Wednesday, December 30, 2009
For those who have forgotten what birding is like back in the UK, I have included three typical British winter birds; the Robin, Blackbird and Fieldfare. I have also added three water birds, Red Crested Pochard, Shoveler and Greylag Goose (photographed at Las Tablas de Daimiel) to make you feel more at home in the present weather!
We left Oxfordshire early Sunday morning, had a safe and trouble-free journey to Dover and by evening had found an hotel in Le Mans. Then came Monday. Driving in the damp and determined drizzle interspersed with regular downpours took us from top to bottom of France on a most depressing day made the more miserable that there were few birds to be seen. A few Kestrels, the odd Crow or two and then, south of Bordeaux, a couple of large flocks of Lapwing plus the Cranes in the same location as the outward journey. A few feeding either side of the road but the main flock totalled somewhere in the region of 200 plus. These, and a very bedraggled Buzzard sat on a post at the side of the road begging for a lift to warmer climes, were all that made the country worthwhile - but, at least we ended up in Spain, where we managed to find a lovely hotel for the night (30 Euros!) just outside Lerma, so giving us plenty of time for the final leg of the journey.
Yesterday started off reasonably well and with the need for window wiping only once in a while. Indeed, we were away so early that we had reached the outskirts of Madrid before daybreak (sounds impressive but it was still almost 9 o'clock). Plenty of Spotless Starlings about and a party of 25 Griffon Vulture circling in the rain. Either an animal that had succumbed to the awful weather or, possibly, a feeding station in the area. Having gained so much time we made the decision to stop off at Tablas de Daimiel to see what benefit might have been gained by the recent rains. Imagine our disappointment to hear that very little rained had fallen and most of the wetlands were dry. Still, there was an opportunity to look in at the Aclimatacion Lagoon and get some close up photographs of the birds we normally see at the far sides of ponds and lakes. Just as well as there was very little else to be seen; a single Corn Bunting, Mallard, a few Coot and Moorhen a pair of female Red Crested Pochard, a very small party of 4 Cranes overflying the site and, as we left, both singles of Southern Grey Shrike and Marsh Harrier. Finally, a menu del dia in the nearby town of Daimiel and then off home to our mountain retreat. By way of preparation, no sooner had we crossed into Andalucia and the heavens opened as never before. The rain was so heavy, coupled with low cloud in the mountains, that we had to leave the motorway and rest-up for a good ten minutes or so before it was safe to resume driving. Thank goodness there were others out there with the same sense of safety as, on rejoining the motorway, we passed at least twenty parked cars which had simply pulled over to protect themselves and fellow travellers.
It's not been all television and chocolates whilst I have been away. I took the laptop and managed to finish the "Axarquia Bird Report for 2009" so now have only to add some photographs and you will be able to download a copy from the website (www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com) at absolutely no charge - apart from the cost of paper and ink. You could even save this expense and read the final product on line - but then you would have no point of reference and could not show it to friends and neighbours and encourage others to send in their reports and sightings!
With the end of the year but relatively few hours away I am sure that I shall not be out again before the week-end, even if the promised continuing heavy rain and winds do not arrive. May I, therefore, take this opportunity to thank you all for your support and encouragement over the past twelve months and wish you a most happy, healthy and prosperous New Year with lots of fun and birding. All being well, in 2010 we my be able to visit both the Tarifa area to experience the raptor migration and, perhaps, a visit to Extremadura. Next year, I should like the second "AxarquiaBird Report" to reflect all our experiences (suitably acknowledged) rather than just the organised visits that we make.
Birds seen on the homeward journey and at Las Tablas:
Mallard, Red Crested Pochard, Griffon Vulture, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Lapwing, Rock Dove, White Wagtail, Southern Grey Shrike, Robin, Blackbird, Great Tit, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Spotless Starling, Magpie and Crow.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
We were not too surprised to see that the areas either side of the drive-in were well flooded or that the centre and loos were closed. But it was great to be out in the open air with blue skies. Walking back into the reserve the water on the right had lots of Black-winged Stilt and absolutely nothing else and that with the walkway also deserted - whether due to people marching around the lake or the depth of water, I don't know. Similarly, further round only more Black-winged Stilt, Coot and Moorhen. Grass fringes had loads of Meadow Pipit, Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler and Zitting Cisticloa whilst further away we could see a small flock of Linnet constantly bursting up and down.
