Thursday, 19 March 2020

Rare Birds of Andalucia


Like me, I know that many readers are not great fans of Facebook and other forms of “social media.”  Indeed, you will probably be aware that I manage the Facebook account of the Axarquia Birds and Wildlife site but will have noticed that his site does not permit advertising nor social chit-chat; it is purely a site where members and followers can freely publish their birding and/or wildlife photos and other readers are able to comment and offer suggestions, advice, etc.  However, more and more birders now seem to use Facebook as their default system for publishing their marvellous
Wallcreeper Treparriscos Azul Sitta europaea
photographs and it strikes me that many of you may be missing out through no fault of your own.

I have, therefore, contacted my friend Ricky Owen, who lives in the far south of our region, and sought his permission to publish on our site some of his remarkable and first class photographs taken these past six months or so.  When reading and studying the same below I think you will be truly impressed by what has been seen in Andalucia and also the professional quality of the photographs.  They are kindly published free by Ricky so very many thanks indeed to him for sharing his experiences.  And to think how many of these birds I have not seen!  I realise that for some these birds may not seem quite so rare whilst others could certainly be classified as very rare indeed.  Similarly, taken in an Andalucian context, many everyday species back in the UK or northern Europe taken as “common” can appear quite special out here, think only of Bullfinch, Dunnock, Yellowhammer, Rook, etc.

So, this morning, I am in receipt of a tremendous selection of Ricky’s photographs.  Thinking back to those I have already seen, I was expecting, perhaps, around a dozen so you can imagine my absolute amazement, surprise and delight when the final species count came to twenty-five, yes 25 rare or very uncommon species, even for this part of Europe, including two raptors and no less than three buntings.  Every one deserves your full enjoyment and appreciation, so thanks again Ricky.  Indeed, with more than one record of some species it may be that I have to do a follow-up blog to really do justice to Ricky’s magnificent photos.

Readers will not be surprised, even though I have not referred to specific sites for the individual species, that La Janda, Tarifa and the Brazo del Este feature most prominently, so well worth a visit when we finally get released from our home “prison” lock-downs and this horrible virus is finally eradicated.  Species are shown following the listing according to SEO (Sociedad Española de Ornitologia) with any additional information take from Collins Bird Guide, Second Edition.


Great Northern Diver Colimbo Grande Gavial immer
Breeds on tundra and main range in North America

Wilson’s Storm Petrel Paino de Wilson Oceanites oceanicus
Southern-hemisphere breeder visiting North Atlantic June – October

Red-footed Booby Piquero patirrojo Rojas Sula sula
Smallest of all booby species and found in Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.  Very many birders visited Caleta harbour near Velez Malaga, main town of the Axarquia district east of Malaga city, for this immature long-staying visitor in late spring 2019.
Great Bittern Avetoro Comun Botaurus stellaris
Whilst numbers and breeding/wintering sites are rapidly increasing back in the UK this is, nevertheless, a very rare visitor to Andalucia.
 

Lesser Spotted Eagle Aguila Pomerana Aquila pomarina
Breeds in the far east of Europe and numerous migrants pass through Turkey and Middle East to winter in Africa.  Often individuals found in Cadiz province.
Ruppell’s Vulture Buitre Moteado Gyps rueppellii
Breeds in sub-Saharan Africa but a few, often as many as seven, seem to drift over from Morocco to the coastal hills near Tarifa each year. Smaller than Griffon Vulture which becomes more obvious when seen together.
Spotted Crake Polluela Pintoja Porzana porzana
The most likely to be seen of our six crakes.  Nevertheless, always a pleasure when the opportunity arises which, for many, occurs on an annual basis.
Little Crake Polluela Bastarda Porzana parva.
Crake of eastern Europe but regular scarce visitor and fractionally larger than Baillon’s crake.
Allen’s Gallinule Calamoncillo Africano Porphtrio alleni
Breeds in sub-Saharan Africa and rather like the proverbial number 9 bus; you don’t see one for years and then a single specimen turns up in successive year! 
Dotterel Chorlito Carambolo Charadrius morinellus
Not really a rarity but seen on passage on an annual basis by those who know of their favoured resting places during migration, mainly around February each year.
Purple Sandpiper Correlimos Oscura Calidris martima
Again, not so much a rarity as a very scarce winter visitor.  As with the previous records from Fuengirola, individuals may well return to the same wintering quarter for many successive years and then disappear completely waiting for a new site to be found by experience birders.
Red-necked Phalarope Falaropo Picofino Phalaropus lobatus
The sort of wader to bring birders flocking to a found site back in the UK never mind Andalucia.
Bonaparte’s Gull Gaviota de Bonaparte  Larus Philadelphia
Rare vagrant from North America and an individual found at the Guadalhorce and seen by many in April 2019.

