Thursday 29 September 2022

El Fondo

Flamingo Phoenicopterus roses

Thursday 29 September

Time to head off back to Velez de Benaudalla but first an overnight stop at my usual hostal west of Elche to enable a quick visit to the marvellous El Fondo reserve.  Driving down the entry road to the Visitors Centre no shortage of feeding Barn Swallows with a Little Egret in the field to the left and a Cattle Egret crossing the road next to the entrance gate.  A recently watered field on my right held at least forty foraging Glossy Ibis so definitely worth a visit on my way out.  In the car park itself a welcoming group of the resident House Sparrows.

Definitely some rain since my last visit as the pool at the back of the Visitors Centre now contained some standing water which was being worked by more than a dozen Moorhen along with a single Red-knobbed Coot.  Then a lone Mallard along with a feeding Little Grebe.

Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata

Taking the boardwalk across the first lake no shortage of Common Coot with at least two score counted plus a further eighteen Red-knobbed Coot but just the two Purple Swamphens on show.  A handful of Little Grebe and six Flamingos before checking the waterfowl where I recorded a number of Mallard and three Marbled Duck.

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostrtris with a Common Coot Fulica atra

As I reached the end of the boardwalk to visit the first of the two hides a pair of Carrion Crow flew over and once on the far track not just five Black-winged Silts in the air moving between pools but a distant quartering Marsh Harrier. At the smaller laguna on the left a number of ducks at the back of the water including Mallard and Shoveler but also a handful of Red-crested Pochard.  A lone Heron was resting away to the back left.

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina

On to the larger laguna away to my right where I managed to add a pair of Gadwall along with forty plus Flamingo.  On the far bank a flock of resting Little Egret accompanied by a single Heron as a few Black-headed Gulls flew over.

Resting Little Egrets Egretta garzetta

Then it was the reverse journey back to the car park with a Reed Warbler working the reeds to the immediate left of the boardwalk and noted the Sardinian Warbler in the low bushed in front of me. I did stop at the flooded field next to the entrance lane and whilst the Glossy Ibis had now moved on a very slow drive down along the adjacent track enabled to me to record a six Wood Sandpipers, a couple of Iberian Yellow Wagtails and both a few resting Black-headed Gulls and three more Cattle Egret

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola

Finally, as I drove through the edge of the reserve back to the main road, a couple of Wood Pigeon and regular Collared Dove sightings.  However, they could not outshine the Iberian Grey Shrike resting atop a pylon at the side of the road.

Distant Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis

Birds seen:

Gadwall, Mallard, Shovler, Red-crested Pochard, Marbled Duck, Little Grebe, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Barn Swallow, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Iberian Grey Shrike, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Heron Ardea cinerea

Record shot of the Iberian Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberae

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostrtris

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina

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Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 28 September

For his last weekly outing before heading back to the UK for his "sabbatical," Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group were once again at the Sierra de Maria and, as you might expect, some great birding sightings recorded.  Lovely to see such a large following and rewarded by Short-toed Eagle, Kestrels and Griffon Vultures not to mention the larks and Black Wheatear.  With Alan in charge for the next couple of months, no doubt Dave and I will enjoy reading about their future adventures.  Meanwhile, all being well, as I, too, will be back to relatively nearby Warsash on Southampton Water, perhaps a chance to catch up with Dave and Gilly on "foreign" territory for a little birding and socialising.  Although, strictly speaking, now that I have relocated back, perhaps I am already on foreign territory for the next week!

Sierra de Maria  -  Wednesday 28th September

For my last trip out before our two month "holiday" to the UK, Cabo de Gata being a dry desert (See Bob Wright's latest blog!) I decided we'd return to the Sierra de Maria.  I took Juda up to the Repsol Garage in Maria town where we met up with Alan, Peter, Trevor, Richard and Pat, Jim and Wendy, Mike and Kierston (Hope I spelt that right!) and finally Barrie and Beryl.  En route the latter couple had logged Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Barn Swallow, Northern Starling and Collared Dove.  Juda and I saw "nada"!

