30 July, Guadalhorce

As for once there were neither medics to be seen or blood to be sucked for analysis and the knees were behaving as knees more or less should, I rang Bob last evening and this morning we met by the church prior to going into the Guadalhorce, in a rather grey dawn at the early hour of 07.20, which is just about the only to beat the heat. Last evening, too,we had promised that we would be on our way out by 10.30 - not likely, no way if there are birds around and they were in quantity, and very nice too.

Very pleasant it was too to run into Ted Lord, then Patricia along with Birgit Kremer (she has a fabulous web with great bird shots) and Eduardo (whose surname I do not know,my apologies). So, where does one start?

I think that it's probably best to start with the waders, as at last we had waders, at least 23 and possibly as many as 30 Curlew Sandpipers, a few still in fulll breeding plumage but the majority starting to moult out, plus a few juvs.. They really are charmers. There weren't many Dunlins, I think our maximum count was 3, but they too were still showing the world that they had been sitting in soot with their black bellies. We saw and heard a single Greenshank and there were at least 5 Redshank and singles of Little Stint, Whimbrel and Spotted Redshank, plus at least 2 Common Sandpipers. The vast majority of these were on the wader pool, in front of the sceond hide on the east bank, and with more further down along the río Viejo, where there were a lot of plovers of all three species, Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish and still fair numbers of the now less hysterical Black-winged Stilts, these including a flock of c.20 on the laguna grande. So, if my maths is right (doubtful) and assuming that I've not missed anything (possible), that should make a total of 12 wader species, which is not bad but things should get better yet.

There was a reasonable showing of ducks and grebes, always taking into consideration that the former are in moult now and are not in the mood to show off very much, although we did see a few White-headed and Pochards, as well as the ubiquitous Mallards.
What was of interest was the presence of a brood of Little Grebes on the laguna de la Casilla, Mum, dad and 4 young. Actually, if one stops to look at the adult Little Grebes in breeding plumage, they

are really rather attractive little birds, in spite of the god-awful noises they make. We also commented on the absence of Purple Bog-hens (a.k.a. Swamphens/Gallinules) this year.

By 10.30 the putative leaving time came and the temperature rising, we hadn't even got as far as the laguna grande and that was a must, as we had seen 7 Spoonbills in flight - which turned out to be 8 when we saw them on the deck - and I wanted to check them out for colour rings-.

The laguna grande was loaded with Little Egrets, 64 counted this morning according to José Miguel Ramírez, a Medio Ambiente biologist who told me that they are gorging themselves on small shrimps -camarrones- in the shallow waters. He also told me that yetserday there had been both Little and Black Terns and also Slender-billed Gulls, but not today in spite of looking hard, so we had to be satisfied with 7 Whiskered Terns, a single juvenile Sandwich Tern and a mass of gulls composed mainly of Black-headed, Mediterranean - some still showing quite a lot of breeding plumage, a nice selection of Audouin's Gulls, a few Yellow-legged and a couple of immature Lesser Black-backs.

As for the remainder, well, the usual really. A single Hoopoe, a usual selection of finches, a few Zitting Cisticolas, the normal 4 species of hirundines (Sand Martin was not seen). I reckoned about 55 species.

Oh, and I
nearly forgot, the rather handsome chameleon which staggered across our path as we wended our way out and did not want to be photographed by Bob! By the way, these are very much protected and do breed in the Guadalhorce reserve. They are not suitable pets. The baby on the left was photographed by myself in 2008. The Whiskered Tern photo, which is also by Bob, did not seem to mind but it couldn't see him!


21 July, Cabo de Gata; 22 July, Guadalhorce

Just as well Dave and Gilly send me some stuff about the visits of the Arboleas Bird Group, as I'm too tied up to get out, plus it's too damned hot, so thanks to them, you have something new to read! Like Dave, I am amazedat the low levels of literacy by the Spanish when out in the country, they think that signs don't apply to them! My apologies to them for not getting this posted before, even though I received it Thursday,I was just just too tied up.

Following their account, there is a note of birds seen at the Guadalhorce on 22 July by Patricia and Birgit.

21 July, Cabo de Gata : To avoid the oppressive heat, Gilly and I left our house at 6 am to get down to Cabo de Gata shortly after sunrise. After a pick-me-up cup of coffee at Pujaire we headed for the first hide. Lots of birds, but mostly Avocets, Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls and quite a number of Black-tailed Godwits. The highlight was a single Greenshank. Little waders were few are far between, us seeing only a few Kentish Plovers. On the way to the second hide we came to the rescue of three spanish girls who'd got their vehicle stuck in soft sand near the beach and signs saying "beware soft sand"! The hide produced much of the same, with Black-winged Stilts and a single Stone Curlew. Gilly counted at least 550 Greater Flamingos. The view from the public hide was better.

Numerous Curlew Sandpipers, a Redshank and a single Little Tern. A passing Glossy Ibis made it the bird of the day. The track round the rear of the reserve was dry, but quite rutted & bumpy. We were rewarded with good views of more Curlew Sandpipers and Kentish Plovers. Also seen were a Ruff and a Reeve, a small flock of Dunlin and 20 odd Audouin's Gulls at rest. "Only" 34 species but good to beat the heat. Earned more brownie points as I got us to the shopping centre for the 10 am opening time!!

Isn't Dave a good, selfless little birder? Or was it because the shopping centre wa air conditioned?

