck,  Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, White Wagtail, Robin, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, Serin, Goldfinch.

Now what sort of Terrapin might this be; native or introduced?

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

Cabo de Gata week-end

Monday 20 March

The monthly field visit of the Andalucia Bird Society was at Cabo de Gata this past Saturday, 18 March and attended, on the day, by a total of 34 members as we explored the area in as few cars as possible, each with their own maps of the area so that, I think without exception, there were never more than two cars together at any one time - save when we came across each other at the occasional hide or mirador.  As a group we managed to record over 60 species on the day itself.

For Jenny and I the trip started at 12.30 the previous day as soon as Jenny had completed her hospital appointment in Velez Malaga to check up on the progress of her broken elbow from last September so, rather than a couple of stops on the way to Cabo de Gata in Almeria province, we made straight for the huge "lake" at Las Norias where we had our late picnic lunch.  I use the word "lake" reservedly and with some trepidation as for those who know this water they would perhaps smile, if not loudly guffaw, at such a description.  To reach the water you drive through a city of plastic and will not be surprised to learn that only plastic re-cycling plant that I know of is located at the eastern end.  Here, not only will you find vast quantities of bundled plastic awaiting the incinerator but, being the nature of the beast, no shortage of overspilled rubbish lining the banks of the far pool which is favoured by the breeding Purple Swamphens and roosting egrets and herons.  What a stinking mess this area can be with the wind in the wrong direction.

Male Red-crested Pochard Pato Colorado Netta rufina
We left Velez Malaga in beautiful warm and sunny weather but on opening the car door at the first crossing over the lake in Las Norias discovered to our surprise that there was a rather healthy breeze creating choppy waters.  Indeed the breeze was to stay with us for the rest of the day and the morrow.  Probably just as well, as come Sunday when calm returned the temperature soared up into the high twenties.  This first stop produced good numbers of both Great Crested Grebe and Red-crested Pochards along with Common Pochard, Mallard, Cormorant and Little Grebe.  Overhead, both Barn Swallows and House Martins were having a feast and what few gulls we saw were of the Black-headed variety.  On round to the last causeway near the plastic recycling works to park by the bridge.  More Great Crested Grebes including a pair performing one of their classic courting dances and the far, top, side a large roost of Little Egrets in a single tree and an almost continuous row of Grey Herons.  All seemingly seeking shelter from the string easterly breeze and, to our left, another tree holding a roost of Cattle Egrets.  In was in this latter roost that I discovered the single adult Night Heron.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea with Little Egrets Egretta garzetta but can you find the Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax?
Missing out the salinas at Roquetas de Mar we managed to arrive in Cabo de Gata by about 4pm which gave Jenny chance to settle into the hotel whilst I drove down to the far "Public Hide" to check on what might be about for the ABS field day in the morning.  What a surprise greeted me.  All the recent rain had so increased water levels so that not only were there very few feeding shores for the waders but the very end pool which has always had a long, narrow spit of rock on which both gulls and terns of all sorts roosted had completed disappeared below the water.  Not a bird in sight.  The main pool in front of the hide contained a good number of Flamingo and scores of feeding Avocets along with both Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls.
Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus with Avocets Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta
The larger island did have a very narrow shore on which the few waders were recorded, including Redshank, Kentish Plover and Dunlin.  So, watching a Raven fly past overhead and a number of Sandwich Terns feeding just of the beach, back to the first hide on the bend just outside the village where I found a few Slender-billed Gulls resting on the water along with Green Sandpiper, a dozen Black-winged Stilt and the opposite side of the road an Iberian Grey Shrike and a passing Marsh Harrier to add to the previously seen kestrel.  The final birds of the day were a rather lovely Garganey and a Black-tailed Godwit in full summer plumage.

Garganey Cerceta Carretona Anas querquedula

Saturday morning and at Hide One to outline the plans for the day to the expected twenty or so members to discover that our final tally was a magnificent 34.  (But I had already had a very short walk before breakfast to the flooded filed just 100 metres to the north of the hotel and found House Martin, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler and Hoopoe.) Once maps had been distributed and car groupings sorted members took off to their referred starting point for the day knowing that we would all, or the great majority, meet up again at the local Blancabrisa hotel in the late afternoon.

