Wednesday 28 April 2021

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa

 Wednesday 28 April

Sounds as if friend Dave Elliott-Binns and his Arboleas Birding Group have had another great day's birding.  I especially felt envious with the reports of Purple and Squacco Heron along with Great Spotted Cuckoo.  Just goes to show what can happen when the rains cease ad our feathered friends start moving about again..

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa:  Wednesday 28th April

With all the recent rain it was going to be interesting to see how it affected the Rambla de Almanzora near Villaricos.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

I picked up Juda from the Ballabona service station on the A7/E15 and headed for the rambla, joining near the Desert Springs golf complex.  We could immediately see that there was a lot more standing water, but it was still shallow.  Driving along the top of the embankment overlooking the patchy pools we saw Moorhen, Mallard and Black-winged Stilts.  A Common Sandpiper was on one of the concrete weirs.  There were three Glossy Ibis feeding in one of the meadowy areas.  A Grey Heron flew off. A Little Ringed Plover posed well on the side of the embankment.  Also seen were Little Egret, Redshank and a standing Shelduck on another concrete weir.  Smaller birds included Barn Swallow, Greenfinch, Spotless Starling and an Iberian Grey Shrike on one of the power lines.  There were only some Moorhen and Black-winged Stilts at the ford.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We were joined by John, Trevor, Michael and Karen.  John had seen Bee-eater, Red-rumped Swallow, Green Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Jackdaw, Blackbird and Woodpigeon on his little tour prior to meeting up.  He'd also heard a Nightingale.  We wandered up towards the sewage works, hearing Reed Warblers.  Beside one of the little pools was another Common Sandpiper.  A pair of Serin perched on the chain linked fence.  On the larger expanse of water were Common Pochard, Shelduck and a single male Gadwall as well as the usual Mallard. Black-winged Stilts littered the shore line.  I spotted a Sardinian Warbler, but was trumped by John's Spotted Flycatcher.

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We returned to the vehicles and made for the Lucky Bar in Villaricos village for a coffee and tostada. We added House Sparrow and Yellow Legged Gull.

We headed for the beach. John checked out the view from the promenade and saw some Turnstone. Unusually there was nothing on the harbour rocks so we began to walk over to the estuary.  A Great Spotted Cuckoo noisily flew across the flattened area.  From the top of the sandy embankment we saw Coot, Cormorant, Moorhen and Ringed Plover.  John found adult & immature Audouin's Gulls near the beach.  There were numerous Little Egret and Grey Herons lining the shore line.  I spotted three Gull-billed Terns near the breached beach.  We then walked along the beach towards the vehicles.  John added a Grey Plover to the list.

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

We then convoyed to the dual carriageway behind Vera Playa which overlooks a wetland.  John stopped first.  We carried to be nearer the hillock.  We first saw a Purple Heron flying low over the water and shrubs.  John joined us saying he stopped further back he'd seen other Purple Herons flying.  I had the briefest of glimpses of a Squacco Heron.  I spotted a Black-necked Grebe and Trevor a Little Grebe. There were at least ten Greater Flamingos there as well as lots of nesting Black-headed Gulls.  Moving down beyond the hillock we added White-headed Duck and Red-crested Pochard.  John and I identified some distant Whiskered Terns.  He then found a solitary sleeping Spoonbill.

John stopped at the first elevated viewing platform.  Trevor, Juda and I stopped at the second.  Not a lot was seen from ours.  White-headed Ducks, Common and Red-crested Pochard.  Our only addition to the list was a Great Crested Grebe.  John had added Black Wheatear and Kingfisher from where he had excellent views of the Whiskered Terns.  After we'd left to go home he added White Wagtail and Cetti's Warbler.

We ended the day with 54 species.  Very pleased with that.
We send our continued best wishes to Phil Naylor and to Richard Hirons who has been diagnosed with pneumonia.
Regards, Dave

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

Las Campinuelas and Rio Velez

 Wednesday 28 April

A beautiful, warm and sunny start to the day following all the recent heavy rain so, despite the possibility soft ground underneath, I took myself up to Las Campinuelas for a shorter circuit followed by a drive down to the Rio Velez on the western outskirts of Torre del Mar.  My fifty minutes visit to the former included the river bed, now with flowing water, before parking in the usual place and walking up to the spring and holding pool.  Blackbirds, Barn Swallows and Bee-eaters before getting out of the car and no sooner amongst the olive trees Sardinian Warblers and Crested Larks.  A Linnet was feeding on the grasses near the road and approaching the hill in front of the spring a trio of House Martins flew alongside the road and Collared Doves were noted on the wires and then in the trees.

