Tuesday 30 June 2020

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Mr & Mrs Kentish Plover Chorlitejo patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus
Tuesday 30 June

Up early and out of the house by just after 5.30 as I headed off for about three hours at the Desembocadra del Guadalhorce in Malaga before the temperature got too hot for any enjoyable birding.  However, approaching the site it was still dark so took a slight diversion via the airport to call in at Zapata on the off-chance that I might get to find a Red-necked Nightjar or two.  I did not.  But sitting at the ford in the dark and about to turn the car round, I did see a lone Little Ringed Plover.  Then it was back via the airport and on to the Guadalhorce and all set up to start my visit as daylight got under way just before 6.45.

Lots of Common Swifts about as I made my way to the footbridge and a very voluble Sardinian Warbler singing from the cover of a large bush behind the fence on my left.  Crossing the footbridge the House Martins had put in an appearance and looking upstream, just before the motorway bridge, a couple of Night Herons had, presumably, spent the night roosting on an old tree stump in the river.

Roosting pair of Night Heron Martinete Comun Nycticorax nyticorax in the early morning light

Approaching the Laguna Casillas I had a single Zitting Cisticola on my left and at the water itself very little to be seen apart from the nesting Black-winged Stilts.  Eventually a handful of Mallards, in addition to the pair that flew out of the reserve just after I entered, and then a pair of Little Grebes.  Behind me in the extensive reed growth numerous singing Reed Warblers and then a couple of Blackbirds in the vegetation below the hide.  At least a quartet of Moorhen along with half a dozen Coots on the water before I departed towards the sea.

Much had changed at the Wader Pool with almost all of the water now gone.  Just a few Black-winged Stilts and nothing to be seen in the distant large, bare trees.  So straight on down towards the Rio Viejo (Old River) where, again, most of the water had disappeared.  Yes, I did find a single Ringed Plover and there was a small flock of around two dozen Audouin's Gulls plus a single Heron.  I spent some time watching a circling Gull-billed Tern hoping hat it might alight with the gulls but then, apart from the pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls resting close by, another handful flew across the track in front of me accompanied by a single Black-headed Gull and a pair of Sandwich Terns.

Walking on towards the Sea Watch I had a Crested Lark on the track and then a Greenfinch and small charm of Goldfinch to my right.  Still the continuous supply of swifts but now mainly of the Pallid variety along with a small number of House Martins.  Indeed, the House Martins and both Common and Pallid Swifts were to stay with me all morning.  Even a lone Stonechat put in an appearance of the protected area near the beach.  Nothing to see from the Sea Watch until I found a single Great Skua resting on the water and preening at a good distance from the shore.  It rather surprised me as I thought these birds might have moved on by now; perhaps a non-breeder for whatever reason.

Working my way back and the Sun now well and truly up in the shy and the temperature rapidly climbing, I began to see the first of the morning's Barn Swallows and then a single Little Egret on the Wader Pool.  However, this bird soon departed and passed overhead to be joined by a second individual and then a third as I approached the Laguna Escondida.  Here, again, very little bird life with mainly Mallard, a couple of Coot and, maybe, as many as four pairs of Little Grebes with their respective families.  Whilst at the Escondida I also added some foraging Monk Parakeets along with a flock of roving House Sparrows.

Cattle Egret Garcilla Bueyera Ardeola ibis
And so to the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande.  A few more Black-winged Stilts and the first Collared Doves of the morning before the arrival of a small flock of Spotless Starlings.  In a tree to my left a single Cattle Egret and just beyond a small roost of Mediterranean Gulls.  No sign of any Flamingos but a single Spoonbill in their stead.  And as I pointed it out to my neighbouring Spanish birder he commented on the single adult Flamingo that had just arrived, and within a couple of metres of the Spoonbill

Meanwhile, immediately below the hide, a single Kentish Plover was walking the edges and eventually joined its mate and to the right a lone Slender-billed Gull.  The passing birds behind me included a lone Kestrel and, by now, the calling Bee-eaters had arrived.  Finally, at the far end of the water in the dead trees I managed to find the resting Peregrine Falcon to give a finally tally of the morning of 40 species and back home by 10.30 and with the temperature now already up in the high twenties.

