30 December : El Fondo /El Hondo

Reed Bunting
A few weeks ago Helen Commandeur e-mailed us, inviting Gilly and I to visit her patch. El Fondo, which is near Elche, is about 40 minutes from her house. El Fondo is a very large bird reserve, but it has limited access. Helen says that the North Gate entrance is only open now on a Saturday morning. The water level in that area is apparently very low. 
I asked John and Alan to join us. Us lot met up at the Cox Service Station before heading to the reserves Information Centre to meet up with Helen. Have got to say what a transformation has taken place since our last visit. Alan had never been here before. 
The Information building is now surrounded on three sides by shallow water with small reed beds and shrubs, instead of unfriendly low lying scrubland. We'd already logged many of the commoner usual suspects before we saw our first Marsh Harrier. It's fair to say that during our visit we must have clocked up 30-40 sightings. Chiffchaffs were in abundance. We saw a few Robins and numerous Stonechats. At the small pool adjacent to the centre I spotted a Purple Swamphen. The sun was directly in our eyes so observing it was hard. Very luckily another one was seen behind us, showing very well and giving Gilly plenty of photo opportunities. Also seen in that area were Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe and Little Egret. A flight of Greater Flamingos was seen in the distance. 
We moved along the raised boardwalk to the observation platform. Alan spotted a Bluethroat and Helen saw our first Kingfisher. Some Reed Buntings were seen feeding. We saw more Kingfishers, one of which posed delightfully (Sorry, Val!). Moving on to the first hide, John thought he saw a female Hen Harrier. Here we added Cetti's Warbler, Common Pochard and Black-necked Grebe. The next hide gave us Greater Flamingos and numerous Shelducks. A Bluethroat displayed well right in front of us, but I only managed to get a rear view! 
A flight of Glossy Ibis was seen. Heading back to the vehicles a squadron of 16 Stone Curlews flew round us. We were then taken to a raised platform on the south western side of the reserve. From this elevated position we had great views over most of the reserve. We could see the line of mature eucalyptus trees lining the track from the North Gate some two kilometres away. 
flight of Glossy Ibis
Alan spotted it first....a very large dark/black coloured  eagle perched on top of one of these trees. It had to be one of the three Spotted Eagles wintering on the reserve. Couldn't tell from that distance whether is was "Tonn" , "Not Tonn" or "The other one". Tonn is a satellite tagged eagle from Estonia ('Tonn' was seen on 23/12, satellite transmitter not working now: from rarebirdspain - Andy). We also saw Booted Eagle, a flock of about 60 Lapwings (desperately searched for the reported Sociable Lapwing without success!) and Cattle Egret. Smaller birds seen included Jackdaw, Greenfinch, Serin and Iberian Grey Shrike (or is still Southern Grey Shrike?). 
leucistic Black-necked Grebe
After a hearty lunch we made or way to the southern end of the reserve. We luckily came across a field with 20 odd Glossy Ibis  feeding therein and in another field a flock of 20 Common Cranes. Also seen were Linnet and Goldfinch. At the final hide which gave great views over a large expanse of water we added Red-crested Pochard amongst a huge number of Common ones. One pair of Shoveler and John had a Teal. Also of interest was a part albino (= leucistic) Black-necked Grebe.
What a great day. Thank you so much, Helen. We saw 49 species in all. No gulls and only Green Sandpiper in the wader department if you exclude Lapwing and Stone Curlew! We also missed an Osprey which flew over the Information Centre as we were leaving!


