Wednesday 31 January 2018

Embalse de Negratin, Baza with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 31 January

Looks like Dave has found a new site to visit with his Arboleas Birding Group and, as he reports, it promises well for the future.  Is it me or do I sense that there are more Siskins about this winter than in recent years?

Embalse de Negratin, Baza  -  Wednesday 31st January

Checking the weather forecast for Baza last week for today's trip, it didn't look good at all, but as the week past, the forecast improved. Today there was a chance of a shower, but as it turned out, we had no precipitation, no wind and even some sunshine.  I was also sceptical about how much we'd see. Well, you decide!
I picked up Richard and we were followed from Arboleas by Paul and Neville.  As we came off the A92N autovia west of Baza we headed towards Zujar in fog....not looking good!  It soon cleared.  On the outskirts of the small town we turned left at the second roundabout and immediately in front and above us was unbelievably a stunning male Hen Harrier!  What a start! Had we peaked too soon?  We carried on to the Los Chaparros cafe next to the Cepsa garage about a couple of kilometres shy of the Embalse de Negratin dam.  Here we met up with David, Myrtle, Trevor, Ann, Phil, Jen and Adrian, so quite a turnout.  After a refreshing cuppa we made our way to the car park this side of the dam.  Didn't see much from there.  Paul spotted some overflying Goldfinch.  Moving to the top of the dam, a scan found one Great Crested Grebe and some Cormorants.  Phil also found a pair of Yellow-legged Gulls.  Looking over into the valley produced a Blackbird. We then went in convoy down to the carpark at the base of the dam, seeing some Rock Dove on the way.  As I parked I saw 3 Hoopoe flying off.  We walked back towards the cliff face.  A male Blue Rock Thrush showed well. Also seen were Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap.  Paul spotted a Grey Wagtail in the brook.  
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo with Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Returning to the cars we drove, parked and birdwatched at various stop-offs e acar Olivar.  At the first I saw some Siskin.  The others all had Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Greenfinch.  Richard spotted a Long-tailed Tit.  Also added were Linnet and Great Tit.  At one stop Richard had disappeared only to re-appear having seen a Dipper in the wide brook.  Paul thought he'd seen a Short-toed Treecreeper.  Luckily it showed itself nearby.  Ann saw a Common Buzzard disappear over the ridge and Phil found a distant Black Wheatear.  The journey back to the cafe produced Collared Dove, Southern Grey Shrike and House Sparrow.

Male Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Okay, the birding will be better in a few months time, but I think we did well!  Ended with 29 species. Still can't believe the vision of the Hen Harrier!  Pity I was driving and with vehicles behind me!  Always the way!

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

Monday 29 January 2018

Bob in North Norfolk, UK

Sunday 28 January

Up early and off in the dark at 7 o’clock so that I could be at RSPB Titchwell soon after daybreak; should have left thirty minutes earlier!  As the light improved once past Kings Lynn and into Norfolk proper first sightings of Magpie, Crow and Rook along with regular Wood Pigeon appearances.  Approaching the village of Flitcham a Barn Owl crossed in front of me and driving through the village itself a small flock of Starlings and then, just the other side, a circling Red Kite.  Continuing on I can only describe one long stretch of the narrow road as driving down a "Wood Pigeon avenue!"  Finally, almost at the junction with the coast road, a flock of a score or more Egyptian Geese grazing on a field to my right as a couple of Kestrels moved overhead.  Indeed, it was good to see so many Kestrels during the day.

You don't often, or want, to illustrate a Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus!
Once parked up at Titchwell Marsh RSPB Reserve I was to see more Magpies and Crows and especially Wood Pigeons.  The feeders provided Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tit and just the very early, solitary BramblingRobins and Blackbirds were also about and quite entertaining to see this pair trying their hands (Beaks) at trying to access the food hoppers! So, leaving the above with both Moorhens and Pheasants seeking out the spillages below, I set off for the Fen Hide and viewing screen overlooking Patsy's Reedbed.  The former had nothing on view but i did view both Robin and Wren as I moved along the boardwalk.  At the latter a couple of Mute Swans on the water and a quartering Marsh Harrier just beyond.  In addition to a few Coot there was a range of ducks including Mallard, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Shelduck.

Robin Erithicus rubecula
Then it was off along the shore path with a first stop at the Island Hide having already noted the first of many Wigeon and the hundreds of Lapwings that seemed to be drifting around the site as if not knowing where to land and feed/ settle.  From the hide, in addition to more Teal and Tufted Duck I added my first Shovelers of the day and a little further away a flock of about fifty plus Brent Geese resting on the water.  A little further away a couple of Canada and a single Greylag Goose.  Then it was time to utilise the scope to search the back of the freshwater marsh and I was delighted to find upwards of an hundred Avocet gathered in a tight group with a few Pintail drifting by behind them and a pair of Goldeneye.

