Thursday 19 April 2018

Las Norias and Roquetas with the Arboleas Birding Group

Thursday 19 April

Back to normal with the weekly report from David re his exploits with the Arboleas Birding Group.  Lots of great birds seen on Wednesday so I am also looking forward to finding my first Collared Pratincole and Turtle Dove.  Something  very much to look forward to when I return from travel to the northern Pacific.

Las Norias and Roquetas   -   Wednesday 18th April 2018

Los tres amigos, Les, John and myself headed south along the E15/A7 towards Las Norias, stopping off at junction 420 for a coffee at the Repsol Service Station before making our way via the back roads to the lake.  On the first causeway there was nothing nearby as digger work was going on in the pump house yard, but further away we saw Great Crested Grebe, Red-crested Pochard and Black-headed Gull.  Les spotted an adult Night Heron flying over. Shortly after another flight of half a dozen followed.  Also seen were Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Mallard and Yellow-legged Gull. We could hear a Great Reed Warbler singing away to our right. I wandered in that direction.  A convenient break in the reeds, presumably made by an illegal angler, brought me down to the water edge.  A scan of the reeds opposite revealed the bird perched on top.   We then saw two heron flying away low over the water. Our first Purple Herons of the year. John found a Common Pochard on the lake the other side. Les the saw another first... a Turtle Dove on the power line.
Moving round to the second stop. It was occupied by a flock of sheep, so we moved on to the second causeway, stopping first at the end away from the plastic recycling factory.  First on the list were some noisy Black-winged Stilt.  John spotted a Gadwall and Les added a Little Ringed Plover and a Black Tern.  I found a resting Shoveler before we moved round to the main causeway road.  We heard a Reed Warbler. We then spotted some resting Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns on a little spit.  A Redshank was also seen.  At the little bridge a single Black-tailed Godwit was seen.  It was displaying the leg tag TJ5.  I'll let you know later if I get a hit!  Les added Avocet and Jackdaw before we returned to the usual 2nd stop where the sheep had now gone.  I spotted two Yellow Wagtails and Les, a Green Sandpiper.
Leg-tagged Black Tailed Godwit Limosa limosa (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
 En route to Roquetas we saw a Squacco Heron flying over some reeds and a power line full of Cattle Egret plus a single Little Egret.
At the San Augstin end of the Roquetas pools we first saw some Greater Flamingos.  John the spotted a Glossy Ibis.  Over the far reed line were 5 White Headed Duck and a Black-necked Grebe.  John had a brief glimpse of a male Garganey.  We were looking for it when a company of Spanish Legion from the Viator camp walked past putting everything into the air.  Another birder thought he saw a Marbled Duck.  Moving along to the next causeway we saw Sandwich Tern and Black-headed Gulls at rest.  Kentish Plovers and Black-winged Stilts were there as well.  John found a Shelduck and then Les found some Spoonbill.  An Audouin's Gull was seen before John discovered a Mediterranean Gull.  The next causeway revealed that the number of Spoonbills was 18.  Some waders flew in near us; 3 Curlew Sandpiper.  A distant Marsh Harrier was seen before I heard, then saw, a high flying Collared Pratincole.  
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola with colour rings​ (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We decided to check out the scrub area beyond the small pool and sure enough there were a small number of resting Collared Pratincoles there.  I see now from my photographs that the pratincole which posed so nicely on the track was colour ringed as well!  We also checked out the other pools.  A Glossy Ibis was by the "Red-knobbed Coot" pool.  Also seen were some Ruff and Redshank.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
 All in all a very good day.  Migration seems to have started now in our area after a late start.  57 species seen.  Good weather and company...and only a few mosquito bites!
Regards, Dave
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Ruff Philomachus pugnax (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Redshank Tringa totanus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Thursday 19 April

I was thinking that this was going to be David's weekly report from his Arboleas Birding Group but it would appear that there was a change of date last week!  Nevertheless, always welcome and sure that our readers will enjoy his latest message from up east of the region.  Now read on as, once again, some lovely photos from David.

