Sunday, August 29, 2010

Andalucia Bird Society visit to Axarquia and Granada Province

Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)
My pleasure to organise and facilitate the visit of the Andalucia Bird Society (ABS) to our Axarquia region and then on into the south-west of Granada Provence.  Meeting at the mirador above Ventas de Zafarraya at 9.30 for a prompt 10 o'clock start the weather was already hot and sunny with a clear blue sky.  In the event their were eight of us, Alexandra Farrell from far away Marbella, David and Janet Fisher from Antequera, David Hird and Juliet Butterworth from Fuengirola plus Jerry and Barbara Laycock from Malaga and, of course, yours truly.
Bee-eater (Merops persicus)
Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura)

For we early arrivals there was the chance to pick up an early Rock Sparrow and then, for all of us a single soaring Short-toed Eagle.  The next hour or so was spent travelling along the old railway track, through the tunnel and on up the the ruined railway cottage about a kilometre beyond.  Moving up towards the tunnel there was no shortage of feeding House Martins and a couple of Blue Rock Thrushes plus a Black Wheatear.  Nearer to us, a number of feeding Goldfinches including many juveniles.  All very quiet on the rock face itself soon through the tunnel and, almost immediately, the desire to try and find some shade from the sparsely scattered thin trees as we travelled on. More and more Goldfinches and then the first of many Stonechats.  Meanwhile, overhead, a pair of Short-toed Eagles quickly followed by a pair of Booted Eagles.
Adult and juvenile Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)

By the time we had reached the old cottage to retrace our steps, both Sardinian and Dartford Warblers had been picked up and then the arrival of small flock of 20 plus Bee-eaters; very beautiful.  A single Melodious Warbler with its beautiful yellow breast and the odd Blackbird before, finally, the arrival of at least 20 Chough.  Against the rocks, numerous feeding hirundines, mostly Crag Martin but with the occasional Barn Swallow.  Just before re-entering the tunnel, a lone male Black Redstart stopped for a short rest on the side wall and then it was off to the former "estacion", now a bar, for a well-earned coffee.
The return of the Choughs (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)

Very quiet driving through the wooded area with not a single Azure-winged magpie on either journey but a diversion to the Cortijo Pilas de Dedil on the track towards the Sierra Loja did produce a (common) Magpie after both Thekla Lark and Black-eared Wheatear near the turn-off.  Finally, it was to the old part of Alhama de Granada to have lunch and take a look at the gorge that runs through this fascinating old town in Granada Province.  Amazingly, we seemed to have been eating and drinking for ages before the bill finally arrived resulting in us contributing 8 Euros!  Definitely use this little bar again.  Down in the nearby gorge, the usual large flock of resident Rock Doves plus a pair of Jackdaws, a good-sized flock of Spotless Starlings and a t least 2 Red-rumped Swallows.  We even had the odd number of Serin and another charm of Goldfinch.

Our final destination was the pantaneta above the town where, as expected, we were greeted by good numbers of Coot.  A single Moorhen and then a lonely Little Grebe before picking out the few Pochard and three young Mallard.  Feeding over the water were large numbers of hirundines, mainly House Martins including many juveniles plus a smaller number of Barn Swallow and at least one Sand Martin.  David even managed to locate a single Common Swift.  The neighbouring little spinney produced Wood Pigeon and another Spotted Flycatcher to add to the bird that was feeding immediately in front of the hide overlooking the water.  A rather delightful surprise came with close views of a Willow Warbler and then, as we made our way home, a pair of White Wagtails on the dam.
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
 Given the poor (?) weather conditions, not at all a bad day with a total of 37 species and excellent company.
We happy band of  8 - if you look carefully!

Birds seen:
Little Grebe, Mallard, Pochard, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Moorhen, Coot, Bee-eater, Swift, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Thekla Lark, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear,Spotted Flycatcher, Serin, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Magpie, Chough and Jackdaw. Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Willow Warbler,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Black Kite Migration

Just a few of the 200+ Black Kites (Milvus migrans) passing over Casa Collado
The Black Kite Migration is well and truly under way.  It was just on 8 o'clock this morning and the temperature already approaching 30C; a beautiful clear blue sky and very little breeze but, up above, the birds rather than the birder were on the move.  Urgent telephone calls from our neighbours on both sides urged us to look up at the 60 big birds.  (Why do these phone calls come after you have gone back into the house to get washed, etc?)

