Friday 28 December 2018

Axarqua Bird Group Visit to Guadalhorce

Thursday 27 December

Well, time to walk off the turkey and see what might be about at the Guadalhorce in Malaga.  Seven of us turned up for the December meet of the Axarquia Bird Group with the promise of a cloudy but dry morning, a little wind but also the possibility of some sunshine come late morning. In the even it was a little windier and colder then expected on the exposed parts of the the reserve so we were all well wrapped up for the session.  But then, come late morning, the clouds broke, the breeze eased and we were all wondering just how to try and remove a few layers as it got warmer and warmer and probably reached 20C by the time we departed for our respective homes at about 2.30.  But it was a very enjoyable morning and lots of good bids to be seen by  the group which included John and Jenny Wainwright, Marcus and Liz Rootes, visiting Dutch birder Lisette Heikoop and her friend Henk along with myself.  Our final tally for the visit was just about 60 species.

Approaching the entrance slope up to the western branch of the river we were greeted by both House Sparrow and Chiffchaff along with the first of very many Spotless Starlings to be seen during our stay.  The stretch from the entrance to the footbridge was inundated with Back Redstarts, they seemed to be everywhere.  In addition, was also picked up Robin, Sardinian Warbler and Greenfinch whilst Cormorants, Herons, Monk Parakeets and Collared Doves passed overhead.

But the best was yet to come.  We eventually located the "LBJ" beneath the shrubs next to the viewpoint and were delighted to recognise our little Bluethroat.  No sooner seen than we had a raptor in the sky.  Having finally identified the bird as a Booted Eagle a second distant individual was also seen and, at the same time, an Osprey in close proximity.  Not to be outdone, a Common Kestrel drifted past on the other side of the river.

Dark morph Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Time to cross the bridge and enter the reserve proper, noticing the resident Rock Doves below the motorway bridge, and so onto the Laguna Casillas where we found a good-sized flock of Common Pochard along with a few Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and a Little Grebe.  The first Stonechat of the morning put in an appearance and Marcus was able to see the Song Thrush that dashed past the hide whereas some of us also recorded both Blackbird and many more Chiffchaffs as the first Cetti's Warbler let out a blast of song.  meanwhile, over towards the church we could see a handful of Crag Martins feeding high above.  And then the Kingfisher flashed across the water.  Not seen by all but we were to see at least seven more sightings during the morning so I am sure that all saw at least one individual.

Male Pochard Porron Europea Aythya ferina (above) and the flock on Casillas
Moving on the Wader Pool and passing more Chiffchaffs and Black Redstarts we then encountered our expected Black-winged Stilts. A White Wagtail was wandering along the shore and a Common Sandpiper came into view to our left.  But on the water itself we soon picked out the pair of Black-tailed Godwits and a single Common Redshank before the trio of Spanish birders already at the hide indicated where the Spotted Redshank was hidden behind some low vegetation.  The bird eventually came out into full view and, evidently, it has been present on this water for the past few days and, by all accounts, seen by very many Spanish birders, this not being a usual site for recording this lovely bird, albeit in winter plumage.  In addition to the few Mallard we also picked up a pair of Teal and at which point a rather lovely female Marsh Harrier drifted over.

Spotted Redshank ArchibebeOscuro Tringa erythropus and below with Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus and feeding Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
The walk to the Sea Viewpoint was also productive with 23 Sanderling feeding on the Rio Viejo (Old River).  Regular sightings of a few Yellow-legged Gulls and at least three Hoopoes seen.

Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops
A Crested Lark was recorded at the back of the scrub area and and a small charm of Goldfinches passed by. Marcus and Lisette following behind managed to get a good view of a Dunnock and John and others saw the few Linnets.  Once at the Sea View we had a sight of both a single Little Egret and a Black-headed Gull then searched the sea itself where, apart from the large number of Yellow-legged Gulls following the fishing boats, we managed to find a good number of Gannets plus a single resting Sandwich Tern and a single Great Skua.

