Monday 15 April 2024

Keyhaven Marshes

Sunday 14 April

Twenty-four members of HOS (Hampshire Ornithological Society) under the leadership of the knowledgeable and ever enthusiastic Ian Packer gathered at Keyhaven at 9.30 for a six hour, five and half hours walk along and through the Keyhaven Marshes on the Solent shore opposite the Isle of Wight with both Hurst Castle and the Needles in view at the edge and across the water.  A dry day with cloud and hazy sunshine but still a cold, light breeze to keep us on our toes.

Hurst Castle and the Isle of Wight's Needles

Whilst in the car park receiving updates and latest information from Ian we also managed to record Robin, House Sparrow, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Jay and a first Barn Swallow of the year. Then, moving off a few yards to take a look at the Avon Water on the left from near the bridge and small hide we added a feast of water birds including both Little and Great White Egret, Heron, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Moorhen, Coot, Dunnock and, searching the back of the water also added a passing Marsh Harrier, roosting Buzzard, a cock Pheasant and overflying Magpie, Blackbird and Oystercatcher.  A most encouraging start to our walk.  Once across the road and entering the waterside path at the harbour at low tide we also added a number of resting Turnstone plus Herring Gull and Rock Doves.

Heron Ardea cinerea

The Cetti's Warbers first heard at the hide were to be a continuous accompaniment to our walk and also included brief sightings later on.  Departing the harbour to walk towards Keyhaven Lagoon we noted a small number of Brent Geese, but numbering over sixty upon our return walk, which were yet to depart to their northern breeding grounds.  A number of Linnets were active on the gorse bushes to our left and we also came across a departing Reed Bunting.

Brent Geese Branta bernicla

Once a the Keyhaven Lagoon we were delighted to first see a air of Gadwall and then  a resting Stock Dove at the back almost alongside similar Egyptian Goose plus a range of ducks including Mallard, Shoveler, Teal and many Canada and a Greylag Goose.  Obviously, more wader sightings of bids previously recorded, especially Little Egret, Heron, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher and Redshank.

Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptica

Continuing on to Fishtail Lagoon we added many Shelduck, the first Great Crested Grebe of over a score recorded during the morning, a Little Grebe, Avocet and a Little Ringed Plover.  Many Black-headed Gulls in the area but, perhaps even better, a couple of feeding Little Gulls showing well on he far side of the water. Also interesting to come across he air of Roe Deer feeding away to our right.

Little Gull Larus minutus

A single Lesser Back-backed Gull flew over and out towards the sea whilst, meanwhile on the muddy shore on the opposite side of the path, a Whimbrel along with Avocets and Redshanks.

Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta

Then, not just the Buzzard and Kestrel overhead, but the arrival of a Common Tern which stayed long enough for all to have a good sighting. Time to stop for our picnic lunch at the corner before turning right and seek a little shelter.  Also chance to watch the foraging Meadow Pipit and Dunnock as a few Black-headed Gulls came to join us in the hope of some free refreshment!

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus

Lunch over we moved on the check Butts Lagoon which held a couple of Cormorant, Coot and a handful of Tufted Ducks.  But in the "Tufties" a single male Scaup still present and showing well - when he wasn't submerged in feeding mode.  Reed Warblers were heard calling and, in the nearby bushes a small flock of Greenfinches and a Stonechat. As we turned inland to head up towards Pennington Lane a second Reed Bunting showed well to many.

Scaup Aythya marila
Scaup A.marila with Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula (below)

The walk up to the lane proved very rewarding as we finally managed to find the singing Whitethroat along with Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch and another Stonechat.  A Skylark was heard and seen above us and then a Cetti's Warbler finally revealed itself in the ditch below us to the left.  Across the marsh beyond we noted the first Lapwing along with many Canada Geese.  It was also in this area whilst continually checking the overflying Black-headed that we found our first Mediterranean Gull. In addition, looking across the marsh we also note the pair of resting Great Black-backed Gulls.

