Wednesday 24 May 2017

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa

Looks like Dave and his group have had yet another spendid birding day.

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa
Wednesday 24th May 2017

There was no trip last week for a number of reasons, one being that they found I had a blocked artery, so I now have another stent fitted and hopefully everything will be okay.  First a bit of bird news. Barrie and Beryl found some Trumpeter Finches just north of Carboneras, near to the illegal hotel. They're getting closer!  Now today's report :-

With Gilly working again (Bless her!) I left home early to check out the Rambla de Almanzora from Desert Springs golf complex down to the ford meeting place.  As I was preparing myself at the start (putting binoculars round my neck) I saw a Iberian Grey Shrike high up on the power line above me and a Jackdaw flew by.  Up this end there was still some pools of various sizes.  Almost all of them contained Black-winged Stilts and Mallards in eclipse plumage and many with ducklings.  The only other wader I saw was a Kentish Plover.  There was a constant fly past of Common Swift, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and House Martin.   Other birds included a solitary Bee-eater, Moorhen, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling and Goldfinch.  I reached the ford with plenty of time to spare so I continued to the road bridge, hearing Reed Warblers in the beds below me.  I crossed over and headed to the beach passed the now disused pumping station.  Nothing really down there, but on the way back I saw a pair of Stone Curlew landing in a barren field near the road.  Retracing my steps towards the ford I added a Black-headed Gull.  At the ford itself there were Black-winged Stilt, a Little Ringed Plover with chick plus families of Mallard.  As I was waiting for the others to arrive I also saw Magpie and Collared Dove.

Stone Curlew Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedionemus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Barrie and Beryl were first to arrive, followed by Paul and Kath, John, Les, Colin (Best wishes to Sandra who had a fall and injured her wrist/arm on Monday) and finally Jacky.  Thank you to Kath for allowing me to press-gang her to be scribe for the day.  The first birds we saw were basically a repeat of what I had already observed.  As we were chatting, John said he'd only seen his first Great Spotted Cuckoo of the year last week.  Within a minute I found one perched in a tobacco plant.   We heard then saw a Sardinian Warbler.  Les spotted a Greenfinch.  We saw more Bee-eaters.  A Cetti's Warbler was heard.  I found a Serin near the sewage works.  On the pool there, Paul found a Ringed Plover.  On the main pool there was a Little Grebe.  Resting on the graveled surround were Mallard and a male Common Pochard.  A Crested Lark flew to a traffic sign on the far side.  Then I caught sight of a Grey Wagtail in flight.   It landed near the weir.  Some saw it through the vegetation, but not me.  A Blackbird flew low over the shrubs and Jacky was the first to see the flying Hoopoe.  We first heard a Stone Curlew call, then it flew, landing near the shrubs by the broken down concrete rambla wall.  We walked back to vehicles and headed for Villaricos village for coffee.
Great Spotted Cuckoo Cristo Europeo Clamator glandarius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Suitably refreshed we made our way to the beach.  John saw a Kestrel on the way and Barrie got a Black Wheatear.
The sea was quite rough with waves breaking over the harbour rocks.  No birds there, but there was a Little Egret adjacent to the beach.  A Yellow-legged Gull flew by.  I saw what I thought was a Cormorant feeding in the breakers further along the beach.  Moving over to the near end of the estuary, a Zitting Cisticola was heard. Barrie and Les then said my Cormorant was in fact a juvenile Shag.  On the estuary water there were only Moorhen and Coot.  John spotted some Audouin's Gulls on the distant beach.  As we began to make for the beach a Turtle Dove was seen perched in a tree.  It took off for a display flight and was joined by his mate.  They landed in the dense shrubs.  Jacky then spotted a flying Purple Heron which must have been on the waters edge just below us.  It flew into the reeds opposite.  At the shallows at the beach end of the estuary we saw Kentish Plover and Little Egret.  There were 5 Audouin's Gull at rest.  Three Turnstone flew along the shoreline.  The Shag was still out to sea but moving further away.  Tried and failed to get a record shot.  We were surprised to that the resident Whimbrel was still there on the rocks despite the breaking waves and the ever increasing numbers of holiday makers.
Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Saying good bye to Colin, we made for the dual carriageway opposite the Consum supermarket behind Vera Playa.  There were shed loads of noisy Black-winged Stilt plus Mallard and Coot.  There were Common Pochard and White-headed Duck, some with ducklings.  Eventually three Grey Heron were seen.  Barrie spotted a magnificently plumaged Black-necked Grebe.  I checked the number of Black-headed Gulls sitting on nests.  I reckon 35-45 in total plus on Little Egret sitting as well.  I said my goodbyes at this point and headed home, only to get an email from Barrie to say a Hobby appeared just after I left.  Don't you just hate it when that happens!
Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We ended up with 50 species.  A really good days birding in good company.
Regards, Dave