My little group of seven in two cars set off through the town and picked up the beach-side track to the rambla making stops on the way to observe both the Gannets and feeding Sandwich Terns.  At the rambla itself we found plenty of water, unlike my last visit in January when there was a mere trickle down the middle, but very few birds.  A Moorhen and Mallard along with a Ringed Plover on the far bank before a distant Marsh Harrier was spotted quartering the fields.  Overhead a Raven wandered towards the village giving very good views and then eight Black-winged Stilts flew in from the direction of the sea and settled on the river.   As we followed these birds upstream we discovered a most gorgeous male Garaganey along with a single Green Sandpiper.  A few Goldfinches and a Sardinian Warbler were also recorded before I found a lone Golden Plover that popped its head up from the long grass between some low bushes just as I had the scope in that direction; very lucky indeed.  Needless to say there was a constant supply of Barn Swallows in small numbers.

Garganey Cerceta Carretona Anas querquedula with Black-winged Stilts Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
From here it was one extreme to the other as we made our way to the far end of the site to try and find the wintering Trumpeter Finches near the lighthouse.  On approaching, the road around the lighthouse was jam-packed with tourists so we took the mountain road and parked outside the stone buildings.  Much as we tried we could not find our target bird albeit many did who had started at this end of the site.  Both Spotless Starlings and Black Wheatears were resting on the wires and no shortage of breeding Crested Larks.  In addition we added Crag Martin as we climbed (by car!) to the top for the amazing views over the cliffs and beyond.

Our final stop, before taking a comfort break and enjoying drinks and "fishy" nibbles at the roadside restaurant overlooking the sea, was on the track to the back of the salinas; just far enough along to check out the roosting gulls.  nearest to us were scores of Audouin's Gulls but we also recorded Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls.  Behind us we had a number of views of Crested Lark and the occasional Corn Bunting.

Following our short top we drove on the Public Hide  overlooking a large pool containing very many Avocets and Flamingos.  Once settle in and a chance to search other other birds we soon picked up Shelduck and Mallard along with Cormorants.   The nearby island produced Dunlin, Little Stint and Redshank whilst at the very back a quintet of Black-necked Grebes were moving along as a self-contained group.  It was here that we said goodbye to three of the group as they had to return home early so, after dropping Jenny off at the hotel, we remaining four returned to the original starting point with the sun now behind is to check out the water once more.  A small group of Spoonbill were soon spotted along with a single Cattle Egret, pair of Slender-billed Gulls and a few Mediterranean Gulls.  The Garganey was still present from last night and also a male Wigeon.  Tucked into the bank we had a couple of Little Egrets and a small number of Black-winged Stilts.  Still plenty of Avocets but all the Flamingos were at the far end.

Our final stop was back at the flooded field near the hotel where numerous Barn Swallows were feeding but also both Sand and Crag Martin along with a Red-rumped Swallow.  On the water mainly Black-headed Gulls but in the dead stems of what resembled a harvested paddy fields a group of a dozen Black-winged Stilt.  And a s we looked closer we found a full summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit and then a further three, one of the latter being in full winter plumage and almost making it look more like a Bar-tailed Godwit when compared with its companions.  And so back to the hotel for a rest and prepare for the evening's get together with the last new bird seen by me being an Iberian Grey Shrike.