Whitethroat Sylvia communis

Walking along Pennington Lane we stopped at the sharp left-hand bend to look at the resting Lapwing and Shelduck on the marsh to our right o giving a splendid opportunity to note the sexual differences between the latter.  Also present a pair of Magpies and more Canada Geese. taking the narrow footpath towards Oxey Barn we saw a second Barn Swallow overhead and then made a brief comfort stop near the Old Salt Buildings for some to visit the nearby inn.  Whilst waiting Wren, Starling, Goldfinch and a Red Kite were recorded before moving on.

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna

Approaching Oxey Lagoon we stopped to watch a newly-arrived Little Tern fishing in the  water ahead and then it was once more up onto the path along the sea wall.  No sooner had we started off than a Raven flew over us being mobbed by a Carrion Crow. As we made our long way back to Keyhaven with the tide now almost in we seemed to concentrate on trying to find a first Curlew for the day on the remaining small sections of mud.  Lots of Great Crested Grebe on the sea side of the path along with a few more redshank before stopping to scope the distant, isolated spits out towards the sea. First a couple of Ringed Plovers than a small flock of Dunlin flew in to rest among the Oystercatchers and occasional Turnstone.  The next group produced a Grey Plover and then, drifting the shore almost hidden by the grass,  male and two female Eiders.  Another handsome male was then seen resting a little further along the spit.  Finally, a distant roosting Curlew accompanied by a couple of Whimbrels.

Distant male Eider Somateria mollissima

Back at Avon Water for a last look before the car park and making our departures, a very close Lesser Black-backed Gull and still a good selection of waders including Greenshank, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits along along with Little Grebes and Herons.  Records updated and as we made our way out of the car park saying goodbye to to the still present House Sparrows a Collared Dove sitting atop a pole waiting to bid us farewell and bring the species total up to 73. We also noted the many Jackdaws as we pass the church in Lymington but, sadly, could not reach 75 species before arriving back in Warsash.

Courting Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus

Birds seen:

Greylag Goose, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Eider Duck, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Little Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Tern, Little Tern, Rock Dove, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Skylark, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Whitethroat, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.

Avocets Reurirostra avosetta

Soaring Buzzard Buteo buteo

Mute Swan Cygnus olor with Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus and gulls

Mute Swan Cygnus olor coming in to land

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus

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Friday 12 April 2024

Farlington Marsh

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis

Friday 12 April

The rains have stopped and it promises to be a dry day with warm sunshine later on.  So away early to coincide with the low tide and arrived at Farlington Marshes just after 8 o'clock.  As expected, dry with a little cloud and hazy sunshine albeit still a keen, light wind.  Once into walking boots and having noted the nearby Greenfinches and Woodpigeons I set off to do an anti-clockwise circuit of the reserve. making my way to the "Visitors Centre" a couple of Blackbirds noted and many Black-headed Gull on the lagoon to my right in front of the above VC.  However, the sign was correct when it referred to flooded paths as it was impossible to proceed any further with the water across the track from the lakes on both side and, speaking to a local birder later on, I was informed that the far end of the track was under three feet of water so definitely over the top of my walking boots!

Flooded path and only just possible to reach the viewing point so many problems for the Bearded Tits!

Time to take stock of the bird life in the area and in addition to the scores of Black-headed Gulls a few Coot and a couple of Moorhen. One resting whilst a second Heron flew away over my head quickly followed by a Shelduck.  Rather than retrace my steps all the way back to the car park I took the path, noting the pair of Goldfinch on the ground in front of me, past the young heifers through the meadow until that, too, proved impassable so made a circuitous way to the inland track alongside the seawall.  On the way I observed a couple of Mediterranean Gulls plus Robin, Lapwing and Carrion Crows.  Meanwhile, above the reed bed on the opposite bank a quartering Marsh Harrier was a great sight.  Finally, lovely to record LinnetChiffchaff, Blackcap and Magpie before a cock Pheasant just before clearing the meadow.

Linnet Carduelis cannabina

Once back on the main track I stopped at the viewing point and added more Coot plus both Mute Swan and Mallards.  On the mud banks to my right a couple of foraging Curlew and then a pair of gadwall.  A number of Canada Geese could be seen on the far side of the lagoon plus a good number of Lapwing.  At the edge of the lagoon a handful of resting Redshank plus a similar number of Black-tailed Godwits whilst a dozen Starling rested in a nearby large bush.