Common Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

The return walk and on to the Laguna Escondida produced a couple of Serin and a Robin plus more Hoopoes, Crag Martin, Black Redstarts, Goldfinches and Chiffchaff but, probably best of all, the sight of three Booted Eagles immediately overhead and a male Kestrel in a nearby tree.  The laguna itself was very quiet with just the odd Moorhen, Coot and Little Grebe until a Marsh Harrier appeared at the back of the water looking for its midday meal.  That brought out both Mallard and Teal.  All this and a pair of Kingfishers busy dashing back and forth across the water.

Booted Eagle Aguililla calzada Hieraaetus pennatus

A Zitting Cisticola was picked up on the way to the Laguna Grande where we found a large number of Cormorants plus a single juvenile Flamingo and yet more Herons.  Lots of Spotless Starlings and the occasional Common Starling were seen whilst on the water we had a large flock of Shoveler plus maybe a dozen Shelduck, a few Mallard and even a single female Pintail.

Female Pintail Anade Rabudo Anas acuta
Towards the back of the water we counted a flock of fifteen Black-necked Grebes.  Scope searching eventually found the single Ringed Plover and three Dunlin at the far side and resting in the tree at the back a Buzzard. But right in front of us was a single Greenshank that remained in the same area for the whole of our stay. On a final note, you will see that there was still not a White-headed Duck to be seen on site.

Greenshank Archibebe Claro Tringa nebularia admiring its own reflection
So there you have it, a wonderful morning's birding in great company and a splendid way to walk off the turkey and end the year.  All that remains is for me to wish all readers a very happy and healthy New Year with the promise of lots of great birding to come.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Great Skua, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus

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Guadalhorce, Malaga Visit

27 December 2018

An additional report from John with many thanks.

Guadlahorce 27th December 2018

A fresh start, but warmed up later.

As we approached the reserve Jackdaws, Monk Parakeets, House Sparrows, Spotless Starlings and White Wagtails were noted. Looking over the reserve from the footpath we saw Cormorants and Grey Herons, while on the footpath several female Black Redstarts were seen. At the first viewing area, Jenny spotted a Bluethroat in the weeds, but this didn´t stay long. Moving along the track Chiffchaffs were in good numbers, then an Osprey and two Booted Eagles were seen in the orange dome area, as was a Common Kestrel. At the bridge the usual Rock Doves were logged as was a Grey Heron, a Common Coot and a Robin.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
At the Casilla hide the main bird was the Common Pochard, with a few Mallard and Little Grebe, while in the same area Blackbirds, Goldfinches, two Kingfishers, Robin, Cetti´s Warbler, Common Kestrel and Song Thrush were noted.

So along to the Viejo hide where just prior to this we spotted a male and female Teal, here we were informed there was a Spotted Redshank, this was just in front of the hide, then two Hoopooes flew over. Also here we logged Redshank, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, then a Common Sandpiper flew into one of the small muddy areas. A Moorhen appeared from the rear of one of the islands and a Cetti´s Warbler was heard. A Yellow-legged Gull and a female Marsh Harrier was then seen flying at the far end of the laguna. 

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
At the old Rio Viejo a small number of Black-winged Stilts were at the back of the water while in the front of the water a group of Sanderlings were feeding. Another Redshank was seen here while in the bushes and grassy areas we noted Chiffchaffs, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Crested Larks, Hoopoes, Sardinian Warblers, and above us another Common Kestrel was hovering.

At the sea viewing area eight juvenile Gannets were on the sea, while a very distant dark bird turned out to be a Giant Skua which was identified only when it took of as a helicopter came over putting up large numbers of Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls. A Sandwich Tern was seen sat on one of the small fishing buoys, a Ringed Plover flew across the front of the hide, and a Little Egret was seen on the estuary wall to our left.

On the return journey three Booted Eagles - one a dark-phased bird - came overhead and two Common Kestrels were hunting over the waste ground. 