Sierra de Maria   -   Friday 13th April

Apologies in the delay in posting this report, but my computer died.  Thankfully it has now been brought back from the brink into circulation again!  I made a personal visit to the Sierra de Maria.  My first stop was to the La Piza forest cafe for a coffee, which I drank watching Coal and Great Tits using the bird feeders.  Chaffinches were sweeping up any morsels dropping from above.  A Mistle Thrush was also seen.
Female Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I then made my way to the farm buildings where my arrival disturbed a Hoopoe.  A Common Buzzard flew off from a nearby tree.  Walking round the building I also saw House and Rock Sparrow and some Serin.
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I drove down to the water trough area where I used the truck as a hide.  There was the usual Crested Larks and Spotless Starlings.  I then saw a Iberian Green Woodpecker flying onto a tree some 75 metres away.  With a little help from the call on my phone, it flew to a tree only 25 metres away and posed beautifully for a photograph.
Iberian Green Woodpecker Picus viridis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I then drove onto the plain.  A Short-toed Lark was sat nicely on a roadside perch as was a Calandra Lark.  I added a Sky Lark before arriving at the hamlet.  Again using my truck as a hide I got to within a reasonable distance of the Lesser Kestrels resting on the barn roof.  On the way back I saw Griffon Vulture and Booted Eagle.
Mr & Mrs Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
I then made my way to the Botanical Gardens.  I saw Blue Tit, Stonechat and Rock Bunting on the walk from the chapel to the Information Centre. Round the gardens I also had Crested Tit and Short-toed Treecreeper.  I heard a Raven.
Returning to the La Piza forest cafe for lunch I added a Jay.  On the return journey my list was completed by a Woodpigeon and some Red-billed Chough.
Hoopoe Upupa epops (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Only 29 species.  Surprisingly no Crossbills seen, but I had a very enjoyable outing!
Regards, Dave

Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

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

Sierra Loja

Wednesday 18 April

Ten of us present at Sierra Loja for the April meting of the Axarquia Bird Group travelling from as far afield as Competa to the east and Marbella to the west.  Good to see Eric and Pat Lyon again and a welcome to new particpants Lindsay and  Elizabeth Ferguson along with Peter Ashley.  Also present Barbara and Derek Ethertona and Barbara and Jerry Laycock.  So, come 9.40, we were on our way up the mountain with two target birds in mind, the summering Rock Thrush and the local breeding pairs of Spectacled Warbler.

No sooner had we left the car park than we stopped to observe a mixed group of Goldfinches and Cirl Buntings.  A first stop at the lower picnic area produced Greenfinch and Serin plus  the first Black Wheatear of the morning.  Naturally we had seen the local Collared Doves and, once among the trees, not only Chaffinch and Blackbird but numerous Mistle Thrushes and Azure-winged Magpies.  Then, of course, there were all those Wood Pigeons moving about.

Mistle Thrush Zorzal Charlo Turdus viscivorus
By the time we were ready to walk up the track to the old quarry to check out the Eagle Owl's nesting site, we had also added Barn Swallows and the first Stonechat.  No sign of the Eagle Owl but a good number of Choughs moving about the cliff face along wiyh the occasional Rock Bunting. No sooner had the Sardinian Warbler disappeared from view than I had a Black Redstart move up into a small oak tree which, in turn, revealed what I think most of us agreed was a Common Chiffchaff.  Not so much the Red-legged Partridges nor the few Jackdaws but the surprisingly clear sight of a Spectacled Warbler that took us by surprise, the first time that I have seen these lovely little warblers away from their traditional breeding site.

Just a fleeting fraction of a second to grab a record shot of the Spectacled Warbler Curruca Tomillera Sylvia conspicicillata
Having seen a Raven pass overhead, on up the track and nearing the end of the tree line we stopped to see a hawk above the tree tops.  Far too big and the jizz was all wrong for a Sparrowhawk so, yes, you guessed correcltly, for most their first Goshawk of the year.  Also in the air near this fabulous raptor a number of Common Swifts.  Meanwhile, continuing on up the mountain we regularly encountered both Crested Lark and Rock Bunting, having said good-bye to the Azure-winged Magpies, then the first Thekla Lark and Rock Sparrows of the morning.