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

 Nearer to me on the opposite of the parallel stream a pair of Oystercatchers and on the mudflats to the right a couple of Herring Gull. Continuing on I recorded three Meadow Pipits on or near the track and the, approaching the Deeps, the only Little Egret of the morning compared to the seven Grey Herons.

Most of the Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus

Once at the Deeps time for a short rest before starting on the return walk back to the car and chance to observe the hundred of Black-headed Gulls.  However, one of the three new gravel islands held at least 24 Mediterranean Gulls.  Also present a number of Shelduck and Tufted Ducks plus a few more Gadwall and Mallards.  However, biggest surprise was to find four Brent Geese yet to depart on their migration north.

Brent Geese Branta bernicla

More sightings of Lapwing, Shelduck, Meadow Pipit and Redshank as I walked back but nearing the last turning o head inland towards the car park I noted the photographer in front focusing on the clouds.  What had he seen / been watching?   Bins up and, yes, a passing Peregrine Falcon that had put up scores of Back-headed Gulls.  What a choice for last bird of the day.

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna

Birds seen:

Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Mediterranean Gull, Back-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Robin, Blackbird, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

Brent Goose Branta bernicla

Black-headed Gulls Larus ridibundus with an over-flying Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

The overflowing lagoon

The Deeps with its new gravel islands to attract breeding birds

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Saliente, north of Albox in Almeria province

Thursday 11 April

If, like Dave and company, you are going to return to a favoured site then it certainly helps if you record a Golden Eagle.  In addition, Red-rumped Swallows and both Black and Northern Wheatears help to make the journey well worth while.

Saliente, north of Albox:  Thursday 11th April

Saliente Monastery (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Gilly suggested we do a visit with Paul to Saliente monastery about 15 kms north of Albox up a very twisty road.  The main intention was to see the monastery and to have a snack lunch in the restaurant. It was a very sunny day, temperatures in the mid 20's.

Black-eared Wheatear (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

En route I spotted a soaring sub adult Golden Eagle. Around the car park and monastery we saw Black and Black-eared Wheatears.  About 6 Griffon Vultures slowly glided by.  We also had Red-rumped Swallows and Crag Martins.  As we wandered from the restaurant Gilly spotted movement on the hillside over a small valley.  Three Ibex.  As we drove down the hillside we estimated where these three should be.  As we came round a bend we saw 12 individuals walking in a line through an Almond grove. 

Ibex on the move (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

A lovely day out.  Will do it again soon.  It's been about 7 years since we last came up here.
Sending our best wishes to Les, Lyn and Tom Senior.
The first three Ibex (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

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Wednesday 10 April 2024

Villaricos & Vera Playa with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 10 April

A great day's birding for Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group on home territory. Stand outs for me certainly included the Whiskered Terns, Nightingale and red-crested Pochard but, there again, lovlely to note that your Barn Swallows and House Martins have returned and moving freely around.  I'm yet to see either back here on the south coast of England but, perhaps, maybe more luck either Thursday  at Farlington Marshes just north of Portsmouth or Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes come Saturday morning on the Solent.  we shall see.

Villaricos & Vera Playa: Wednesday 10th April

Paul and I picked Juda up at the La Alfoquia service station and headed towards the Rambla Albamzora. As you will see from the photos the area has been totally cleared of all the reeds and shrubs down the central part from the ford to the road bridge for, I assume, in case there are heavy rains.  To do this during the breeding season is an utter disgrace!

The cleared rambla; where have all the reeds gone?

We only saw a Magpie and a Woodpigeon before we parked up on the beach.  Unbelievably there was a tractor there flattening the sand, hence there was only one Cormorant on the harbour rocks.  Some Barn Swallows and House Martins flew by.  We were joined by Kevin, who'd seen a Mallard, Trevor, Val and Peter 2.

I managed to locate a distant Gannet near the Tuna fish farm area.  We also had House Sparrow and Spotless Starling.  We moved round to the far side of the estuary.  Paul found a Grey Heron.  A Nightingale was singing from the reeds. Juda spotted a Little Egret.  Kevin added a Kentish Plover.  Also seen was a Jackdaw and a Crested Lark.  Paul saw a Goldfinch.