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

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Dipper; dipped then un-dipped!

Monday 22 May 

At last, a visit from the local Dipper Mirlo-acuatico Europeo Cinclus cinclus
Off to Velez de Benaudalla for the evening in readiness for an early morning appointment so what better way to start than spend the first evening at the Charca de Suarez reserve on the western outskirts of Motril.  Driving down "Turtle Dove Alley" we had our one and only Turtle Dove along with Blackbird, Spotless Starling and the local House Sparrows which had been joined by a Spanish Sparrow.  Plenty of Collared Doves to be seen and as we passed the back of the reserve there was plenty of activity in the mass nesting site of House Martins.  Both Chaffinch and Goldfinch put ion an appearance and Jenny was first to spot the Hoopoe resting on the wires above.  Also seen was a single Cattle Egret and a coupe of Rock Doves plus a pair of Mallard in a small stream.

And so we arrived on site with five minutes to spare before opening time and a couple of birders wandering about either in a dream or, more likely, awaiting the opening of the gates.  How wrong I was.  The first, Spanish speaking, informed me the reserve was closed and the second birder happened to be fellow ABS member Gerry Bennett from Nerja who had also made a special journey.  To say that Gerry was best from p;leased is somewhat of an understatement, the more so since he had checked the website before setting out and there was no mention of a potential closure.  What to do?  This was like a re-run of the olden days when I often found the reserve locked up on a Monday or Tuesday evening as if making up for the week-end opening but I had thought those bad memories were long gone.  Anyway, along with Gerry we decided to head off up to the picnic area at Velez de Benaudalla and see if the resident breeding Dippers might still be about.

Lots of Spotted Flycatchers Papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata to be seen in the fading light
On arrival we seemed to be surrounded by Spotted Flycatchers and the White Wagtail at the river's edge was quickly replaced by a most handsome Grey Wagtail giving excellent views.  We had already recorded Chaffinches as we approached the parking area and could not miss the breeding House Sparrows making use of the numerous holes in the concrete wall on the opposite side of the river.  There were loud calls from the local Golden Orioles and Jenny managed to see a fleeting flash of yellow and picked out the perching individual as Gerry and I searched high and low for the Dipper.  But nary a specimen was to be seen; what a disappointment, we had dipped on a Dipper.  However, as the evening wore on we were entertained by the feeding Barn and Red-rumped Swallows above which were duly joined by a number of House Martins.  Driving back to the village we had the pleasure of a Green Woodpecker fly up from the verge into a low tree; lovey.

Difficult to enough light on this Grey Wagtail Lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea

This morning, Tuesday, I was back at the picnic site by 8 o'clock, leaving the House Martins and Common Swifts screaming around the village in the hope that the Dippers might still be about but as time wore on I feared the worst.  Had the youngsters fledged and the whole family moved away?  Had the nest site been disturbed or even interfered with as the river is a popular spot for both picnickers and bathers on warm days?

A very patient thirty minutes or so with, once again, numerous Spotted Flycatchers to be seen along with both White Wagtail and Blackbirds.  Chaffinches on the track and in the trees along with the calling Golden Orioles were not really a compensation.  A final walk upstream to the large weir and back again before departing to collect Jenny at the apartment.  But as I approached the nest site I saw a very pale leaf on a low branch just above the water and thought how strange.  Lifting the bins for  a closer view you can imagine my surprise and delight to realise that I was looking at the very white chest of the Dipper - he/she must have just had its morning wash!