Rushing outside, complete with wet face, with Jenny we looked up and, never mind 60, within seconds our count had exceeded 200!  After a very hot day followed by a very warm night, the Black Kites had decided it was time to beat an expected repeat of yesterday's hot temperatures and start/continue heading southwards; time to join their mates down in the Tarifa area in preparation for the crossing of the Straits of Gibraltar and onwards to Africa.
Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

Still, at least their movement overhead was slow enough for me to go back into the house to collect and set up the camera.  With the aperture set at 5.6 and a speed of about 1/800 of a second, it was still difficult to get a reasonable shot of a bird facing me rather than all backside.  In addition, at this time the sun was just coming up over the mountain behind me and shining very brightly.  This low light gave the birds a "golden" look and it was as if, rather than Black Kites, I was looking at a large migrating flock of Red Kites.  Initially, there were two distinct groups of birds but by the time they had passed over the house both groups had merged; thank goodness I had already completed the count!

Nevertheless, a magnificent sight to behold and, no doubt, within the next few weeks we shall, hopefully, also start seeing both Honey Buzzards and Griffon Vultures making the same journey.  Me thinks I had better keep the camera, as well as the binoculars, at the ready!


Formation flying?  
Move over, coming through!
That's it; the show's over.  Time to push on southwards!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ventas de Zafarraya and near-by Granada Province

Short-toed Eagle  (Circaetus gallicus)
Jenny down to Puente don Manuel to catch the coach at 7 am for a day in Gibraltar (why do our wives make this shopping trip to Gibraltar?) so a chance for me to have an early morning's birding and not worry about when I get back home.  So, up at the Mirador on the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarraya before 7.30.  It's one thing getting there before the sun of mid-August but at this hour you get there before the birds!

Just about light and a Collared Dove calling ("singing?") but not until half-way to the old tunnel before I actually saw a bird.  First a Black Wheatear and immediately afterwards a single female Black Redstart whilst, above me on the cliff face, the early calling of at least a couple of Chough.  Just before the tunnel a quick glimpse of a single Chough moving against the rock and then, just a couple of steps into the tunnel, the shock of my life.  A pair of Choughs had obviously roosted just inside the tunnel and upon hearing/seeing me took off and almost my head with them as they dashed out of the said tunnel!

Still very quiet; no doubt most of the smaller birds were having a lie in / lie up / lie down or whatever it is that birds do after a hard day's labour.  However, after leaving the tunnel the first of many Blackbirds and then the company of a single Rock Bunting that took the opportunity to take a short rest on the track in front of me.  By the time I had reached the old railway worker's cottage ruin I had seen more Blackbirds followed by Stonechats, House Sparrows, Goldfinches and a pair of juvenile Great Tits.  The slope leading up to the summit produced the first of a pair of Red-legged Partridge and then a pair of Sardinian Warblers as I started the return journey towards the tunnel.  Not to be missed (although there were no Crag martins about) a single male Blue Rock Thrush on the higher slopes, just where I had seen the young Ibex on the outward journey, and a few Rock Sparrows as I left the tunnel.
Male Kestrel  (Falco tinnunculus)

The "Muck Heap" is still fenced off so headed towards the "Brambling Field" entrance, passing Barn Swallow, Spotless Starling and Rock Doves on the way.  Coming down out of the "Magpie Woods" (but none seen), rather than head straight off towards Alhama de Granada I swung left towards the old Loja road.  Plenty of Thekla Larks about and an adult Kestrel resting on the electricity wire so, for a first time, turned left along the track indicating "Sirra Loja".  Travelled about a couple of miles to what, I believe, is called "Cortijo Pilas de Dedil" seeing the first of many Wood Pigeons and then a couple of Turtle Doves on the wires.  As I stopped to turn round at what appeared the above hamlet, first a single Spotted Flycatcher on the fence to my right and then a large flock of Serin.  Birding certainly and suddenly took on a new meaning as I had a Northern Wheatear in front of me quickly followed by a single Melodious Warbler and a feeding Hoopoe.
Turtle Dove  (Streptopelia turtur)

No sooner had I turned to retrace my route than a large raptor spotted in the stubble to my right.  A female Montagu's Harrier that moved on as soon as I stopped taking with her either a baby or the remains of an adult "furry thing", presumably rabbit.  Whilst stopped and searching the neighbouring hedges and trees I spied at least a handful of (Common) Magpies.