Greater Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Grebe, Night Heron, Catte Egret, Little Egret, Heron Spoonbill, Flamingo, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Great Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

Contingent of Mediterranan Gulls gaviota Cabecinegra Larus melanocephalus
Slender-billed Gull Gaviota Picofina Larus genei

Our lone, un-ringed Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia

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

Wednesday 24 June 2020

El Torcal

Wednesday 24 June

The wonderful El Torcal at the summit from the Visitors Centre
Away from home by 6.30 this morning to meet up at El Torcal for an 8am start with our little "Malaga Group" including Derek and Barbara Etherton, Jerry and Barbara Laycock and Mick Smith.  Beautiful, clear and sunny start and aleady in the mid-twenties as I approached the lower car park to  El Torcal recording both Barn Swallows and Wood Pigeons as I approached.  Once all gathered, we quickly recorded Greenfinch, Crag Martin and Woodchart Shrikes before finding a hovering Kestrel.  Below us we could hear a pair of calling Turtle Doves and eventually found one atop an electricity pylon.  Lots of small family group including Goldfinch and Stonechat and even a small number Blackbirds.  Micky was first to identify a couple of Orphean Warblers and as we set off up the hill  numerous Stonechats along with a Rock Bunting before finding a quartet of Black Wheatears.  But then a little difference as we found a very stationary Black-eared Wheatear.

Distant Black-eared Wheatear Collalba Rubia Oenanthe hispanica

Our intermediate stop enable us to find many Blue Rock Thrushes, never mind all the local Ibex, followed by Black Redstart and Serin. Next an Olivaceous Warbler then  three distant Griffon Vultures.  Moving on up to the top and the car park we added a handful of Chaffinches.

Blue Rock Thrush Roquero Solitario Monticola solitarius

Once at the car par we immediately found a trio of recently fledged Black Redstart with parents close by and a more Subalpine Warblers.  Whilst the remainder of us were wandering around the back of the rocks Babara E. stayed near the car and caught up with a few Linnet.  Then it was down below the Visitors Centre where we found more Black Redstarts, a family of Melodious Warblers and the odd Rock Sparrow, not to mention the resident House Sparrows around the building itself, before hearing the Sardinian Warbler.

Female Black Redstart ColirrojoTizon Phoenicurus ochruros with fledglings above
Time to make our departure and we were seen off buy a single Blue Tit and a stop on the way down, not for the Subalpine Warblers, Blue Rock Thrushes and Corn Buntings but a single Northern Wheatear.
Distant Northern Wheatear Colalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe

Following a brunch stop near Casabermeja we continued on to Rio Gordo and took a narrow road down to the Rio de las Cuevas.  The ford was dry and we dove upstream a hundred yards to park up under the trees and walk the dry river bed in search of our target bird, the Golden Oriole.  Nothing but immediately more calling Turtle Doves.  There appeared to be many barn swallows about and then a trio of Red-rumped Swallows.  No shortage of Spotless Starlings and we could hear calling Blackcaps before finding a Collared DoveBlackbirds and Goldfinches were also seen a plenty.

Continuing on up stream we added some lovely Serins and found a small group of House Sparrows and a Greenfinch bathing/drinking in a small stretch a clear, running water.  The nearby trees gave a lovely view of Spotted Flycatchers feeding a youngsters but most of the time as spent trying to find the small birds "flitting" about under some thick growth at the top of the nearby bank.  Barbara L. was the first to notice the Nightingale cross the track in front of us and whist the Olivaceous Warbler was relatively easy to identify, we all spent considerable time trying to "lock on" to the mystery pair of birds in the same space.  Eventually, we managed to get clear views and able to confirm a pair of Orphean Warblers.