On the main body of water there was a few thousand Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls, a few hundred Lapwing and way over toward the left shore, a thousand or more Flamingo. Whilst there was not a lot of activity on the pond at the back of the centre (still with its collection of caged Red-legged Partridge?!?), (mainly Shoveler, Mallard, a few Pochard, Black-winged Stilt), we had a super close-up view of a Little Owl that seemed to be chomping its way through a large beetle.
However, highlights of the day were found on the back road. As usual lots of lark, mainly Calandra and Thekla, but the first of several small groups of Common Crane being kept on the move by men with dogs. Further round, a flock of 30+ Little Bustard that unfortunately came to land well away from the road and being on the other side of farmers clearing a ditch prevented us from following. But close to where we saw Little Bustard on the last Axarquia Bird Club visit, 16 Stone Curlew in good picture range and unconcerned (but keeping a beady eye) of us two creeping ever nearer - but of course I had no camera.
La Laguna Dulce was also well flooded with the same mixture of water birds as already seen (plus a few Gadwall and lots of Black-headed Gulls (why the species split between lagunas?)). A Marsh Harrier floated over the reed at the back to add to the Kestrel as the only other bird of prey and there was a long range view of a Southern Grey Shrike.
The lagunas round Campanillos were also full (and surrounding fields flooded) but holding nothing save the odd Mallard. Driving homeward we saw over-flying Raven and Azure-winged Magpie to give 38 species in a very pleasant and dry day.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
We travelled back from Southampton to Stamford, Lincs on Friday and enjoyed good sightings of Magpie, Fieldfare and Redwing plus a couple of "resting" Buzzard and the usual Kestrels. It was also lovely and reassuring to see at least one magnificent Red Kite. Stopping for the "annual Christmas lunch" with our "gang" of friends (is this really out twentieth such event) in Ravenshorpe, between Long Buckby and Northampton, we had the pleasure of seeing Pheasants, Blackbird, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin and Wood Pigeon in the garden. However, the real bonus was sitting opposite the fire place with a large mirror above same and suddenly seeing, what looked like, a massive Buzzard flying straight at me. As you may well imagine, I was up and out of the chair and looking out of the window behind me just in time o see the bird land in an old tree at the bottom of the garden, Here the Buzzard remained for the next hour or so whilst we ate lunch. Unfortunately, I only had the little Nikon with me so the photographs may not really do justice to this great raptor. I shall know more when I get back to Spain and get the photographs onto the computer.
Today, Tuesday, with a good covering of snow on the ground and a mixture of cloud and sun (more of the latter by midday), I met my birding friend, Ron at Rutland Water for a few hours bird-watching before we returned home to join the ladies for lunch. All the nearer pools were frozen solid and only the main reservoir contained open water. This did not prevent us from seeing a good selection of birds.
The feeding station near the entrance contained the usual crowd of Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch plus a male Reed Bunting. There were also Robin, Dunnock, Great Tit and Blue Tit plus a skulking Pheasant and many Blackbirds. Unconcerned by the birds, and vice versa, a good-sized rat also joined in the feeding frenzy below the feeders! We were told that a resident Long-eared Owl had been sen quite regularly be the "Fieldfare Hide" but we were not to be lucky on this occasion. However, we did see the Fieldfare after which the hide was named, a couple of Redwing, loads of Blackbirds, a solitary Song Thrush and both a Woodcock and Snipe flying over. But, there again, we may have missed the Long-eared Owl but Ron did see a pair of Short-eared Owls at the same location.
Moving to the other side of the reserve, the pools produced many Mute Swan and a range of duck including Shelduck, Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Shoveler and Pochard. Needless to say, there were also "tame" Moorhen, Coot and a Cormorant flew over along with a couple of Goosander, whilst the lone Grey Heron looked up to see what all the fuss was about. In the trees a female Sparrowhawk took up residence and then proceeded to move around as we tried to take a suitable picture. The return walk produced a Buzzard calling as it flew though the trees and overhead a couple of Kestrels made their way to the next pool. Apart from the three resting Snipe, perhaps the best bird was a Water Rail the wandered out of the reeds twenty metres away and then decided it wanted to move to the reed fringe immediately in from of us! Running along the virgin snow, it was very difficult trying to keep the bird in focus and take, hopefully, some good shots of her. Another very pleasant sighting, also, was that of 3 feeding Bullfinch; quite a rarity in most places these days.