25 December : La Janda

What better way to spend Christmas morning and the first part of the afternoon than birding? Leaving the madding crowds  and the knowledge that my daughter was going to feed me later. And she’d even offered with the bait of sticky toffee pudding. Not quite up to the Cartmel standard but damned good. So, as I’d awoken early (06.10) I was on the way and down at Tarifa by 08.30, having been delayed whilst emergency services dealt with some clown who’d crashed his/her car all on his/her own some 5 kms outside Tarifa. The car will never be the same again as the firemen were cutting off its roof and very probably the driver and any passengers won’t be the same either .
The birding was good too, with one of the first birds seen being a Long-legged Buzzard (busardo moro) type. In fact, there were good numbers of Common Buzzard (busardo común) with at least 10 seen during the morning. That said, apart from a similar number of Marsh Harriers (aguilucho lagunero), there was rather a dearth of raptors with only a few Kestrels  (cernicalo vulgar).
Spanish Sparrows
The track alongside the drainage canal was quite productive, the first rice fields having been drained and the ditch slightly muddy and into which my little monster paddled. There were a few Lapwings (avefrías) in these fields and a variety of finches, mostly Greenfinches (verderones),  Goldfinches (jilgueros) and House Sparrows (gorriones comunes). Theare were quite a few Linnets (pardillos) and overhead there were both Skylarks (alondra común) and Calandra Larks (calandrías), plus the welcome and rather surprising presence of a small flock of Spanish Sparrows (gorrión moruno), a species that I have ever seen only once before on La Janda.
Purple Boghens
Further along on the left side (moving N) there were still plenty of flooded paddies, although it appeared that they had been ploughed and possibly roughly harrowed, but there was a nice area of wáter. Apart from two flocks of Spoonbills (espátulas) numbering some 58 birds, 4 of which at least were carrying colour rings but too distant too read, I also counted 3 Green  Sandpipers (andarríos grandes) and 5 Greenshanks (archibebe claro). All this was quite modest stuff, nice and with decent views whilst on the east side of the drainage canal some 800 Cranes (grullas) fed peacefully with that lovely sound that they make whilst at rest.
Great White Egret/Heron
However, the birding level took a sudden upturn when 4 ducks flighted in and settled . A quick ‘scoping revealed them to be Marbled Teal/Duck (cerceta pardilla) (take your pick on the English name). Now that was a good bird to see.
There were the usual herons and egrets with Grey Heron (garza real) and both Little (garceta común) and Cattle (garcilla bueyera) and later a single Great White (garceta grande) flew in. A group of three Purple Boghens (calamones) showed quite well before flying off awkwardly. There were few Glossy Ibis (moritos), with a flock of some 50 in evidence. Apparently there are some 2.000 in the Brazo del Este área!
afflicted prickly pears
little hairy monster
From that point on there wasn’t really that much to see. Next to nothing going over the top past the smelly farm, nor down the first five km sor so of the central track towards Facinas.
It was interesting to note that the prickly pears or opuntia, from which the chumbos come, which have been so badly afflicted by some white plague over most of Andalucía are trying to start new growth. It will be interesting to see if these new shoots make it or also succumb to the plague. 
Whisky also enjoyed his day out having successively got muddy (meaning that I’ve got a lot of cleaning to do on the back seat covers), covered in burrs, flushed his first rabbit which didn’t play fair by diving into the thistle patch and finally going into a field where there were some bulls, neither of which, very fortunately, saw the other.
The last bird of the day, rather unexpected after getting some photos of a Kestrel (cernícalo vulgar), was a solitary Black Stork (cigüeña negra). Not a great day list with several spp. missing and for which I had hoped. But it was just nice to be out and the sticky toffee pudding lived up to expectations. 


23 December : secret location between Puerto Lumbreras and Lorca

Fascinated? Read on to Dave's report and enjoy the best of the photos that he sent. These communal winter roosts are quite common and I have seen Short-eared Owl roosts of up to 20 birds, rather dispersed over several, usually dense, trees but obviously drawn together. They can be very difficult to detect and usually by accident when one flushes off, as well as being susceptible to disturbance, hence the secrecy.

Although I've been birdwatching on and off for 45 years or so I've never seen a Long-eared Owl (buho chico). It was one of my "bogey" birds along side Alpine Accentor! Gilly had never seen one either. So we were astonished to get an e-mail some time ago from some friends of ours, Dave & Jackie, who said that Dave's sister and brother in law, Jane and John, who lived near Lorca had some owls nesting in their garden. Assuming we were about to see Little Owls (mochuelo) on their attached photographs, we were shocked to see Long-eared Owls. They said they'd contact us when the owls returned. We duly "had the call" a few days ago and today was the big day.
It was quite complicated to get to their house, so John guided us in from Lorca. The house is situated in the middle of agricultural flat lands. There are mature pine and false peppers trees in the garden. Whilst John put the kettle on, Jane said she'd show us firstly one owl that usually roosted on its own. I assume it would be the dominant male, but I may be wrong. Sure enough, through the branches of this pine tree, there was our first view of a Long-eared Owl. She took us to another pine tree where we could see another two owls. We moved round onto the adjacent field to see if we could get better views for taking photographs. Yes, we did get better views of not only those two but  another three as was well, making a grand total of six individuals!
What an amazing day! Thank you so much to Dave, Jackie, Jane and John.