It was then back to the original road from Ventas de Zafarraya to Alhama de Granada to continue on the original route accompanied by a small flock of House Martins.  Then, just as I passed the "Corn Bunting" fence, a magnificent Short-toed Eagle spiralling above me.  Quickly out of the car with the camera to get some shots, even if the bird was immediately in front of the sun; its amazing how an empty road can suddenly become like the M25 as soon as such an action is taken!

The pantaneta at Alhama de Granada was on the quiet side with about 60+ Coot, a solitary Little Grebe and a handful of Pochard.  A single Grey Heron was resting n the trees at the back of the small adjacent spinney.  Meanwhile, the dam area produced both single White and Grey Wagtails plus a noisy Bee-eater as I walked along the River Alhama towards the small footbridge.  Finally, a single Jay to round off the morning before seeking sustenance and a siesta!

Not too bad to record 38 species but, given another such opportunity, I think I might be better starting at the Rio Velez for the early morning birds and then move inland.  On the other hand, it would most probably have been too hot by the time I got to today's sites so  be content with the birds seen.

Short-toed Eagle  (Circaetus gallicus)

Birds seen:
Little Grebe, Heron, Pochard, Short-toed Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, Kestrel, Coot, Red-legged Partridge, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northen Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Serin, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting, Spotless Starling, Magpie, Jay and Chough.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tarifa Bird Fair

Following the success of the 2008 Bird Fair, the Tarifa Bird Fair will, once again, be held over three days from Friday to Sunday, 24 - 26 September next.  This is an excellent opportunity to visit a "Bird Fair" and see what is on offer whilst, at the same time, having an opportunity to check out the main autumn raptor migration.  The Fair itself will be open each day from 10 in the morning until midnight.

The Andalucian Bird Society (ABS), of which I am the new Membership Secretary, will also have a stand so you will be able to also find out what´s new in birding - as well as take a look at equipment, etc.

I shall go down on the Friday morning and be about for the early and, possibly, later part of that day.  As I am staying in nearby Bolonia, I shall hope to get some birding in at La Janda and the coast as well as take a chance to do some raptor watching.  Finally, I will be back at the Fair on the Sunday, which will culminate in the ABS committee meeting during the afternoon.

I have entered a short message and link on the right of the page so that those interested can obtain some more information before "googling" to their hearts content!               


Charca de Suarez, Motril - but closed!

Female Red Avadavat  (Bengali rojo)
Up to the Charca de Suarez reserve on the outskirts of Motril yesterday but first a quick call in at Velez de Benaudalla.  To be expected, plenty of Swifts in Almeneca and then both more of the same plus House Martins on the outskirts of Salobrena.  The drive up to Velez de Benaudalla produced both Barn Swallows and Red-rumped Swallows on the way and there were a fair number of Cattle Egrets to be seen feeding in the local fields plus a Crag Martin low over the river as we drove through the gorge.

Arriving at Charca de Suarez for the 6 o´clock opening we were greeted by the dreaded sign that advised us that, instead of a single day, the reserve would be closed for three days over the national holiday period and yesterday was the last of those days.  What a wasted journey - or so we thought.

Travelling back via the narrow concrete through the adjacent Motril Marshes, there was still plenty of water running off through the recently-created channels.  It seems, with out much perseverance, very difficult to access the previous grassy patches within the marshes and very little, other than the odd Cattle Egret and 3 Mallards was about.  As a last resort, we parked the car and walked down the farm track at the edge.  A family of Crested Larks and then just the one, single bird sitting on top of a sugar cane.  However, it did remain long enough for plenty of distant photographs to be taken at an ISO of 100, aperture of 5.6 and a relatively fast speed.  Very strange to see this mysterious little bird that looked like a cross between a Common Waxbill with its red beak and pale chest and a Red Avadavat without the red wings and brilliant white spots.  A little bit of thinking and the proverbial light dawned - a female Red Avadavat.
Red Avadavat

