some odds, sods and the Guadalhorce

First, from Dave Elliott-Binns, about an Auntie Beeb radio 4 programme about the British Rarities Commitee (also known as the Ten Rare Men) and an object of vilification, often justified I feel, by some - I am still awaiting a decision on a seabird I saw back in 1966 and what my old friend Bill Bourne says about them is hardly repeatable!!

Second, from Birgit - she has a splendid photo blog at http://www.iberia-natur.com/es/index.html - there has been a case of exhibitionism at the Guadalhorce to which she was the unfortunate witness and I have also heard of robberies from cars left by the ramp. Park either by the school or the church would be my advice. If you are subjected to an exhibitionist, I would dial the police emergency number immediately. Neither would it appear to be advisable to go in on ones own but in company. TAKE CARE!

Also about the Guadalhorce, from Patricia. She had been in there (with company) on 28 May and they discovered that lots of rubbish had been removed, vegetation cut away from in front of the hides and the posts and fencing being renewed. One of the patrolling guards who is a regular commented to her that many of the guards seen since the non renewal of Antonio Miguel's contract had no real interest. They may have a bit more if I can get hold of a photo of the one who sits in the Suzuki reading! Anyone willing to help?

The cleaning of the beach appears to have been an half-hearted affair. Any photos to publish and for future action?

They also saw lots of chicks, one Dunlin, one Redshank and an English chap who insists on walking across the fenced-off part and who, when remonstrated with by Pat, said (more or less rudely) that he'd been going across there for years and intimated that nobody was going to change his habits. A Roller and 3 Purple Herons had been seen during the week. Flamingos have also been seen.

I shall start putting my ideas about the future of the Guadalhorce and so on in to action in about 10 days, so if you want to take part and add your voice, wait for the notification here, on my Spanish blog and in avesforum.

a double offering from Almeria

As my one regular reader asks me by a text message, why no offerings? The reason is that I have been away for most of the time since 12 May and am trying to write this from Madrid on my daughter's laptop and will start with a double offering and apologies to Dave and Gilly and the Arboleas Bird Group for the delay in publishing their material. First from a solitary Dave at Cabo de Gata and the second from Dave and the rest of the Arboleas Bird Group, again at Cabo de Gata.

And coming soon as I still have over 300 shots to go through, a big report on the Madeira trip and seeing Zino's and Fea's Petrels at sea!!! A huge experience! Plus a bit on the trip to Asturias with the female partner, which is not a guarantee of anything.

20th May 2010 - Cabo de Gata
As I was on my own this week, I set off early to visit Cabo de Gata. The weather was sunny, but there was a coolish NE wind across the reserve.
At the first hide, just outside Pujaire, I was pleased to see that the water level had dropped sufficiently for the scapes to be visible, but probably too late for the spring wader migration. There were Black-winged Stilts, Kentish and Ringed Plovers and Avocets. The star was a Grey Plover in full breeding attire. There were now numerous Little Terns quartering the salina searching for food. On the wall adjacent to the hide a pair of Thekla Larks were waiting for me to depart to visit a hidden nest in the vicinity. I did so after taking a photo just to confirm its identity when I got home!! The pond on the other side of the road produced small flocks of Redshank, Stilts, Avocets and Cattle Egrets.
A look out to sea near to the second hide revealed a pair of Common Terns cruising down the shallows, but nothing else. On the way to the hide a pair of Woodchat Shrikes gave alarm calls as I passed. I added nothing to my list from there so I proceeded to the public hide where I saw all the sandy islands were occupied with sitting Avocets and Little Terns. Also there were three Oystercatchers.
Round the rear of the reserve, it was devoid of waders till I got near to the little used hide. A group of 7 Bar-tailed Godwits were feeding close to about 10 Curlew Sandpipers in full breeding plumage.
Although I "only" saw 35 species, I had a good day, only spoilt by the wind. Hence I logged no warblers at all.

27th May 2010 - Cabo de Gata & Morales
Today six members of the group headed south to Cabo de Gata. The weather was surprisingly overcast but muggy. After a liquid breakfast (apart from one member) in Pujaire, Twe went to the first hide. The water had receded further. There were good numbers of Avocets and Slender-billed Gulls as well as smaller numbers of Black-winged Stilts, Kentish Plover and Shelduck.

An obliging large Gecko was trying to get warm on the side of the hide. There was very little bird life in the shrub land, but overhead Barn and Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin and a single Common Swift passed by. We moved to the pool on the opposite side of the road to discover it had virtually dried up, so nothing there.

We checked out to sea before walking to the second hide. A single Common Tern was seen. At the hide Gilly did her Greater Flamingo count. She could positively see 381 but reckoned there were over 700 with two further flocks in the distance. Numerous Avocets plus half a dozen Curlew Sandpipers, 3 Oystercatchers and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits. A couple of American birders were there so we helped them with some identifications.