So there you go; it may be very cold and snowy but there are still birds to be found and see if you look hard enough!
Birds seen at Rutland Water:
Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Heron, Mute Swan, Goosander, Teal, Shelduck, Wigeon, Golden Eye, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Water Rail, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Short-eared Owl, Lapwing, Snipe, Woodcock, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, House Sparrow, Common Starling, Magpie, Crow, Rook and Jackdaw.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
And so we travelled on towards Madrid and, once on the plains of La Mancha, the sudden appearance on the right of a small flock of Stone Curlew, possibly as many as 30 individuals. However, the really great surprise came as we were about to leave Toledo Province in Castillion - La Macha, about thirty minutes south of Madrid. You see your first one since arriving in Spain almost seven years ago on 6 November when on the way back from the Donana coming across twelve feeding birds, and the following month, Sunday past, a Great Bustard actually flies over the motorway at a very low altitude right in front of your very eyes. I would not have believed it, as they say, had I not seen this magnificent bird with my own eyes.
Continuing to regularly see new birds, we were soon well north of Madrid and into what could only be described as Red Kite country. We must have seen at least a dozen individuals in the next hundred miles plus a dark morph Booted Eagle obligingly sitting on a post at the side of the road. Amazing! Burgos might well be described as "Crow Land" - not to be confused with the Lincolnshire village of Crowland, just north of Peterborough. This is definitely the place to be if you want to guarantee good views of this particular corvid; the (Common) Crow.
However, despite the warm sunshine as we drove up to and through Madrid, the temperature never reached double figures and before Burgos we were getting the flashing light on the instrument panel to tell us that the outside temperature was now below 3C and often down to zero - but not below. Filling up with diesel at about this time, we were also informed that snow was expected Monday, if not overnight, so we decided to press on as far as possible in order to be clear of the mountains. Passing through the outskirts of Burgos we were aware both of the light flurries and the strong wind that had accompanied us for the past many miles and which continued until we dropped down to San Sebastian, complete with a snow plough on every exit of the motorway. How very un-British to be so prepared in readiness for the coming eventuality!
Similarly, in the opposite sort of way, just as we prepared for the winding drop down the mountain a little to the north of La Carolina, two policemen to direct us; one to tell us to move over to the right to keep clear of the body and the other to tell us to move left to avoid the very recent remains of a motor cycle accident. The bike lay smashed into many pieces whilst, laid out parallel tot the central barrier was the unfortunate victim; dead. Here, the body had, presumably, been moved to the edge to allow traffic to continue but no sign of an ambulance or the decency, as we would see it, to cover the corpse and show some sign of dignity. In the same way that fatalities are never shown on British TV, so, perhaps, it is the normal everyday event of seeing one's loved ones and friends laid out that leads to the Spanish more readily accepting the inevitable. If you are dead then there is no need to rush anywhere. Perhaps it's just me!
Rather sad I know but, nevertheless, just as uninteresting, there are 12 black bulls representing the Osborn label between Lake Vinuela and the Spanish border on the route that we took to Irun, where we spent Sunday night. That is assuming we missed none in the dark but, also, including the bull at Casabermejar which we know is there but did not see because it was still dark! And, yes, everyone was looking the correct way - to the left!
Booted Eagle, Red Kite, Kestrel, Stone Curlew, Great Bustard, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, White Wagtail, House Sparrow, Magpie and Crow. (Plus additional birds seen in France: Common Buzzard, Crane, Collared Dove, Blackbird and Rook.)