Spotted Flycatcher Papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata

And so we prepared to say our good-byes and make our departures home.  At that moment a fleeting glance of a female Golden Oriole skipping over the trees in front of us followed by a calling male to our left.  No sooner had we looked upstream than, sure enough, a male Golden Oriole crossed the track to the trees on the other side.  What a wonderful way to end the morning and a total of 42 species.
Melodious Warbler Zarcero Comun Hippolais polyglotta

Birds seen:
Griffon Vulture, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Olivaceous Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Blackcap, Bonelli's Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Just a couple of the many Ibex Capra pyrenaica on how

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

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 24 June

It would appear that the rain does not necessarily fall mainly on the plain in Spain!  Good to see that the Arboleas Birding Group recorded some excellent birds a the beautiful cabo de gata but not so the weather.  Whilst they were awaiting the sun to appear and the wind to relent my friends and I were up at El Torcal, inland from Malaga city, by 8 o'clock in calm, clear weather and the sun already heating up the temperature and approaching 30C when we departed about 11am.  We, too, had a Black-eared Wheater, indeed all three Wheatears, plus a range of warblers but, obviously, nothing of a nautical nature.  Nevertheless, good to see the group once again enjoying their weekly birding.

Cabo de Gata   -   Wednesday 24th June

We returned to Cabo de Gata this week.  I picked up Neville & Juda at Los Gallardos & headed south on the A7/E15.  We were surprised by the gathering clouds and the few drops of rain as we journeyed towards our destination.  The lightening over the Cabo peninsula, a shock, but luckily we escaped the downpour Gilly was getting back at home!

We'd started out early to "do" the rear of the reserve.  We drove adjacent to the beach, seeing both Yellow-legged & Audouin's Gulls.  At the Fabriquilla roundabout we joined the track & immediately saw a pair of Black Eared Wheatears.  Carrying on I spotted a female Sardinian Warbler.  We then saw some Slender Billed Gulls actually on the track in front of us.  On the waters edge we saw our first Avocets of the day.  Many of the pairs had youngsters with them. Also seen were Greater Flamingos & some Kentish Plovers.  A lone Stone Curlew flew over. We added Thekla Lark near the refurbished farm animal water trough.  Some Shelduck were seen flying.  A Zitting Cisticola posed briefly on a bush. A Kestrel flew low over the shrubs.  I thought I saw a distant flying Gull Billed Tern, later confirmed by Alan & John. Just before the end of the track a newly fledged Greenfinch was spotted.  Some Barn Swallows were near the water deposit.

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We made our way to the first hide where we were due to meet the others.  The wind from the east was increasing.  Neville spotted the single Black-tailed Godwit.  Alan, Trevor, John arrived followed by Michael & Karen.  The first three had tried to join the rear track from the Pujaire end, but had taken the wrong track.  They had seen Stone Curlew, Gull-billed Tern and a Crested Lark.  On the rocky causeway were about a dozen Black-winged Stilts.  Lots of Greater Flamingos and Avocets were around plus a single Slender-billed Gull.  As well as Barn Swallows, we also saw Red-rumped Swallows, House Martins and Common Swifts.  There were some Mallards on the water.  John, I think, found a Shelduck.  It was nice to see Claire again.  Alan spotted a small group of Little Terns. Four Cattle Egret flew by.

Juvenile Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We moved onto the second hide.  There was nothing on the now choppy sea.  We tacked our way to the hide against the gale.  Seven Eurasian Curlews flew over, landing in the savannah.  The smaller birds were hunkering down in the bushes.

The middle hide was slightly more productive.  A Gull-billed Tern flew over the island to land on the waters edge.  I spotted a couple of small waders which Alan identified with his scope as Kentish Plovers.  He then spotted a Yellow Wagtail.

The public hide didn't add to the list, but as we walked back to our vehicles, a Raven flew low along the scrubland.  As we drove along the track towards the church, it was joined by a second one.
We drove up to the lighthouse hoping to spot a passing shearwater but no luck there.  Karen spotted the House Sparrows flitting about under a parked car.

The wind had beaten us.  We had an early lunch in Cabo village.  The sun had come out and the wind had decreased in strength.  We had 32 species in all.  A good day in good company.

Regards, Dave

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

Thursday 18 June 2020

Charca de Suarez, Motril

Wednesday 17 June

Al last the Charca de Suarez is open to visitors - but with prior appointment and struct self-isolation rules applicable.  Nevertheless, great to be back at this site and, on this occasion, I was meeting Steve and Elena Powell for our two hours viewing from 6pm.  Approaching from "Turtle Dove Alley" I had Spotless Starling and Collared Dove as I entered and Turtle Dove at the far end.

