Wednesday 29 November 2017

Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottingham

Redwing Turdus iliacus
Wednesday 29 November

What a day; left home at 9am and for the first twenty minutes was driving north on the A1 in torrential rain.  Eased off and cleared as I drove west along the A52 and just a couple of spots before arriving in good sunshine, almost clear skies and a little wind at Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottingham.  Here I met my birding pal Chris Bell who had travelled south from Worksop and then followed a smashing five hours or more exploring every pond and track around and through this lovely site.  Not too bad underfoot except for one particular path as we left the Elevated Bird Hide (and not having seen the possible Bittern) and by the time we returned to the Visitors Centre for an end of session coffee we had recorded 49 species.  But between here and reaching the car to start our homeward journeys we managed to add Egyptian Goose, Fieldare and Bullfinch so bringing up the half-century and a couple to spare.

Visiting Song Thrush Turdus philomelos

On arrival we quickly took in the large number of Lapwing and Black-headed Gulls and whilst Chris saw the first Bullfinch I picked up a couple of Greenfinches after we had both spotted a pair of Pied Wagtails in the neighbouring field with the feeding horses.  If yesterday was about geese then today was a "duck day" with nine species recorded; Gadwall, Wigeon (by the score rather than thousand!), Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Goosander.  

Male (above) and female Common Pochard  Aythya ferina

Male Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

But it was also a day when I finally caught up with some old friends not seen for months, such as Goldcrest, Bullfinch and Common Gull.  Lovely to see not just Blackbird and Mistle Thrush but also a Song Thrush and newly-arrived winter thrushes such as Redwing (mainly) and the odd Fieldfare.

No shortage of feeding Redwing Turdus iliacus

Whilst from the start of the day we had seen many Mute Swan and Canada Geese we had to wait, as described above, until it was time to leave before recording our first pair of Egyptian Geese.  Also on the water were many Great Crested Grebes spread around the reserve but only a handful of Little Grebe and just a handful or less of Moorhen plus many Coot. Also a few Cormorant were observed and, maybe, a half-dozen Herons.  The site was not really conducive of waders but we did find very many Lapwing and a couple of Snipe.  On the water itself, in addition to the occasional Common Gull we recorded many Black-headed plus Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Common (Mew) Gull Larus canus
Corvids seemed to be well represented with a number of Carrion Crow and lots of Magpies to add to the Rooks recorded upon our arrival and, likewise, we also found a small number of Jackdaw.

Corvids represented by Magpie Pica pica (above) and Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone

Walking through the trees it was lovely to see many Long-tailed Tits, Blue and Great Tits, lots of Robins along with Dunnock, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Wren not to mention the Nuthatches which thoroughly enjoyed gorging themselves at a hidden food table away from the general public.  Above us a constant movement of Woodpigeons and, eventually, walking through the outskirts of Attenborough village a single Collared Dove.  If you then add on Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch and a brief appearance of a Great Spotted Woodpecker you will get some idea of the wide range of species recorded during the day.

The lovely Dunnock Prunella modularis

Towards the end of the visit we observed a distant Buzzard circling over  a hill on the far side of the Trent to add to the three Kestrels recorded. 
Female Kestrel Falco tinnunculus on her usual perch

And so ended a lovely day in pleasant weather conditions and the great company of Chris to whom I should particularly like to extend my thanks. 

Nuthatch Sitta europaea feeding in the shaded woods

Birds seen:
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Heron, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Bullfinch.

At lest five female Goosander Mergus merganser present on site

A farewell look at our Redwing Turdus iliacus and Robin Erithacus rubecula
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Tuesday 28 November 2017

Birding at 1C?

Tuesday 28 November

25 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis on site
Two birding days this week starting today with a visit to RSPB Frampton Marsh on the outskirts of Boston, Lincolnshire followed by the relatively short drive to the other side of the town to visit the Freiston reserve.  It seemed a good idea at the time to stay closer to home as I recover from my "man flu" rather than drive over to north Norfolk.  So, there I was at Frampton before 9 ready to check out the birds with clear blue skies and a low, blinding sun and no wind at all to speak of.  On the other hand, stepping out of the car I realised that the temperature had recently crept up to 1C and by late morning had reached the dizzy heights of 3, if not 4C!  Mind you, as the temperature rose to these astounding heights so the wind picked up to deliver a cold breeze and so remind foreign-living birders that this is not jumpers-only never mind short-sleeve shirt weather so make sure you have plenty of layers about the person; even make the Sierra Loja feel like the Caribbean!

