Thursday 29 February 2024

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

Thursday 29 February

Lovely day for the Arboleas Birding Group at my favourite Almeria site, Cabo de Gata. Good to read that the Reed Warblers are back and still Curlews to be found.  At lest you gad the sun as, once more, the rain has returned to southern Britain so now shore walking along the Solent for me today!

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 28th February

Another windy day, but it was sunny. I drove Richard in his car in a southerly direction towards Cabo de Gata.  As soon as we exited the motorway towards Retamar Sur I spotted a Marsh Harrier flying low over the scrubland. Richard saw a flock of Chaffinch before we saw a pair of Jackdaw.  In the town we added Collared Dove and House Sparrow  En route to Pujaire we added Spotless Starling and Thekla Lark. 

Eurasian Curlew (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We arrived at the first hide.  Apart from the hundreds of Greater Flamingos we found Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, and Black Winged Stilts feeding in the shallow water.  A Sardinian Warbler flew by. There were Black-headed Gulls and Avocets on the rocky causeway together with a Kentish Plover. Richard added a Yellow-legged Gull and some Mallard.  We were joined by Kevin who added White Wagtail seen near the Guardia Civil tower.  He soon found a Redshank.  Richard spotted an Eurasian Curlew flying to our right over the savannah.  We were joined by Trevor, Val and Phil.  Kevin found a group of Dunlin feeding in the bay to our right.  I then found a single Oystercatcher nearby.  There was a Stonechat on the fencing.  I found a Grey Plover on the rocky causeway.  As I was directing Kevin to its location, a Turnstone appeared.  A Grey Heron landed on the shrubby causeway.  Kevin found a Black Redstart.  We adjourned for coffee to the cafe in Cabo village.  We were glad it was open as it's the Dia de Andalucia bank holiday.

Oystercatcher (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We drove to the beach opposite the second hide.  To my horror I realised I'd left my scope and tripod at the first hide some 35 minutes ago.  I raced back and thank the lord it was still there leaning against the fence.  PHEW!!

Greater Flamingos (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

I rejoined the group at the second hide.  I found some Shelduck to the left.  A pair of Reed Buntings were flitting about in the reeds in the gully.  As we walked back towards the beach a group of Greenfinch flew past.  Richard, who'd stayed in the car, had seen a diving Gannet.
At the public hide, Kevin found some Cormorants on the causeway.  I located some Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We convoyed to the Rambla Morales.  The only bird we saw en route along the beachside track was a Cormorant landing on the sea.  Due to Richard's lack of mobility, I drove him to the hump as the others walked there.  Kevin had seen a Shoveler.  There was a large raft of White-headed Ducks and Common Pochard in front of us. Phil found a Little Grebe.  A Black-necked Grebe with bright red eyes was seen. I found a Bar-tailed Godwit along the opposite reed line.  Also seen were Coot and Moorhen.  The reeds nearer to us we heard Cetti's Warblers.  We saw Reed Warbler and Chiffchaff.

We said our goodbyes and headed home.  Richard and I added Northern Starling and Iberian Grey Shrike en route back to the motorway.

Snow on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevadas (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We ended up with 45 species for the day.  Great birding and company. 
I'm very sad to report that Kath, Paul's wife, passed away last Sunday.  I'm sure you'll join me in sending  sincere condolences to Paul, Emma and Sarah.

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Monday 26 February 2024

Birding Somerset

Monday 26 February

A weekend down at Sand Bay near Weston-super-Mare but a mixture of bad weather plus a very painful leg meant no chance of any birding.  However, with the leg feeling much better today the return journey with Jenny and son John and his wife, Kim took a somewhat diverted route to enable a very brief visit to RSPB Greylake followed by a longer stop at RSPB Hamwall on the Somerset Levels where Kim and I walked as far as the first Viewpoint and neighbouring screens to check out the bird life before continuing on back to Devizes, then home here in Warsash.

Mainly Wigeon Anas penelope at RSPB Greylake

Arriving at Greylake we had  large flock of Rooks in the filed almost opposite the entry long with scores of Starlings on the wires.  All was very wet following the heavy, continuous rain of the previous day. A Carrion Crow was passing overhead s we set of to the two hides and a lone Mute Swan resting on the grass to our right. Once inside the hides scores of ducks, compared with the many hundreds at the start of the month, consisting of mainly Wigeon but also a good supply of Shoveler and a few Teal.  Indeed, a single Pintail and a  couple of Mallards were also noted along with a handful of Lapwing.