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

Once chance to stop and look around I soon found a couple of Woodchat Shrikes in opposite directions and Reed Warblers were calling from the greenery adjacent to the holding pool.  A few Spotless Starlings moving around the area and above a trio of passing Common Swift.  

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator

Not a lot to add as I made a shortened circuit on the main dehesa other than many more Crested Larks and another two Woodchat Shrikes along with the numerous Blackbirds.  Returning to the car there was a Spotted Flycatcher perched on the wire fence in front of me and further along the track as I made my way back towards the road for the onward journey a couple of Serin and a Hoopoe.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata

Once parked upo at the Rio Velez above the N340 and near the chimney factory I was able to walk the track to the beach.  There may have been a lot of rain in the past twenty-four hours resulting the in the Rio Velez looking very green but little water until the main lagoon in front of the beach.  On the other hand, traffic up and down the track to service the growing fields had left an absolute nightmare of the track, a mixture of puddles and deep mud resulting in a very messy state of affairs by the time I eventually got back to the car.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

The first species recorded were numerous Barn Swallows along with Blackbirds and House Sparrows.  A couple of Collared Doves near the road bridge and once under many of the the resident Rock Doves were observed.  On the fence opposite a Spotted Flycatcher was on the look-out for his mid-morning snack and many Nightingales could be heard.  A few Spotless Starlings as I made my way to the hide and regular sightings of Goldfinches which consisted mainly of newly fledged juveniles without the charismatic red face.

Once on the beach nothing other the a solitary juvenile Black-headed Gull.  However, the enlarged terminal lagoon held both Moorhen and Coot along with some very young chicks and off to the right a Purple Swamphen was exploring the edges.  Lots of Cetti's and more Reed Warblers in this area and as I started to work my way up the overgrown western bank I easily manged to locate more Nightingales.  Just before taking a chance to cross the river or at least follow the dry part of the river bed back towards the car I managed to find another Kestrel resting in the tree in front of me and, underneath the road bridge, a resting Mallard.  

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio

A quick look at the growing fields upstream revealed more Monk Parakeets, Blackbirds and Spotless Starlings but, best of all, looking upstream I could see a quartet of Little Egrets feeding in a large pool and a pair of Hoopoes made a hasty departure.

Birds seen:

Mallard, Little Egret, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

Monday 26 April 2021

Guadalhorce, Malaga

 Monday 26 April

The Wader Pool at the Desembocaduro del Guadalhorce

Approaching the end of the month, the rain has passed over and the days are getting sunnier and warmer.  Time for a morning visit to the Desembocaduro del Guadalhorce in Malaga to see if I, too, can see some of the reported recent arrivals.  Greeted by Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Blackbird as I set of towards the footbridge where I found the breeding House Martins, a couple of Rock Doves and already many calling Nightingales.  A handful of Common Swifts came down to feed over and take on water.  Moving on a Serin was seen on the fence and a Cattle Egret was flying out of the reserve towards the church. To my right many singing Reed Warblers.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

Once at the Laguna Casillas just the one bird on the open water but it was a real surprise in being a Great Crested Grebe.  Eventually I also found a heron, couple of Little Grebe and five Little Egrets in the tree at the back.  A couple of male Pochards were also found to me left.  Once I had noted both the Moorhen and Coot plus three Black-winged Stilts I moved on the Wader Pool.

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta

The Wader Pool appeared to be "chocker-block" with white birds.  No less then 23 Avocet along with  a slightly larger number of Black-winged Stilts. A couple of Shelduck flew in and also three Redshank present.  In front of me a Common Sandpiper then a pair of Slender-billed Gulls joined the gathered throng.  Behind me Cetti's Warblers and over the water feeding Barn Swallows and more House Martins, the latter mainly feeding over the neighbouring river.  Then a Hoopoe flew over theatre to rest on the island's tree.

