Guadalhorce ponds today; Red-footed Falcons at Tahivilla (Cádiz).

Yesterday evening, Angel García told me of the 17 Slender-billed Gulls that he and Antonio Toro had been watching down at the ponds and he sent me three photos (one of them attached, thanks Angel!). I was going to go down this morning and duly did so, basically to count waders although I wasn't expecting great things as the migration really is tailing off now. Surprisingly, there were 13 spp., many in penny numbers such as the 3 each of Knot and Redshank (only 3 Redshank!), 2 each of Curlew Sandpiper and Bar-tailed Godwit, the single Grey Plover, and suprisingly no less than 30 Dunlin still. The 17 Slender-bills were still present and very handsome too, but while Angel had read 2 plastic rings last evening, the birds steadfastly kept their butts and legs in the water. The Audouin's Gulls present made a very nice contrast with them, both exceedingly elegant gulls. We'll see how many are left on Sunday!
The only other species of note was a very big female Peregrine, a very robust wench, who slid off without causing any chaos at all and an insomniac Paco Villalobos (who had been there at 07h!) had seen the Osprey.

Arkadiusz Broniarek of radiotracking Spain informs in avesforum of a pair of Red-footed Falcons seen today near Tahivilla (Cádiz), N of Tarifa on the N-340.


(1) Cabo de Gata, 28 May (2) Bits & pieces

(1) Cabo de Gata, 28 May : Dave & Gilly Elliott-Binns were at Caba de Gata with Arboleas Bird Group, I publish Dave's comments : 35 species in all, so not a brilliant day. ... Gilly is a counter, so as it was quiet I asked her to count the Greater Flamingo. There were almost exactly 760 individuals. Waders seen, Grey Plover, Avocet, Black Winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Redshank + 10 Spotted Redshank (3 in nearly full breeding plumage). Bird of the day:- whilst having lunch by beachside cafe, Cory's Shearwater flew along beach not 70ft from us. Did I have my camera? Of course not!!! (The photo is Dave's)

(2) Bits & pieces : Steve Penn says that La Janda was very dead last w/e (24-25 May) with not a single harrier - or much else for that matter - to be seen on La Janda; neither were any of the White-rumped or Little Swifts seen at Bolonia; and the Facinas-Benalup central track remains diabolical.


The Guadalhorce today

Another Sunday, another morning at the ponds after a week when I've not been able to get down for sundry reasons. As we are drawing towards the end of the migration period I didn't hope for too much but was pleasantly surprised by both the variety (11 spp.) and number of waders with high numbers of Redshank (38), Dunlin (c.53) and Ringed Plover (30+), plus a couple of Little Stint in breeding and 3 Knot, these latter all new as one bore colour rings and all showed less breeding plumage than those of last week, while 4 Bar-tailed Godwits are still present. There are very few Sanderling, all now in breeding plumage, and not a single Turnstone, Curlew Sandpiper or Common Sandpiper. The female Avocet continues to sit, by my reckoning she should hatch her chicks around the middle of this week and we shall all become surrogate parents!



First, two items by my friend Antonio Miguel Pérez (in naturAnd), one of the wardens at the Guadalhorce, who first chronicles a 550 km trip made to Almería on Thursday, 22 May, along with three others from SEO-Málaga, and secondly birding at the ponds on Friday 23 May (also in naturAnd), and all finishing with a brief note of my own on a couple of interesting birds seen by the river the evening of 23 when walking dog and wife (or should it be the other way around?).

Almería started in Almerimar where Antonio and company saw a couple of migrating Rollers, as well as Slender-billed Gull, Common and Gull-billed Terns, from there to the salinas de Cerrillos for a selection of waders and on to the always productive salinas at Cabo de Gata. From there, starting the way back, they went to Rambla Morales and Antonio comments that he thoroughly enjoyed watching the Little Terns. Their final stop was Cañada de las Norias and the breeding colony of 5 spp. of herons and egrets where they enjoyed watching three families of Red-crested Pochards.

