Birds in the houses of the king

Actually, not in the houses but the palaces, and not of the King of Spain, but in the palaces of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and of Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, both in that well known centre of corruption that is Marbella. The birding was accidental while Samuel Peregrina was supposed to be working, but given the list, there is a widely voiced suspicion that more birding was done than the work that he was contracted to do.

The list of birds was good with 41 spp. (see what I mean about birding or working?) with no less than 5 spp. of birds of prey including Hobby and Common Buzzard, 4 spp. of tits, and a large colony of House Martins under the eaves. It was while he was watching these that Samu saw Little Swifts A. affinis entering these, with a maximum seen of 3 birds, which naturally made him think of at least 2 pairs, making an interesting extension of breeding.

Samu's report and spp. list (in Spanish, of course, and not in list order) was published in avesforum and is reproduced below.
Aguila Calzada, Ratonero Común, Gavilan, Cernicalo Vulgar, Alcotán, Perdiz Roja, Paloma Torcaz, Tortola Común, Arrendajo, Cuervo, Trepador Azul, Reyezuelo Listado, Herrerillo Capuchino, Herrerillo Común, Carbonero Común, Carbonero Garrapinos, Mirlo, Petirrojo, Lavandera Blanca, Lavandera Cascadeña, Vencejo Moro, Golondrina Daurica, Golondrina Común, Avión Común, Avion Roquero, Ruiseñor comun, Curruca Capirotada, Curruca Cabecinegra, Agateador Común, Oropendola, Pico pPicapinos, Pito Real, Papamoscas Gris, Gorrion Común, Estornino Negro, Pinzon Vulgar, Verderon Común, Verdecillo, Jilguero, Escribano Soteño, Chochín


Arboleas Bird Group, Almería

25 June Today the Arboleas Bird Group visited the Rio
Almanzora. Ever since the deluge a couple of years ago when the torrents of water removed all the reeds and deposited them out to sea, there has been very little birdlife in the pool near the beach. Today we did manage to see a very late Whimbrel there.

Travelling up the Rambla towards Cuevas de Almanzora, there was only a small amount of water near the desalination plant, hence only a few Black Winged Stilt and Kentish Plover. We then visited the Desert Springs Golf Complex, where in their 'gravel' pit we heard and managed to see a Great Reed Warbler. We were then graced by the presence of a single Whiskered Tern. Also had Roller and Serin.

(Thanks Dave & Gilly Elliott-Binns, the photos are Dave's)



The Andalucía Bird Society is a newly formed group, pan-Andalucían in scope, which is basically for the resident foreign birder and visitor whose knowledge of and fluency in Spanish is not of the best. It should be emphasised that the society aims to cooperate with and work within the framework of Spanish birding, not as a separate and independent entity, but one which simply draws together the non-Spanish birder, hopefully into cooperative projects, with local Spanish birders (who often suffer the same language problem with regard to English).

Of course the new group also welcomes Spanish birders and all other nationals!

At the present, the Society has two sites worth visiting, even though the first is still in the process of construction, which outline the aims of the society and have the first postings.

Contact can be made with Peter Jones at abcandalusia AT gmail.com


Swifts with white rumps

This blog isn't about what has been seen, but rather about the two small swifts with white rumps, both smaller than Common or Pallid Swifts and both very black, which one can see in southern Spain. Both are remarkably easy to separate once one has had a good view.

First colonisation by the White-rumped Swift Apus caffer dates was from the late 1960s and took place in the Sierra de Retín (Cadiz), just up beyond Bolonia. It has increased steadily over the years and regularly breeds as far north as Monfragüe (Extremadura).

This swift has a notably long tail, often looking pointed (I have never seen one flared, I think) and the rump is small and sickle-shaped, as can be seen clearly from the photo on the right.

The Little Swift Apus affinis is still very scarce, in spite of being common just across the water as near as Tangiers. Colonisation started in the late 1990s and the species has only broken out from its first known breeding site at Bolonia in the past 3 or4 years, there being a small colony further north at a site on the coast and recent reports show apparent colonisation of the Sierra Norte of Sevilla province. These swifts stay until December and may even over winter in the region of the mouth of the Guadalquivir as there have been reports as early as February.

Identification shows a a short, chopped off, square tail and the white rump is larger in area and squarer, even though this photo makes it appear rounded because of angle.

