Monday 24 September 2018

Axarquia Bird Group Visit to the Charca de Suarez

Sunday 23 September

Seven of us at the monthly meet of the Axarquia Bird Group.  Leaving early so that I could take the slight deviation via "Turtle Dove Alley" at the back of the Charca de Suarez I had a pair of Kestrels pas overhead as I entered the narrow concrete road along with many Collared Doves and House Sparrows and a few Blackbirds and Spotless Starlings quickly followed by a feeding male Sardinian Warbler and then a pair of Red Avadavats at the side of the road.  A Crested Lark was put up from the road a hundred metres or so along and then a handful of Serins on my right.  Arriving at the entrance I could see John and Jenny Wainwright already in place and waiting for the gates to be opened.

Once opened I went on my usual clockwise walk starting in the bamboo hide overlooking the Laguna del Taraje whilst John and Jenny headed straight for the new hide overlooking the Laguna del Alamo Blanco.

Another fine, sunny day with very little breeze.

We arrived at the site with about ten minutes to spare before opening, but there was nobody around, were we here on the right date?? Then Bob turned up, a relief to say the least.

At nine o'clock on the dot Mano arrived to open up the reserve and the day started.  Plenty of Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows and Blackbirds about on the walk down to the new lagoon (by the butterfly house).  Just prior to this a Sparrowhawk cruised overhead but was gone from sight in an instant.  At the hide we settled in to watch at least eight Common Snipe, three Teal, a few Mallard, and a Green Sandpiper.  A Kingfisher flew onto a far post but quickly left but below the post a Chiffchaff was noted (singing also).  To the left of the hide and up the channel a Little Egret was feeding as were several Moorhens (juveniles and adults).

Moorhen Gallineta Comun Gallinula chloropus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Two Purple Swamphens came out of the reeds to our right – one carrying a reed, half again the length of the bird itself.  A Little Grebe was heard in the back of the reeds, but I never saw it here.  Cetti´s Warblers were in full voice all over the reserve and a White Stork continued its position on the centre reed pile.  As a Shoveler and a Mallard were feeding in the front of the hide, a Water Rail was spotted, running into the reed bed, it appeared sporadically until a flurry of action and two of the latter came out of the reed bed and then back in.  One of the birds did appear quite often during our 40 minute stay in the hide.  Two White Wagtails were seen but only for ten minutes or so as did two Red Avadavats (one of them had a feather in its beak so we can only assume its nesting somewhere close by).

Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Passing a Hoopoe on the track in the opposite anti-clockwise direction, there were lots of vociferous Cetti's Warblers about and even a first Chiffchaff at the Taraje.  Mainly Moorhen and a single Red-knobbed Coot till the Purple Swamphen was noticed in the reeds opposite going about its personal ablutions.

Purple Swamphen Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio
On leaving and calling in at the small hide at the far end of the water, I found a couple of Common Coot. Son on to the large hide overlooking the Alamo Blanco in which I found John and Jenny and able to share most of the sightings described above, indeed, all but the Sparrowhawk.   the Snipe seemed very obliging and the single Little Egret flew into the main pool area along with six of his friends.

Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago
We had presumed that the Water Rail had moved nearer to us and so giving better sightings.  Here it remained for ages but when it eventually regained its original sighting there was an almighty scuffle and we realised that there were, indeed, two individuals present and so the battle commenced.  probably at about this time, around 9.30ish, we were joined by Steve and Elena Powell along with John Ross.

Little Egret garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

Leaving the hide, John and spotted a female Marsh Harrier came quartering over the laguna, putting up the Teal and all of the Snipe, but they quickly returned after it had passed over. As we left the hide a Common Buzzard was seen.  We then moved on to the "Bamboo hide" where we saw another Kingfisher, Common and Red-knobbed Coots, Moorhen and Common Waxbills. 

