28 May : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

I have been asked if I am alright as I'm not getting out too much. The answer is that I am but I have an awful lot of work on hand (all bird related) and would you all, especially you, Dave, please note that there will be no blog available at all from 1 July through to at least 21 July (probably later), as I am having cataract ops. which means I want to get as much work done as is possible before then, plus I shall be away in the UK from around 11-28 August. So, that said, now to Dave and the Arboleas Group's report.
With regard to Dave's comment about the late warblers, I think that he probably correct, but what is more interesting is the 2 Willow Warblers - now that is late after a spring when I have seen very few! I trust that Gilly's kneecap remains where it should be!
As Gilly and I left Arboleas this morning heading south to Cabo de Gata the skies were grey & threatening rain. We had a few drops on the way down but nothing serious. The weather didn't disturb the Little Owl atop a telegraph pole as we entered Pujaire where we met up with 10 other members. After being suitably refreshed with coffee we headed to the first hide. There were numerous Greater Flamingos (Gilly later counted 527 from the 2nd hide) and Avocet. There were three Black Tailed Godwit in breeding plumage, Slender Billed Gulls, Black Winged Stilt, Kentish & Little Ringed Plover. The Mallards all looked disheveled, being in eclipse. Common Swifts were seen as were Yellow Wagtails, a Southern Grey Shrike and a Thekla Lark.

We made our way to the second hide. We were serenaded, no, shouted at, by a male Sardinian Warbler. A pair of Willow Warblers flitted around in the shrubs. A Little Egret was also spotted. Little Terns were either fishing or resting on the weed rafts. A seawatch back at the beach only produced a steady stream of Yellow-legged Gulls heading towards the lighthouse.

The birding from the public hide wasn't much better. I think we only added Ringed Plover and Cormorant to the list. Gilly, who was recovering from a partially displaced kneecap, an injury from Rock 'n' Roll dancing on Monday, hung around near the vehicles. She was rewarded with good views of Melodious Warbler
As we came out of the hide a Bonelli's Warbler was on the chainlink fence. Were these last two late arrivals or early leavers as they were both not where they were supposed to be? On the causeway Gull-billed and Sandwich Terns were seen.

We stopped at Cabo de Gata village for a coffee by the beach before driving along the track towards the Rambla Morales. Colin, Sandra and Linda wandered over towards the beach end and were rewarded with views of White-headed Duck with ducklings, but unfortunately they missed the bird of the day....a flypast by a Caspian Tern! Reed Warblers were heard but not seen. Zitting Cisticolas flew noisily overhead. I identified a Short-toed Lark. Also seen were Coot, Moorhen, Little and Black-necked Grebe.

That ended a very good days birding considering we're nearly in June. 42 species
Another bit of news from Adrian's Patch....He has Eagle Owls (R) breeding in his rambla, lucky so n so!!

Good birding everyone. Photos by Gilly, Dave and Adrian


21 May : Sierra de María

Returning birders, Barrie and Beryl, requested we visit the Sierra de Maria this week. No objections from me! Gilly and I picked up Spyros and Pat and we headed for our usual meeting point in Maria. We were met there by ten other members. After a coffee we made our way to the chapel. Almost immediately we could hear Golden Orioles calling from around the tall poplar tree but alas no sighting. A family group of Woodchat Shrikes were hanging around one of the large bushes. I spotted a male Golden Oriole flying towards the trees to the right. We walked slowly towards the Botanical Garden checking the mountain ridge for Griffon Vultures. Eventually we managed to see at least 6 individuals. The weather was changeable. Sun, clouds and a stiff breeze.
Gilly and Adrian, both with dodgy knees decided they'd stay near the information centre as the rest of us trundled round the medium walk. Birds were few and far between, but we managed to get Bonelli's, Subalpine and good views of Melodious Warblers. We heard but unfortunately didn't see Western Orphean Warbler. Barrie saw a Firecrest. Also seen were Rock Bunting, Blackbird and Robin. We got back to Gilly and Adrian and discovered they'd seen almost as much as us including a Short-toed Treecreeper, Coal and Great Tit and Serin. They stationed themselves near a little man-made pool and both got good photos. As we were leaving a coachload of school children shouted their arrival.
Dark clouds were coming in from the west. As we drove towards it began to rain. We aborted the farm building stop and drove to the water trough area. Here we disturbed a Northern Wheatear on arrival. In the trees we spotted a single Turtle Dove and some Rock Sparrows. We convoyed down the plain seeing Carrion Crow, Calandra, Crested and Short-toed Larks. A Little Owl showed well. A Hoopoe was also seen. At the hamlet 4 or 5 Lesser Kestrels were seen.
It was then back to the La Piza forest cafe for lunch. Sitting inside we did see Chaffinch, Blue Tit and Jay through the windows. One of the owners showed us a photo on his phone of a Hawfinch in the hand. It had collided with one of the windows and thankfully had flown off with no ill effects. The arrival of three coachloads of kids ended a reasonable days birding. 40 species in total......my secretary failed to count properly but her photography's getting better!


three reports from Almería

Although two of these are a bit out of date, I have included them for their intrinsic interest for visiting birders. All were received as one yesterday evening (19 May), so here we go. The first is written by Mary as Dave and GIlly were unavailable and numbers two and three are from Dave.