Now, in lovely sunshine with a setting sun, we made our way back along "Turtle Dove Alley" (the narrow road that connects the marshes to the main port road) and were not disappointed to find first a couple and then as many as 20 or more Turtle Doves feeding on the road itself.  Very difficult trying to hang out of the passenger seat to take photographs with the canes in your face and the birds aware of your presence!  In amongst the doves were a handful of sparrows which, on closer inspection, were actually Tree Sparrows.
Turtle Doves  (Streptopelia turtur)

Finally, a resting Cattle Egret and a Hoopoe and we were off for an earlier than expected stop at the local Lidl before heading back to our mountain.

Birds seen:
Cattle Egret, Hoopoe, Swift, Turtle Dove, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Red Avadavat, House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wonderful Guadalhorce morning!

Spoonbill  (Platalea leucorodia)

Up early to meet Birgit Kremer and Eduardo Antunez at 8.30 by the church but, in the event, I was awake anyway and decided to go down early and beat the sun and heat.  Beat the sun?  I beat the sunrise as I crossed the footbridge into the reserve at 6.45!  I had hoped that such an early start might provide one or more of Red-necked Nightjar, Purple Swamphen and Little Bittern.  Nothing doing; none of them put in an appearance but, on the other hand, the morning's total 51 species included 14 waders, 5 gulls and 3 terns, including a first sighting (for me) of a Lesser Crested Tern.  Indeed, there were a trio of the species and, at one point, we had all three species, Lesser Crested, Little and Sandwich Tern all resting together on the nearby island of Laguna Grande!  Similarly, one bonus of being first on the scene was that I got to see the over-night resting birds before their dispersal plus the awaking of a large flock, at least 50+, of Blue-headed Wagtails (Motacilla flava iberiae), the Iberian race of the Yellow Wagtail.

Juvenile Little Egret
Juvenile Black-winged Stilt
Starting at the Laguna Casillas, the Pochard flock were still asleep but a couple of Moorhen, Coots and the first Black-winged Stilt were up and about, so it were, in preparation for the coming day.  Also on the water was a Little Grebe and a family of Mallard, quickly followed by a female White-headed DuckBlackbirds were singing and moving about as the first of about 8 Herons took off inland.  Moving to the neighbouring Wader Pool, I was seen by at least 20 Little Egrets who took a, not unnatural, dislike to my face and moved off towards the Laguna Grande.  At the same time, a flock of almost 100 Spotless Starlings moved across the track from the eastern river to seek out food in the centre of the reserve.  Nearer at hand, 4 Turtle Doves shot from one pool to the next and kept me entertained for the next few minutes.

The main attraction on the Wader Pool was the small, mixed party of waders. The main group consisted of 5 Dunlin and 6 Curlew Sandpipers plus the ever-noisy and bullying Black-winged Stilts with their current aggressive nature.  The small waders consisted of a good number of Little Ringed Plovers, mainly juveniles, plus a single Ringed Plover.
Common Sandpiper  (Actitis macularius)

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
Whilst the walk to the Sea Watch produced nothing on the beach or at sea, other than fishermen, there were plenty of Crested Larks and more gulls, mainly Yellow-legged Gulls resting on or flying over the river.  More Black-winged Stilts, Blue-headed Wagtails and a small number of Kentish Plover were recorded on or near the Rio Viejo.  Also on the river bank, a feeding pair of Little Stint; very nice and thank you very much!  By now the Barn Swallows were up and about plus the occasional House Martin but by far the majority of these "flying wonder birds" were the very good numbers of Common Swifts.  A single Woodchat Shrike rested on top of a small bush and as I re-approached the Wader Pool a solitary Greenfinch was feeding to my left.

