Thursday 31 December 2020

Last Birding Day of the Year

 Thursday 31 December

The last birding day of the year and once more the 3km return walk up the Rio Algarrobo and under the motorway to the ford and back.  However, on this occasion off by 8.30 to beat the dog walkers, which I did initially, but my word it was cold, especially with the sun not yet really up in the sky and masked by the trees to the east, and with the temperature down in single figures and still struggling to reach 10C when I returned home at 9.45.  Could it be that no matter what time I set out, be it 8.30 or 10.30, I am still likely to see the same birds at this time of the year?

White Wagtail followed by the first of many Collared Doves and then a female Black Redstart. Once into the open trees I noticed the five Wood Pigeon accompanied by a half-dozen Common Starlings at the top of the bare tree followed by the first of the Chiffchaffs.  Almost immediately I heard then saw the quintet of Goldfinch above me in the leafy tree.  A Hoopoe moved off in front of me to rest in a tree further along the path and then a quartet of Blackbirds, all males, below the trees in front of the sports hall.

Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops

More House Sparrows than usual this morning and then the first of the Spotless Starlings.  Again, very few initially but on the return walk I seem to have found the major flock approaching 200 individuals.  Looking up there were one or two Lesser Black-backed Gulls making their way north to the nearby hidden reservoir and once through the motorway underpass the large bare tree held no less than 15 Common Starlings and not a Spotless Starling in sight.

Common Starlings Estornino Pinto Sturnus vulgaris

Approaching the small grassy area just beyond the reservoir the first Stonechat of the morning along with a couple of Serin.  A Robin also put in an appearance and then, having noted the two Monk Parakeets in the above bare tree I made my way back by way of the sewage works detour.  Away to my far right I found six Cattle Egrets resting on the fence of a small paddock and a further individual flew over my head from the said works to join its compatriots. That left just the one (eighth in total) resting in the works itself.  A female Sardinian Warbler came through the opposite fence to feed near the ground and having returned to the main track alongside the fenced barbecue area the distinctive sound made me look up at the nearby trees and locate the four Crossbill.

Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra

Birds seen:

Cattle Egret, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Crossbill.

Monk Parakeet Cotorra Argentina Myiopsitta monachus

Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra

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

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Almeria Province

Dotterels Charadrius morinellus

 Tuesday 29 December

The promise of a lovely sunny day so decided to pay a visit to Almeria province in the hope that the wintering Dotterel might still be on site along with the resident Trumpeter Finches.  But first, a very early start so that I could also check out both Las Norias and the pools at Roquetas de Mar and still arrive in Cabo de Gata by noon, so giving me a good four hours birding to find my target birds.

Still dark at 6.50 when I set out for Las Norias using the nearby A7 Mediterranean Motorway and duly arrived at the awful, plastic covered, rubbish strewn, large lake at Las Norias. (11C when I left Mezquitilla but down to 6 when I arrived at Las Norias!) A small number of Cattle Egret were resting by a flooded field as I arrived along with the local House Sparrows.  Daylight had only just arrived at 8.20 and the water covered in a thin mist but I could make out a number of Cormorant and a couple of Heron to the west of the first (road) causeway.   To the east a good number of Shoveler and a single Moorhen plus a couple of Mallard.  Back to the other side of the road and Great Crested Grebes recorded whilst above me very many early-feeding Crag Martins.  About to move on to the causeway near the plastic recycling works when a lone Night Heron flew over the road above me.

A little clearer from the topmost causeway but very few birds and by now the penetrating but very low Sun was straight into me eyes.  However, still apparent that a number of Red-crested Pochard were on the eastern side along with a handful of Coot.  A walk alongside the sheep farm no longer had clear views of the water but it did reveal a number of Collared Doves in the large bare tree (where I usually see my first Turtle Doves of the year) and as I returned a Booted Eagle took off from the neighbouring smaller trees.  At the same time, I also began to notice the very large numbers of Spotless Starlings as a White Wagtail wandered around the grassy field at the other end of the causeway.  Another walk to the water's edge also revealed both Chiffchaff and the first Black Redstart of the day.  All the gulls on show confirmed to be Lesser Black-backed and as I set off towards San Augustin and the nearby salinas I also picked up both Jackdaws and Rock Doves.