Just a few of the thousands of Wigeon Anas penelope with a male below

Crow, large number of Rooks, Pheasants and Blackbird as I drove through the site to park at the end of the track and check out the steep bank and its grassy fields to the right and scrape to the left.  Thousands of Wigeon on site either resting or grazing along with large numbers of Canada Geese and a few Greylag.  Stopping to take a closer look a a few of the "strange" Canada Geese I realised that we also had 25 Barnacle Geese in the narrow channel and further away a very small flock of Pink Foot Geese.  All with the sun behind me so enabling me to scope to the far side of the grass where I found not only scores of Lapwing but also a small number of Golden Plover.  On the other side of the road the scope revealed even more Wigeon along with a few Mallard and Shoveler before I found a good number of Teal.  A lone Moorhen popped out of the pond for a little walk along the bank and then, by way of a change, my first wader of the morning with a single Ruff.

A view of The Wash from the high bank of the reserve

From the\ top of the bank looking down onto the marsh I counted at least an hundred Brent Geese which, having been disturbed (I was later informed that a Marsh Harrier had flown over the area), took off and headed into the reserve where the total must have doubled as they revealed more of the same.  A couple of Redshank were also seen as I looked down onto the scrape.  Walking back to the car I soon added Shoveler and a pair of Reed Bunting before parking in the "proper" car park, entering the Visitors Centre for a warming coffee to check out the feeding station and then undertake a clockwise walk taking in all three hides.  The feeding station was relatively quiet did was providing much nourishment for a small charm of Goldfinch, a few House Sparrows  and a handful of Chaffinch.  The water in front provided mainly Wigeon and Teal with a few Mallard but also a number of Shelduck, two Herons and three Mute Swan, whilst almost hidden away in the far reeds was a lonely Little Egret.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor

All very quiet until I arrived at the far hide but, apart from a lone Redshank, just mainly Brent Geese and a few more Shelduck.  At lease I did pick up three Black-tailed Godwits whilst visiting the Reed Hide and the 360 Degree Hide was noted, yet again, for Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal.  In the distance I found the flock of Barnacle Geese along with most of the Canada and Greylag Geese.  Strange how few gulls were about but I did observed the odd Herring Gull.  The walk back to the Visitors Centre also produced a flock of eight Greenfinches and a lone female Kestrel resting in the top of a roadside tree.

Hundreds of Brent Geese Branta bernicla

Before leaving for the journey over to Freiston, I managed to find a distant, small flock of feeding Fieldfare, more Pheasants, a Blue Tit on the feeders and, finally, both Magpie and Woodpigeon.  But not one single Collared Dove all day; must be some sort of record!

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna

The journey over to Freiston was, perhaps on reflection, a little on the luxury side given that so few additional birds were added to the day's total.  More Wigeon and Lapwing a plenty and a dozen or so Mute Swans on the pool whereas, on the grazing land on the other side of the bank running alongside the path, another huge three-figure flock of resting Wigeon.  But, in addition to a quartet of Redshank, the pool did provide a single Grey Plover,  On the island a dozen or so Jackdaw and a large number of roosting Black-headed Gulls between the shore and the island.  Lovely to find a trio of Little Grebe and even a Robin joined the local Blackbirds to watch me pass through the avenue of bushes.

Many Lapwing at both sites Vanellus vanellus

Birds seen:
Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Blue Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

Probably a dozen Redshank Tringa totanus on site

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Thursday 23 November 2017

Rutland Water

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Thursday 23 November

My chance to do a local birding but the forecast was suggesting heavy overnight rain followed by sun at 8am today and then cloud soon after lunch.  Obviously, a question of up early and away and I was on site at Rutland Water just before 8am.  The clouds had cleared, the strong winds of yesterday had abated and the sun was out in the sky but very bright.  Only bad news was that it was bloomin' cold!  And my overall impression of the reserve after a three month absence?  Weird!  The main reservoir was well down on water so obviously we are not the only ones (in Spain) praying for rain but, yet, some of the lagoons were too full.  So much maintenance had been undertaken that nearly all the cover has disappeared from the main feeding station and much of the reed has been cut back.  Too early to make use of the hides as I headed towards Lagoons 3 & 4 as not only were there few birds about but the very low, bright sun made any on site mere silhouettes.  And by the time I left to take a look at the Burley Fishponds and Manton Bay I realised, with a very few exceptions, how few birds were actually about; not helped, of course, by the ongoing maintenance work with saws and fires ,etc disturbing just about everything.