These photos were taken on 12 June in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla by Fernando del Valle, to whom I am most grateful for his permission to use them.


19 June, Arboleas Bird Group, Almería,

The following has received from Gilly & Dave Elliott-Binns, for which many thanks. The photo of the unidentified Little Brown Job is Dave's and is believed to be a juv. Woodlark.

Today the Arboleas Birding Group visited the Observatory between Tijola and Gergal (Almería) at an altitude of 6,800ft. The temperature was a lovely 19c, but felt somewhat cooler due to wind chill. On the way up near to Bacares we stopped at a disused mine where there's a 100ft sandstone cliff face. Here numerous Crag Martins and Rock Sparrows nesting. We were very pleased and surprised to find that there were also two pairs of Alpine Swifts nesting. Up on the higher levels near the observatory, we saw Tawny Pipit, Rock Thrush, Northern Wheatear and Skylark.


Guadalhorce this last week

As we are now in slack season, plus the heat has arrived, so the news is rather thin. Although the birding is rather thin as the majority of migrants have departed for points north, every now and again something unusual turns up.

On Tuesday afternoon (10 June), Antonio Toro, one of our Sunday regulars, logged 108 Audouin's Gulls, not unusual at this time of year but still nice to see, and also 3 Slender-billed Gulls.

On Thursday 12 June, he and Angel García, a digiscoper, had the luck to see 6 Black-tailed Godwits, one in superb breeding plumage according to Antonio, and even luckier, 2 Curlews, these distinctly rare!

Today, Sunday 16 June, I was down there early, just after 08h along with Federico and gradually the numbers swelled, so although there were few birds to see, apart form hordes of juv. Stilts and some little fluff balls of Kentish Plovers, we saw 2 Redshanks, a single Sanderling and 3 Ringed Plovers and 3 small White-headed Ducklings paddled across one of the ponds.
At a personal level, I had two mammal 'firsts' for the Guadalhorce ponds, a weasel and - shades of Wind in the Willows -a water rat, Paco Villalobos seeing another water rat on a different pond.

Federico and I came off as the heat was starting to strike at 11h, both having enjoyed the company of others with plenty of talk, and a comparative telescope session. The Minox 62ED with 30xW that Paco has gives fantastic definition and he prefers it to his Swarovski for portability and by consensus is certainly as good as and possibly better than the Swarovskis and Zeiss zooms - and it is a lot lighter than both of these makes. We would all like to know if anyone has experience of the Minox MD-50 (only having a 15-30x is against it, I believe) and the new mini Nikon 50.


11 June, Arboleas Bird Group, Sierra María, Almería

The following is copied directly from Dave & Gilly's e-mail, for which many thanks, and the photo of the male Subalpine Warbler is Dave's.

Today the group went back to Sierra de Maria. Very pleasant day, sun with clouds with a light breeze. Saw at least 6 Booted Eagles, one apparently at a nest site down the far end near the plain. Also had a Short Toed Eagle and a small number of Griffons. Round the Botanical Gardens there were numerous Melodious & Subalpine Warblers. Down on the plain, the large numbers of Calandra Lark which we saw on our last visit had gone to ground, but did see a pair of Short Toed Lark. Lots of Rock Sparrow round derelict farm buildings.


Sunday at the Guadalhorce

Sunday, another meeting of the faithful but with the start of the summer sun beating down on us. All was much the same as it has been most days recently, some 10 spp.of waders with the 2 Knot and singles of Bar-tailed Godwit and Redshank, a pair of Turnstone - the first this week, and all the other normal waders, plus a few Slender-billed and Audouin's Gulls. We enjoyed a pair of Moorhens with 6 little black fluff balls with their red heads showing through the thin down, one of which may not survive too long if it doesn't stop pushing off on its own! There appear to be 2 Ospreys around, we saw one today which was very different from the one seen other days recently.
Summer is knocking at the door, and it will have to be early in and early out or boil to death from now on.


Black-headed Wagtail (feldegg) at the Guadalhorce

Black-headed Wagtail (M.f. feldegg) at Guadalhorce Late breaking news of a male (females are, of course, inseparable) late yesterday evening (Friday) by Israel Lozano (in naturand). This race is a rarity and as such descriptions should be sent to the Rarities Committee (Comité de Rarezas), and there is a link to the latest rarities list in Ricard Gutiérrez's excellent www.rarebirdspain.net site. Descriptions can be sent in English, as is Ricard's site.