Very little to be seen from the track leading to the lighthouse other than a few relatively nearby Flamingos and more Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  No Slender-billed Gulls on this occasion.  On the other hand, as I returned to the main road I noticed a few Stonechat and a lone Zitting Cisticola put in an appearance.  Back on the road and a left turn took me to the nearby sharp inland turn where I carried on along the wide track seeing more Stonechat and also picking up the first Crested Larks before taking the turn towards the beach. An early sighting of a Bluethroat to my left I had hoped to reach a hidden pool at the far end but was surprised, considering the lack of rain for such a long period, to find the track completely flooded for about twenty metres and not too sure of either the depth  of the water or condition of the concealed track below, I decided not to venture forward.   Shame as I had hoped this water might, as in the past, hold some resting Golden Plover. Probably just as well that I had seen the Iberian Magpie cross the track in front of me as I made my way to this point.  So, all turned round for the return journey when I had to stop, look hard, shake my head and lift up the camera to take some record shots through the windscreen.  There, on the edge of the track below a wooden rail on the right was a Wryneck.  Eventually, I took a chance to exit on the left, kept low and tried to get a couple of now, partly concealed bird but it eventually flew away into the shrubs. This, almost back at the main track, was followed by both a Sardinian Warbler and more Crested Larks.

Wryneck Jynx torquilla  Note the lovely pattern on the back

Driving on to Roquetas de Mar a few more Stonechats on the wires along with a (Common) Magpie and then the fresh water lake, looking absolutely full of water birds.  mainly Black-headed along with a smaller number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and hundreds of Coots whereas to my left as I observed from the road on the southern side I could see numerous Common along with just a few Red-crested Pochard.  Just a handful of Mallard and at least a quartet of Gadwall but also very many Little and a single Black-necked Grebe recorded.

A very good start so I decided I might just as well visit the small pool just inside the reserve where, to my surprise, not just a number of Mallard and a Common Pochard but also a pair of White-headed Duck.  These are very friendly birds used to visitors that seem to expect to be fed so no sign of them making a dash for cover as I parked next to the water.  Also present both Moorhen and Common Coot along with the local House Sparrows.  Then, to my right, a Purple Swamphen put in the briefest of appearances before I did head further into the area to see if there was any shallow water.  All looking relatively dry but apart from the very many Shoveler on the main salinas, I did also note a number of both Shelduck and Black-winged Stilts.  Now well on schedule as I headed back to the fresh water lake noting both Black Redstarts and Chiffchaff before seeing the Blackbird fly across the road in front of me as I headed off back towards the motorway for the final leg of my outward journey.

White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala with the male's beak starting to turn blue

I had hoped to arrive in Cabo de Gata by noon but, in the event, I actually reached the first hide approaching the village before 11.45.  Again, given the time of day, the sun was still quite low and shining almost straight towards me.  But looking on the bright side (no pun intended), it should be much better when visiting the remaining hides.  Even facing the Sun it was obvious that there were a good number of Flamingo present yet the water level was very low and a definite lack of waders to be seen from this hide. A couple of Black-tailed Godwits to my left and a single Redshank to my far right.  Above still very many Crag Martins and checking the scrub land to my right I picked up more Stonechats and also a "sleeping" Stone Curlew, but no Eurasian Curlew on this occasion. Still very many Spotless Starlings about and behind me on the wires an Iberian Grey Shrike, the first of four to be seen at Cabo de Gata.

Next up Hide 1 on the road along the front.  Lots of Flamingo and away to my far right I could make out a small group of Spoonbill.  A Green Sandpiper dashed along the channel below me to the right whilst I continued to identify Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls.  Checking the godwits, I was somewhat a little surprised to find a handful of Bar-tailed feeding alongside nearby Black-tailed Godwits.  In the scrubland to my right I watched a female Kestrel trying to take a small bird but the latter survived to live another day.  Just before departing a Little Egret flew in to the water in front and, making my way back to the car, a Hoopoe flew and alighted in a tree on my right.