Green sandpiper (Tringa achropus)
At the Wader Pool, as expected, there were more birds about including 3 Common SandpipersHouse Sparrows were freely moving about and then the arrival of the Collared Doves quickly followed by the first squawking flock of Monk Parakeets.  Having seen Birgit and company cross the distant footbridge, I made my back to the hide overlooking the Laguna Casillas.  By the time Birgit, Eduardo and company joined us, I had also welcomed Ted Lord and a couple of other Spanish birders quickly followed by Antonio, he of the previous employment by the Junta as a wild-life warden.  Always a pleasure to see Antonio has he brings a pleasant smile and sense of fun as well as his expertise.  For the next hour we seemed to be up and down between these two eastern hides and had the pleasure of a passing Kingfisher, a couple of Sardinian Warblers and then 3 Green Sandpipers at the rear left of the Wader pool.
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) with Common Sandpiper

Finally time to move on as the day was, by now, really beginning to warm up.  A Zitting Cisticola overflew the track and then a small party of Goldfinches before we reached the Laguna Escondida.  Nothing new on this small water; simply more Coots, a few Little Grebe and about a handful of Pochard at the back so on to the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande and our final port of call as, overhead, a party of Pallid Swifts kept us company.

Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii)
Our arrival coincided with a complete change in the wind direction and suddenly we were getting a full blast of off-sea wind in our face; much cooler and a very welcome relief, even if it did, at first, slightly distract from the birding.  The water was full of gulls, both immediately in front of the hide and on all the islands as well as the sheltered area at the back, so some time was spent in trying to identify what actually was present.  Immediately in front a good-sized flock of Audouin's Gulls then very good numbers of Black-headed Gulls.  To the right a party of Yellow-legged Gulls and a handful of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  After a while, it was easy to locate the Mediterranean Gulls, many in a heavy moult and try and concentrate on finding, if any, terns.  First the small party of Sandwich Terns and then the shout of "Bengalis!" by Antonio as he located first one, the three, Lesser Crested Terns with their lovely golden beaks.  No sooner had the birds landed on one of the islands, I had been busy watching a small, fat wader with short legs to the right, so was pleased to able to catch up with my observation before the group took another circle round the water.
Mixed terns including Lesser Crested (Sterna bengalensis), Sandwich (S. sandvicensis) and Little (S. albifrons)
Knot  (Calidris canutus)
 Indeed, at this point we had three tern species together as there were also a handful of Little Terns in with the gulls.  Back to my "small, fat wader" feeding in the shadow of the shore.  Identified as Correlimos Gordo Calidris canulus, we eventually remembered that Eduardo's Spanish Aves Guide had the English name in brackets after each species so we were able to confirm that we had a Red Knot in full view.  The bird hung around for the rest of our time at the water so we were able to get even better views in sunlight.

Arrival of 21 Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta)
To add to the excitement, first a flock of 21 Avocet graced our pool as they flew in from the east and as if this was not enough, a pair of Spoonbills flew over and landed to our right, replacing a pair of Grey Heron.  Meanwhile, the single Black-tailed Godwit took umbrage that he was no longer the star attraction and beat a hasty retreat - but not before we had also found a couple of individual Redshank and more Common Sandpipers and juvenile Little Ringed Plovers.  Finally, just when we thought we had seen everything, a single Turnstone landed on the nearby island to feed and presented some very clear views.
Turnstone  (Arenaria interpres)

Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis)
And so the morning came to an end and I took my leave of Brigit and Eduardo, we were the only three left by now, and made my way back to the car.  The very last birds to be heard and seen on the track leading back to the final exit was a very loud Cetti's Warbler in the bushes next to the western river and a pair of very scruffy-looking Zitting Cisticolas, which made a short stop on the wooden fence.  A great morning and, despite the heat, quite bearable, the moreso given the range and quantity of species seen and the splendid company.

Has anyone seen this Audouin's Gull before?

It looks like ring number AL3G.

Birds seen:
Little Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Mallard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Crested Tern, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Monk Parakeet, Pallid Swift, Common Swift, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Yellow (Blue-headed) Wagtail, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow and Spotless Starling.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rio Velez - again!

Reed Warbler  (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Up early to meet friend Bryan Stapley at 7.45 and show him the pros and cons of the Rio Velez down at Torre del Mar.  Glad to say that not only did I arrive nearly half an hour early but Bryan was right in front of me as we approached the river.  Just as well as we were able to enjoy a couple of hours birding and get away before the heat hot up.