Turtle Dove Tortola Europea Streptopelia turtur

Straight to the Laguna del Taraje where there were many Mallards plus Common Coots and a single Little Grebe.    A few Moorhen a distant Purple Swamphen crashing its way through the tall reeds at the back to my left.  Lots of calling Reed Warblers (all over the site) and a Cetti's Warbler as we made our way to the small hide at the far end of this pond.  Usually little to see her but Elena managed to find the well-camouflaged Little Bittern at the far end at the base of the reeds.

Little Bittern Avetorillo Comun Ixobrychus minutus

The obvious greeting at the Laguna del Alamo Blanco was the White Stork immediately in front of the hide.  On a post to the back a resting Heron along with a few Coot and Mallard on the water plus a single Little Egret.  A distant Marsh Harrier but Steve had already seen a pair along with a Glossy Ibis.
White Stork Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia

Walking to the Laguna de las Aneas a couple of Nightingales and a Spotted Flycatcher.  Lots of Coots and Mallards present plus a handful of Red-knobbed Coots.  Just a couple of Little Grebes plus a pair of both Heron and Little Egret.  Many feeding House Martins over the water and House Sparrows below the hide.

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

Walking to the Laguna del Trebol we added both Blackbird and Great Tit plus another Nightingale.  Not just Red-knobbed Coots on the water and both House Martins and Barn Swallows above but a single male Ferruginous Duck which eventually took off for a different pool.

Ferruginous Duck PorronPardo  Aythya nyroca

Walking to the hide on the opposite side of the pool we added both Sardinian Warbler and Blackcap and found yet another Nightingale whilst the Reed Warblers continued with their calling.  Upon arrival, strange to see a Red-knobbed Coot carrying nesting material, possibly re-building in preparation for starting a new brood and a couple of Pallid Swifts arrive to feed and drink over the water.  Outside the hide Elena found a single Bee-eater on a dead branch to our right and close by a single Black-rumped Waxbill.

Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata

The time had simply flown by and reaching the exit gate we were able to see one of the Kestrels which had, presumably, nested in the supplied large box high in the tree in front of us.

Record shot of Bee-eater Abejaruco Europea Merops apiaster

Birds seen:
Mallard, Ferruginous Duck, Little Grebe, Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Black-rumped Waxbill, Serin.

Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea

Red-knobbed Coot Focha Moruna Fulica cristata

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

Sierra Loja

Wednesday 17 June

Off just after 7.30 to meet up at Riofrio by 9am with Derek and Barbara Etherton along with friends Jerry and Barbara Laycock who also had Micky Smith for company, so that could explore the Sierra Loja and hopefully pick up our target birds of the day, Rock Thrush and Black-eared Wheatear with, perhaps, Spectacled Warbler as an added bonus.  Going to be a long, hot day hence the early start and I was also committed to an evening visit to Charca de Suarez in Motril, so lots of driving.

As I left home there was an early White Wagtail in the service road and driving through Algarrobo Costa hundreds of Pallid Swifts above the local apartment blocks plus a few wandering Monk Parakeets.  Deciding to take the mountain road via Ventas de Zafarraya I had rather a shock as passing along the valley towards La Vinuela a Sparrowhawk crossed immediately in front of the car's windscreen before moving away to the left.  Once away from the village of Zafarraya itself, where I recorded a number of both House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings, I soon encountered Collared Doves and Blackbirds plus a couple of Jays in the adjacent woodlands.  No surprise to come across both Crested Larks and Goldfinches and then I stopped, just before Loja, at the well-know breeding site to check out the Montagu's Harriers.  Driving down the narrow track I watched a pair quartering over the field, the nesting site remaining unharvested, and then, looking in the mirror, saw that a car was following me down the track.  Quickly reversing about five metres I drove through the open gate into the olive grove so that the car could pass.  However, looking through my window over the low hedge I noticed three Montagu's Harriers on the ground less than ten metres away.  Photographed them from the car then gently eased my self out.  Whist the pair together took off I noted a fourth individual even nearer to the car so took advantage before they, too, took to the sky.  Obviously recently fledged youngsters.