Dark morph Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
A long trek round to the Escondida hide where seven Teal were put out of hiding by a passing female Marsh Harrier. More Little Grebes and a Moorhen here, while a Kingfisher flashed across the laguna into one of the channels. Chiffchaff, Stonechats and a Blackbird were noted here also.
Round then to the Laguna Grande where we picked up Shelduck, Pochard, female Pintails, Teal, Mallard, juvenile Flamingos, hundreds of Cormorants (in amongst these a Booted Eagle was spotted roosting) Shovelers, Greenshank, Redshank, two Black-tailed Godwits, a large group of twenty or so Black-necked Grebes, Black-winged Stilts, three Dunlin and a Ringed Plover, while amongst the Spotless Starlings several Common Starlings were seen and a Common Buzzard was noted in the "nest box" tree. 

Greenshank Tringa nebularia (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
John Wainwright

Wednesday 26 December 2018

Chritmas Day Adventures

26 December 2018

It would appear that whilst many/most of us were concentrating on the large bird resting on the dining table, others actually ventured forth to find some live fliers!!  Certainly seems that John and Jenny Wainwright enjoyed a visit to their local, and probably favourite, site on the Sierra Loja near their nearby home in Salar.  Ring Ouzels, Iberian Grey Shrikes, Little Owls, Black Redstarts; what more could you ask for on a merry Christmas Day?

Sierra Loja: 25th December

Warm in the sun but chilly in the shade.

As we left the village Collared Doves, Azure-winged and Common Magpies and House Sparrows, were logged.

The tree line was very quiet and so we moved on to the first cliff-face where we saw Stonechat, Linnet and an Iberian Grey Shrike.

As we climbed higher the area was so quiet and it wasn´t until we got close to the water trough that we spotted a pair of Little Owls nestled up to each other, but as I turned the engine off they split in different directions.  Also here we found Stonechats, male and female Black Redstarts and another two Iberian Grey Shrikes.

Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
The substation valley yielded some Goldfinches and two Thekla Larks, but as we passed though the
wind turbines a huge flock of some two hundred - possibly more - Red-billed Chough rose off the

Part of the hundred plus flock of Red-billed Choughs Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
The charca pond gave us more Goldfinches while the fossil cave area gave us nothing at all, and it
wasn´t until we reached the first of the hawthorn trees that things started happening.  Here we located about fifteen (+/-) Ring Ouzels and a few Blackbirds, Corn Buntings and in the grasses below a small flock of Meadow Pipits.

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Moving down to the next trees we had more Ring Ouzels as well as Mistle Thrushes and a single Blue Tit.  We retraced our steps and continued on to Salar to complete the circuit.  This way is rather hard on the vehicle but can yield some good birds.

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
As we reached the old, now abandoned quarry, a Blue Rock Thrush was spotted hunting along the
walls of the quarry, then a Black Wheatear showed up and in the trees to the right of the quarry a
Chaffinch was calling.

Passing by the smallholdings, House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings were in good numbers and a
movement on a tree trunk gave us a Short-toed Treecreeper.  A few Greenfinches and a Great Tit were logged while in the olive groves White Wagtails were feeding.  I scanned the old broken olive trees for any sign of the Little Owls, when one was spotted in a tree by the side of the track.  A little bit further down the track we logged Hoopoe and a Robin, more Mistle Thrushes and Black Redstarts.

A rather shy Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Not a bad Christmas Day outing.

It sounds like a very day in reasonable weather.  But I take it a Yuletide drink was awaiting the happy couple on reaching home!   Purely medicinal of course.

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Monday 24 December 2018

Donana with John and Jenny Wainwright

Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Monday 24 December

And now for the report of John and Jenny Wainwright's visit to the far west of Andalucia taking in both the Donana National Park and the the wonderful Odiel Marshes.

Donaña Trip Day One: 15 December

A very warm day for our trip down

Lots of Buzzards on the way as well as Ravens, Spotless Starlings and Woodpigeons.  As we drew nearer El Rocio, White Storks started to appear as did Black Kites and a few Common Kestrels.  In the fields Cattle Egrets and White Wagtails were logged and in the trees Azure-winged and Common Magpies were seen. 

