30/09 : Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

After the floods of the last few days, with the overflowing of the río Guadalhorce, and some areas such as Pizarra upstream receiving well over 200 litres/sq.m in some 24 hours between Thursday and Friday lunch timers and less showers through Saturday morning, I decided to take a run up to see if the storm, which has claimed lives and millions of euros in damage, had left any water in the laguna Dulce at Campillos and in Fuente de Piedra. The evidence of the heavy rainfall was impossible miss in the Vega de Antequera, fields flooded, mud washed on to the road and the land totally sodden.
The laguna Dulce was not all that great for birds, a single Marsh Harrier and a single juv. Black Tern, few ducks with several hundred Mallard but less than a dozen Gadwall, less than 20 White-headed Ducks and 6 female Red-crested Pochards. A few Barn Swallows and House Martins were feeding over the lake and I thought I caught a glimpse of a Sand Martin in the distance. Wadres limited themselves to a single Lapwing and a single Common Sandpiper, so, with nothing to keep me, it was off to Fuente de Piedra.
Once off the main road and on to that for Sierra de Yeguas before turning off for Fuente de Piedra it was easy to see the effects of the heavy rainfall, with large areas of mud on the road, some of which miraculously transferred itself to the car which is is downright filthy! Going over the top wherea one can look down on the Fuente de Piedra lake the amount of rain that had fallen was obvious. The lake has been dry since at least the end of May, it now has water covering about 90% of the surface, although not to any great depth. From the top, apart from a few distant Flamingos, 4 Grey Herons stood pondering on the meaning of life (I said 4, not 42) and a couple of Teal, there wasn't much obvious.
A stop at Cantarranas gave a female Northern Wheatear, a female Common Redstart and a single Spotted Flycatcher, plus Chiffchaffs, Serins, Greenfinches, a Blackcap and Sardinian Warblers. and a single Marsh Harrier sitting in the middle of a field and obviously equally fedup with life, it should have joined the herons! Plus a conversation with a couple of farmers surveying the damage to their lands gave me the information around 180 litres/sq.metre had fallen on the laguna. It was on the way to the information centre that I happened upon 2 Common Buzzards having a tête-à-tête on a pylon, probably exchanging gossip about how nice the weather was, although the rains must have played havoc with their food availability.
The rest of the moring I spent around the information centre where there 2 more Spotted Flys, no less than 6 Pied Flys., a couple of Redstarts, male and female, a superb male Whinchat to go with a nearly equally handsome male Stonechat, another Blackcap and Chiffs. There must have been some 400+ Flamingos scattered across the nearer half of the laguna and certainly 500+ Shovelers. There were few waders, the most numerous being a flock of 21 Ruffs, some Avocets scattered around and a couple of Greenshanks and a single Redshank heard.
But there were no small plovers or other waders. For the rest, Red-rumped Swallows, Barn Swallows and House Martins and that was it. 
The photo of the rabbit (left, just in case you mistake it for a capybara), is for those who want to sing 'Run, rabbit ...etc' , then you can show your age! And if you want to know the reason behind this ditty from the early days of World War 2, then write to me privately. Failing that, watch 'Dad's Army' because one of the singers also sang the theme to that superb BBC series.

Nearly forgot, Stephen Daly who lives over Barbate way, found a Lesser Yellowlegs yesterday, which was still there on the Barbate salinas today but taking a lot of flak from the Wood Sandpipers in the area. Lesser Yellowlegs are delightful waders, slender and very long-legged and I have seen them taking a lot of chivvying from bullying Redshanks which strongly object to their presence.

A sad end to the day when walking my aging spaniel by finding a very freshly dead juvenile Subalpine Warbler on the pavement in the centre of Torremolinos. My garden is no more than 150m in a straight line from where I found it and I see them in the garden, although mainly in the spring.