22 July, Guadalhorce ponds: This morning Patricia and Birgit were down at the ponds and Pat sent me the following abridged account. They saw an adult Night Heron and later 3 juveniles. At the laguna de la Casilla they saw two Little Bitterns and at the next hide, going towards the sea there was a Common Sandpiper. In the río viejo Pat saw an adult and a young Pied Wagtail. There were, of course, the stilts and plovers everywhere. There seem to be new baby stilts - the ones born first are now big. There are still swallows, house martins and swifts around.
At laguna de La Escondida they saw a Kingfisher, Little Grebes, Coots, Moorhens, White-headed Ducks. It appears that I appear to have brainwashed Pat as she remarks that she made a search for a 'purple bog hen' ... but nothing. (True, they appear to have been absent this year to all intents and purposes and I have had a similar level of luck - zero.) In a previous mail this week, Pat comments about an early Greenshank having been seen.


The Elliott-Binns & the Wrights visit El Hondo

El Hondo/El Fondo in Alicante is a superb wetland and Bob and Jenny Wright went over with Dave and Gilly, but in return (a) missed the mosquitoes - only one dared to bite Jenny, and (b) they had some good birding. The masses of dead carp that they saw is fairly common in shallow waters in an Andalusian summer, as warm (even hot) water holds less oxygen than cold. The only trouble is that it can possibly cause outbreaks of botulism which affect waterbirds very negatively. Any way, here is the account which Dave sent.

On Tuesday 13th Jully 2010, Bob & Jenny Wright travelled from their home near Malaga to ours in Arboleas. They stopped en route at Las Norias & Cabo de Gata. Bob will no doubt submit a report on his blog :- www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com.

At the crack of the following morning (0530hrs) we departed for El Fondo Bird Reserve near Elche. After a reviving cuppa at Cox we arrived at the North Gate of the reserve at about 0800. The ranger arrived shortly afterwards and let us in, saying we were the only visitors today so had the reserve to ourselves.

Having already seen Cattle Egret and Marsh Harriers at the gate, we added Common and Pallid Swift, Green Sandpiper and Jackdaw by the time we'd driven down to the elevated hide. Thankfully there were no mosquitoes to worry about. From this viewing platform we saw Grey, Purple and Night Herons as well as numerous Little Bitterns. Great Crested and Little Grebes. White-headed Duck. Jenny then spotted two LBJ's in the reeds below us. Moustached Warblers, a first for them both I believe. A juvenile Great Reed Warbler was also seen together with a lot of Reed Warblers. We then walked to the next hide. Gilly guessimated there to be over 1,500 Greater Flamingos. There were also 100's of Avocets and Black-winged Stilts. Surprisingly no little waders at all. Families of Pochard were using the shallow waterway as a nursery. My photo of one such young Pochard is entitled " Swim or sink"!

When we got to the lane leading to the hide in the centre of the reserve we were extremely shocked to see hundreds of large fish, mostly Carp dead or dying in the canal. We later spoke to the Ranger. She said the water was shallow and therefore hot in the oppressive heat. They were dying from a lack of oxygen and the heat.....I suppose thankfully it was not poison.

The canal had numerous Purple, Squacco, Grey and Night Herons picking up the distressed prey. Over the water we could see small numbers of Whiskered and Little Terns feeding. There were a few Shelduck and Shoveler as well as a Black-necked Grebe. I then spotted a very distant grey and black coloured harrier, assuming it to be the male Monty's we'd seen on our previous visit. This was given more credence when we got back to the elevated hide as a female, closely followed by the male Montagu's Harrier flew past. As we waited for our time there to finish, Bob spotted a Purple Gallinule. As it was so hot we ere glad to see the Ranger arrive a bit early so we could "escape"!! We had a quick visit to the Information Centre where we saw a Kentish Plover on the pool....our one and only!!

We hope Bob & Jenny enjoyed their long distance birding. 50 species for the day. Not the best time of year to visit this reserve but still impressive.


30 June, Sierra de María, Almería

The inimitable Mr Noël Coward sang about mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the mid day sun and I'm sure he would have included birders if there had been more around in those far off days. However, the Arboleas Bird Group lets no mid day sun destroy their pleasures and boldly go where they have been before, and with good results and a lunch to follow too! Here is Dave's account and photos of the trip.

Still being tired from our last weeks early morning exploits, I did consider cancelling this week, but I'm really glad Brian phoned me to knock me back to my senses. Sierra de Maria was our destination and we met Brian and Mary from Chirivel at Maria's Repsol garage cafe. After a revitalising coffee we headed up to the Chapel car park. I spotted a distant Booted Eagle. We wandered around to the water fountain and trough. We heard and saw the moving shadow of a Golden Oriole, but not the actual bird. A Bonelli's Warbler made an appearance as did a Short-toed Treecreeper and an Iberian Chiffchaff. At the trough itself, Linnet, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Crossbill came to drink. Got a good photo of a butterfly, which I've been informed is a Spanish Marbled White.

We sauntered up to the Botanical Garden in the hot sun. A pair of Cirl Buntings had a nest in one of the shrubs. In the forest walk itself birds were few and far between, but the commonest were Bonelli's Warbler. I managed to do the medium walk this time without too much strain, but Gilly was struggling with her dodgy knee. Melodious Warblers were still quite visible and vocal, but the rest of the warblers were skulking, including a juvenile Subalpine Warbler. Stopped for a rest at the seat at the far end, where I spotted my first Orphean Warbler of the year...and probably my last!!

Wasn't much at the La Piza forest cafe, so we carried on to the ruined farm buildings. Saw another pair of Booted Eagles and a few Griffon Vultures. Missing out the plains we climbed over the mountains, seeing Corn Bunting, Roller, Kestrel and Black-eared Wheatear on the way to Brian and Mary's house where they gave us lunch!
A wonderful day. 39 species in all.