16 December : Villaricos & Vera

For those who are going to the sierras over Christmas and New Year, and in particularly to Sierra de las Nieves and the Sierra Morena, eyes open for plenty of Bramblings (pinzón real) appearing, plus apparently larger than normal numbers of Goldcrests (reyezuelo sencillo), as well reports today of Fieldfare (zorzal real) and Redwing (zorzal alirrojo).
Many thanks for the best wishes for the New Year to you too, Dave, Gilly and all members of the Arboleas Group. Also the same good wishes to all those who have the temerity to read my drivellings (Dave's are whole different ball game!). And one wish especially : Good Birding in 2016!! 
This being our final official outing of 2015 we decided to keep it local. Gilly and I made our way down towards the Rambla de Almanzora. We drove down the Palomares side of the rambla which gave us views above the small pools below. In one a very obliging Common Snipe (agachadiza común) posed well for Gilly to get a decent photo. By the time we got to the meeting place, across the "ford" to the Villaricos we'd also seen Mallard (azulón), Magpie (urraca), Moorhen (gallineta de agua), White Wagtail (lavandera blanca) and Spotless Starling (estornino negro). 
We met up with the other 7 members, including the welcome return of Carolyn Perkins, who, for the second year, had spent spring, summer and autumn on Easdale Island, near Oban, Scotland assisting with boat trips to see the whales, dolphins and other wildlife including White-tailed Eagles (pigargos). (No, we're not jealous at all!). John spotted the female Blue Rock Thrush (roquero solitario) on the factory site opposite. A Kestrel (cernicalo vulgar) was seen. We walked up towards the sewage works, adding Sardinian Warbler (curruca cabecinegra), Greenfinch (verderón), Chiffchaff (mosquitero común), Black Redstart (colirrojo tizón) and House Sparrow (gorrión comun). I spotted a Northern Starling (estornino pinto) on the power line. 
As we approached the sewage works a Green Sandpiper (andarríos grande) was flushed from a pool below us. A Common Sandpiper (andarríos chico) was near one of the pools. On the rambla I spotted a Grey Wagtail (lavandera cascadeña) near the little waterfall. I glimpsed a brown-backed bird skulking in the shrubs. I was hoping for a Bluethroat, but it turned out to be a Robin (petirrojo). On the side large pool there were Ringed Plover (chorlitejo grande), Dunlin (correlimos común) and three Curlew Sandpipers (correlimos zarapitín). Also seen were Stonechat (tarabilla común), Serin (verdecillo), Little Ringed Plover (chorlitejo chico), Little Egret (garceta común) and Crested Lark (cogujada común). Cetti's Warblers (ruiseñor bastardo)were heard. A check of the "ford" pool only produced Moorhen (gallineta de agua), Mallard (azulón) and three more Common Snipe (agachadiza común).
We adjourned to the cafe in Villaricos village before heading to the beach. The rocks outside the harbour added Grey Heron (garza real), Cormorant (cormorán grande), Sandwich Tern (charrán patinegro) and a Mediterranean Gull (gaviota cabecinegra), well spotted by John. Alan saw the Whimbrel (zarapito trinador) first and Kevin added Sanderling (correlimos tridáctilo). We walked over to the estuary, but only added Little Grebe (zampullín chico) to the list. Getting closer to the sea we found 5 young Greater Flamingos (flamenco común) were present, On the shoreline we had Kentish Plover (chorlitejo patinegro), Sanderling (correlimos tridáctilo), Dunlin, (correlimos común) Turnstone (vuelvepiedras) and Little Stint (correlimos menudo). Someone (sorry, can't remember who) managed to spot the head of a Grey Plover (chorlito gris) amongst the rocks (it did have a live body with it!). On the water we also had Lesser Black-blacked, Yellow-legged, Audouin's and Black-headed Gulls (gaviotas sombría, patiamarilla, de Audouin y reidora). A few Crag Martins (aviones roqueros) flew over.
We made our way to the dual carriageway overlooking the shallow pools opposite the Consum supermarket in Vera Playa. We only added Teal (cerceta común) and Shoveler (pato cuchara) There were another 9 young Greater Flamingos (flamenco común).
Good weather, good company, good birding. 48 species in all.
Wishing all our members and readers of Andy Paterson's blog, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Good birding in 2016.
Please note: Records of pink gulls flying around on New Year's Day will NOT be accepted.