After depositing our belongings in the Hotel Toruno, we took a walk along the marismas.  I lost count of how many Pintails there were it must have run into hundreds, along with Spoonbills, Greater Flamingos, Grey Herons and Black-winged Stilts.  A single Purple Swamphen flew into a reed bed to our front and scuttled away into the depths.  While atop we noted Cetti's Warbler, Stonechats and Chiffchaffs.  A party of 40 or so White Storks landed at the far end of the marismas while on an island of reeds three Marsh Harriers alighted.  On the small grassy islands, Shovelers, Mallard and Little Egrets along with a dozen or more Greylags grazed, then a small flock of Glossy Ibis landed.
At the visitors centre only Coot and Moorhen were seen along with a Serin.  Walking back to the hotel five Snipe were spotted in the end of a flattened reed bed and as we were about to enter the hotel a Black Stork flew over.
Time for a beer me tomorrow we head for the Valverde centre.

Donaña Trip Day Two: 16 December  -  Valverde Centre

A dull day, rain is expected this afternoon.

As we headed out on the Villamanrique road lots of Common Magpies and White Wagtails were noted and on the "bump road" we saw Buzzards, Ravens an Iberian Grey Shrike, Stonechats and Woodpigeon.  As we neared Villamanrique we saw Azure-winged Magpies, Chaffinches and Black Redstart.  After filling up with diesel we headed for the Valverde centre taking the old "plastic road".

Black Stork Ciconia nigra (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

A few Collared Doves and Spotless Starlings were seen before we reached the water catchments that line the road on the left.  Here we located White Stork, a single Black Stork, Great White Egrets, Cattle and Little Egrets.  In the fields to our right another four Black Storks were spotted.  In the bushes Greenfinches, Corn Buntings, House Sparrows, Blackbirds and Meadow Pipits were added to the list.  As we reached the end of the catchments more Great White Egrets were noted as well as Cormorants.  Several Marsh Harriers - male and female - were logged as well as a glorious male Hen Harrier, then a Red Kite came over. The count of Buzzards was steadily increasing as seemingly every fourth post held one.   As we stopped at a cut-in in the bank a group of six Purple Swamphens flew out as well as two Mallard and two Great White Egrets and a Little Grebe was spotted here as well.  In a large flooded field we spotted Ruff, Little Stints Lapwings and Golden Plovers, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, White and Yellow Wagtails, Common Cranes, Snipe, Redshank, Glossy Ibis, Yellow-legged, Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Moving along we spotted Spoonbills and then Jenny asked for me to stop, she had spotted a Great Bittern in the reed bed just prior to the Lesser Kestrel breeding site.  We called in at the centre and logged the sighting as requested.  Nothing much here except Coots and Greylags.  So after having a bite to eat here we turned left out of the gate.  Lots of Lesser Kestrels about while in a field we noted two more Marsh Harriers and a pair of Ravens along with a few Crested Larks and a Hoopoe.   On the barbed wire fences we logged Spanish Sparrows, Corn Buntings, Zitting Cisticola, Stonechats and Linnets.  And in the stream below a Green Sandpiper flew off.

We left the verde reserve to have a look at the "Abajo" lake here we found hundreds of Common Pochard, Mallard, Shoveler but by now the rain was hammering it down, so we turned back and on the left we saw three Purple Swamphens in a rice paddy along with several thousand Glossy Ibis, Grey Herons, White Storks, Great White Egrets, Little Egrets, Barn Swallows and House Martins.

Great White Egret Egretta alba (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
We then took a detour down the "green lane track" where we located a Black-winged Kite having its lunch on a pylon, and as we headed home another of the former was noted on a power line.
It's getting very dark now so its back to the hotel.

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Donaña Trip Day 3: 17 December

A very bright but chilly wind after the fog lifted.

As we left El Rocio for the Odiel Marshes we logged Buzzard, Azure-winged and Common Magpies, Hoopoe, Iberian Grey Shrike and Ravens.  