Driving along French motorways on Monday was its usual boring nightmare. However, whilst we continued to see Crows, more and more Rooks appeared on the scene. The central part of the country produced two occasions of Common Buzzard dropping down onto the grassy embankments at the side of the road to take prey, presumably rabbit. I imagine a start was made on the meal at the site of capture or, if not, the birds needed time to recover after all that exertion! However, the best site, slightly north of Miziman in the far south, was that of a flight of 7 Cranes approaching from the left and, as looked to the right, we could see a further flock of 100+ feeding on the stubble/ploughed field.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
No sooner had we set off from the car park than we could almost forget the half dozen Lapwing to the right as we looked on at the (182 by my count) Stone Curlew settling in the ploughed field on the other side of the foot bridge in front of the electricity sub-station (?). All appeared to be settling down for the day, they usually feed by night, but, no doubt, they will be disturbed at some point and move on to pastures new. The small hedgerow alongside the non-existent stream proved a wealth of wonders. First Stonechat then Black Redstart, not to mention the good numbers of White Wagtail, before getting to the real cream of the cake. A pair of Sardinian Warblers quickly followed by a Dartford Warbler and then the Bluethroat was spotted making his way through the undergrowth. I think everybody present, eventually, got a good sight but it took more than a little patience to wait for the bird to really expose itself for the benefit of the camera.
Moving on, the usual gang of Moorhen scratching around and trying to pretend they were "Roade Island Reds"!! Meanwhile, the lagoon itself looked even drier than last week's visit by the Axarquia Bird Group but it certainly did not prevent thousands of Lesser Black-backed Gulls calling it home. Mind you, they soon shifted their backside when an immature Marsh Harrier drifted over! To the far side a small number of Herons but very little else.
Visiting the small pool at the back before scoping the village side of the lagoon, we soon discovered the numerous Mallard plus a good number of Shoveler. More Moorhens but only a single Coot seen plus a solitary Little Grebe. At least 5 Snipe to keep an eye on the rabbit population and a very brief glimpse of a stalking, but on this occasion unsuccessful, fox. However, the real surprise was to find a gorgeous Little Owl very conveniently resting on one of the tree supports right in front of the hide. And he stayed around long enough for all to have a good look. The other birds on or around the pool included 3 Black-winged Stilt, numerous Meadow Pipits plus a flock of Serin.
Returning towards the observation post, we were able to have a good luck at the left-hand side of the lagoon. Very sunny and quite a lot of heat haze but we did see at least 60 Crane who were regularly joined by further small parties of between 6 and a dozen. On touring the lagoon on the way home and finding no Cranes but a party of returning hunters with their guns and dogs, it probably explains the number on the water (if you can really call it water!). However, with the Cranes were at least 3 Flamingo, probably juveniles, and a single Sacred Ibis. A couple of years since I last saw one of these wandering escapees who seemed to have taken quite happily to the wild.
And so I left early to get back and make sure that all was packed in readiness for the car trip back to "Blighty" in the morning. Blog completed and posted - well, it is if you are reading this! However, I ought to mention that compared to last week when we saw at least a dozen Hoopoe, not one this morning but, on the other hand, rather than a single Stone Curlew on the back fields but a couple of flocks totalling around the hundred mark. perhaps they had been pushed off the reserve as indicated at the beginning.
Little Grebe, Heron, Flamingo, Sacred Ibis, Mallard, Shoveler, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Snipe, Crane, Stone Curlew, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Owl, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Grenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow and Spotless Starling.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Black Redstart, Black-headed Gull, Black-winged Stilt, Cattle Egret, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Kingfisher, Moorhen, Crested Lark, Blackbird, Coot, Hoopoe, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Penduline-Tit(2), Spoonbill(1), Goldfinch, Robin, Serin, Heron, Cormorant, House Sparrow, Little Egret, Mallard, Monk Parakeet, Rock Pigeon, Sanderling(2), Spotless Starling, Stonechat, White Wagtail, Yellow-legged Gull.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Eric's email informed me that he knew all was going to well when, after dropping Pat off, he strolled around Guadalhorce for the afternoon and by the time he had reached the bridge had seen, apart from the usual Black Redstart, Coot, Little Egret, Heron, White Wagtail, etc, a Kingfisher flashing passed towards the school and a single Spoonbill in the river. 4 Booted Eagles, Osprey, Marsh Harrier and Kestrels were also good. The usual duck including a pair of White-headed Duck, Teal and a pair of Wigeon on the main pond plus 3 Shelduck on the old river. A probable Water Pipit (very white underneath with black markings disappearing to nothing), a Southern Grey Shrike, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Stint, Ringed Plover, single Avocet and Spoonbill, Sanderling, 14 Dunlin with Kentish Plover and Sanderling on the beach.
Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Shelduck, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Booted Eagle (both morphs), Osprey, Marsh harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Little Stint, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Kingfisher, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Water pipit, Southern Grey Shrike, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisicola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow and Spotless Starling.
My day inland produced fewer species but, nevertheless, quite some excitement. Having left the sunshine at home, I met both fog and low cloud as soon as I passed Ventas de Zafarraya. The old, and I mean very, very old with more potholes than a Peak District caving expedition, towards Loja produced large numbers of both Corn Bunting and Linnet plus 3 Red-legged partridge sitting on same. (Strange, there were five when I returned after lunch!)
No sooner had I met up with Mick and we were "round the corner" and within minutes looking at a flock in excess of 180+ Little Bustard. Before venturing closer on foot, the local stream offered up numerous White Wagtail, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit, Chiffchaff and Greenfinch. Plenty of Black Redstarts about and a good number of Stonechat. Perhaps the pick of this stop was the Green Sandpiper that was disturbed as approached. The Little Bustards dispersed and then we were seeing Blackbird, scores of House Sparrow and with the odd Tree Sparrow every now and again, more Linnets, Hoopoe, Goldfinch and both singing Skylark and Crested Lark.
A little further on we found a very large flock of Spotless Starling, yet more Meadow Pipits and at least 30 Azure-winged Magpie. A single Cattle Egret as we made our way back to the town perimeter and there were the Stone Curlews; at least 60 resting near the recently-cropped lettuce which, again, took to the skies as a kind gentleman walked along the far track right in front of the birds!
Time to work my way back home having said my thanks to Andy for a great morning but seeing very little knew other than the 5 Red-legged Partridge, a Kestrel and a (common) Magpie. A quick stop at the old railway track near Ventas de Zafarraya including a walk to the far side of the tunnel proved very disappointing indeed; all was very quiet with only a single Stonechat, Black Redstart on the way out but a lovely view of a Dartford Warbler on the return walk to the car. But there again, the first wild, mountain Irises were out in full colour and looking gorgeous in the early afternoon sunshine. All in all, a total of 30 birds recorded.
Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Cattle Egret, Kestrel, Green Sandpiper, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Red-legged Partridge,Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Skylark, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Spotless Starling, Azure-winged Magpie and Magpie.
Little Bustards in flight
Photographs from top:
Sunday, December 6, 2009
With regular small group of about 12 departing the site, it was very obvious that there would be no great numbers of Cormorants around and this proved correct when I reached the main pool to discover no more then 60 birds resting compared with the 200+ only ten days ago. On the other hand, the numbers will be returning later on in the day when they have had their fill of the local fish. Also, very few Heron and Little Egret about and, also unlike on my last visit, not a single Blackbird compared with many on that occasion. However, I did have the Robins to keep me company. Similarly, no great numbers of duck, a few Mallard on the river upstream from the footbridge, a small party of Gadwall at the back of the main pool and a smaller group of Shoveler resting on the island in front of the hide. The exception was the single Avocet who had decided to become a Shoveler and, not one metre away, a very tired-looking Bar-tailed Godwit who steadfastly refused to stretch himself when the camera was facing his way; but I did see his face through the telescope! A smaller number of Monk Parakeets were moving back and forth between the site and their nesting colony where, as often they can be seen, the resident pair of Jackdaw were keeping an eye on their "basement apartment" in the parakeets' tree.
Still a number of Chiffchaff about around the edges and a couple of Black-necked Grebe on the water with a few Little Grebe whilst, over the trees at the far bank, a pair of Marsh Harrier were very busy quartering the area looking for their mid-morning snack.
The "Hidden Pool" seemed almost devoid of birds. A couple of Little Grebe, less than 20 Coot but I was in time to see a White-headed Duck, the first for a few weeks, before he disappeared up one of the far channels. Walking towards to the main river and the far hides, I was accompanied by a few Crag Martin overhead and yet more Chiffchaff busy darting about here, there and everywhere.
