Arctic Warbler at Laguna de Medina; Sunday morning at the Guadalhorce

Arctic Warbler at the laguna de Medina, Cádiz province
I received a message from Martin Hellin in Finland late afternoon to say that some Finnish birders had been watching an Arctic Warbler a few minutes before.

Sunday morning at the Guadalhorce
The below is from Patricia, to whom I am most grateful for her report and making me envious, who circulated it to members of our Sunday morning group - the domingueros - who were conspicuous by our absence!

What a morning you lost! Ater so long without getting out to watch birds I had to go to the Guadalhorce this morning. First I went to point where we used to go in before crossing the sandbar to see what the state of things was and saw two people crossing the beach to go in.

So, I went in my car to the school, went in by the new bridge and directly to the big pond (Laguna Grande) where I met up with Javier y África who had just seen a Squacco Heron. A Booted Eagle there all the morning. The Osprey flew all over the place searching for clean water to fish as the sea was the colour of mud and river as always these days. Later there was a Marsh Harrier. Also while we were there, there was a Kestrel hunting behind us. There were some 50 Little Grebes together, a single Black-necked Grebe, Common Teal everywhere, 3 Cormorants.... a juv. Flamingo, a few gulls - Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed, Audouin's, a lot of Grey Herons and Little Egrets.

At the laguna Escondida there were plenty of Pochards, Little Grebes, White-headed Duck, Coot, Moorhen and a single Kingfisher. With the wind (it was an easterly, known here as a levante) water was being blown into the observatory and we all got wet backs. At Casilla observatory there was nothing to be seen except a beautiful Kingfisher which sat for us.

At the next observatory there was a lot to be seen. A beautiful juv. Ruff, Dunlin, Little Stints, Curlew Sands., Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank, Avocet and Stilts. There were more Teal, Little Tern, gulls, House Martins, Sardinian Warblers, Serins and Starlings.

At times the light was poor and we couldn't see well, but at others it was excellent. It was a great morning which I thoroughly enjoyed and when I looked at my watch for the first time it was one pm..

And it is still raining! Hurray!!! Only 1 juv. Willow Warbler and a Pied Fly. in the garden today.


My garden in the rain

Those who know me know of the quantity, and in some few cases the quality, of species (about 108) which I have seen from my terrace as fly-bys, fly-overs or quite simply in the garden. The best time for species in the garden is obviously in the migration season and especially when there is low cloud, with or without rain. So, these past few days when we have all the conditions it has been pretty good. There have been Pied Flycatchers on three occasions since Wednesday, and also migrant Willow Warblers - all juvs. and some so brightly coloured that today that my wife called that she had see a canary!

This afternoon was undoubtedly the best, with the two species previously named, 2 being Willow Warblers and a single Pied Fly., plus a juv. Spectacled Warbler and a juv. Subalpine Warbler. Not bad for an urban garden, and some little consolation for being confined to barracks with this rubbish right knee!

At least I have made up my mind to get on with the seabird guide that has been sitting in a state of more or less suspended animation for far too long.

Guadalhorce ponds, 26 September

I am stuck at home with severe tendonitis in my right knee and on the point of starting to suffer withdrawal symptoms (what shall I do without going to the ponds on a Sunday morning?). However, Steve Penn and his nephew went down there yesterday morning and didn't get rained upon.

We had a smashing morning's birding, with it being overcast the light was perfect and we saw some lovely birds, great close ups and scoped veiws of Whinchat and Booted Eagles, 3 Sparrowhawks, 2 Marsh Harriers, 1 Squacco Heron, Willow Warblers, loads of Fan-tailed Warblers and many more. Wader-wise not too much, 3 Knot, 1 Redshank, 1 Greenshank, 4 Curlew Sands, Turnstone, LRPs, Sanderling, 1 Avocet - best days birding since I was there with you in the spring. (--) It was a shame that you couldn't have been with us (my sentiments too!) but it was a last minute decision to go as they´d predicted rain for the next few days and we weren't sure whether to go or not , but I'm mighty glad we did.


21 September, Guadalhorce ponds

An enjoyably wet morning all over the coast and inland today, 23 September, even though my dog doesn't like rain, and a Pied Flycatcher in my garden in Torremolinos during the morning.

Take a look at Bob Wright's blog http://birdinginaxarquia.blogspot.com/ on his visit to the Guadalhorce this last Sunday, 21 September.


