Tuesday 29 August 2017

Final Visit to Rutland Water

(Digi-scope) Curlew Numenius arquata
Monday 28 August

Back to Spain Thursday and rain promised for Wednesday and departure day (been next to nothing since we have been here; just the on heavy shower on the third day)so with the promise of a dry, warm day the only bad news was being informed that today is a bank holiday.  Not to worry, problem solver by leaving early and arriving in the car park at 7.30 so well over four hours and on the homeward journey before the excessive heat and visitors arrived!  Crows, Rooks and Woodpigeons as I approached the site and then, on the A606 with Rutland Water on my left and Barnsdale on my right, about a dozen Jackdaws took off from the telephone wires.  Why?  Looked up and just above the birds was a passing Osprey heading for the water and breakfast; anyone for Rainbow Trout?  The first Magpie of the day as I drove down to Egleton and then both Blackbirds and more Jackdaws in the car park and a Collared Dove behind me.

A quick look at the feeding station at a deserted Visitors Centre revealed Blue and Great Tit along with Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch and House Sparrow.  A short stop at the Redshank, Grebe and Osprey hides revealed the "sleeping" wildfowl with (mainly) Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, a handful of Wigeon, Coot and Back-headed Gull present but not helped with the low, rising sun straight in my face.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
So to Lagoon 4 and the Sandpiper hide with the sun off to the right and, hopefully, a chance to use the new scope/camera adaptor and try out some digi-scoping.  Hundreds of resting Black-headed Gulls and to my left a score or more of Great Black-backed Gulls.   Looking closer I could also see that there were a number of Common Terns resting amongst the smaller gulls.  Also present a number of Little Egrets and the first Herons of the day.  Scores of Greylag Geese and many Lapwing along with a single Redshank.  A Green Sandpiper put in a brief appearance and it was only after scouring the shore that I also picked up the single Black-tailed Godwit still in summer plumage.  Not many Mute Swans about today but the first were seen here along with more Coots and many Moorhen.  Naturally, and as with lagoon3, there was no shortage of adult and juvenile Great Crested Grebes and I even had more Jackdaws, they were everywhere this morning, plus a few Common Starlings.

Off to the Shoveler hide overlooking Lagoon 3 but, again, apart from the fewer birds the sun was far from helpful but I did add Tufted Duck and Little Grebe.  Nothing to add at the remaining hides overlooking lagoon 3 so I made my way back to the now-open Visitors Centre, passing a cock and four juvenile Pheasants on the way, paid my entrance fee and took a good look at Lagoon1.  Lots of Cormorants and Lapwing along with no shortage of Black-headed Gulls and this was where the main flock of Canada Geese were to be found, there must have been an hundred or more.  Ducks were mainly Mallard and Gadwall along with Teal but I did find a few Tufted Duck albeit most of the last were seen from the Snipe hide overlooking South Arm III.  Immediately in front of the viewing window a Reed Bunting posed on top of a large bush.

Then a pleasant walk south of the Visitors Centre calling at both the Mallard and Snipe hides, where I also added my first Goldfinch of the morning, before completing my walk at the 360 hide.  Here I found a good-sized flock of Greylag Geese plus a handful of Egyptian GeeseMoorhens and Coots along with Lapwing and wildfowl represented by Mallard, Teal and Gadwall.  However, a slight movement away to my right led to me finding the single Greenshank and a similar movement on the far shore in front of me revealed a lone Curlew bust probing away.  Again, another opportunity to try out a little more digi-scoping.

Another attempt at a (Digi-scope) Curlew Numenius arquata

Time to leave the site and drive round for a brief stop at the Lyndon Centre before continuing on home.  Not only Tree Sparrows, Blue and Great Tits on the feeders this morning but also a couple of Greenfinch and then a very large charm of Goldfinches.  The top of the bust to the left that produced the Sparrowhawk on Saturday now held a family of Long-tailed Tits and then, finally, the arrival of both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff immediately in front of me.  Home by just after midday with a final total of 45 species.

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Osprey, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler,  Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

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

Sunday 27 August 2017

Rutland Water by accident!

Saturday 26 August

It all started out quite innocently with friends Tony and Margaret Noble visit us for the day from, relatively, nearby Moulton on the northern outskirts of Northampton.  Out for lunch and Jenny wanted to try the recommended cafe, Wellies, at Edith Weston Garden Centre.  The car parked and out and within one step we looked up as an Osprey drifted over to the neighbouring south side of Rutland Water.  Lunch duly completed we made the short journey of less than a mile to Rutland Water's Lyndon Centre to see what might be about and enquire as to the success of this year's Osprey breeding season.

Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Marvellous news.  This year there were eight (8) breeding pairs and fifteen young had been successfully reared.  Whilst the youngsters had now departed, many of the adults were still about.  Looking through the viewing window we watched the local Tree Sparrows feeding along with Woodpigeons and a Crow.  Down on the water we had a trio of Egyptian Geese, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Mute Swan and even a Little Egret.  Lots more birds on the water; mainly Coots and Great Crested Grebes but also passing Cormorants.  A couple of Common Terns were quartering the water near the shore and a handful of Black-headed Gulls put in an appearance.  No doubt, however, the best sighting was that of a very close juvenile Sparrowhawk that sat for many minutes on the edge of a large bush to the left above one of the near-ground nest boxes erected for the local Tree Sparrow population.

Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Given that it was already well after four-thirty. no point in talking the long walk to the osprey nest so drove along to bridge over the ingress to Rutland Water where there was room to get the car off the busy road.  Not so much the Little Egret that was feeding immediately in front of us but rather the Osprey that perched for  very long spell at its former nest.  Whilst I had taken scope and binoculars, annoying to think that I had neither camera or phone adaptor.  However, Tony managed to get, I think, a good shot by hand-holding his phone to the scope (picture to possibly appear at a later date).  Also visible on the nearby water were very many Cormorants and Lapwing resting on a narrow bar with feeding Gadwalls by the hundred,  a score or more of Teal, Mallards, Moorhens, Coots, Mute Swans and even a few Great Crested Grebes on the open water.  It was also here that we found the first large flock of Greylag Geese.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus at Monton Bay

Next on to the main Visitors Centre and chance to take a look at the feeding station where we found Blackbird and Robin along with Dunnock, House Sparrows, Chaffinches and both Blue and Great Tits before entering the building.  From the viewing window we could see a plentiful supply of Black-headed Gulls along with many Cormorants, both Canada and Greylag Geese, numerous Tufted Duck which far outnumbered the local Mallards and there, at the back of the water, a couple of Great White Egrets along with a Grey Heron resting away to the left.  Returning to the car park the resident Jackdaws were still to be seen along with a calling Collared Dove.

Time to head back for home as it was now approaching six o'clock but not before showing Tony the way to the Burley Fishponds where many of the previous birds were once again recorded along with early arriving Wigeon.  Considering we went out for lunch and expected to see only Woodpigeon, Collared Doves and a few Crows, to end up with a list of 33 species in an hour or so was somewhat of a bonus.

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Osprey, Sparrowhawk, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Common Tern, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch,

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

Saturday 26 August 2017

In search of the lonely Barn Owl

Saturday 26 August
Barn Owl Tyto alba  (PHOTO: Melissa Gilbert)

Great report received from Derek and Barbara Etherton concerning their early morning drive along the banks of the Guadalhorce at Zapata.  Following the surprise success of finding a feeding Barn Owl in the dark last Wednesday whilst looking for the resident Red-necked Nightjars, it was up in the middle of the night and back down to their favourite site at Zapata to see if the Barn Owl was still about.  Now read on to see whether or not Barbara and Derek were successful.

Following on our early morning at Zapata last Wednesday with the wonderful Barn Owl sightings we hoped to repeat the performance this morning.  Setting off from home with both Tawny and Little Owl making their presence heard in the dark we were on site within 15 minutes.  Of course we headed straight for the Barn Owl area and searched, sadly without success, however we did manage one Red-necked Nightjar today, one more than last Wednesday!  Still dark down at the ford but that doesn't stop the Night Herons, Little Ringed Plovers and Common Sandpipers feeding, a Grey Heron was a little further upstream.

A second sortie for the Barn Owl, and no better luck we again returned to the river in the growing light of day.  Positioning the car so the headlights shone onto the upper crossing we could see numerous waders in the gloom.  Within minutes these transpired as Common and Green Sandpipers, L Little Ringed Plovers a solitary Greenshank, Coot, Moorhen, Night Herons, more Grey Herons.  Then  a Little Bittern flew across the river from the far bank  to land in the reeds close to us.  It showed itself a couple of more times before disappearing into the depths.  A Kingfisher took its place and stayed just long enough to 'scope it.  By now Crested Larks were about and the Cetti's Warblers had woken up.  

Suddenly a Purple Swamphen appeared on the waters edge right in front of us, we both registered surprise, as did the bird, before it made a rather panicked departure. 

