27 September, Cabo de Gata

Once more, Dave Elliott-Binns comes up trumps before going on happy (I hope) hols. for a couple of weeks. I shall have to extract digits and get out birding myself.... Interesting that Dave turned up Bluethroat, as I had one myself on La Janda and also the bird in my garden. Perhaps we are in for another Bluethroat winter?

Continuing with my search for the Slender-billed Curlew, I headed down to Cabo de Gata with Joe, a holidaying birder. The weather was cool and cloudy so no problem with heat haze for a change. We arrived at the first hide and scanned the water in front of us. All the usual suspects were out on view : Greater Flamingo, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit (83 for day), Avocet, Ringed and Kentish Plovers and Dunlin. I spotted a group of large birds far down the left hand side. Black Storks! First time I'd seen them here. The number kept increasing from the initial 7 as more wandered into view from behind a bank until eventually there were 11.
A female Marsh Harrier flew by and it was seen later with another one sitting on the left hand scrubland. I spotted a wader fly in and land out of view behind a small island. After about 20 minutes it had come into view. A Snipe.

A group of warblers passed through the bushes in front of the hide. Subalpine Warbler and Whitethroat. I saw one Eurasian Curlew on their usual sandy "beach" to the right.

A short seawatch from the beach revealed a couple of Gannets and a pair of Mediterranean Shearwater (does he mean Balearic?. Just off the beach were some Northern Wheatears. We made our way to the second hide. There wasn't much to add to our list on the water, only Slender-billed Gull, but the savanna surrounding the hide had a steady stream of migrants passing by : a Pied Flycatcher, 3 Common Redstarts, Blackcap. The star was a Bluethroat.

The public hide didn't produce much so we commenced our journey round the rear of the reserve. Picked up Little Stint (not STINK as I typed in last weeks report! - I put it right -A) and Greenshank. There were two female Montagu's Harriers, one of which had a large yellow wing tag but unfortunately, as much as I tried, I was unable to see any ID numbers.A Peregrine Falcon was on one of the pylons. Joe then spotted a group of large birds soaring to gain height, the Black Storks, 14 in total. The smaller migrants included a juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. The resident Spectacled Warblers were also observed.
51 species, another cracking day.


24-25 September, Tarifa & La Janda

Friday, 24 September: With the feeble excuse that I couldn't do the Tarifa Bird Fair and get in sufficient birding in a single day, I was up before 06.30 and on my way by 07.30 with only a strong black coffee to sustain me the morning of 24 September and I aimed to return early (about 17.30) on 25th as my dog is not well and, as she is the only member of the family that raises her head and says hello when I come in from anywhere, she deserves the best of veterinary attention (expensive).

So, by 09.15 I was at the observatory at the northern end of Tarifa beach (the one opposite the petrol station) to find it occupied by 3 Finns (who I was to run into seveal times more during the following 36 hours or so). A single Stone Curlew flew past as I walked in, closely watched by a relative of Ermintrude's (remember 'Magic Roundabout'?) and then flock of c.20 Short-toed Larks flew over, whilst overhead a couple of rather tatty Black Kites wended their way south. Higher up there was a good movement of fast moving Alpine Swifts, including one splendid flock of at least 200, in a movement that was to go on througout the morning. There were also several high-flying Short-toed Eagles, a few Booted Eagles, a single Honey Buzzard and a single Osprey, most of these so high that the AF on the camera couldn't lock on, so the Osprey was the best that I could do.

Once settled in the hide, scan for waders, 11-12 very nice Bar-tailed Godwits, a small of Sanderlings over to the left, a few Ringed Plovers scattered around (but not a single Kentish), a flock of Audouin's Gulls and one or two Yellow-legged Gulls (how exciting) and a few Sandwich Terns but nothing with a yellow bill. A scan over the sea revealed an absolute absence of anything avian so I turned my attention to the horse directly in front of the hide (OK, I know a horse isn't a bird) but around it 3 or 4 Yellow Wagtails, including 2 males of the Blue-headed flava race were feeding happily on the insects it stirred up. By now I was already late to meet Stephen Daly and on the way out to the car 3 Whinchats flitted past and one was considerate enough to land and give me brief but very satisfactory views of this very attractive relative of theresident Stonechat which decided that it was time to attack- they can be very aggressive little devils.

