19/12 : Rambla de Almanzora & Vera

And now another contribution, the second for today, this time from Dave, Gilly and the Arboleas Group, to all whom I wish a very good Yuletide and New Year, particularly to Dave for his chronicles, and, especially, good birding to all.

As Britain is shivering in the cold, eleven members of our group met up under blue skies and full sun at the "ford" above the Rambla de Almanzora, near Villaricos. It was a bit chilly to start with, but warmed up later. The rambla itself is beginning slowly to regenerate after the devastating floods of late September. We quickly signed off the usual suspects of White Wagtail, Spotless Starling, Magpie, Collared Dove and, at this time of year, Black Redstart. We both heard and saw Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers. We spotted a few Chiffchaffs, but not as many as our previous visit. Below us on the rambla were numerous large shallow pools. The male Mallard shone with new plumage.  Brian spotted a Snipe. Also seen were Cattle Egret, Ringed Plover, Green and Common Sandpiper. The few smaller birds were identified as Stonechat, Robin and Water Pipit. As we walked further along we saw Serin, Hoopoe and Southern Grey Shrike
At the sewage works were Black-winged Stilt, a pair of Redshank and a solitary Wood Sandpiper. In the Rambla, where there is a pool before the man-made rock "weir", we saw a small group of Kentish Plover, Dunlin and Little Stint. A Grey Wagtail was also seen.
Penduline Tit by Mary
     After a refreshment break in the village we headed for the beach. The sea was as flat as a tack. There were Cormorants and an Audouin's Gull on the rocks by the harbour entrance with a Sandwich Tern fishing nearby. We saw at least 12 Black-necked Grebe on the sea together with a Great Crested Grebe. A distant Whimbrel was spotted on the rocks by Adrian . There were two Grey Herons on a rocky spit as well. I have to say the estuary has great potential. There is now an island on which birds can breed undisturbed, a narrow entrance leading to a large pool, leading to an area of reeds. Adrian and I headed back towards the vehicles chatting about our recent Moroccan experiences as the others followed behind. Got a text from Gilly to retrace our steps. She'd spotted small bird movement in the reeds. She'd only found a group of probably six Penduline Tits.  (Had previously seen some in that area many years ago with Richard Gunn). 

Marbled and White-headed Ducks
     On that high, we headed for the pool opposite the Consum supermarket at Vera. We soon added Shoveler, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe and Coot to the list. A majestic male Marsh Harrier flew over. Gilly then spotted something in the vegetation opposite. She needed the telescope to pinpoint the bird as none of us could pick it up. Two Marbled Duck. Luckily they came out into the open for a swim. Brian, Adrian and Mary later saw a Kingfisher as well.
     A very good days birding with a total of 47 species. As this is the Arboleas Birding Group's last official outing before 2013, Gilly and I would like to wish all members and readers of Andy Paterson's blog a very Happy Christmas and New Year.
Best wishes & good birding,

18/12 : Guadalhorce

A very pleasant morning's birding and talking down at the usual place along with David and Ann from Nerja. The photos are David's and are much superior to mine (and so is his equipment - photographic). We went in around 10.30 and I stayed until about 13.30 and we only covered the eastern bank in all that time, but it was well worth it. The sun shone, the birds were present and I felt relaxed and without the need to hurry which has governed my life for the past 4 years.
We saw the usual Grey Herons, Cattle and Little Egrets and here is an example of the race of Cattle Egret often known as the horse egret, not be confused with camel, hippopotamus and tractor egrets.
Of waders, there was only one species - a rather attractive Snipe which showed well, but there's just too much water and no nice muddy margins. Ducks were basically limited to the lagoon in front of the first hide with Mallard, some very attractive little Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and 6 Pochard. There were, of course, the usual Cormorants flying on unknown missions. Birds of prey gave rather more, although I saw only one Kestrel, but couples of Buzzards - these rather disinclined to fly - and Booted Eagles, plus a single immature Marsh Harrier showed well.  
We saw 4 Skylarks and Crested Lark on the walk down to the seawatch mirador and there was a male Dartford Warbler in the scrub at the end and Chiffchaffs all over the place in the tamarisk.
We did very well for members of the Thrush family with no less than 6 species with the usual Blackbirds, Stonechats, Black Redstarts and Robins, plus at least 2 Song Thrushes but the undoubted the star was this male Bluethroat, a little beauty with a very large white spot which reached up his throat - this form is very variable, some lack the white altogether, who flaunted himself in the sunshine as David's photos show only too well.

Basically, although it didn't seem like it, we had a very fruitful morning with exactly 40 spp. noted down.


