26 October, Guadalhorce

Today a brief entry in to the Guadalhorce ponds in company of Manolo Quintana who is down here from the cool and damp of Asturias to the ever-lasting summer that we are experiencing. When will it stop and we see some real rain? Not a shower. I hadn't been over the weekend as I am trying to get these damned illustrations finished and am at last starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel - about 1mm in diameter but it's there! So, as I want to get some more work done this evening after doing at least 4 hours this afternoon, this will be brief and cover the salient points of the 49 spp. which we managed to see.

Although the temperatures belied it, there were ornithological signs of movement and the place was crawling with Chiffchaffs, there had obviously been a decent fall, and the same fall brought in the first Black Redstarts, Song Thrushes, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks of the autumn that I have seen (I am well aware that others who read have been out more and probably seen all of these at this date). Cormorant numbers continue to crawl upwards and there were 5 Spoonbills, one of which bore a set of colour rings and I am awaiting the data on this bird - I sent the e-mail 10 minutes since and such is the efficiency of Otto that I may have its history by the time I finish this off! (See note at the end.) The Osprey was in its usual tree and we saw a single Booted Eagle and a Peregrine Falcon overflew, apart from the usual Kestrels.

For waders, it was about as exciting as watching paint dry - 2 Greenshanks, 3-4 Common Sandpipers and a less frequent Green Sandpiper, a couple of Avocets and the same number of Snipe, and the single Oystercatcher that has been hanging around for several weeks now, plus a few Stilts and a couple of imm. Little Ringed Plovers. Add to those the usual selection of gulls and good views of the Southern Grey Shrike which is still with us, and that's the lot.

Short and sweet, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Good birding!

NOTE: Told you Otto was fast, the Spoonbill was ringed as a chick on the Dutch island of Terschelling on 13 June this year.


15 October, Guadalhorce and bits

Yes, I know, 15 October there and writing it up on 21 October, laziness? No, a lot on, what with those damned illustrations and correcting articles for the Spanish scientific bird publication Ardeola. For example, this morning, between 0730 and now, 1030, I have corrected an article on aging and moult in Sparrowhawks and prepared a description for the Rarities Committee of a House Bunting in Nerja (more of that in a bit), which has included at least two e-mails in each direction between Denmark and self this morning. However, here goes with what happened last Thursday at the Guadalhorce in the always very agreable company of Ann and Dave Jefferson.

This time the late start (1045) was my fault as I had been with the Reichfüherin to health centre for anti-flu vaccinations and they were running late. Most of the birding was actually fairly run of the mill the stuff, nothing really outstanding but one or two nice bits such as the colour ringed Spoonbill - there were actually 7 around - and, as usual, I had a reply about its provenance (a juvenile ringed in Holland this year) from the super-efficient Otto Overdijk who runs the European Spoonbill colour ring network.

As for raptors, the same very attractive female Marsh Harrier, photoed last week, was still around and David has reminded me that they saw a second female after I had pushed off in search of sustenance and I also saw one of them again yesterday and today when walking by the river with the dog. . We also saw another very dark and by now rather late Honey Buzzard, plus, of course, the Osprey which spent a lot of time flying around with a fish slung like a torpedo under its body and a Booted Eagle (I saw a dark phase bird fly over when by the river yesterday afternoon).

There were quite a lot of Willow/Chiffs around, all that I managed to specifically identified appeared to be Willow Warblers. It was nice to see a Robin, I've also got one that has taken up residence in my garden and I found one dazed by the roadside this Monday, which fortunately recovered. Also, lots of Greenfinches and Goldfinches, as well as good numbers of Fan-tailed Warblers (a.k.a. Zitting Cisticolas, I've made my feelings clear on this name before). Ann was happy to get pretty good views of the electric blue rump and also other parts of a Kingfisher which several times shot across in front of us like an Exocet missile.