Montagu's Harrier Aguilucho Cenizo Circus pyrargus

Meanwhile, watching all the action from the wires above the track both a Turtle Dove and Greenfinch.  Slightly further along along I also found both Collared Dove and Serin.  Continuing on to the end of the road so that I could reach Riofrio I also added a Woodchat Shrike and a couple of Azure-winged Magpies before coming across both Wood Pigeons and Barn Swallows.

Turtle Dove Tortola Europea Steptopelia turtur

And so we set off for the mountain track behind the large service station to bird the area including the  top above the tree-line.  Barbara E. caught a glimpse of a Mistle Thrush and an early Woodchat Shrike then plenty of House Martins and the occasional Barn Swallow at the bottom picnic area plus a first Great Tit.  Deciding to head to the top first and visit the large quarry on the way down, we soon had the occasional Azure-winged Magpie and then a number of Jackdaws.  A Little Owl posed quietly close by to our left and then, approaching the tree-line, we were stopped and spoke to by a visiting Seprano officer (nature police) who informed us that the track was closed until mid-October to cars because of the fire risk.    We needed to turn round and head back down the mountain.  We all looked at each other with raised eyebrows as we clearly understood that the restriction did not come into force until 1 July and, typical of Spain, no notice at the start of the track to inform you of the closure dates.

Only good news was we needed to drive at least a mile and well above the tree-line before the track leveled and widened so that we could make the actual turn.  During this time we managed to add Black Wheatear and Crested Larks to the list and at the actual turning point also found Thekla Lark and a distant Red-legged Partridge.  A Kestrel flew over the distant ridge and, once turned and headed back round the corner out of sight the waiting policeman continued his journey upwards.  Needless to say, we did not hurry down the mountain,   Lots of stops to check out fences, slopes and rock faces and we had soon added both Stonechat and Blue Rock Thrush.  Having Derek the rocking man with us, he was soon picking out the call of the local Rock Sparrows which we then all found with complete ease.

We may have missed out on both the Rock Thrush and Black-eared Wheatear plus not even reaching the the resident Spectacled Warnblers site but we were, nevertheless, not to be disappointed.  Watching a group of feeding Goldfinches on the bank just the other side of the fence on the lower side we also found a few Linnets.  But then something else down in the base of a broom bush.  Yes, scope on target and we had ourselves a Subalpine Warbler.  The bird moved away, somebody found it and then Derek and I stated that it was not the Subalpine but a Spectacled Warbler.  As we concentrated on the area we found at least three other individuals and it would appear that we had a family feeding area.  Great news.  Even a male Sardinian Warbler flew away from a nearby bush.

The Iberian Grey Shrike was still in the same area that we had seen on the way up and looking high we managed to find a couple of Griffon Vultures before a male Montagu's Harrier glided past on the horizon.  So down to the main quarry where we found not one but two more Spectacled Warblers.  Both adults and then, almost at the same time, we found the youngsters they were feeding along with a family of Linnets.  A pair of Spotted Flycatchers were bust in an open spinney of very tall pines and Barbara Etherton and I visited the quarry itself where we found both very close Black Wheatears and a Black Redstart.  However, whilst we were away the others had followed a Dartford Warbler that moved between gorse and trees, so just about completing our hand of local Sylvia warblers save Blackcap and Whitethroat.

One last sighting in the area.  Derek and I managed to get our eyes on a small "grey" warbler in the canopy at the top of the nearby pines and were pretty sure we had an Orphean Warbler.  But the bird was gone within split seconds and not to be found so, alas, perhaps another day.  So down to the service station and on the way finding mother Red-legged Partridges with new newly-hatched brood of eleven chicks.

Red-legged Partridge Perdiz Roja Alectoris rufa with 11 chicks
Not having reached the top of the Sierra Loja and it being about 1pm we decided to drive over to the Cacin Valley arable fields and see if we could find any of the local Black-bellied Sandgrouse.  A quick stop at the large circular cages holding the young Gyr Falcons, aviary bred and presumably awaiting sales in the Far East (probably no more than about thirty individuals remaining), then into the almond orchard and a stop for lunch.  A couple of Crested Larks a Wood Lark and, on leaving having seen no sandgrouse, both Hoopoe and and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike.  Derek also managed to find a Northern Wheatear.