I spent the time between about 1030 and 1400 having (a) a late breakfast with Stephen and (b) bumping into friends who were either exhibiting (not themselves, I hasten to add) or simply doing as I did and looking. Considering the difficulties that there were in getting finances to carry out the Fair, it wasn't at all bad. It is always worth having a look at the huge literary offer on the stand run Libraría Agricola (and not just because they had two of my own books on sale), and, of course, the stands run by the Sociedad Española de Ornitología and Andalucian Bird Society respectively, one being able to chat with such friends and luminaries as Oscar Llama (one of the intrepid seven of us who were on the trip to watch Zino's Petrel in May, see entry of 1 June) on the first and the magnificently politically incorrect and excellent companion Peter Jones on the second (the first part of the lead-in probably being the reason why we get on so well, two grumpy old gits!), plus the many more local ones, all of which I looked at were well presented with lots of information available, either printed or on asking. I also ran into (figuratively) into Birgit Kremer, a fantastic photographer whose web page http://www.iberia-natur.com/es is always worth a look, even if you don't understand Spanish.

But there was something lacking and that something was birds, so I went and booked in at the hotel, tried to have a siesta as it was hot and I was tired (age and the onset of rigor mortis play a rôle in this best of Spanish inventions), having arranged with Bob Wright and his two American guests to meet them later up at Bolonia to try for the Little and White-rumped Swifts. However, Morpheus refused to cooperate by opening his arms for me, so wihout recourse 'nature's second course' (not too classical for you all this, is it?), I was on my way to La Janda by 16.00 and was very hot with lots of heat haze, which didn't help at all and three English birders at the canal corner.

There was a fair number of White Storks standing around wondering why they hadn't yet migrated to somewhere warmer and a tireless Stonechat, whilst several Marsh Harriers, all females and juveniles of this year floating around in the haze. Then a totally black harrier was seen. Scoping it with heat haze was difficult and at first we eliminated which it was, a melanistic Montagu's or a Marsh. The first was ruled out on wing size and shape and general jizz so it had to be the second and eventually we got enough on it to see the faint barring on the underside of the tail which would probably make it a juvenile and slightly paler markings in the underwing the base of the primaries. An interesting bird and the first dark morph Marsh Harrier I have ever seen. A white-headed, a juvenile, Short-toed Eagle dropped in briefly (above) and then lumbered off again. Meanwhile some 200 Glossy Ibises had been seen to the south but that was nothing compared with what was to come.

By now I was running late (again) for meeting Bob and his guests at Bolonia so shot off northwards and on the stretch of road between the bridge that runs eastwards to the smelly farm and onwards towards Glossy Ibises started to cross in front of me. A hunded, then another 80 and so and so forth. Naturally, I stopped to watch and photograph as they were so close at times. It was possible to see, even in flight, that some were carrying white plastic rings but even by enlarging the photos (you can see the rings if you look carefully) it has been impossible to read them but it's an odds-on guess that they are dispersing birds from Doñana. Eventally, I calcluated that there was well in excess of 1.200 and that the area must constitute some sort of holding area before they all fly off to roost somewhere.

After seeing this spectacle of Glossy Ibises, I saw another harrier, a very oddly marked bird, which whilst in movement (ie. me in car) looked like a female but once I had managed to pass it, ram on the brakes and shoot three frames, the best of which is reproduced here, I could see it was another oddly marked Marsh Harrier, a male this time. However, this morning I wrote to the raptor guru, Dick Forsman, who has kindly replied with the comment that it is a bird in transitional moult, entering its second winter plumage. So, you live and learn!

And so, risking the wrath of little green men with radars, I hurried to Bolonia to find Bob and company aleady there and waiting expectantly. On the cliff face, Griffon Vultures were already settlig down for the night but kept making occasional sorties around while one appeared to have grudge about something and was grumbling away to itself. One of had a colour wing tag and in principal it seems possible that it is from Castellón province where there is a programme in progress. Kestrels went in out, screaming a lot, and making them seem to be several tens but probably not more than 5 or 6. And we waited, and we waited, but no swifts, neither Little nor White-rumped. A British couple arrived, then the three Finns, all of with the same objective, those damned swifts. A Green Woodpecker called once and was silent. A trio of Peregrines appeared over the cliff face, called, flew around to let us admire them and then vanished.