13/12 : Guadalhorce & Short-eared Owls

Well, I didn't get down to the Guadalhorce when hoped for but did on Thursday afternoon and had a very pleasant afternoon's birding between 15.30 and dark when I came out. I also met a correspondent from Scotland from years since and Malcolm and myself had a very pleasant time whilst watching and waiting - and for what and were we successful, you will have to read on. For once I did the route in rseverse, there being some method in my change of track but that you will have to work out for yourself - answers to be written in invisible ink on the obverse of a 50 pound note.
So, starting off by walking down towards the bridge the first large object, apart from the multiple Cormorants all over the sky, was a Booted Eagle. And how do I know it was a Booted? Just look at the dark-pale pattern on the coverts and this is the one that shows up in flight in both light and dark phases and makes identification infallible. Once over the bridge, I headed down to the laguna Grande picking up a nice selection of the commoner species on the way : Blackbird, Robin, Stonechat, hordes of White Wagtails, small flocks of Spotless Starlings and so on, whilst the Cormorants flew back and forth on secret missions known only unto themselves.
From the hide at the laguna Grande it was so easy to see the Osprey, the German ringed black KM sitting on top of his favourite pole whilst below there were immaculate ruby-eyed Black-necked Grebes in winter plumage. There were plenty of Grey Herons around and young one in particular took great exception to a Cormorant perched in the dead tree on the islet and kept reaching up to try and get it whilst the Cormorant presumably sneered down at it. As the afternooon wore on more and more Cormants came in to roost in the eucalyptuses, decoprating them like black Christmas ornaments, although something (or somebody) put them up whilst a male Peregrine flew overhead.
There were few ducks but we commented on how attractive male Gadwall are, delicately so, much more than the brash male Shovelers and Mallards and in a different class to the delicate little male Teal.
I left Malcolm there and walked round along the beach, checking the sea - nothing but gulls - and back along the eastern arm to the second hide (ie. the one nearer the sea in front of the wader pool) to have a single Song Thrush pass in front. Just as I got to the hide 2 Greenshanks and a Redshank swept in, and I do mean swept at a hell of a rate of knots, to join 2 Black-winged Stilts and 2 Dunlins. But the clock was bashing on and the light lowering and it was time to go and join Malcolm in the hope of seeing the target for the afternoon - the Short-eared Owls.

We saw all three of the Short-eared Owls in medium to poor light, they really are lovely things, and it was when one, who shall be nameless but demonstrated an ample vocabulary when he found out why his photographs were total rubbish - he hadn't bumped up the ISO rating to its maximum and while Malcolm's photographs were superb, he was shooting at in excess of 5000 ISO, the idiot in question was at 100 ISO. We also saw juvenile/1W, young adult female and an adult male Marsh Harriers coming in to roost before coming out at last light.
So a goodish afternoon with 37 spp. and both Malcolm and I went down again on the Friday afternoon, 14/12, to try and get better shots of the owls only to have even worse light. I shall try again next week if there is a nice, sunny afternoon.


12/12 : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

After 30+ years doing a minimum of ironing, I am now being reintroduced to this fascinating aspect of family life, using a versión of La Traviata with Callas and Di Stefano as background anaethesia, and am now having a coffee break to put this entry of Dave's in, all so I can go down to the Guadalhorce this afternoon and try and see at least one of the three Short-eared Owls that are down there, plus a Long-eared Owl was seen last week.

Dave, American spelling is like Starbuck's coffee, pure rubbish! By the by, it can't recognize recognise either. It was, I think, one W.S. Churchill (who did win a Nobel Prize for literature) who said that Britain and the America were two nations separated by a common language!

I would be interested to hear privately what non Spanish birders would like to see in an English language magazine if the Spanish Ornithological Society decides to go ahead with one.

Bit of a chill in the air as we made our way to Cabo de Gata. We had 13 members in total including two more willing victims, Alan and Richard. After our usual coffee at Pujaire we headed for the first hide. There was a constant stream of Crag Martins but no Barn Swallows seen today. The Greater Flamingos had virtually departed en mass. Only 14 seen. And there weren't many waders either. The most numerous were Avocet (sad reflection of this American website's spellcheck didn't recognise Avocet and suggested Exocet instead!). Small numbers of Eurasian Curlews, Knots, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ringed Plovers, Grey Plovers and Black-tailed Godwits. There were small flocks of Slender-billed Gulls and some Mallards. Around the vegetation there was an abundance of Stonechats. Southern Grey Shrikes were spotted on the power lines.  A Kestrel was also noted. Brian had a brief glimpse of a Dartford Warbler whilst Sardinians were easy to observe. Out to sea we could see Gannets flying past.
Trumpeter Finch
     The beach was devoid of bird life. A solitary Cormorant was swimming beyond the small breakers. At the second hide we had a better view of a Dartford but only added Greenfinch and Cattle Egret to the list before we headed to the public hide. Had a bit more luck here with a raft of about 20 Black-necked Grebes. Also seen were Lesser Blackbacked Gulls, Shelducks, Kentish Plovers and Sanderlings. On the causeway to the right were about a dozen Sandwich Terns and some Black-winged Stilts

      Brian and Mary went to "do" Rambla de Morales whilst the rest of us, apart from Dave and Myrtle, headed towards the lighthouse. Gilly spotted a Black Wheatear. We stopped to look, only to see two Trumpeter Finches and a Meadow Pipit nearby. By the lighthouse Val saw her first Blue Rock Thrush, albeit a brown female!

      We heard later from the "Morales 2" that they saw a Common Buzzard, Shoveler, Turnstone, White-headed Duck, Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler amongst others.
      All in all a reasonably good day with a combined total of 52 species.