After a refreshing cup of was a bit chilly!. we made our way towards the loop.  Leading the convoy I spotted a solitary Kestrel and a Magpie.  Alan had handed me a walkie talkie so we were able to communicate front to back.  As we travelled towards the village I spotted three circling Griffon Vultures, Chaffinch. Goldfinch, Corn Bunting and Stonechat.  Barrie, who was in Trevor's car directly behind, added Short-toed Lark, House Sparrow, Crested Lark and Carrion Crow.  Alan had a Barn Swallow.  We saw small groups flying past all morning.  At the village stop a Corn Bunting showed well, but we added nothing to the list.   As we headed to the cliff face we saw numerous Corn Buntings, Stonechats, Carrion Crows and Goldfinch as well as flocks of Woodpigeon.  As I approached the cliff face I spotted a Blue Rock Thrush perched on top.  I stopped at a reasonable distance to allow the others to catch up and see it.  Barrie saw some Serin.  We walked to the far side.  As we were about to return Alan found a Spotted Flycatcher.  Wendy who'd stayed with the cars described a bird she'd seen.  Black bird with white bum....Black Wheatear!  We carried on.  A covey of about 10 Red-legged Partridge flew across the road.  At the big green barn I spotted an Iberian Grey Shrike on a pile of twigs.  The others had seen a Yellow Wagtail and Linnet.  As we neared the hamlet Juda spotted something flying to our right.  Not one but three Kestrels.  Definitely Commons not Lessers. There were more at the hamlet. Barrie spotted (eventually) three Little Owls on or near the barn where Kevin got a great photo on our last visit. 

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Heading towards the farm trough we had three Northern Wheatears.  Barrie also saw a Calandra Lark. Juda and I saw a Short-toed Lark near the trough.  Mike spotted a Short-toed Eagle which was close to a 24 strong flume of Griffon Vultures.  Kierston added a White Wagtail.

We made our way to the La Piza forest cafe.  Richard saw a Crossbill.  A couple of Jays made an appearance.  There were no nuts in the feeders so no bird action in front of the table I was sitting at. Barrie's table saw all the common titmice....Crested, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed.

The end of a great morning's birdwatching in fab company!  38 species seen.  Alan is now in charge for two months.  If you're intending to holiday in the area and want to go out on a trip, email me and I'll pass your email on to him.

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Wednesday 28 September 2022

Cabo de Gata

Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura

Tuesday 27 September

A stop at Cabo de Gata on my long journey from Malaga to Lliria, just north of Valencia, proved somewhat of a disappointment.  Havin left Jenny at the airport at 5 I arrived at this lovely Almeria site not long after sunrise at 8.30 to discover nothing!  Somebody had pulled the plug leaving the salinas completely dry and not even a damp patch let alone any mud.  Flamingos by the score?  Not a chance, just the sight of a distant single Stonechat posing atop a small bush.  So onto the public hide where, at least, I did note some resting gulls on the beach so worth a very short walk to the entrance track to confirm that they were Yellow-legs.  They were but, in addition, maybe a dozen Audouin's Gulls whilst out over the choppy sea a couple of fishing Gannets.  Perhaps just as well that I made a note of the resident Rock and Collared Doves along with a few House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings.

Audouin's Gulls Larus audounii

Leaving the public hide I drove along the track towards the church and added Thekla Larks to the Meadow Pipit I passed on the way to the hide.  Even a Kestrel had the courtesy to rise from a nearby bush and come to rest on a pylon to offer a better sight. But then I noticed some very pale shapes on the dried out remains of the harvested salt, more damp than muddy.  With bins able to recognise that the shapes were more gulls, maybe a couple of score.  Making use of the scope a good number of Lesser Black-backed as well as more Yellow-legged Gulls but also as many as a dozen Sandwich Terns. Even a lone Heron decided it was worth a resting place.

Find the Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis and Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus without a scope!!!

With so little seen I drove over the peak and down to the lighthouse area where I recorded a quartet of Black Wheatears and more Thekla Larks.  Nevermind recording probably as many as thirty species, I finally ended up with a grand total of fifteen!  Just as well I also added both Magpie and Wood Pigeon before leaving Andalucia on my way north.

Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura

Birds seen:

Gannet, Heron, Kestrel, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Thekla Lark, Meadow Pipit, Black Wheatear, Stonechat, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow.

Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michalellis

Resting Audouin's Larus auduinii (left) and Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michalellis

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Saturday 24 September 2022

Shags, Waders and Raptors

Saturday 24 September

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Another hot and sunny day and having moved all the packages to the entrance hall ready for packing the car tomorrow, Jenny and I took a drive over to Charcuna, she to sample the beach and its waters and me to see if there were any of the local Shags around.  A departing White Wagtail as we approached the car park and, approaching the water, Jenny drew my attention to a couple of Sanderling on the shoreline and a little further away a male Stonechat was resting on the beach.

Sanderling Calidris alba

Making use of the scope I soon found a trio of Shag resting off-shore and later two more further to the east.  A further two were seen approaching the cliff area protruding out into the sea to disappear to the west.

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Moving slightly east we soon found a good number of Kentish Plover in their breeding territory along with a Ringed Plover and Iberian Yellow Wagtail.  And whilst partaking of some light refreshment in the shade not only a number of House Sparrows but also a Crested Lark.

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus

Time to make our way back to the apartment and taking the coastal N340 road we made a slight detour to drive along the Camino Patria at the back of the Charca de Suarez.  No sooner arrived and we had Collared Doves followed by a Kestrel resting atop a pole.  A Crested Lark crossed the lane and away to our left a couple of circling Marsh Harriers.  At the end of the lane a passing handful of Spotless Starlings along with a House Sparrow.  On the opposite side of the road a female Marsh Harrier was quartering the field as a handful of Rock Doves approached the nearby wires.

For an unexpected one-off visit at the last moment a most worthwhile birding result.

Birds seen:

Shag, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow.

Kentish Plover with Iberian Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae in background

Kentish Plover with Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula in background

Two of many, mainly juvenile, Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus

Five of the seven Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis seen this afternoon

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Friday 23 September 2022

Velez de Benaudalla

 Friday 23 September    

Before it got too hot, Jenny and I went for a long morning walk around the surrounds of Velez de Benaudalla to explore the other side of the Rio Guadalfeo and return, after crossing the swinging, no holds barred, narrow suspension bridge over the river near the picnic area and up the very steep and twisty lane back into the village.  And still recovering, nevermind the very welcome beers, once back in the village.

House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings as we left the village and crossing over the river at the treatment works we saw a departing Grey Wagtail and once on the other side no less than six White Wagtails.  A Grey Heron was seen overhead and as we made our way up the wooded lane a couple of Cetti's Warblers heard,  On the river eleven Mallards and most humorous to see them swept downstream when they entered the fast-flowing stream.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba

Reaching the road up to the road we took a slight diversion to take a look over the charming, narrow humped-back bridge, Obviously some sport of weir beneath the bridge as the water was absolutely gushing out downstream in a bubbling white froth.  Upstream not only fast-flowing but as we looked a Turtle Dove rose from below us and moved off over the neighbouring plastic houses and away downstream.

Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur

A flock of Rock Doves was next up and then the sound of a calling Hoopoe.  Once in the picnic area a good number of both Chaffinches and House Sparrows followed by a couple of Collared Doves.

With our imminent departure from the village and Spain, Jenny leaves next Monday, lovely to take this beautiful walk of 6 kms and get to see the Turtle Dove, one of my favourites summer visitors.

Birds seen:

Mallard, Heron, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Hoopoe, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Cetti's Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch.

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Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Juvenile Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus

 Thursday 22 September

Collected friend Steve Powel at 10.20 and then on down to the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar where we met up with friends Derek and Barbara Etherton for a couple of hours exploring the lower river and its new lagoon.  Yet again, another very hot and sunny morning and having parked our respective cars on the slip road towards the old bridge immediately had Spotless Starlings above us followed by the first overpass by a handful of Monk Parakeets. Then, before descending to take the tack alongside the old river towards the public hide at least eight Linnets feeding at the side of the road.