6 June at Guadalhorce

I think that I can safely say that birding is addictive after going on for 58 years watching our little (and not so little) feathered friends and when someone, Federico in this case, rings and asks me if I fancy a turn around the ponds at the mouth of the Río Guadalhorce I find it exceedingly difficult to say no. And so this morning we met at just after 9 and had a very pleasant and remarkably satisfactory three hours along with a couple of lads whose names I can never remember (they're not birds, are they?).
Yes, there are still a few waders, 8 Dunlin for example, the singles of Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, a few Sanderling, including one bird still in winter plumage with apparently less than a quarter of its median coverts still present and those in a parlous state. There were at least 8 Slender-billed Gulls but they do not want their colour rings to be read and steadfastly sit on them or swim, while the Audouin's are very cooperative and very smart.
The Osprey came in with its breakast, which is pretty normal, and I managed to locate the big female Peregrine that I've mentioned before and which none of the others had seen. They were suitably impressed with her size. She sits a long way off and with the heat haze viewing could be better, but I rather think that she must be an immature of one of the northern races and even by those standards she is BIG. Federico has christened her La Maciza, which is a Spanish equivalent of a buxom wench!
And I've more or less promised to go on Sunday and meet the others of the Sunday prayer group - Dear Lord, please send us some decent birds to watch! Life is so hard.


1. Arboleas bird group, Almería (2) Guadalhorce ponds this afternoon

(1) Arboleas Bird Group Last evening (4 June) the group made its annual pilgramage to the Beach area, a mile or two southwest of the Almanzora estuary in search of Red Necked Nightjar. Over the last few years the scrubland at the rear of the Repsol Garage, Palomares has been scrapped back and has been used recently for Motocross, so our expectations weren't that high! At first we saw a pair of Stone Curlew, then at about 2140 hrs two Red Necked Nightjars flew passed into the pine and eucalyptus wood behind us. A successful night considering the obstacles man places before breeding birds. Will this be their last year there? (Dave & Gilly Elliott-Binns)

(2) Guadalhorce ponds this afternoon I don't often go down to the ponds in the afternoon, too hot, too much heat haze, too lazyafter lunch! But this afternoon, I made an exception as a friend was down from Madrid and surprisingly we didn't do too badly for waders and the heat didn't kill us, thanks to a sea breeze although the shimmer was bad and made telescope use difficult. The breeding plumaged Knot (2) and Bar-tailed Godwit (2) were still present as were some 8 Dunlin and a similar number of Sanderling and Ringed Plover. Of the 8 Redshank, a tight group of 6 were very nervous and noisy and I wouldn't be in the least surprised if they are on their way north as I write this at dusk. The birds of the afternoon were undoubtedly a pair of Curlew which took off northwards bound whilst we were watching.
There were several Audouin's Gulls and 5 Slender-billed, plus about 10 Gull-billed Terns - a result these of the drying out of Fuente de Piedra? The Osprey tried to fish over the sea, unusual here but I used to see it all the time when I lived in the Bahamas, but a Yellow-legged Gull spoilt its fishing.


1 June at the Guadalhorce

A bit late this posting on yesterday morning's visit to the ponds where there was still a certain amount of things to see. Last week I mentioned the quantity of young plovers and Stilts and there are even more now!

A quick look at the highly conspicuous nest of a Little Ringed Plover showed the presence of 3 eggs and a very recently hatched chick, so recent that it was still damp and bedraggled. Patricia's photo (on right) shows what the little thing looked like, distinctly unappealing when one compares it with what it would be within a few hours, as
Antonio Toro's photo below, taken last week, of a dry, young Kentish Plover of less than a day old shows the downy cryptic plumage beautifully.

Otherwise, there were still some migrant waders around, including a couple of hormonally super-charged male Redshanks who were busily engaged in beating the living daylights out of each other. Apart from those and the resident breeders, there were still some 15 Dunlin and at least 7 Ringed Plover, a couple of Curlew Sandpiper and a single Knot, many of these still with considerable distances to go if they are going to breed.

The Dutch colour-ringed Spoonbill, which had been absent for a couple of weeks or more, was once more present, as was an immature Sacred Ibis, a bird which we don't want to see, given their predatory behaviour. Shoveler have bred and there were 2 males present.