Numbers of Cormorants and Grey Herons are on the increase, as is to be expected, and this week I've had counts of up to >60 of the former, and it was nice to see 4 Black-necked Grebes amongst the masses of Little Grebes. After the dearth of waders last week, it was nice to see at least some of the usual ones, including 2 each of Turnstones, the ever elegant Greenshanks and Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, a solitary Oystercatcher and also 1 each of Curlew Sandpiper and Dunlin, 4 Avocets, as well as at least 3 Common Sandpipers.

The total: 47 spp. if I have added up correctly.

Now for other odds and sods. I have already mentioned the increases noted in Cormorants and the Robins. The same afternoon, 15 October, I saw a solitary Barn Swallow on full afterburn heading westwards towards the Strait and in the garden this week I have had several Willow/Chiffs and also some Blackcaps, although getting a good view of the latter is difficult as they tend to shoot into the densest part of a tree or bush in a kamikaze-like dive.

In the Strait of Gibraltar they are still seeing Rüppell's Vultures and it is worthwhile remembering that the Griffon Vulture passage, several thousand of them, will be moving in that direction between now and the beginning of November, so don't be surprised if you see some where normally you would not expect to do so. Young ones get exhausted quite easily and are often found sitting on buildings or even in the middle of the road! I once saw a string of an estimated 800 or so down near Tarifa and as I was sufficiently daft to go through them one by ten, I found a juvenile Bearded Vulture / Lammergeir which had joined them and great was the joy!

The most interesting bird to be reported is,without any doubt, a House Bunting, seen and photographed in calle de Los Huertos in Nerja on 13 October by a Danish birder. This is, I believe, only the second Spanish record. If anyone living in that area feels lke going around and having a walk around and hits gold,I'd love to hear of it, preferably with a photo to help clinch the identification.

And as there no photos this week, I attach one not very good one of one of the skua plates for the book to titillate your jaded appetites. Good birding!


7 October, Guadalhorce

Things have been (and are) a bit on the busy side and therefore this brief account of a late entry brief trip in to the Guadalhorce last Thursday, 7 October, in the very pleasant company of Ann and David Jefferson and, in my case, a deadline to be out means a not great list. It's amazing how much one does not see when there is a time limit and we didn't even get as far as the río viejo.

Before we even got in, there was one Booted Eagle sitting by the river and obviously pondering on the meaning of life. We started off at the laguna grande and when looking across at the row of eucalyptus trees, not only was there the Osprey but 3 more Booted Eagles, all in the same row of trees and with the rather bonny adult female Marsh Harrier that has been around for a while floating back and forth. Indeed, this last gave the photo shot of the day as she flew towards us when we stopped at the laguna escondida. and later another from the second hide on the río viejo when she flopped down and sat with her feet and lower legs in the water. The raptor parade was finished off with a very black Honey Buzzard flying strongly westwards.

There has been an increase in Cormorants and also Grey Herons, inded we had a flock of c.20 of the latter come in from the east and plonk down to rest around the laguna grande where we had to be quick to see 3 Teal as they shot across like bullets. A pair of Spoonbills flew over and it was nice to see 2 Black-necked Grebes. The wader count was obviously incomplete as I was unable to finish off by getting down to the lower reach of the río viejo, but there were 2 Greenshanks, a single Little Ringed Plover, a minimum of 3 Common Sandpipers and no less than 7 Avocets.

I had to cut short because of family commitments but we are meeting earlier this coming week and should see rather more, so be warned! I am not going down to the ponds this morning, Sunday, as book illustrations call, rather, demand my attention.


7 October, Cabo de Gata; Arboleas Birding Group

Received yesterday evening (Friday), I haven't had time to put this up until this afternoon. Dave himself had troubles with his computer but, as they say, better late than never, and here is his account of the Arboleas Birding Group trip to Cabo de Gata on Wednesday, 7 October.