Once on the track a couple of Blackbirds toing and froing and then a one, resting Cattle Egret in the fields to our left.  Derek found a Pied Flycatcher perched on a can to the right pf the egret and then I picked out a second.   Concentrated looked discovered no less than ten Pied Flycatchers in a three metre stretch. Overhead a single Yellow-legged Gull and then one of the resident Kestrels perched atop a pylon. A Blackcap was heard and then, almost at the hide, a handful of Serin.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

Once inside the hide we soon had a view of the dozen Black-headed Gulls on the water below us and time to check the shoreline around us.  Sanderling and Ringed Plover were quickly found followed by a few feeding Barn Swallows over the water.  Two Flamingos away to our left but one quickly came to join us in front of the hide and we were to eventually record five juveniles.  Both Redshank and Common Sandpiper walked the shore in front of us before a trio of Black-winged Stilts flew in.  In the neighbouring bushes we recorded Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, House Sparrow and more Serin.  A small flock of Bee-eaters was heard as they passed over the hide and a low-flying Black-tailed Godwit headed to the other end of the lagoon.

Redshank Tring totanus

As we left the hide to walk to the beach a pair of Mallard were seen flying over and in the field beyond the pumping station to tour left a large mixed flock of resting gulls including Black-headed, Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and at least a dozen Mediterranean Gulls.  Passing the end of the lagoon we also noted both a Moorhen and more Ringed Plover.

Common Sandpiper Actitus hypoleucos

Nothing to be seen on the sea but looking up the old river a distant Little Egret and a Purple Swamphen with a second also seen paddling across the water.  Nearer, making use of the exposed mud, many more Ringed Plover, mainly juveniles, along with a couple of Sanderling, a single Redshank and Dunlin plus a pair of Ruff.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Setting off to walk back up alongside the western side of the dry river a Booted Eagle was noted circling high over the hills in front of us. Derek and Barbara had heard a Reed Warbler and in front of me in the scrubby field to the left I found a foraging Garden Warbler.  Almost at the end of this narrow path we stopped as Derek had heard Waxbills and then thought he had a Bonelli's Warbler in the tall tree in front of us.  Out came the "Merlin" app and on to its sound identification.  Not so much conforming a Willow Warbler our left but it also picked up a Penduline Tit.  Much listening and searching and its high-pitched call was located.  What a way to end the walk and, naturally, as we drew near to the road bridge and our cars the resident Rock Doves put in their expected appearance.

Birds seen:

Mallard, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Flamingo, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Bee-eater, Barn Swallow, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Penduline Tit, Pied Flycatcher, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Serin, Linnet.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio

Redshank Tringa totanus

Sanderling Calidris alba

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Wednesday 21 September 2022

Arboleas Birding Group at Los Norias & Roquetas de Mar

 Wednesday 21 September

Looks like Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group had a fabulous visit to Las Norias and Roqueatas de Mar, despite the initial wet start for the drive south.  And then to find plenty of Black Terns, not to mention almost a complete set of hirundine and the handful of Knot.  It would appear that Dave has just next week's adventure before holidaying back in the UK for almost two months so hoping I might catch up with him and Gilly when we also get back to the south coast of the UK.  Be different to do some British birding with Dave by way of a change.

Sanderling Calidris alba (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Las Norias & Roquetas  -  
Wednesday 21st September

