11 May : Sierra María

A quickie, thanks to Dave and Gilly and members of the Arboleas Group who have been up the Sierra María with Helen, got back and, as Dave reports, were slightly shaken by the 5.2 Richter scale 'quake in Murcia. And there was Dave wondering if he'd taken too much at lunch...

The weather was sunny, but there was a bit of a breeze today. Gilly and I picked up Helen near Cantoria and we had seen 7 Rollers before we'd got to Partaloa on our way up to Sierra de Maria. As we approached Maria there were Woodchat Shrikes on the power lines. We met up with Brian, Mary, Dave and Myrtle and went to the chapel. We immediately heard a Golden Oriole, which most of us eventually saw. Also heard, but not seen was a Nightingale. I located a Spotted Flycatcher (sorry, Bob) high up in a tree. Crossbills were also seen.

Round the Botanical Gardens warblers were well represented. A very obliging Bonelli's Warbler lured into camera range. Melodious, Orphean, Subalpine and Iberian Chiffchaff were also seen. Woodlark and Stonechat made an appearance. A pair of Cirl Buntings were seen on the walk down to the vehicles.

We stopped briefly at the farm buildings, seeing a Common Buzzard and a pair of Black-eared Wheatears. Along the plain straight, I slowed as I saw a Northern Wheatear which put 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse to flight past a Little Owl. Way to the north we could see two massive plumes of raptors, presumably Griffon Vultures. I counted at least 50. There were still Lesser Kestrels at the hamlet. Also seen today were a Great Spotted Cuckoo and a Turtle Dove. Gilly had a brief glimpse of the Hawfinch at the La Piza recreational area, but we didn't stay long as the Spanish Army were on exercise there. 43 species in all. Possibly will be back here on Saturday as there is a birdwatching tour(?) organised by the Park Rangers.

Just as I was about to type this report, the house shook for about 5 seconds. We're about 40 mins away from Lorca where a 5.2 earthquake has apparently caused fatalities and major damage! (4 dead at the last count - Andy.)
Dave & Gilly


9 May : down by the riverside....

Right, I didn't get to Fuente de Piedra last Saturday as hoped, but instead got down to the Guadalhorce this morning in the always pleasant company of Bob Wright, who immediately made me envious by recounting his birding over the weekend (see his blog: Birding Axarquía or something like that). However, before starting on this morning's birding and just to get my own back on him after the luck that he had had and to remind him what a Spotted Flycatcher looks like (he hasn't seen one yet this year!), herewith a photo of one that was in the pine tree in the garden yesterday (Sunday, 08/05), along with a Bonelli's Warbler and Melodious Warbler, neither of whichwould not cooperate and be photographed. So, that said and the stirring done, on to this morning's walk around the ponds at the Guadalhorce.

It was coolish as we went in at about 09.15 but within a relatively short time we were rather glad that we had not taken anything to keep us warm. The hot weather has arrived and by the time came off around 12.00, we were glad to reach the shade of the cars and trees by the church. We soon knocked the 3 spp. of hirundines and also Common Swifts of which there were fair numbers. It was straight across to the eastern bank and the two hides. The first hide that overlooks the laguna de la Casilla was fairly uninspiring but there was at least some sign of life at the second on the upper area of the río Viejo and it was there and on the lower reaches towards the sea that proved to be the best part of the birding.

From the second hide there was at least some mud visible, not a lot but sufficient to hold 10 Dunlin plus 2 later, 5 Avocets with 2 more further down, a single Redshank with another further down, plus a pair of Little Ringed Plovers trying to share a few square meters with a pair of Stilts. The escaped Ruddy Shelduck is still present and still appears perfectly happy here rather than in some park somewhere - and I can't say I blame it. An Osprey sat across in the trees between the eastern and western parts.

From there Bob and I strolled gently along the beach and were treated to sights of a few Kentish Plovers, I love these little chaps and got a few photos, including these of the pair together (above) - and there aren't many pairs this year, and of this lovely little male (left).