The last two times the Arboleas Birding Group had visited Cabo de Gata, the water levels had been very low. The waders had looked like distant LBJs! After the recent heavy rains in the area we were hoping for better. Sure enough as Gilly and I and two other members arrived at the first hide we could see the waters had risen so much that even the scrubland on the opposite side of the road was awash! Countless Barn Swallows and Sand Martins were stocking up for their oversea journey to North Africa. Only the long legged Black-winged Stilts were able to cope with the water, but a lonesome Ringed Plover sat on the causeway. We saw the first of numerous Stonechats and possibly our last Turtle Dove of the year was spotted. A scan over the flattish sea proved fruitless. On the beach some Lesser Black-backed Gulls had joined the resident Yellow-legs. The first of our only bird of prey for the day was spotted as we walked towards the second hide. I took a photo as it was flying off.
Later I was surprised to see it was ringed. A small flock of various finches was feeding nearby. It comprised of two Trumpeter Finches, about half a dozen Corn Buntings, numerous Greenfinches and a solitary Robin. A non chiffchaff was spotted in the shrubs. Identification is so much easier if you get a photo, enlarge on the computer with "Collins" by your side. It turned out to be a Reed Warbler!
On the wader front a flock of 40+ Curlew was seen flying between the shoreline & the savannah. Due to the high water not many waders were outside the public hide. Gilly did spot a Dartford Warbler in the bushes. Thank god for my 4x4. The track round the rear of the reserve was muddy, rutted and very wet! Both Slender-billed and Audouin's Gulls were seen. The most numerous species was 100's of eclipse plumaged Shoveler. There were a few Avocets, also Little Stint, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit and a solitary Turnstone. 15 Shelducks doing a fly-past completed our 44 species list. A very good day....just got to get the water level sorted!! Dave & Gilly

NOTE: Dave and Gilly are off to England from next Wednesday (about 14 October if my maths is right), for 5 weeks, travelling on the "Pride of Bilbao". A Black-browed Albatross and a Barolo (Little) have been seen from it this autumn. They are heading for Cley (Norfolk) and hope to see Richard Gunn. Next report from Almería will be the end of November.


4 October, día de las aves, Guadalhorce

Bob has written extensively elsewhere (his blog) about what there was and what we saw, so all I shall do is add my own bits, which isn't much and start by saying that the place seemed to get fuller and fuller with the masses who came to see the ringing - they had plenty to see - and find out to some degree what birding is all about. Neither did I keep extensive notes of what we saw, just the waders plus a few other interesting things.

Bob, Eric and myself started off at the hide at the laguna grande simply because it seemed best place to be before the masses started to arrive. The Osprey was having its breakfast having had a very successful fishing trip and Bob is, if anything, understating the case when he claim that it would have sufficient for lunch too. It was a whopper, one of the biggest I have seen an Osprey fish down here and about on par with a barracuda which I saw one take off Andros Island, Bahamas, many years since. And if one had really had the binocs up and the eyes well and truly alert, it was possible for a couple of seconds to see Booted Eagle, the Osprey and a fly-by female Marsh Harrier all at once. It was fairly obvious that Cormorant numbers have increased, at least 11 were flying around at various times and we also saw at least 7 Shovelers.

We did see some waders, a super Greenshank came in to a fast landing right in front of the hide and announced its presence before being joined briefly by a second bird. The 2 Knot of the previous visits were still there, same place, probing the mud. The single Bar-tailed Godwit that has been haunting the other side was there and showed itself quite nicely before flying off into hiding, undoubtedly overcome by an attack of timidity in the face of so many humans staring at it (sounds highly anthropomorphic).

From there is was around to the laguna escondida where there was little of note (i.e., nothing exceptional that hasn't been noted in previous blogs) and a stop at the ringing station where the masses were watching the ringers at work and being shown the Kingfisher (lots of the Spanish version of 'ooh, in't it pretty!') and other passerines. After seeing lots of friends - I am quite amazed how many know me, if only I could remember half their names ... I can remember faces. Of what is this a sign?