Just a few of the Brent Goose Branta bernicla flock
Ever onwards to the beckoning shore.  A couple of Black-tailed Godwits in the muddy stream and a few foraging Redshanks. But with virtually no water and not a lot of activity I missed out visiting the large Parrinder hides but I did note a couple of Curlew working the mud.

Record shot of Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
At first sight lots of birders with scopes checking out the sea and even one photographer on the distant water's edge hoping for a closer shot of something or other.  Definitely a case for using the scope.  First the beach near the water which yielded very many Oystercatchers along with Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone and Ringed Plover.

Turnstone Arenaria interpres

A more concentrated approach then revealed a couple of Grey Plover and even a Spotted Redshank.  At the same time, the waders were joined by a single Little Egret.  My first birds on the sea were a pair of Great Crested Grebe.  Somewhat surprised, I double-checked with the birder not three metres away and it turned out to be a fellow member of the Andalucia Bird Society, Peter Ashley from Bournemouth on a birding tour of the British coast it would appear having just left Suffolk and making his way home via Newcastle and the West Midlands, etc.  Anyway, Peter confirmed the sighting and then proceeded to find me the resting Common Scoters and Guillemot.  Next we found the single Red-breasted Merganser and then a Razorbill flew past.  Peter had already seen the passing Long-tailed Duck was to be unsuccessful in his search for the reported Velvet Scoter and I had a couple of Cormorant.  A call of nature had me hurrying back the three-quarters of a mile to the Visitors Centre but I did manage to add both Long-tailed Tit and Goldfinch before moving on to my next stop at Holkham where, in addition to yet more Wigeon, I found a small flock of Pink-footed Geese and a lone Heron.

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Morston added a single Greenshank in addition to more Redshanks and Cley was most disappointing; more of the same and nothing from the beach which was full of fishermen and walkers.  Lots of Wigeon and Teal plus many Lapwing and a couple of Great Black-backed in with the Black-headed Gulls.  But the drive back from the shore did reveal a small flock of Meadow Pipits.

Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Rather than waste time here I headed back to call in at Brancaster Staithe where the tide was now almost at its peak.  Close views of both Redshank and Turnstone.  No sooner had the Herring Gull landed on the post top than it was moved on by the arrival of a Great Black-backed Gull who obviously favoured this particular spot.

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus

With some light still left I made a final call back at Titchwell as I had realised I had missed three very obvious birds all day.  I soon picked up a couple of Dunnock under the feeders but eventually had one of those days when I saw neither House Sparrow nor Collared Dove.  Now, surely, that has to be some kind of record for Britain? 

Dunnock Prunella modularis caught in the fading light

On the other hand, apart from more acrobatic Long-tailed Tits I had a tame Robin that remained within a couple of feet of me at eye level and simply refused to fly away.  I swear this little chappy even tried to out-sing me as I made the appropriate whistling/ticking sounds to its face!

One of the acrobatic Long-tailed Tits Aegithalos caudatus

In all a rather splendid day, although I would have liked more time on the beach for the sea-watch, with almost 65 species recorded.

Birds seen:
Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Grenshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Razorbill, Guillemot, Woodpigeon, Barn Owl, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

How many rings can a Turnstone Arenaria interpres wear; is there room for a seventh?

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

Saturday 27 January 2018

Arboleas Birding Group to El Fondo

Saturday 27 January

Good to see that Dave's camera is back to "normal" once more in time for his first visit of the year to the El Fondo site near Elche, Alicante.  Lovely to read about the many Booted Eagles and Bluethroats plus the numerous waders.

El Fondo & Lagunas de Compotejar-Salar Gordo: Saturday 27th January

It was only myself, Les, Alan and John, who was driving, heading at silly o'clock north towards Elche. Unfortunately the four others had to cancel.  After a break at the Cox Service Station we made our way to the North Gate of El Fondo Bird Reserve to await entry at around 08.30hrs.  It was chilly, but no wind at that time.  We heard a Green Woodpecker, but saw Cormorant, Blackbird, Little Egret and the first of hundreds of Chiffchaff.  Les spotted a Reed Bunting.  Also seen before the ranger arrived were Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Black Headed Gull, White Wagtail, Spotless Starling and Magpie.  Once in, we drove slowly along the track, heading to the far elevated hide.  On the way we had Black Redstart, Moorhen, a Common Buzzard and a Purple Swamphen. We saw the first of over 20 Marsh Harriers.  We climbed up to the hide.  There were many Crag Martins overhead.  