A little magic moment followed with not ony a resting Little Owl but high above Derek had picked out a drifting Griffon Vulture and, looking above the bird, we then found a Golden Eagle.  Only when we relised that Derek and I were actually looking in different directions that we realised we had not one but two individuals.  And in the same area we heard and then saw two of the breeding Spectacled Warblers.

Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua
Now we were very much in "Wheatear Country" as we passed the electricity station and, sure enough, had good views of both Northern and Black-eared Wheatear.  Ere long we had reached the Charca del Negra pools and what pools they were, I have neer seen then so full and the main pool must surely have been somewhere about five metres deep as the water almost reached the top of the support wll.  But still the pool had visits from both Rock Sparrows and Black Redstart.

Now that we had driven to the top track we were all intent on finding the illusive Rock ThrushBlue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, Spotless Starling, Kestrel and Woodchat Shrike but where was the target bird?  Eventually, at the far end of the track, Derek, yet again, saw the slight movement on the summit, cars stopped and much work with bins and scopes finally found our bird, the first, and only, Rock Thrush of the day.   Whilst awaiting a decision on whether or not to visit the water deposit at the bottom of the hill (we decided to give it a miss this time), we were able to watch the antics of a pair of Litle Owl on the cliff face in front of us.

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris seen in the trees almost at the bottom of the mountain
At this point we decided to call it a day and made our way either down the mountain or, as in the case of Lindsay and Elizabeth, continue on along the track in the hope that they found, if not Zafarraya, at least signs of civilisation!  But no, hardly had we started our way back when Derek and others, having heard the bird calling in a nearny tree, had wonderful vews of a Western Orphean Warbler.  Not so much achieving our two target birds but certainly another three as a bonus in the shape of the Orphean and the earlier Goshawk and Golden Eagle.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Golden Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Goshawk, Kestrel, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Common Swift, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Rock Thrush, Bue Rock Thrush, Blackbrd, Mistle Thrush, Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting.

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

Laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra

Tuesday 17 April

Up at Laguna Dulce near Campillos by 9.30 and amazed to see just how much water was on view, not just the laguna but also neighbouring fields.  Nevermind the hundred Flamingos I was pleased to record all three of our grebes with at least 8 Great Crested, 6 Little and no less than a dozen Black-necked Grebes.

Great Crested Grebes Somormujo Lavanco Podiceps cristatus at Laguna Dulce
Also present the usual Mallards and Coots, probably a score of Shoveler and a good-sized mixed flock of Common and Red-crested Pochard.

Trio of Black-necked Grebes Zampullin Cuellinegro Podiceps nigricollis

In front of the hide a good number of feeding House Sparrows along with many singing Corn Buntings.  In the undergrowth at least four singing Nightingales and a similar number of Cetti's Warblers.  A Woodchat Shrike put in an appearance and as the few Barn Swallows skimmed the water I noticed the distant Black-winged Stilt.   Then it was time, as a Raven crossed the road, for me to make my way round to Fuente de Piedra.

Anyone seen a House Sparrow Gorrion Comun Passer domesticus?
More Barn Swallows along with Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows as I passed the farm taking the left fork and on the Mirador de Cantarranas.  Again, very obvious the thousands of Flamingos in residence and when added to those nearer the Visitors Centre almost certainly well in excess of 20,000.  Crested Larks and Corn Buntings on the approach along with a Red-legged Partridge and from the hide mirador the shadow cast by the strong sun made duck identification almost impossible - but one could not mistake the iconic silhouette outline of the Coot,

Approaching the main entry I stopped at the farm track adjacent to the crossing of the main stream.  The field to the left was well-flooded and held a number of waders including Ruff, Dunlin and both Common and a single Spotted Redshank.  Both Moorhen and Avocet in the stream on the right-hand side of the road and flying overhead a couple of gull-billed Terns.

So on to the main laguna itself but not helped by the large party of young children at the viewing point so straight round to the Lagunetta hide which was occupied by a party of about twenty adult birders.  Third time luck to make use of the smaller, but empty, nearby hide where I found Red-crested Pochard, Moorhen and Coot.

A misty Red-crested Pochard  Pato Colorado Netta rufina  at Fuente de Piedra
Back to the main hide which now had some seating room and able to enjoy the bird life below me.  Lots of Pochards, both Common and Red-crested plus Mallard and Shoveler to ad to the Coots and Moorhens. Again, many (more indeed than the Little) Black-necked Grebes.  Also present a few Avocet and a good number of FlamingosGulls were almost exclusively Black-headed.

Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus at Fuente de Piedra accompanied by Black-headed Gulls Gaviota Reidora Larus ridibundus
Walking past the main laguna I was able to pick up Lesser black-backed Gulls and both Reed and Great Reed Warbler were singing away without a care in the world.  The same, also , could be said for the many Cetti's Warblers.  A single female Marsh Harrier drifted over at near the causeway and just the one feeding Whiskered Tern before I picked up both Greenfinch and a Blackcap. A final stop to take a second look at the flooded field on the right as I departed confirmed both more Barn Swallows but only a single Black-winged Stilt along with three Dunlin and a lone Cattle Egret.  And all the while the resident Jackdaws were moving around the site.

One of very many Corn Bunting Triguero Emberiza calandra

Leaving the motorway at Mollina I took the broken and badly pitted road/track across to the former Laguna Herrera where I found, much to my delight, that there was water once again.  A soaring Buzzard on the way and a couple of Blue-headed Wagtails making use of the speed limit sign plus very many Corn Buntings and a few more Crested Larks.

(Blue-headed) Yellow Wagails Lavandera Boyera Iberica Motacilla flava iberiae

At the back of the laguna a number of resting Little Terns and a lone Grey Heron flapped slowly across the water.  In addition to the Shelduck and small number of Avocet I also noticed a trio  of Redshank in the grasses near the edge.

These Red-crested Pochards Pato Colorado Netta rufina had obvioulsly seen enough!
Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Heron, White Stork, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Dunlin, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, Nightingale, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

Sunday 15 April 2018

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Sunday 15 April

With the better weather and sun now shining, albeit a little on the windy side, I had intended to go over to Chara de Suarez for the morning but, sad to say, I overslept and no way could I make it in time for the restricted opening hours.  (The moreso having seen Mick Richardson's photos of the Spotted Crake taken yesterday!)  So it was down to the (very) local patch at the Rio Velez and a site I have not visited for maybe three months or more.

A White Wagtail as I approached the factory to park the car just above the N340 road bridge and a couple of Blackbirds with a number of Collared Doves calling.  Even before walking under the road bridges I could hear numerous Nightingales and Cetti's Warblers and then the first of at least three Hoopoes during my ninety minutes at the river.  Plenty of water in the river but mainly static and even more debris, mainly bamboo off-cuts and general vegetation rather than plastic and household rubbish.

Cetti's Warbler Ruisenor Bastardo Cettia cetti

Apart from the continuous calling/singing of the Cetti's Warblers and Nightingales there were many sightings of Serin and Goldfinch with  a handful of Barn Swallows.  At least a dozen male Mallards on the river plus a similar number of Moorhen.  Two Little Egrets and the same number of Grey Herons were observed.  Lovely, I think, to see a late Chiffchaff and then the hoard of noisy Monk Parakeets passed overhead.  having noted the Woodchat Shrike I made my way down to the, now realigned, beach.  A small number of Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls plus two Coots to add to the morning's sightings.

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea

Making the return journey I was somewhat surprised to see a Zitting Cisticola land on the vegetation within a couple of metres and then disappear below to, presumably, its nest.  Another Woodchat Shrike on the  fence then a trio of Blue-headed Wagtails flew across the track with one returning to feed in the nearby field.

Lovely Blue-headed (Iberian) Yellow Wagtail Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae
A drive further up river for about two hundred metres or so produced the expected House Sparrow, and Spotless Starling but the very last bird recorded, at last, was the only wader seen, a single Little Ringed Plover to take the species total up to 25.

Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Little Ringed Plover, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Barn Swallow, Yellow (Iberian) Wagtail, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

Common Coot Focha Comun Fulica atra

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

Monday 9 April 2018

Tarifa Area with the Andalucia Bird Society

Monday 9 April

Right on cue, I have just received a report from my Friend Derek Etherton outlining the events of the Andalucia Bird Society meet down in the Tarifa area to which I referred in Derek's Saturday email to me.  Nevermind the bad weather, look at the terrific birds seen by Derek and company.  