Round from there we went to the eastern bank to watch for waders from the second hide. The faithful are often rewarded and such was our case as there were no less than 7 Avocets, a species about which Bob has a monthly fixation, but it was impossible to see if any were ringed as they were upto their bellies in the water. Here and further down on the río viejo we saw the most. 6 Sanderling didn't look particularly energetic, which wasn't a surprise as it was getting hot by then, but even with the heat haze we managed to locate 2 Ringed and 4 Kentish Plovers, a nice pair of Curlew Sandpipers, a single Oystercatcher and a Dunlin, plus, of course, the usual Black-winged Stilts for a grand total of 11 spp. of waders, which is reasonably satisfactory.

We walked further down towards the seawatch point, myself a least scanning as I have still not seen a Whinchat this year, and I still haven't. We saw the Southern Grey Shrike which has taken up temporrary residence at the end on the left, but no Whinchats nor Wheatears. However, we found and eventually got a decent enough view of one of birding's prime skulkers, a record which I reckon to be one of my best this year as I haven't seen one since spring 1980 at Filey - a Grasshopper Warbler which showed itself sufficiently at one point to clinch the observation. From there is was a case of staggering back out while hordes kept on entering, along with children, some well behaved and a delight to see but not hear (well done their parents) and some who would be better as shark bait, along with their parents. We had brief but pretty good views of a Booted Eagle and finally, to round off the morning, a pair of Barn Swallows winging their way westwards and a pair of migrant Blackcaps.

Bob reckoned some 50 spp. for the morning, which wasn't at all bad given the levels of disturbance, and if we had stayed to watch the ringers we would have undoubtedly added such spp. as Wryneck, Robin, Iberian Chiffchaff (this seems a very late record to me) and undoubtedly far more.

PS: Would Alan Gilbertson please write to me at my private e-mail address (andy.birds (at) gmail.com) about when he saw the Lesser Flamingo and if it was ringed or not.


2 October, Guadalhorce

Having being chucked out of the home late in order not to get in the way of the lady who cleans for us I made my reluctant way (not really) down to the ponds, rather late admittedly as I didn't get in until just on 10, when it would have been better earlier as the day was warming up far too much for comfort by then and said temps. promised to go through the roof, which they did, reaching 30ºC with a strong westerly which burnt considerably. The trouble with strong wind is that it makes for lots of vegetation movement and seeing little brown jobs (LBJs) difficult, if not impossible. And as Antonio Miguel had told me yesterday afternoon that he had seen Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and c.20 Pratincoles that same day, I lived in hope, fool that I am.

However, there are some small compensations in this life, and the strong westerly drove some raptors down to the coast. By my reckoning (even numbers of more than 5 tend to complicate matters) and leaving aside the ubiquitous Kestrels, moving west, battling against the wind, I saw 4 Booted Eagles, at least 5 Marsh Harriers includung a 2CY male, 7 Sparrowhawks, 4 Honey Buzzards, one a stunningly marked dark bird with huge barring on its body and, of course, the Osprey.

Waders were again not abundant by any standard, but with signs of birds moving through, like the 6 Curlew Sandpipers and the single Wood Sandpiper which were not there the other day and no Dunlins nor Kentish and Ringed Plovers which had been, with only 1 Little Ringed Plover seen today. On the other hand, the 2 Avocets were still present as was the single Bar-tailed Godwit and there were 2 Knot, although it is difficult to know if these were the same 2 that had been there a week since.

Everything else was the sort of thing one might reasonably expect to see, including the Southern Grey Shrike which was swaying happily inthe wind as it tried to maintain position on the same perch as last time I saw it. There were no hirundines of any sort to be seen. The best I have saved to last, although aparently it had been seen late yesterday afternoon, a Black Stork which flew around and offered decent views although getting decent photos was next to impossible with the movement of the bird across the wind.

Total for the morning, one sunburnt face and 45 spp.

NOTE: Just in case you are thinking of making an excursion to Fuente de Piedra. I had hoped to go there today as I hoped that there might be pumped water in the new flashes near the car park which one passes on the way in. And if there had been water there should have been waders, and possibly something interesting. However, a phone call gave me the information that this new flash area has not been maintained with water so no waders and obviously the laguna is dry, so don't bother trying it!