Hoopoe Upupa epops

Time to see what was on the Rio Viejo (Old River) and not surprised to see relatively few birds as the water level was so high.  A number of Black-winged Stilts plus Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers plus a single summer plumage Sanderling.  Another Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinches and Greenfinches as I continued on down to the Sea Watch.  Nothing to be seen out at sea other than a handful of Lesser Black-backed Gulls so back into the reserve proper and make my way towards the Escondida Hide.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

Both Spotless Starlings and Monk Parakeets as I made my way back and upon arrival at the Laguna Escondida just the single Coot on the water and a sleeping Pochard at the very far end.  However, before departing another three Coots put in an appearance and a pair of male Pochard and a single female White-headed Duck also moved out onto the open water.

Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis with Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus and Black-winged Stilt.   But note the two diminutive Little Terns Sterna albifrons (back centre)

Finally arriving at the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande a number of surprises.  Just the one Cormorant and Flamingo numbers were down to less than ten.,  Still lots of Black-winged Stilts but the far island away to the right held a half-dozen Shelduck and yet more Avocet (29 recorded during the visit).  Having noted that the Cormorant was accompanied by a few Black-headed Gulls and Sandwich Terns I looked closer at the nearer island and found yet more of the same.  Putting the scope on the far island described above revealed scores of Sandwich Terns.  During one of their few massed flights around the water I noticed that one of the terns seemed extremely small so waited until the identified tern had landed then used the scope to focus and confirm the presence of a Little Tern.  Even more scrutiny also produced a single Gull-billed Tern.  Not long after the main tern flock seemed to disappear over the back but the, now two, Little Terns flew our way and came to rest almost in front of the hide.  Meanwhile, at the back of the laguna, a small number of Slender-billed Gulls were still present.

Little Terns Sterna albifrons

Also present near the hide were a couple of Redhank along with Little Ringed Plover and two Dunlin.  Meanwhile, a Yellow-legged Gull watched over the proceedings from atop the large resting pole and a Crested Lark was found in the vegetation  just beyond the scrape.  A most enjoyable morning apart from the arrival of a party of very noisy children on an "outing."  They may have been wearing masks but I could not help but think it was perhaps most irresponsible to be taking young teenagers, who would not have received a Covid vaccination, out in large numbers to mix with older adults.

Gathering of the Little Egrets Egretta garzetta

Birds seen:

Shelduck, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Golfinch.

Dunlin Calidris alpina

Redshank Tringa totanus

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula

More Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta with a few Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus

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

Las Campinuelas - Again!

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator

 Sunday 25 April

Bit of "Gilbert and Sullivan" this morning to report that the 'threatened cloud hath passed away' (almost) so although dull and overcast I took myself off to Las Campinuelas for a ninety minute circuit round the site.  By the time I had finished the cloud was beginning to break but the temperature was already in the increase and at approaching 20C the weather was becoming quite humid.

Pallid Swifts above the apartments as I left Algarrobo Costa and entering the Las Campinuelas area via the dry river bed a couple of Lesser black-backed Gulls above me, A Kestrel resting at the very top of a tall pine tree and Blackbirds galore, they were here, there and everywhere.  A single male Serin was posing on a wire fence and passing the sandy banks I could see the many resident, presumably a breeding colony, Bee-eaters.

Bee-eaters Merops apiaster

Walking from my parking spot towards the spring and its overflow pool I quickly encountered Sardinian, Bonelli's and Willow Warbler along with Great TitCollared Doves, Crested Larks and a couple of Hoopoe.  Once above the spring I could see a small number of passing Common Swifts and the nearby House Sparrows.  A Pied Flycatcher came up from below and rested in the base of an old tree and then, by way of curiosity, I made my way upstream before crossing to return towards the road.  It was at this far end that I found my first Woodchat Shrike of the morning and eventually a total of seven individuals plus a few House Martins as I walked back to the road.

Record shot of Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca

The area adjacent to the spring provided a number of Goldfinch and Greenfinch along with a single Meadow Pipit.  A number of active Spotless Starlings were moving around and even a lone raven passed across the road above my head.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

The circuit of the main dehesa was uneventful apart from the continuous supply of Blackbirds, Hoopoes and Woodchat Shrike, along with a noisy dozen Monk Parakeets, until on the furthest side until I came across a female Common Redstart.  Once at the sandy area near the model aircraft runway and scrambling track I started to pick up numerous Crested Larks along with both Stonechat and Corn Bunting.

