26 February, Arboleas Birding Group

Day Trip, Thursday 26th February

Today 12 members of the Arboleas Birding Group visited our very local patch of the
Rio Almanzora. Weather was fine and sunny. Out to sea, near the tuna farms were 10 Gannet, and quartering over the reeds was our first Red-rumped Swallow of the year. That was the good news. The not so good news was that the works for the Cuevas de Almanzora was continuing adjacent to the beach. Cormorant, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebe were fishing close by. On the pool near to the beach there were a few Audouin's Gulls, but further along towards Villaricos on the rocky outcrops, Gilly counted 181 more. 6 Sandwich Terns were also present. We then tried to drive up the lanes either side of the rambla towards Cuevas de Almanzora. Both sides were blocked by workings.
Worse was to come. We managed to cross the rambla by
the "ford" further north. Where all those lovely wader rich pools were is no more. All of them have been scraped and flattened. On one surviving pool we saw a pair of Black-winged Stilt.
With heavy hearts we carried on to the Desert Springs Golf Complex, where we've kindly
been given permission to birdwatch. Over the large pond we saw Crag, House and Sand Martins, the last two being firsts for the year. Whilst having a refreshing cup of coffee outside by the bar a Little Egret was fishing nearby (photo attached. 40 species for the day.....so it wasn't that bad!!

Dave & Gilly


18 February, Arboleas Birding Group

The following received gratefully and published in haste:

On Wednesday 18th February 2009 five members of the Arboleas Birding Group visited
the Embalse de Negratin, near Baza. A chilly crosswind on the top of the dam, but otherwise
a sunny day. Typically the open water on the reservoir produced only a couple of Great
Crested Grebe, five Cormorant and a single Yellow-legged Gull.
Below the dam, where it was considerably warmer we were greeted by a pair of Raven and
a Great Spotted Cuckoo. At least 30 Redwing were still present, but the previously numerous Blackcap had apparently departed. Two Grey Wagtail and a solitary Green Sandpiper were feeding at the water's edge of the brook.
The final birds of the day were 4 Griffon Vulture near to the quarry on the way back to Zujar. A 28 species count in all, so a satisfactory day.

Dave & Gilly


lots of good gulls!

Ever since the big storm clobbered northern Spain nearly four weeks ago, the lucky folks in northern Spain have been inundated with rare gulls, basically Iceland and Glaucous, these both beating all previous numerical records, as well as thousands of Kittiwakes, some being blown across from Biscay to Cataluña and with many being found dead in the lower Pyrenées.
Here in the south, we felt that we would see little of these, in spite of the large numbers of Kittiwakes which entered the Strait of Gibraltar. There have been plenty of records of Kitts. along the coast and in harbours and Paco Ríos has seen plenty off Calaburras and there have been sightings in Fuengirola harbour.

Above left: adult winter Kittiwake (behind) and 1st winter Mediterranean Gull, of which there must have been a couple of hundred in the La Caleta harbour.
So, when reports came in a couple of days since of a 1st winter Iceland Gull in the harbour at Caleta de Vélez, east of Málaga, there was a general excitement amongst local birders and then one of a Ring-billed Gull too (right, by Ángel), as well as up to 40 Kittiwakes around the harbour.
I had already seen a 1st winter Ring-billed at Tarifa last Friday, as well as a very nice Caspian Tern.
But, being just as prone as anyone else to seeing a really good gull - my last Iceland Gull was seen probably about 30 years since! - on Tuesday afternoon Angel García and myself went off to la Caleta de Vélez, he to photo and twitch (he got two new species).

We saw the Iceland Gull, a stunning bird, as the photos here show, and at least one and probably two 1st winter Ring-billeds. Photos of the Iceland by Angel (L) and myself (R).

PS: Today, Wednesday, a 2nd winter Laughing Gull was seen!!!!


lots 'n' lots of birdy stuff (oldest at bottom!)