With the sun below the horizon to the east we made a start at the pool below the road bridge.  Apart from the resident Rock Dove flock (noticed that one individual had managed to get himself hung up (literally) near the top of the bare tree opposite where, presumably, he has been hanging around for a few days or more.  As yet, no sign of him being detected as carrion fodder for the wandering raptors, etc.  Back to the living birds.  At least 8 Mallards resting on the river, slightly downstream, and then the first of at least 20 Cattle Egrets making their way inland from their overnight roost.  Strange how there is always one that hands about to be last away from home; obviously had a good feed yesterday so in hurry for his desayuna!

No sooner had we started to walk down towards the pumping station than we had our ears "bashed" by the very vocal Cetti's Warblers on both sides of the track.  Similarly, given the early start, there were plenty of Blackbirds to be seen plus the first of the morning's Barn Swallows.  Meanwhile, a single Spotted Flycatcher made himself known on a bush to the left.  Large flocks of House Sparrows were also present and then, about midway between bridge and pumping station, a pair of feeding Black-winged Stilts.

Black-winged Stilt  (Himantopus himantopus)
Approaching the pumping station, a large flock of Spotless Starlings made for the larger reeds near to the main river and 7 immature Yellow-legged Gulls flew over us.  The lagoon at the river's mouth had changed completely since last week.  With the outflow channel sealed off, the water level had risen creating a far larger pool - but very few birds other than the above gulls and at least a dozen Moorhen.  On the southern edge 3 Common Sandpiper quickly departed whilst the solitary Kentish Plover remained. On the bright side, the "bamboo camp" had disappeared to be replaced by a more conventional camp site as part of some sort of "sect gathering" complete with large banner.  However, it did mean that, in addition to at least 7 free-wandering dogs, there were more animals wandering about.  To the rear, a small collection of home-made" sleeping vans and cars but, fortunately, with the occupants still asleep.  At least, for the first time in many visits, there were no wandering nudists; something, I suppose, for which to be grateful.

Having shown Bryan the paths through the growing fields either side of the river, where we saw a good number of Crested Larks and, mainly, juvenile Goldfinch, we made our way back to the pumping station, noticing that, at last, the House Martins were awake and filling the skies, and a closer look at the riverside vegetation.  What a bonus!  Not only close views of a number of both Zitting Cisticola and Cettis's Warbler, but a single Reed Warbler and then, completely unexpected and out of the blue, a very close view of a Sedge Warbler.  Add the small flock of Serin and we thought we had had a good morning.
 Female Common Kestrel  (Falco tinnunculus)

But then, even more.  A Turtle Dove flew over and made its way up river in front of us and, in so doing, enabled us to pick out the female Kestrel crossing the river to come to rest at the top of a tree on the opposite bank.  Back at the car for a last look in the pool and river below, at least 4 Yellow Wagtails of the Iberian race (Blue-headed) and a pair of White Wagtails.  Even as we looked we could also see a single Grey Wagtail, resulting in all three species being in view at the same time.  Beyond them, a dozen of the resident Rock Doves rested in the old tree with a single Collared Dove to their right.
Yellow Wagtail - Blue-headed Iberian race  (Motacilla flava iberiae)

We had already seen one individual but a look at the river above the bridge revealed another 3 Hoopoe.  Could this have been the family from the nest I have observed for the past couple of months?  I would like to think so.

A very good couple of hours and time for a coffee, record sightings and head for home - even if Bryan had been landed with the weekly shop!  Even better as I made my way up the mountain with a handful of Thekla Larks, female Stonechat and single Woodchat Shrike and then, as an added bonus, a fly pat by our visiting Short-toed Eagle.  A wonderful way to appreciate the early morning start before making a start on the above blog.

Birds seen during morning:
Cattle Egret, Mallard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Hoopoe, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Crested lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail (Blue-headed), Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Serin, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling PLUS Short-toed Eagle, Thekla Lark, Stonechat and Woodchat Shrike.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fuente de Piedra and "Flamingoland"

Early morning arrival of more Flamingos
Knowing that there would be immense distraction and disturbance tomorrow when the ringing of the Flamingop chicks takes place, I set out early to make the best of the early morning before the heat of the day.  At the salinas well before 8 I was immediately met by a watching Kestrel and a departing Marsh Harrier.  A lone Zitting Cisticola made a quick dash for the nearest bush as I stopped to watch the harrier and then on to the car park which was awash with Spotless Starlings, at least an hundred or more, quickly followed by the early-feeding Barn Swallows.  A Little Egret flew over as I prepared camera and scope and so onto the small pool at the back of the new Information Centre.

