28 October : Andalucian Guides for sale

First, apologies of the silence but I have familial problems in the UK which have taken up a lot of time and added even more grey hairs. I may get out birding and a report in before I go off to the UK between 14 and 28 November which does not promise to be particularly pleasant.

Now, with regard to the title. My good friend Stephen Daly of Barbate is selling up the business and home, very unwillingly but greater forces are at work. Check out more details at the following link : 

Anyone interested, contact with Stephen.


12 October : laguna Grande (Campillos) and Fuente de Piedra (Stone Curlews)

After the BirdLife International Bird Day at the Guadalhorce last weekend, organised by SEO-Málaga  and which was a raving hit if one judges by the masses that turned up along with their immatures and juvenile, but I got little birding done. On the plus side, it is very encouraging to see the number of parents with their offsprung and they crowded around the ringers (banders if you're from the far side of the pond) to see a wide variety of birds being ringed (banded), and the star of which was a Kingfisher. Good job they don't know about the disgusting way of males settling territorial disputes, it'd really have put them off!
ringing a Kingfisher

Today : A brief swing around this morning after most of the week spent either sitting in the dentist's chair with my mouth open like a stranded fish (record 2 hours 35 minutes on Thursday) after which I definitely did not feel like translating anything. So, after waking around 07.20, I was on the way to the laguna Dulce outside Campillos as first port of call and then on to Fuente de Piedra. The basic idea was just to get out, see a few birds, and relax.
 It was nice at the laguna Dulce, sunny, fresh but not cold by any standard, and all the birds were at the far, far side of the lake. And when I heard gunfire which would have done credit to the opening barrage at the battle for El Alamein, I knew why. I had forgotten the hunting season is now upon us and the birds had taken refuge where they  were, they hoped, untouchable and very nervous. Three different Greenshanks that spent all the time I was there calling were certainly nervous and I don't blame 'em! There were a couple of young Marsh Harriers, tons of Coots - try finding a Crested/Red-knobbed or whate ever in all that lot on the far side of the lake, plenty of Mallard and well over 130 White-headed Ducks. The best was undoubtedly a trio of Ferruginous Ducks, 2 males and a female, but as Mick Richardson told me that he'd seen 7 there a couple of weeks since, I felt let down.
So, giving up there, I went on to Fuente de Piedra, stopping off to see if I could find a Lesser Flamingo which is about as easy as throwing snowballs at the moon with the thousands of Greater Flamingos there still are in the lake!
I believe that the last time I was there in the relevant blog I wrote that they has just started harrowing the field on the right when one goes in towards the info. centre, the oner with tower. Well, they did a good job on it and I stopped on the way in 'cause that is the Stone Curlew field  where they like to congregate if the conditions are right. Now look at the phot below and then continue reading.

find the Stone Curlews
 As you can see from the above, they take some finding and that is with this show cut down a bit but when they're in three or so hectares, it's another ball game. But persevere and once you've got you eye in (and I found all the 29 or so present just with binoculars) it's not so difficult.
4 Stone Curlews
Really, it weas just nice to be out and I can't say that even took the birding seriously as I spent quite a bit of time with a very pleasant Finnish birder and his wife, telling what and where. There were a few Barn Swallows around and by the pond at the back, which is now a gorgeous emerald green! there was the Little Owl, as well as a few ducks and a single Common Sandpiper. Rather dead, really. There were one or two Blackcaps and a lateish Spotted Flycatcher, and that was really about it.
But at least I'd had a very relaxing morning out and feel sufficiently fresh to face a week with my sister's presence, which means going birding again, and again, and again. What a life! I just hope the birding's up to it!


02 October : Sierra de María

The thought of Dave playing 'mummy' - frilly apron and all - is beyond my imagination! The mind really does boggle.  What a good day you all had, I'm quite envious.

Before I start I have got to say what a great days birding we had today at the Sierra de Maria. Maybe not quantity, but quality. I won't go through the list of who was with Gilly and I, suffice to say there were 19 having coffee at the cafe before we headed towards the chapel. I logged a Black Redstart on the approach. Then, having sorted ourselves out, we began birding. Not a lot round the chapel itself, but we could see, despite the sun against us, that there were numerous birds hanging around the water trough. Sure enough there was a Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinches, Rock and Cirl Bunting, Crossbill, a Jay and Blackcaps. I looked up into the poplar tree. I saw a perched chunky bird which I assumed, before I got my bins on it, to be a Crossbill, but no. It was a Hawfinch. As I, as silently as I could do, tried to attract the others attention, it flew, some catching a glimpse of it. We continued to observe the water trough. A Robin appeared as did a Serin. Just as I spotted a Pied Flycatcher, the shout went up that the Hawfinch was on the water trough hassling the Chaffinches, so everybody had good views.
We then made our way towards the Botanical Gardens only adding a solitary Griffon Vulture and a vocal Blackbird to the list.
juvenile Golden Eagle
Due to numbers the group was strung out over about 100 metres so I can only report the sequence us at the front saw birds and add other reports after. Small birds were few and far between, but we did see a Coal Tit and a Chiffchaff. Luckily another small group of Griffons passed overhead or we wouldn't have seen the Alpine Swifts flying near to them. We saw the odd Barn Swallow, but there were many House Martins high up above the ridge. Someone spotted a pair of smaller raptors soaring and basically mucking about at the far end of the ridge. A discussion took place regarding the ID, which was confirmed later.......We saw more Griffons. There were other raptors soaring above us. The Short-toed Eagle was easy to spot. I said the other one was a dark phase Booted Eagle. A couple of the others said no it was definitely a Golden Eagle. Anyway the Short-toed and Booted came close together and you could easily tell the size difference. But the what should appear flying past but a Golden Eagle.....two different birds. And what was also above. Those two smaller raptors....Sparrowhawks! On a high we headed back towards the information centre. Mary, who'd been trying to do some photography, had seen Great, Blue, Crested and Long-tailed Tits as well as a Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrests. Adrian had added a Common Redstart.

It was then off to the La Piza forest cafe for a coffee and a piece of Chocolate cake. Gilly and I had won it at the Macmillan Coffee morning and decided to share it with the group. Whilst I was being "mummy" cutting it it up, numerous Crossbills were seen and another Hawfinch turned up for a drink in the fuente.

Garden Warbler
We then convoyed down towards the plain, only adding a Carrion Crow at the farm buildings. We added Rock Sparrow and a Green Woodpecker near the watering hole. On the plain itself we only had Crested Lark and Northern Wheatear.

     It was then back to the La Piza for lunch. As we ate a call went up for an unusually marked bird. It turned out to be a Crossbill with a shadow across it. As I was checking it out I saw movement. A warbler: short stubby bill - a Garden Warbler that was surprisingly obliging, eventually coming down to the fuente for a drink. The bird took our list to 41 species.

     Still not 100% happy with my camera/lens but did manage to get some shots today. Going to spend the evening looking through the manual! The group photo below is from last week's trip to the garnets taken by Ros Perkins. I'm sure the group would also like to pass on our best wishes to Tony and Kas Scott who are heading Malaga way in a few weeks time.
the Arboleas garnet hunters