Tarifa Area: Saturday 7 April

Staying in Tarifa overnight on the Friday meant we had only a short journey on the Saturday morning to meet up with the ABS group.  Just as well we did because the rain steadily falling made it seem a good idea not to have to travel too far.  Grabbing breakfast at 08:00hrs left us time to visit the Tarifa car park, hopefully to note the resident Bulbul.  We parked up and walked to the birds known favourite area in the steady rain - dedication or what?  We noted Yellow-legged Gulls, Pallid Swift, House Sparrow as we searched the trees for the bird.  After 10 minutes it started singing its distinctive song, but was it?  Because we have learned from local birders that the Spotless Starlings now imitate the Bulbul!  Then some movement and the bird itself appeared right in front of us to start singing again - excellent.

Forget the rain.  Do I see a Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator hiding behind the Wryneck Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
We arrived at the meeting point spot on 09:00hrs to assemble and head off, still through rain, to Guadalmesi to search for passerines before, hopefully, raptors started to cross.  Stopping on top of the hill by the disused army camp we were aware of an increase in the wind, mainly a south westerly.  Whilst there we managed to find Chiffchaff, Common Kestrel and  Blackbird.  A couple of Black Kites were spied in the far distance, but the increasing wind made us move on pretty smartly.

Having driven down the road (?) to reach the coastal track we stopped to note Stonechats, Linnets, Green and Goldfinches.  Peering over the cliff to the Straits in front of us we noticed Turnstones and Sanderling on the rocks below.  Sandwich Terns fished and a couple of Cormorants flew past.  Woodchat Shrikes were on the bushes and several Crested Larks flew around.  Moving on further to the watch point several Nightingales were 'winding up' in the bushes at the side of the track.  A solitary Whimbrel was seen on the next range of rocks and by now, several Bee-eaters passed overhead.  House Martins and Barn Swallows darted around and a Red-legged Partridge scuttled by.  

We spent some time sheltering from the wind down by the watch point and patience rewarded us with Great Skuas, Gannets, both Common and Pallid Swifts, and some, we think, Common Scooters far out nearer to the Morocco shore than Spain.  As usual the Little Owls posed on the ruined buildings to be joined by a Hoopoe.

By 1130hrs the first quantity of Black Kites were seen crossing, then a lone Booted Eagle struggled over fighting hard against the strong wind - he made it OK!  2 Short-toed Eagles 'hung' in the skies further inland and at the same time Griffon Vultures were seen.

By 1230hrs it was decided to drive back and head for coffee, or something warmer, at Apolo X1.  But first we stopped  on top of the hill again to see many Black Kites pass low overhead.  Corn Buntings were singing and a solitary Willow Warbler was identified.

As we had spent all of Friday on La Janda we, and a couple of other cars and their occupants headed to Barbate.  By now the weather had deteriorated drastically and my phone app warned of heavy rain only 5km away.  The wind now seemed like hurricane force making car doors difficult to open.  Eventually we managed to see a couple of Collared Praticoles flying and then many more hunkered down seeking shelter.  However the wind didn't seem to stop the Skylarks singing, nor the Corn Buntings.  Waders were few and far between, Cattle Egret, Spoonbill, a couple of Black-winged Stilts and a few Stone Curlew were all that were visible.

Continuing up the track, in very poor condition after all the recent rain, we noticed and watched several Short-toed Larks on the edge of the track.  Movement in a bare bush at the side of us (only 2 cars in our convoy) and within 5 minutes we were fortunate to have a Wryneck show itself and fly the short distance to the barbed wire fence.  Sadly it disappeared before photos could record the bird but, unknown to us at this stage, better was to come later!

Wryneck Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Birds were generally  staying low and out of the wind and the impending rain, now visible  across the water so we turned round and headed back down the track.  Could we find the Wryneck again?  Even better, we found it, plus a Whitethroat and a first of the season Common Redstart.  By now the rain was hammering down and the birds had sought shelter in a Tamarisk tree, so we positioned the cars so all could see them.  Spanish Sparrows also sought shelter nearby, at least 30 of them.  We took some photos through the windscreen synchronising the taking with the wipers working - a bit like machine guns on the Spitfires!  It did stop raining after some 25 minutes and the birds moved out to the open and proceeded to preen giving further opportunities for viewing.