Juvenile Stonechat Saxicola torquatus

Then it was across the road with lots of Bee-eaters flying around the area and back up the hill to the car.  This last, short walk produced the Barn Swallows of the morning and once back in the car and on the way home the tunnel at the end of the site under the nearby motorway provided me with  couple of Red-rumped Swallows.  Last new bird of the day arriving back in Algarrobo Costa for a coffee and churros was a pair of White Wagtails.

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris

Birds seen:

Kestrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Willow Warbler, Great Tit, Pied Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

Yet another Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator

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

Friday 23 April 2021

Las Campinuelas

 Thursday 22 April

Friends Derek and Barbara Etherton over for the day so, fist things first, take a coffee in Algarrobo Costa centre before, with scores of Pallid Swifts swirling around our heads above their apartment nesting sites, we headed off to Las Campinuelas taking the country road via the golf course.  Arriving by 11.45 we had time to tale a leisurely two-hour circular walk around the site and the expected rain came to nothing.

Approaching my usual parking spot we had a lone Sparrowhawk above us and no shortage of Barn Swallows.  The Bee-eaters were very active and seem to have excavated some of their nesting holes in a bank alongside the road.  The occasional Blackbird of many to be seen during the day and even a rather smart male Serin plus the first of the many Goldfinch before we had gone very far.  Spotless Starlings were moving around the site and a couple of Crested Larks immediately on front of the parked car along with a Great Tit busy exploring the base of an old olive tree immediately in front of us.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata

Walking through the trees alongside the road many more Crested Larks and Sardinian Warblers plus the local House SparrowsCollared Doves regularly alighted on the wires whilst above the Common Swifts were feeding much lower given the overcast weather.  Before reaching the ruined building on top of the nearby slope we had found our first Hoopoe and Woodchat Shrike whilst a Greenfinch was resting on a distant fence.

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator

The area around the spring and its holding pool was very productive providing both Goldfinch and Serin with the occasional Zitting Cisticola flittering around above.  In the trees next to the reeds, where we could hear the Reed Warblers calling, first a Blackcap and quickly followed by Willow Warbler.  Moving slightly away from the area we turned to find a Bonelli's Warbler in the tree on front of us.

Crossing the road and making our way onto the circular track we saw a Red-legged Partridge dash away through the trees then an other Woodchat Shrike below us.  Indeed, we were to finally record four individuals.  Above us a quartet of Lesser Black-backed Gulls moving towards the coast which led our eyes to the lone Booted Eagle making lazy circles in the sky.  it was in this far part of the circuit that we found our a Red-rumped SwallowSpotted Flycatcher and in the base of a nearby tree a Whitethroat.  Also nearby were the noisy Monk Parakeets and a small number of Chaffinch.

Juvenile Stonechat Saxicola torquatus

Once in the sandy area including the scrambling course we encountered far more Crested Larks, Kestrel and, although being late ion the year, one of Vaughan Williams's ascending Sky LarksStonechats included male, female and juveniles and also a Corn Bunting.  Finally, having crossed the road onto Bee-eater territory we saw more of these delightful birds along with a single Wood Pigeon so taking our mornings species total to 35.

Birds seen:

Red-legged Partridge, Booted Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Sardinaian Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Bonelli's Warbler, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 21 April

God to see friend my Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group out and about again.  Obviously, Almeria province has been getting the rain that we have not!  Mind you, they certainly made up for it today with some fabulous birds.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 21st April

Due to the wet weather it's been three weeks since we ventured out.  Today we went to the Sierra de Maria, my favourite local destination.  I drove up with Juda and Neville via the Santa Maria de Nieve route avoiding Murcia province.  We met up with Adrian, John, Trevor, Peter, Michael and Karen at the Repsol garage cafe in Maria town for a pre-birding coffee.  We headed up to the chapel first, me seeing Linnet and Rock Sparrow en route.  We were joined by Ken and Jennifer.  From the carpark we located a small number of Griffon Vultures sat along the mountain ridge.  We heard an Eurasian Cuckoo.  I spotted a Woodchat Shrike atop a shrub below us.  John did well to find a group of Red-billed Chough playing in the up draughts along the ridge.  Also seen were Woodpigeon, Serin, Goldfinch, Magpie and Spotless Starling.  We walked into the botanical garden.  I spotted a Bonelli's Warbler in a pine tree. Leaving Adrian in the garden, the rest of us did the lower walk.  To start with we didn't see anything. Then Jennifer found a sub adult Golden Eagle soaring with some Griffon Vultures.  I had a fleeting glimpse of a flying Subalpine Warbler.  A Chaffinch was seen.  Adrian meanwhile had added a Crossbill to the list.  On the walk down to the chapel John saw a Mistle Thrush.  Nice to see a pair of Booted Eagles above us.