06/12 : La Janda

After the past coup'le of weeks since the last trip dzown to La Janda whole rivers have flowed under bridges and life has been exceedingly stressful. Therefore, when the daughter in a bout of exceeding usefulness suggested that I go down to La Janda for the day and she would look after the old dog (who is missing the wife something terrible and nearly got trapped in a wardrobe the other evening whilst searching for her), I accepted like proverbial bullet.
This is a brief report as (a) there aren't any photos to make it look bigger and (b) there wasn't a lot to report from a basically grey, damp and thankfully windless day. I ran (metaphorically) into several Spanish birders I know which alleviated the morning.
The route was not to be as planned - PLEASE NOTE - as the track that runs from the bridge over the drainage canal up to the smelly farm is cut with immense muddy ruts just after sluice gates corner. I had a look at it and reckon that the best vehicle to get through is a big 4x4 of the Hummvee style or something more suitable for invading Iraq! A car will not go and may become entombed for eternity!
So, having gone in by the entrance opposite the Zahara-Barbate turn-off that runs down to the drainage canal I came across loads of Linnets, which were everywhere, as were Corn and Reed Buntings, and thought that I'd spotted a female Redpoll at one point but am not sure enough to say that it was or it wasn't, a might-have-been. The rice paddies have all been chewed over but there is a surprsing lack of Snipe but plenty of Lapwings, only 2 Green Sandpipers and a rather surprising 2 or 3 Curlews (I saw 2 but enough spacing in the calls to be 3 or even more). Down towards the far end 9 Spoonbills and what was probably the same Great White Egret as last time flushed along with good numbers of Lapwings. Grey Herons and White Storks there were in quantity, of course.
With the raptor watching curtailed by the mud, I didn't see as many species as I could have wished, the most abundant yet again being Marsh Harrier, with at least 11 birds seen but the sex-age ratios turned around. Males were the most abundant, with 5 in the air together at one point out of a total of 7! There were no females and only 4 juvs., a very odd ratio.There were quite a few Kestrels, which I did not count and 4 Black-winged Kites, plus a couple of Buzzards. The bird of the day, 2 of them, actually, was the immature Imperial Eagles.
It was nice to be out, very de-stressing and tomorrow I go to Madrid and thence to Vitoria and aboutd which I may just tell you next time.


05/12 : El Hondo (Murcia)

Sorry about the long silence but things have not been good in the Paterson family and I didn't even get my trip down to Tarifa on 24/11 written up (I saw a juv. Bearded Vulture / Lammergeir / Quebrantahuesos!) as when I got back my wife, who had been suffering from liver cancer for the past 4 years 6 months was very unwell (ie. even worse than she has been) and, as Dave very kindly alludes to, died on 30 November after being in free fall for the previous 3 weeks. And now to birding and to Dave's report of the Arboleas Group's official visit to El Hondo this day.   Having made our reservation to visit El Fondo (Hondo) Bird Reserve near Elche some weeks ago, high winds were not going to put us off.....might put the birds off though. It was an early start for us all, leaving home at 5.30am to get there for the 8.15am opening plus time for breakfast! There were nine members of the group and about six others who were allowed access for the three hours. Our first bird was a Kestrel. We then drove slowly down towards the elevated viewing platform at the far end, flushing a Snipe as we did so. From there we had good views to the large expanse of water to the east, with the sun causing problems, and to the smaller pool to the west. On there we saw both Little and Great Crested Grebe. There was far more on the larger pool. There must have been a flock of 150 Red-crested Pochard together with some Common Pochard. There was also Cormorant and Black-necked Grebe. In a tree to the north sat a Common Buzzard.
Whizzing around us were Crag Martins and the occasional Barn Swallow. There were numerous Marsh Harriers quartering round the reedbeds. Suddenly a flock of dark birds rose up beyond the small pool - Glossy Ibis, in two or three groups numbering about 47 birds. Also flushed were Lapwing. Both Shelduck and 4 Greylag Geese flew over. Also seen were Chiffchaff, a Reed Bunting and a fast flying squadron of Teal.
     Our group then left there and headed back towards the outer hide through the reeds. On the way a Great White Egret took to the air. We also saw its smaller cousins, the Cattle and Little Egrets. At the hide itself we apparently just missed good views of a Purple Swamphen. We did see a steady stream of Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls heading towards the adjoining refuse tip.
     Returning to the elevated hide, a Booted Eagle was overhead but we'd apparently missed a male Hen Harrier. Checking the hirundines, I was very surprised to find some House Martins. I was positively shocked to see a Red-rumped Swallow as were others confirming my sighting! Then a shout went up. Tonn, the Estonian satellite tracked Spotted Eagle was flying along the line of eucalyptus trees towards us. Its antennae was easy to see, confirming the identity. He was being harassed by a Booted Eagle.
There are three Spotted Eagles in the area. Before we headed back to the gates for release we also saw Golden Plover and a Kingfisher.
     We then headed to the information centre. Through the large viewing window out over a pond with reeds we saw at least three Red-knobbed Coot and a Purple Swamphen. A Black Redstart and a Stonechat were also noted. A walk round the wooden walkway didn't add to the list, but stragglers, Brian and Gilly did see a Southern Grey Shrike and some very distant Griffon Vultures over the mountains.
     A total of 50 species in all. Already booked another day at the end of January!
     On a personal note, I'm sure you'd all like to join Gilly and I in offering our sincere condolences to Andy Paterson following his tragic loss last Friday.

Thanks, Dave. The moral support we (the youngsters and myself) have received has been tremendous from both my Spanish birding friends and from the few of you who knew of the situation. All is now done and we are rebuilding lives and I am of the definite opinion that the Spanish method of getting the defunct disposed of rapidly (she was cremated just on the 24 hours limit) is a huge help to family recovery and not like dragging on and prolonging the agony as in the UK. Many thanks to those who have been in touch, Elena, Andrés and myself are most grateful.


16/11 : recce to El Fondo/Hondo, Elche

I shall let Dave's account of the recce that Gilly and himself made to El Fondo, also known as El Hondo, at Elche, Alicante. I would also ask you to read the very important announcement at the end.