Great Tit Parus major above Blue Tit Parus caeruleus
Approaching Egleton I had Rooks, Crows and Wood Pigeons along with a couple of magpies and the first of many Egyptian Geese.  However, there must have been t least five flock of roosting Black-headed Gulls on the neighbouring fields and probably totalling at least 500 individuals.  The first Robin of the morning put in a brief appearance as I drive into the car park quickly followed by the first of many Blackbirds.  naturally, the resident Jackdaws announced my arrival to all and sundry - but being first on site there was no "all and sundry" to appreciate their welcome other than myself!

A good stop at the feeding station which, in addition to the scavenging Grey Squirrels, produced the usual assortment of small birds represented by mainly Chaffinch and Great tit along with Robin, Blue Tit, House Sparrow and Dunnock.  A number of Jackdaws and a couple of Pheasants arrived to displace the pair of Moorhen making use of the small pond.  Having also noted the pair of Collared Dove I made my way northwards towards the Sandpiper Hide overlooking Lagoon3.  A large number of roosting Lapwing and also plenty of Egyptian Geese including sat on the Osprey's perch.  As with the silhouettes seen on the way down, nearly all the ducks were Wigeon and they certainly seem to have arrive at Rutland by the hundred. Also on the water I recorded  a few Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail and a large roost of Black-headed Gulls. Just beyond the main roost, a smaller gull roost also held a score or more of Great Black-backed Gulls.  I eventually found a few Teal hiding amongst the Wigeon and, right at the back, a few Tufted Duck and Gadwall.

Wigeon Anas penelope

On to the Shoveler Hide overlooking Lagoon 3 and this, by comparison with previous visits, was very quiet and nothing close to hand or making use of the mud flats around the edges.  A few Common Pochard and more Gadwall along with basking Cormorants.  Just the one Great Crested Grebe seen along with a single male Goldeneye.  Having checked the neighbouring hides it was Lapwing Hide overlooking the main South Arm that produced the main supply of birds with many Coots, more Moorhens and Wigeon along with Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe.  I had already noted the first Little Egret form the Smew Hide but on the far side of the water towards Green Bank I picked up a female Red-breasted Merganser which was a very rewarding site.

Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at roost plus some interlopers
Walking back to re-visit both the Shoveler and Sandpiper Hides I had a Wren fly low across the path in front of me and this was to happen on two further occasions before I left the reserve.  Nothing else to report at the former but, on visiting the Sandpiper Hide, a score or more Golden Plover had joined the Lapwing roost and I also added Herring Gull, a handful having joined the smaller mixed gull roost.

Still not found the Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria roosting with the Lapwing Vanellus vanellus?
Time fore a short rest at the Visitors Centre and see how empty was the water in front, almost certainly due to the on-going maintenance in the near locality, but I was joined by a single female Stonechat and a handful of cock Pheasants.  The only addition at the feeding station was a Goldfinch so on to the Burley Fishponds.

Not "bursting at the seams" but more bird life on offer including a couple of Great White Egrets and a single Little Egret.  Mainly Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Teal and Gadwall but also, at last, a handful of Shoveler and some geese with good flocks of both Greylag and Canada Goose.  Just beyond the "fishing limit" I picked up both Great Crested and Little Grebe plus more Mute Swans and resting Cormorants.

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus (above) and Great Tit Parus major below
A very brief stop at the road bridge overlooking Manton Bay revealed how far the water level had dropped but also produced a Curlew Sandpiper.  It was then on up to the closed Lyndon Visitors Centre to check out the local feeder.  Fortunately, the hoppers were well stocked and attracting both Blue and Great Tit along with the resident Tree Sparrows and both occasional Chaffinch and Goldfinch. A Great Spotted Woodpecker put in the very briefest on a non-stopping visit to the hoppers and was away.  But looking down to the left of the Centre I eventually found my first Grey Heron of the morning. And then it was time to return home in Stamford and complete the next job and also see my first raptor of the morning with a hovering Kestrel.  On the whole, considering the overall lack of birds present, I was quite pleased to have actually recorded 50 species.

Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Mute Swan, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Teal, Pochard, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch.

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

Wednesday 22 November 2017

What's it like birding the East Midlands of the UK?

Wednesday 22 November

Now back in Stamford and, at the moment, apart from the strong winds of today the weather has been fine.  But rain forecast for every day next week apart from Tuesday so no need to be an "Einstein" to work out which day I will be visiting Norfolk!  Jobs almost complete so a day off "labouring" tomorrow so that I can visit my local patch at Rutland Water.  Should be dry with some cloud but, I am informed, the strong wing may still be with us so, potentially, the scope might remain in the car boot.

It's now almost twenty years since I gave up my ringing activities but there is still birding available.  I am sure most of us when visiting the Gualdalhorce in Malaga, Cabo d gata, La Janda near Tarifa and the Odiel/Donana down in Huelva have a very good idea of what we might expect to see before we set off.  Similarly, I seem to recall the same positive attitude when I lived in Stafford with lots of good birding in the local woods, trips to large finch and thrush roosts along with many of the local reservoirs.  But how things seem to have changed so I was delighted when my birding pal, Chris Bell, from relatively nearby Worksop sent me a report of his visit to the Attenborough Nature Reserve near Nottingham yesterday.  Reflecting on the quality and quantity of birds seen (52 species recorded) brought back memories of yesteryear but it just goes to show that there are birds to be found out there for those willing to put in the effort.

Attenborough, Nottingham: 21 November 2017

Visited Attenborough today with my chum Mike Lee.  Not too many surprises as is the norm for Attenborough.  Perhaps the first surprise was maybe 100 Pied Wagtail in a small field.  I picked up on a single Linnet in the same field, where there was also Crow and Magpie, saw the only Redwing we were to note on the visit.

On Church Pond there were the expected Coot, Moorhen, Gadwall ,Wigeon, Goldeneye ,Teal, Pochard, Mallard, Black–Headed Gull and Lapwing, all of which we were to see many more of during the rest of our visit.  A single Herring Gull was spotted.  4 Goosander flew onto Coneries Pond where there were many Cormorant and a single Common Gull, and our first Cetti’s Warbler of the day made itself known.  A couple of Egyptian Geese added to our species day list, as did Canada and Greylag Geese.

Moving on to Clifton Pond and its Tower Hide, we were able to observe the not so shy Black-necked Grebe, which has been around for about a month, prior to which it was almost a rarity for the site. Again, it failed to associate with the Great Crested and Little Grebe that were around which would have been a nice size comparison.  We did notice that the number of male Goldeneye, probably exceeded the females, and that the Pochard numbers were of the order of 60+.  The many Lapwing were as usually nervous.  Little Egret and Grey Heron showed themselves.  A Buzzard was low over the wooded hills to the south where a Lesser Blacked-back Gull made its leisurely way and Jackdaws were noisy.  Also from the Tower Hide we recorded Starling, Reed Bunting and many Wood Pigeon.

I picked up on a Water Rail and although I called it, I was the only one to see it before, as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared into the reeds.  (Later Mike was to see a squabbling pair).  Making our way towards the back of Delta, an area of deciduous trees where we have previously had Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, we found more Goosander, Wigeon and Teal.  I saw a Kingfisher and we picked up on a single Fieldfare.  Also Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker and both of us declared that neither of us had seen all 3 species of woodpecker on the same day.

On arriving at the back of Delta we were lucky to pick up on a flock of feeding tits and their associates.  It was a well mixed flock with Coal, Great, Blue, Long Tailed and Willow/Marsh Tit (this used to be Willow Tit territory but no longer, and as they refused to call we don’t know which species we encountered, maybe both).  It was lovely to see a small number of Stock Dove whilst looking, unsuccessfully, for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and, naturally, we were also able to add Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon to the day's list.  Also with the flock were Nuthatch, Treecreeper, some (8)cheeky Goldcrest and loosely associated with the flock Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch (we had had a charm of 60+ earlier) and, surprise, surprise, a male Brambling.  I say surprise as neither of us have encountered this species at Attenborough previously.  A Sparrowhawk passing overhead alarmed everything but they quickly settled down after its departure.