Captive-reared Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus

All very quiet on site and even a long drive through the trees only produced a couple of Magpies until almost at the end when, again, Derek managed to spot a single Black-bellied Sandgrouse resting in the shade below an almond tree.  Unusually, rather than remain still the bird took off before others could get a better look.  At the far end before reaching the main road we also managed to find a number of Barn Swallows and a single Bee-eater, plus many House Sparrows.  For me, a lovely day in wonderful company and some very good birds.  Even on my way home I managed to add Common Swift as I passed through Alhama de Granada.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Griffon Vulture, Montagu's Harrier, Kestrel, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Little Owl, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Wood Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Dartford Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler,Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Azure-wiged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Caffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet

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

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 17 June

Unlike me, at least Dave was able to visit and stay at his site up at the Sierra Maria (see own blog when published shortly).  And with his Arboleas Birding Group they certainly saw some good birds including the Hawfinch, Golden Oriole and possible Golden Eagle and the idea that there are still Great Spotted Cuckoos to be seen leaves me quite excited. And I wonder if I might catch up with a carrion Crow when I set out to drive back to the UK in three weeks time.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 17th June

As most of you know, the Sierra de Maria is my favourite local birding patch.  Although we've really missed the breeding season, Maria delivered as usual.  Due to Corona restrictions we had to drive from Arboleas via Partaloa, Oria & Chirivel.  I picked up a new member, Juda, at El Prado and then Neville at the service station past the ITV station in Albox.  We were happy to see a Great Spotted Cuckoo near Oria.  As we neared Maria town I saw two Woodchat Shrikes perched on the power lines.  Also seen were Woodpigeon, Common Swift, House Martin and House Sparrow before we settled down to two coffees at the Cafe de Ana adjacent to the Repsol Service Station.  We were joined by Adrian, Steve, Alan & John. Trevor, whilst Michael & Karen caught up with us at the chapel as they'd been delayed by roadworks.  As I drove up the hill I saw a Serin and a Magpie. Almost as soon as we'd parked we heard Golden Oriole & Jay.  Alan was first to see one of half a dozen overflying Griffon Vultures.  One came over at a reasonably low altitude.  We moved towards the semi circle past the chapel.  John, who'd hung back, came running over to say he'd seen a Golden Eagle, but had disappeared.  Checking the ridge I first saw some Red Billed Chough.  A flock of 50+ was seen later.  Both John & I spotted a single large black corvid flying just below the ridge which had to be a Raven.  I followed a small flight of Spotless Starlings which caused me to spot a Kestrel high above the ridge . I then found a Common Buzzard.  We had a fleeting glimpse of possibly two Golden Orioles as they flew off. 

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Moving up to the Botanical Gardens we saw Bonelli's & Subalpine Warbler followed by Crossbill, Great & Coal Tit.  Some of us did the low walk.  We saw Jay, but nothing else of note.  As we were leaving we saw a warbler in the vegetable patch.  Got a photo so perhaps one of our friendly experts will confirm its identity!

The mystery warbler! (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then drove off in convoy to do the loop.  Alan & John led as I brought up the rear.  We didn't see much.  I had Carrion Crow & Goldfinch.  Trevor thought he had seen a Pied Flycatcher.  Just before the village John & Alan stopped to watch some Northern Wheatears in a ploughed field.  We stopped for scan just after the turning.  We added Corn Bunting & Barn Swallow.  We carried on.  Suddenly shouted "Stop. Roller!"  Sure enough there was one sat not 3 metres from the truck on a post.  The others must have driven passed it without seeing it.  Of course as soon as I got the camera out it flew off!  We saw probably the same one further along the track.  We next stopped near the cliff face.  Alan & John had seen some Linnets.  There were Jackdaws & Rock Sparrows nesting there.  We walked to the far side.  Alan spotted three Turtle Doves.  A Bee-eater was perched on a dead tree.  A Red-legged Partridge flew off.  We heard a Nightingale.

We made our way to the Hamlet.  We were surprised to find that the Lesser Kestrels appeared to have left.  Alan had a wander and saw a Hoopoe.  The only birds we saw on the plain were Carrion Crows & Crested Larks.