Further down the beach with heat shimmer starting to make identification difficult and series of bumps slowly resolved themselves into 5 Grey Plovers in varying stages of moult to add to the singleton we had seen on the río Viejo, plus a single Sanderling. All these birds have still got an awfully long way to go as it is the later migrants that go furthest north.

From there we cut inland along to the laguna Grande where there was not a vast amount to see apart from the presence of 2 immature Grey Herons and then to the laguna Escondida, where virtuousness was rewarded with the sight of 2 Little Bitterns. Less than 50 spp. but at least a pleasant morning with good company and very definitely a damned sight better than being at home!


4 May: Arboleas Group at Cabo de Gata; EXTRA NOTES.

I am totally tied up this week between translations and wifely problems (nobody'll take her) before I shove to the USA in the mddle of month, so I am doubly grateful to Dave for this, but please take a shufti at the BIRDING NOTE FROM HOME at the end. I may even manage to get to Fuente de Piedra on Saturday, but nothing is guaranteed.

4 May, Cabo de Gata
The weather forecast was good, so Gilly, Helen and I headed down to Cabo de Gata, meeting up with Brian, Mary, Dave and Myrtle. The recent rains had raised the water level into the shrubs in front of the first, hopefully not destroying too many ground nests. Not that many birds were on view. Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Shelducks and Slender-billed Gulls in/on the water, Kentish Plovers on the sand. Woodchat Shrike and an Iberian Yellow Wagtail were also spotted.
As the others made their way to the second hide, Gilly, Helen and I crossed over the road to see if there was water in the pond. There was, but it only attracted a Stilt. We managed to see a Willow Warbler and our first Spotted Flycatcher of the year was hunting from the Desalination Plant fence. Some Bee-eaters flew over.

At the second hide we observed Little Terns over the water. In the distance I spotted a Grey Heron and a flight of Cattle Egret. On the scrubland a solitary Northern Wheatear and a Stone Curlew were seen. As we walked back towards the beach, where Dave and Brian had seen Sanderlings, a high flying group of Grey Herons flew over.
At the public hide a count of the Greater Flamingos totalled 141 for the day. From here we parted company with the others as Gilly, Helen and I ventured round the rear of the reserve. Predictably the track was muddy, rutted and had large puddles which attracted some Common Sandpipers. Other waders on the saline water consisted of Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers, Red and Greenshank, Ringed Plover and Dunlin. A Little Owl was spotted as was a Short-toed Eagle atop an electricity pylon.
Meanwhile the others had gone through the campsite to reach the lake at Morales. They added White-headed Duck, Whiskered Tern, Collared Pratincole and Turtle Dove to the list.
A total of 49 species for the day and it didn't rain till late afternoon!! The real Spanish summer has got to arrive soon....please!!

As noted, I have not been out at all this week for a variety of reasons but yesterday evening I added another species to my garden list (a.k.a. Andy's Important Bird Area by Antonio Tamayo) when a pair of Mallard dropped in to the swimming pool, which has been kept filled all winter. This gives me a list of more or less 112 species.

I chased them away at dusk as it is hardly an ideal situation but they have returned again this morning, have been chased away twice (we have far too many cats around) and have twice returned to bathe (L & R), graze a bit and rest in sun and now under a blanket of fog, so they shall have to chance their luck!

Hannu was down at the Guadalhorce on Monday (02/05) and amongst several good spp., saw an unprecedented one, a Green Woodpecker! An incredible record. On Wednesday (04/05) he was up at the laguna Dulce outsideCampillos and Fuente de Piedra and I quote him directly : Ready at the beginning (just before 9 o'clock) it was clear what the bird of the day was: Common Swift. The airspace of northern end of the Laguna was literally full of them! I estimated more than 10000! Later at Laguna Dulce further 5000 birds too. Enormous numbers. Thanks, Hannu!