The Dipper Mirlo-acuatico Europeo Cinclus cinclus that remained for many minutes; shame the light was far from perfect
Well, what a way to end a short visit and as a very special bonus I even had both Barn and Red-rumped Swallow along with a male Blackcap on the fence as I made my way back to the main road then added a Thekla Lark for good measure as we set off to Motril on the mountain route rather than the motorway.  A short detour via the high dam only produced a single Coot.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Cattle Egret, Coot, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Dipper, Blackbird, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch.

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

Friday 19 May 2017

Rainy, rain, rain day at Rutland Water

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major
Friday 19 May

back in the UK this week and I had hoped to have at least one day at my local patch, Rutland Water.  Funeral and paperwork follow-up most of week and Thursday dry and mainly sunny but with more rain due on both today and tomorrow I had to put the domestics first so washing and ironing sorted.  (I'm going to make a great wife for somebody with all this domestication!)  But enough of this; I'm going stir crazy so drove over to Rutland Water in the, now, light rain and spent just over an hour at the main Visitors Centre checking out nearby fields and adjacent hide.  Not bad to reach almost forty species then a quick drive down to the bridge overlooking the feed into Manton Bay which revealed about a score of Tufted Duck along with Mute Swan and Great Crested Grebe plus the nest-sitting Osprey and visiting male.  Also helped to pick up a pair of Magpie as I departed to take the final tally up to 41 species in under two hours.  Now home and starting on this blog and it looks as if it might finally be clearing up - for now.

Distant record shot of Common Tern Sterna hirundo

Approaching the site I had many Woodpigeon and Carrion Crow along with Blackbird and my first Barn Swallow of the day.  A short stop at the Northern Arm produced many Greylag Geese, Cormorant, Heron, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe along with the resident Mute Swans.  A Common Tern was resting on a fence at the side of the water and further study produced more individuals including a nesting platform.  I even had an adult and couple of juvenile Pied Wagtails feeding on the damp road.  With a couple of Back-headed Gulls flying overhead I looked in the final field before Egleton to see the local Jackdaws and also found a single Oystercatcher feeding in the grass.   Sitting in the car park, in addition to the resident jackdaws a lone Mistle Thrush was feeding on the ground immediately in front of me and there was a handful of Common Starlings in a bear tree behind me.

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus about to be eaten by a lamb!
So off to the Visitors Centre to make use of their scope so that I could leave mine in the car and out of the rain.  Another Pheasant close by and a male Chaffinch in front of me, not to mention all those Jackdaws.  From the Visitors Centre I could see a good number of both Canada and Greylag Geese along with Tufted Duck, Mallard and a single Shoveler. A single Little Egret was hiding in the long grass and certainly no shortage of Black-headed Gulls along with a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls and the odd Herring Gull.  Whilst I did see plenty of both Barn Swallow and House Martin by far the majority of hirundines were the Sand Martins using the artificial nesting bank.  A handful of Common Swift dashed low across the water before I moved on.

Male Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Back at the hide overlooking the feeding area there was a constant movement of both Blue and Great Tit along with the occasional visiting Chaffinch, the odd Goldfinch and a single adult male Greenfinch.  Lovely to see Dunnocks again and both juvenile and adult Robin.  Even a pair of male House Sparrows put in an appearance.  At the back a number of Jackdaws were taking advantage of the food on offer and completely ignored by the pair of Moorhen on the small pond.  The a flash of red and I was entertained to a feeding Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Got in a few photos before it was chased off by the Jackdaws but returned to feed on a closer feeder; lovely for me.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major antics

And then, as described in the opening paragraph, it was off to see one of the breeding pairs of Osprey and also recording a pair of Magpies.  Still a light drizzle when I got back to Stamford and now, well into the evening, it is only just starting to clear up but with more showers promised for the morning.