09 December : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

Many apologies for the delay in getting this out, Dave. Are Monk Parakeets uncommon in your area? If they are, can we export you few thousand? As for the Barn Swallow, as I write a message has come in that Barn Swallows were seen on La Janda (Cádiz) today, Sunday.

Slender-billed Gull
Gilly and I picked up a new birder to the group, Steve Daniel, before we headed down to Cabo de Gata. As we passed through Retamar Sur we clocked a pair of Monk Parakeets (cotorra monje) sitting in a tree. Before we got to the meeting point in Pujaire we'd also added Jackdaw (grajilla), Stonechat (tarabilla común)and Kestrel (cernicalo vulgar). After a coffee, together with 6 other members we headed to the first hide. The water level was quite high so no space available for smaller waders. We did however see a total of 6 Curlew Sandpipers (correlimos zarapitín) and some Redshanks (archibebe común). The sun was not at a good angle, but Gilly managed to find that a strange bird call belonged to a Southern Grey Shrike (alcaudón real), seen through the sun's rays. Smaller birds seen included a passing (overwintering?) Barn Swallow (golondrina común) and Black Redstart (colirrojo tizón) and Sardinian Warbler (curruca cabecinegra). I managed to find a group of distant Spoonbills (espátula europea). Gilly then saw an Eurasian Curlew (zarapito real) landing on the savannah to the right. There we also saw a small feeding group of Golden Plovers (chorlitos dorados). Also seen were Slender-billed Gull (gaviota picofina) and Mallard (azulón).
Crested Lark
An initial scan of the sea opposite the second hide only produced Black-headed (gaviota reidora) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (gaviota sombría). We made our way to the hide seeing Linnet (pardillo), Greenfinch (verderón)and Crested Lark (cogujada común). We added Little Egret (garceta común), Black-tailed Godwit (aguja colinegra), Cormorant (cormorán grande) and Shoveler (pato cuchara) from the hide and Kevin spotted some Dunlin (correlimos común), whilst Alan spotted Black-winged Stilt (cigüenuelas)and some distant Black-necked Grebes (zampullín cuellinegro). Gilly counted 505 Greater Flamingos (flamenco). Returning to the vehicles, Kevin sighted a Sandwich Tern (charrán patinegro).
As we got out of the cars at the public hide a Chiffchaff (mosquitero común) was seen. I saw a Corn Bunting (triguero) and Gilly was the first to see a Dartford Warbler (curruca rabilarga) shushing away a pair of Stonechats (tarabilla común). From the hide we added Avocets (avocetas), a raft of 60+ Black-necked Grebes (zampullín cuellinegro) and some 20 odd Spoonbills (espátulas), of which at least 4 appeared to have been ringed. John and some of the others checked out the shoreline to the right of the causeway. They saw Greenshank (archibebe claro), Sanderling (correlimos tridáctilo), Little Stint (correlimos menudo) and Dunlin (correlimos común). Shelduck (tarro blanco) were also seen.
We stopped at the Cabo village beach cafe for refreshments. We seawatched as we ate, seeing Turnstone scuttling along the shore, an Audouin's Gull and a mad woman out for a swim!
We convoyed along the beach-side track to Rambla Morales. A bird photographer was working the waders in the estuary mouth so we didn't disturb him. The lucky devil was within a few metres of Sanderling (correlimos tridáctilo), Dunlin (correlimos común), Ringed Plover (chorlitejo grande)and Black-winged Stilt (cigüeñuela). On the water, the level of which was back to normal levels since Alan and John's last visit, only had a few birds thereon and mostly round the reed edges. Coot (focha común), Moorhen (gallineta de agua), Mallard (azulón) and Shoveler (pato cuchara). I spotted a nice male Teal (cerceta común) and Kevin saw a couple of Little Grebes (zampullín chico) There were two immature Greater Flamingos(flamencos) and a pink tinged Slender-billed Gull (gaviota picofina). As Gilly, Steve and I were leaving we saw a probable Whimbrel (zarapito trinador) fly over. We also saw a flying Cattle Egret (garcilla bueyera) to make the total number of species seen today 49.
A good day's birding in good company. 