Crossing the water via the ford we noticed a single, odd shaped bird sitting on one of the pylons.  Stopping to 'scope it only to find a new addition for the Zapata list - Roller!  Presumably on its way south but enjoying a nights stop over at Zapata.  Anyway he took our 'patch count' to 152 species.

By now Common and Palid Swifts were numerous, and a little less so were both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows - House Martins were to appear later.  

The motorway drainage ditch that always seems to manage a little water had House Sparrows, Gold and Green Finches, Serins, Linnets.  Zitting Cisticolas were on the bankside scrub and a band of seven Jackdaws flew over.  A couple (pair) of Sardinian Warblers joined in the scrub feeding and above a Common Kestrel flew to perch atop of a pylon.

Driving back through the water with dozens of Cattle Egrets and a few Little Egrets above us we decided to drive down to the reed beds.  Immediately by the landing light pier were a large group of Spanish and House Sparrows.  Reed Warblers were dodging about in the reeds.  Monk Parakeets were their normal raucous selves, do we expect anything different?

By the time we made the visible crossing point we noticed our Spanish bird-ringing friends were engaged in their activities.  We stayed away from them watching the open area where the water is and were unexpectedly rewarded with the first Bluethroat of the season.  Early?  Well by 2 days as we had recorded one on August 28 last year. Indeed, It was nice to have found the Bluethroat before our Spanish ringer friends.  A new, young man with fair English told me they had been reported in Valencia last Wednesday but this was the first reported in Malaga area.

Plenty of birds around here including both Great Reed and Savi's Warblers, who then proceeded to net themselves giving us even closer views!   Short-toed Larks joined the mixed finches in drinking and bathing in the very welcome flowing water that has graced the area in the past two weeks.

Waxbills, both Common & Black-vented, were viewed and netted but it was interesting to note that several birds seemed very aware of the nets easily detouring under or over them on their flight path.  I guess once bitten (bittern!) twice shy.  Collared Doves added to the tally and as we bade our farewells to Paco et al, we were fortunate enough to have a very fresh looking Whitethroat land on the Tamerisk by the side of us.

A total of 45 birds in a couple of hours - who says there are no birds around in August?

Barn Owl Tyto alba (PHOTO: Phil Perry)
Just, literally, received the above night shot of a Barn Owl in very similar pose as that seen by Derek down at Zapata last Wednesday morning and recorded on his car camera.

What a list Derek and, as you say, get out of bed early and you will see as many in a couple of hours as you in a full day when making a later start.  And still home in time for breakfast and go shopping!

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.
Saturday 26 August

back in the UK and weather has been very kind to us to date and a fine week-end ahead with very warm temperatures.  Rain forecast for Wednesday and Thursday but that coincides with our return to Spain so no problem there.  Off to Rutland Water at least once before I return so can try out, maybe, the new scope/hone adaptor which at least will cut down on weight to be carried.  meanwhile, my friend Dave Elliott-Binns has been off to Cabo de Gata once again and is copied below for your perusal and enjoyment.

Cabo de Gata and Rambla de Morales
Friday 25th August

A close birding friend of mine suggested it might be too hot to visit Cabo de Gata at this time of year but here I was with a new birdwatcher, Lily, heading in that direction.  Luckily for us there was a cloudy-ish sky above us so the temperature at 9.30 was moderate.  We'd already seen the usual common suspects before reaching the Pujaire cafe for a coffee.  Once refreshed we headed for the first hide.  We were astonished to see a young lady in a short black dress over the fence, close to the water, attempting to take a flamingo photo on her i-phone.  The Greater Flamingos were having none of it and moved slowly away.  She didn't seem to have disturbed the Avocets, Black Tailed Godwits and Black Winged Stilts one iota.  On the rocky causeway was a line of Black Headed Gulls with the odd Slender Billed as well.  Best bird here was a fly past by a Gull Billed Tern.  We also saw Grey Heron and Little Egret.  The only wildfowl we saw were Mallard and a single Shelduck.  Over on the steppes we found a pair of Iberian Grey Shrike.  On the floating weeds in front of us (now the photographer had gone!) we found an Iberian race Yellow Wagtail.  We also had White Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Redshank and a Ringed Plover.  The only hirundines we saw were a few Barn Swallow.
We then moved on towards the second hide.  Lots of tourists parked up adjacent to the beach.  A quick sea-watch only revealed a few Yellow Legged Gulls following a fishing boat.  As we approached the hide we saw a Melodious Warbler atop one of the large bushes to the left.  There was also another warbler flitting around the same bush.  I thought it was a Spectacled Warbler but, having looked at the photos, I now think it was a Whitethroat.  Either would be good!  We also had Sardinian Warbler and Crested Lark.  We added nothing to the list on the water till a flock of 24 Shoveler flew in.  What with the warblers, I believe the autumn migration has commenced.
Certainly looks like a Whitethroat Sylvia communis to me (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Surprisingly we were alone at the public hide.  We added a Kestrel and a Thekla Lark as we approached.  We checked the right-hand causeway first.  The sun was against us and we were now getting heat haze, but I managed to spot at least one Common Tern amongst the line of Sandwich Tern.  Nothing new from the hide itself apart from about 50 Black Necked Grebe.

Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Lily had never been to the lighthouse so we did our tourist bit with the hundreds of others.  Lucky to find a parking space at the " roundabout".   Looking down the cliff to the left of the lighthouse the sea was littered with 50+ canoes so no chance of birdlife amongst the rocks.  Only saw the odd Yellow Legged Gull passing by.
Sea Dragon plant (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns) Related to the leafy Seadragon or Glauert's Seadragon Phycodurus eques?
As we were in my 4x4 we headed round the rear of the reserve.  We checked out some 50 odd gulls on the first salina.  Audouin's Gulls including one which had come in contact with some oil pollution. A Black Wheatear made a fleeting appearance.  Above as well as Barn Swallows we saw Common Swift and Red Rumped Swallows.  At the dilapidated hide, for a change, some Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Greater Flamingos were close by so we stopped for a photo shoot.  The only other bird added to the list was a Zitting Cisticola. 

"Oily" Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
It was time for lunch so we went to our usual cafe on Cabo village seafront.  Loads of sunbathers so no birds....with feathers!  Having eaten, we drove along the beachside track to Rambla Morales. Vehicles were parked virtually all the way along the track and also filled our usual parking spot.  So it was birding from the truck, a blessing as the temperature had risen considerably.  There was a large flock of resting Black Headed Gulls.  We saw a couple of Grey Heron, some Coot and Moorhen and a single Common Pochard.  Also there were numerous Mallard, some Avocet and Black-winged Stilt. A Common Sandpiper was also seen.   The track back via the campsite had had some much needed repairs to it.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We saw 41 species in all.  I think Lily enjoyed her day; I certainly did.
Regards, Dave

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

Thursday 24 August 2017

Birding the Ribble or "Birding with Birds"

Nuthatch Sitta Europaea
Tuesday 22 August

What a great late morning's birding in excellent company.  Lancashire and the local stretch of the River Ribble having driven over the moors from Bacup to Clitheroe to be greeted by the three Lancashire Lasses including the ever-smiling and delectable "Clitheroe Kid!"  Green grass, trees in leaf, babbling brooks; what was not to like - apart from the short showers just to prove we were in the north-west of the UK?  Talk about an away from home as a quartet of ABS members including Treasurer Janet Dixon, ex-committee member Linda Roberts, Kate Butler and yours truly set out to walk though the nearby woods, but no Dipper or Kingfisher on this occasion, and then on the main River Ribble.   Not every lucky chap gets to be escorted on a birding walk by three gorgeous girls!  And what birds we saw, both feathered and non-feathered.

Our ABS girls abroad: Linda Roberts, Kate Butler and Janet Dixon (Treasurer)
A quiet start picking up dozens of Woodpigeons and a small flock of House Sparrows before reaching the farm where we discovered a score or more of Barn Swallows and probably more House Martins. A young Robin, still all speckled, was hiding in a nearby bush but then the promised rain arrived.  In the barn for quick shelter, coats on and a change of plan, as the rain eased off, so back to a path which took us to the main river.  At this point we picked up a couple of Grey Heron and a two young Carrion Crows were perched in the top of a dead tree as their parents scavenged on the opposite side of the water.  We were seeing little at this point and the elderly gentleman standing up to his (almost) middle of the river was having equal success with his fly fishing.  I bet he felt wetter and damper than we did!

Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone
Whilst Barn Swallows and House Martins fed low over the water we noticed the arrival of a few Sand martins that had set up home in a shallow bank on the far side.  Walking on, with Janet trying to take a photograph of every different plant in sight, we came to the "kissing gate" that led to a small, overgrown path leading to the new caravan site.  Leaving food on the post tops, special brought for the occasion, we continued on our way to the "railway station" (but not before we noticed a pair of Blackbirds descend almost immediately to attack the seed with the male in a very advanced state of moult) where a few brave children were paddling in the shallow water of the river.  (They must breed them very hardy up here in the far north!)  And on the far side and also paddling around the middle up to a score of very dubious looking Mallard.  It looks like the pure mallards have no respect for their own having, judging by the markings, been rather bust with the farm yard ducks.

