27/06 Los Filabres mountains

     Again aiming to escape the oppressive heat, we headed up into the Los Filabres mountains behind the village of Tijola. We met up with Brian, Mary, Dave, Myrtle, Adrian and his friend Mike on the bridge in the wooded valley between Bayarque and Bacares. On the farm building above us was a pair of Black Wheatears. A solitary Kestrel flew over being mobbed by Goldfinches. High above were Red-rumped Swallows, Crag Martins and to our joy a flight of 7 Alpine Swifts. I managed to get a fleeting glimpse of a Melodious Warbler. There were loads of butterflies during the day. I've attached some photos for interested parties.

     We then headed to the first lay by some hundreds of feet above us. We heard Golden Orioles, but saw Woodchat Shrike, Cirl Bunting and Black-eared Wheatear on the roadside power lines. The second lay by produced Blue Tit, House Martin and Thekla Lark.
     At the mine birds were few and far between. A few Crag Martins were nesting on the cliff face. We managed to see Turtle Dove, a pair of Black Redstarts, some Rock Sparrows and some Linnets.
     We then climbed towards the 2,168m high Observatory. Passing above the tree line the landscape looks a bit like Dartmoor....minus the rain, of course! On the rocky crags were numerous Northern Wheatears. Also spotted were a Jay, Mistle Thrush and Stonechat. I thought I got a glimpse of a Tawny Pipit. We stopped by the Observatory buildings, seeing a White Wagtail on sentry duty on one of the snow poles as we parked up. We had a small wander round. Sure enough a Tawny Pipit was seen on one of the outcrops.
      Adrian, Mike Gilly and I had lunch in Bacares. As we left the Meson, a beautiful male Golden Oriole flew across the road followed rapidly by a Serin. 32 species in all for the day. A good days birding.

FYI : Bird Fairs in Andalucía

This is a very short entry as I am simply giving information and refuse to comment in case I upset somebody (although, like the parrrot, I'm thinking a lot) but there are lots of questions to be answered which I refuse to ask. All I will say is that advertising seems to be have been in very short supply as I only heard about these at second hand.

In the first two weeks of September Andalucía is being blessed with not one but two Bird Fairs as follows :
10-16 September, 3rd Tarifa Bird Fair, Tarifa (site not totally certain). 
Information at : www.feriadelasavesdelestrecho.com

7-9 September, Iberia Bird Fair, Rodalquilar, Nijar, Almería.
Information at : http://sites.google.com/site/iberiabirdfestival 

Critical and constructive feedback after the events will be most welcome if any of you go, as I shall not be going to either, as part of the time I am away at sea, all things being equal.


20/06 : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

David E-B and a small select group had quite a good morning's birding. Please note that Dave has made an appeal for help with identifying the dragonflies, but please write to him at  dgebinns(at)gmail.com
On a different note, there has been quite a lot of correspondence in two of the Spanish forums (avesforum and fororoa) about the apparent lack of Barn and Red-rumped Swallows in some areas and I'd be interested to hear subjective comments from yourselves, dear readers, but please include your area of observations. Please send as 'comments' to this blog and which I shall put in below this entry.