The sun went down and we kept saying 'five minutes more, five minutes more'. Someone saw a white rump disappear at high speed into the cave and nothing more in the gathering gloom. Then, finally, in the last light the four swifts appeared and the sawn off tails, size and flight enabled identification as Little Swifts. Honour was satisfied.

Saturday, 25 September: Breakfasted and out under grey skies to La Janda at the canal corner by just gone 0930 along with Bob and his guests and found that the three Finns had beaten us to it! Virtually the first bird that I saw, apart from a multitude of finches and Corn Buntings, was a superb little male white-spotted Bluethroat. These really smashing little birds to see and having a had a female/juvenile in the garden last week I have started the winter off really well with this sp.. There were a few Marsh Harriers swanning around and quite a lot Cattle Egret and White Storks, but an adult Squacco Heron was rather nice to see, with the strong contrast between persil-white wings and brown back and a Green Sandpiper squeaked a couple of times but I at least did not see it well. In fact, the rice fields, which are not yet in the process of drying out, did not give any nice little muddy patches and therefore a marked lack of waders, but after the harvesting starts in mid October they should be well worth a visit.

That apart, a distant Short-toed Eagle hovered through the haze as the sun was coming out and there were many Swallows and quite a few Sand Martins feeding low over the fields. Kestrels were, as usual, much in evidence. Further along the canal bank track we found no less than 5 Honey Buzzards sitting apart on one of the irrigation booms. we saw the only Montagu's Harrier of the trip, a juvenile bird, and further along still when I had gone ahead, a small, pale raptor flying alongside the car made me swerve and ram on the brakes as it was one of the more desirable raptor species to be seen, a Black-shouldered Kite and it was considerate enough to park on one of the booms and let us all (which all now included a group of Belgians) watch it, albeit somewhat distant.

By now I was starting to run short on time due to promises to meet friends and we made for the top road which runs past the stinky farm (the Finns liked that description) and towards Benalup and can be quite productive for watching raptors. I was behind the Belgians and as I pulled in behind them a small passerine with a long tail, brownish reddish from mid back downwards and black suberminal and white terminal tips to the tail feathers - a Rufous Bushchat (or whatever they're calling 'em now). Brakes on while keeping an eye on where it went down, alert the Belgians without running into the back of their vehicle who got all excited and eventually some of them at least managed to relocate it. Bob, I think, missed it and what happened to the Finns in all this I can't remember but I was vey pleased as I haven't seen one in a decade or more, basically because I don't go to the right areas.

Then it was hurry, hurry, back to the N-340, get down to Tarifa to meet Stephen Daly and his wife for lunch, chat with more folks, meet a fellow seawatcher from the North East of England (if you read this, please get in touch so I can let you have details on the books) and another from my alma mater - the Filey Brigg Ornithological Group who joined after I had left, and then homewards about 15.30 as I wanted to get some things done.

Which left just one more call to make at the Cazalla watch point just to the east of Tarifa. Intended to be a brief one it extended somewhat as just as I was slipping and spinning wheels on the steep slope to park, Mick Richardson yelled down at me to get my skates on as there were 2 juvenile Imperial Eagles flying together! I got my skates on and managed to park without hitting either persons or cars, grab binoculars, camera and scope and was on to the pair in a very short time. One Imperial Eagle is always nice to see, so two is really good, especially as they flew down towards Tarifa, did a couple of turns and lazily flew back towards us before gaining more height and disappearing inland. What a way to finish the trip! So I said goodby to the Finns yet again and was on my way without collecting any speeding fines, I hope! Time will tell.

In sum, about 58 spp, which isn't much but I wasn't really trying, of which 14 were birds of prey of one sort or another. And yes, my dog was pleased to see me back!


22 September, Cabo de Gata

I really am starting to think that this site should be renamed 'birding with Dave', or similar. Herewith his report for today from Almería. However, this e-mail did get through and here it is.