We back tracked to the Visitors Centre for coffee and cake, day ticking only on House Sparrow on the way back.  Mike deposited his gear into his car and was the only one to see the two squabbling Water Rail momentarily jump out of the reeds whilst he was crossing the bridge to the cafe. Whilst having our refreshments on the veranda, the wind had dropped by then , we both spotted our 3rd raptor species of the day, a Kestrel.

Quite an interesting birding day, the rain held off, and whilst there was no sun, the temperature remained at around 13C, the cooling wind being only uncomfortable for a while.  Again a day on which we didn’t manage 3 woodpecker species.

Hope you enjoy the read.

Great report Chris and it certainly sets a target for me to emulate when I visit both Rutland Water tomorrow and Titchwell/Cley next week.  Geese, Brambling and Waxwings (if any about) not to mention Redwing and Fieldfare will be the target birds of the coming visits.

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

Friday 17 November 2017

Warsash Wader Welcome

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus uninterested in Turnstones [*]
Friday 17 November

Yesterday mid-morning I was departing Malaga airport at a temperature approaching 25C.  This morning I looked out of the window at 9.30 local time to see clear blue skies and a lovely sun shine down on Warsash, situated at the mouth of Hamble river in Hampshire where it meets Southampton Water.  Then I looked at the white rental car and remembered that I had driven a grey Volvo 40 from Bournemouth airport so had o resort to scraping off the ice before I could undertake, what I thought, would be less than an hour's birding at nearby Titchfield Haven, about fifteen minutes away and overlooking Southampton near its site on the mouth off the River Meon where it, too, meets Southampton water.  The tide was just about full in so a case of checking out the pools on the other side of the road and a walk along to the reserve where I was able to spend about fifteen of the allotted minutes in the free hide before setting off to visit my parents' grave in West End and undertake the necessary shopping.

Male Mallard Anas platyrhynchos.  [*]
A pair of Magpies as I neared my parking spot on the road overlooking sea and the reserve pools on the opposite side of the road.  Nothing on the seaward side but a number of Black-headed Gull easily picked out on the main pool adjacent to the road.  Taking advantage of the viewing point I soon added both Coot and Moorhen along with a single Little Grebe and a few Mallards.  A trio of Shelduck drifted into sight with a quartet of Gadwall whilst both Common Starlings and Cormorants passed overhead.  As I looked down at the low bushes in front of me a Wren was scurrying about in the vegetation.  From here I walked along the road to the Visitors Centre noting the adult and juvenile Mute Swans in the small harbour.  Similarly, there were a couple Little Egrets moving between this pool and the larger pools on the reserve itself.

Entering the Cottage Hide I was welcomed by a fellow birder who stated that the previous visitors had seen a Reed Bunting.  After a short talk he left to have his breakfast and within a minute a female Marsh Harrier moved along the far reeds in front of the hide and back quartering for her breakfast.  And to add insult to injury, a female Reed Bunting came to visit on the feeders where she was shortly joined by the local House Sparrows and a couple of Blue Tits.  Next a female Pheasant wandered out from the bushes to feed on the dropped seed from the feeders above.  Numerous Woodpigeons were moving about in and above the nearby woods before I also managed to record both Robin and Dunnock before departing.

The walk back to the car produced a single Pochard in the harbour feeding alongside the Mallards whilst a total of 37 Turnstone were resting up on the fence above the harbour wall with a couple of Black-headed Gulls.  A Ringed Plover was working the beach and a final observation from the roadside viewing point found a couple of Sandwich Terns resting on the island below me as a Heron was seen in the distance.

A few of the 37 Turnstones Arenaria interpret on the harbour wall. [*]
And that was it as I concluded my, less than an hour, visit to undertake the necessary visits and jobs.  But all was not lost, as returning back to Warsash at 2.30 Chris and Jenny were preparing the a walk along the embankment track at the nearby Hamble River.  What a change.  Still a beautiful day but the temperature gradually dropping as we arrived and immediate recorded our first Greenshank closely followed by both Curlew and Whimbrel.  No shortage of either Black-headed Gulls or Redshanks as we slowly made our way up river.

There was now a considerable mud bank to the river and the tide having receded there were some lovely mud flats on the opposite side of he path.  Lots and lots of waders and ducks to be seen as we moved along plus Little Egret and Cormorant.  Just the occasional Ringed Plover and one Oystercatcher but then a score or more of Black-tailed Godwits.  Then we found the ducks, Gadwall at first followed by numerous Wigeon and Teal.  A path side might of a couple of female Stonechats was rather lovely.  On the mudflats two dozen feeding Shelduck and yet more Teal and Wigeon.