Sleepy Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia

Once under way I drove very slowly along the sandy strip between road and beach keeping my eyes open for the wintering Dotterel.  Just as I thought my luck was in I stopped to check the six House Sparrows feeding next to the single Dotterel, the former turned out to be Trumpeter Finches and the Dotterel "just another" Trumpeter Finch preening itself whilst standing on a small white stone.  Not that I was not complaining!

Trumpeter Finches Bucanetes githagineus

Hide 2 produced yet more Flamingos and Cormorants along with a small group of Dunlin.  Walking back to the car a couple of Thekla Larks and a Meadow Pipit were recorded and, once again, a slow drive alongside the beach as before.  But no luck with the Dotterel so made my way to the Public Hide. The main water in front of the hide was very the same as before but I did manage to identify a few more small waders including Common Sandpiper and Kentish Plover. To the right was the usual gathering of mixed gulls along with as many as a dozen Sandwich Terns.

Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus playing at being aquatic meercats!

Then it was of up the steep hill and over the top to descend to the lighthouse.  A number of visitors but no birds other than the odd Lesser Black-backed Gull.  A short drive up the now badly deteriorating road towards the mirador.  No sooner on this road and another Trumpeter Finch then a trio of Black Wheatears on the wires.  But soon time to give the rest of the road a miss and make my way back over the steep hill.   A short drive down the track from the roundabout to the back of the salinas provided more Stonechats and on one of the shallow salinas a Little Stint feeding alongside a Kentish Plover.

Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura

Return journey complete and back towards the Public Hide to once more drive slowly along the sandy roadside alongside the beach just in case the Dotterels were about and simply missed on the original inspection.  No sooner had I travelled a few meters and there they were, not one but at least a dozen.  Strange little waders these as, rather than take flight, they simply move slowly on with always at least half of them making regular stops to check out the area.  Having watched the Dotterels moving behind me I simply drove onto the road, made a complete turn and parked a little ahead of them with me now sitting on the far side and awaited their arrival.  Just how many photographs can you take?

Our wonderful Dotterels Chorlito Carambola Charadrius morinellus

Now, mission accomplished with the sighting of both the Dotterel and Trumpeter Finch I made my final visit which took me to the rambla on the far side of the village.  Lots of water but no waders or ducks to be seen.  What I did see, apart from a couple of Heron, was the tightly-packed battalion of 45 Cormorants which then rushed down stream to take off towards the sea; just like watching a mass departure of a Battle of Britain bomber squadron!  Given the long drive home after the early start to the day I decided now would be an appropriate time to head off and even managed to find another couple of Iberian Grey Shrikes to keep the memory alive.  Over sixty species recorded so considered an excellent day's birding.

Birds seen:

Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot,    Collared Dove, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Kentish Plover, Dotterel, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Iberian Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Trumpeter Finch.        

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

Sunday 27 December 2020

More from Alarrobo Costa

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

 Sunday 27 December

The three recent morning walks up the very dry Rio Algarrobo in bright sunshine and clear blue skies have continued to produce some lovely birds.  On Christmas Eve it was not only the resting Kestrel atop a pine tree that led my eyes to see the four Crossbills on the neighbouring trees but also the sighting of a Sardinian Warbler, whereas come Christmas Day morning I had three Sardinian Warblers and the same number of Blackcap as well as Hoopoes, Crag Martins and more Linnets.

Female Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 

This morning, with the temperature down to a very cold 9C as I set off, I was to be deprived of my daily sighting of Meadow Pipit but, on the other hand, a new first for the site with a Song Thrush, surely my "Bird of the Day."

Entering the games area at the start of the walk lots of Monk Parakeets and Collared Doves along with a one male Blackbird followed by the first of a dozen Black Redstarts to be seen in the next hour.  As expected, the open tress produced not only more Black Redstarts but many Chiffchaffs with the marauding Monk Parakeets screaming their heads off above me.  Up in the bare, old tree just three Common Starlings and not a Spotless Starling to be seen for over twenty minutes.  Whilst watching the Common Starlings, a trio of Wood Pigeon made a rather hasty departure from the area.