At the first hide the water was shrouded in mist although we did pick out Mallard.  So we moved along to the Visitors Centre, where the tide was in but still enough mud and reeds to glimpse Grey Plover, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Little Stints, Whimbrel and Black-headed Gull.   A nice surprise was the Red-breasted Merganser our first for Spain, but it was a short stay for this bird.  Jenny spotted a Kingfisher but I was a bit slow here, but I did get another one later on.  We then walked down to the pier, where we saw Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Redshank, a Common Sandpiper and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits.   A further walk along the boardwalk through the trees gave us Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Sardinian Warblers, Azure-winged and Common Magpies.

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
We then drove down to the point en route seeing Osprey on the river bank, Great White Egrets, Cattle and Little Egrets, Whimbrel, Grey Plovers, Sanderlings, Redshanks, Greenshanks and Audouin´s Gulls.  Walking out to the beach we found Black Redstart, Meadow Pipits, Crested Larks, Zitting Cisticolas, House and Spanish Sparrows. Coming back to the centre we logged Ravens, Woodpigeons, Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings, Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Grey Herons.  The Osprey was at the nest area and in the same field Common Kestrels were hunting.

Back at the hide we picked up Gadwall, Little Egret and Black-winged Stilts.  Getting late so back to hotel.

Donaña Trip Day 4: 18 December

Another bright but chilly day.

We left the hotel and headed for Dehesa de Abajo, lots of Azure-winged and Common Magpies, White Storks, Collared Doves, Ravens and Stonechats en route.  As we passed the rice paddies, Black and White Storks were noted along with Grey Herons, Great White Egrets and Green Sandpipers.
At the Abajo lake, the whole lake was covered in ducks , mainly Shovelers, Mallard and Common Pochard, a few Red-crested Pochard were seen as well as Common Coots, Moorhens, Squacco Heron and Purple Swamphens.  The bushes and trees here held House and Spanish Sparrows, Cetti´s and Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Zitting Cisticolas and a couple of Robins.  While the power lines had Spotless and Common Starlings on them.

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Further along the road we stopped at the Night Heron roost where we had the latter, a Little Grebe and a pair of Ferruginous Ducks.  At the next pond we found another pair of Ferruginous Ducks, Little Egret, White Storks and Jackdaws. 

Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca below the Night Herons Nycticorax nycticorax (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
We then headed for the ferry at Coral del Rio taking the cross country route down to Osuna, on the way Buzzards, Common Kestrels, Black Kites and Cormorants.

At Osuna the fields had been flooded and even the train was on a go slow as the flood had washed over the line.  Here we picked up more Ravens, Red and Black Kites and taking one of the bridges over the railway line we spotted seventeen Great Bustards (only fifteen in photo couldn´t quite sqeeze the others in!!), two Common Cranes and a Marsh Harrier, while in the fields we saw White Wagtails, Crested and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Linnets, Stonechats and Hoopoes.  As we left the area and joined the A92 homeward an Iberian Grey Shrike and a few Goldfinches were noted. 

Great Bustards Otis tarda (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Another altogether successful trip.
Greenshank Tringa nebularia with Redshanks Tringa totanus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

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Monday 24 December

Just back this morning from a few days in Venice and a week's Adriatic cruise taking in all the historical sites.  Fabulous even if very few birds.  But lots of Black-necked Grebes on the lagoons south of Venice.Meanwhile, good to see that fiorends Dave Elliottt-Binns and his Arboleas Birding Group have been out and about and John and Jenny Wainwright seem also to have an enjoyable visit to the Donana and Odiel - even if they managed to find more rain than us!  Enjoy their respective reports and to all readers a most peaceful Christmas and look forward to a happy and healthy New Year.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 19th December