10 May, embalse de Negratín
Brian, Mary, Trevor and Anne met for coffee at the usual hotel near the dam, Embalse de Negratin not far from Baza.  We decided to take one car and do the route in reverse starting from Bacor Olivar. We noted that the cherries are colouring up nicely.  It will not be long before another visit to this area should be planned.
We stopped just past the village. With the sun behind us we scanned around. On top of the dead branches of a tree sat a beautiful Woodchat Shrike. This tree was a great attraction for us and the birds.  We saw the following birds here: Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Serin, Spotted Flycatcher and our “bird of the day”, a Wryneck. In and around the fields were Barn Swallow, Turtle and Collared Doves, House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings. We could hear Nightingale and Golden Oriole calling.  Later, further on route, I saw a pair of Golden Orioles. Brian and I took it in turns to drive the car further down the road to a shady spot whilst we took it in turns to walk with Anne and Trevor from Bacor Olivar to the embalse.
Along the way we saw a pair of Blackbirds with food to feed young. Overhead flew five Griffon Vultures and later a small flock of Bee-eaters and a Carrion Crow.  Brian and Trevor took time to identify a Melodious Warbler with the book. 
In the valley at the bottom of the dam we watched the House Martins renovating their nests under the cliff overhang. In the river there was a Grey Wagtail and on the rocks above were Rock Doves, Blue Rock Thrush and a Jay
Finally we stopped at the car park by the embalse.  A man was fishing from the steps over the side, whilst the fish could be seen drifting along further down. Whilst watching the fish a couple of Common Sandpipers and a White Wagtail were seen.  The White Wagtail too was collecting food for young. Brian’s final bird was a Yellow-legged gull.  A total of 24 birds.  We heard several that sounded like warblers, possible Sardinian, but as we are not that good at bird sounds we couldn't count those.
By this time we were all parched and returned to the hotel for a well earned drink and bacon bocadillos for Brian, Trevor and Anne.

10 May, Sierra de María
I picked up Alan and Marian from near their friends' villa and drove them to Maria, seeing a Woodchat Shrike as we approached the town. After a cuppa at the garage cafe we drove to the chapel. I expected to be able to show or even hear Golden Orioles,but no sight or sound of them. But we did have good views of three Cirl Buntings. Meandering up towards the Botanical Gardens a few Griffon Vultures glided passed. In the lower part of the gardens there were numerous good birds seen, some "firsts" for my guests: Bonelli's Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrest. As we progressed a Woodlark posed nicely on a tree close by. Taking the medium walk, we were very pleased to see Melodious and Sardinian Warblers. We first heard then saw a pair of Ravens soaring above us. Alan spotted a warbler in a bush which I identified as a Western Orphean Warbler....bird of the day! We also added Hoopoe, Serin and Crossbill to the list.

Next moving to the farm buildings we saw Rock Sparrow, Crested Lark and Carrion Crow. At the water trough further along towards the plain, a pair of Turtle Doves were perched in a dead tree. On the plain itself we saw Northern Wheatear and its Black-eared cousin. We had good views of a Calandra Lark and of a very obliging Short-toed Lark. At the hamlet Lesser Kestrels did not let me down. 

We headed back to the La Piza forest cafe for lunch. We sat facing the bird feeders. Short-toed Treecreepers were nesting in the box closest to us and I had just said I'd expected to see Crested Tits when a pair arrived on cue! We also had more Crossbills there.

39 species for the day and at least 10 "firsts" for Alan and Marian. Well pleased! Just like to add....all photos by Dave!
19 May, Cabo de Gata and Rambla Morales 
The final report is from 19 May of another commissioned trip with Alan and Marian.