1st winter male Bluethroat
As a few members of the Group expressed a desire to visit the Bird Reserve at El Fondo, south of Alicante, I decided that a recce was needed to check out the access and water levels, so Gilly and I made the 2hr trek, arriving at the Information Centre just after 9am. On the approach we'd seen Kestrel, Chaffinch, Robin, Crested Lark and a female Marsh Harrier. As we waited for a member of staff to get off the phone we took the opportunity to birdwatch over the pool through the large observation window. What a result! We saw three neck-ringed Red-knobbed Coots, three Purple Swamphens (with, unbelievably, three one week old chicks!). Lots of Chiffchaffs were flitting around the reeds. Also seen were quite a few Reed Buntings. A bird then landed on the surrounding fence - a lovely white spotted Bluethroat.
     We had a chat with the staff member. Access via the North Gate is as before. Wednesdays and Saturdays only by prior appointment from 08.30 to 11.30 hrs. Didn't ask about the water level as it was obviously okay. We checked where we could go today. Apart from the raised walkway circling the Centre, there were short walks to new hides as well.  We then began with the walkway. Lots of chiffchaffs, but also Zitting Cisticolas, Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers. Also seen were Grey Heron, Little Egret, Magpie and numerous Stonechats.
     We then reached a hide which over looked a large pond. We spotted Mallard, Common Pochard, Coot, Moorhen and at least 6 Little Grebes.  The next hide added Shelduck, Gadwall and Black-necked Grebe. Also seen flying was a bonny male Marsh Harrier and some Black-winged Stilts.
collared Red-knobbed Coot
 We then back-tracked slightly to walk up a path that had claggy mud to try and avoid. Luckily we'd had the forethought to put on Wellington Boots, but not any anti mosquito lotion. It was worth the ever increasing weight on the footwear and the odd bite. Saw another Bluethroat. Then Gilly spotted a Bearded Reedling in the dense reeds. I could only claimed some bird movement! After we'd seen Dartford Warbler and a Blackcap we conceded that the mozzies were getting the taste of our blood and retreated back towards the Centre, picking up Linnets on the way. On our way to lunch we added Cattle Egret and Crag Martin. On the pathway we found a Glow-worm Larva (see below).
     40 species in total and the weather was good. Hope our members enjoy the trip I've booked for the 5th December after I get back from my solo trip to Morocco delivering charity clothing to a poor village high up in the Atlas Mountains. Obviously I might manage to fit in a bit of birdwatching in the 9 other days I have spare!

glow-worm larva

Having seen Dave's reference to and this photo of a glow-worm larva, I am reminded of Churchill's remark (one of many!): 
'All men are worms, but I think that I was a glow-worm.

I am also unable to resist the following little poem about glow- worms:
I wish I was a glow-worm,
A glow-worm's never  glum,
For how can you be gloomy,
When the sun shines out your bum?


13/11 : Guadalhorce ; 14/11: Cabo de Gata

I have not had the time to write up the excellent morning I had down at the Guadalhorce on Tuesday morning because of double family emergencies on Wednesday morning, including an urgent op. on the old dog who burst a papilloma under a pad, with blood all over the place. As an encore the vet removed 6 more from various parts of her anatomy. She has recovered rapidly, especially if there is food around. 
 I digress. However, along with David and Ann Jefferson from Nerja and their friend Paul from the Mull of Galloway (not been there in nearly 50 years!) along with his lovely springer spaniel Ellie, who was beautifully behaved. We talked a lot, which probably explains the low species list as I didn't log, and saw and had good views of Osprey (1), Booted Eagle (1), Peregrine Falcon (1), Kestrel (2) and Booted Eagle (2, perhaps 3), and a couple of Marsh Harriers. No waders at all because of very high water levels; no ducks to speak of and only 3White-headed and a few Shoveler. A flock of Siskins and nothing brilliantly outstanding except missing a Bluethorat that showed to everyone else in the reserve that morning but not to us and a flight of Golden Plovers which were well out of our range. 
20/11 : A QUICK APOLOGY to David who has pointed out that in the above I missed out on the presence of a spelndid Short-eared Owl and that of this date the htree of them saw a super little male Bluethroat down at the ponds.
All of this makes Dave's full report from Cabo de Gata on Wednesday more welcome. As a comment, I have the impression that that this is a good autumn/early winter for Black Redstarts and there is no lack of Reed Buntings either. Reports are coming in of lots of good raptor watching on La Janda and Fuente de Piedra is worth a visit at the moment (actually, it nearly always is!).

After a couple of weeks of miserable, grey, drizzly weather it was nice to be driving down to Cabo de Gata in sunshine with the odd cloud. Gilly and I met up with 10 other members including Phil and Sue who popped over from the UK for a short holiday. Brian and Mary saw a Common Buzzard near to Pujaire.
     After a coffee and tostada  we headed for the first hide. Unsurprisingly the water level was very high, leaving little room for waders to feed on the muddy edges. We did manage to see Avocet, Little Stint, Ringed Plover, Redshank and a couple of Knot. There were also Slender-billed Gull, Little Egret and of course Greater Flamingo. (Gilly later counted 373 from Hide 2). On the smaller bird front, there were numerous Stonechats, Spotless Starlings, a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes, Sardinian Warblers, Black Redstart and a Robin. On the savanna to our right we spotted Eurasian Curlew and a flight of Golden Plover
     At the second hide we saw more Curlews and about 6 Stone Curlews together with Black-tailed Godwits.