No pun intended, but killing two birds with one stone, I decided I could do some birdwatching and pass on Christmas cards to certain members if we went to the Sierra de Maria this week.  I was successful with the latter mission, but the former not so much! I picked up Paul and returning member, Carolyn and we made our way to Maria and were pleased to note the route from the motorway to Velez Rubio was now open.  We didn't see any birds from the car after we passed Velez Blanco, but we were greeted by a Great Tit as we egressed the truck outside the Repsol Garage cafe. Adrian arrived, followed by Richard, Alec, Peter in one car and Alan, John and Val in the next. Richard had seen House Sparrow and Black Redstart and the others, I believe had seen a Magpie as well.  After a refreshing coffee, I decided we'd "do" the plains first as the sun had not yet risen high enough to reach the shaded Botanical Garden area.  We convoyed to the disused farm buildings where we saw about 5 Carrion Crows.  A Raven flew over.  Paul spotted a Jay. On the fields below us we picked out Spotless and Northern Starlings, numerous Chaffinch and a few Goldfinches.  Alan thrilled us by finding a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a distant tree.  I spotted a pair of flying Mistle Thrushes and some Wood Pigeon.
Moving on to the farm water trough area, we we greeted by a tree full of Corn Buntings and Linnets. I'd spotted a Stonechat en route.  Brian and Mary turned up with news . They'd seen a couple of Griffon Vultures, but also that the La Piza forest cafe was closed!  OMG! 
As we left there I spotted an Iberian Shrike perched on a bush.  There was nothing on the plains until I found my faithful Little Owl sitting on the rocky wall nearing the hamlet.  There we added Crested Lark, Rock and House Sparrow.  A flight of White Wagtails flew over as did the odd Griffon Vulture. I spotted a distant Kestrel perched upon a stack of irrigation tubes.
We drove to the closed La Piza.  There were lots of Crossbills perched high in the trees, but nowt else as the nut feeders were all empty.  La Piza will re-open after Kings Day, I presume.
We then went to the Botanical Gardens.  I spotted a Blue Tit on the way up.   Apart from more Chaffinch, we saw some Serin.  A pair of distant perched birds turned out to be Mistle Thrush. Richard and Alec drove up to the gardens as did John.  By the time the rest of us had walked up there they had only seen Crossbill and Chaffinch.
Corn Buntings Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We decided to cut our loses and head for the campsite cafe. As we drove down towards the main road we could see a plume of 20 odd Griffon Vultures circling one of the hillocks. Richard, Alec, Peter and Brian and Mary headed home.
We had a good tapas snack in front of a roaring log fire.  On the way home, Paul spotted Red-legged Partridge and a Black Wheatear which made our total 30 species for the day.  Disappointing on the birding front, but good company and it wasn't too cold really!
This being our last official trip of 2018. I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Regards, Dave

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Thursday 13 December 2018

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas BG

Wednesday 12 December

Just received the following report from my friend Dave Elliott-Binns and after almost two months back in the UK it looks as if we are all returning to our Spanish homes in time for Christmas birding!  Wednesday saw Dave back in routine as he made his first Arboleas Birding Group visit for a long time and must have been well pleased to see what was on offer at beautiful Cabo de Gata.  Trumpeter Finch, Crane, Spectacled Warbler and Stone Curlew to really whet the appetite.  Me thinks I may visit the area and relatively nearby Roquetas de Mar before the end of the year rather than the long drive down to Tarifa.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 12th December 2018