On the 23 May Antonio was back at work at the Guadalhorce ponds and was greeted by the sight of the first family of White-headed Ducks of the season, 6 of the fluff balls being first seen the day before. Slender-billed Gulls were again much in evidence with 16 being seen, some late migrant waders included Knot* and also some rather late Pratincoles and Gull-billed Terns. An odd egret was seen and is described as being all dark, with dark bill, dark legs and yellow-orange toes, which he notes that for him it is not a Western Reef Egret but a dark phase Little Egret, a morph which is not supposed to exist -I don't go along with him but will hope to see the bird when I'm down at the ponds tomorrow morning. Watch this space!

Finally, I walked down by the river yesterday evening with dog and wife, the dog enjoys herself, the wife enjoys watching ducklings on the river (a female Mallard with 10!) and apart from the Cormorant which seems well content to pass the summer with us, there was a rather big female Northern Wheatear and I reckon that she was a Greenland race leucorrhoa from size, colour and date. She also had only a stump on her left leg, having lost her toes somewhere but it didn't seem to impede her, as she was feeding well and very active.

* The photo of the Knot is mine from Ekkeroy, Varangerfjord, last May, I am not a good photograher!


(1) Guadalhorce 21 May (2) Fuente de Piedra water levels

Guadalhorce 21 May Paul Hicks, a visiting American who visited the area years ago was back on this date and had what he describes as 'a wonderful morning' with c.15 spp. of waders, including 2 Temminck's Stints, a scattering of other waders in penny numbers, a rather late migrating Pratincole and Slender-billed Gulls. Not bad, considering that migration is winding down now.

(2) Fuente de Piedra water levels It is now official that the water levels in the lake are so low that there will be no breeding by the flamingos this year, something that was fairly obvious when I was last up there. There is a simple correlation, if there is 30 cms of water in the lake at the end of February, then there will be breeding; if not, there won't. And there wasn't and there was no significant rainfall in April or the first part of May which might have helped. If anyone wants to go up there and hope to see anything they will be rather restricted as to choice.


Guadalhorce last Friday and today

Last Friday, 16 May, at the ponds I didn't put anything in the blog as it was a fairly normal morning with 13 spp. of waders, all of which have been around these past few days although there is evidence of the departure of some spp. for more northerly climes, particularly Curlew Sands. (only 4), while Redshank remain fairly static in numbers (24) and Dunlin are up (55). 7 Knot are still around and also 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, not overly common here by any standard. On the non-wader side, the Osprey still remains, and a female Peregrine flew over and sat eyeing the landscape for a long while.

Up early, this rather windy Sunday morning, I was down at the river and ponds by 8.15 this morning and, as I'd not much time, it is the fourth time this week I've been down there, I went in search of waders immediately. The Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit are still with us, while Redshank (18) are down slightly in numbers but Dunlin (70) numbers are even higher and there were 8 Common Sandpiper, 33 Ringed Plovers and a single Little Stint, all for a total of 15 spp.of waders. The Roseate Tern seen late yesterday (see yesterday's blog) even had, of course, gone but there were 3 Little Terns which I always like to see, the usual Sandwich Terns and 3 imm. Audouin's Gulls. The number of chicks of LRPs, Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilt was amazing, I have never seen so many! Shoveler have also bred this year, which is unusual.


Roseate Tern at Guadalhorce

22.00, Antonio Tamayo has just phoned to say that he and some others had seen an adult Roseate Tern on the old river at the Guadalhorce ponds this afternoon, along with a Slender-billed Gull (presumably the same as yesterday when I was there but I didn't blog the trip as there was nothing new). I had two or three spring records of this rare species (it is a description bird in Spain) back in the early 80s. I was going to the ponds tomorrow morning, so there's an added incentive to see if the bird is still around. The photo is by Antonio.

Bolonia & La Janda (Cádiz) today

In a moment of uninspired madness, I was up very early and bundled the dog in the car, much to her disgust as she expects to be sound asleep at 6 in the morning (see photo of hyper-active spaniel on the left) and if awoken early has an attitude problem, and off for what I hoped would be a fair day's birding in Bolonia-La Janda area.
Bolonia was the target for both Little and White-rumped Swifts at the usual spot, but nothing there to enjoy except a rather nice male Blue Rock Thrush and the usual Griffon Vulture and off-spring on the nest. It was here that the first really good bird of the day turned up, a dark morph Eleonora's Falcon sitting on an electricity pylon near the Roman ruins. The Eleonora's are quite frequent in the Strait area during both migrations.
The main target was La Janda was to see if any Red-footed Falcons were hanging around but there was no joy in that respect, but there was a nice little trickle of raptors, 9 spp. seen which is not too bad considering that it is getting on a bit in the migration season and the wind was westerly, which is far from ideal. Black Kites were still quite numerous but the rest was in penny numbers. The best, and a toss-up with the Eleonora's for being bird of the day, was a 2cy Imperial Eagle which showed quite well for a couple of minutes at the north end of La Janda.