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

By now it was getting late so we continued driving back down the track and noted that the heavy rain had attracted several waders into the muddy area.  Ringed & Kentish Plovers, Sanderling and Dunlin were seen close by.

So it was back to the road, goodbyes to friends and head for the drive back home to AdlT after a very enjoyable couple of days with some excellent sightings, bringing our yearly total (for Southern Spain) to 204.

Wryneck Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Despite the awful weather, the report reflects a great range of birds.  But my biggest surprise came with the very last word.  I was aware that Derek had seen species unseen by me to date this year, including his next door neighbour the local Tawny owl, and this report mentions a further three species that I am yet to see.  But, and here comes the big surprise, his latest total is just, a single species, ahead of me!  But well done Derek, Jerry and the two Barbaras.

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

Sunday 8 April 2018

Motril Area

Sunday 8 April

The promise of a sunny day so collected visiting Swedish birder, Hans Borjesson, from Nerja and made our way up to Motril for the restricted opening of the Charca de Suarez reserve.  Looking forward o showing Hans Purple Swamphen and Red-knobbed Coot and, hopefully, both Squacco and Purple Heron would still be on site and, for me, maybe either/both Water Rail and Spotted Crake.  We had fifteen minutes to spare so took the concrete road known as "Turtle Dove Alley" having just recorded Collared Dove and Spotless Starling and made a careful approach noting Crested LarkZitting Cisticola and Hoopoe.  However, pride of place went to the single (Iberian) Yellow Wagtail on top of a low bush on the right.  Then after Barn Swallows and the very busy nest-building House Martins at the back of the reserve we arrived and parked.  Still time to take a quick look at the sea before reaching the entrance gate and the "white van" already in place inside in readiness, so we believed, to open on time at 10,  However, all was not as it appeared as fixed to the gate was a notice informing visitors that the site would be closed for the morning for tree planting!  Which to do first; apologise to my Swedish guest having made the wasted journey up from the west or utter a few expletives!  Very little compensation to see a Common Kestrel drift over the entrance.

Plan B was soon put int lace and we drove up to the picnic area at Velez de Benaudalla to check if the Dippers were once again nesting in their traditional site.  Lots and lots of Blackbirds about and as we drove down the track to the picnic area a good number of ChaffinchesCetti's Warblers were very loud and then our second disappointment, although we should have expected this one.  Even at this hour, before 10.30, the picnickers had already arrived and a number of barbecues were on the go - presumably cooking breakfast!  A walk around the area produced White Wagtail, Blackcap, Serin and Goldfinch.  A single Mallard landed heavily on the river and overhead we had feeding Common Swifts.  The superior hearing Hans soon picked out both Firecrest and Short-toed Treecreeper and ere long we had also added both Great and Coal Tit.

Leaving the masses behind we then drove up to the Padul Wetlands after a brief stop on the dam of the nearby reservoir where we found more feeding Crag Martins.  Not only was everything appearing devoid of birds but the sun had disappeared and we now had light rain with which to contend.  An initial drive through the site produced a good number of singing Cetti's Warblers before we parked up to walk the boardwalks.  Now we had better birding but in the light rain and neither of us wearing suitable clothing!  Lots of Cetti's Warblers and Nightingales and then the first of a few calling Reed Warblers.  The first birds seen were the resting Barn Swallows that had been feeding over the water and the only other birds seen on the large pools were a pair of Cormorant.

Making our way to the hide at the very far end we eventually were rewarded with both a pair of Coots and Moorhen.  How exciting can that be?  But, on the other hand, we heard at least three calling Water Rails and also saw a pair of departing Wood Pigeons.  Having waited until the latest shower had finished we then made our way back along the almost flooded boardwalks and stopped to see both a pair of Booted Eagles over the nearby mountain and then a male Blue Rock Thrush perched on top of a concrete electricity post and a passing Peregrine Falcon.  Time to sort ourselves out for the return journey and no sooner had we started than we stopped to see the raptor Hans had seen approaching the wetlands and were able to identify the bird as a Marsh Harrier.  What might be deemed as hard work to record our 36 species but at least I had finally found my first Yellow Wagtail of the year.  And the nearer we got to the coast the more the cloud cleared and, as you might guess, it had been sunny all morning back in Nerja and Mezquitilla!