Iberian Yellow Wagtail  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

After a cup of coffee in the Tiburon cafe in Villaricos we made our way to the dual carriageway overlooking the Salar shallow waters opposite the Consum supermarket behind Vera Playa.  Immediately we saw a pair of Serin in one of the roadside palm trees.  There were the usual good numbers of Moorhen at the right hand end.  Only one Little Stint was spotted by Kevin.  Scanning the waters we saw Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff, a couple of Curlew Sandpipers and Greater Flamingos. A Cattle Egret flew by  A number of Little Grebes were seen as were Shelduck and Common Pochard. Moving further along beyond the hump we saw a flight of 13 Whiskered Terns, some of which landed on a solitary water surrounded shrub.  Also seen were Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls and Red Crested Pochard.  Kevin added a Redshank.

Island of Whiskered Terns (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We moved on to the elevated viewing platform where we caught up with Phil and Sue.  During their wanderings in the area they had seen White-headed Duck, Yellow and White Wagtails, Common Swifts and a Little Ringed Plover.  Paul found the Yellow Wagtail perched on a reed . We also saw the White-headed Duck as well as Mallard, Common and Red Crested Pochard and some Shoveler.  And a Coot! Final bird was a Purple Swamphen found by Peter along the reed line edge.

Red-crested Pochards (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Despite a slow start we ended up with 42 species including the Phil and Sue additions.  They have been here for some weeks now and have logged an incredible 107 species, mostly at the Salar as they have no car!
The weather has changed to summer mode.  A good days birding in great company!
Will this be eventually be cleared up? (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

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Monday 8 April 2024

Fishlake Meadows, Romsey

 Monday 8 April

With Storm Katherine moving north along the western edge of the British Isles it promised to be relatively quiet tis morning but a good chance of rain and some wind later on.  With that in mind I set off early and arrived at Fishlake Meadows, Romsey by 8 o'clock in calm conditions, dry and even a little hazy sunshine. Not so much the odd Woodpigeon or two roosting in the trees above the car park to this fabulous little nature reserve but the fact that no sooner had I left the car and entered the reserve I managed to find my first Whitethroat of the year and the morning turned out to be a proper "warbler fest."

Fishlake Meadows from the road viewing point

Moving north along the canal path I soon encountered the first of very many Robins along with more Woodpigeon and a quartet of Magpies. All around me many calling Cetti's Warblers which were to be encountered from start to finish almost three hours later along with a number of both Great and Blue Tits.  Again, very many Chiffchaffs and then the first of the second new warbler for the day, a lovely Willow Warbler.  It was whilst observing both the nearby Blackbird and Carrion Crows that looking beyond them to the distant water I noted both Canada Goose and Mute Swan along with a resting Heron.  Meanwhile, a Pheasant announced its presence.

Robin Erithacus rubecula

Beyond the house on the other side of the canal I reached the open fields and noted a pair of Greylag Geese and more feeding Woodpigeon then, almost immediately, my first Dunnock and Wren of the morning.  It was at the corner where I turned towards the path leading to the turn towards the viewing screens that another pair of both Dunnock and Wren were noted along with a couple of Long-tailed Tits in the old tree in front of me.

With the water at the far end of the path too deep for my walking boots I turned to start the walk back but stopped to scope the relatively nearby water beyond the trees and shrubs.  In addition tot a pair of Mute Swans a pair of Gadwall were observed.  Back at the gate to take the canal path southwards first a Blackcap then a Green Woodpecker calling from the wood on the opposite side.  No sooner had I stopped to check the lone Mallard drake resting at the base of a tree in the water just off the opposite bank of the canal then I searched the growing reedbed to my right and not only had clear songs from the newly arrived Sedge Warblers but also a clear sighting.  (Unfortunately, too hidden to get the camera focused before the bird moved further away.)  Approaching the car park entrance more Blackcaps sighted along with a Cetti's Warbler that posed in front of me and refused to move - so no chance of trying to reach into the rucksack for my camera!