Pintail Anas acuta (top) with Shoveler Anas clypeata, Lapwing Vanellus vanellus and Teal Anas crecca

The walk back to the car resulted in  at least three Cetti's Warblers and then on the short journey over to RSPB Hanwall a Kestrel crossed the road in front of us.

Once at Hamwall we noted the Blue and Great Tits along with a few Chaffinches making use of the feeding station and a couple of Blackbirds were skirting the area. A number of calling Cetti's Warblers as made our way up to the main track, having first stopped to admire the Robin that appeared in front of us and refused to depart until we had taken its photograph, and on to the first View Point and its neighbouring hide screens giving view over the respective waters.  However, first a stop to admire the Great White Egret that landed close to the reeds in front of us where it joined  smaller Little Egret.

Robin Erithacus rubecula

The main water to our left held a number of Wigeon along with a few Coot and moving across the track the water produced many Shoveler along with Coots, Teal, Gadwall and Mallard plus more Wigeon.  A single Great Crested Grebe to the right and a resting Cormorant and a few Tufted Duck plus a Mute Swan to our left. From here we also had a good view of the distant Glastonbury Tor albeit not the best of light.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristata

As we de our way back to the nearby track and return to the car park a distant Marsh Harrier in front of us followed by a passing pair of Carrion Crows.   A Magpie in the trees as we approached our destination then a stop to watch the little Firecrest busy searching the dense bush for  a little food and very difficult to get a clear photograph as it refused to fully expose itself on the outside of said bush.

Spot the little Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla on the bush

Only a relatively short stop at both sites but certainly lovely to see both the Great White Egret and Firecrest.

Great White Egret Egretta alba

Birds seen:

Mute Swan, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Coot, Lapwing, Robin, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Firecrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch.

Great Tit Parus major

Shoveler Anas clypeata

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula (female and male)

Distant Glastonbury Tor

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Saturday 24 February 2024

Birding Valencia

Black-winged Stilt at Marjal dels Moros

Valencia 13 – 20 February

Now back in the UK I can finally complete my report on eight bays in Spain but just the one birding visit on the morning of the 14th.  Most of the bird life was seen either in the neighbouring scrubland and trees or on the walk down to the park at the hermitage of St Vincent including the small lake. Lots of the common residents were recorded within a few hundred yards of son Richard’s home in Lliria, about ten miles inland from Valencia.  This included Crested Lark, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, many Magpies and Collared Doves and Woodpigeons plus a few Spotless Starlings.

The walk down to the park produced White Wagtails, Blackbirds, a Crested Tit, House Sparrows and Sardinian Warbler and on our last visit Black Redstart, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Corn Bunting and Goldfinch.  On the water itself we found Mallards and a few Muscovy Ducks. Whilst in the town of Lliria we came across a handful of Serin feeding on the rough ground at the edge of the car park and then, in the city of Valencia itself, we recorded a couple of Rose-ringed Parakeets.

Some water at Marjal dels Moros and holding Shoveler, Teal and Heron

However, most of the birds were seen on the visit to the coastal reserve of Marjal dels Moros, about five miles north of Valencia.  Like much of Spain, following the extremely prolonged dry weather there was a great shortage of water so many birds not seen, including both Marbled and White-headed Ducks.  On the other hand, what little water that was present had attracted a large number of Shoveler and many Teal plus a good number of Mallard. 

Purple Swamphen with Shoveler behind right

Greeted by a solitary Little Egret in the channel next to the entrance I moved on to take a three mile circuit of the site and found much reedbed and the occasional lake of shallow water.  This habitat also produced a trio of Heron and one pool held a quartet of Black-winged Stilts and a trio of Purple Swamphens to add the pair already recorded.  Similarly, it was lovely to see a resting flock of Lapwing and between these birds and the Teal a passing Black-necked Grebe to add to the already seen Little Grebe.

Teal with a passing Black-necked Grebe in the background

Raptors consisted of a couple of female and a male Marsh Harrier plus a hunting Kestrel. Below them the Moorhens and Coots were keeping open a wary eye above whilst the many Chiffchaffs were busy flitting between the reeds in search of food.  Also present on the edges a few Robins and a Black Redstart.

Female (above) and male Marsh Harrier

Within the extensive reedbeds at least a dozen Cetti’s Warblers were calling long with early Reed Warblers and a Moustached Warbler. Nearing the end of the walk I came across a few Chaffinches and it was certainly lovely to see the handful of Reed Buntings.  Finally, as I started out on the return drive to Llira, I came across a dozen Cattle Egret feeding on a grassy roundabout.  All in all, despite the lack of water, an enjoyable visit and one to be repeated on my next visit to the area.