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

The first House Sparrows appeared as I reached the enclosed football ground and then making a swift flight down stream along the grassy river's edge, my first sighting of a Song Thrush in the area.  Lovely!  With a contented smile on my face I continued on up towards the motorway underpass and enjoyed not only the sighting of the few Spotless Starlings but both male and female Stonechat on the twigs below.

Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor

A number of Crag Martin and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were flying above the hidden water reservoir and a stop at the grassy enclosure at the far end duly turned up my first Greenfinch of the morning followed by a number of Serin.

Serin Serinus serinus

More Serins, Chiffchaff, Black Redstarts and Stonechat seen on the return walk which took me via the usual detour to pass the local sewage works where I found, once again, a trio of Cattle Egrets and the first White Wagtails of the morning.  Once back across the river on the main track a few more Greenfinch and in time to see the visit of a pair of Goldfinch to the top of my favourite bare tree.

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris

Walk finished and so along the front for a needed coffee when I saw the lone Cormorant flying eastwards just off the shore.  Whoops, forgot my mask having dropped bins and camera at the house, so back to fetch same and this time the Cormorant was making a return flight.  But at least the temperature was now up into the mid-teens, even if one could still feel the slight nip in the air.

Hoopoe Upupa epops with Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
 in background

Birds seen:

Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crag Martin, White Wagtail,  Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

Crossbill Loxia curvirostra

More Monk Parakeets Myiopsitta monachus

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

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa

 Wednesday 23 December

Good to see that Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group are making the most of these strange times and getting out once again on a regular basis, just in case more severe restrictions appear on the scene in the not too distant future.  This might also be an opportune moment to pass on my best wishes to all the Group's members for a peaceful Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year and the hope that 2021 will be more like previous years than was the case in 2020.  Here's to some great birding in the  months to come.

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa: Wednesday 23rd December 

This week I thought we'd stay local and venture down to the Rambla de Almanzora.  I picked up Rob early as I wanted to check out the rambla from the Desert Springs golf complex end.  Our first bird was a White Wagtail.  There were a lot of shallow pools which we scanned each from the embankment.  We saw Mallard, Little Grebe and Moorhen in the first pool.  The next had a couple of Snipe.  We saw more further down.  The bushes fluttered with Chiffchaff.  Carrying on we added Shoveler, Teal, Green and Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt and Little Ringed Plover.  Little birds included Meadow Pipit, Gold and Greenfinch and Stonechat but the star was a first winter Bluethroat. Rob spotted an Iberian Grey Shrike on the power line.  Also seen were Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Northern and Spotless Starling.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Getting to the ford I prepared the camera in case birds were feeding there.  Sure enough we saw Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper and a Teal which exited left very rapidly!  We waited in the parking area for the others to arrive, adding Sardinian Warbler and Black Redstart. 

Rapidly departing male Teal Anas crecca (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Another 8 members turned up and we wandered along to the Sewage works seeing a few Chiffchaff on the way.  The small pools were deserted but there were Magpie, Moorhen and White Wagtail interested in the rubbish skips.  On the water we found Common Pochard, Mallard and Black-headed Gulls.  A Common Sandpiper was scurrying around the water's edge.  Kevin added three Iberian Grey Shrikes on the power line.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We made our way to the village for a coffee.  House Sparrows joined us as a few Crag Martins flew over.  We then headed for the beach, Jen seeing a Hoopoe on the way.  We checked out the harbour entrance rocks.   There were three Cormorant and a young Yellow-legged Gull on the largest "island". On another was a Ringed Plover, Sanderling and a Dunlin.  I then spotted the resident Whimbrel which made a brief appearance.  Surprisingly there was a Grey Wagtail flitting around the rocks as well.
We walked over to the estuary, climbing up the new sandy embankment.  Rob spotted another Grey Wagtail.  There were about 100 Coot.  Kevin found the first of four Grey Heron.  There was a solitary Little Egret.  Over the beach Rob  found a feeding Sandwich Tern.  We wandered round to the beach, where it was muddy underfoot as some work was being carried out.  I spotted a few Little Stint and a single 2nd winter Audouin's Gull.  Unfortunately only Rob saw the Kingfisher as it shot off.  As we walked back to the vehicles along the beach, we checked out the rocky isthmus. There was a good flock of Dunlin, resting Sandwich Terns and Ringed and Kentish Plovers.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We then convoyed to the dual carriageway saying goodbye to Phil and Jen.  Rob spotted the only Avocet of the day.  All the usual suspects were evident.  Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Shoveler and Teal. Moving beyond the hump I found some Shelduck.  There were 6 Greater Flamingos present.  We heard a Cetti's Warbler.  Rob had seen two Marsh Harriers there on Monday.  Only one was seen today. Moving round to the elevated hide near to the Acuaparc, we saw loads of Shoveler, a Common Pochard an about 25 White-headed Duck.  Kevin did well to spot the Purple Swamphen preening in the reedline.  There were constant flypasts of Crag Martins, but I spotted a Sand Martin amongst them. I seem to remember Richard mentioning one when he visited last week.