On/in the water were Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked and Little Grebe, Shoveler, Common Pochard and a small group of Greater Flamingo.  We could hear Cetti's Warblers.  I spotted a single Black-winged Stilt to our right, but Les was checking out the large shallow expanse of water further to the left.  He found Lapwing, Dunlin, Little Stint, Avocet and Shelduck.  Never seen so many.  In the reserve there must have been between 750-1,000 birds.  The odd flight of Teal shot past.  We then saw our first Booted Eagle of the day.  Must have seen about 10 during the day.  Two Kingfisher flew past.  We decided to get closer to the left hand shallow water so walked to the next hide back along the track.  There were a few Little Ringed Plover feeding on the mud in between rotting shrubs.  I spotted a Bluethroat flitting in and out of the reed base as were Stonechat and a Robin.  Alan found a Temminck's Stint and also spotted a Raven.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Moving back to the small hide the other side of the elevated hide, we added Mallard, White-headed Duck and Great Crested Grebe. When 30 non-birding Spanish arrived at the hide made for four, we exited and made our way to the other hides adding Redshank, Meadow Pipit and Chaffinch before getting an early release by the ranger.
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We drove round to the Information Centre.  On the first pool we had a surprise.  Not a Barn Swallow, but a Red-rumped Swallow feeding low over the water with the Crag Martins!  Moving to the observations area adjacent to the building we found 4 Red-knobbed Coot with only one with an ID collar. 

Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
There were also a pair of Marbled Duck. We glimpsed another Bluethroat as we commenced the wooden walkway.  At the observation deck we had good views of a Purple Swamphen.  At the far right hide I was first to spot a flight of 20+ Glossy Ibis in the distance.  Les found some waders to the left. Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers all within 5 metres of each other and a Water Pipit as well.  We ended our list with Kestrel and Northern Starling.  As we were leaving a Booted Eagle and Common Buzzard were having a dogfight above us.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We finished with 62 species which surprised us all.  Could've been more, but the cold wind had increased during the morning.  On the way home we decided to check out some other sites.  We first stopped at a reservoir John knew, the Embalse de Santomera, but access was blocked by a new gate.   Undaunted we headed for the Lagunas de Compotejar-Salar Gordo, near Fortuna off the Murcia to Albacete road.  Les had found an article on it in a Costa Blanca magazine.  It is a complex of 5 medium sized lakes for the protection of White-headed Ducks.  Sure enough, on the first lake next to the information centre there were quite a number of them as well as Common and Red-crested Pochard, Shoveler and Little and Black-necked Grebes.  Les found a Purple Swamphen plus Moorhen, Green and Common Sandpiper.  A Bluethroat, Stonechat and Serin were added. At the next lake I spotted 4 Ferruginous Ducks. 3 males and a female which flew to the far end.  We also had Red-legged Partridge, Magpie and a Southern Grey Shrike.  All the lakes contained similar wildfowl apart from the Ferruginous Ducks.  Bit difficult to find but I'm sure you can get directions from the internet.  Very suitable for wheelchairs users as wide tracks were tarmac'd.  We saw 22 species there.
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

A long but great days birding!  You can see from the photos I've sorted out the blue rinse!
Regards, Dave
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs  and additional information

The Ducks of Rutland Water

Saturday 28 January

Following on from the recently published blog, I thought readers might like to see more of the twelve "ducks" (if you include Egyptian Goose) seen during my visit to Rutland Water yesterday.  And all being well off to the North Norfolk coast tomorrow so, hopefully, some new birds.

Shelduck  Tadorna tadorna


Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus  (Goose or duck?)

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos and Shoveler Anas clypeata (top of photo)

Pintail Anas acuta


Gadwall Anas strepera


Wigeon Anas penelope

Teal  Anas crecca

Common Pochard Aythya ferina

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

Goldeneye Bucephala clangula


Smew Mergellus albellus

Goosander Mergus merganser

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

Rutland Water

Friday 26 January

Two drekes and at least one female Smew Mergellus albellus
Somewhat of a rude awakening this January birding back in the UK.  You very quickly realise that this is not the month or place for short-sleeve order as you scrape the ice off the windscreen at 8.15 and start off with the outside temperature at a rising 2C!   Up to 3 but down to 1C upon arrival at Rutland Water even though the sun shining.  A couple of Crows as I approached along the narrow lane to Egleton and then the resident Jackdaws in the trees adjoining the car park where they were joined by both Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon.  A friendly Robin came to stand almost on my heels, obviously expecting some sort of titbit and across the fence a pair of Egyptian Geese were busy feeding in the paddock.