In the shrubs we observed Serin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Corn Bunting and Chiffchaff. Shelduck and Mallard were the only wildfowl we saw. We did add Black Winged Stilt & a single Barn Swallow to the list. Back at the beach a steady stream of Balearic Shearwaters were heading towards a couple of fishing boats. Saw at least 30 in total. A adult Gannet was also seen.
     As a coach load of schoolkids was being dropped at the public hide, we reverted to plan B and made for the lighthouse, seeing Kentish Plover on the way. Adding only Black-Headed and Yellow-legged Gulls to our total we drove in convoy back. Leading, we spotted a small bird flying on to a roadside rocky bank. Stopping we saw it was a Trumpeter Finch (Yes, Mike, they do exist!) Unfortunately not all the group managed to see it before it flew off. 
     Getting back to the public hide we waited till the noisy horde had departed before seeing what, if anything, had stayed put. Lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulla were at rest. On the wader front we added Sanderling, Grey Plover and Greenshank, plus another pair of Knot. As well as more Stonechats, a skulking Reed Bunting was seen as was a pair of Dartford Warblers.
     We ended up with a respectable 48 species. Great to be birding again in decent weather.


10/11 : Fuente de Piedra

After the vast quantities of rain which have fallen in the past fortnight and having postponed two trips to Fuente de Piedra, even though I have had one or two interesting records from home including a very late Pallid Swift on 07/11 which fed in front of the apartment for about 3 minutes, and a male Peregrine which overflew the garden the follow day, plus the Black Redstarts have arrived down (with up to 4 in the garden squabbling about winter territories), and Chiffchaffs are present. So, when the metcast for Staursday was favourable, I was up to Fuente de Piedra in the company of Sandra, a long time friend and expert on raptor tracking who has worked on the reintroduction of the Imperial Eagles, Bonelli's Eagles and this year on Egyptian Vultures on Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
   We didn't look at the laguna Dulce as my information was that the road from the Campillos direction to Sierra de Yeguas and the branch to Fuente was a claggy meass and last time it took four turns (4 euros)  to blast the mud off the underside of the wheel arches.
    The lake is full, there is water in the area to the side of the information centre where there is ther board walk and the fields beyond are slushy, (photo above) plus the lake behind the centre is so full that there is no shore space for ducks to haul out or for many waders to stand around. Indeed we didn't see a single a Avocet and in the waders line around 30 Stilts, 2 Green Sandpipers, a Wood Sandpiper, 4 Little Stints and singles of Redshank and Greenshank and some Lapwings which panicked every time a Marsh Harrier came near - hardly brimming over with birds. Relatively sparse too was the duck population with the usual Mallards, quite a few Shovelers but nothing like the numbers that will come in, some 40 Teal came in and out like bullets. It was whilst along the board walk way that we heard, but didn't see, small numbers of Cranes, but there aren't many in yet.
    In the raptor line, to please Sandra, there were some 3 or 4 Marsh Harriers, including a female which nailed a rabbit, although the rabbit wasn't too happy about it. We found a couple of Hen Harriers, a juvenile with its reddish brown body and an adult female, a couple of Common Buzzards and a Booted Eagle and nice little male Kestrel. A pair of Ravens flew over and attracted the attention of the Kestrel, but we would rather it had been a Black-winged Kite, like the last time I was there.
    There were were plenty of passerines around, including the Southern Grey Shrike which was probably the same that featured in a blog some weeks since as it was in the same place- We ran in to Bob Wright who told us of the presence of Spanish Sparrows, they're very skittish amd difficult to get a bead on as they mix with the House Sparrows, and it was with them that we found a Chaffinch and also a female Reed Bunting. Thearea were hordes and hordes of White Wagtails, to say hundreds would not, I think, be underestimating - at one point I had 15 in binocular view! - and more surprising was the preseance of at least 3 Yellow Wagtails, all immatures, with these. Theare wwere several Black Redstarts, the males are really stunning, around the centre, but the prize for bird of the day award must go to a first winter male Common Redstart, which was very late.
A very pleasant mornings birding and with a bit of luck I might even get down to the Guadalhorce this Tuesday, although the temperature at this moment is only some 7ºC but I've got the winter gear out ready!



31/10 Las Norias & Roquetas

Wednesday's the day for the Arboleas Group to be let out and herewith Dave's report on a good days birding. Note that the photo of the Red-knobbed Coot is a bird from the reintroduction project and that the ponds at Roquetas have always held large autumn-winter gatherings of Black-necked Grebes. Interesting the lateness of the Northern Wheatear as yesterday Stephen had seen 8 or so on La Janda at nearly the opposite end of Andalucía which makes me wonder if there might be any of Greenland race - often visibly bigger than the normal Northern Wheatear, more robust, more erect and brighter colouring generally.
Was a bit worried on Tuesday evening as the heavens opened, but thankfully the forecast was right. A clear sunny sky greeted us as myself and seven other Arboleas Group members arrived at the first causeway at Las Norias. Two things stood out. Firstly there was construction work on the left hand side. Secondly, hardly a surprise after the recent rains, the water was extremely high. Looking first to the left hand lake, we managed to spot Little and Great Crested Grebes and a pair of Gadwall. In the distance we could see numerous Cormorants hanging their wings out to dry and a few Shovelers. On the LBJ front there were lots of Chiffchaffs feeding on the millions of midges and mozzies and the occasional Cetti's Warbler called.
female Red-crested Pochard
     To the right we saw a Black-necked Grebe and an overflying Cattle Egret. Close to the waters edge was a Black Redstart, a Stonechat and a Yellow Wagtail. Near the scrapyard wall there were more Cormorants, Gadwall and Mallards.