Gilly, four members of the birding group and myself headed down to Cabo de Gata, arriving at the first hide at about 9.30am. The weather was sunny, but with a bit of a breeze. A scan of the water in front of us produced the usual Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits (137 for day), Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plovers and Redshanks. Also present were the Greater Flamingos (222 counted later), Grey Heron and Little Egret. A shout went up regarding some birds of prey. A Short-toed Eagle was trying to gain height whilst being harassed by a female Montagu's Harrier. I checked for Eurasian Curlew on the right hand sandy waters edge but could not see any. However at least four were spotted on the grassland between us and the sea.

We headed round in that direction. On one of the low wooden railings, beach side of the road, sat the first of many Northern Wheatear. As we sat there a curlew-type bird flew from the beach in front of us onto the grassland. We had a clear view and confirmed it was a Whimbrel. Out to sea we spotted 4 immature Gannets and some Sandwich Terns. Then Gilly spotted a flight of 8 small birds which landed to our left on the grassland. The one we managed to spot was a Tawny Pipit. At the hide itself Gilly and Mary spotted some small birds in a thicket. Three Whitethroats and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike came close by. Shoveler were added to the Mallard we'd seen. We next stopped the public hide. In the compound was a female Blackcap, which unfortunately was having trouble flying. From the hide itself only a Sardinian Warbler was added to our list. But the female Montagu's Harrier did a beautiful fly pass at very close quarters.

At this point we split up. Gilly and I, as we had our 4x4, went round the rear of the reserve whilst the others proceeded to the Visitors Centre. They missed a treat. Small migrants were in abundance. Spotted Flycatchers, at least a dozen Whinchats. Northern Wheatears were joined by a single Black-eared Wheatear.

As we were watching these I spotted movement to my left. A Whimbrel, not 5 metres away, slinking over a sandy ridge to the water beyond. Whether it was a juvenile or a different subspecies I don't know, but it didn't display the pale median crown strip. I have a confession to make. As it was now hidden from sight, but only 10 metres away, grabbing my camera I climbed over the wire fence and skirted round where I thought it would be. I clicked as it saw me and flew off, getting a perfect under wing identification of a Whimbrel.

I returned to the migrant watch, seeing Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and a pair of resident Spectacled Warblers. On the wader front we added Greenshank, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Little Stint and an eclipse Spotted Redshank.

Another fantastic day at our best local spot. 49 species for the day. Brilliant!


16 September, Cabo de Gata

Dave sent this last week but it never arrived, a bit like mail to and from the UK, it's lost in some huge anonymous and impenetrable void and this replacement has arrived this morning.

16 September, Cabo de Gata

I was up early today, leaving Gilly in bed, as I headed down to Cabo de Gata to continue my Slender-billed Curlew search. I arrived at the first hide just before the sun rose, so was able to grab a welcome cup of coffee before I could see properly. Firstly it was just silhouettes, Grey Heron, Flamingos and Avocets. Saw a flight of about 10 of what I assume to be Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying north towards Morales. Soon things got clearer. Black-tailed Godwit (122 for day), Kentish Plover, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Little Stint. The juvenile Gull-billed Tern was still being fed by a parent. To my right along the sandy waters edge close to the second hide I could see an Eurasian Curlew through a small crowd of Grey Herons. And yes, there was a smaller looking bird there as well which suddenly took off and disappeared onto the savanna.

I made my way round there. The sea was very calm. Saw three large shearwaters way out, which I assumed were Cory's. I then headed for the hide and furiously scanned the savanna. I'm not usually happy about joggers running along the inner track of the reserve, but I could have kissed this man (not really!!) as all of a sudden 5 Eurasian Curlews took to the wing together with this smaller curlew-shaped bird. The Curlew flew I don't know where as I had my radar fixed on the other bird. It landed within telescope view a hundred yards away. I was nearly having another heart attack! I focused in. A short slightly curved down bill. Then I saw it.....the distinct crown strip! A Whimbrel, who had joined two of his mates! No cigar, but at least I'd identified it. I was still elated. At the public hide I added a Ruff to my list and also the female Montagu's Harrier made a brief appearance.