NOTE ON TRACKS: Earlier on this month, I reported that the tracks on La Janda were being repaired and pointed out that it was well gone time that they were. It is true, repairs are taking place and the track beside the canal is a motorway compared with what it was, the track across from the N-340 to the north end and the bridge across the canal is also graded, as is the long stretch from the bridge to the sluice gates, after which all goes pear-shaped. The road is being ripped up further on and nothing has been done on the central track, which remains diabolical and suitable only for 4x4s and lightly loaded cars with a good ground clearance (eg.Ford Fusion with me and spaniel).


(1) Guadalhorce today (2) Sierra María today

(1) Guadalhorce ponds this morning, the early birder (me) got the birds, a welcoming Golden Oriole warbling away and 17 spp. of waders, thus beating last Sunday's record by one and, I think, equalling the all time record, with nothing rare but lots of very nice views. Numbers of Dunlin, Sanderling and Curlew Sands. were down, but Redshank were very much in evidence and there were 5 Greenshank (my favourite wader) and 5 Knot, 3 of these absolutely resplendent in breeding plumage. The best was undoubtedly a pair of shy (when aren't they?) Marbled Ducks.

(2) Sierra María (Almería) A brief note from Dave Elliott-Binns about today : Heavy sea mist near coast, but up at Maria all was OK weatherwise. 10 Griffons, and unbelieveably 5 Black Kites travelling north ..... got to be from the group I saw the previous evening! Lots of Bonelli's Warblers. No sign of Orphean or Melodious yet. Lots of visible Calandra Larks on the plain. (The photo is Dave's)

* Note on the Dave's Black Kites: This afternoon I ran in to a friend who was working down near Estepona today and he had seen some coming in from the sea and was surprised by the lateness, but they do come in even into June, presumably young birds from last year.


Guadalhorce today

Another meeting of the Sunday faithful at the Guadalhorce ponds and again the faithful were rewarded, today with the record number of wader species so far this year, all 16 of 'em! Some 7 very bonny summer plumaged Knot were around, a fairly scarce species at the ponds, but fewer Curlew Sandpiper (11) and Dunlin (19). The female Avocet is sitting on 4 eggs and all we have to do now is wait.
Now is the time for chicks of the Black-winged Stilts and Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers to be rushing around on legs which always seem far too big for them and which elicit an aah from any females which happen to be watching them, today including 4 young Stilts whose parents were really into the we shall protect our chicks at all costs way of thinking, as their attacks on anything else within range showed, they really don't mess around and bore in with an intensity one associates with skuas or terns.
A female Pochard showed us 9 young ducklings in her flotilla and a Purple Swamphen (I prefer calling those Purple Boghens, swamp and bog must be just about synonymous) showed off. We're awaiting the sight of a juv. of one of those, that will be the day!
Other species of interest included an Osprey, a different bird we thought, Olivaceous Warbler, a single Alpine Swift which came in, swept over and was gone, a 1st summer Slender-billed Gull and a single 1st summer Cormorant which refuses to go north,as does the colour marked and flagged Dutch ringed Spoonbill.


Fuente de Piedra today

This morning I made a quick escape to Fuente de Piedra, something I had been planning for a week or more. It was devilish cold there at 8.30, a distinct change on recent mornings, and with an unpleasant westerly wind. I failed to make contact with either the male Garganey of yesterday or with the female Ferruginous Duck, although with regard to the latter a Dutch birder I talked with reckoned that it showed various hybrid characteristics. There still isn't much water in the lake and not many flamingos, although there is a small colony and several groups were displaying. I made no contact with any Lesser Flamingo, although that means nothing with the distance that one is from the colony. There was a nice little selection of waders, the best being several Little Stints and 5 Temminck's Stints, all this in the area around the centre and mirador. Surprisingly, very few of the Curlew Sandpipers showed any sign of summer plumage, whereas the majority of those down at the Guadalhorce are in virtually full plumage. Different populations?
On the non wader side, a Great Reed Warbler graced the morning with his totally unappealing swee-swee, churr-churr song but showed very well. 5 Black Terns hawked over the Laguneta del Pueblo, the lake near the information centre. Further round, I also made contact, a distant sighting admittedly, with a Black-shouldered Kite.