Resting Lapwing

Birds seen:

Muscovy Duck, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Moustached Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Crested Tit, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting.


Collared Doves

Purple Swamphen


Marsh Harrier

Spotless Starlings

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Friday 23 February 2024

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Friday 23 February

A second report from the Arboleas Birding Group and I am still to write up about my (limited) birding adventure whilst out in Spain these past nine days.  I must admit I quite miss seeing the regular Griffon Vultures and even a Red-legged Partridge has now become a once a year experience, if I'm lucky.  But I do get to see scores of Carrion Crows which were never on my local Malaga birding list!   Always good to see a range of tits, especially my favourite, the Long-tailed Tit and in that sense, usually regular sightings back in Hampshire.  Also, Iassume you managed to miss the expected snow - which is promised this week-end for much of Britain and as far south as the Midlands!

Sierra de Maria  -  Friday 23rd February

The weather forecast said there was to be 35km winds and a tad chilly so I dressed for the occasion.  I drove Richard in his car towards Maria town.  The only bird we saw was a Woodpigeon.  Passing through the town Richard spotted both Northern and Spotless Starlings plus a House Sparrow.  We arrived at the La Piza forest loaded with peanuts and mealworms.  Richard saw a Jay and Chaffinch.  The feeders were empty.  We filled them up, ordered our coffees and observed who came to visit. First it was a Coal Tit, then Long-tailed Tits and finally Great Tits.  Richard found a Mistle Thrush.  We were joined by Trevor and Phil who'd seen some Griffon Vultures nearby.  After a quick coffee we headed out onto the loop.

Red-legged Partridge (PHOTO: David Binns-Elliott)

We saw some Chaffinch as we passed through the pine woods.  A Raven flew low through the trees.  A Griffon Vulture was flying low to avoid the high winds.  Also seen were Carrion Crows and Crested Larks.

Griffon Vulture (PHOTO: David Binns-Elliott)

We stopped briefly by the village, but carried on as the outside temperature was 6degC with a lower wind chill.  En route to the cliff face we added Goldfinch, Magpie and a pair of Red -billed Chough.   As we approached the cliff face I could see Griffon Vultures perched on the top and sides.  We think there were at least 8 of them.  They eventually flew off low to our left.  There were a number of Rock/Stock doves flying around plus a pair of Carrion Crows.  Carrying on we found 4 Red-legged Partridge in an adjacent ploughed field.  

(Another on on top) Griffon Vulture (PHOTO: David Binns-Elliott)

As we made our way to the hamlet we added a Serin and also saw small numbers of Griffon Vultures.  There was nothing at the hamlet, I glimpsed a Little Owl on the plain.  We returned to the La Piza cafe for an early lunch.  We added Crossbill and Blue Tit.  A Jay made an appearance as did Collared Doves and House Sparrows.  

We said our goodbyes and headed back towards Maria.  About half way there we saw a small plume of vultures to our left.  I thought one of them wasn't the assumed Griffon Vulture.  I stopped and checked them out.  It was a Black Vulture!  The first I've seen here. You could see its pale head, making it an adult.  I knew they had some a bit further north. Unfortunately Trevor and Phil had driven off in front of us and were nowhere in sight.

We ended up with 25 species and glad the cars had good heating systems! A great day in good company.

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Wednesday 21 February 2024

Arboleas Birding Group visit to the Rambla de Almanzora

Wednesday 21 February

Apologies to the Arboleas Birding Group that this report is one week late!  I, too, was in Spain having flown over with Jenny to spend nine days with youngest son and partner in Lliria, just east of Valencia.  Just local birding but a morning at the Marjal dels Moros reserve on the coast slightly north of Valencia city confirmed the lack of recent train, so neither White-headed nor Marbled Ducks on site.  On the other hand I did record both Purple Swamphen and Moustached Warbler plus an early Reed Warbler singing in the extensive reedbed so not all lost!  All being well, I'll get that report plus a Spanish overview competed before the next Arboleas report wings its way my way later in the week - with or without snow.