The distant Osprey Pandian haliaetus has landed

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Osprey, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Tern, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.
 More photos from a very damp Rutland Water this morning:

                                     Dunnock  Punella modularis



    Robin Erithacus rubecula (adult and juvenile right)

Great Tit Parus major
Female Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

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

Saturday 13 May 2017

Dipper to be seen

Saturday 13 May

I may be back in the UK and thinking of an urgent visit to Velez de Benaudalla when I get back in a week's time to see if the Dippers have had a successful breeding season but an email from my friends John and Jenny Wainwright this morning confirms that they have found another potential breeding site at Rio Frio and much nearer to their Salar home and close by to those visiting the Sierra Loja.  A photograph form John (or was it Jenny?) of a young Dipper not long fledged and the adults hovering nearby.  I wonder how many successfully fledged from the brood, usually about 3.

Juvenile Dipper Mirlo-acuático Europeo Cinclus cinclus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

 The Whitethroated Dipper Cinclus cinclus subspecies in Spain

The BTO has an interesting article (see below) on the possibility of two separate sub-species of Dipper in Spain.

© 2010 British Trust for Ornithology,Ringing & Migration (2010) 25, 3–6
The White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclussubspecies in Spain
1 Universidad Europea Miguel de Cervantes, Padre Julio Chevalier 2, E-47012 Valladolid, Spain
2 Departamento de Zoología y Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Navarra, E-31080
Pamplona, Spain
3 Universidad Católica de Ávila, Canteros s/n, E-05005 Ávila, Spain
Based on variations in breast plumage colour, two subspecies of White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus have been acknowledged to exist in Spain: C. c. cinclus in northwestern and central regions, and C. c.aquaticus in the eastern and southern regions. Within the White-throated Dipper’s Spanish range, 37 rivers were sampled between 2000 and 2007. Dippers with a brownish-red and dark brown breast plumage  were both present within the same large areas and rivers. Moreover, because plumage colour changes individually with age, no clear-cut geographical distribution pattern was found. These observations suggest that breast colour cannot be used to distinguish White-throated Dipper subspecies in Spain.
For the full report go to the following website:

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

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Cabo de Gata with the Aroleas Birding Group

Wednesday 10 May

All done birding this week as I get ready fr the morning's flight back to East Midlands, UK.  On the other hand, once back in Stamford following the Plymouth funeral next Monday I do hope to get at least one visit in to my local patch at Rut;land Water. If I am successful then the report will appear here.  Meanwhile, friend David has been off to Cabo de Gata with his Arboleas Birding Group and certainly seems to have found some good birds - but no Great Reed Warbler unless I missed it in the original reading.  And what about the water levels?  Are they now slightly lower to encourage waders?

Cabo de Gata & Rambla de Morales: Wednesday 10th May

John, Les and I were up early this morning.  I picked them up from Los Gallardos at 07.30hrs in order to get down to Cabo de Gata in time to do the rear of the reserve before it got too hot.  We'd already clocked up Collared Dove, Jackdaw, House Sparrow and Spotless Starling by the time we'd turned off the beach road at the roundabout just prior to La Almadraba de Monteleva village.  The sea was quite choppy and there was a lot of cloud.  The salinas at this end had been filled with seawater as salt production was on going, but it didn't mean many birds had returned yet.  The first ones were Avocet and Slender Billed Gulls.  We came off the track to check some ruined buildings for Little Owls, but didn't find any.  We did see Thekla Larks though.  From up there we had  a good view of the works.  Returning to the drivable track we soon found some more waders.  Ringed and Kentish Plover and spring/summer plumaged Sanderling, the latter causing some confusion and discussion!  

Sanderling Correlimos Tridactilo Calidris alba (PHOTO: David Eliott-Binns)
A Sandwich Tern flew by and we saw the first of the Greater Flamingos.  We heard a Zitting Cisticola.  Les spotted a Southern Grey Shrike high up on the power line.  Missed the warbler going into a patch of reeds but saw the Yellow Wagtail.  A Sardinian Warbler showed well. Some Gull Billed Tern flew over. 

Slender-billed Gull Gaviota Picofina Larius genei (PHOTO: David Eliott-Binns)
A Carrion Crow was our last bird before heading to the cafe at Pujaire for a coffee or two where we were met by Colin and Sandra.