Black-winged Stilt

As I walked round to the back I could see that the whole area was full of thousands of Flamingos.  A good breeze was blowing and, for the next half hour or so. views over the main water were not too good given the poor light.  Entering the small path that leads to the two hides I was delighted to see an ever-observant Southern Grey Shrike perches at the top of the large bare tree, completely ignoring all the fussy House Sparrows in the neighbouring trees and bushes.  Little to see from the open hide just inside the gate so I made for the far hide to check the small pool and neighbouring fields.

This was to be my main/only post for the next hour as, much to my annoyance, the main hide was locked with the door jammed shut and no no metal latch available.  Not sure whether this was by design or accident but just as well that the pool was quickly drying out and only good numbers of Flamingos and a few Ringed Plovers to be seen from over/through the fence and from the top observation area as I made my way out.

Common Sandpiper (Actitus hypoleucos)
(Juvenile) Woodchat Shrike
Back to the far hide.  As I was saying, a few Moorhens on or near the water with a couple of juveniles and the, at last, a Coot family.  A single Flamingo was feeding at the far end with a pair of Ringed Plovers on the right-hand bank.  After a few minutes these small waders were joined by 3 Common Sandpipers and a handful of Black-winged Stilts.  Overhead the Barn Swallows continued to feed and were eventually joined by the late-rising House Martins and a few Common Swifts.  However, the loveliest surprise was to see at least four juvenile Woodchat Shrikes in the area, originally at the rear of the small pool but then on the reed fence immediately outside the hide.  Indeed, one even landed less than a metre away but there was noway he was going to remain in place whilst I retrieved the camera from the adjacent hide.

(Juvenile) Great Crested Grebe
(Adult) Great Crested Grebe
Driving around the side of the water, the Mirador de la Vicaria produced nothing more Flamingos until I spotted the lone Black-necked Grebe followed by a lone, moulting Black-headed Gull.  The same was true at Cantarranas although I did put a party of 4 Hoopoes from the road as I approached this mirador followed by a female Marsh Harrier that was sitting in a recently harvested field very close to the road.  So, without further adieu off to the Laguna Dulce to see if any water remained.  It most certainly did and I was rewarded with some good birding, especially the , t least, ten pairs of Great Crested Grebes with their now almost fully-grown youngsters.  Amazing to see these birds diving less than ten metres away from the hide and coming up with small fish in their beaks.  Given that this water has been empty for about five or six years until late 2008, it makes you wonder where these fish have been hiding!  Perhaps there are fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Lapwing  (Vanellu vanellus)
In addition to the grebes, there were plenty of Little Grebes, also with families, and at least 4 Black-necked Grebes.  On the far bank ahead and to the left a total of about 100 Flamingos were busy feeding plus at least a dozen resting Little Egrets.  On the water, about 20 Pochard and half a dozen White-headed Ducks whilst a number of Mallards were resting to the right.  A single Yellow-legged Gull flew over and around and then settled on the water for about five or less minutes, the result of which was to see a mass diving display by the nearby Little Grebe family!  Looking through the screen to the left of the hide, followed by a walk along the lay-by with scope and camera, confirmed that there 3 Cattle Egrets and a pair of Lapwing feeding close to the road.  Finally, a single Gull-billed Tern came to see what was about, stayed for about ten minutes and then disappeared off towards Fuente de Piedra.Coupled with the resident Hose Sparrows and a pair of Corn Bunting, the Dulce was certainly worth visiting.

With the heat rapidly increasing, despite the continuing strong breeze, I set off home on the scenic route via Estacion de Bobadilla, Antequera and the mountain road to Colmenar, arriving before Jenny had returned from the dentist.

And did you notice the missing bird?  Not a single Avocet to be seen anywhere!

Greater Flamingo  (Phoenicopterus roseus)

Birds seen:
Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Flamingo, Mallard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Hoopoe, Swift, Collared Dove, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Zitting Cisticola, Corn Bunting and Spotless Starling.