We drove down to Pujaire, stopping for a coffee before heading to the first hide. Above us were numerous House Martins, Common Swifts with a few Pallids and some Barn Swallows. On the water there were numerous Avocets and Greater Flamingos. Scanning round with my telescope I was able to point out Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Black-winged Stilt, a Redshank and Slender--billed Gulls. A pair of Godwits proved to be Bar-tailed when they flew. A pair of Common Terns was joined by a Gull-billed Tern on the causeway. A number of iberiae Yellow Wagtails were seen. A Hoopoe and a Southern Grey Shrike were seen on the power lines behind us. 

Moving round to the second hide we saw both Little and Sandwich Terns fishing close inshore. We only added Little Egret to the list. The public hide was not much better. A summer plumage Sanderling confused us for a bit. We stopped for a coffee overlooking the beach. Close inshore was a magnificent Black-necked Grebe. A quick trip to the lighthouse added a Black Wheatear.
As we were in the 4x4 we went round the rear of the reserve. No water in the first two salinas so no birds either. At the third one we had water and a Grey Plover in full breeding plumage as well as Avocet, Ringed and Kentish Plovers. Zitting Cisticolas were chasing each other over the shrubs. A male Sardinian was seen with young. As we reached the disused buildings at the far end we were out-stared by a Little Owl.
We then drove through the campsite and headed to the Rambla de Morales, parking up at the dried crossover. Numerous Reed Warblers could be heard, but not seen. Had good views of more Zitting Cisticolas calling above us. We added Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe. We saw one male White-headed Duck and the black-headed one seen last year. Our final bird was a Bee-eater.
41 species for the day. Alan and Marian were both pleased. Hope to see them again on their next visit.


8 May : Guadalhorce

As noted at the end of yesterday's blog, this morning it was off to the Guadalhorce with a friend with the hope that it would be more productive than Fuente de Piedra, although I must admit my hopes weren't overly high but I was proven wrong with regard to the waders at least, which is where we shall start as it proved to be very good along the wader pool and the río Viejo.
In brief, 14 species of waders which included all three small plovers - Kentish, Little Ringed and Ringed (3+), a couple of big cousins in the form of Grey Plovers, one very smart in virtually in full breeding plumage, 3+ Little Stints, at least 5 Curlew Sandpipers with at least one still in winter plumage (are these late moulters first year birds?) as was the single Bar-tailed Godwit, while all the Dunlin were in breeding plumage. 
A surprise was the presence of 2 Sanderlings along the río Viejo, these also still full winter plumage.
There were 2 pairs of Avocets, one in the wader pool and the other, with the female sitting tightly and what I am told are 4 eggs just to the right of the hide at the laguna Grande, Dad was being very protective and saw off one of the ubiquitous Stilts. We saw 2 Ruffs, one a  female while along the río Viejo a male was coming in to breeding plumage but was far off and visibility wasn't helped by heat haze and shimmer. The  walk along the shore from the seawatch point to the entry in to the laguna Grande produced a singles of Turnstone and  Whimbrel. Not at all bad.
We were fortunate enough to see a couple of Purple Herons fly over to the sound of churring Reed Warblers and there are still 2 Grey Herons remaining, one obviously a 1st summer bird but the other looked to be adult.
Ducks were represented by the usual species with lots of male Pochards dashing around although we didn't see any Red-crested Pochards. The final good species as we went out was a pale morph Boot Eagle, an interesting species at this time of year.
So that, a dearly and best beloved (Kipling) is the lot as I didn't note down everything and neither are the photos anything to write home about as the heat haze was a definite hindrance.


07 May : Fuente de Piedra

This morning, in view of the fact that the water levels at Fuente de Piedra were falling far too rapidly for the liking of myself and the waders, Federico and myself met there at 08.30, himself coming down from Córdoba, the early hour being with the faint hope of missing school parties. Plus we had hoped to contact with the remaining Spotted Redshank in breeding plumage that had been seen at the end of the last week, but t'was not to be.
In fact, it was virtually a waste of time from the wader point of view as the water on both sides of the road in and the walkway had dried up totally, a great shame as it is much used by waders on passage and it drying out so early means that those on late passage to the far north are deprived of a resting and, probably more importantly, a feeding area. It would certainly be extremely useful if some means could be found of keeping a few cms. of water in that area until at least the end of May and then reflooding from late July onwards as migrant waders would then benefit in both directions.
On the left side there 30 Ringed Plovers feeding on something - insects? -  and another seen later made the total 31 for the morning, plus a single Common Sandpiper which flushed off a patch of mud about the size of a pocket handkerchief. Going round to the mirador we saw a few more waders, apart from the omnipresent Avocets and Stilts, with a single Redshank and 4 Dunlin - big deal, especially if one counts the pair of Shelduck, the colony of Black-headed Gulls on one artificial island and the other full of Gull-bulled Terns. The lake is full of Greater Flamingos with a notable increase in occupation of the colony nuclei and we scannned and rescanned for any sign of the Lessers but without any joy . However, later in the morning I received a message from Mick Richardson who had been later than us and who did find a pair (thanks, Mick, lucky you).
An immature male Montagu's Harrier showed briefly as did a male Lesser Kestrel, it looks like colonisation of the tower in the field especially for them may bear fruit, if not this year, then in the near future.
A walk around to the laguna at the back gave a Great Reed Warbler (and I insist that they do NOT sing although I'm damned if I know what to call the noises that emanate) and a Melodious Warbler, plus a variety of ducks including 4 pairs of Red-crested Pochard seen and 3 adult Night Herons (I suppose that technically I should call them Black-crowned Night Herons but if you think that you've seen a Yellow-crowned it means you're hallucinating and have been on the happy baccy or worse).
End of visit and we got out just as three coachloads of obnoxious, uncontrolled and very noisy (and possibly noisesome) teenagers were disgorged from three coaches.
By now you will have gathered that I wasn't overly overjoyed with the morning and felt that I could have been doing something more useful - like machine-gunning the youths. Tomorrow morning, to the Guadalhorce. Will it be better, worse or a technical draw?