Kentish Plover Chorltejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus (PHOTO: David Eliott-Binns)
Suitably refreshed we made our way to the first hide on the bend, Colin seeing a House Martin on the way.  A pair of Bee-eaters were huddled together on the power lines.  John spotted a Black-headed Gull.  On the causeway there were a couple of Little Egret, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and some resting Little Terns.  Others were fishing over the water.  There were numerous Avocet plus the odd Black Winged Stilt and Mallard.  I counted 213 Greater Flamingo.
Leaving there we saw Hoopoe and Common Swift in Cabo village as we passed through.  There was a single Raven perched on a wooden railing near the beach as we made our way to the second hide. Similar birds were seen from here until I spotted a pair of feeding Spoonbill.  On a roll I then spotted two Whimbrel flying over the savannah and out to sea.
We moved to the public hide.  There were Audouin's Gulls on the rocky causeway to the right together with some Ringed Plover.  Some Shelduck were seen.  I then found a Spotted Flycatcher on the wire fence near the parked cars.

Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Grande Charadrius hiaticula (PHOTO: David Eliott-Binns)
We then went for an early lunch at the beach-side cafe in Cabo village.  We sea-watched as we ate. There was a steady stream of Yellow-legged and Audouin's Gulls flying passed towards the lighthouse.  John spotted a pair of Slender-billed Gulls as well.  I spotted a fast flying wader far out to sea but we couldn't identify it.  Les the spotted a Common Tern flying/feeding close inshore. 
We drove along the beach side track to the Rambla de Morales.  We both heard and saw Reed Warbler and Zitting Cisticola.  Sandra found a Kentish Plover with chicks by the estuary end.  There were Mallard, Sanderling, at least 8 Common Sandpiper and Little Stint on the mud shoreline opposite us.  Eight Gull-billed Tern were at rest.  Also seen were Coot and Moorhen.  Apart from the Common Swift, Barn Swallow and House Martins flying around, Les found a Sand Martin and John, a Red-rumped Swallow.

The salt works would seem to be back in production once again (PHOTO: David Eliott-Binns)
All in all a good days birding in good company. 44 species in total.
Regards, Dave
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

Monday 8 May 2017


What a Roller Carraca Europea Coraccias garrulus morning!
Sunday 7 May

Away by 8 to meet up with my friend, Marieke in Osuna so that I could take her on a clockwise birding round the "Osuna Triangle" with the emphasis on trying to find her both Rollers and Montagu's Harriers before her return to Belgium tomorrow.  On the journey over I saw both Hoopoe and Azure-winged Magpies whereas Marieke looked up in early(ish) morning skies in the town to see not just the breeding Common Swifts but also a quintet of Honey Buzzards rising slowing on a thermal as they continued on their northern Journey to, perhaps, Marieke's study area in Belgium.

Lots of Iberian Grey Shrikes Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis
A quick coffee and then of to the starting point near motorway Junction 80 and almost immediately House Sparrow, Spotless Starling and the first  of many Red-legged Partridge.  Lots of Crested Larks about and then a Raven carrying food passed over.  A stop at the first culvert produced the expected Cetti's Warbler and Zitting Cisticola along with Goldfinch and Corn Bunting.  Whilst I looked one way Marieke looked the other and found a trio of very high Griffon Vultures.  A little early to see our first White Stork drifting westwards but then a trio of Black Kites rose from the earth adjacent to the road.  Whilst watching the departing raptors we noticed that a fourth individual had remained in situ to continue feeding on a rabbit carcass.

Raven Cuervo Corvus corax with juvenile (?) below
Continuing along the road next to the existing train line we had many sightings of Crested Lark along with a few Rock Dove and the first Common Kestrel.  However, it was more interesting to see a couple of Iberian Grey Shrike and within fifty metres another three individuals.  I think during the day we recorded at least eight.  No sooner had we seen our first Woodchat Shrike than we saw a rather heavy Great White Egret moving to the left.  And then the most wonderful surprise.  Knowing that the Collared Pratincoles would not e in their usual field, we looked across the railway line and the, to our delight, we must have have found at east twenty birds on the bare ground or flying above; obviously their nesting site for this year.

Woodchat Shrike Alcaudon Comun Lanius senator
As we made our way down the abandoned high speed track to the viaduct we added both Stonechat and Red-rumped Swallow and looking at the small herd of fighting bulls soon added a good number of Cattle Egret.  Closer inspection revealed a pair of Mallard, more Collared Pratincoles and a about a handful of Lapwing.  In the air both Lesser Kestrels and a Red Kite plus Jackdaw and a single Marsh Harrier.