On my way to the rear track I stopped to check out some gulls on the beach. Mostly Yellow- legged, a few Lesser Black-backs and about a dozen Audouin's Gulls. Two of the latter had clearly visible numbered rings.
I should mention the Hirundines. Lots of Barn Swallows, a few Red-rumped Swallows and Sand Martins and a single House Martin. Also saw a single Pallid Swift. Round the back on the wader front I added Curlew Sandpiper and about 10 Knots. The female Montagu's reappeared and a Marsh Harrier flew by, maybe putting up the solitary, but noisy, Stone Curlew. Saw a small group of very yellow small warblers, which I took to be Willow Warblers. In the cultivated field near to the end of the track a flock of at least 30 Yellow Wagtails were feeding. As far as I could tell, all "iberiae" subspecies. They rounded up a brilliant but tiring trip. 47 species in all.
Now that's what I call a good day's birding!!

See you at the Tarifa Bird Fair where I shall be on Friday and Saturday and if you want to say hello, please do so.

By the by, you will see that I have added a counter and FatBirder ranking, this as of yesterday, the beginning count starting from data provided by blogspot. Thank you, all readers, wherever you are (from all over the shop according to the info.) and whoever you be!!


15 September, embalse de Negratín

So, whilst I was being inundated with stuff on Slender-billed Curlews yesterday, Dave and Gilly and the Arboleas Group went off to the embalse de Negratín, and here is their report:

As we drove from Arboleas towards Baza, I regretted wearing shorts and T shirt as the low cloud made things grey and dismal, but once we'd crossed the motorway the sun broke through and we were relatively hot all morning. It was an interesting journey, but libel laws prevent me from commenting further!!
We six members stopped in the usual parking area next to the dam. we were greeted with the sight of the resident Peregrine Falcon eyeing up prey from its clifftop position. It swooped down out of view, only to reappear empty-taloned & move to an unseen vantage point. On the opposite cliff top sat a Blue Rock Thrush. Apart from a large flock of House Sparrows, there were few small birds. A Stonechat and a Sardinian Warbler made appearances. On the water side of the dam a flight of 6 Cormorants circled trying to gain height and 5 others were also seen, together with a solitary Yellow-legged Gull.
We moved down to below the dam. I spotted a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Shortly afterwards a male Golden Oriole flew across our path. The sound of numerous Cetti's Warblers came from the reeds. A group of Eucalyptus trees seemed to be a migrant hot spot. First two Pied Flycatchers were seen the a Spotted Flycatcher. They were trumped by a colourful male Common Redstart. We flushed a Green Sandpiper from the brook. At the dam pool a pair of Black Redstart were seen. The resident Rock Doves were sunning themselves. On the way back to the cars Brian spotted a Booted Eagle and after lunch we saw a Griffon Vulture and a Kestrel to complete our 30 species day.
Dave & Gilly



This wader, known to its friends (and it has few left of its own kind) as Numenius tenuirostris is extremely rare, and even if still extant, species on the verge of extinction. There is, indeed, an international work group which has been firing off seek-and-find expeditions to such well known places as the steppes of Kazakhstan (is that how you spell it?) where the thing breeds/bred and to the Atlantic coast of Morocco where it has been seen in winter in years gone by.

When I arrived back from England in late August I heard rumours that one had been seen in early August not a thousand miles from where I am writing this and, in my usual generous state, put it down to some inexperienced birder putting it down as one when, in fact, they had very possibly been looking at a juvenile Whimbrel, possibly of one of the eastern races, which species has a longer and more curved bill, amongst other characteristics, the bill is shorter and straighter in juveniles and notably shorter and straighter in Slender-billed Curlew.

In the past 48 hours I have been in contact with Nicola Crockford (actually, she contacted me!) who is coordinator of the working group on the Slender-billed Curlew, henceforth to be known SBC as it takes too long to type it all out and the feeling of the members is that this is one of the best leads in years. There is all sorts of talk about sending people down to track through the areas where they have been claimed but I am doing my best to discourage this as it is, in my opinion, a cold-case (as the police say) and the bird has very probably moved on as the sighting is now 6 weeks old and we all know the through-put that there is on migration. Sending people down would be, I feel, tantamount to burning money that could be used as, if and when there is a fresh sighting, hence this appeal.

look at the Slender-billed Curlew Working Group site www.slenderbilledcurlew.net (cut and paste this address) where you will find all sorts of useful information and should read.