Time for some rather larger bird feeding as we sat on a bench then made our way back to our little feeding station to see what might have been attracted by the free meals provided.  As soon as we arrived a female Bullfinch made the briefest of stops then disappeared never to be seen again.  That could certainly not be said for the Nuthatches which returned time after time.  Difficult to say how many; whether a pair or family.  The pair of Blackbirds were still about and then they were joined by an adult Robin.

Our very friendly and cooperative Nuthatch Sitta Europaea
Not to be outdone, we then had both Blue and Great Tits and to make life a little more interesting a couple of Coal Tits which also decided it was time to fatten up whilst they had they had the opportunity.  Linda found our final bird of the morning; a little Wren actually seen rather than "just" heard on the outward walk.

Coal Tit Parus ater
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus watched over by the larger Robin Erithacus rubecula
Now the Robin Erithacus rubecula takes pride of place
Now well pas 2.30 so a leisurely walk back to Janet's delightful home where, unbeknown to we guests, she had even prepared a very tasty stew, local cheese and her own special hand-pressed juice.  Absolutely yummy.  And the fresh bread was something to die for.  And as if that was not enough along with the fresh coffee, Linda had brought chocolates with her.  Now that's what I call a lovely morning's birding in, as I said at the top, wonderful company and, but for getting back to Jenny and the new-born grandchild, all that was missing was the Spanish siesta!  A very big and special thank you to Janet, Linda and Kate.

Moulting young male Blackbird Turdus merula

Birds seen:
Mallard, Heron, Woodpigeon, Barn Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Wren, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Bullfinch.

Hours spent standing around in the rain with wet feet

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

Saturday 12 August 2017

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Little Bittern Avetorillo Comun Ixobrychus minutus
Saturday 12 August

Another early morning start and arriving at the Guadalhorce just before seven in the dark the fist first seen ere a pair of Backbirds taking advantage of the sodium lights for some early foraging.  With the first signs of light away to the east as I crossed the footbridge, I put up a Crested Lark resting on the track a the start of the "bamboo avenue" and then, at the other end, a resting Red-necked Nightjar taking advantage of the warm stones and yet to be disturbed by the first visitor of the day.  Lovely bird which let me, from about ten metres, put down the scope and camera case, take up camera and stand and then decided to fly away.  What a tease!

Juvenile Black-wiged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
On round to the Laguna Casillas and in the now large wet area behind the hide held a quartet of Mallards, three Wood Sandpipers and a single Black-winged Stilt.  From the hide itself the water contained about a dozen Coot, a couple of White-headed Ducks and the same number of Common Pochard along with Moorhen, plenty of Little Grebe and  a departing quartet of Red-crested Pochards which had, presumably, spent the night on the water.  Above the first Barn Swallows and House Martins put in an appearance along  with a singe Pallid Swift and an over-flying Little Egret.

On to the "Wader Pool" which looked decidedly uninviting and, as on my last visit, the deep footprints through the sandy mud to the first low island were being used by the ten Little Ringed Plovers as, what I can only describe as bunkers, to gets some from the sun as the temperatures begin to soar.  At least a dozen Black-winged Stilts on the pool and a single juvenile Flamingo.  Whilst both single Redshank and Dunlin were noted, I was more interested in, first, the resting Peregrine Falcon in the tree at the far back and, secondly, well away in the tower block in the distance the sight of a Barn Owl looking out of its either nesting space or roost.  To complete the listings a Collared Dove flew over, then a juvenile Goldfinch from the tiny charm landed in a nearby tree and a female Common Kestrel was recorded.

The short walk down to the Rio Viejo (Old River) produced a large gathering of birds looking like a snowfall on the far water.  Lots of gulls which were mainly Mediterranean plus a few Audouin's and a handful of Yellow-legged Gulls.  A score of Black-winged Stilts were roosting on the far back and feeding around their legs were eight Curlew Sandpipers along with seven Dunlin,  a couple of Little Stints and another Common Redshank.

Curlew Sandpipers Correlimos Zarapitin Calidris ferruginea and Black-winged Stilts Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus

Making my way back towards Laguna Casillas I picked up the first Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows of the day and from the hide was in time to see a pair of adult Flamingos fly over.  Two Gadwalls had now arrived and a flighty male Sardinian Warbler was active along the track.