From there Juda, Neville, Michael, Karen, Ken, Jennifer and myself went down onto the plain whilst Adrian, Peter, John and Trevor did the loop.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oneanthe (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We stopped first at the ruined barn where we were astounded to see a fully armed soldier sheltering! Karen spotted a Barn Swallow flying through the doorway of one of the buildings.  We moved onto the plain seeing Thekla and Calandra Larks.  At the hamlet we saw only one Lesser Kestrel there, but a small number hovering over the fields.  Heading back we stopped at the trough.  First we saw a pair of Northern Wheatear.  I thought we'd seen a Black-eared Wheatear, but it turned out to be another Northern.  Juda added a White Wagtail.  We were thrilled to see 5 Turtle Doves perched in the surrounding trees.

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (PHOTO: Adrian Speakman)

We made our way to the La Piza forest cafe for lunch.  We watched the birds coming to the nuts.  Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits were normal, but seeing a Jay using the facilities was unusual! Chaffinches hung around below the feeders waiting for scraps.  We all had left by the time the others got there.

Jay Garrulus glandarius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

I received this list from John from their trip round the loop. Crested Lark, Corn Bunting, Carrion Crow, Raven, Jackdaw, Skylark, Mallard, Northern Wheatear, Grey Heron, Black Eared Wheatear, Kestrel, Red Legged Partridge, Black Wheatear, Collared Dove, Lesser Kestrel, Barn and Red-rumped Swallow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Rock Sparrow, Calandra Lark, Serin, Great Tit, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Crossbill, Jay and Hawfinch.  The last 7 on that list I assume to be at La Piza. 

Hawfinch Coccothraustes Coccothraustes (PHOTO: Adrian Speakman)

Combining the two lists, the group saw a total of 48 species.  Very good considering the weather wasn't brilliant.

I have to report that sadly Richard Gunn's wife, Pat, passed away.  I'm sure you'll all join me in sending our deepest condolences.  Also sending our best wishes for a speedy recovery to Phil Naylor who is in hospital with a heart condition.

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

Las Campinuelas

 Wednesday 21 April

A short, forty-five minutes walk around Las Campinuelas produced a total of  sixteen species along with the Pallid Swifts and House Martins already seen in Algarrobo Pueblo as I set out for the adjacent site.  No sooner had I arrived than I had added Blackbird, Goldfinch and House Sparrow and as I set out on my anti-clockwise circular walk I soon also added Hoopoes and Collared Dove.

Three Collared Doves Streptopelia decaocta
But why the very pale individual?

Near the old ruins to the far right, just beyond the spring, a Red-legged Partridge was resting up against the fence.  No sooner than I had seen the first pair of Crested Larks than i was to finally record a further dozen or more.  Overhead Barn Swallows were flying around along with a number of Common Swifts.

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa

No shortage of Spotless Starlings moving around the area totalling well over an hundred then the sight of a handful of Monk Parakeets feeding at the top of a couple of fig trees.  In the sandy area around the scrambling area where most of the Crested Larks were found, a female Stonechat and a Corn Bunting.  Crossing the road for the final walk I was aware of the Bee-eaters on the wires in front of me as a Tawny Pipit bid a hasty retreat immediately in front of me.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata

Birds seen:

Red-legged Partridge, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Tawny Pipit, Stonechat, Blackbird, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

El Torcal and Fuente de Piedra

Tuesday 20 April

Looking south from El Torcal towards Villanueva de la Concepcion

At 8.25 I was at the car park below the mountain drive up to the El Torcal Visitors Centre where I met up with friends Derek and Barbara Etherton along with Mick Smith having already recorded Little Owl, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Sparrow, Goldfinch and Serin as I passed through nearby Villanueva de la Concepcion as I approached our rendezvous, all of which were to be seen again during the next three hours of our birding in this fabulous setting.  Indeed, with cruises cancelled and restrictions on movements it was a (selfish) joy to have this fabulous site to ourselves without the often accompanying coach loads of noisy tourists.

Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia

Almost an hour was spent in the area before we started up the hill and whilst there recorded some fabulous sightings not least of which was a gorgeous male Cirl Bunting at close quarters.  Lots of Melodious Warblers along with Bonelli's, Sardinian and Willow Warbler plus a passing Lesser Kestrel high overhead and in and out of the shrubs and small trees numerous smaller birds including Stonechat, Linnet, Greenfinch and Nightingale.  I think Barbara was the only one to see the Corn Bunting below us but at least another individual as we were departing at the end of our stay.  Other sightings included Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, Great Tit and Collared Dove.  Another surprise was the sighting a Black-eared Wheatear.

Male Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius

Moving up to about half-way we stopped at our favourite site to see at least five of the expected Subalpine Warblers.  First Rock Sparrows on the high cliffs the we added Rock Bunting, many Blue Rock Thrushes, Black Wheatear and Black RedstartChoughs passed overhead as did about a score of Bee-eaters and then, for me, the delight of hearing then finding a Wren.

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Continuing on upwards we then added a Common Kestrel and a pair of Griffon Vulture.  Once at the top more Blackbirds, Black Redstarts and Rock Bunting along with a Blue Tit before we found both Subalpine and Melodious Warblers just beyond the Visitors Centre.  Away high in the distance we could see the occasional Griffon Vulture which led us to find the feeding swifts, mainly Common but also more than a handful of Alpine Swifts.

Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta

A Thekla Lark was feeding nearby and on our stop on the way down near the ruined farm we found a Little Owl, Stonechats and Red-legged Partridge.  Whilst there we had a magnificent view of an overhead Bonelli's Eagle.

Little Owl Athene noctura

Having departed we then drove over to Fuente de Piedra knowing that the recent rains might well have brought more water to the site.  Approaching the entrance no shortage of House Martins and Sparrows around the houses and the White Stork was sitting proudly atop its nest on the top of the tall chimney.  A Raven flew over the entrance and now lots more water on the, once again, flooded entrance field on the left which duly produced Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Redshank, Avocet, Common Sandpiper and Shelduck.  To our left numerous Reed Warblers were singing along with Cetti's Warbler and a couple of Zitting Cisticola and Barn Swallows fed over the water.  First a handful of Black-headed Gulls then the arrival of the Gull-billed Terns before, having found an Iberian Yellow Wagtail, we continued up to the car park.

A not so clean White Stork Ciconia ciconia

Making our way to the back and the Laguneta we stopped to check the gathered birds away to our far right where we could identify, with the help of scopes, Ringed Plover and Dunlin along with more Common and a single Spotted Redshank.  Not just very many Gull-billed but also at least half-dozen Whiskered Terns were resting on the sands near a small group of Flamingo and more Shelduck.  Moving to the mirador to check the Flamingos on the extreme left we duly found a couple of Lesser Flamingos in their midst.  Jackdaws were flying around the area and the singing and calling of the numerous Nightingales was almost deafening.  To the right of the main Flamingo flock we also found seven resting Heron.

Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus with Common Pochard Aythya ferina (left)

So on to the Laguneta where there was water a plenty.  Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall and White-headed Duck were added to the day's list as were both Common and Red-crested Pochard. Then what we were really looking for; the newly introduced Marbled Duck. Sixteen individuals had recently been released from their holding pen and three nest boxes installed on the various islands.  We found a couple near the pen and then the sight of six flying around the area. Let's hope they stay and become a viable breeding flock.

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris

Also present were a number of Coot and Moorhen along with Little Grebe, a Purple Swamphen, Avocet plus more Black-headed Gulls and Gull-billed Terns.  A trio of Lesser Black-backed Gulls added to the mix and above the buildings on the far side we could see many Rock Doves and Spotless Starlings.  A Serin was feeding immediately in front of the hide and a small number of Bee-eaters flew over as we departed.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio

As we left the site to take the track between the back of the railway station and the reserve the others also found a Curlew Sandpiper on the flooded field and, once round the back, we were able to add Collared Dove, Greenfinch and Woodchat Shrike.  Interestingly, given the restrictions on travel to visit certain sites, as I passed beyond Antequera at the top of the hill on the way home an Azure-winged (Iberian) Magpie flew across the road in front of me.  So ended a wonderful day with almost 80 species recorded.

Male Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

Birds seen:

Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Marbled Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Griffon Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Wren, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Raven, spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Distant record shot of Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans
Still the occasional Ibex Capra pyrenaica to be seen

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