We headed for the La Piza forest cafe for lunch which we ate watching the bird feeders and water pool.  We saw Jays, Collared Doves, Chaffinches and a Great Tit.  A Blackbird appeared, but the star was a Hawfinch drinking at the pool.

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Having said our goodbyes we headed home adding a Mistle Thrush & a White Wagtail.  We ended the day with 43 species.  What a good day!  Sunburnt left arm!  Lovely company.

Regards, Dave

Any suggestions to identifying Dave's mystery warbler?  No apparent signs at the base of the bill to suggest a youngster and looking very pale with a yellow hue underneath along with the orange legs.  Reminiscent of a leaf warbler but definite not Chiffchaff nor Willow Warbler and I think not an Iberian Chiffchaff.  I'm thinking possibly either Melodious or Isabelline of the Hippolais family with my money on Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta, especially as the underside is the shade on a sunny stone.

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Monday 15 June 2020

Alcaucin and Ventas de Zafarraya

Monday 15 June

Another hot, clear, sunny day so away relatively early to take the mountain track up to the picnic area above Alcaucin.  But would I find my target bird for the day?  Leaving Algarrobo Costa I had a few Monk Parakeets at eye level and scores of Pallid Swifts above the apartments blacks. Approaching Alcaucin I then recorded a single White Wagtail before House martin, Collared Dove and Spotless Starling as I made my way up to the start of the unpaved track up to the picnic area.  A couple of Barn Swallows and a small number of House Sparrows before parking up the car in the main parking area.

No Crossbills to be seen in their usual bare tree top and the main difference now that the trees in full leaf so plenty of birds to be heard but very few to be seen.  Checking the dark picnic area above the car park between the tall pine trees I caught the slight movement and then watched the Short-toed Treecreper making its way slowly up the tree, mainly on the edge or the back.  Whilst watching for Nuthatches I was privileged to see a pair of Red Squirrels work their way from the canopy to base of a tall pine and as they moved away a Nuthatch put ion a very brief appearance to my left.

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris

A walk up the track to the far end produced a Firecrest and Blackbird plus distant Wood Pigeon then back to the main picnic area again.  This time a closer Nuthatch above me and the first Chaffinch.  A circular walk below the picnic area brought forward many more Chaffinches and another Blackbird plus a pair of Red-rumped Swallows.  Time to move on and this time I continued up to the far end of the track, passing both a female Black Redstart and a couple of Jay, before taking the main road to Ventas de Zafarraya.

Red-billed Choughs Chova Piquirroja Pyrrhocorax purrhocorux

Arriving a few minutes after 11.30 I drove straight up to the tunnel in the hope that I might find the Alpine Swifts seen last Thursday my friend John Wainwright.  A Black Redstart and a male Blue Rock Thrush along with a number of Chough but the cave was very quiet.  So, a walk through the tunnel and stop  about five minutes beyond the exit to look back at the tunnel wall and cliffs to my (now) left.  A handful of Choughs as a Black Wheatear flew below and then, immediately above the Choughs, a trio of Alpine Swifts.  Whilst still smiling and overjoyed at seeing the birds at last a further flock of over thirty individuals swooped along the lower cliff face towards the cave at the far end of the tunnel.  A minimum of 35 Alpine Swifts recorded; wonderful!  Job done and time to set off home for an early lunch, but not before coming across a handful of adult and juvenile Stonechat and a few of the resident Crag Martins.

Recently-fledged Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus
Birds seen:
Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Firecrest, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Jay, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch.

Record shot of male Blue Rock Thrush Roquero Solitario Monticola solitarius

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Friday 12 June 2020

Raptors Galore

Friday 12 June

Realising that I am yet to see a Nuthatch this year and, as far as I know, the mountain track up to the picnic area above Alcaucin is still closed to visitors which would almost certainly have produced a sight or two, I headed over to El Robledal passing a number of Collared Doves on the way.  No stopping at Ventas de Zafarraya so I was on site by 10.30 having driven slowly along the entrance track and recording Blackbirds, Serin and Chaffinch on the way plus a rather sedentary Corn Bunting.