A very good day birding in good company. Was lovely to see Pete, Carolyn, Steve, Phil and Jen and of course the regulars!  We ended up with 54 species.

Regards, Dave

Lovely report Dave and some jolly good birds recorded.

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

Algarrobo Costa

 Wednesday 23 December

A beautiful, sunny morning and time for the walk up the dry river bed and what a wonderful surprise it turned out to be.  Not the Collared Doves and Monk Parakeets as I entered the initial spinney or even the couple of Blackbirds, Black Redstart and White Wagtail as I made my way upstream through the open trees.  But approaching the fences barbecue area I spotted, not five metres away, the Wryneck resting on the fence immediately in front of me.  Just a shame it upped and away before I had chance to lift the camera.

Male Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

Continuing onward past the Spotless Starlings and I happened to see movement below me on the concrete sill below the first weir.  I could not believe it, a quartet of Crossbills drinking from what turned out to be the only water on the whole journey.  Disappointment again as I lifted the camera only to discover that the battery was flat and by the time I had replaced with a fully charged unit the birds had retreated back into the tops of the neighbouring, very high, Eucalyptus trees.  Meanwhile, lots of feeding Chiffchaffs about along with the marauding Monk Parakeets.

Count the Monk Parakeets Myiopsitta monachus

Ah well, onwards and upwards with many Chiffchaff followed by a dozen or more House Sparrows.  Once on the other side of the motorway underpass the odd Rock Dove and a few feeding Crag Martins circling above me.  Only a handful of Lesser Black-backed Gulls moving to and from the hidden water reservoir but at the top of the nearby bare tree another four Common Starlings.

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

The opposite bank of the dry river held a Hoopoe and a male Sardinian Warbler was observed in a nearby low bush.  Turning just after the ford for the return journey I quickly picked up the first of three Stonechats on the return walk.  Back near the underpass a trio of Greenfinches landed at the side of the road and passing the sewage works on my usual diversion just the one Cattle Egret noted.  But just think of the Crossbills and that Wryneck; certainly made the walk most worthwhile.

Birds seen:

Cattle Egret, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Crossbill.

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

Sierra Loja and Huetor Tajar Fields

 Tuesday 22 December

On top of the Sierra Loja

Not just because the days start to get longer from today but for the first time in over two months, more than a year in the case of Andy, I actually got to meet up with my treasured birding friends.  What a fabulous day up on the top of the Sierra Loja with Mick Richardson and Andy Paterson whilst Derek and Barbara Etherton had Jerry and Barbara Laycock in their car.  It may have been only around 6C when we set off and still in very low, single figures at the top but the panoramic view, as always, in the bright sunshine was certainly a sight for sore eyes.

Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene noctua

Starting off on the track up we soon recorded Blackbird, Chaffinch and Black Redstart quickly followed by a Crossbill from Derek's car and the many Stonechat.  Indeed. Stonechats and Black Redstarts seemed to be everywhere at all altitudes.  Clearing the tree line a party of eight Red-legged Partridge and Spotless Starlings before our first of many Corn Buntings.  Not just Corn Bunting but also regular sightings of Rock Bunting.  No sooner had we encountered the buntings than we came across a small flock of feeding Jackdaw followed by a "genuine" Rock Dove

Female Ibex Capra pyrenaica

Once at the higher levels a good number of Goldfinch and Linnet.  Lovely to see the group of a dozen female and young Ibex that were quite content to continue grazing just beyond the fence next to the track.  Once the first had been recorded there were also many Thekla Larks.  Magnificent, clear views over a very large area from the top in the clear sunshine with a distant Buzzard and a small passing flock of Chough.