19 September, Arboleas Bird Group and a cautionary tale

Dave and Gilly Elliott-Binns have sent the below. The birding was pretty good and through this blog two Spanish birders have joined the Arboleas Bird Group, which is ¡jolly good news as I am certain that all involved profit. However, what ended their day was very much less than pleasant and should be treated as a warning.

I have been robbed three times in my time here, once from the car and twice directly, the last at least 17 years ago, but the experience is not nice. I was advised to give them all rather than end up with extra orifices in the body. If anything similar happens to any of you, dear readers, please get straight on to the Guardia Civil and let them handle it. Their emergency number is 062.

Dear Andy and members of the Group,
The journey down to Las Norias didn't look to hopeful with quite a lot of rain, but by the time we'd had a cup of coffee and met up with one of our new Spanish birders, Juanjo, we, Norman, Gilly, Jenny and myself went down to our first stop, which is the causeway at the other end from the plastics factory. Lots of Yellow Wagtails around. A good view of a Purple Gallinule. We then moved round to the heronry stop-off. Juanjo had heard but never seen a Great Reed Warbler. I spotted one in an isolated area of reed/scrub whilst having a stroll a few metres down the road. We managed to get Juanjo a quick view of it with the use of my MP3 player. Yes, cheating I know! He also got another lifer there, a Whinchat. There were also 4 late Collared Pratincoles and maybe the last of the Pallid Swifts.
We then moved round to the causeway near to the factory, where we chanced upon a birder called Les from Turre. We told him about the group and that he had other birders living in his home town. From there we saw Marbled Teal, Squacco and Night Heron and Little Bittern. As we were waiting for the second Spanish birder, Juan, to meet up with us, we strolled down a track. We were surprised to see a small flock of a dozen or so Northern Starlings fly over, we usually see them only in winter.

Then we walked back to the locked and secured cars, or so we thought. Somehow, my car had been entered. The box containing my camera, lens's and MP3 player had gone together with Jenny's Mobile and a rucksack of Normans containing his bird book and glasses. How they got into the rear of my truck I'll never know. Juan and Juanjo got onto the Guardia Civil. Thank god they were with us. Gilly phoned to Jens' mobile and got a short reply. About 5 minutes later "they" phoned and said for €700 we could have the stuff back.

Well, to cut a long story short, which involved lots of phone calls, undercover Guardia Civil, guns being fired, foot chases, me being thumped, and the two offenders being lost by the Guardia. However there is very slight hope of some sort of recovery. Jens' mobile was recovered from the vehicle the Guardia stopped. They believe they know at least one of the thieves, and plans are afoot for arrests. They (los bastardos) had no intention of returning the stuff if I handed over money and the Guardia Civil said that they were going to rob me and run. I was okay at the time, but now reality's hit me of what could have happened. Things can be replaced. We then spent 4 hours at police station making statements. Juan, his wife Maria, and Juanjo were wonderful.

More on erythristic Little Ringed Plovers

Joan Carles Fernández Ordoñez, who was with me the day that we saw the two Little Ringed Plovers with the reddish erythristic plumage (see entry and photos on 24 August, as well as Mike Clarke's comment) has sent me a photo he took and the comment that he thinks that perhaps the colouring is due to bathing in the same muddy water.

I do not agree with JC because the birds were identically coloured and think that the odds on two bathing and getting identically stained are very small. However, here is his photo of one of the birds.

Dave Elliott-Binns, Almería

Having been away since 10 September, I'm now back from Madeira (great sea-birding, I may tell more at some point but it's hardly on the coast) and then going virtually straight on to the first Tarifa Bird Fair (more about that also in the next day or so), and having waded through the first 500 e-mails (seems like it and there's an equal quantity of spam!) I shall publish the first from Dave Elliott-Binns about his excursion on 11 September, the photo is Dave's of course, and tomorrow a second and rather cautionary report from him.