Well it's so good to be back to blue skies and some warming sun after 7 weeks in Blighty!  Only three of us today which meant we were all able to squeeze into my trusty 4x4 giving us more options.  I picked up Peter in Arboleas and then Alan in Los Gallardos before heading south to Cabo de Gata.  A pair of Jackdaws greeted us as we got into the bird count zone coming off the motorway.  We added Spotless Starling, Collared Dove and a Hoopoe, the latter distracting me as I whizzed past the speed camera....double drat!  After a coffee in the Pujaire cafe we had a leisurely drive along the beachside road.  Checking the low wooden railings for finches we first saw House Sparrows, but then spotted some Trumpeter Finches.  Also seen were Greenfinch, Thekla Lark and a Kestrel.  Alan also saw Gannets out to sea and a Eurasian Curlew over the savannah.
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then commenced our drive round the rear of the reserve.  We immediately saw the first of many Stonechats, a Black Redstart and a pair of Meadow Pipits.  I briefly saw a Dartford Warbler.  Moving on to the first salina, we added Little Stint, Dunlin and Kentish Plover.  We detoured up to the ruined buildings where you have great views over the salinas towards the church.  I spotted a distant Raven atop an agave stalk.  A Iberian Shrike was perched on a bush as was a Sardinian Warbler.  Surveying the salinas below, Alan reeled off Audouin's Gull, Avocet, Black Winged Stilt, Greater Flamingo and Redshank.  As we were about to leave I just spotted the head of a female Blue Rock Thrush on top of the building.  A search found it perched on a shrub nearby.  A Crag Martin flew over.
Returning to the track we clocked Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Greenshank and a Ruff as well as Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, but the star was a Spectacled Warbler.  There were small numbers of Chiffchaff plus a flight of Shelduck.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax with Dunlin Calidris alpina below (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then went to the first hide, but it was quite disappointing due to the sun partially blinding us until Alan spotted a distant flight of Spoonbill.  He also found a Black-tailed Godwit. 

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We carried on to the second hide, again seeing Trumpeter Finch and Greenfinch en route.  An adult Gannet was fishing close to the beach.  From the hide I spotted a very elusive Stone Curlew which Alan and Peter eventually saw.  Alan the trumped my sighting by finding 6 Common Crane the other side of the central causeway.  Only head and necks on view!  We also saw Cormorant, Mallard, Little Egret, Iberian Shrike, Kestrel and, yes, many more Stonechats!

Spot the 4 Common Crane Grus grus in with the 7 Flamingo Phenicopterus roseus (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
At the public hide we were surprised NOT to see Black Necked Grebes, but Alan did find a pair of Common Tern amongst the Sandwich Terns and gulls on the causeway. We also found the Spoonbills. There were 16 in total.
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then made our way along the beachside track towards Rambla Morales.  We astonished to find a mixed flock of waders feeding on the scrubland.  Ringed and Kentish Plovers together with Sanderling.  Also feeding in the same area was a small flock of Lesser Short-toed Lark and Trumpeter Finches, the first time I'd seen them in this area.  Once we reached the Rambla we checked out to sea and only saw gulls.  At the estuary, I spotted a White-headed Duck, a Shoveler and some Coot.  The lake produced a pair of Black-necked Grebe and more Shoveler.  A flight of Stone Curlew flew over.  We heard a Cetti's Warbler.  Peter completed the days list with a Kingfisher flypast!
Flight of Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus (not bad photo with a bridging camera!)
(PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
A brilliant days birding in good weather and company. 55 species in all.
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Jesus, Ann and Tony a speedy recovery from their various illnesses/injuries.
One hungry Dunlin Calidris alpina (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Monday 10 December

Not brilliantly early but still down at the local Rio Velez just west of Torre del Mar by 8.50 on a clear sunny day with the low, rising sun making it difficult to see as I walked towards the beach and, especially, if I tried looking at the fields to my left.  A single White Wagtail as I parked my car at the top of the track just after the underpass to the N340 then a quick look in the river, which at least now contained a water supply, where I immediately recoded a handful of Moorhen and up to dozen or more Mallard.  A few metres on and I noticed a single Greylag Goose accompanied by a very white goose (one trying to escape the Christmas invitation!) then the first of a couple of Blackbirds seen during the next hour or so.

White Wagtail Lavandera Blanca Motacilla alba

Then it was off down to the hide which, once again, had been polluted on the seat by some ignorant so-and-so, where I eventually found a couple of House Sparrows.  Just one Starking on top of the adjacent pylon but  took the trouble to raise my bins and was delighted to discover that it was in fact a visiting Common Starling.  The river from the bridge to here had bee very full and much of the debris brought down from the farmland higher up was now piled up at the edges but the, now, exposed mud brought no sightings other than more Mallards.