Iberian Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis

Working our way back to the ponds at the Charca de Negra passing a couple of Iberian Grey Shrike we recorded our first Meadow Pipit and Crag Martin of the day and very many Goldfinch and Linnet as we savoured our picnic lunch.  A couple of Little Owl as we continued on down past the electricity station to finally reach the main quarry.  Not just a pair of Greenfinch as we approached but a trio of Dartford Warblers observed over a number of minutes on the gorse covered slopes - but no Stonechat.  Before reaching the end of the track we also added a single White Wagtail.

Distant record shot of Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata

Then it was back to our respective cars to transfer over the fields behind Huetor Tajar.  Both Robin and Kestrel noted as we approached the site and, upon arrival, many House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings before encountering the expected Back Redstarts and a few Meadow Pipits near the Model Aeroplane Flying Club's grass airfield.  Close by a number of White wagtail and a few Lapwing on the opposite field.

This area revealed a number of Crested Larks and there were many Goldfinch, Serin and Linnet moving about as we reached the small river.  A Green Sandpiper dashed away upstream and in the opposite direction a number of Iberian Magpie (I had already encountered at least a couple of dozen as I approached Loja on my outward journey).  On the field in front of us a single Cattle Egret seemed happy enough to be feeding on its own.  The close by trees next to the river produced many Chiffchaff and a couple of Blackbirds along with the first (Common) Magpie.

Moving a little further along the narrow road we were able to properly scan the main fields opposite the river and, as expected, found the feeding Little Bustards.  Not so many as Sunday and they appeared to be more spread out rather than a close-feeding group.  Also nearby a single Heron.

Just a few Little Bustards Sison Comun Tetrax tetrax today

Reaching the end of the road near the ford we found a few more Little Bustards and near the water a few Blackcap and Chaffinch along with a calling Cetti's Warbler.  Still plenty of Corn Bunting to be seen as a small flock of Rock Doves flew over.  Just the one Reed Bunting found by Derek before a high Buzzard and a small number of Sky Lark.  But also good to record a quartet of Tree Sparrows.

Finally, on to a nearby favoured site to check the deep ditches which duly produced both Grey Wagtail and Water Pipit.  A few Wood Pigeons were seen in nearby trees and a number of Collared Doves seemed to be watching over the ditch.  And not to be outdone, a couple of Iberian Grey Shrikes as we drove away from the area.

Sierras from Huetor Tajar fields

Birds seen:

Red-legged Partridge, Cattle Egret, Heron, Buzzard, Kestrel, Little Bustard, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Blackcap. Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Iberian Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

Monday 21 December 2020

El Temple, Granada Province

 Sunday 20 December

El Temple countryside with snowy Sierra background

Off reasonably early to join my dear friend, Mick Richardson for a day's birding in rural Granada province.  Following heavy overnight rain, more with Mick than with us on the coast, it was cloudy and calm with much low cloud as we met up in Huetor Tajar for an excellent day's birding covering many of Mick's favourite sites in the El Temple (The Temple) area of Granada province.  El Temple is basically the countryside between Granada city and Loja and consists of a mixture of arable fields and woods, represented by olive groves and almond plantations.  The area is also well known for growing both asparagus and garlic but especially the former.  It also includes small rivers, more like streams, and a few decent-sized lagunas and reservoirs.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

I had already recorded Little Owl, Rock DoveMagpie, Goldfinch and Chaffinch on the drive past Ventas de Zafarraya and up the old road to Salar and no sooner had we set off in Mick's car than we stopped in the upper Cacin river area where we recorded a couple of Cattle Egrets and Herons along with very many Spotless Starlings and Corn Buntings.  In addition, we also noted House Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Blackbird and Stonechat before finding and counting the flock of 29 Little Bustards.