Birds seen:
Mallard, Cormorant, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Common Swift, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Firecrest, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch.

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

La Janda with Derek Etherton and Friends

Sunday 8 April

Just back from an initially disappointing visit to the Charca de Suarez (see my report entitled "Motril Area" and found the following report from friend Derek Etherton.  This was a two-day visit that I had also intended to attend but my the big sacrifice to take Jenny to our monthly supper dance, the moreso having opted out in February so that I could attend the Bonanza meet of the Andalucia Bird Society.  All very inconvenient this year as our dance group now has to hold its monthly dances a week later and they, therefore, clash with my bird meetings.  But at least the dances have now finished till October!  Just think what I missed, not only my "bogey" species, Spotted Redshank, but what would have been a first Spanish sighting of a Great Bittern.  Ah well, always a next time.

La Janda, Tarifa: Friday 6 April

We, Derek and Barbara Etherton, collected Jerry & Barbara Laycock from their abode in Fuengirola early Friday morning to travel to Tarifa for 2 days birding, just us on the Friday and with the ABS meet on the next day.  Pretty uneventful travel on the motorway with just the usual things like Common Kestrels and Buzzards, Blackbirds, Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows etc.  After breakfast in Tahavilla we decided to spend the whole day in La Janda as the weather was good, but the forecast for the next day, not so.  

Driving in from the Barbate crossroads we immediately encountered Corn Buntings, numerous Stonechats, Goldfinches, both House and Spanish Sparrows and Zitting Cisticolas.  At the bottom of the track as you turn left to track the canal we stopped to admire a Whitethroat in full song on top of a bush before it moved to the power cable and continued its song.  Little Egrets were numerous as were Purple Swamphens/Galinules/Bog Hens - call them what you like.  Both male and female Marsh Harriers floated over us, Common Kestrel was hunting, juvenile Bonelli's Eagle was spied and numerous White Storks spiralled high above.  

The flooding had receded but left several fields wetter than usual for this time of the year, one field in particular was still flooded and had attracted several waders.  The most numerous of them being Common Redshank but we were pleased to ID a solo Spotted Redshank amongst them.  Also there was a solo Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, numerous Spoonbill, Grey Heron and both Cattle and Little Egret.  We got talking to a young Spanish couple ( guides, Ecotono Birding,Tarifa) whilst wader watching and shared our sightings.  We said we were moving on to try and locate the Eurasian Bittern that had been seen and photographed in all its glory over the past 2 weeks.  

Being the great chap he is, Ricky had sent me a 'Google Pin' to show the location of the bird and we made our way there in the (vain?) hope of locating this rare bird.  We occasionally stopped to note Barn Swallows, Black Kites, Red-legged Partridge, Crested and Short-toed Larks, 100's of Mallards, Yellow Wagtails (Iberian), and hundreds of Bee-eaters passed over head.  Glossy Ibis were in good supply as were Moorhens, Serins, Gull-billed Terns, Woodchat Shrikes, Kentish Plovers and Jackdaws.  Arriving at the Bittern area we spent some time searching the main areas without much luck, plus under difficulties because of a succession of lorries thundering down the track, and we turned the car around. Jerry said, 'Let's just check that little track on the right, further up the road' - so we did.  My Barbara stayed by the car whilst the three of us walked to check a small stretch of water.  I looked one way, J & BL the other, then we swapped over with me looking left.  Would you believe I saw a faint movement barely a metre away from where I was standing?  One more step and I'd have stood on the Bittern!   Speechless, I managed to make the other 2 turn round before the bird 'excused' itself, took to its wings, nearly clattered (BE) on the head and flew right in front of the young Spanish couples van, they certainly arrived at the correct time.  What incredible views we all had of the bird and we found out later we 'giris' were mentioned on "The Straits " sightings blog as 'having flushed the bird'.  Not quite true - the bird though, certainly flushed us!