The walk to the beach and back was very quiet with the river having broken though and taken a parallel channel to the east so making access to the mouth impossible.  On the beach just the single Black-headed Gull so back to the hide recording a Great Tit and the first of a few Chiffchaffs on the way.  A single Hoopoe was on the path behind the pumping station and at that moment a score of Monk Parakeets screamed over from the east and disappeared over to the other side of the river.

Walking back to the car more House Sparrows feeding on the freshly ploughed fields along with both White Wagtails and a couple of Black Restarts and a female Stonechat.  To my left I picked up a pair of Coot with the Mallard and then, at the car, a score or more of Goldfinches accompanied a few Serins feeding on the grass seeds.  Not just the handful of Collared Doves but also the resident Rock Doves were noted.

Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros
At this point I drove under both road bridges but nothing extra seen until I reached the growing fields beyond the chimney factory.  First Crested Larks then another Hoopoe before a number of White Wagtails on what was left of the previous muck heap.  A dozen Spotless Starling flew overhead as I made my way to the track alongside the river.  Now I really did find some birds.  A few Goldfinches and Serin but mainly Chiffchaff feeding on the rotting fruit and vegetables left on the track.

Chiffchaff Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita
Closer inspection also revealed a trio of Linnets plus more White Wagtails and Crested Lark.

Trio of Linnets Pardillo Comun Carduelis cannabina with male above
Meanwhile, down at the river itself, eleven Sanderling were feeding and a single Green Sandpiper took its leave.

Sanderling Corrlimos Tridactilo Calidris alba
leaving the area I drove back to the main road and then made a clockwise circuit of the growing fields west of the Rio Velez.  More Crested Larks then a pair of Robin on the fence before spotting the resting Kestrel on top of a distant pylon.  A couple of Cattle Egret were following the small tractor ploughing a field and then, judging where best to cross the flooded are near the beach, I noticed yet another Sanderling along with a trio of Little Ringed Plover foraging along the water's edge to take the morning's sightings up to 28 species.

Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius
Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Mallard, Cattle Egret, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Little Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

Monday 10 December 2018

Sierra Loja with John and Jenny

Sunday 9 December

Now back in Spain and all around me friends are visiting some of the great local birding sites.  Today it was John and Jenny Wainwright up on the Sierra Loja and, as expected, they found the visiting Ring Ouzels.  I especially liked the the fact that they both also saw Alpine Accentors; lucky them.  But will I have a successful outcome if I manage to visit the local Rio Velez at Torre del Mar in the morning?

Sierra Loja: Sunday 9 December

A bright but chilly day up above.

As we left the village we had seen Collared doves, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows, and as we entered the track near the Guardia Civil barracks, Great Tits and Chaffinches were noted.
A few Azure-winged Magpies crossed the track  near the autovia bridge as did a Blackbird.
The tree line line was very quiet and it wasn´t until we reached the first cliff area that we came across a small flock of Alpine Accentors and a male Black Redstart. While above us several Jackdaws and a few Red-billed Chough were logged. 

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)

Up to the flat area where we saw Goldfinches, a lone Thekla Lark and an Iberian Grey Shrike, but from there until the substation valley it was very quiet. Here we saw a Little Owl and some Stonechats, also a group of six Ibex.

Distant Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)

Moving on up to the Charca only half a dozen Goldfinches were drinking here. So round to the fossil cave where I heard Rock Sparrow and in the vicinity a covey of Red-legged Partridges were noted. So down to the Rouzel trees, where we did pick up a good number of Ring Ouzels as well as Blackbirds, Corn Buntings, Mistle Thrushes, more Stonechats and another  Iberian Grey Shrike.
On the return journey we logged another two Little Owls, White Wagtails, a Rock Bunting, Sardinian Warbler, two Dartford Warblers, Common Magpies and a Black Wheatear.  And to finish it off four dark-phase Red Squirrels.

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)
Spanish Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)
A small herd of Ibix Capra pyrenaica hispanica (PHOTO: John & Jenny Wainwright)

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