04 December: Fuente de Piedra

Although I had heard very negative reports, I had just finished some illustrations and maps for Chris Feare's forthcoming book on Sooty Terns, the result of 40 years of studies on the Seychelles and surrounding groups. I have had the privilege of proof reading the text and the whole book is a fascinating read, ranging from the scientific work and working and the logistics of getting to some of the more remote islands. It also deals with invasive species and there is quite a bit on changes over the four decades. It won't be out until next year and in the next day or so I shall be putting out a blog on possible books for Christmas presents for birders.
So, we met at Fuente so that I could hand over the maps and illustrations. The lake has little water, it's impossible to imagine any drier at the flashes on the left and right at the entry - well, there should be flashes if it rains but we're going to need an awful lot! 
As to birds, not a lot! In fact, very little. Around 200 Flamingos but no Lessers. Lots of finches buzzing around and some Skylarks, but not even a Southern Grey Shrike. As for raptors, one immature male Marsh Harrier, a male Kestrel and a single Common Buzzard. Jolly exciting stuff.
The best was the sighting and hearing of Cranes, something which always stirs the soul (yes, I do have one hidden somewhere). We found some 200+ Cranes when looking down from the observation post at La Lata, at the western end of the lake. It was a drop dead gorgeous morning and that compensated for the lack of birds.
Elsewhere in Andalucía, there have been reports of numerous Siskins and above normal numbers of Bramblings, the first Redwings and also a few Goldcrests. Two Yellow-browed Warblers are still hanging on in Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz) area. Big raptors are showing well on La Janda.


02 December : Sierra de María

Dave and Gilly are back from 7 weeks in the UK!! Welcome back! I would have thought that a visit to the UK in late October-November is more of a penance! However, each to his ownas the old woman said when she kissed the bull. Their first  visit - to the Sierra de María with the Arboleas group. 
Well done Gilly on spotting the Northern Starling (or even Spotty Starling) (estornino pinto). Most folks don't bother having a look to separate the two species and it is a much more common winter visitor than most realise, yet it is often overlooked. 
Gilly and  I returned from our seven week pre-Xmas break to the United Kingdom last week, so we were keen to get back to some sun, warmth and birdwatching. Going to María today could provide at least two of our requests, but maybe not the middle one! It was a little bit on the chilly side as we arrived at the Repsol Garage cafe on the outskirts of Maria town, our meeting up place. Altogether there were 15 members of the group on parade for this probably last visit before early spring time. We'd already spotted Black Redstart (colirrojo tizón), Stonechat (tarabilla) and Wood Pigeon (paloma torcaz)before we headed up to the chapel.
Crossbill (female)
We were greeted by two or three female Ibex, silhouetted against the sky as they wandered along the mountain ridge. From in front of the chapel we scanned over towards the water trough. We had views of Crossbill (piquituerto), a Cirl Bunting (escribano soteño),Chaffinch (pinzón vulgar), Great Tit (carbonero común) and Mistle Thrush (zorzal charlo). However by the time we had walked closer a patrolling cat had scattered all visible birdlife! A Robin (petirrojo) made a brief appearance before we headed up towards the Botanical Garden Information Centre.  A flight of three Woodlarks (totavías) flew over. A Jay (arrendajo)and a Blackbird (mirlo) were seen.
The majority of the group "did" the lower walk. We saw a small flock of Long-tailed Tits (mitos). Alan spotted a Blackcap (curruca capirotada) . Apart from a few high flying Wood Pigeons (paloma torcaz) and hearing the alarm calls of Blackbirds (mirlo) and Jays (arrendajo) that was about it unfortunately.
Rock Sparrows
Convoying towards the plains, we added a Magpie (urraca). At the farm buildings we saw a couple of Black Redstarts, a Stonechat and some Carrion Crows. On the field adjacent to the buildings I found a group of 6 Meadow Pipits (bisbita pratense).
We next stopped at the farmyard water trough. Here we did well, seeing small flocks of Rock Sparrows (gorrión chillón), Linnets (pardillo) and Goldfinches (jilgueros). I spotted a Corn Bunting (triguero). Jan was the first to spot the Hoopoe (abubilla). Also seen were Carrion Crow (corneja común), White Wagtail (lavandera blanca) and Crested Lark (cogujada común). Gilly thought she saw a Northern Starling (estornino pinto).
Little Owl
The cruise along the straight road of the plain only added a Little Owl (mochuelo). At the hamlet, just over the Granada border, we are pretty certain we had Thekla Lark (cogujada montesina) atop one of the buildings.
It was then back to the La Piza for lunch. The tree tops were alive with Crossbills (piquituertos) waiting to drink at the fuente or at the water deposit. A Great Tit (carbonero común) also visited.
The birding was not so brilliant, but we had a good day catching up and being out in the sunshine! A total of 30 bird species seen.