I think that you will agree the title to this blog is appropriate and it starts with this last Thursday down at Tarifa, which will be at the bottom/end (OK, I know I should have written this before but I have been busy) and the whole lot may be somewhat telegraphic - so here goes!! But first, today through a stupid lapse of my own, I now have no camera (nor wallet with all that one carries therein, or rucksack and waterproof)and therefore no shots to enhance this chronicle, apart from those donated, so you will just have to imagine my incredibly beautiful photos of the adult Caspian Tern at Tarifa and Griffon Vulture at Bolonia.

Sunday, 15 February; Guadalhorce: Back again, my wife says it's my second home. This time with a additions to the domingueros with Mario Vargas and his wife Paqui and their son, Alberto, along with Federico, Patricia and Antonio Toro, plus meeting up with Antonio Miguel who was on duty and Sandra arrived late. As detailed above, things went wrong for me but that was towards the end of the morning. Up to that point it was not bad. Lots of Barn Swallows, at one point a large flock of some 200+ came in, there being at least another 40 plus around,
stayed around a few minutes and pushed off - birds with a mission, with House Martins but no Sand Martins also present. The male Garganey was visibly present on the big pond, a cracking little bird, and we saw only 4 Teal today, are they leaving? A single Common Sandpiper represented the best of the 3 wader spp. seen, the others being 2 Sanderling and 1 Kentish Plover. A seawatchpf about 30minutes showed a small easterly movement of Med. Gulls - it's that time of year - and 6 Bonxies (Great Skuas for the uninitiated, Bonxie is the Shetland name widely used by seabirders) and a few adult Gannets ploughing westwards to the Strait of Gibraltar.

Sunday, 15 February, harbour at La Caleta de Vélez: Gonzalo Lage, Kirri and Antonio García saw a 1W Iceland Gull! Plus c.30 Kittiwakes and 2 Common Terns, while yesterday, Kirri and Antonio saw 4 Black terns - this is getting ridiculous!

Friday, 13 February, Guadalhorce: Back to the mundane with Federico where we later met up with Antonio Miguel and Kirri and a very pleasant walk around the ponds, not that there is much in the way of waders to lighten the eye (as far as I am concerned) as the water levels are far too high. Nevertheless, the morning was warm after a while and there were some Swallows and House Martins around. A persil-white Mute Swan - where that had come from, heaven knows! - flapped its way majestically across and disappeared towards the river. It was nice to see 2 Kentish Plovers the male with its little ginnger cap, and 3 Penduline Tits gave quite decent views.

Birds of prey were reasonably well represented as usual in recent weeks, the Osprey (it is the only one in the province!), a Buzzard, a Booted Eagle (far fewer this winter), a Peregrine (one fell into a tall chimney this week in Málaga - stupid bird!) and two or three Marsh Harriers and one of the ubiquitous Kestrels - 6 spp, not bad!