Male Blackbird Turdus merula

Rather than straight to the car, I continued along the path, noting the Chaffinches on the opposite side as I approached the road bridge, and once under the bridge and up to the main road made my way to the first viewing point over the main water.  At lest fifteen Mute Swans present along with a handful of Great Crested Grebe, Pochard and Tufted Ducks.  The larger viewing point a little further along the road also produced a few Coot, a dozen Canada Geese and a few more Greylags. Seven Cormorants were roosting atop the dead trees in the middle of the water and below a trio of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Time to return to the car but with another stop before actually leaving the canalside so able to record yet more Robin and Chiffchaff as well as the Song Thrush in the bushes as I took the path down to the underpass from the main road.  All in all, a very enjoyable and rewarding morning.  Home in the dry and plenty of time to prepare for my visit to the local surgery to have, it turned out, no less than thirty stitches removed following the minor operation a fortnight ago to remove some suspect spots on my chest for the following autopsy.  And now its gone 5 0'clock and its raining once again!

 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus with Mute Swans Cygnus olor

Birds seen:

Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Heron, Coot, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Green Woodpecker, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch.

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Wednesday 3 April 2024

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

 Wednesday 3 April

Some good birds seen today by Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group.  I particularly like d the Woodchat Shrike, Iberian Grey Shrike and Black-eared Wheatear, all birds I am unlikely to see back here in the UK.  The, of course, you have the Griffon Vulture, Rock Sparrow, Hoopoe and Calandra Lark, all birds which bring happy memories of my years in Spain - and with the Arboleas Birding Group.

Sierra de Maria  -  Wednesday 3rd April

Paul & I left home at 8 o'clock and headed to the Los Velez nature reserve armed with fully loaded large bird feeders kindly donated by Jacky Reaney.  Having passed the bird list starting point just outside Velez Blanco, the scorer wasn't troubled much as we only saw Woodpigeon, Collared Dove and House Sparrow before we arrived at the La Piza forest cafe, the trouble may have been the grey mist that enveloped us!  As we parked up, right in front of us was a Siskin and a Goldfinch feeding on a tree's new seeds.  As we  attached the new feeders to nearby trees, Paul got a Great Tit.  As we drank our coffees and waited for the others to arrive we saw the "complete" set of Tits. Blue, Coal, Long-tailed, Crested and Paul's Great Tit. We also had some Jays and Chaffinches.  Richard, Peters (1 & 2) and Trevor joined us.  Peter 2 had seen a Spotless Starling en route.

Siskin (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We commenced the loop.  The mist was not all gone, but the sun was breaking through.  As we headed to the village we saw Carrion Crows, Crested Larks, Magpies and an Iberian Grey Shrike.  We had a short stop by the village as it was a tad cold.  Paul spotted a Barn Swallow.  We carried on.  Next on the list were some Black-eared Wheatears and a couple of Rock Sparrows on a fence.  We saw a number of Woodchat Shrikes and a pair of Hoopoe.  As I disembarked from the car I heard a Red-legged Partridge. The others in the two following cars had actually seen some.  We walked to the far side of the cliff, but didn't see anything....apart from the sun!

Black-eared Wheatear (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Moving on, I spotted a single Griffon Vulture.  Some Thekla Larks were on the airstrip fence.  Two Kestrels were on separate pylons.  I added a Linnet before we reached the hamlet.  No sign of the Lesser Kestrels yet.  Along the plain, a Calandra Lark flew by.  The only bird we saw at the sheep's water trough was a single Barn Swallow resting on the fence round the deposito.  As we headed for our lunch break at La Piza, I added a pair of Mistle Thrush.  As we ate our lunch we saw most of what we'd seen earlier, but added Crossbill and Serin.

Crested Tit (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We ended up with 31 species.  An enjoyable day in good company.
Phil and Sue have now reached the 100 species seen at the Consum salinas, Vera Playa.  They have seen an amazing sight of a Common Kestrel taking a Red-rumped Swallow out of the air.  A photo of the aftermath is attached.

Phil & Sue's Kestrel with a poor Red-rumped Swallow!

Was gardening in one of "my" villas last evening.  Found a semi decomposed male Blackcap.  Paul noticed it was ringed.  A Natural History Museum, London, SW7 ring.  I've reported it.  Will let you know when and where it was ringed when they get back to me!

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