Hi Andy & fellow members,
Having seen the weather forecast - thunderstorms coming from Morocco - Norman and I weren't too optimistic about a good birding day at Cabo de Gata. It rained on the journey down and then the heavens opened as we ate a tostada breakfast a few miles from the reserve. Luckily Cabo de Gata is pretty well endowed with observation hides, so we only got slightly wet getting undercover at the first hide. It was only spotty rain now, but there was thunder and lightening all around us.
Lots of waders seen from here: 5
Oystercatchers, hundreds of Black Tailed Godwits and the usual compilation of smaller plovers, Dunlin and Stints. There was a huge flock of Avocets, probably over 100, feeding in close, organised formation feeding on a shoal of shrimps, presumably, the peripherals being dive bombed by Little and Black Terns. Huge panic ensued as a male Marsh Harrier flew over. We picked up Curlew and our first of a few Northern Wheatears at the next hide and a pair of Black-necked Grebes at the public hide. After a coffee break, we ventured round the rear of the reserve. Even though the rain had now stopped and clear skies were approaching from the south-west, the track was very sticky and the 4x4 was needed. Half a dozen Stone Curlews were on the scrubland. How is it they're not fazed by a 2.5 diesel engine, but fly off in panic at the minimal sound of a digital camera being switched on?
Then everything became very interesting. Two female
passed by, closely followed by Montagu's HarriersCommon & Alpine Swifts. Chiffchaffs and Spectacled Warblers were playing in the bushes. A Honey Buzzard and Black Kite drifted south, followed by a female Marsh Harrier. We carried on down the track towards Pujaire and saw a Booted Eagle being harrassed by a pair of Kestrels. Just before we reached the end, a late Black-eared Wheatear was seen and close by a Tawny Pipit, and overhead a very dark phase Booted Eagle. We ended up with 57 species. The most difficult birds to find were House Sparrow and White Wagtail!


TARIFA BIRD FAIR, 18-21 September

Take a look at the website:



various, including the Guadalhorce today

It's been an odd (ie. peculiar) week and I didn't even get anything written about the Guadalhorce last Sunday, so here goes.

Last week I had a good bellyache about the lack of raptors at Tarifa-La Janda on Saturday, and it didn't help me to hear later that the same day I should have been in the Algarrobo-Gib. area where they recorded 26.000 (more or less) Honey Buzzards moving southwards - honest, that figure is correct. You win some, you lose some.

Last Sunday, 31 August at the Guadalhorce there was the usual selection of waders, the outstandingly plumaged Grey Plover was still present, as were a few Curlew Sands and one or two others. As often walk my dog down by the river in late afternoon, I have been able to watch 4-5 juv. Little Terns that have been present every afternoon and Friday there were at least 24 Black Terns present also.

And after the erythristic Little Ringed Plovers, a leucistic Barn Swallow was feeding over the river on Friday afternoon. Andrés Serrano and myself saw one close by many years ago, an interesting basically mid beige colour with darker throat and white underparts, and I do know the difference between a Barn Swallow and a Sand Martin, of which there have also been a few this week.

This morning, Sunday, 7 September, at the Guadalhorce there were very few waders, incredibly few considering but there was large-scale compensation as we had a nice straggling flock of at least 600-700 Honey Buzzards move across E-W with at least 7 Black Kites and a single Booted Eagle.
At about 10.10 I rang Blas and Paco at the Mirador del Aguila to the NW of Fuengirola (it's in the new book) to warn them and the first ones appeared there about 40 minutes later. Updates on this movement by Blas gave that they had censused c.700 Honey Buzzards moving W by 11.25 and no less than c.2.000 had flown W by 1315! That's what I calla big movement. They are turning up some good raptors there and it's a site that's well worth a visit if you are in the area.
I later checked with Bob Wright who lives near the Viñuela Reservoir, more or less NE inland from Málaga and he had seen no Honey Buzzards this morning, although he had seen the first 6 Griffon Vultures moving W late yesterday. These are late migrants which will continue moving W into November, with the biggest movements in the second half of October.

It's just as well the raptors appeared today at the Guadalhorce because there was very little else to watch and it was some compensation for last Saturday's cop-out in the Strait. We have never seen so many raptors before at the ponds as they overfly between the sierras to the east and behind Málaga to those west of the airfield. I bet the control tower was watching them carefully as they overflew the airfield and there was a marked lack of air traffic.

My friend Teo, a great photographer, has put together a bundle of his photos of the Black Storks that have wintered in the province these can be seen at his blog at www.surfbirds.com/blog/andalucianature

I shall be away with the wife on Madeira for a week as of this coming Wednesday, 10 September, until 17 September, so there will be no postings for about two weeks. I hope to see some good seabirds, especially the Fea's and Zino's Petrels as we have two day trips booked to the Desertas Islands from Funchal.