Sunday morning, yesterday, and eight of us were at the "Trumpeter site" by 9.30 before the day-trippers arrived.  Still no Trumpeter Finch but the busy feeding Crested Larks suggested that there might be a nest of youngsters nearby.  In addition we found Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipit and Linnet to add to the Black Wheatears and Spotless Starlings.  We even had a female Black Redstart land on the wire in front of us.  Back to the hotel where I completed packing the car, collected jenny and set off back to Mezquitilla.  As we left Cabo I did stop for the very briefest of a look to check the water and say goodbye to this wonderful and beautiful site.  In time to record Avocet, Spoonbill, Slender-billed Gull, Mallard and Barn Swallow.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
Our first stop was at the salinas of Roquetas de Mar.  The picnic site pool provided lots of Mallards and a few Common Pochard along with  female White-headed Duck.  We managed to drive on quite a way along the track until it disappeared under the conjoined waters.  However, on the track we observed both Black-winged Stilt and Redshank with a couple of Ringed Plover further along.  On the main water lots of Avocets and Red-crested Pochards along with Shoveler and a flitting Zitting CisticolaFlamingos could be seen in the distance.

Great Crested Grebe Somormujo Lavanco Podiceps cristatus  about to get all excited!
Our final stop was at nearby Las Norias where, again, lots more Red-crested Pochards along with Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes and Herons.  No sign of the Night Heron from Friday or the reported Tufted Duck from Saturday.  However, we did add Chiffchaff, White Wagtail and Red-rumped Swallow before checking out the next causeway where we came across a good number of Gadwall.  To add to the excitement, a pair of Garganey was spotted and whilst zooming in with the scope I even discovered a feeding Purple Swamphen.  Meanwhile, on the very far bank a distant Great White Egret took to the air.  And so ended a very enjoyable week-end with lots of great birds and company.

Very distant record shot of a Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio

Birds seen by me:
Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Golden Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Crested lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

Sunday 19 March 2017

El Fondo with the Arboleas Bird Group

19 March 2017

It would appear that whilst I was up at Cabo de Gata in Almeria province withe Andalucia Bird Society for its March field visit, report later, Dave and his group were even further north at the "famous" El Fondo site.  A few years now since Dave took Jenny and I there so I wonder if it still holds breeding Moustached Warblers.  It certainly must still be very popular as I think Dave and company have made the long journey up to Elche, near Alicante, on at least four occasions these past six months or so.

El Fondo, Elche   -   Saturday 18th March

Paul & Kath asked me to arrange a day out at El Fondo whilst they were over for a short break, so here we were at silly o'clock heading towards the bird reserve near Elche. We'd already logged Blackbird and Black Redstart prior to arriving at the North Gate for 08.15hrs when the ranger released us into the reserve for the only 3 hour slot of the week into this, the best, part of the reserve. We heard Green "Iberian" Woodpecker and Cetti's Warbler as we were waiting. 
As Paul drove along the track towards the bottom elevated hide what should fly across in front of us but our first "Common" Cuckoo of the year!  A great start!  Also seen on the drive were Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret.  As we exited the car a Common Buzzard flew off.  From the hide, looking away from the sun, onto the expanse of water in front of us we could see White Headed Duck, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot and Common Pochard.  I spotted a distant Purple Swamphen on the reed bed peripheries.  (Big word for this time of the morning if correct, but sounds good!) Some Greater Flamingos flew passed.  A Grey Heron was also seen.  On the water the other way we saw Cormorant,  Great Crested and Little Grebe.  In the reeds were a few Chiffchaff and invisible Cetti's Warblers.  On the water way over to the left were some Shoveler (more later!).  The only hirundine we saw was a lone Red Rumped Swallow. 
The sun was now warming us & and the raptors up. We were subjected to flights of Booted Eagles and Marsh Harriers, some of the former landing in the close by eucalyptus trees.  Meanwhile fast flying squadrons of Teal flashed passed to land unseen behind the reeds.