The first hide provided the sight of a flashing Kingfisher and the first of 3 Kestrel but very little else and the second hide was not much better at first sight. However, a good inspection of the banks, sandbanks and trees soon produced some interesting birds. A lone Snipe followed a single Redshank and the 3 Greenshank wandering around to accompany the dozen or so Black-winged Stilts. The sudden movement led me to the 8 Dunlin and the single Ringed Plover that looked very forlorn. The, overhead, a passing Booted Eagle. This bird was discovered later on resting in a large tree to the seaward side of the "Osprey Tree" and, using the escope, was seen to have been tagged; wearing what looked like quite a large red marker on the main joint of his left wing and a second, yellow, marker between primary and secondary feathers. So where has this little , or not so little , chap turned up from?
The only life in the old river was a party of 15 Sanderling so on down to the "Sea Watch" to check out the beaches and water off-shore. A good number of both Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls accompanied by a party of, at least, 11 Common Scoter and9 Black-necked Grebes. Obviously, the unsociable members of the tribe who do not wish to meet the "hobbledehoys" on the lagoons or their inferior cousins, the Little Grebe! Another 3 Sanderling chasing the breaking surf and single Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit and Black Redstart on the land side of the hide.
So, as it was now becoming quite warm and the area was filling up with every member of the public who owned a bicycle, back to the car. Crossing the footbridge, by way of a pleasant send-off, 7 Spoonbill feeding in the water just upstream from me. However, after watching for ten or more minutes I could detect no sign of any ringed birds within the group. So, the morning ended with over forty species recorded.
Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, White-headed Duck, Common Scoter, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Snipe, Dunlin, Sanderling, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling and Jackdaw.
Friday, December 4, 2009
One week after last month's visit and we met again for the December monthly meeting; this time at the, not quite so dry, lagoons of Fuente de Piedra. Strange how the weather can play tricks on you. Nothing but sunshine and good weather then, suddenly, the third consecutive month of "iffy" weather. As if this was not bad enough, as with the last two outings the days either side of the meeting date were bright and sunny and, again, we even had lovely, if somewhat colder this time, sunshine immediately following our Menu del Dia. Is someone trying to tell us something? But not to worry; it may have been very black overhead first thing this morning and even "throwing it down" in Loja but it did not prevent twenty-three, yes 23, dedicated birders turning up in the cold, windy conditions with the hope of a good morning's birding and the chance to find the illusive 600 Cranes reported to have arrive for the winter plus the possibility of both Little Bustard and Stone Curlew.
So who were these brave (mad?) soles that braved the elements? Looking back, it would appear that Jenny and I might have been the nearest to the site and we had travelled form Lake Vinuela! To think that many of the Salobrena contingent had set off at 8 o'clock for the 10 am rendezvous gives some indication of pour dedication; Louise Gray plus Hipolito Jeronimo and new guest Juan Ruiz followed a little later by Helen McCormack and her two guests, Daniel Sprevas and Veronica Copeland. As usual, Patrick Raines and Bryan Stapley travelled over from Canillas de Albaida and then, of course, we also had Pat and Eric Lyon from Sayalonga. Also travelling from afar in Nerja were the "two Johnnies" and their respective wives; John and Elaine Taylor and John and Carol Dennis. Slightly nearer were the other Lake Vinuela participants; Susan and Malcolm Austin, Werner Friedrichs and his guest, John Watson plus ourselves. Lastly, but by no means least, from the "East" came Mick Richardson from a very wet and soggy Loja. Meanwhile, not to be outdone, we had those from the south and west; namely Andy Paterson from Torremolinos and Ian Kirby from Benalmadena. What a magnificent crowd and the great majority able to stay for the above-mentioned meal back in Fuente after the circular tour of the lagoon. As a certain participant remarked about an hour after we met, at this rate there are going to be more birders than birds seen. And, initially, he was not far out in his calculation! However, we did eventually manage to record over forty species.
The entrance to the lagoons produced good numbers of Lapwing on the ploughed field to the right and many Moorhen in front of the reformed Centre. There had been some, little , rain over the past month so we were hoping for better things in the, hopefully now filled, pool at the back of the Centre. A Snipe, Blackcap and Chiffchaff in the little pool at the first, open, hide was encouraging, if not the fact that a new small wall as being built and the workmen thought it wise to close the path to the main hides. Strange this sudden call for "Health and Safety" given the usual attitude to such matters on some of the large/tall monuments that are continuously open tot eh public. Even more disturbing given that this site ids a major natural history focus for Andalucia, if not the country, was to find a large number of Red-legged |partridge caged up on the exposed wall oat the back of the original Centre and exposed for all the public to see. Somehow, it did not seem to tie in with the aims of the centre.