However, the whole business certainly gives me food for thought which why there is this general heads-up call which is also being repeated in the Spanish blog. If you think you have found one, then be critical, take photos, write a description (a lost art but it can tell things that a milli-second photo can't) and if you still think you have got one in your sights, ring me (952-389861/610957514) or e-mail me if you are really, really excited, preferably with a photograph, however poor it may be, and I shall forward the news to the right place p.d.q..

I would ask that if anyone thinks that they have found one, that they keep the news restricted until the observation is confirmed and told otherwise, otherwise we may find Boeing 747s full of twitchers descending on us from all parts of the universe, which would not be good news for the bird or the site wherever it happens to be, given the behaviour of some.

Please note that although I do know the name of the observer, he wishes to remain anonymous and I shall not be giving it out under any circumstances, so don't bother asking me.


8 September, Cabo de Gata

Once more the tireless Arboleas Bird Group (a.k.a. Dave & Gilly) have been at it again - birding, not what you thought! Herewith a report of their trip to Cabo de Gata on 8 September, and after a few bits from odd walks of my own (with dog) by the Guadalhorce and the trip last Sunday (a week since). My aplogies for the late posting, Dave.

Cabo de Gata
Gilly, Chris and I headed down to Cabo de Gata again to continue the Curlew survey
(note: I suspect Dave is also referring to the Slender-billed Curlew survey, about which a note later). There were lots of small waders feeding in front of the first hide. Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Kentish Plover and Sanderling. The larger varieties included Avocet, Redshank, Black-winged Stilt and Black-tailed Godwit. Counted 176 for the record... 20 odd more than the previous week. Also sitting on the mud was a juvenile Gull-billed Tern.

Every so often an adult returned to feed it. A pair of Turtle Doves flew past and Zitting Cistacolas were flitting about the scrubland. Checking out the back I spotted a distant bird of prey. Reckoned it was a Montagu's Harrier. There were two Eurasian Curlews on the right hand beach. Suddenly a Marsh Harrier quartered over the savanna behind them and about another 8 Curlews took to flight. 2 adult Woodchat Shrikes were still around together with 3 Southern Grey Shrikes.

Having only added a Sandwich Tern to the list at the public hide we headed round the back of the reserve. We were greeted by a flock of 100+ Audouin's Gulls at rest. Again lots of little waders. We added Little Stint to the list, plus a breeding plumaged Grey Plover and a Turnstone. But the star was a female Montagu's Harrier quartering the savanna to our right.
Ended the day with 41 species.

A note re Slender-billed Curlew: This morning (Sunday, 12 September), when I opened my e-mails, there was an odd query from José Sencianes, excellent photographer and birder who lives and works in Doñana, asking if any of us on his mailing list knew anything about a rumoured Slender-billed Curlew having been seen somewhere in Málaga in August. Anyone know anything about this? Take a look at this link:

4 Sept onwards from the Guadalhorce; TARIFA BIRD FAIR

Life has been difficult this last week and even my trip to the Guadalhorce last Saturday, 4 September, along with the always pleasant company of Federico, hasn't been put on to screen until now, and I promise that it is short and not too sweet. A total of 39 spp.for the morning wasn't too bad, in spite of a dearth of waders, as it included a Snipe which showed well (it had been seen the previous day too), but there were only 3 Redshanks, singles of Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Greenshank and Avocet, with a sprinkling of Stilts and still plenty of the small plovers of all 3 spp..

It was nice to see the first Teal back and also 4 Shovelers and 4 Gadwall, with the resident Pochards and Mallard of course. Ted Lord told us that there had been a flock of 9 migrating Garganey earlier in the week. A single Spoonbill came in and gave the only photo shots of the morning. In the migrant passerine line there were brief views of Melodious Warbler, a Willow Warbler and a female/juv. Redstart, apart from the usual finches.