Common Gull Gaviota Cana Larus canus
It may be “common” back in the UK but seen by very few in Andalucia.
Laughing Dove Tortola Senegalesa Streptopelia senegalensis
This dove may be common on the other side of the Mediterranean but it would now appear that a very small number have made their way across the water to Andalucia and have started a breeding colony in Seville province.  But how quickly will they increase and spread out so trying to replicate the spread of our most numerous Collared Doves?
Olive-backed Pipit Bisbita de Hodgson Anthus hodgsoni
A Siberian and far NE European breeder and extremely rare visitor to Andalucia.
Rock Pipit Bisbita Costero Anthus petrosus
A pipit of northern Europe that migrates to western European coasts in winter but very rarely seen by most of us.
 Common Bulbul Bulbul Naranjero Pycnonotus barbatus
Whilst a common bird of sub-Saharan Africa and Morocco a few have obviously in the past moved across the relatively narrow western end of the Mediterranean as there is now a very small breeding population in Tarifa.

Lesser Whitethroat Curruca Zarcera Sylvia curruca
Common enough summer visitor to the UK but migration normally takes place at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, well away from Spain.  Who knows what this individual was doing in Andalucia and well-spotted by dedicated birders.
Wallcreeper Treparriscos Azul Sitta europaea
Perhaps the iconic bird of Spain, the “Holy Grail” for Spanish birders.  But it means a trip to the far north with a visit to one of the better-known sites in places such as the Picos de Europe.  But if Mohamed cannot go to the mountains then the mountains must come to Mohammed.  I have heard regular rumours about how Spanish birders in-the-know have regularly seen a single Wallcreeper wintering on the cliffs in the area around Ventas de Zafarraya but never so much as a glimpse for myself.  And then an individual turns up in the gorge almost immediately after entering the Caminito del Rey.  Great news as entrance is restricted and telescopes not permitted so the bird has a chance to rest and recover – also helped by the Coronavirus situation which resulted in the site being closed to the public, even if it did mean that I was unable, unlike many of my friends, to visit and see this iconic bird for myself.

Isabelline Shrike Alcaudon Isabel Lanius isabellinus
A shrike from the east that I managed to see in Georgia during September 2019 so a special treat for some to find a quite happy and obliging bird in the Doñana National Park.
Rosy Starling Estornino Rosado Sturnus roseus
An interesting species also known as Rose-coloured Starling Sturnus roseus albeit the two have now been split.  However,  recent information suggests that Rosy Starling has been given the scientific name of Pastor roseus albeit the SEO list refers to the bird as “Rosy” with the scientific name as that of Rose-coloured.  I have, therefore, left the names as per the SEO list which seems to be a combination of both!  Nevertheless, this starling is a bird of the far eastern steppes of which a few occasionally end up as vagrants in Western Europe.
Snow Bunting Escribano Nival Piectrophenax nivalis
A bird of northern Europe but regularly found in the south, albeit not necessarily in Andalucia.
Little Bunting Escribano Pigmeo Emberiza pusilla
Breeds in far north-eastern Europe and would be a very rare vagrant visitor to Andalucia.
House Bunting   Emberiza sahari
A common breeder in nearby Morocco so, perhaps, not so surprising to find a vagrant over here whether arriving under its own wing-power or by assisted passage on a passing ship, etc.  Maybe a future resident breeder in Andalucia.
And what of the Axarquia in a rare bird context?  From a personal experience it seems that every winter we get something to draw in the birders to, especially, the harbour at Caleta de Velez.  Not long after moving to Spain I paid a visit to Florida and came across the local Ringed-billed Gulls.  Not best pleased to read when I got back that a couple had been seen in the UK and upon returning to Spain everybody seemed delighted in informing me of the individual that had spent a week or so in Caleta harbour during my absence.
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Perhaps we are now better prepared as we seem to have been on somewhat of a run lately with Franklin’s Gull in March 2016, Iceland Gull in February 2018 and not forgetting, of course, the Red-footed Booby that turned up in May 2019 and stayed for a couple of months or more. Also in our district we had an Allen’s Gallinule in the lower reaches of the Rio Chillar in Nerja early last year and whilst most of us missed this bird another individual turned up in February near Sanlucar de Barrameda near the Guadalquivir in Sevilla province – and was photographed by Ricky as seen above.  Finally, almost in the Axarquia, a Bonaparte’s Gull was seen and photographed by many during its short stay at the Guadalhorce, Malaga in Aril 2019.

Franklin’s Gull Larus pipixcan (PHOTO: Bob Wright)
Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides (PHOTO: Bob Wright)
Bonaparte’s Gull Larus Philadelphia (centre back) with Black-headed Gulls and Sandwich Tern (PHOTO: Bob Wright)

Red-footed Booby Piquero Patirrojo Rojas Sula sula


PLEASE NOTE: UNESS OTHERWISE STATED ALL PHOTOGRAPHS WERE TAKEN AND REMAIN THE SOLE PROPERTY OF RICKY OWEN AND MAY ONLY BE COPIED/USED WITH HIS PERSONAL PERMISSION.  IF NECESSARY /APPROROPRIATE PLEASE ASK ME FOR CONTACT DETAILS.

Bob Wright
20 March 2020

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