Rambla de Almanzora & Vera Playa: Wednesday 14th February

Stunning sun rise in Arboleas (PHOTO- David Binns-Elliott)

On a forecasted lovely day I picked Juda up from La Alfoquia and headed towards Villaricos for a day's local birdwatching.  As I was in Gilly's posher car I avoided the rambla route and kept to the tarmac.  As we approached the ford from the beachside we heard Cetti's Warbler in the reeds.  Some Spotless Starlings flew over.  At the ford pond we added Mallard and Moorhen.  As we waited in the parking area, a Magpie and a Woodpigeon flew over.  We were joined by Richard, Peter, Trevor and there was a welcome return from Richard and Maria.  A Grey Heron flew up the rambla.  Trevor stated that there wasn't much up by the sewage works so we headed to the beach.  Richard saw a Blackbird en route.
On the largest rocks near the beach there were numerous Cormorants sitting there.  Juda counted 35.  A Little Egret and a Yellow-legged Gull flew by.  House Sparrows were in evidence.  Trevor saw some Spotless Starlings on the Moor's tower. I spotted an adult Gannet out to sea. 

Cormorants with the tuna farm in the distance (PHOTO- David Binns-Elliott)

We convoyed round to the far side of the estuary.  From the embankment we looked down on Coots and Moorhens.  A couple of Sandwich Terns were circling the shallow waters.  Both Grey Heron and Little Egret were seen.  Chiffchaffs were flitting in and above the reeds.  I searched the shorelines for small waders.  I found a couple of Turnstone, Ring Plovers and a single Grey Plover.  Some Black-headed Gulls and Goldfinches flew by.

Some of the 300 Mediterranean Gulls (PHOTO- David Binns-Elliott)

We adjourned to the Tiburon (shark) cafe in Villaricos village for coffee after which we headed to the dual carriageway overlooking the shallow waters behind Vera Playa.  The Moorhens were on the mudflats.  In the water were Greater Flamingos, Shovelers, some Teal and Mallards.  Richard saw the first Black-winged Stilts and I found some Avocets.  Richard added a Kentish Plover.  Trevor did well to find the perched female Marsh Harrier where it had been on our previous visit.  Juda spotted a Little Grebe.  I added Shelduck and a Cattle Egret.  Moving to the Consum side of the hump we saw much of the same except a flock of over 300 Mediterranean Gulls which were put to flight by one of the possibly three Marsh Harriers seen.  I did very well to find a Snipe just below us.

Distant female Marsh Harrier (PHOTO- David Binns-Elliott)

We travelled round to the elevated hide opposite the Aquaparc. We had a better view from the bridge above the small weir.  Trevor found a Red-crested Pochard amongst the 39 White-headed Ducks.  I counted 6 Little Grebes.  Juda did well to spot the Purple Swamphen by its red legs in the reed line. Some Crag Martins were flying over the reeds.  Juda added a White Wagtail.
We ended up with 38 species.  Great weather, company and birding.

Our best wishes go to Kath Groves, David Green and Tom Senior.

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Sunday 11 February 2024

Hamble River

Sunday 11 February

Lovely sun shining through the broken cloud as I undertook my last birding walk up the Hamble River to the conservation area and back before departing for Spain on the morrow.  Still lots of Wigeon and Brent Geese to be seen the way up the river but first sighting was a Little Egret accompanied by a half-dozen foraging Turnstone.  Then the Brent Geese and the Wigeon before encountering the hundreds of feeding Dunlin.

A few of the scores of Wigeon Anas penelope

There were certainly plenty of Dunlin feeding and large groups of the flock moving around as the tide crept ever closer to the shore and the birds sought pastures new.  Not so many Teal to be seen but more than a score of Redshank even if only the two Oystercatchers and a trio of Curlew.

Many Dunlin Calidris alpina with a male Teal Anas crecca

As I moved further up river I started to come across the occasional Grey Plover along with more Brent Geese plus the resting flock of Black-backed Gulls on an off-shore exposed mud bank along with more Dunlins and a couple of Herring Gulls.

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola

On the muddy meadow and edges beyond on the inland side of the path, first a dozen Redshank followed by a pair of Shelduck and nine Canada Geese.  The neighbouring gardens held a couple of magpie and a trio of Woodpigeon along with a distant Carrion Crow.  Once at the conservation area a distant sighting of the lone Greenshank.  Nothing to add on the return walk until the footpath leading from the shore to home when I came across a single Robin.

Curlew Numenius arquata

Birds seen:

Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Little Egret, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Robin, Magpie, Carrion Crow.

Turnstone Arenaria interpres

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Male and female Teal Anas crecca

A few more Dunlin Calidris alpina

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Wednesday 7 February 2024

Somerset Birding

Wednesday 7 February

Finding a Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis at Greylake was like for a needle in a haystack!