26/09 : Cabo de Gata

Dave and Co. are getting back into gear. Herewith the account of their visit to Cabo de Gata yesterday. Don't know what the weather's like there today but it's raining here with more forecast for tomorrow!
Brian and Mary recently went to the Cabo de Gata Birdfair where they met up with Kevin and his wife Troy from Sorbas. We were delighted that they could join us today at Cabo de Gata. After a coffee at the Pujaire cafe with Brian, Mary, Dave and Myrtle as well we headed to the first hide. It was cloudy with a gusty westerly wind which didn't bode well.....how wrong I was!
1W Yellow-legged Gull
     As we arrived a Marsh Harrier was quartering over the scrubland to the left of the hide. In the water closest to it was a group of Black-tailed Godwits. I counted at least 40. I then had a bit of a roll. First I spotted a pair of Spoonbills flying in with some of the 405 Greater Flamingos. Next in the distance I saw a pair of Great White Egrets and then spotted a pair of Knot on the causeway! Other waders seen were Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Redshank, Greenshank and Black-winged Stilt. On the causeway were Slender-billed and Black-headed Gulls and Sandwich Terns. Also seen were about 12 Grey Herons and some Little Egrets
On the savannah to the right some Eurasian Curlews were seen. Virtually no little birds raised their heads from the undergrowth. A Greenfinch and some Serins were noted and a Sardinian Warbler was heard. There were lots of low flying Barn Swallows and Gilly and I did see a swift species on the way down.
       We next stopped by the beach opposite the second hide. The sea was quite rough and seabirds were being pushed towards the coast. Saw some Balearic Shearwaters and Yellow-legged Gulls, including a juvenile which Gilly managed to photograph. There were some Lesser Black-backed Gulls hunkered down on the beach. From the hide we added Cattle Egret. We also saw a tern species that was bigger than a Little but smaller than a Sandwich. Guessed it was probably a Common. We also frustratingly saw some distant Buzzard-like raptors.
Honey Buzzard
      At the public hide we gained a Shelduck and some Sanderlings. Then to the right lots of birds took to the air as a Peregrine Falcon flew over. At least 3 or 4 Kestrels were seen flying close to the deck over the scrubland. One of the distant raptors began to fly towards us to be positively identified as an Osprey.
At the far end of the salina to the right of the hide was a flock of 100-200 Shovelers sheltering under a bank.
     As we then headed towards the next village for a coffee we spotted about 4 juvenile Gannets close inshore. A short seawatch after refreshments proved fruitful with Cory's Shearwater and an adult Gannet as well. Due to the wind we decided a visit to Morales would be unwise. As we approached Pujaire from the south the buzzards flew over the road...... Honey Buzzards, at least five!
     So yes, the wind helped us no end by stacking up raptors on migration and bringing seabirds closer inshore. 42 species in all.


22/09 : Tarifa & La Janda

This is a brief and very late report of the trip Federico and myself made last Saturday down to the Strait and La Janda. Judging by reports from others, it seems that half of SEO-Málaga were down there but we managed to see none of them!
We started off at Cazalla (the observatory on the right side of the road leading down to Tarifa where the buildings are) and were there between 09 and 10.30 and which became overloaded with birders of shapes, sizes and nationalities. Lots to see, much of it very high and way out of photographic range but would havve been well within range of the Hubble telescope, including Sparrowhawks, which Federico did see well as they had the courtesy to come through at low level, the first few Marsh Harriers, high flying Honey Buzzards and many equally high flying Short-toed Eagles, a scattering of Booted Eagles as well as the only Griffon Vultures of the day and several Egyptian Vultures. In amidst all this lot, 4 Black Storks made an appearance.

At 10.30 we pushed off for breakfast before going to La Janda. Here we got stuck going down the trackk to the canal as six cowboys were carrying out a roundup of escaped cattle, which meant bringing out the whole damned herd, and as said cattle had damned great horns we cowards deemed it best to keep a very safe distance. This wasted half an hour, which was a shame as we could see raptors way over in the distance and there were several hundred White Storks sitting around waiting for the air to heat up, which it duly did and they staarted thermalling before setting off south.
La Janda was, as usual, interesting and turned up Calandra Larks and a few Yellow Wagtails determinedly flying south, but we were after bigger fry, namely birds of prey, and we were not to be disappointed.
The drive northwards alongside the canal gave us more Marsh Harriers, at least 9 according to my very incomplete notes and which included this old female which was showing grey in the wings and the poor photo shows what I mean, a  female Hen Harrier and both female and juv. Montagu's Harriers.
The rice is starting to ripen and another month will see it harvested, indeed, some looks as though it should be ready within a couple of weeks but the rain which is currently falkling both there and here may well put paid to that as it will mess up the moisture content.
A widely spaced flock of at least 20 Lesser Kestrels were feeding over the fields where harvesting of maize was taking place ad we saw a few Common Kestrels. A pair of Black-shouldered Kites flew over us but continued westwards on some unknown mission and were the only ones we saw all day. Short-toed Eagles and a few Honey Buzzards, including one incredibly black bird which perched on an electricity tower, flew southwards over us, often at great height, plus a couple of Common Buzzards.
A couple of Ravens flew away from us as we drove south, with more rptors which added a juv. Bonelli's Eagle to our list, seeing lots of the omni-present Stonechats but not a single Whinchat, but a couple of female/juv. type Northern Wheatears were seen.
We ate lunch going across the top by the smelly farm and saw nothing there but the slow and very hot drive southwards along the central track towards Facinas was reasonably productive and included 3 Alpine Swifts and a single Common Swift amongst the many Barn Swallows and House Martins.
We finished ioff the day by calling at the Cazalla watch point on the southern side of the road, seeing more Short-toed and Booted Eagles, yet another Sparrowhawk and excellent views of a Hobby as it shot over our heads.
All these raptors made, if my maths is right (now there's a hope!) a total of 15 species of raptors, which ain't bad by anyone's standards!