Water Rail rascon Europeo Rallus aquaticus
Making my way to the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas I was able to record another Chiffchaff and once ensconced with John Ross take note of the large number of Common Coot, mainly resting on the island immediately in front of the hide.  we were soon joined by Lesley Laver who had appeared for the opposite direction.  The usual number of Moorhen and Little Grebes about along with a handful of Cormorant and at least three Grey Heron.  A Blackbird made a brief appearance and then I concentrated on the resting ducks which were mainly Mallard with a few Teal and Shoveler.  A couple of Common Waxbill visited the island and then the Kingfisher flashed by to land on the water gauge. Back to the island where further study revealed a first then second Ferruginous Duck along with a dozen or so Common Pochard.  Strange how the latter seemed to have sorted themselves out by sex leaving a few centimetres gap between the two sets!  A pair of Red-knobbed Coots, neither with ring collars, were so close to the hide it would have been easier just to walk in and make their introductions!

Birdy island at the Charca de Suarez
Ferruginous Duck Porron Pardo Aythya nyroca (centre) with Pochard Porron Europeo Aythya ferina (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Leaving the main hide to move on to the Laguna del Trebol we stopped at the recently-created spinney where one can usually find some interesting smaller birds.  We were not to be disappointed.  A Spotted Flycatcher was quickly found along with Blackcap and Great Tit.  A closer look at the phylloscopus warbler quickly confirmed it as a Willow Warbler with its pale legs prominently in sight.  But then the large mystery warbler.  We had great, clear sightings but could just not, immediately, identify the bird.  Was it a Reed Warbler?  Too big.  No distinguishing identifiers, could it be a garden warbler?  Wrong shaped beak.  The bird moved further away as local birder Juan arrived.  He immediately found a Reed Warbler, but not our bird.  We thought Great Reed Warbler as one had just been recorded back at the Alamo Blanco but not big enough.  Time for some further research and the description completely validated the idea running through the minds of both John and myself, Western Olivaceous Warbler, "...rather like a washed-out Reed Warbler; same size and has same pointed head..." or ".. only confused with Reed Warbler but appears slightly larger with larger beak.."

Before continuing on the Laguna del Trebol, Lesley and I made a quick return to the Aneas to check out the pair of female Gadwall that we had missed amongst the other ducks resting on the island.  Job done, on to the next hide but very little else to see so on round to the southern hide looking back over the same water.  A Marsh Harrier was seen by John and Jenny and many more Common and Red-knobbed Coots along with the occasional Moorhen and Mallard.  Having seen our first Barn Swallow of the day over the main water we now saw at least a score feeding both here and over the previous laguna.  Leaving the hide we stopped to check out the usual bushes for the resident Chameleon and successfully found the larger of the two seen last week.

So back to the Laguna del Taraje where we had close views of a pair of Common Waxbill and a Greenfinch.  The last stop to spend the remaining fifteen minutes was at the large hide overlooking Alamo Blanco but all seemed very quiet and almost deserted.  Just the odd duck, a single Snipe and Green Sandpiper.  Even the White Stork had moved on to pastures new.

Common Waxbill Pico de Coral Estrilda astrild (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

As John noted in his report, "Moving along to the Trebol Laguna hide we noted Blackcaps and House Sparrows in the bushes, while at the hide a small group of Barn Swallows flashed past (only hirundines of the day).  Another Grey Heron here as well as Common and Red-knobbed Coots, Common Pochard and two Kingfishers, a nice surprise was the female coming to rest in the reed bed, she showed herself twice before we left the hide." A group of five Yellow-legged Gulls were logged as we walked back to the exit."

Water Rail rascon Europeo Rallus aquaticus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
All in all, a most enjoyable morning, especially the many close sightings of the Water Rail and, between us, a total of 45 species recorded.

Water Rail Rascon Europeo Rallus aquaticus

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Colared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow,  Waxbill, Red Avadavat, Serin, Greenfinch.

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

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