'Birding the Costa' is a blog spot for English speaking birders anywhere in Andalucía whose Spanish is not up to scratch. It is not just about rarities, although details will be posted of these. You are welcome to send in reports to me for publication for the benefit of others, but please be brief, select the essential and most interesting, and give site, name of nearest town or village and province and date(s) of observation. All published reports will be attributed, so please give your name also. Photos may be sent for publication and will be acknowledged. Attributed reports (translated) from Spanish webs will also be given.

Information about the sites of rare breeding species will not be published.

I'm a sort of Brit., although I've lived about half my life out of the UK, and have lived here on the coast for nearly 30 years and been birding for going on for 60.

The vast majority of my birding revolves around my garden area in Torremolinos (c.108 spp. last time I counted), my local spot at the ponds at the mouth of the Río Guadalhorce which I visit two or three times a week and less frequently the areas of the lake at Fuente de Piedra and the Tarifa-La Janda area.

I am NOT a twitcher and my main interest lies with seabirds, followed by waders. Little brown jobs, known by the French as les petites merdes, a sentiment with which I fully agree, do not rank high amongst my birding interests.


Virtually all sites mentioned in this blog will be found in the 3rd edition of Where to watch birds in southern and western Spain by Ernest García and myself and published by Helm (London).

Sites in the Doñana area can be found in the excellent Where to watch birds in Doñana by Paco Chiclana and Jorge Garzón, published by Lynx.

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(1) Guadalhorce today (2) Fuente de Piedra today

(1) Guadalhorce today : A quick spin around the Guadalhorce ponds this morning in search of waders and desperately hoping to get around before the rains came down, which they did in copious quantities all over me, gave a total of 13 spp. of waders, including 2 Grey Plovers and 2 super breeding plumage Little Stints and superb breeding plumage Knot It looks like the pair of Avocets are settling down to the breed, a first for the reserve, and the female was well bedded down and the male is wearing colour rings - I must try and find out from where it has come.

(2) Fuente de Piedra today : Gonzalo Lage (in naturAnd and avesforum) and three more from SEO-Málaga visited the lake today and amongst the species of greater interest, 2 Temminck's Stints (fairly normal at this time of year), a female Ferruginous Duck (!), a lateish male Garganey, a single Lesser Flamingo and a single Black-shouldered Kite.

White-winged Black Tern, Las Norias, 8 May

Raimundo Martín (in naturAnd) visited Las Norias the afternoon of 8 May and saw all 3 spp. of marsh tern, including 4 White-winged Blacks and some 60-70 Pratincoles, as well as a lot of other interesting spp.. Could be worth a visit in the next day or so if the clouds and rain persist.


(1) Rare raptors at Tarifa (2) Cañada de las Norias today (3) Guadalhorce ponds today

(1) RARE RAPTORS AT TARIFA News of 3 Lesser Spotted Eagles Aquila pomarina seen in the Tarifa area this past week by members of the Migres Foundation logging migration (com. pers, D. Cuenca).
And if those aren't sufficient, news has been published in the Spanish forum rarebirdspain by Ricard Gutiérrez of the sighting yesterday (06/05) at 20m range (!) of an adult Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis by Dick Forsman who managed to photograph it. Guess where some of us may be heading this weekend!

(2) CAÑADA DE LAS NORIAS (Almería) today News from Dave Elliott-Binns and the Arboleas Birding Group of this interesting Almería wetland which manages to attract interesting birds in spite of everything that man tries to throw at/in to it. Of interest are Squacco and Night Herons breeding in the Cattle and Little Egret colony and there are many Great Reed Warblers, as well as the always attractive but somewhat dim, blue-billed Daffy Duck-bird, also known as White-headed Duck. A Sacred Ibis flew in and landed top of the heronry, which is not good news for eggs and chicks, given the damage that these escaped ibises can do. (Photo by Dave, to whom many thanks).