Well after that excitement we moved on up the track towards the farm, and dodging the heavy lorries, noting Pheasant, Great Tit, Raven, Booted Eagles, Wood PigeonsNightingales were singing, as only they can, and several more Larks (Crested and Short-toed) were spied in the fields.  Hoopoe added to the list as was a male Montagu's Harrier.  At the Benalup road we turned left to check the Spotted Eagle area - no luck - but several Common Snipe were seen, along with plenty more Mallard, Cormorant, Shoveler and Shelduck in the flooded fields.  Sardinian Warblers and Greenfinches dotted the hedgerows, but sadly no sign of the Black-wing Kites today.

By now our day had passed and not wishing to traverse the Benalup road again (as bad as I've ever seen it) we took the tarmac road back to Tarifa and our hotel.

A super days birding and a first in Spain for me - the Eurasian Bittern - and I realised it has been 12 years since my last sighting at Lee Valley - how time flies!

Well I'm going to watch the football now, followed by the F1 race.  I'll send you a report of Saturdays wet ABS meet tomorrow, but to whet your appetite - think Wryneck and Common Redstart together!  And I got photos through a windscreen in a rainstorm.

Derek Etherton

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

Thursday 5 April 2018

Huetor Tajar

Thursday 5 April

Off to Loja area with Jenny to pay a visit to Mick and Jayne Richardson and on the way being very surprised to see a late Song Thrush dash across the road immediately in front of us ans we drove away from Zafarraya.  Also on the way we manage to record expected House Sparrow, Spotless Starling and both Collared and Rock dove.  Lots of Blackbirds about and a first Hoopoe.  Upon arrival we were delighted to see how well Jayne was progressing - and even Mick looked better and more relaxed than when previously seen a week or so ago.

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator through the width of the car
Whilst we left the girls to do whatever it is that girls do, Mick and I took a short trip down to the local Rio Cacin which was only now staring to recede following the recent heavy rains.  Neither Siskin nor Hawfinch on Mick's feeders as we left but a first Blackcap and more Azure-winged Magpies as we made our way down the country lane.  Upon arriving at the river no chance at present of driving across the ford (unless you fancied abandoning ship half-way!) but immediately a trio of Lesser Ringed Plovers, Moorhen and the first of a number of Woodchat Shrikes whilst all around so many Corn Buntings.  Cetti's Warblers were calling , Barn Swallows collecting mud from the river edges and House Martins passing overhead as a lone Green Sandpiper made a hasty retreat.  We even managed to pick up a couple of Linnets.

Leaving the local Serins collecting nesting material from the track in front of us we took a new path to me after crossing the river.  No Yellow Wagtails but we did find at least four singing Nightingales, two more Woodchat Shrikes and Stonechat.  Two pairs of Red-legged Partridges flew across the track and then a longer stop to check out the small copse where Mick had seen many recent Hawfinches.  No luck but apart from the Wood Pigeons we had Great Tit and a number of Blackbirds, a healthy-singing Mistle Thrush on the wood's edge and even a calling Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Then of course we had to find one of the local Wrynecks.  Mick saw the flight and we knew which tree it had landed but where?

A find the Wryneck Torcecuello Euroasiatico Jynx torquilla challenge
The return drive back to the starting point to once again unsuccessfully listen for the local Quail did produce both a male Sardinian Warbler, a couple of Tree Sparrows and, once back on the river bank, a Zitting Cisticola on the opposite bank.  A Greenfinch was foraging near us along with a resting (Common) Magpie an Mick saw a rarity fro the area, namely a Blue Tit.

Record shots of a very distant male Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus above and not quite so distant female.
We eventually started back on the side road to Zafarraya but stopped at the Agricultral College to look for both Quail and Montagu's Harrier.  Only the second of these put in an appearance with one female and three male birds.  But a Northern Wheatear hopped up on to the fence a little further away as I watched the displaying raptors - but now conformed as a female Black-eared Wheatear, first of the year.

Distant female Back-eared Wheatear Collalba Rubia Oenanthe hispanica

Finally, a very brief stop on the old railway line at Ventas de Zafarraya to watch the two dozen wheeling Choughs and also found a pair of Black Wheatears and a most handsome male Black Redstart along with the local Crag Martins so raising our final total to 39 species.

Only the briefest second to capture the male Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros that suddenly appeared

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Kestrel, Moorhen, Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, tree Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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