     A select gathering of Heather, Jack, Gilly and I headed for the first hide at Cabo de Gata, having had a coffee at the cafe in Pujaire. The water level was as it should be for this time of year. There were lots of Avocets and Black-winged Stilts and it was lovely to see a flock of 23 Black-tailed Godwits, many in breeding colours. On the shoreline the only small waders were Kentish Plover. There were a few Shelducks around. On the causeway I spotted a single Gull-billed Tern amongst the Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls.
     We had a quick scan over the sea, with a negative result, before we made our way over the steppes to the second hide. The first of a few Southern Grey Shrikes was seen. From the hide we added Little Egret and Little Tern. Gilly did her Greater Flamingo count....an impressive 1061! I then spotted three birds flying in the distance towards the now renovated church - Collared Pratincoles. Luckily they did get closer so Heather and Jack had a better views of a lifer for them. Back at the truck I again had a quick scan over the sea. Way out was a fast, low flying, large brown shearwater, a Cory's.
     Nothing new was added to the list from the public hide, so, as we were in the 4x4, we headed round the rear of the reserve. there were 100+ Audouin's Gulls resting on the salt flat. A couple of Red-rumped Swallows were sitting on the fence. The only waders we saw were yet again Kentish Plovers. We saw a single, then a pair of Little Owl on the ruined buildings. There were Sandwich Terns on the breeding island. LBJs were few. We only saw Zitting Cisticola and Corn Bunting.
     We then headed for the Rambla de Morales through the campsite. On the approach we saw Bee-eater and Greenfinch. On the water were Coot, Moorhen and Black-necked Grebes. A single Whiskered Tern was nice to see. Reed Warblers were singing away in the reeds. Overhead the girls spotted the only Pallid Swift of the day. Some more Black-tailed Godwits were feeding in the shallows together with a Sanderling.
     37 species for the day. Also attached are photos of some dragonflies as I know some of you will be interested. No, I don't know what types they are. Not in my Collins Insect Guide!

Our intrepid cyclists, Tony and Val, are now in Budapest! (They're cycling from the Atlantic to the Black Sea!)


16/06 : Bolonia, La Barca de Vejer & La Janda

An early start as I wanted to get in as much as possible and hope that I wouldn't get fried. After all, you know what Mr. Coward said about mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun!
0830 : First stop, Bolonia. No small white-rumped swifts at the cave, although Stephen Daly tells me that both spp. are nesting in the Sierra de Retín. However, a pair of Blue Rock Thrushes was feeding three young but surprisingly there were no vultures on the rock face and neither did I see any sign of Egyptian Vultures on the way down, although this Little Owl, the first of the day, allowed me to take its photo.

0930 : Coffee stop at the  San José del Valle bar at the junction of the Bolonia road with the N-340.

1015 La Barca de Vejer to see the Bald Ibises which have 4 nests, although only the bottom two give halfway decent views but taking photos is difficult as the juvs. are deep in the shadow of the caves and there is strong sunlight on the cliff face. Three adults came in to feed their chicks, which are hardly the most beautiful of chicks but only one was really helpful and enabled photos of the feeding process, which is quite revolting if one is reading this whilst having breakfast.
There are also some pure Rock Doves on the cliff and Jackdaws which hang around trying to nick the leftovers from the Bald Ibises' breakfast.

Met Stephen Daly in the bar as planned, along with Yeray Seminario, a very bilingual Canary Island birder who is a qualified vet but gave that up to start his own birding company www.whitehawkbirding.com and who also works some South American countries. and we had more coffee and talked birding. Eventually, far too late by what I had planned, it was time to be off for La Janda.

1145-1430 La Janda : The plan was simple: enter at the north end, go along to the bridge, along the long straight to the bend at the sluice gates, up at past the smelly farm (it isn't at the moment!) and then down the central track, easily passable and it should remain so until the first rains and down towards Facinas and thence homewards.
The rice paddies are now flooded and flushed with green shoots. There were some 50 Glossy Ibises in the paddies, good numbers, at least 50, Black-winged Stilts and a single Redshank, with Cattle Egrets everywhere and which are breeding down the left side of the long straight once over the bridge. There are, I am told, some Glossy Ibises breeding along there but I was not going to get out of the car to search and cause a mass panic.On the negative side, there were only 2 Turtle Doves when in normal years before the white invasion there were tens of them.
 It has been an excellent year for thistles but apart from a single Buzzard, there had been no raptors visible until I stopped on the top stretch when a few Black Kites, most in some state of primary wing moult, and some Booted Eagles appeared, their plumage states ranging from nearly pristine to this bird in a really pathetic state. It was in this same area that the second Little Owl of the day showed itself, braving the heat of ther sun on the top of a post. It was in this area that there was a really black Common Buzzard with a pale orange tail. There were very few Griffon Vultures on view and it wasn't until the last 3 kms of the track that I saw a pair of Montagu's Harriers. The Bee-eater shown below was seen further up. There were very few Calandra Larks in evidence.
Regrettably there was a recently dead Mongoose on the track, perhaps the only positive thing being that it was a male. Not a bad day's birding but jolly hot from noon onwards.