Thursday, 12 February, Tarifa and La Janda: Down to Tarifa and early (0850) to the hide on the Los Lances beach opposite the gasolinera. About 150 Audouin's Gulls on the beach, a nice 1st winter Ring-billed Gull (which had apparently been around for a couple of weeks) and a smashing adult Caspian Tern, which showed off and ploughed forth left to right and back again several times before settling down on the beach right in front of me. Not a bad start, so off for coffee and a tostada at San José del Valle where I was to meet up with Steven Daly of AndalucíanGuides with a couple of clients who has also kindly allowed me to show a couple of his photos here.
After a much needed coffee, we went up to Bolonia, seeing the Great Spotted Cuckoo which insisted on playing peek-a-boo as can be seen and making life difficult for Steve to photograph this most attractive cuckoo. There are no prizes for finding it in the photo on the left.
From there we went on up to the cliff face where both the rare swifts are in the summer months. The one on the right here shows one of the five Black Kites we saw with a Griffon Vulture - there were more around - and we also saw a single Red Kite, whilst I learnt later from Javi Elorriaga that an Egyptian Vulture had been seen.
It was now time to head down to La Janda, an extremely soggy one after recent rains, and only the canal track going in opposite the run off to Zahara and the northern lateral one from the N-340 across to Benalup are negotiable, the central track is an unspeakable quagmire in places where a caterpillar transport or a small hovercraft would appear to be the only options. But nevertheless there were birds to be seen, although not necessarily in the order given here.
One of the first and possibly the best of the day was a beautiful male Hen Harrier, although it could have cooperated and White Storks there were, of course, including one whose colour ring, a rather decrepit and aged one, could be read and a single Black Stork, always a good bird to see.
There were only 4 Cranes seen, a very poor number at a time when there are normally several hundred moving N from Morocco. A single Great White Egret (I am old fashioned), call 'em Great White Herons if you so desire, was present and a single Green Sandpiper flew along the canal, a raher poor showing for waders up to that point with Steven as we parted to the bridge over the canal and I went off towards Benalup, although I might as well have saved the diesel as there was little except 2 Purple Boghens at the little pond at the top of the central track. From there it was time turn around and head off for the N-340, stopping to watch some 50 rather disconsolate looking Lapwings standing hunched up on the mud while 4 Greenshanks, rather nervous ones, on the way, and thence home.


11 February, Cabo de Gata, Arboleas Birding Group

Yet another most welcome report of the doings of the Arboleas Birding Group from Almería which Dave and Gilly have kindly sent. The photo is Gilly's too.

Today 7 members of the Group returned to our favourite local patch, the reserve at Cabo de Gata. We had lovely sunny weather with no wind. At the first hide just after the village of Pujaire we were greeted by a White Stork within 20 yds of us. It caught us all off guard as optics were not ready! As usual the sun was shining against us so identification of the smaller distant waders was difficult. We did however tick off Redshank, Oystercatcher, Shelduck and numerous Slender-billed Gulls.
When we arrived at the second hide opposite the beach we were pleased to observe the sea was as flat as a tack. A flotilla of fishing boats in the distance had hundreds of gulls interested in their scraps. At the hide 5 Curlew flew by. 3 Stone Curlew were sunning themselves on the scrubland and Gilly counted 148 Greater Flamingo. As we returned to the vehicles by the beach a flock of
30+ Mediterranean (= Balearic) Shearwaters flew past quite close in.
At the public hide there were 100's of waders: Dunlin, Avocet, Little Stint, Greenshank, Sanderling, Grey Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit and the best of the bunch, a Curlew Sandpiper. A single Black-necked Grebe was noted.

Then all of a sudden a flock of 18 Common Cranes was seen to rise up on the opposite side of the salinas. Gilly managed to get a distant photo. We then went round the rear of the reserve, having seen where they'd landed, hoping to get a better view, but alas they were no where to be seen. The commonest Sylvia warblers were displaying. Seeing 3 male Sardinians next to each other on a fence was unusual and we spotted at least 10 Dartfords. A single silent Zitting Cistacola made an appearance.
Total Species for the day 46. With Spring on the way it can only get better!
Dave & Gilly


8 February, Guadalhorce

What a horribly wet week until Friday, although I had a single, probably unhappy and wondering what the hell it was doing coming over in such conditions, House Martin two days in front of the apartment, and on Saturday a couple of Swallows near the Parador de Golf.

I didn't get out today as I am over-worked with bird stuff (records of seabirds from the storm 2 weeks, since, reading and correcting papers for Ardeola, illustrations for the seabird book and putting together colour ring readings for sending off to ascertain where they come from. So, as the wind was very cold and the knees playing merry hell, I stayed at home and got on with things.However, Patricia has very kindly written to me with what she saw there on the Saturday morning and today and her account is below.