Turtle Dove Tortola Europea Streptopelia turtur
All very quiet driving down the long, straight road to the entrance track to the old farm ruins.  Just the single Turtle Dove.  A stop just ff the road to look at the first set of ruins produced numerous Lesser Kestrels and Jackdaws along with a few Black Kites, one of which was resting in the tree immediately in front of us.  To the bird's left a tree containing seven Ravens and there were more in the air.  A real "conspiracy of ravens!"

Black Kite Milano Negro Milvus migrans
Then the long drive down along the rutted track to the far ruined farm buildings.  The "nesting tower" seemed to be occupied by Spotless Starlings rather than Jackdaws and just when we had given up hope as we passed by Marieke spotted the single Roller hiding on the fence behind.  Difficult to get a photograph but we consoled ourselves with the thought that we would have a better opportunity on the way back.  But we need not had worried.  Arriving at the old buildings, passing a single Bee-eater on the way, we found a score or more Rollers both resting and flying around with super sightings and  the chance for photographs.  This track also produced more Hoopoes.

Our first close-up of the spectacular Roller Carraca Europea Coraccias garrulus

Not only Rollers but lots of Lesser Kestrels, too.  Add on Collared Dove and Blackbird and this site was the best of the day.

Female Lesser Kestrel Cernicalo Primilla Falco naumanni
Eventually time to move on and we not only picked up a pair of Bee-eaters  on the return trip down the track but also a pair of Rollers at the nesting tower.

Another magnificent Roller Carraca Europea Coraccias garrulus

A stop for tapas in La Lantajuela then on to the lakes on to the eastern lakes bit not before taking a look at the local reserve.  As usual, all was locked up so it was a case of standing on the wall and looking round the side of the, also locked, hide.  The Flamingos were obvious along with a close Black-necked Grebe plus Coot but the, scoping the water, we also managed to add Shelduck, Mallard, Common and Red-crested Pochard, Gadwall and White-headed Duck.  The large heronry at the far end was made up of mainly Cattle Egrets but also a few Glossy Ibis and it would appear that some Cormorants were also taking the opportunity to socialise.  Over the water were feeding Barn Swallows, House Martins and at least a couple of Whiskered Terns along with a Yellow-legged Gull.  Nearer to us we had a Black-headed Gull sitting on her nest just off the shore and the neighbouring bushes housed Nightingale, Serin and Reed Warbler.  Similarly, at the far end we found a pair of Black-winged Stilts and a Marsh Harrier was quartering the distant trees.

Always a Red-legged Partridge Perdiz Roja Alectoris rufa to be seen
Just before we turned off the main road and on to the track to the back of the lagoon we finally saw our Montagu's Harrier, a lovely male quartering the corn field on our left.  What a wonderful sight as this graceful raptor worked its away up and down and not a bit fazed by the small flock of Lesser Kestrels.

Distant record shot of a male Montagu's Harrier Aguilucho Cenizo Circus pygargus
Arriving at the laguna we found here was no laguna; all was completely dried up and looking like a white dust bowl.  And that really was just about the end of our birding as the track/road back through the arable land produced nothing but a dozen or so Cattle Egrets until near the very end when we had a dark morph Booted Eagle.  But with 58 species recorded we should be worried.  And so Marieke returns to her home in Belgium and can look forward to returning in October and we can start birding all over again with, hopefully, a whole new set of birders including many waders and raptors.

Never a moment when there wasn't a Corn Bunting Triguero Emberiza calandra posing and singing somewhere

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, White Stork, Flamingo, Honey Buzzard, Red Kite, Back Kite, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

El Fondo with Dave Elliott-Binns

Saturday 6 May

It appears that what I thought was an early start was, compared with Dave, a very late start.  And just read about some of th e great birds seen by Dave.