30 September, Las Norias & Roquetas; Arboleas Birding Group

This is the first of two blogs for today (Friday, 2 October) and refers to the trip of three members of the Arboleas Bird Group - Dave, Brian and Mary - who went off to Las Norias and Roquetas on Wednesday. And what a day they had! The photos are Dave's, of course (you can tell by the quality!).
I too would like to add my commiserations and condolences to the 'avid reader' (didn't know I had any!) who dipped on the Tufted Puffin. That's birding life!

The second, separate, blog for this date is my own from the Guadalhorce this morning (Friday) and it wasn't too bad, but nowhere the number of spp. and damned hot at 30ºC in to the bargain.

Las Norias & Roquetas;
Wednesday 30th Sept 2009
It was with some trepidation that Brian, Mary & I made the long trip to Las Norias. If you remember this time last year we had camera stuff stolen from the car, then blackmailed by the offenders which ended up me being caught up in a Guardia undercover op involving shots being fired!! So, Gilly decided not to come this year!
At the first causeway we could see lots of birds on the water. All three grebes, Great Crested, Black-necked and Little. On the duck front we spotted Gadwall, Pochard, Teal, White-headed and Shoveler. I had a fleeting view of a Kingfisher, while Brian spotted a distant Purple Gallinule. We then moved to the viewing area near the now empty heronry. Lots of Sand Martins here together with House Martins and Barn Swallows. Mary spotted a nice Marsh Harrier. Very surprised to see that 20+ Collared Pratincoles were still in residence. A single Black Tern was amongst the few Little Terns. Mallard and Red-crested Pochard were added to our duck list. At the far end causeway there was a vociferous response from Mary when Brian shut her fingers in the car door, but the birds didn't seem to be affected! Three Night Herons were very visible on the far side and a Squacco Heron was still around. A Pied Flycatcher was seen, then the heavens opened, so we thought it was a good time to make the move to Roquetas. Once there we travelled the 4x4 only track to the Salinas de Cerrillos, where a Red-necked Phalarope had recently been seen.

On the way there, due to the recent rains there were lots of
huge shallow pools. Waders were everywhere. Here is the list :- Dunlin, Knot, Ruff, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Avocet, Greenshank, Little Stint, Curlew and Curlew Sandpiper. Alas no phalarope on the Salinas, but did see a flock of Audouin's Gull and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull. A few Sandwich Terns were resting. On the way back we stopped to tick off Red-knobbed Coot to complete our 62 count day!! Looking forward to returning with my hopefully repaired scope in about a month.

Lastly I'd like to dedicate this report to an avid viewer of Andy's website, a friend of Brian and
Mary's, Terry Wilson, who decided to pass up a visit to Oare Marshes reserve, Kent on the 16th September, the day the Tufted Puffin made it's all too short appearance. Our deepest sympathy!
Dave & Gilly

I hope that nobody will object to a few comments and comparison of records between Almería nd the Guadalhorce, apart from my envy at the wader species' count. Here, there have been few Northern Wheatears, I saw 3 last Monday, although I know that there have been plenty on Las Almoladeras, and also very few Whinchats, one was seen here yesterday but I've missed out totally this year.

Yesterday too there was a single Pratincole here and I suspect that it, like the birds in Almería, are on passage from points further north, possibly the Camargue-Bouche du Rhône area. There have been very few terns on passage here with few Sandwich, even fewer Little and I have yet to see a Common and my Black Tern total is precisely 1! As for small brown jobs, not a lot. and a previous blog has detailed what I saw in my garden.

Elsewhere, there has been a report of a flock Dotterel high up on Sierra Nevada. The Tarifa area is producing up to 3 Rüppell's Vultures in a day and there are still up to 4 Little Swifts around the Bolonia site, while Long-legged Buzzard has been seen on La Janda. They have bred in southern Spain this year, so it is hardly surprising.