Thursday 6 February 2020

Gone West - Day Four

Short-eared Owl Buho Campestre Asio flammeus
Wednesday 5 February

last day down west and a morning visit to the Bazo del Este before heading off home with a short call in at Furnte de Pedra immediately after entering Malaga province.  Still clear, bright and sunny, albeit a little cooler than the pat three days, as I left La Algaida not long after 8.  Arriving at Pinzon to start my tour of the the now barren rice fields I was immediately greeted by a number of White Storks and Herons and even a Marsh Harrier was quartering the fields to my right.  Within minutes a resting Buzzard atop a pylon then a couple of Kestrels to be followed by a number of both Crested Larks and Stonechats as I covered the gravel road to the main entrance.along with regular sightings of Collared Doves and Feral Pigeons on the wires.  Stopping to adjust seat belt,prepare camera, etc I had a White Wagtail and a couple of Chiffchaff to my right and more Herons and Cormorants in the muddy field to my left.  With less than a handful of cars seen all morning I seemed to have had this fantastic site almost to myself.

Mainly Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa - before I found the main flock!
Just as I set off at a very slow pace with window right down the fist flock of Glossy Ibis appeared in the sky to my left and a Green Sandpiper flew up out of the ditch.  Rather than travel to the far end of the track I took the first turn on the left noting the large number of Purple Swamphens, Little Egrets and a score or more Black-tailed Godwits on the watery scrape to my left, a Great White Egret to my right and on the grassy field either side of the new track a good number of both White wagtails and Meadow Pipits. A Corn Bunting was sat on the fence near the trees and then a small charm of Goldfinches.  A Marsh Harrier took off and came to land on a nearby brick ruin.

Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta, Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus and Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa
A continuous supply of Crested Larks and other flight LBJs as  made my way along the track until I came to a large , muddy field being turned over; amazing sight of the tractor with its huge, open metal rear fields so able to cope with the conditions.  I think this machine must do more than plough as the the large rear wheels seemed to be moving at a pace whereas the front wheels rotated at a slower speed and more in keeping with the actual speed of the tractor.  However, all this activity had attracted hundreds of feeding birds.  Especially noted were the hundreds of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls along with a similar number of Glossy Ibis.  And everywhere you looked you could pick out Herons, Little Egrets and even a few Cattle Egrets.

One of over 100 Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus

More and more Glossy Ibis and Lapwing as I left this field behind but all moved away from close proximity as I approached and then, on the  left, drier fields with remaining stubble which contained White Storks and a mass of white in the back.  Bins confirmed the presence of a flock of about 100 Spoonbill.

A few of the Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia flock
Time to move on an immediately in front a Black Stork flew away to my left.  What a lovely sight and I was to find another four in the following hour.  With a few Spanish Sparrows in the shrubs near the ditch on my left I stopped to identity the hidden shape on top of the pylon and discovered a resting Sparrowhawk, not that it remained resting as I lifted my camera!  Having seen many Marsh Harriers since arriving I was not surprised to see a large brown bird rise from the weeded edge on the left of the track. What did surprise me was that the bird rose no further than two metres into the air then promptly resettled within five metres.  Time to check out this raptor and a I found the bird concealed behind some twigs a pair of large yellow eyes stared back at me.  Short-eared Owl!  As the owl moved off it disturbed a second individual and all that was left was for me to try and get at least one half-decent photo of these two winter visitors.

And then there two Short-eared Owls Buho Campestre Asio flammeus

Off he/she goes again!

Turn round and back to the main track taking another look at all the activity in the ploughed field and finding Short-toed Lark on the track as well as Crested Larks, Meadow Pipits and White Wagtails on the grassy areas with Barn Swallows above.  There were now two Great White Egrets on the small pool at the junction as well as a few Black-winged Stilts, Mallard and Little Egret as I made my way to the first large area of water.

Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba

How can I possibly describe what lay before me.  I(t was lie a small child let loose in a a sweet shop as I all saw were hundreds and thousands!  Yes, thousand of Black-tailed Godwits and hundreds, many hundreds, of Black-winged Stilts.  Still in the hundreds properly estimated the numbers of  Purple Swamphen and then I found scores of Avocet and another fifty or so Spoonbill.  Searching through the nearer flocks I found a few Ruff and on the more open water a number of Mallard and a dozen Shoveler.  Meanwhile, the Crested Larks were active on the main track and Chiffchaffs worked the shrubs, trees and bushes near the shore.  A larger bird landing in the base of a nearby tree turned out to be a Bluethroat.  Just when I thought I had seen everything, a low-flying Squacco Heron was suddenly in front of me and disappeared into the thick verge.

Always with the waders there were small groups of Purple Swamphens Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio

What a morning.  The remaining pools in the area were a reflection of this first pool and Purple Swamphens seemed to be everywhere.  Lots more Marsh Harriers and Kestrels were seen and, eventually, I even picked up Cetti's Warblers and another Green Sandpiper.  As I left the field and returned to the main road more Collared Doves and still Herons and White Storks, plus another Buzzard resting atop a pylon, as I made my way to nearby Los Palios de Villafranca.  Having found the site of the breeding Laughing Doves I was to be disappointed as today was the day it was decided it would be a great idea to grade the dandy track.  With a tractor up and down no chance of finding the target bird.

Two of very many White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia

Just over an hour later I was at Fuente de Piedra.  Rather than sun and clear blue skies I now had considerable cloud and a very strong wind.  A stop at thee wet approach field provided a number of Shoveler, Teal and the first Coot of the day.  A handful of Black-winged Stilt and a few Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls along with White Wagtails and a Lapwing accounted for the birds here.  The main laguna was very dull and in poor light so I needed the scope just to find the flocks of Flamingo and no chance of identifying  the recently arrived trio of Lesser Flamingo.  The laguneta was different in that not a single Flamingo was present.  Mainly Shoveler but also Common Pochard, Mallard, Gadwall  and White-headed Duck.  Also on the water Coot and my first Moorhens of the day plus a couple of Little Grebe.  Across the water I could see both Feral Pigeons and Spotless Starlings and, although hunkered well down, I could see that the White Stork had returned to its nest on top of the tall chimney.  Leaving the hide to return to the car for the rest of the journey home I also added a few Goldfinch and the first of a dozen or so Jackdaw whilst on the main laguna away to my right a number of Shelduck and Avocet.  Indeed, the last bird sen as I departed the sight was a Black Redstart.

Distant Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus

Looking back, not just the very many great birds that I saw at the Brazo del Este but, unlike Fuente de Piedra, not a single Coot or Moorhen.  How weird was that?

More photos:
Purple Swamphens Calamon Comun Porphyrio porphyrio

Why did the Spoonbills Espatula Comun Platalea leucoodia cross the road?  To get away from the knife's edge!

One of many murmerations of Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus

Birds seen: 
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis, Black Stork, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Lapwing, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Short-eared Owl, Short-toed lark, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, House sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

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