Eygytian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus
A short stop at the feeding station produced a handful of Pheasants feeding on the dropped seed along with good numbers of Dunnnock.  Lots of Blue Tits along with Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch.  A couple of Robin doing their best to get in on the act and, finally, the appearance of the first Great Tits as a drake Mallard and Moorhen paddled across the pond.

Next it was the walk over to Lagoon 4 and no sooner through the first gated path and I picked up the small flock of Canada Geese on the right.   A stop to check out Lagoon 2 at the Redshank Hide confirmed my suspicions that the water levels were very high and, I suspected, there would be few waders about.  Indeed, I was proved to be right as other than the hundreds of Lapwing seen during the morning just the one Curlew when at the Mallard Hide overlooking the Lagoon 1Wigeons here, there and everywhere, both on the water and feeding/resting on the grass. Similarly, lots of Coot about and  more Tufted Duck than Mallard.

Hundreds of Wigeon Anas penelope on site
Lagoon 4 seemed to be full to the brim so, other than more Lapwing, no waders to be seen.  About a dozen Mute Swans including juveniles and then my first big smile as I watched a couple of male and a single female Smew moving along to the right.  Could well have been more females before the little mixed flock disappeared behind the small island.  Then, no sooner getting over this delightful moment, and a male Goosander was suddenly right in front of me.  A good number of Common Starlings in the trees whilst back on the water I could not but notice the small number of Black-headed Gulls before finding a few of the resident (?) Great Black-backed Gulls.  A couple of Cormorant flew over which led me to see the handful of Shelduck and having found a couple of Great Crested Grebe and preparing to move on to the Shoveler Hide overlooking Lagoon 3 and a Little Egret decided now would be a good moment to visit the water.

A most handsome Goosander Mergus merganser

Once in the above hide, and still on my own having arrived well before the official opening time, I encountered yet more Wigeon and Coot plus not a small number of Moorhen, Moorhen and nearby Teal and Shelduck.  But scoping the water I soon found a dozen or so Pintail and then added Goldeneye before finding the Common Pochard flock.  Gadwall and Shoveler were added along with a single Heron before making my way back to the Visitors Centre via a quick check at the Smew Hide where I added a closer pair of Goldeneye, to check-in and have a short break before exploring the southern side of the reserve,  And at this point I found a handful of Reed Bunting resting in a bare tree.

Swans, Coots and Tufted Duck but do I see a Goldeneye Bucephala clangula?
Time for a re-visit to the feeding station where all the previous species were still to be seen along with a Rat that also thought it was entitled to the free food on offer.

Even a lonely Rat Rattus norvegicus has to eat!
 Off to the Mallard Hide where I was to find the Curlew along with many more Wigeon, an assortment of other ducks including three relatively close Pintail.  But first the sighting of the Great Spotted Woodpecker that alighted on the tree trunk maybe ten metres ahead of me.  Moving to the Snipe Hide I found my first Greylag Goose feeding with a handful of Canada Geese. A walk along the muddy track took me to the 360 Hide where I managed to find a Little Grebe then back to base and a final look at the feeding station from the opposite side with the sun behind me and a chance for more photos and, at last especially having missed out last year, a Marsh Tit.  The final bird here, standing out from the many Blackbirds, was a single Song Thrush.

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos learning to paddle
Nothing new at the North Arm other than a Kestrel and a Caspian Tern pointed out by a visiting birder and a stop at the deserted Manton Visitors Centre showed that the feeders were still being filled and attracting lots of small birds but not, whilst I was present, any of the resident Tree Sparrows.  I did, however, have a Coal Tit drop in for a feed alongside the Chaffinches, Robin, Greenfinches and both Blue and Great Tits.  An added bonus was seeing a small flock of Rooks as I passed through Manton and a single Magpie as I drove down to the above Centre.  A similar experience at a stop to scan the deep water in front of the dam.  No sign of the visiting Great Northern Diver but a couple of Great Crested and a handful of Little Grebes were actively feeding along with a small number of Tufted Duck.

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
My last bird of the day was a resting Red Kite in a bare roadside tree as I turned back onto the main
road near Empingham.  A most enjoyable extended morning with a total of 54 birds recorded.

Good to see a Dunnock Prunella modularis again

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Smew, Goldeneye, Goosander, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Red Kite, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

This Robin Erithacus rubecula looks like he/she means business in the days to come

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