10 October : La Janda

Ok, I know this is late in getting out but what with preparing for work done in the apartment which has meant emptying wardrobe and drawers (how the devil does one accumulate so much?) and taking the car in for a service (a full morning out but very efficient at the Suzuki agency), plus proof reading a book for a friend (very time consuming and an interesting read as far as I've got) and learning of the death of another (not exactly the sort of thing that makes one do backward somesaults of joy), time has conspired against me so here goes with the account of last Saturday's trip down to La Janda.
First, it appears that the observatory at Cazalla (that's the one on your right just before heading down towards Tarifa) has been closed with heavy machinery in there.
Also, the road westwards from the mirador del Estrecho westwards has got worse and unless something very expensive is done to remedy incipient slips with drops of up to 2 cms in the road surface and the seaward side, I reckon that if there is heavy rain there could well be some major land slips which will make going down there a major task.  
I took the usual route: off the N-340 opposite the turn-off for Zahara de los Aunes, down to the drainage canal and alongside that before turning right over the bridge, up to the farm and past it, down to the track that runs southwards to eventually come out near Facinas. The harvesting of the cotton is still going on and the rice paddies are also being drained with the harvesting there also started. This meant that the American crayfish were coming off the drying paddies and for the first time my little dachshund met one, which had him rather bemused and fascinated.
Birding was good, with the White Storks (cigüeñas blancas) coming in and there were possibly as many as 1.500, although this is a very crude estimate, but few Glossy Ibises (moritos). At leasst 4 Green Sandpipers (andarríos grande) flushed out of the rice fields, but all that is jumping ahead somewhat as there was the usual male Stonechat (tarabilla común) awaitng me as I started off down the track.
However nice the Stonechat, I was really hoping for some halfway decent raptor watching and really did quite well, with no less than 13 species.
As expected, the most numerous was Marsh Harrier (aguilucho lagunero), with at least 10 females and juveniles and a couple of nice males, although as my counting was not particularly accurate that number is almost certainly on the low side. Along the canal bank track there were very good views of a Black-shouldered Kite (elanio común) which was using its incredible sight to spot what one must presume were voles, and at one point it parachuted down, wings held aloft but missed the target. Later, down the central track, another, less shy, bird gave good views.

 I had distant views of a distant subadult Bonelli's Eagle (aguila perdicera) and it was along there that I also saw two Hobbies (alcotán), one giving excellent views of this lovely, long winged falcon, as it shot southwards at high speed.
A very distant flock of Griffon Vultures (buitre leonado) was guesstimated at ca. 100 birds and later another group of 50 was briefly visible, these now starting to build up as the juveniles and some immatures start their annual migration and it will be quite possible to see biggish movements of these along the sierras if Andalucía, whilst almost certainly some, exhausted, will land in the most improbable places, often in villages and cities, occasionally on a motorway, and the police and/or guardia civil will be called out to remove it, a task I'm certain that many will not relish. A single juvenile Egyptian Vulture (alimoche) has been around La Janda for a while and it made a brief appearance to help boost the total.
Both species of Kestrel (cernicalo vulgar y cernicalo primilla) were seen and there were also several Common Buzzards (busardo), a pair of which hold a territory up at the NW corner. It was nice to see the first Hen Harrier (aguilucho pálido) (a juvenile) and later on, a superb male which really was the icing on the cake.
There was a southerly movement of Barn Swallows (golondrina común) all day, not massive numbers but a constant trickle and presumably feeding over the rice paddies as they went, and also a few Sand Martins (avión zapador). I must admit that I paid little attention to passerines but the white rumps of Northern Wheatears (collalba gris) are virtually unmissable and I saw at least 5, one of these very probably of the larger and more strongly coloured Greenland race, plus a flock of some 50 or so Yellow Wagtails (lavandera boyera) amongst the many flocks of sparrows and finches, including Linnets (pardillos).
However, the bird of the day was a distant, big, dark lump sitting in a field which I mentally marked down as a juv. Marsh Harrier (aguilucho lagunero), or until it took wing when it was definitely not a Marsh Harrier. It was too big by far, too broad in the wing with at least 6 primary 'fingers', a basically dark grey-brown with a new moon shaped, off-white, rump. It sat on an irrigation boom at around 400m range whilst I 'scoped it, pondered as to what it was, cursed the basic lack of any really outstanding features, and took a description over the next 20 minutes or so, during which time it took off and did a circle, thus revealing a dark underwing. Eventually it took off and vanished over the hillside. And I was still none the wiser as to what it was as I don't carry a field guide with me but did take two pages of field notes, although I was thinking in terms of adult Lesser Spotted Eagle (águila moteada), an age group I have never seen.
Later that afternoon, once home I consulted with the various guides, including Dick Forsman's, and discarded the adult Lesser Spotted in favour of adult Spotted Eagle (águila clanga) on the basis of darkness of plumage and what it didn't show. Time and the Spanish Rarities Committee will tell.


