27 July: Sierra de los Filabres and some comments

Yes, it has been a long time since the last input but I plead (a) the heat which has put many of us off going out but Dave E-B and the Arboleas Group did venture out (b) it being the generally recognised 'slack'season although migration is now starting, (c) I've been very busy and (d) things at home have been and are very busy, if not pear-shaped and about which I shall say little or now't but (e) will mention something about birders to avoid. So let's start with (a), Dave E-B's report of their visit to the Sierra de los Filabres on 27 July.

And before I forget, would Marie from Vera who wrote through the comments section please get in touch with me at : andy.birds (at) gmail.com

(a) 27 July : Sierra de los Filabres After a couple of weeks break due to family visits and a distinct lack of enthusiasm to burn in the oppressive heat, it was good to get out and about again with four other members of the group. Dave, Myrtle, Gilly and I headed up into the Los Filabres behind the town of Tijola. At the bridge in the valley we met up with Brian and Mary who had thankfully recovered from her recent fall. We'd spotted Common Swift on our way up as well as 100s of House Martins on one of the power lines. A Golden Oriole had been heard prior to our arrival and they'd also seen a Grey Wagtail. Above us there were lots of Crag Martins and Red- rumped Swallows. Up on the ridge we saw Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush. A Kestrel also made a brief appearance.
We ascended to the layby overlooking the valley. Not many birds around. Both Thekla Lark and scruffy-looking Black-eared Wheatears were seen. A Sparrowhawk shot past. We could hear but not see Bee-eaters and similarly another Golden Oriole.
Next we headed to the disused copper mine, seeing a Turtle Dove on the way. Again birds were uncharacteristically hard to find here, but we did add Coal Tit and Black Redstart to the list.
Onward and upward to the Observatory. Here there were numerous Northern Wheatears and large flocks of Linnets. Chaffinch and Serin were also spotted. No sign of any Rock Thrushes.
After lunch at Bacares we headed home. I spotted a large bird of prey on a pylon. It was virtually at eye level as Dave stopped his car. Where was the camera? In the boot! As I slipped my seat belt off the Short Toed Eagle effortlessly glided away into the valley below. Oh well, c'est la vie! (english translation....BO**OCKS!!)
Ended up with a not so good 27 species, but a good time was had by all and that's all that matters.

(b) The 'slack' season. There is now some movement and down in the Strait the first White Storks and Black Kites are moving back over towards Africa. Rare terns seen up at Chipiona (Cádiz) in the past week include Lesser Crested and Roseate and up to 6 spp. of terns at once have been seen and photographed Here there has been a fall in numbers of Common and Pallid Swifts as they're pulling out. Stephen Daly tells of fair numbers of juv. Montagu's Harriers on La Janda, I shall endeavour to get down next week.

(c and d) Pear-shaped. Due to circumstances beyond my control but with which I have total sympathy, the two seabird books which few have been awaiting with bated breath will not be published this year. However, I have found a home for the water-proof pelagic guide and have been busy redrawing and tarting up some of the illustrations, not a lot but it is an amazingly time consuming task and one really does have to be in the mood - and I'm not talkng about artistic sentiments, and between that and other pear-shaped events and going shopping (I hate bloody supermarkets!) and thinking about food and shopping (even worse) the time has been well absorbed and I've still got three sheets to finish redrawing before I go off to the UK in mid August to upset Yorkshire, present pear-shaped circumstances permitting.

(e) Birders to avoid. Last Saturday was the golden wedding anniversary of Bob (he of the Axarquía Group) and his long-suffering wife Jenny. As I understand it is the custom, there was a huge bash and they very kindly invited, without thinking how they might lower the tone, a few of the birders who I mention from time to in this blog.
So, in order that you may learn how to identify us and flee before getting mixed up with us, you will now be able cast your eyes upon the photo and see what we look like!
(l-r) Dave Elliott-Binns, Mick Richardson, self, Stephen Daly and Bob Wright himself. Photo by Patricia Daly who did the best of a bad job lot who would be more suitable on the antiques programme 'Going for a song'. As at least three of us like Gilbert and Sullivan, it could be a case of 'a wandering birder I, a thing of threads and patches ....etc.' ! I wish to point out that my lurch is because Bob and myself were supporting Stephen and his mass is greater than mine.


1 July : Guadalhorce

It was under definitely grey and unwelcoming skies that Federico and myself met at the church at 08.00, not to pray for good birding as the uncharitable may think, but for better car safety. In fact, we didn't really hope for too much given the time of year but we were to be pleasantly surprised, starting with a Spotted Flycatcher within 20m of starting off. By the time we had got to the bridge we had seen the Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins, and also a single juvenile Nightheron which overflew and by the time we had crossed a Great White Egret had also flown up river. Along the east bank the birding was fairly normal, with a Reed Warbler singing by the laguna de la Casilla and on the water in the front of the first hide there were some White-headed Ducks with a group of 4 males still busy harrassing a poor little female.
From the second hide there was at least mud to be seen and if there's mud there should be waders and there were. A couple of Redshanks and a single Green Sandpiper which was harried off by Stilts, a nice male Blue-headed Wagtail and a few juvs. of this, plus a juv. White Wagtail. But what did surprise us both, both at that hide and further down on the río Viejo was the number of juv. plovers, both Little Ringed and especially Kentish, this latter surprising us because we both had been under the impression that they had suffered a bad breeding season.
Down on the wide part of the río Viejo there was a nice smattering of gulls, especially Audouin's of which we read 8 ring numbers, a few Black-headed and juv. Yellow-legged, but surprisingly no Mediterranean Gulls. It was at this point that it actually managed to rain! Not a lot, but definitely wet enough not to be an illusion, which was when we started back towards first the laguna Escondida en then the laguna Grande.
There was actually little to see apart from a juv. Woodchat Shrike until we got close to the laguna Grande when a biggish bird with a grey back flushed out, flew some 15m down the track in front of us, dived in to a tamarisk and peeped out out at us to reveal itself as a Great Spotted Cuckoo (left). I couldn't get a bead on it with my camera but Federico managed to digiscope it and herewith the evidence.
Also at the laguna and within reasonable distance there was the 1st summer Little Gull (right), now moulting, which has been there for several weeks and also a a few 1st summer Mediterranean Gulls which were joined briefly by an incredibly smart adult still in full breeding plumage (below).

All in all, a surprisingly good morning with a total of 39 spp., although it would have been nice to have had better light for photographic purposes.