Raptors were represented by a juv. Marsh Harrier floating around and creating chaos and there was also a Booted Eagle in the eucalyptus trees. Surprisingly we saw no Kestrels at all. But the star of the morning was undoubtedly a male Peregrine, first seen sitting in the top of one of euclayptus trees, but which then took off, gained some height with the usual ease of that species and then went into a shallow dive and accelerated as only a Peregrine can do - a sort of avian Formula 1. The target was a duck (a Pochard?) which saw it boring in and took violent evasive action. We didn't see the final seconds but as the Peregrine zoomed up and took off westwards, one can only assume that the attack had failed. I strongly suspect that the heart of the duck must have been a maximum revs. as it dived downwards and much have hit water/reeds at a hell of a rate of knots.

A total of 39 spp. for the morning, always assuming that I wrote down everything, which is a very big assumption to make.

And now for other bits and pieces. This week I have walked along the river bank with the dog a couple of times in the late afternoon, on 9 September I saw 3 Purple Herons which took off and headed generally SW in the direction of Africa as well as a juv. Marsh Harrier, which was also there on the afternoon of 10 September. Apart from that, on the second afternoon, at least 6 Greenshanks (4 and >2) took off in the general direction of Africa, 5 Spoonbills showed briefly over the big pool and just as we were coming off the river bank I heard harsh cronk-type call and a splendid adult Caspian Tern flew majestically past, down river, turned round and came back - a great way to end what had been a fairly negative day and definitely bird of the week.

A reminer that the Tarifa Bird Fair is taking place between Friday, 24 - Sunday 26 September. See you there? For more information, go to www.feriadelasavesdelestrecho.com/


1 September, Cabo de Gata

Thus starts the new term, if I may borrow an educational expression. I was very pleased indeed to meet Dave at the Bird Fair and am happy to report that he looked very well indeed, a slim-line version of the rather chubby chap in the photo of his e-mails. You really will have to renew the photo, Dave, and reveal the new, lean and mean self!

I admit too that I have a few photos to download from my trip, which was basically either wet or cold or both on the Yorkshire coast, something I may get round to in this next day or so as in between painting the illustrations for the new, fortunately brief, project - a waterproof book (yes, honest!) to take to sea to help identify pelagic species , I have alsomanaged to pull muscles in the outer underside of my left foot, very painful and I was sober too! With two thirds done, the rest should be finished by the middle of the month if all goes well - it's a damned big if, but there you are. The photo alongside is of the probable cover design. However, enough of that, on to Dave and Gilly's account of the Arboleas Bird Group visit to Cabo de Gata.

Cabo de Gata. Wednesday 1st September 2010

Having been to the Birdfair for the first time and going to the talk regarding the status of the Slender-billed Curlew, I was determined that our group should do our bit in the search for this possibly extinct bird as Cabo de Gata would be an ideal stopping off point for a bird migrating from Siberia to Morocco. So, armed with the necessary identification documents, (visit www.slenderbilledcurlew.net) Gilly and I, together with Dave and Myrtle Green, headed south to the reserve. After a reviving cuppa in Pujaire we arrived at the first hide. The water levels were ideal for waders so we were soon logging Curlew Sandpiper, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Spotted and the Common Redshank. Records of Black-tailed Godwits had also been requested. Counted 157 for the day. I spotted a distant Eurasian Curlew resting by the waters edge. I soon found a second further towards the second hide, so that is where we headed. They were still there and later were joined by two more by the water. Within minutes all four took off and made the short flight to the grassy savanna to search for insects.

Also seen there, which did somewhat surprise me, was a juvenile Woodchat Shrike, one of three for the day. Still quite a few Barn Swallows and Red-rumps but no Martins seen. Had one Pallid Swift and a dozen or so Commons.
Little Terns were still around as were a pair of Gull-billed Tern, which caused slight confusion as they were eclipsing to their winter plumage.

At the public hide a Sanderling in part breeding plumage was added to the list, but nothing further of particular interest, so Dave & Myrtle headed to Almeria for shopping whilst Gilly and I ventured round the rear of the reserve. There was a large flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls with a few Audouin's amongst them. We only added a Dunlin to the list before calling it a day. 36 species for the day but more importantly pleased we're doing our bit as regards the Slender-billed Curlew.
Dave & Gilly

I would add that one should beware juvenile Whimbrel and Curlews, where the bill is shorter and straighter. Ideally, a whole series of photographs (either digi or with a damned great lens of some sort) would be a huge help.