30 April : Rambla de Almanzora & Vera

I have been away at the Doñana Bird Fair at Isla Mayor, hence the delay. It was hot but very enjoyable, including being recognised by a chap from the UK who remembered my black labrador Samantha from my Filey Brigg days pre 1980, the best birding dog that I have ever come across. Little birding but plenty of White Storks and a lot of Black Kites at Dehesa de Abajo, plus Greenshank, Pratincole and Marsh Sandpiper at El Rocio. So, herewith the Arboleas report. Note that the pohotos are by Gilly!
It was to our local patch that Gilly and I headed towards on a bright sunny morning. We met up with ten other members on the embankment above the "old ford", Rambla de Almanzora. I relayed the sad news that Val Penny-Stewart's mother had passed away. We send our sincere condolences to Val and Tony. It was then down to birdwatching. 
On the pools near to the opposite bank we could see Black-winged Stilt, Mallard, Common Sandpiper and Moorhen. At that point about a hundred sheep surrounded us. The shepherd appeared to have little control. As the flock eventually made its way down onto the rambla, their rear ends being snapped at by a sheepdog, Colin spotted a Glossy Ibis which flew off to the right. Common Swifts were seen. I then identified a Wood Sandpiper. We began to wander further towards the defunct desalination plant seeing Ringed Plover as well.  
We saw two more waders with yellow legs. It wasn't until we could see their size compared to a Ringed Plover that I realised they were Temminck's Stints. (Alan had seen a pair in the same location a few months ago). Checking Gilly's photo later with "Collins" at my side it was a good view of both plumage variations of summer adults. Carrying on we saw my first Turtle Dove of the year, Little Ringed Plover, Blackbird, a distant Kevin spotted Kestrel and Greenfinch. I spotted an iberiae Yellow Wagtail.
     After a coffee break in Villaricos village we headed down to the beach. At first we could only see a solitary Little Egret on the harbour rocks but eventually Barrie spotted the head of a Cormorant. We walked over the flat barren area to the estuary. We heard a Curlew and here we saw more Common Sandpipers and Ringed Plovers and added Turnstone and Kentish Plover to the wader list. A Grey Heron posed obligingly. Bee-eaters appeared to be nesting in the far sandy cliff. Further towards the beach the Eurasian Curlew was seen as well as Sanderling, Dunlin and a couple of Grey Plovers. Yellow-legged and Audouin's Gull were also seen. Behind us a snorkeller armed with a speargun was showing off a metre wide "Manta" Ray he'd captured. On the rocks we saw solitary Whimbrel, Sandwich Tern and Whiskered Tern. As we got back to the vehicles a flock of at least 100 Greater Flamingos flew over.
Being about the last to leave, Gilly and I were the only ones to see three Night Herons flying over the rambla by the bridge.
     Most of us made our way to the dual carriageway above the lake at Vera. Here we added Black-headed Gull, Coot and Common Pochard to the list. Jan spotted a Little Grebe. A pair of White-headed Duck was also seen as were some more Whiskered Terns. The "resident" Greater Flamingo was still there.  We moved round to the pool opposite the Consum supermarket. Due to golfing commitments, Les Senior has been failing in his reed cutting duties. Swipes with a sand wedge needed, Les, to give better views! Mary and Rod ventured to the pool further along and added a pair of Shoveler to the list.
     Ended up with 45 species. Wader watching at the rambla was great, with great company! 
Photos by Gilly.