13/06 : Sierra María

When it's hot low down, in theory one should go high where it's cooler. Dave, Gilly and ten meambers of the Arboleas Group tried it out on Wednesday but they make no comments on that except for a gusty breeze, the striong winds down on my end of the coast have been a real pain. I apologise for getting this late on-line.

After ten days in a wet UK, Gilly and I were glad to get out in to some sun. We, together with ten other group members, headed up in to the cooler mountain range of Sierra de María. The only downside of the weather was a gusty breeze. After a cuppa at the garage cafe we headed for the chapel car park. From here and around the chapel area we saw Woodchat Shrike, Rock Bunting and the first of our Golden Orioles
Wandering up to the Botanical Gardens we added Rock Sparrow and a Southern Grey Shrike. We were greeted by the Head Warden, telling us niños (kids) were on the way so we made reasonable haste to keep in front of the darlings! We had a very good selection of forest birds. Great, Blue, Coal and Crested Tits. Short-toed Treecreeper, Crossbill and Firecrest. A Woodlark (L) showed well as did a female Golden OrioleThere has definitely been an increase in numbers of this resplendent species up here. There was usually only one pair by the chapel, but today I estimated a further two pairs in the woods. 
Also seen were Subalpine, Melodious and Western Bonelli's Warblers. Alas no Western Orphean Warblers this year. A Booted Eagle soared overhead as did a few Griffon Vultures. A very vocal Stonechat harrassed us as his three chicks were in the area. We also saw Linnet, Cirl Bunting, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. We reached the Information Centre as the kids were entering the gardens. Down at the La Piza Recreation area, Crossbills were lining up to drink from the depósito and fuente. We only added Mistle Thrush to the list, but a Jay at close quarters was a pleasing sight.
     At the ruined farm buildings we saw Red-rumped Swallows, a Common Buzzard and a Hoopoe. A Black-eared Wheatear showed well. Birds were few and far between on the plain, but we did see Northern Wheatear, Crested Lark and a very obliging Lesser Short-toed Lark (R). We were concerned to find no Lesser Kestrels at the hamlet, but after some of us had left Brian, Mary and Terry did see one.
     43 species in all. Glad to be back on my patch!


26-27/05 : Banco de la Concepción, pelagics off Lanzarote

Although I have dated this 26-27/05, the trip started on the afternoon of 24 when I flew up to Madrid, overnighted and met some fellow excursionistas in Barajas T1 at the ungodly hour of 06.00 on the Friday morning, 25/05, in order to get the Ryanair flight down to Lanzarote, which mean that we were there by 09.30 local time (Peninsular minus 1 hour). I had teamed up with Javier Train and Alberto Bueno and we were to be joined by Maarten Platteuw from Hollland who spends a lot of time up in the north. So, first stop was to pick up the hire car, then go and dump kit at the lodgings and have a day's birding.
 The highlights of this day, leaving to one side bogging down the car in loose sand and having to be dragged out by a kindly farmer with a 4x4, included Hubara Bustards (photo by my old friend Jesús Menendez) when the other three saw 5 but I refused to go staggering across sand and preferred to watch from by the car and saw just 2. On the other hand, I did find the 2 Cream-coloured Coursers. plus a good sighting of an Egyptian Vulture. 
 There were plenty of the inevitable Berthelot's Pipits, the resident Spanish Sparrows (there are no normal House Sparrows there), plenty of the North African race koenigii of the Southern Grey Shrike (or whatever it's being called today). Considerably rarer was the sighting of a Laughing Dove which appeaars to be slowly colonising the eastern islands of the archipelago. A walk, with reluctantly given permission, around the Thias golf course gave Collared Pratincole and a Sedge Warbler, plus some still migrating Sand Martins and a single Plain Swift, while later after a pizza dinner, some saw a nightjar but bed interested more as it was to be a very early start the next morning.