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We decided to move to the small hide along the dew covered grass track to the right.  As we walked along, getting decidedly wet shoes and socks, a flight of 200+ Glossy Ibis flew by.  From the hide we only added Shelduck, Cattle Egret and a single Black Headed Gull.  I had a fleeting glimpse of a Kingfisher.  Walking aback to the elevated hide we saw a Robin and a Barn Swallow.  We'd missed two Little Bittern flights whilst away!  We added a flight of Black Tailed Godwit before making our way to the hides further back towards the entrance.  The first was unreachable as the little bridge was under water.  The region had had torrential rains in the last week.  At the next hide we saw Black-necked Grebe and a single male Red Crested Pochard.
At the smaller elevated viewing hide we were greeted by three Great White Egret feeding with numerous of their Little cousins and a few Glossy Ibis.  A flight of 10 or so Golden Plover was seen. The vast expanse of water was covered with Shoveler.  I guesstimate there were at least 2,000+.  Paul found a male Blackcap skitting up and down a shrub.  I had a fleeting glimpse of what was probably an Osprey before it disappeared below the reeds.  We moved to the raised footway a bit further along. We were treated to our first Pallid Swifts high above us plus some soaring Marsh Harriers and a Booted Eagle. I at first missed the Alpine Swifts with the flight of Pallids but soon locked on to a couple of them.  A Green Sandpiper flew by.  We ended time there with a Kestrel.

Great White Egret Egretta alba (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then drove round to the Information Centre having been let out by the ranger.  A lot of families around, not to mention the midges and mosquitoes!  (Thought I'd got away with not being bitten, but have just found a large bite at the back of my head which won't stop itching now I've scratched it!) There was a singled collared Red Knobbed Coot in the pool next to the Centre.  We walked along the raised wooden pathway.  A Sand Martin flew by.  There was a Little Stint on the water line to our left. Then to our right another wader.  After much discussion we confirmed it as a Temminck's Stint, a lifer for Paul.  We got to the end of the pathway and Kath decided to head back to the car park as she was getting plagued by the mozzies.  Paul and I headed for the two other hides.  The far one was unreachable due to the water level, so we made our way back to the first one.  The usual suspects were there...Moorhen, Coot and Black Headed Grebe.  We were just about to leave when I spotted a Marbled Duck.  In fact there were four on the far reed line.  

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We also saw Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler and Zitting Cisticola on the way back.

Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
A great days birding in good company, ending with 55 species.
Regards, Dave
Great report dave and most envious to read about both the swifts and the Marbled Ducks.

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Thursday 16 March 2017

Caleta de Velez

Thursday 16 March

A very late afternoon walk along the front from Mezquitilla to Caleta de Velez after completing the Fuente de Piedra report from yesterday turned out to provide some interesting observations.  Rock Dove and House Sparrows as Jenny and I made our way westwards and, of course, no shortage of very active and noisy Monk Parakeets still apparently carrying nesting material to their favoured tree.

Once at the harbour entrance bay the water as well up the beach and hitting the retaining wall along about seventy-five per cent of the bay.  The little space on the beach was taken up by about fifty Yellow-legged Gulls of varying ages whilst on the rocks a small number of both Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls were resting.  At the far end and on the water the best part of a score of Cormorants.

 A returning fishing boat brought with it hundreds of gulls and even a couple of Gannets.  However, the most interesting arrival was that of a tightly packed flock of forty Black-winged Stilts.  The birds came from the east in a tight group low over the water and entered the bay.  They then proceeded to continually wheel around the water as if looking for a place to land and settle but seemed not happy with landing on the small amount of beach presently occupied by the Yellow-legged Gulls.  Next they entered the fishing harbour itself only to exit and take another turn around the small bay.  These birds were just not happy and even when they reached the exit rather than bear left (eastwards) into the wind and the prospect of a lengthy stretch of beach, around they came once more and when we finally departed after watching this activity for at least fifteen minutes the Black-winged Stilts were still no nearer to making up their minds to where they wanted to head.  Very strange indeed and the amount of energy they were using up left you wondering whether they had been wasting their time bothering to feed for the past number of hours.

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Photos from Fuente de Piedra

Wednesday 15 March

So many memories of our visit to Fuente de Piedra on Wednesday morning that I thought I might share some pics taken of the Greater Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseua and sleeping Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua.  With regard to the latter, can you sleep, open your eyes to see what is going on and not move a single movement, or more likely a little finger, before simply dozing off again?  Typical Spanish siesta and the first thing I mastered when arriving here in Spain!

Greater Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseua


 Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua



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