Regular sightings of individual Curlew and a few more Greenshank along with the ever-present Black-tailed Godwits before we found our special flock, a resting 25 Golden Plover.  And we even had a couple of Grey Plover to add to the mix along with a pair of Lapwing.  At this latter site we were pleased to welcome both a handful of Sanderling and a couple Dunlin.  A closer look at some of the pools on the river side revealed a handful of Herring Gull and even a single Common Gull.

Having watched the movement of the large number of Woodpigeons above the trees beyond the mudflats we found a couple of Heron and then, with the sun setting and nearly down to roof tops, we continued our return journey home.  Now it was away from the "water birds" as a lone Jackdaw headed back to the woods from the riverside and drew our attention to the gathering Starlings and a pair of Carrion Crow.  On a grassy bank on the muddy a beach a pair of Meadow Pipits landed and showed very well whilst in a bush to our left our final bird revealed itself as a Dunnock.

The attentive reader by now will have noted that there has been no mention of Greylag Goose, Blackbird, Collared Dove and Pied Wagtail, obviously birds saving themselves for a new day.  But a final count of 43 species for what was, in theory, just going to be an hour's birding was most rewarding.

[*]  No big camera on this occasion, just the little pocket Nikon.

Birds seen:
Mute Swan, Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Redshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Sandwich Tern, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Blue Tit, Jackdaw, Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Reed Bunting.

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

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Ventas de Zafarraya with the Axarquia Bird Group

Tuesday 14 November

Beautiful clear sky and quite warm as I set of for the monthly meet of the Axarquia Bird Group up at the mirador above the railway line at Ventas de Zafarraya on the Malaga/Granada provincial border but, by Jove, it was a little on the cool side shall we say once on site and all eight of us partaking were well wrapped up!  Good to see Judith Hill from Periana, Bob and Noreen Ashford from Los Romanes and John Ross and friends had travelled over from the Lecrin Valley well north of Salobrena and Lindsay Pheasant had made the long journey up form Marbella.  Made me feel almost local having come up from the coast at Mezquitilla!  We were welcomed by House Sparrows as Judy and I took an "early arrival" coffee and once at the car park we could start birding with a vengeance.

Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros
Before heading off up the old railway track to the tunnel the parking area produced a couple of Black Redstarts and Blackbird along with the first of many Stonechat.  Rather weird to watch a Heron flap its way over but the we could concentrate on the nearby Black Wheatears.  Lovely for all to see an Ibex perched on the skyline above the rock face in front of us and we were to see a few more before departing this site.  The walk up to the tunnel continued to produce Black Redstarts, Black Wheatears and Stonechats and then our first Blue Rock Thrush.  Meanwhile, the resident Crag Martins continued to skim along the rock face and around is as they gorged on the local "whatever" that were smaller then the eye could see and a handful of Rock Sparrows were recorded close to the track.   A flash of white high above and most of us had the bird in focus as the Peregrine Falcon landed on the top cliff. It took a while but the we heard them calling from above and finally the first appearance of the morning for the local Choughs returning to their preferred cliff face.

Walking out of the tunnel and into what seemed warmer air the Crag Martins were still active and seemed even closer.  Another Blue Rock Thrush plus the usuals then both our first Sardinian Warbler and Lindsay had sight of both Great Tit and a Greenfinch.  At last some good sightings of the resident Thekla Larks and then, just above the small spinney on the left, a pair of Blackcap brought to my attention as a male Blackbird moved off.  At the far end of the spinney a Song Thrush made a brief stop on the edge of the last tree and we turned our attention to old ruin and cliff slopes.  First a Sardinian Warbler then, to add to the Heron sighting, a trio of Cormorants flew south overhead.  Who needs to visit the coast!

Ring Ouzel Mirlo capiblanco Turdus torquatus
Whilst watching a Robin visit a bush above the ruins a, what seemed, very black Blackbird took off and away to our left where it came to rest on top of a large bush growing out of the rock face.  We had our suspicions at the time but getting the bird well in focus in the scope confirmed that I had seen my first Ring Ouzel at this site.  Making our way back the cars we also picked up a couple of Chaffinch in the spinney.