Wood Sandpiper
      A new water pipe was being laid beside the road to the second causeway, so we didn't stop near the old heronry. As we approached the junction to turn right onto the causeway, we slowed to check out the flooded meadow to the right. There was a pair of Black- winged Stilts and a very obliging Wood Sandpiper (L). On the grassy verges were Meadow Pipits and White Wagtails. We parked and observed the little track between the reeds and the meadow. I first spotted a Snipe down the far end. A Robin made an appearance. Then (sorry, Brian) not one but two Bluethroats came out of the shrubs. Also seen were a Common Sandpiper, another Wood Sandpiper and a second Snipe. The rear end and legs of a Purple Swamphen disappeared into the reeds. The first Northern Starlings of the season were seen flying overhead. We then moved over to the left hand smaller pool. There were numerous Grey Herons, but it was great to see two Night Herons. Also seen were Crag Martin and a Little Egret. We then sauntered up towards the plastic recycling plant. Val spotted a third Night Heron in the reeds to the right.
Red-knobbed Coot
     We then drove to the lake at Roquetas, stopping for a coffee on the way. There were large rafts of Black-necked Grebes and lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Also seen were a few White-headed Ducks, some Common Pochards and a pair of Greater Flamingos. We then walked the 300 metres to the little pool to the left. We were rewarded with good views of a Red-knobbed Coot and two female Red-crested Pochards.
An extremely good birding day. 42 species in total and cracking weather!


17-31 October

This blog takes up where the last entry by myself (16/10) left off.
It's been an odd month with insufficient birding, although it has its lighter parts and one week when I got away three times as my sister, who isn't too bad on her bird i/d., was out from the UK for a week in the middle of the month and we made it to the Guadalhorce (16/10), La Janda (17/10) and the laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra (19/10), with my visiting this last again on 27/10. Therefore, as I have a few records from home as well, I shall set all this out as a time line, which seems the best way, and finish off with recent news which I have heard in the past 24 hours.
16/10 Río Guadalhorce, morning : My sister and myself had a gentle walk around, there being little oustanding but a quite early record of 2 Song Thrushes. A couple of Sparrowhawks and a single Booted Eagle which circled lazily overhead. There were few waders, a total of 10 spp with the most numerous just being the Stilts, followed by 5 Dunlins and 3 Snipes followed by 2 each of Greenshanks and Sanderlings with singles of Redshank, Common Sandpiper and a lateish Curlew Sandpiper. There were no White-headed Ducks and some 40 Pochards.
16/10 Garden at home, pm. - 1 Spotted Flycatcher (R).
17/10 La Janda : An earlyish start to the day and we were down on La Janda by 10.00 and took thre usual track whilst it was dry : up along beside the drainage canal, across the bridge, up and across by the (not very) smelly farm, down and back down towards Facinas along the central track.
There were still quite a few Barn Swallows moving through and a single Sand Martin with some highflying House Martins. There were big flocks of finches with Greenfinches, Goldfinches, a few Chaffinches scattered in, there were plenty of Corn Buntings too and I saw at least 3 flocks of Short-toed Larks. There were plenty of House Sparrows and I managed to find one male Spanish Sparrow mixed in with one flock. They were harvesting the rice and when they have finished and it has broken up it will be undoubtedly very interesting if the water remains in the ruts, but that morning I found only one Green Sandpiper and no snipe..
My sister was fascinated by the numbers of White Storks present, such as the ones in the photo above which were queueing for a 39 bus whilst the observant will notice a Grey Heron that is in the wrong queue. The Glossy Ibises (right) intrigued her more as she had imagined them to be more towards the size of a stork and black heads kept popping up in the midst of the long rice stubble.
It  was, rather naturally, the numbers of raptors that we saw that interested her most, although the numbers were far from great and no sooner had we stopped up at the canal corner, a Red Kite flew over - a species that she can see close to her home in Yorkshire -  and was followed later on by a single Black Kite and we saw only 3 Black-winged Kites (apparently the use of the name Black-shouldered Kite was dropped several decades since so I shall try and catch up with the times). 
We found a single male Peregrine sitting the field opposite, quietly contemplating life, as were the Lapwings which were feeding peacefully. Or they were until the Pergrine took off whereupon they had a mass panic in the opposite direction.
All in all we saw 10 spp. of raptors, the most abundant being Common Buzzard with no less than 8 birds but not a single late Honey Buzzard, but a possible Long-legged Buzzard (right). Marsh Harriers (5-6 birds) were less frequent than previously.
To finish off the day we stopped at the mirador del Estrecho and saw another Marsh Harrier and the tail end of a flock of Griffon Vultures of at least 100 birds as they disappeared behind the sierra in the face of the strengthening levante wind.
18/10 Torremolinos, home : The Hoopoe shown here (left) fed voraciously in the garden all day and somehow surviving the marauding cats. It was joined in the safety of the pine at various times by both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers  (right).