Today there was a Shelduck swimming around in the Laguna Grande. Yesterday there were lots of Swallows, House Martins and Crag Martins flying around the Escondida. I did not get a chance to look in the Escondida today. There is so much water everywhere although at least today the river - Guadalmar side - was lower than yesterday but still flowing steadily into the sea. Both branches of the river flowing steadily into the sea.
At the end of the levée on the beach there were two Kentish Plovers and one Sanderling. We saw the Southern Grey Shrike. There were some Stilts and some Black-tailed Godwits, and yesterday single Redshank and Greenshank. The Garganey seems to be there still and today was visible.
Otherwise not much except awful wind. I had to hold tight to my little fieldscope. To show you have things were, we did not see a Coot until almost the last moment, two in the Laguna Grande and then on my way back to the car there were some in the river.


4 February, Arboleas Bird Group, Almería

Dave, Gilly and the Arboleas Group made another of their Wednesday trips - actually a pretty brave one considering the vile weather (wet and cold in Málaga, apparently only cold there in Almería) in for most of this past week - and below is Dave's account and to whom yet again my thanks.

Today, Wednesday 4th February, six members of the group ventured up to Sierra de Maria. The weather forecast was a sunny cloudless sky & for a change it was spot on. Unfortunately the wind-chill factor made it blinking cold, especially early on when our side of the mountain was in shade. The birds round the botanical garden were very few and far between. Things improved once we'd got down to the lower levels at the La Piza recreation area. Crossbills were hanging around the 'fuente'. (A source of natural water open for public consumption).

A Sparrowhawk flashed by & a Green Woodpecker made a very brief appearance. Three Griffon Vultures glided effortlessly by.

On the plain, heading towards the Granada border three Little Owls were seen and displaying Calandra Larks were numerous. One Woodlark was also spotted. Another six Griffons were in the distance. On the whole a disappointing day. Only 20 species seen, but considering the cold temperature not unexpected. The two attached photos were taken at Maria on a previous trip.

Dave & Gilly


30 January, Friday at the Guadalhorce

Friday I had planned to go to Tarifa but the car decided to spring a leak in a line that ferried fluid to the power assist steering pump and I was carless and fedup when Federico rang Thursday evening and we decided to go to the ponds (what a surprise, I can hear you all muttering), especially as the weather for the weekend was forecast to be total rubbish on Sunday, and as I am writing this on Sunday evening the rain is bucketing down and there are occasional flashes and bangs from outside and I am hoping to finish this before the dog decides that she needs to go add and water in the rain - please no, Luna!

It was a very bonny morning on Friday, cool and sunny when we ambled in just after 0915 and it warmed up delightfully later. First the big pond, a Redshank - I've not seen one for ages! - an assortment of ducks with some of the male Shovelers looking splendid in breeding plumage, as do the male Mallards, and one of the male White-headed Ducks had got a nice blue bill.

From there a gentle walk to the Laguna Escondida - hidden lake- and not a lot to be seen, not even an early hirundine which I had hoped for in the warm sunshine. This, onwards around to the eastern arm where we came upon a smashing Southern Grey Shrike which let itself be admired whilst it sort of sang and also let itself be photographed by Federico - the photo here is his, of course. A couple of Stilts at the first lake and a very obliging Purple Boghen until it realised we were watching it when it scuttered off across the water (bog and swamp are synonymous as far as I am concerned and calling it a swamphen sounds a bit prissy to me.

The next lake along provided a very nice Greenshank - not the ringed bird of last week unfortunately- and a Little Ringed Plover (LRP from here on). On the way down to the seawatch mirador we turned up 2 Dartford Warblers, a rather uncommon bird at the reserve. There wasn't a lot anyhting exceptional on the sea apart from several hundred gulls, although I counted some 14 Black-necked Grebes on the sea. On the way back, the Greenshank had either gone or metamorphosed but in its stead there was a very nice winter plumage Spotted Redshank -a jolly good bird to see.

By that time it was off home, stopping first at the garage to pick up the car and pay the bill (hell's teeth!) and I now have wheels again, although who the devil wants to go out when it's pelting down with rain? I had enough rain and worse in my youth on the East coast of England. Now it only makes one wet and the joints are sufficiently stiff on a good day.