15-16/09 : pelagics to the Conception Bank

It's a well known fact that I love pelagics and this is a brief report of the visit I made with Lanzarote pelagics to the Banco de la Concepción, 60 kms to the N of Lanzarote, this last weekend. Journey on Friday, 14/09, to Lanzarote via Madrid where I enjoyed(?) a nearly 4 hour break reading a John Le Carré book I had been saving just for this. I stayed up at Orzola, from which we would be sailing, as driving up and back to Arrecife after some 15 hours at sea seemed stupid, so I was within 5 minutes walk of the boat.
The plan was to hit the southerly autumn migration and one with which I could not disagree, and hopefully some rarer ones but we were frustrated to some extent by the cyclonic situation. On the Saturday morning, in the darkness and dawn still a fair way off, some 30 of us congregated on the dockside awaiting the arrival of the boat. We were a fairly motley crew, a little League of Nations, with various Brits including Dick Newell, like myself an orginal Seabird Group member from back in 1965, as well as a Finn, a Dutchman, one French birder with whom I shared mutual acquaintances, and a number of Spanish birders.
We did see lots Cory's and the inevitable Yellow-legged Gulls, a few Bulwer's Petrels and only one Arctic Tern, but we saw no rare skuas (i.e. South Polar) and skua numbers were lower than I would have expected, no Sabine's Gulls (God knows why not), a very distant Swinhoe's Storm-petrel seen by only three of which only two said they were certain, the third observer having seen a only a black object disappeaaring into the distance. A Quail is not a a marine species, but one was seen passing the boat, presumably to meet a watery grave. So, now to a bundle of photos with a minimal text above each set of species photos.

Manx Shearwater : Very few seen and only two photos taken, one of which is shown here as the other shows a disappearing stern of this same bird.

 Band-rumped Storm-petrel : Numerous on the Saturday with an estimated 300+ being seen, only 100 or so on the Sunday. Some bird (photo1) were in wing moult. This species has now been officially split into three different spp. but these are the original Oceanodroma castro.

Wilson's Storm-petrel : Very few seen and badly photographed (2 photos below here), the same going for European Storm-petrel (not photographed).


Common Tern : We saw quite a few, more on the Saturday, and most were juveniles, 3 photos here.

 Long-tailed Skua: Scarce but some showed well, sufficient to obtain these three shots as evidence.

Pomarine Skua : Not particularly numerous either but these photos give a reasonable idea of this splendid species.

We saw some cetaceans including Hump-backed, Bryde's and Cuvier's Whales, not to mention the great experience of getting in amongst the biggest group of Bottle-nosed Dolphins I have ever seen, a guesstimated 150-200 animals, the big males leaping up to 3m clear of the surface. Notable, and for many of us most encouraging, was the number of females with young, perhaps between a quartear and a third of the total. These photos give a taste of things.

And did I enjoy it? Don't ask silly questions!


19/09 : Rambla de Almanzora & Vera

First, would Kiersten who wrote to me via 'comments' please get in touch with me at my home mail (andy.birds (at) gmail.com) and I shall be delighted help if I can. Please note that I have been away, hence the lack of reply. Dave, don't mention little brown jobs to me! They should be banned or totally ignored or simply regarded as an aberration of evolution. Why do you think I took up seabirds and waders? Incidentally, the French call them petites merdes. I'm not translating it but it appears most appropriate to me and I was told it by a former member of the French rarities committee! And now for the Arboleas Group's most recent outing today which means I shall not put in my report on the trip to Lanzarote tomorrow and there's also the Guadalhorce tomorrow morning with Bob and the Axarquía group. Life's all go!