19/10 laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra : First stop laguna Dulce and although not overly full of ducks did manage to count 148 White-headed (more must have been hidden behind the tamarisks) and there were also Shovelers, Teal, Pochards and Mallards. There had been a goodly increase in the Black-necked Grebes. Marsh Harriers showed in numbers with no less than 5 different birds.
On to Fuente de Piedra, we stopped at Cantarranas, hoping for a first Crane but there was no luck and they have been slightly later this year. The main aim of going to Fuente was not see birds but to allow her to see Manolo Rendón who she hadn't seen in 20 years - amazing how time flies!
After the first rains there is, of course, water in the luck and after what has fallen this week there must be more still and there are plenty of Flamingos.
22/10 Torremolinos, home :  A lateish Pied Flycatcher in the garden.
25/10 Torremolinos, home :  More birds in the garden, showing the arrival of wintering Blackcaps with up to 4 in view at a time, plus a single Robin although I had been hearing one singing weakly for two or three days, and a single Chiffchaff.
27/10 Fuente de Piedra : A very pleasant morning's birding around the information centre after a chance meeting with Antonio Ternero, Andrés Serrano, Antonio Palomo y Juan Oñate. A pity that time is so often against me staying longer as although we saw a female Hen Harrier and Purple Boghen at Fuente de Piedra, I left for home at 13.15 whilst they went on to the laguna Dulce. There they saw the first Cranes of the winter.
31/10 Torremolinos, home : My first Black Redstart around the partment this morning, a stunning male.

OTHER NEWS : Cranes (ca. 400) are in on La Janda, as are the first Short-eared Owls. There are plenty of Skyarks and there are reports of Redwings and Bramblings in the area of the Strait, whilst a Bullfinch has been seen in the Montes de Málaga, a much underwatched area by many, including myself. Dunnocks and Alpine Accentors have beean seen in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla.


24/10 : Sierra de María

Once again, thank heavens for Dave, Gilly and the Arboleas group. I shall try and get a bit on the trip my sister and I did down to La Janda just over a week since but life has not been of the easiest.

Gilly and I met up with eight other members of the group at the cafe in María. As it was still a bit chilly, I decided we'd go down to the plain first before heading to the Botanical Gardens. As we headed for the farm ruins several Jays flew across the road in front of us, as did a Griffon Vulture, the only one of the day! At the ruins some Crossbills were, as usual, perched on the tree by the water deposit. A number of Black Redstarts were flitting about on the ploughed field. Also seen were Carrion Crows, Southern Grey Shrike, Goldfinches and Chaffinches.
     Moving on, we next came across a mixed flock of mostly Linnets, but also some Corn Buntings and Rock Sparrow. As we watched them an obliging Calandra Lark was doing a display flight above us. We drove on to the plain and were pleased to see both Northern Wheatear and Calandra Lark on roadside boulders. A Little Owl was also seen.
     Heading back towards María, we stopped briefly at the La Piza recreation area which is now closed for the winter.
Gilly spotted a Green Woodpecker. Colin heard a Robin. Also seen were some Mistle Thrushes.
     We then made for the Chapel. Not many birds were seen round the trough. A Kestrel was seen, as were Jays. We then began the walk to the Gardens. On the ploughed field there were at least 6 Black Redstarts and a Meadow Pipit. A Woodlark serenaded us and a pair of Cirl Buntings were noted.
I have never known the Gardens so quiet. We only added Short-toed Treecreeper, Blue Tit, Great Tit  and Chiffchaff to the list. Gilly thought she might have seen a high flying Peregrine Falcon. The lack of birds could be something to do with the weather. It was grey and cloudy and when spots of rain began to fall we headed back to the cars.
Not the best day we've had up there by any means, but we did manage to scrape 31 species.


17/10 : Río Almanzora & Vera

Dave and the Arboleas Group visited the río Almanzoraand Vera, but not before Dave did my trick, forget to bring a charged battery but in my case today on La Janda (of which more tomorrow) I had no cause to miss it as I had all the photos I needed before the one in the camera failed and I had no missed opportunities to bemoan and say things like, 'Oh dear me' (sic).

There were 12 group members today on our expedition to the Rio Almanzora rambla and estuary. If I try to name them all I'll forget someone....like I forgot to take my camera battery off charge before I left home! (hence no photos today!) We all met at where I usually call the "ford". After the storm it is no more. Gone are all the reeds and most of the shrubs. What you're left with is a muddy flat landscape with flattened tamerisk strewn with dead vegetation. There were a few birds. A Grey Heron flew over. A pair of Stonechats was on the pylon support wire and a Sardinian Warbler was chattering away nearby. Below us in the odd pools we saw White Wagtails, a Green Sandpiper and a Little Ringed Plover. Not a lot else. We wandered  towards the Desalination Plant. It had, apparently, been wrecked by 2 metres of flood water. Large sections of the concrete rambla embankment had been removed to clear the water from there. We don't know if all the pipework down to the sea survived, but there were numerous lengths of the same strewn along the kilometre down to the shore. On the approach to the sewage pool we were serenaded by Cetti's Warblers. There were numerous Chiffchaffs flitting in the bushes. There was a small herd of Cattle Egret by the waters edge. On the next pool were a few Black-winged Stilt and a pair of Common Sandpiper.
     After a cuppa in Villaricos we headed towards the nearby beach. On the rocks I spotted a Turnstone and a pair of Sanderling. Sandwich Terns were patrolling close to shore. We walked towards the estuary, but couldn't reach it as there was now a rivulet blocking our way. It appears all the reedbed has gone, as have large sections of embankment on both sides of the rambla. There is now an island just off the new coastline. A Cormorant flew past.
     We then drove to the pool which is overlooked by the dual carriageway near the Consume Supermarket, Vera. The water level wasn't as high as expected and there appeared to be very little damage. We added Shoveler and Kentish Plover to the list. There were scores of Black-winged Stilts. A Crag Martin flew over and a Southern Grey Shrike was also seen.
      There appeared to be little change at the pool opposite the Aquaparc. Numerous Shovelers were dozing there, but also a few Teal and a single Pintail. Also seen were Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe and a wonderful Kingfisher.
       32 species in all. Obviously a ton of refurbishment needs to be done to repair the Desalination Plant and its infrastructure which will put off lots of birds but eventually wildlife will return. I'm relieved to say that even if I had had a battery in my camera I wouldn't have got many photos today.