07 October: Las Norias and Roquetas

This blog contains a photo of cannibalism. At the end there is a set of dragonfly photos. Have a good trip to Blighty, Gilly and Dave.
The 25th March was our last visit to Las Norias, so it was about time we made a return visit! Gilly, Val and I met up with Colin, Sandra, Rod, Kevin and John at the service station off junction 420 on the E15/A7 for a coffee before heading to the first causeway. Viewing was hampered by the ever increasing vegetation.  
adult and juv. Great Crested Grebe
The commonest birds on the water were Great Crested Grebes (somormujo lavanco), some of whom had juveniles with them. Colin spotted some Teal (cerceta común). I was surprised that there were no Shoveler (pato cuchara)yet. John spotted some distant Little Terns (charrancitos)down the far end where Kev and Gilly made a Grey Heron (garza real) count. The greatest number was 47. A pair of Common Sandpipers (andarríos chicos) flew low over the water. Kevin wandered round the side of the pumping station where there's a small reed bed. He saw Reed Warbler (carricero común) and Willow Warbler (mosquitero musical) and Sardinian Warbler (curruca cabecinegra) and Chiffchaff (mosquitero común) were also seen. A Cetti's Warbler was heard. Bird life was much the same on the larger lake. I think we only added Cormorant (cormorán grande) and Black-necked Grebe (zampullín cuellinegro). Gilly took various photos of dragonflies.
Moving round to the next side of the large lake, the view was slightly better over the water, but vegetation obscured the view on the rocky point. There were a few Red-crested Pochard (pato colorado) and some Gadwall (anade friso). We headed to the second causeway. 
Blue-headed (flava) Yellow Wagtail
The meadow was dry but it did have quite a few Yellow iberiae Wagtails (lavandera boyera) feeding there. Gilly was the first to spot the Night Herons (martinete común). There were about ten, some juveniles, perched on the far side of the smaller pool. A couple of Little Egrets (garceta común) were seen. Ducks included Mallard (azulón) and Common Pochard (porrón común). Apart from the odd Barn Swallow (golondrina común) flying over we also added Sand Martin (avión zapador), Magpie (urraca), Cattle Egret (garcilla bueyera) and Green Sandpiper (andarríos grande).
We then convoyed, via a cafe, to Roquetas, stopping at the end of a causeway which crossed the salina. The water level was very low, so numerous small waders were attracted. We saw  Little Stint (correlimos menudo), Dunlin (correlimos común), Ringed (chorlitejo grande) and Kentish Plover (chorlietjo patinegro). Kevin spotted a Spotted Redshank (archibebe oscuro)and later a flight of 7 of these flew off. I spotted a distant raptor, which luckily flew closer to us. After much discussion it was agreed it was a dark morph Booted Eagle (aguila calzada). Also seen were Greater Flamingo (flamenco común), Yellow-legged (gaviota patiamarilla) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (gaviota sombría).
We ended up with 40 species. Slightly disappointed if I'm honest, but it was good to be birding in great company.
Gilly and I are now away to the UK for two months. Rod and Linda are in charge.