My last day of birding Somerset before retuning to Warsash.  Dull and cloudy as I drove west to Steart Marshes on the coast north of Bridgwater and even rain showers as I drove along the M5,  However, upon arrival, damp but dry and this was to remain the case throughout the day,  I had hoped to spend all morning or longer at this site but upon arrival found it very quiet with only limited birds on view. Indeed, just the one decent bird sighting from the Quantock Hide which revealed a large Lapwing flock of around 500 plus a decent number of ducks, mainly Shoveler and Wigeon but also Teal, Mallard and thirty Shelduck.

Distant Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis

The morning had started well enough with many House Sparrows, Blackbird, Robin and Carrion Crow and as I walked through the reserve many good sightings of Wren.  There had already been a number of Blue and Great Tits on the feeder but that was it, save for the distant mixed flock of Black-headed and Herring Gulls at the back of the water from the above hide.  I, therefore, made my way over to the opposite hide overlooking the meadow and all that produced was a trio of Meadow Pipit resting on the adjacent gate.  So on back to the car park, noting the Moorhen on the pond as I passed, to consider my options.  First a drive to the end of the lane followed by a wet walk to the pebble embankment to look down on the muddy beach with the water's edge somewhere in the far distance.  Just about twenty feeding Oystercatchers so a good job I noticed the female Greenfinch on the rocks as I parked the car.

Female Greenfinch Carduelis chloris

Having found plenty of birds yesterday at RSPB Greylake I decided to make the half-hour trip and, hopefully, might find the missing rarity from yesterday.  Upon arrival greeted by a number of House Sparrows and Robin with a Mute Swan on the far field.  Straight to the elevated hide and pleased to note the stream of exiting birders all reporting that both visiting teals had been seen.  Once settled in  was amazed to see the great reduction in numbers, especially Lapwings.  Still many Wigeon and Common Teal but only a couple of Shoveler.  Towards the back we had gained a good number of Pintail and the Snipe were still to be seen.

Yesterday's Green-winged Teal was now at the far back of the muddy terrain but the neighbouring birder found it with his cope and I had a good profile view as the bird paddled left showing the vertical rather the horizontal stripe on its wing.  With positions reversed the Baikal Teal was now very close to the hide and resting with a trio of Wigeon and couple of Lapwing.  Difficult to trace originally as the bird had its head down and facing away from me so just showing what looked like a black balaclaver with ta horizontal while ring round the shape.  However, it did on a couple of occasions look up so showing the rather splendid colouring of its head,

Find the Baikal Teal?
Baikal Teal Sibirionetta formosa surrounded by Wigeon, Common Teal and Lapwing

Also present a couple of Great White and a single Little Egret.  As yesterday a Water Rail was recorded behind me and on this occasion a couple of calling Cetti's Warblers.  Apart from a handful of Mallard, looking to the back left I found a resting female Sparrowhawk on the fence which brought up quite a little excitement from my neighbouring birders. Having shown local birder, Chris where to find the Baikal Teal, he informed me that he was now heading up to Swell Wood to look for a Marsh Tit and with the promise of a likely Tree-creeper I, too, decided I would pay a visit to this new site before heading back to Sand Bay and a lovely warm shower.

Great White Egret Egretta alba

Making our way back to the car park we followed the antics a of a feeding flock of Long-tailed Tits and upon arrival more House Sparrows along with Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch and a couple of male Reed Buntings.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus

Almost thirty minutes later having followed a very bendy and narrow lane up the into the hills I arrived at Swell Woods.  The feeder immediately produced Blue, Great and many Coal Tits. These were later joined by both Marsh Tit and a couple of Tree-creepers on the neighbouring trees.  A Nuthatch came to join in the feeding rush and we made our way to the nearby hide where we had close views of both Robin and Wren.  Above us at least a dozen Herons setting up home in their traditional heronry,  Whilst watching their antics a Kestrel flew over. A Dunnock came to visit the feeding area as we prepared to depart and a Mistle Thrush put in  very brief appearance behind us,  The last bird recorded was a male Chaffinch.

Herons Ardea cinerea at the heronry

Birds seen:

Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Common Teal, Green-winged Teal, Baikal Teal, Pintail, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Tree-creeper, Nuthatch, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting.

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Coal Tit Periparus ater with Great Tit Parus major

Coal Tit Periparus ater with Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Mainly Wigeon Anas penelope with Pintail Anus acuta

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

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