Saying goodbye to the railway track as a pair of Ibex looked down on us, we stopped for a very quick coffee at the nearby venta then headed off to the "Muck heap" in the growing fields.  Much of the cauliflowers had crop had been gathered in and never ceases to amaze me the quantity left behind as not being up to standard; ready to feed the local sheep flocks.  Looking at these vegetables you will see far worse on sale in your local supermarkets.  But there is always a bonus.  The girls took a walk to the local pickers and made enquiries and were presented with a freshly cut cauliflower and told to help themselves to any in the fields and the courgettes which had been left behind.  As I sit writing up this blog the smell of newly-made chutney and pickle is drifting through the house!

Black Wheatear Collalba Negra Oenanthe leucura

Back to the birding.  The muck heap may now be long gone but the birds are still around and waiting to be recorded including Linnets, Serin and Rock Doves.  A kestrel was hovering overhead and as we re-arranged what looked like our mobile greengrocers' shops, a Mistle Thrush flew over the road.

Next stop was at the growing fields on the road towards Salar having turned off left at the end of the "Magpie Woods" where not a single Azure-winged magpies was seen but we did find another Robin and a distant Jay.  On parking we were greeting by a feeding flock well in excess of an hundred Rock Doves and searching around found a small number of House Sparrows and a few Spotless Starlings.  But at least one Tree Sparrow was recorded and looking left towards the hilltop we had first a Common Buzzard when Noreen drew our attention to the trio of Griffon Vultures to the right then Australian Bob had us looking back left as he found an immature Golden Eagle.  Now that was a good sighting with, at one very brief moment, all three raptors in view at the same time.

Moving on and up past the farm we found a number of feeding White Wagtails in the neighbouring fields and wondered when we would see our first (Common) Magpie.  John and his car picked up a Hoopoe and Judith spotted the first Magpie as it moved off from a nearby tree quickly followed by a second, then a third.  No wonder we stopped as a final count came to 29 and a further six were seen before we got to the crossroads.

Magpie Urraca Pica pica
Just before turning left to take the anti-clockwise circuit we stopped as a dark shape departed form a large tree immediately in front of the car to the left.  I think most of us were waiting to see the white rump and confirm a female Hen Harrier but as it rose clear of the foliage we could see that the bird was both darker and larger; strong, straight wings with the tell-tale white markings along with the same on the tail and so confirming an immature Golden Eagle.  As it ascended we noticed that there was a second Golden Eagle immediately above and this individual being harried by a Kestrel. Wow!

Immature Golden Eagle Aguila Real Aquila chrysaetos

John's car pulled up behind us thinking that we were watching the Red-legged Partridges moving away to the right but, the Golden Eagles stayed around for a while and we were all able to see this magnificent sight.  A good-sized charm of Goldfinches fed at the roadside and now we were very much into Woodpigeon territory.

Just round the corner the farmers were gathering up the bamboo sticks at the end of the tomato harvest and, as before, no shortage of the fruit on the ground.  But it did seem to provide food, mainly insects, flies, etc, for the feeding Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaff and Stonechats.  Indeed, surprise surprise, Bob and I actually managed to find a very late female Whinchat, with its well-pronounced and distict supercilium, joining in the feast.  Continuing on we saw a second and third Jay move away into the trees, loads of Woodpigeons and then a couple of Corn Bunting on the wires near the now dry stream.  However, checking out the "over-large" specimen that replaced them we found a second Song Thrush of the day.  But, finally, at least three-quarters of the way round the circuit we eventually found our Azure-winged Magpies with at least twenty-five counted and a Collared Dove.

Azure-winged Magpie Rabilargo Cyanopica cyanus
A final stop back at the growing fields once more found the large flock of Rock Doves but on the wire above them our first Iberian Grey Shrike.  The bird dropped to the ground which then revealed not only the ;large number of feeding White Wagtails but a flock of possibly eighty or more Linnets.  But there were larks too.  Not just a couple of Crested Larks but, well-hidden and keeping low, a small number of Calandra Larks.  And so ended a very enjoyable days birding with a final total of 47 species and chance to head off home by just after 3.30pm.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Cormorant, Heron, Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warber, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