Having reached the main hide, the main birds on display were mallard and Black-winged Stilt. Still plenty of Moorhen and two pairs of Shoveler plus the bonus of a single Green Sandpiper and, a little later, a single Little Grebe. Meanwhile, the surrounds were occupied by many White Wagtail and Stonechat plus a few Meadow Pipit. Some of us may have missed the sandpiper but, arriving and leaving the hide later, we not only saw the Little Grebe but had a long and close view of the Fox (Vulpes vulpes) than came down close to the water's edge to see if there might be any sign of an easy meal. It gave itself away as we saw the ducks and anything else in sight, suddenly move away fro the edge of the lagoon. On the other hand, one had to question the intelligence of the Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)that decided now might be a good time to bask in the sun not five metres away from the fox's last position and within two minutes of his departure. Finally, just before leaving to catch up the rest of the group, a very close view of a Water Pipit as it slowly made its way along the rocks at the water's edge. So we made our way to the car park, only to see a pair of Raven drift by low overhead and hear about the sighting of the first Marsh Harrier of the day. Meanwhile, scoping the main lagoon had produced only a few juvenile Flamingo and 3 lone Crane but hundreds, if not thousands, of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
With species numbers down and the weather, shall we say, rather on the cold side, we set off on an anti-clockwise circuit of the lagoon in the hope that we could track down our illusive birds that were the main focus of the day. What a disappointment the far hide proved to be. Other than a lone Blackbird and some feeding Chiffchaff, the area and water seemed completely devoid of birds. At this point we said goodbye to Andy who was returning to the coast and Mick, who had already seen scores of Little Bustard on his journey from Loja. who was keen to check out the Canillos lakes. (A text message later in the day revealed that every lagoon was completely dry!)
However, somebody was looking down on us for no sooner had we reached the end of the lake and rounded the corner when we found the Cranes. At least 250 feeding on the fields to the right which, do to the noise and sudden movement of nine cars stopping, decided enough was enough and took to the skies. What an impressive sight as these large birds eased round at low level and re-settled in the fields; at which point we counted, probably, at least another 50 individuals. The cranes had been seen but what of the other birds?
Travelling on round we continued to see pairs and/or small groups of Hoopoe, Chaffinch flocks and then both Thekla and Calandra Lark. However, half-way round on the back circuit we stopped as a small party of about 20 Little Bustard suddenly flew by at a low level on the water side of the road. Again, all cars stopped to see where they had gone. A single Stone Curlew was seen in the neighbouring field and then photographed (but poor quality although it did confirm the sighting) before we almost had time to react to the sudden departure of a bout three closely formed groups of Little Bustards took off and moved away, probably totalling in excess of 60 birds.
The main object achieved and hunger pangs starting to gnaw, we made our way back to the village, stopping at the edge of the new railway bridge to observe a good-sized flock of Linnet plus a few Greenfinch making up the numbers. Given the weather when we set off and the barrenness of the main lagoon, in the end, I think, a good time was enjoyed by all and we can now look forward to a good day's birding in January with better weather - we hope!
Little Grebe, Flamingo, Mallard, Shoveler, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Snipe, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Stone Curlew, Red-legged Partridge, Crane, Little Bustard, Hoopoe, Rock Dove, Crag Martin, Calandra Lark, Thekla Lark, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Southern Grey Shrike, Serin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling and Raven.
The next meeting will, once again, be at the ponds on the Guadalhorce in Malaga on Thursday 15 January, meeting on the road at the entrance at 9.30 am. A reminder will be sent nearer the time.
I have made a start on preparing an "Annual Report of the Axarquia Bird Group for 2009" which I hope top finish before the end of January. The finished product can be found on the website (www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com) on which I will also try and publish regular updates with facts and figures, etc as I make progress. There is a also a direct link to the "Blog" from this site for those of you who wish to access the information after visiting the web page rather than logout and login again, etc.