07/10 onwards : various - Guadalhorce and Bald Ibis/Human

07/12 : The annual BirdLife International birdy weekend took place with the dedicated members of SEO-Málaga showing off birds and ringing (always very popular thanks to the ringers) and, as usual it was well attended by non birding humans and their off-spring.
wader pool and salicornia colours
Mediterranean Gulls (2 ads, 1 2nd winter)
European Nightjar
I strolled around with Federico, stopping at several points, admiring the colours of the salicornia (above) which has really taken over at the wader pool, and seeing Reed Warbler, the German ringed Osprey which has visited us for the third consecutive winter and a single Marsh Harrier. The best birding was along the río Viejo where was had a nice selection of waders, some 8 species, including a pair of the always elegant Greenshanks and one of their noiser relations, a Redshank. It was nice to see a pair of Common Terns and a pair of Little Terns, these and Sandwich Terns have been very scarce this autumn. There were plenty of Blackcaps in evidence and the first Robins were singing their autumn songs. Down on the laguna Grande a nice little group of Mediterranean Gulls (2nd winter and adults) showed well as did a couple of Audouin's.
The ringers had their usual gawking crowd oohing and aahing at seeing such little beauties as a lovely little male Bluethroat, the spectacle of a Kingfisher and a surprise European Nightjar, and lots of the aforesaid Blackcaps.

10/10 : The number of Blackcaps seen on Sunday reflected itself in my garden when no leass than 4 were present at once.

16/10 : My sister is out from the UK for the first time in years and this morning we had a gentle walk around the Guadalhorce. There was a nice selection of waders including 2 Redshank and a Greenshank, 5 Dunlin, a Curlew Sandpiper, some Snipe, a Sanderling and some Little Ringed Plovers. Birds of prey were few with singles of Booted Eagle and Kestrel, 3 young Marsh Harriers and 2 Sparrowhawks.
I finished off this afternoon with a migrant Spotted Flycatcher in the garden at home. We're going to La Janda tomorrow, so we shall see what we shall see.

Who is imprinted on who?
And finally, the photograph which was taken in early October 'somewhere in Andalucía'. The human in person was hand feeding the Bald Ibis but note should be taken of his headwear. Which leads me to the question : Is he trying not to imprint himself on the Bald Ibis as a human, or is he imprinted and thinks he's a Bald Ibis? Just think about it. The photo is courtesy of my old friend Peter Dunn.


10/10 : Cabo de Gata

Before getting Dave's report down please note the following two points:-

POINT 1 : Regrettably, and for causes totally beyond my control, there may be delays in publishing reports from Dave and my own input is, again very much perforce of circumstances, very probably going to be reduced.

POINT 2 : If you need to communicate with me about information for or about something which isn't to do with the blog, please make a note of my private address which is : andy(dot)birds (at) gmail(dot)com. This is because there have been three occasions when someone has sent a private mail which requires information to the 'comments' and this section I don't tend to look at too often.The result was that replies were much delayed and in two cases too late for the would-be recipient.

So now to Dave's report about the Wednesday visit to Cabo de Gata which also includes this grasshopper with a fancy, jaw-breaking name of Dociostaurus maroccanus, I have renamed for ease of use.

Grasshopperus cabogatensis      

     We had Stan with us again this week as we headed south towards Cabo de Gata. We were a bit concerned about the weather as we hit mist some 15km from our destination, but it had cleared as we neared the coast. After a coffee with Colin and Sandra in Pujaire, we met up with Rod and Linda at the first hide. After the recent deluge we were expecting the water level to be very high, but it only seemed only slightly higher than two weeks ago. There was a scattering of waders: Avocets, Redshank, Greenshank, Ringed and Kentish Plover and I also spotted a small flight of Eurasian Curlews over the savannah to the right. On the causeway were Slender-billed, Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls. A steady stream of Barn Swallows flew by. A Southern Grey Shrike was on the power line and we saw the first of many Stonechats.

     As there was no wind, the sea was calm, so we had a good view of nothing on the birding front! From the second hide we didn't add anything to the list on the water in front, but in the sheltered gully to the right there was a large elusive warbler, which was also keeping very quiet. Eventually we had a good enough view to ID it as a Great Reed Warbler, obviously on migration. We also saw Chiffchaff, Reed, Sardinian and Dartford Warblers. Also seen were Common Sandpiper, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and a flight of Shelducks.
     At the public hide we were delighted to see a solitary Black Stork to the left. The Black-necked Grebes had arrived in force. There was also a Spotted Redshank near to one of the islands. Gilly and I simultaneously spotted a Bluethroat to the right. It chased a Willow Warbler and landed conveniently on a bush. We also saw a Corn Bunting as we drove back towards Pujaire.
     36 species in all. A good days birding.