Tuesday 4 February 2020

Gone West - Day Three

Tuesday 4 February

Off as soon as it was light this morning in the hope that the Little Swifts might still be about the colony in the fish harbour at Chjipiona.  A look down his bill from the resting Yellow-legged Gull as I arrived but no sign of the Little Swifts.  Just as I was about to get back into the car a sudden movement behind me from the metal canopy and there it was quickly followed by a second Little Swift.  No doubt off into the interior do some feeding and, presumably, rising as the temperature increase and the insect life rises with it.  But I had my sighting and a few House Sparrows as I then set out for the day's birding based on the active salinas at Bonanza just beyond the town of Sanluca de Barrameda.

First call was to the two small ponds just inland from the river but, unfortunately, the visiting Allen's Gallinule had moved on yesterday afternoon.  However, a good choice of birds including Moorhen, Purple Swamphen and Coot along with Mallard and many White-headed Ducks.  A handful of Little Grebes were actively feeding whilst above the water were feeding Barn Swallows and a couple of House Martins.  Nearer the edges plenty of activity with Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff and Common Waxbill, although the resting Wood Pigeon paid no attention at all.

Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild
A drive round to the back of the water and on a little found another, larger pond and this was birding with life and the two large trees and surrounding bushes held at least 100 resting Night Herons.  Also present along with the Coot and Moorhen was a single Red-knobbed Coot whilst there were plenty of White-headed Ducks and even more Common Pochard plus with a few Red-crested Pochard.  Whilst watching female Blackcap in the tree in front of me I noticed the dark mass above and looked up to count a minimum of 100 Glossy Ibis passing over.  Great way to start the day.

A few of the passing Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
And so to the salinas themselves and the hope that  might find the visiting Lesser Flamingo. As soon as  started down the long sandy track I had regular sightings of the many Crested Larks present on site. Apart from the Crested Larks it would seem, at first, that the dominant wader was the Redshank and well-done before I added a couple of Dunlin and the first Little Stint and both Great and Kentish Plover.  Away to my left small flocks of Flamingo and a good number of foraging Black-winged Stilts.

Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus

Then a very special moment.  Having found a distant Osprey feeding itself on a distant bank I happened to look up and there was the Osprey coming straight towards me complete with the remainder of his fish meal.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus with morning snack

Herons, Sanderling and Cormorants were added to the mix before I came across a small group of Slender-billed Gulls with both Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls further bank on the sand bars.  Lovely to also note the good-sized flock of Avocet.

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei
Eventually I reached the end of the track and turned right to park up at the far end overlooking very large numbers of Flamingos.  I thought I had found the Lesser Flamingo but it proved not to be.  However, concentrated scoping and helped by a visiting Spanish birder who had just found the individual, we managed to get the bird in the scope.  Very distant for photographing but all the critical identifiers such a size, general colour and "black" beak showing well.  I even managed to find a feeding Curlew during the process and further away we treated to an aerial display by as many as a thousand Dunlin.  Before departing we even had a Sardinian Warbler on the other side of the nearby channel.

Record shot of very distant Lesser Flamingo Phoenicopterus minor

Straight back along the track and to the edge of the mighty Guadalquivir passing a number of Stonechat on the way along with both Short-toed and Lesser Short-toed Larks and watching a single Spoonbill fly past.  At least two Kestrels were observed and more Cormorants noted roosting in a dead tree.
Redshank Tringa totenus
After all this excitement I made my back out of the salinas recording a Blackbird on the way and on to nearby La Algaida on the opposite side of the water where I had encountered all the mass Flamingo, to check out the large lake at the end of the village. Lots of Night Herons and Black-winged Stilts present accompanied by Moorhen, Coot and Herons.  Ducks were mainly White-headed and Common Pochard along with a few Mallard.  Both Little and Black-necked Grebes were actively feeding in the deeper water and, as often noted today, lots of Chiffchaffs around the edges.
Night Herons Nycticorax nycticorax
Following a break for a Menu del Dia in the village, I then headed through the wood to explore the area near both the Guadalquivir and roadside canal in the direction of Trebujena.  Collared Dove and Chaffinch as I passed the early trees and then on the road leading towards the river a very large flock of Serin and in the far field a flock of forty Cranes.  A Red Kite drifted by overhead but very little, apart from Stonechats and Crested Larks, seen as I took the track towards the river.  A small group of Flamingo on a pond, and far more on the lakes where I turned round, and the resting cattle had a small number if Cattle Egrets to keep them company.  Making my way back to the road I had a Marsh Harrier to my right and approaching the road itself a White Stork flew over.

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Very little to report from the canal as there seemed to be a lot of water and no exposed mud for waders.  I did see more Herons and even a flock of about twenty Spoonbill before I decided it was time to head back towards La Algaida.  As I drove along first Goldfinch, the a pair of Kestrels on a pylon followed by a Buzzard on same.  A large number of Linnets before entering the woods for the bumpy drive back to the village.

Too early to check in so returned to the ponds visited this morning and confirmed no Allen's Gallinule present but a trio of Snipe and a Green Sandpiper had turned up.  And as well as the Barn Swallows, high above them a few Crag Martins yet to return to their mountain homes were noted. The large pool at the back still had a large number of roosting Night Herons.  Interestingly, looking back this was the first day since I returned from the UK on 2 January that I did not see a single White Wagtail!

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Night Heron, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Osprey, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Snipe, Curlew, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Swift, Short-toed Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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