(3) GUADALHORCE PONDS today A short visit, principally to count look at and count migrant waders this morning gave a total of 12 species of waders, nothing outstanding and numbers were down from my visit last Sunday but there are some stunning Curlew Sandpipers, more and more Dunlin have been sitting soot (work that out!) and some Sanderlings in breeding plumage are trying busily to be something else from the grey and white tide-runner that we know so well. More Slender-billed Gulls to see, today an adult and a 1st summer bird.


(1) Guadalhorce today (2) White-winged Black Tern in Caño de Guadiamar (Sevilla) (3) Sierra de las Nieves, 03/05

(1) The ponds at the mouth of the Río Guadahorce received their usual Sunday morning visit from a small group of us and we received our rewards. A Roller was a very good record as it is very scarce migrant in the area, and there were singles of late Garden Warbler and a male Penduline Tit. As usual recently, waders stole the show with 15 spp., including good numbers of Redshank (15+), Dunlin (24) and especially Curlew Sandpipers (31+), a single Little Stint - a scarce sp. this spring, and some delightful juv. Little Ringed Plovers. Again we enjoyed the presence of ad. Slender-billed Gulls, 5 today, showing very well. The colour ringed Spoonbill of Dutch origin is still with us and obviously prefers Spanish sunshine to rotten weather further north.

(2) José Sencianes (in naturAnd) informs of an an adult White-winged Black Tern in the Caño de Guadiamar near the F.A.O. wall (Sevilla) ) on 3 May and which has been present for several days.

(3) Antonio Ternero (in naturAnd) and a group of six more from SEO-Málaga visited the area of Los Quejigales, Sierra de las Nieves, on 3 May, The area gave them a good day's birding with Common Redstarts, including singing males, migrant Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Rock Thrush and Blue Rock Thrush, Whitethroat, Spectacled, Subalpine and Orphean Warblers, plus Cirl and Rock Buntings amongst a slew more of interesting species. This area is always worth a visit at any time of year.


(1) Red-footed Falcons today (2) Western Reef Herons Doñana (3) track repairs La Janda

(1) Red-footed Falcons: This morning I awoke early and decided to take a run down to La Janda to see if I could see at least one of the males, never having seen a male. Luck was in and although they were very nervous, possibly because of the strong wind, I saw 2 on La Janda - one caught a small rodent - and a third male about 1 km N of Tarifa, flying beside the main road.

(2) Western Reef Herons (Egretta gularis): J. A. Sencianes (in naturand) informs of a probable pair of on eggs in the colony of egrets in Cerrado Garrido (Doñana). The nest is easy to locate with a telescope and can be seen quite well. Beware, these may be hybrid birds with Little Egrets, a detailed examination of them would be advisable.

(3) Track repairs on La Janda: At last and certainly not before time, repairs are being carried out to the main tracks used by birders on La Janda, the one beside the cana is currently being done, the one that runs across the north end from the N-340 towards Benalup has been given some treatment and the tarmac ripped up and levelled, and work is starting on the track which runs from Facinas towards Benalup. I reckon that work will probably take about a month and will make access by the centre track easily feasible, something it certainly wasn't last time I tried it!


(1) Guadalhorce ponds,Málaga; (2) road state Doñana (Huelva)

(1) Guadalhorce ponds : An excellent morning's birding down at the Guadalhorce ponds, my local spot (it's only 10 minutes from home), with Steve Penn. A very good selection of waders (13 spp.), obviously a wave of movement in the past 24 hours or so as numbers of some were high (for here), which included 2 Whimbrel (scarce here), Redshank (23+), some stunning Curlew Sandpipers (36+) and Dunlin (42+), some of the Sanderling changing into breeding plumage, as well as the more common Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, and the always hysterical Black-winged Stilts. There were 3 Slender-billed Gulls for a short time - it has been an excellent 10 days for this very elegant gull with over 80 birds seen- and 3 Gull-billed Terns which came in off the sea, called loudly and set off inland in the direction of Fuente de Piedra. The late-staying male Shoveler is still around,as is the colour ringed Osprey black KM7

(2) Road state Doñana: Keith Betton informs that the road to the Valverde centre that follows Entremuros is in a very bad state, even for a 4x4, after passing the pumping station. Therefore turn right (west) just before the pumping station and follow the road and occasional signs from there.
Keith also informs that a female Red-footed Falcon was seen near Isla Mayor about 2 weeks since.