Saturday 26/05 and Sunday 27/05
This trip had been organised by Juan Sagardia and Dani López after a trial run last September had given the second Western Palearctic record of Black-bellied Storm-petrel and 3 South Polar Skuas and this was the first for this year and, as I like self-punishment, I am also going on the mid September trip.
The plan for both days was to leave Arrecife to drive to Orzola at the north end of the island, to be there for 05.30, and from there we were going to venture some 90kms N to the Banco de la Concepción, a seamount which rises from the abyssal depths to within some 230m of the surface and of which the sides are pitted with canyons and the orography means plenty of upwelling, the cold water providing nutrients throughout the whole of the food chain to include cetaceans and seabirds. Thus, on the Saturday with a metcast of NNW winds at around force 3-4 and 6 foot seas, 28 of us plus the crew set off into the night and awaited dawn. It was fairly rough and on the Sunday, with a forecast that was supposed to be better but wasn't with winds of NNW at 5-6 and waves approaching 8-9 feet at times it was uncomfortable and several received unexpected blows, both corporal and to their cameras. The crew were most helpful, helped with the spotting of birds and also gave us a very good seaman's rice on the Saturday and a Russian salad on the Sunday. 
The butting into the waves soon gave a clue as to what the day was going to be like and so did some who had not taken their biodramamine with caffeine the previous night and morning. All this stuff about the British and Spanish being natural sailors is a load of codswallop! But now to the birds.

Below there is a selection of the better photographs and apart from the speciues shown here, we also saw a single Pterodroma sp. which wouldn't play and broke off to starboard whilst still at long range. A single Manx Shearwater showed very briefly on the Saturday and 3 more on the Sunday. 4-5 Wilson's Stormies were seen on the Saturday and 1 on the Sunday. Singles were seen of Bonxie and Pomarine Skua, plus a single Black Tern in full breeding plumage. Therer were plenty of Yellow-legged, the darker Atlantic birds but not atlantis types, and 2 adult Lesser Black-backs shouldn't have been there.

Bulwer's Petrel - all dark, these long-winged petrel swoop and slide across the waves and are  
   very devil to keep an eye on. We saw some 50 the first day and 90+ the second.


Cory's Shearwater - the most common seabird by far, several thousands breed on the nearby islands

    Madeiran or Band-rumped Storm-petrel - this is one of the summer breeders, pleasantly
    numerous but the very devil to photograph, as are all storm-petrels, 
we saw around 5 the first day and 15+ the second.

                  Gannet - immature in plumage type 3, one of 2 birds that dropped in unexpectedly.

European Storm-petrel - This is the only black and white stormie with a white underwing marking 

    White-faced Storm-petrel - this is undoubtedly my favourite seabird, which is saying a lot - and
    I make no apologies for these three photos of these little beauties which bounce from wave to
    wave. Perhaps they should be renamed Kangaroo Storm-petrels.

We did see other marine life over the two days, quite surprising given the conditions, including Pilot Whales, 3 whales of the baleen Fin/Sei group, Risso's Dolphins, a beaked whale of some sort, some Bottle-nosed Dolphins which wanted to bow ride but must have been fed up when the skipper slowed the boat as they rapidly disappeared, and a goodly selection of Loggerhead Turtles which float just under the surface and bear a marked resemblance to somewhat bleached floating cow-pats!

Those who went down to the sea and survived to the Sunday evening, even if they were all totally jiggered at the end of it!

     (Photos of vessel and participants by José Pedro Portillo)

I forgot to insert this last photo, which was taken against the light looking towards the island of Graciosa to the north of Lanzarote and is an added attraction to being at sea.

                                       And would I do it all again? Hell yes!