A gentle breeze but generally very cloudy and the temperature had dropped to a mere 13C having left the coast almost ten degrees warmer.  Not a lot of bird song but I could hear he resident Chaffinches and  the first of the Wood Pigeons.  The to me great delight the unmistakable call of a Golden Oriole from exactly the same location as last week.  Could there be a breeding pair in the area?  Very little else to see until I looked up in time to see the soaring Booted Eagle; great sight.  A walk round the local paths produced nothing new so decided I might move back to Ventas de Zafarraya

Record shot of Booted Eagle Aguilla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
Driving back long the track I stopped to watch a Buzzard above me and no sooner had I moved on when a Goshawk cross high in front of me carrying food back to its nest in the nearby trees; looked like a small bird had lived its last day.

Arriving at Ventas de Zafarraya I had noted many House Martins and House Sparrows passing through the village then followed he old railway track all the way through to Periana.  Crag Martins near the tunnel followed by a couple of Black Wheatears and then a number of Stonechat and Linnets before encountering many families of Goldfinch.  A quick sight of a disappearing female Black Redstart to my left as I drove through the village to make my way home for lunch both Barn Swallow and Crested Larks noted.

Birds seen:
Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Goshawk, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Golden Oriole, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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Wednesday 10 June 2020

Cabo de Gata with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 10 June

Whilst I was up in Granada province, friend Dave Elliott-Binns and his Arboleas Birding Group were travelling south and west of Almeria province to visit that lovely birding site at Cabo de Gata.  They must have had excellent weather so, birds or no birds, lovely scenery to enjoy and savour.  In the event, a good turn (as wells as terns!) out saw some lovely birds recorded.  Good to know that we birders are back out in force enjoying nature's lovely provision.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales:  Wednesday 10th June

Today we're off to our old stomping ground of Cabo de Gata and the Rambla Morales.  I picked my friend Neville up from Los Gallardos and headed south.  From the motorway to Retamar Sur we logged Bee-eater, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Collared Dove, House Sparrow, Barn Swallow and Common Swift.  As we approached Pujaire we added an Iberian Grey Shrike.  We met up with Trevor, Michael, Karen, Alan and John at the first hide.  The latter two had also seen some Hoopoes after venturing part of the way along the rear track.  The usual suspects were visible from the hide area. Greater Flamingo, Slender-billed Gull, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Mallard.  I spotted a distant Grey Heron in flight.  Alan found some Kentish Plover and later a Yellow Wagtail.  Small birds seen included Iberian Grey Shrike, Thekla Lark, Spotless Starling, House Martin and Zitting Cisticola.

We retired to a cafe by the roundabout in Cabo village for a coffee and then headed to the second hide.  A sea scan was negative, but there was a pair of Ravens on the beach.  Moving to the hide, I saw some Terns which turned out to be Little.  I then identified a Gull-billed Tern flying over us. Another Iberian Grey Shrike seen.  John added a Coot and a Cormorant.

Raven Corvus corax (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
As we walked across the savannah to the middle hide we were "shouted" at by a Gull-billed Tern and some Avocets.  Both species appeared to have a nest on one of the islands. John spotted a pair of flying Shelduck.  I found a Black-tailed Godwit as it landed near the hide.  There appeared to be a pair, but from the next hide we could see there were in fact three.

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta with kids (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The public hide didn't have any confirmed "ticks," but Alan and John may have had a Sandwich Tern, but unconfirmed due to distance and heat haze! 

We departed via the track to the church, where we saw a pair of Kestrel.

We then made our way towards the Rambla Morales.  Alan and John saw a Sanderling before getting the car stuck in soft sand.  Four old men pushing eventually got it free!  There was a Little Egret on the estuary.  As we walked to the hump there was not a bird song to be heard.  A Reed Warbler started up once we got there.  There was a single Greater Flamingo, four Black-winged Stilts and about the same number of Slender-billed Gulls.  We spotted some flying, chirping smaller larks. Checking the song on my phone, we think they were most likely to be Lesser Short-toed Larks.

We returned to the previously mentioned cafe for a lovely tapas lunch.  We ended with 34 species seen.  Great to be back here.  Regards, Dave

PS: Apologies for quality of photos. I blame the distance and the heat haze!

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