Passing Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus over Laguna Casillas

The Laguna Escondida might not contain the recently seen Marbled Duck but there were five Ferruginous Ducks on the water along with Mallard, White-headed Duck and a handful of Teal.  At the far end another Red-crested Pochard and more Coots, Moorhens and Little Grebes but the most obvious, and nearest, sighting was the lovely Little Bittern happily fishing from a horizontal reed below me to the left of the hide.  Indeed, the scope produced a male Little Bittern at the very far end of the water.

Hunting Little Bittern Avetorillo Comun Ixobrychus minutus
So on to the Laguna Grande and the main hide where yet more Mediterranean and a couple of Black-headed Gulls were recorded.  A trio of Collared Doves seemed to be very busy away to my left and the single Little Egret was roosting high in a tree, perhaps waiting for the return of his friends the Cormorant.  In front of me a couple of Kentish Plovers and a handful of Ringed Plovers along with a single Wood Sandpiper.  Not just the small number of feeding Barn Swallows and House Martins above but the large number of feeding swifts, mainly Pallid but a few Common Swift.  With the sun now well and truly up and the temperature rapidly rising, I decided at 10.15 to call it a morning and head off home.  A Zitting Cisticola as I made my way back to the car to bring the morning's total up to 43 species and realised, upon arrival, that in three and a half hours I had not heard nor seen a single Monk Parakeet!

Ferruginous Ducks Porron Pardo Aythya nyroca on the laguna Escondida

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Little Bittern, Little Egret, Flamingo, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collard Dove, Barn Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldinch.


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

Friday 11 August 2017

At Home (Sea) with the Orcas

Wednesday 9 August

Orca (Killer Whale) Orcinus orca

The advert stated that there would be a 30% rebate if no Orcas were seen.  No need for the company to worry about refunds today as we, on arrival in the feeding area, found well in excess of thirty individuals.  Indeed, so many we were unable to tell whether there was a large pod or we simply seeing the same animals many times over.  With a capacity boat and a good hour out of Tarifa to reach the area, rather than a three hour cruise it was almost four hours by the time we returned just before 6pm.  As has already been mentioned in the previous (bird) blog, there very very few birds on this trip and most were nearer the shore.  However, in total we recorded three Storm Petrels and, after much debate with local Spanish birding expect Juan Garcia, we are pretty sure that at least two were the very rare for the area Wilson's Storm Petrel Paino de Wilson Oceanities oceanicus.
I guarantee that the two to three thousand guests on the passing cruise ship did not see what we saw!     

Too late now but we were informed by the crew members that the Orcas tend to feed on the passing Red Tuna in the morning during their approximate three weeks in the area.  The feeding frenzy leaves much waste which is greedily snapped up by the birds, a few gulls but mainly shearwaters, skuas and storm petrels.  This year's added interest was the presence of the rare-visiting Wilson's Storm Petrel.  In addition to the Orcas, it was fascinating to see a handful of Sun Fish.  Just think of a very large, vertical disc, probably about 50cm in diameter, with a very small fin on top.   Having just seen one I raised my camera to take a photograph and then, presumably, photographed the wrong image below the water.  Take a look at the following photographs and see if you can determine what it might be.  It appears to have a "flag" or marker attached to it and I wonder if this might be the remains of some late departed Tuna.  Any ideas?

Dead fish (Note the flag in the top picture), waste or what?
One big beast. This male is more like a miniature submarine
Almost too close for comfort.  Make sure you keep your arm out of the water!

This is a male Orca.  Note the tall, upright dorsal fin.

In comparison, look at the fin of the female with her calf.  A much smaller dorsal and a definite "kink" to the rear.

Notches and minor variations to the outline help the observers to identify individual Orcas
Keep up son and don't upset Daddy (above)!
OK, I've taught you how to capture the fish now let's try and pinch one from the nets.  But make sure you know how to run (swim) if a boat turns up.

Looks like trouble so it's, "Dive, dive, dive!"

And if the worse come to the worst there's always a few relatives around to help you out.

Nobody looking?  Check out the nets for some easy feeding but don't let the boat see you!

And so ended a marvellous afternoon with many memories to be cherished for months to come.  And next time we will make sure that we catch a morning "watch" when the Orcas are more likely to be feeding on the Tuna and so encouraging visiting shearwaters and petrels to feed on the scraps.

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