Distant Little Bustards Tetrax tetrax

Further along the narrow track we could see a large flock of Azure-winged (Iberian) Magpies plus individual Magpies along with both Wood pigeons and Jackdaws.  Ere long we stopped at a distant field and were delighted to see a handful of Stone Curlew take to the air.  Kestrels and Buzzards made regular appearances and it was very rewarding to note the numbers seen during the day.

Now well out in the countryside and noting many Crested and Sky Larks as we stop in search of Back-bellied Sandgrouse - and here they come with a trio flying past us and away from the distant hunters.  A little further on we were astounded by the huge flocks of Calandra Larks and yet more Corn Buntings and Meadow Pipits.  A distant female Marsh Harrier was recorded and scoping the area not just more Kestrels and Buzzards but a single Black-winged Kite and a few trees along the row an Iberian Grey Shrike.  Soon after a Hoopoe crossed the track and then we had a mixture of Black Redstarts and Serins which were soon replaced by Sardinian Warblers and Linnets.  Checking carefully, we were also able to identify a number of Spanish in with the large House Sparrow flock.  And moving away form the site we encountered eight Red-legged Partridge.

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra

Time for a change of scenery and parked at a lovely viewpoint overlooking valley and hills no eagles on this occasion but a large, high flock of Choughs moving eastwards along with Greenfinch and Great Tit.  A Mistle Thrush flew away as we then made our way to the large reservoir in the Cacin valley.

No sooner had we arrived than we were greeted by a trio of Marsh Harriers including a pair of most handsome males.  On the water, the arrival of the harriers certainly lifted many of the Mallards and as we checked further along the water we were able to identify many Pochard and Shoveler plus more Mallards, Teal and Pintail.  A few Coots, a Little Grebe and eventually a solitary Moorhen were also seen.  However, you could not take away the Water Rail that ventured far out of the reeds to give a wonderful sighting, even if it did require our scopes.  In the meantime, we had both a calling Jay and Iberian Green Woodpecker, the latter of which actually flew past the reeds on the opposite bank before disappearing inland between a gap in the trees.  Mick even saw the rapidly disappearing Green Sandpiper down below the bank.  As might be expected, there were basking Cormorants and the bushes held many foraging Chiffchaff whilst behind us we had calling Thekla Larks.

Distant record shot of Water Rail Rallus aquaticus

Leaving the reservoir we made our way up the road and into the pine forest where we made a prolonged stop to find many of the smaller passerines.  Long-tailed Tits were quickly seen as was a small number of Crossbill.  But ere long we had also added Crested, Coal and Blue Tit to the day's list (I think that's all the available Tit family in this part of the world) along with both Short-toed Treecreeper and a couple of lovely Firecrest. 

Crossbill Loxia curvirostra

A stop a few kilometres on opposite the steep rock face produced both Crag Martin and Black Wheatear, Mick having already noted a Blue Rock Thrush as we descended into the village of Cacin.  No Red-knobbed Coot at the next small laguna but we did eventually find a Blackcap and, on leaving, had a mad Song Thrush dash across the road as if the local hunters were hot on his trail.  And so back to the upper Cacin river to where we had set out about five hours previously.  The Cattle Egrets were still on site as were the Little Bustards.  Both Grey and White Wagtails were noted and a short walk alongside a steep, water filled ditch duly produced both Bluethroat and Water Pipit.  No Golden Plover today but plenty of Lapwing on the grassy fields.  No sooner had we found a party of Common Waxbill and mentioned the fact that we had not seen a Collared Dove all day than around the corner we came across a field of same!

A few of the many Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Finally, having seen the Snipe dash up and away in its usual flight pattern than Mick found the distant Sparrowhawk which, at least, had the decency to move closer for a better view. And my last bird of the day was the Tree Sparrow immediately below my car window as we made our way back along the sandy track.  What a fabulous day in Mick's company and a final total of 75 species recorded.

Very distant record shot of some of the 29 Little Busstards Tetrax tetrax

Birds seen:

Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Teal, Pintail, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Black-winged Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Iberian Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Waxbill, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill, Corn Bunting.

Sierras from Huetor Tajar

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