Richard & I headed south on the E15/A7 towards Almeria.  First we had showers, then rain.  Very welcome, but maybe not on a birding day!  We met up with Frans and Marga, Trevor, Barrie and Kevin at junction 809, the Repsol Garage cafe.  We left there in a shower, but by the time we got to Las Norias lakes it had stopped.  As I got out of the car Barrie had already spotted a Purple Swamphen just in front of us.  A scan of the left-hand lake produced at least 25 Great Crested Grebes, but not a lot else.  A Cetti's Warbler was heard. Richard found a Reed Warbler.  I scoped down the far end of the lake and identified Grey Heron, Yellow-legged Gull, Little Egret and a couple of Cormorants.  Kevin checked out the right-hand lake and only saw a Coot.  Above us were plenty of young Barn Swallows, a Common Swift, Crag Martin and some Sand Martins.  A flight of Black Headed Gulls flew over closely followed by some Yellow Wagtails.  Barrie added a Kingfisher.  A Cattle Egret landed nearby.  Frans found a Common Sandpiper.  A young Night Heron flew over. Also seen were House Sparrow and Collared Dove.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We didn't stop half-way round to the meadow as it was flooded and there were piles of rubbish where we would've parked.  We stopped at the top of the lane by the meadow.  There were lots of Yellow Wagtail flitting around.  Also seen were White Wagtail, a pair of Hoopoe, Spotless Starlings, Magpie and Serin.  I'm sure I saw a Northern Starling.  Frans added a Little Ringed Plover.  Richard stayed with the vehicles whilst the rest of us walked up to the bridge.  We only saw a Great Crested Grebe to the left.  Too many reeds to the right to see anything.  Richard, however added Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Warbler.  On our way to Roquetas we saw a couple of Kestrels on telegraph poles.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We stopped at the track by the concrete hut and walked on to the salinas.  As we approached the causeway we could see a group of waders standing on the left.  As Barrie said we'd stop here so we don't disturb them, they took to the wing.  Double drat.  Thankfully after a few circuits most had returned.  Apart from the obvious and vociferous Black-winged Stilts, Barrie logged Sanderling, Dunlin and Redshank.  Lots of Greater Flamingos in the area.  I spotted an Avocet over the far side.  A Black Tern quartered in front of us.  There were numerous gulls on the narrow rocky strips.  They included Audouin's, Slender-billed, Black-headed and Yellow-legged.  A flight of 5 Knot circled in front of us. Also seen were Ringed and Little Ringed Plover.

Dunlin Calidris alpina (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We travelled round to the large Roquetas lake.  I immediately saw Common Pochard and Little Grebe close by.  To our left on the small spit were a pair of Little Egret and a Glossy Ibis as well as some Mallard.  Barrie added a Shoveler and some Black-necked Grebes.  There was then a flurry of Marsh Harriers.  At least three including an adult female.  More Black Terns were seen as well as Common and Sandwich Terns.  I added a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

A great day's birding in good company.  52 species seen! Regards, Dave

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Thursday 15 September 2022

Carchuna & Charca de Suarez

Wednesday 14 September 

Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata

Met up with friends Steve and Eleana Powel mid-afternoon at Carchuna just east of Motril and relatively quickly located three Shags along with an Iberia Yellow Wagtail, Goldfinches, House Sparrows and many Yellow-legged Gulls trailing a returning fishing boat.  Then it was a relaxing drink before heading west to take an evening visit to the Charca de Suarez on the western side of Motril.

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

Arriving at the Charca we were received by a couple of Collared Dove then straight round to the Laguna del Taraje where we found many Mallard plus a Purple Swamphen, Common Coot and pairs of both Shoveler and Gadwall.  Just a trio of Moorhen seen from the hide at the opposite end of the water before moving straight on the main hide overlooking the Laguna de las Aneas.  However, Elena stayed on at this hide and was eventually rewarded with a distant sight of a Water Rail.  For Steve and I it was a couple of male Blackbirds quickly followed by a female Pied Flycatcher.

Gadwall Anas strepera

The Laguna de las Aneas held very many Mallard and good numbers of both Gadwall.  Plenty of both Common and Red-knobbed Coots along with a couple of Purple Swamphen.  A handful of Barn Swallows were feeding over the water and, at the far end, a dozed resting Black-headed Gulls.  Just the three Little Grebe but resting at the edges and in the trees a half-dozen Little Egret plus a single Cattle Egret and seven Heron.  The single Glossy Ibis was still present. Having seen a Kingfisher at the first water we now had two more here. Steve managed to get a distant, high sight of a soaring Booted Eagle.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (right) with Gadwall Anas strepera and Common Coot Fulica atra

Moving on to the Laguna del Trebol I recorded a second Pied Flycatcher and at the water itself more Moorhen and many Red-knobbed Coots.  A Purle Swamphen was bust feeding at the back of the water.  Entering the hide at the opposite end of this laguna I was rewarded with a perching Spotted Flycatcher.  Nothing to add other than more Mallards and a couple of Red-knobbed Coots at the Laguna del Lirio so an early departure to allow me to make a visit to the local hospital to seek help for  the plastic end of my hearing aid which had become detached inside the ear canal.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata

Birds seen:

Muscovey Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Shag, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Booted Eagle, Water Rail, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Common Coot, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Barn Swallow, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, House Sparrow, Goldfinch.

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus with Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Little Egrets Egretta garzetta

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