Nothing further was seen at the public hide, so Gilly and I headed to the rear of the reserve, whilst the other four members and the Americans headed for Morales. There were lots of Slender-billed Gulls feeding close to the waters edge and again numerous Avocets. A Thekla Lark posed nicely, but our birds of the day were a pair of Peregrine Falcons perching on the pylons. Meanwhile the Morales group added 4 birds to the days list, the best being some Curlew. Mary spotted some movement in the reeds. A wild boar made a brief appearance!!
A reasonable day's birding - 35 spp.


5 May, Las Norias & Roquetas

Gilly and I were up early to make the long journey down to Las Norias. The winds of the previous day had subsided thankfully and the sun was shining. We were greeted at the causeway on the Las Norias side by hundreds of Swifts, both Pallid and Common, A similar amount of Barn Swallows, plus a lesser number of Sand Martins. There were feeding on the millions of mosquitoes and midges. Gilly and I had sprayed ourselves liberally with protection so ended the day with only a couple of bites each.

We then moved to our usual stopping place to the right of the "heronry". Due to the high water level the branches of the shrubs which extended above the water line were far too weak to support any nests or birds. The egrets and herons intelligently moved to a more overground area further to the right. We managed to get quite close to it through the greenhouses. The view wasn't brilliant, but we had good views of Night and Squacco Herons and Little and Cattle Egret. I surprised a Cattle Egret flying and managed to click the camera as he put on full air brakes! Passing Night Heron also got snapped.

At the causeway near to the plastic recycling centre the newly created gravelled island was completely submerged proving the water level was between 2-4ft higher than usual. A pair of Little Bitterns flew across the road very close to us. A family of Common Pochard swam by.

Gilly spotted a Gull-billed Tern on our way to Roquetas. Good and bad news here. The access at the end of Avenida de Cerrillos(?) is having a large wrought iron gated fitted with "No entry" signs for unauthorised vehicles. Good for the birds, but the trek to the good wader area, about 3km away would be beyond most birders, especially in the summer. We were beaten to the Red-knobbed Coot pond by a coach load of school kids, so there was nothing to see there. There were however large shallow puddles nearby proving feeding for small groups of Dunlin and Curlew Sandpipers. Ringed and Kentish Plovers, plus the loud Black-winged Stilts were also present. Ended with 44 species for the day.


30 April, Tarifa-Bolonia-La Janda

The original plannng was to go down to the Tarifa-La Janda area (Cádiz province) on New Year's mrning or very shortly thereafter and that trip did not take place until the morning of 30 April, something, dear readers, which you will have noted as being rather later than planned thanks to a multiplicity of reasons, including the weather or several occasions. And even now, two days later, I'm still wondering if it was worthwhile going!

I was at the hide on Los Lances beach, about half way up virtually opposite the petrol station by 0830. There have been huge changes, the board walk having been largely wiped out to large degree by the inclement weather, parts are wired off and there has been some scour along the high water line which also appears to have removed mud which is necessary for waders. In fact, apart from a few resting Black-winged Stilts and about 10 Dunlins, one or two Kentish Plovers and a single Ringed Plover, that was the lot except for 3 rather hung-over looking Yellow-legged Gulls. No terns, nothing moving over the sea, no Yellow Wagtails and only a couple of Short-toed Larks and one or two Crested Larks on what, if this was Scotland, I would call the machair.

Second stop, Bolonia and the swift cave. Swifts? What swifts? A few high fliers of indeterminate species but certainly not Little or White-rumped and a few Crag Martins going in and out. A couple of male Blue Rock Thrushes were having a bit of dust-up on the cliff top and a Griffon Vulture was sitting on the usual nest. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling somewhere below but it wasn't until I went back down towards Bolonia and stopped to have a look at the Egyptian Vulture site that it decided to appear and have a brief go at drilling a telegraph pole. One Egyptian Vulture took off and showed quite nicely, as did a pair of Short-toed Eagles - the only ones I saw all day - and a single Booted Eagle. Third stop, a brief one for a much needed coffee and a tostada at the bar at San José del Valle where a decapped/beheaded palm had a White Stork standing on top and wondering if it could be made into a desirable residence.

After that it was La Janda, an area that is usually fairly fruitful but not today. Occasional White Storks and both Little and Cattle Egrets plus tons of agricultural vehicles working to prepare for rice or whatever is giving the best EU subsidies this year.

The track along by the canal is perfectly passable and there were plenty of Goldfinches and House Sparrows, one or two singing Sedge Warblers but not a single Great Reed with its raucous swee-swee-churr-churr-honk-honk song(?). Was it too early for them or had the reed growth taken too much of a battering? The photo of the Corn Bunting was taken through the car window and for once the thing sat instead of flying as soon as it realised that it was going to be photographed. No Montagu's Harriers to be seen all day and a single immature female Marsh Harrier, plus some 50+ Black Kites as I went down and across the top to wards Benalup where there was another Booted Eagle and one of the two Kestrels seen all day.

On the plus side, there were good numbers of Turtle Doves along the section after the bridge across the canal. So, not really a brilliant day's birding, in fact, far from it. But that's the way it goes.I shall go down again in a couple of weeks if there is time between going to Daimiel this week, Madeira mid month and the last week in Asturias.

Oh yes, and the book is finished!!!!