Roller Coracias garrulus  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
El Fondo Bird Reserve   -   Saturday 6th May

Gilly was working all morning so I took the opportunity to sneak over to El Fondo Bird Reserve near Elche.  I left home at 05.30hrs and stopped briefly at Cox Service Station, not having coffee, and headed to the North Gate.  I arrived about 45 minutes before opening time so it gave me plenty of time to have my thermos coffee and do some birdwatching.  By the time the ranger arrived to open up at 08.15ish, I'd seen Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Hoopoe, Jackdaw, Cattle Egret, Black Headed Gull, Common Swift, Mallard, Stonechat and Sand Martin. I heard Stone Curlew and Green Woodpecker. I heard then found an European Cuckoo on a distant leafless tree.  But the star bird was a Roller perched in a dead tree just next to the truck!  After being let in, I drove slowly down to the bottom raised viewing platform, seeing Kestrel, Night Heron and Moorhen.  I heard both Cetti's and Reed Warbler.  I parked up and began to walk to the platform.  Great Reed Warblers were destroying the silence!  I saw one disappearing into the reeds.  From my elevated position I checked out the northerly pool ( away from the sun!).  Wildfowl included Common and Red-crested Pochard, White Headed Duck and Mallard.  There were both Little and Whiskered Tern and both Little and Great Crested Grebe.  Also seen were Greater Flamingo, Black Winged Stilt, Little Egret, Coot and Grey Heron.  I found a single Glossy Ibis on the far reed line, closely followed by a Purple Swamphen. Little Bitterns, Squacco and Purple Herons were doing flights between and into the reedbeds.  A Great Reed Warbler showed very well atop of a reed just nearby.  A squadron of 8 Turtle Doves flew by.  A Common Sandpiper landed on the raised wooden walkway rail just below me.  A Yellow Legged Gull flew by.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)

I moved to the small hide a bit further along. A lot less activity here. I only added an overflying Avocet, but saw Little Bittern, Great Crested Grebe and Purple Swamphen.

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)

I returned to the elevated platform, where some birders without a scope were trying to ID some distant raptors.  They were 3 Booted Eagles.  A low flying microlight put the Greater Flamingos to flight.  A magnificent sight.

Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
I made my way back towards the exit, stopping at each viewing point on the way.  At the first I added Black Necked Grebe, and the second Shelduck.  At the small raised platform I was amazed to see an escapee...a Black Swan!  I also found Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper and Black Tailed Godwit.  At the final platform along the raised wooden walkway over the dry shrubs, some kindly birders pointed out a distant perched Short-toed Eagle for me.  I also saw an Iberian Grey Shrike.  Time was getting on, so I made my way to the exit and got released by the ranger at 11.15hrs.

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
I drove to the Information Centre adding a Barn Swallow on the way.  I parked up and made my way to the picnic table area overlooking the secluded pool behind the Centre building.  Great Reed Warblers were making one hell of a racket.  Two Yellow Wagtails flew off.  In the pool were 22 Marbled Duck.  Brian and Mary popped in here earlier in the week.  They sent me a photo of a ringed Marbled Duck.  By the power of the internet I sent the details to the relevant authority.  They replied reasonably quickly to say that bird, together with 47 others, was released at El Fondo in mid-April. Also in that area were a Squacco Heron, Red Knobbed and Common Coot.  There was another Glossy Ibis in the main pool.  As I turned the bend in the raised walkway I disturbed a pair of Purple Swamphen possibly beginning to nest about 4 metres from the track.  Not the most private site!  I saw a Woodchat Shrike.  At the first hide to the left there were two more Marbled Duck (now seen 50% of the releasees!)  Over the reeds on the far side about 15 Collared Pratincoles with many Common Swifts were hawking for flying food.  At the second hide to the right I was lucky enough to have a pair of Ringed Plover and a pair of Curlew Sandpiper feeding just below me.  On the island there were nesting Avocet, Black Winged Stilt and Little Tern.  Walking back towards the truck I saw Sardinian Warbler and Zitting Cisticola to complete my list for the day.

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
This report is only a short summary of the nearly constant bird activity, especially from the Little Bitterns, Squacco Herons and Great Reed Warblers.   I ended up with 59 species (not including the Black Swan!).
Regards, Dave

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Black Swan Cygnus atratus  (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Great report dave and lot of lovely birds - more than can be said about our visit to the Sierra Loja this morning where the expected birds were somwhat  of a rarity.

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