Monday 13 November 2017

Charca de Suarez, Motril

Sunday 12 November

A beautiful day with warm sunshine in clear blue skies as I set of for a morning's visit to the Charca de Suarez with visiting Australian birders Bob and Noreen Ashford and, on arriving, was joined by Steve and Elena Powell.  Following a lovely morning we all returned back to Mezquitilla with we original three taking the scenic coastal road rather than the motorway.  There were numerous Cattle Egret as we approached the site and immediately on entrance were greeted by Blackbirds and then on round to the Laguna del Taraje where we soon found, Mallard, Coot and Moorhen along with a Purple Swamphen.  A few Chiffchaffs and the occasional Goldfinch were busty feeding in the trees at the back of the water but no Little Bittern nor Little Grebe on this occasion.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Porphyrio porphyrio
Round to the Lagna Del Alamo Blano where we found both single Heron and White Stork on sentinel duty at the back.
The White Stork Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia Stork still remains on site, on its own

A few Moorhens but basically quiet initially and then the sight of a pair of Grey Wagtails towards the back which led our sight to a single Water Pipit.  No sooner had we found another movement and (the other) Bob saw a rapidly departing Snipe and I found the skulking Bluethroat.  Even better, a second bird put in an appearance right in front of the hide.  Cetti's Warblers were calling and Steve had the best view of the male Marsh Harrier which had been actually standing n the water whereas we had the flight away.  Lots of Stonechats about, a couple of Collared Doves and many feeding Crag Martins in the sky above.  Finally, a White Wagtail put in an appearance.

Record shot of Water Pipit Bisbita Alpino Anthus spinoletta

Then it was off the main hide but, winder of wonders, much ground work had been undertaken since my last visit and it was now actually possible to see the Laguna de la Cana de Azucar form the open green hide.  What a lovely muddy mess with mall streams at the side and rewarded with both Goldfinches and Serin along with another pair of Grey Wagtail, a male Black Redstart and even a Robin.

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta
The Laguna de las Aneas was beginning to build up in numbers with a good supply of Common Coots and a range of duck species, mainly Mallard but also a pair of Shoveler, a handful of Teal, maybe a dozen Pochard and a single Ferruginous Duck.  Not many Little Grebes but we did had some basking Cormorants which were joined on the island in front of the hide by a pair of juvenile Flamingos and a couple of Little Egret.  No sooner had a pair of Yellow-legged Gulls put in an appearance when a female Red Avadavat paid a very short visit to the island.  Lots of Moorhens around the edges and a Purple Swamphen put in a brief appearance.  And right at the very back we found the resident, collar-wearing, Red-knobbed Coot.

Juvenile Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus with the first signs of pink beginning to show
So to the Laguna del Trebol where I had promised Bob a close view of an unfettered Red-knobbed Coot and, sure enough, there was an individual right in front of the hide.  At least three other individuals plus a couple wearing numbered collars so we were all very pleased.  In addition to more Mallards and Moorhens we even had a third Purple Swapmhen

Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata
Continuing our clockwise circuit we were greeted by the most vociferous-calling Cetti's Warbler letting every girl within miles know that he was looking forward to spring ad all the pleasures to come (should have told him that he had another couple of months to wait and stop getting excited by all the continuing warm sunshine!).  A walk to the other side of the hedge actually found the bird singing away about a metre of the ground as he fluttered his wings in excitement.

The very vocal Cetti's Warbler Ruisenor Bastardo Cettia cetti

More views of Red-knobbed Coots for the far hide overlooking the Trebol water including the "famous" number 290!  A Robin came to perch nearby and gave us the once over and there was certainly no shortage of Terrapins.  Continuing on we stopped to look at the Chameleon in his usual bush and the, overhead, another view of a passing Marsh Harrier.

The passing Marsh Harrier guilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus
And that was just abut it.  Time for a few minutes in the hide overlooking the remaining water, the Laguna del Lirio, where another pair of Red-knobbed Coots and a feeding Purple Swaphen were recorded whilst numerous Chiffchaffs and Stonechats fed on the insects like demented Spotted Flycatchers.  Having said that, Steve arrived at this water about fifteen minutes ahead of us and actually found a very late Spotted Flycatcher which even chased off a Kingfisher.  A Kestrel overhead as we left and also managed to find both Chaffinch and Zitting Cisticola as we drove slowly down "Turtle Dove Alley" to make our way home.  Great morning in great company.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Snipe, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Crag Martin, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, House Sparrow, Red Avadavat, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch.

Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea keeping an eye on the White Stork (see above)

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