As we left Arboleas it was raining, but only a few spots. It took Gilly and I about 40 minutes to reach the "ford" over the Rambla de Almanzora, the sea side of Cuevas de Almanzora. On the way, near to the Repsol Garage at Palamores, Gilly had spotted 5 Bee-eaters. We were met at the rambla by Adrian, Colin and Sandra. There was no sign of rain as we began to walk towards the Desalination plant. There had recently been a heavy rainstorm. Water was still flowing as there were a few pools to attract waders. There were both Ringed  and Kentish Plovers and a Dunlin close to the road and a pair of Green Sandpipers flitted between ponds. The shrubbery was alive with LBJs. We positively identified Chiffchaff and Willow, Cetti's and Reed Warblers, but some proved unidentifiable. Gilly managed to point out a Spotted Flycatcher. At the sewage works there were Little Ringed Plovers, a Common Sandpiper and Black-winged Stilts. In the small lake next to it was a pair of Shovelers, numerous Mallards and Black-headed Gulls, a few Cattle Egrets and a Little Grebe. The storm had severely damaged a wooden cycleway as large section of it were strewn about in the shrubs.
Crimson Speckled
     After a coffee break in nearby Villaricos we headed for the beach. There was nothing on the rocks by the harbour entrance, but along the shore were Sanderlings and a solitary Turnstone. Gilly took the photo as I was humping, sorry, carrying the telescope! Above the waves were a few terns. More difficult to ID in their autumn plumage, but concluded to have seen Sandwich, Little and a single Common Tern. Further out two juvenile Gannets were patrolling. Gilly got a nice photo of a Crimson Speckled moth.
     We then moved down to the ponds opposite the Consum Supermarket at Vera. The water level in the pools as seen from the dual carriageway was very low and there were very few birds on site, so we headed to the pool near the Acuaparc entrance. Here we saw Little Egret and numerous Teal. Colin spotted a Little Bittern and lastly I managed to spot a Purple Swamphen before we left.
     39 species in total. I think I can sum up my feelings as frustrated. Those LBJ's get under your skin, don't they, Andy!


13/09 : Guadalhorce

A pleasant, albeit rather warm, morning down at the Guadalhorce ponds with Sandra (she's an expert in raptors and is just back from 6 months working on Egyptian Vultures in Lanzarote and Tenerife) and also had the always agreable company of Antonio Tamayo. The day started with a light westerly wind and we worked our way down the eastern bank, stopping at both hides, there being a few Mallard and Pochard at the first as well as a Melodious Warbler, a single Woodchat Shrike and Spotted Flycatcher. The second hide, the one in front of what is now generally known as 'the wader pool', was more productive with 5 Redshanks, a Green Sandpiper, a couple of Common Sandpipers and a single Snipe, as well ca. 12 Teal and a single Shoveler. Antonio heard a Wood Sand whilst I heard a Greenshank. There were lots of Little Ringed Plovers both there and further down the río Viejo, with reasonable numbers of Kentish Plovers and one or two Ringed Plovers. It was from this hide too that we picked up a pair of Reed Warblers.
From the second hide we also saw a pair of Peregrines perched over in the eucalyptus trees and at one point the male decided to have a very fast low level fly around, a splendid sight, and the female joined him in the air and the size difference was notable. Going on towards the seawatch mirador whilst a few Bee-eaters called overhead as they moved westwards, we picked up the first Whinchat of the day out of a total of 4 and a couple of Turnstones flew in to the rocks at the mouth of the river and a distant Cory's Shearwater was just visible through the heat haze. Going along the beach  and along the wire which separates the reserve from the exhibitionists, a Pied Flycatcher.
We did remarkably well for raptors, leaving the aforementioned Peregrines to one side, as there were 3 Marsh Harriers, including a lovely male, and there was some movement with birds that had crossed the bay making landfall at the reservea, these including 4 Sparrowhawks which then proceeded to gain height before circling off westwards, and a Booted Eagle which followed them.

We finished off the morning at the laguna Grande which was full of gulls, mainly Black-headed with lesser numbers of Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed, with a few each of Mediterranean and Audouin's. There was a solitary Cormorant and a good ten or so Grey Herons.

It was at this point that we witnessed what happens when a mild westerly changes to a strong easterly. Antonio noticed a cloud of dust over the far side of the bay, roughly in the area where they do some quarrying but this dust cloud grew and grew and moved rapidly towards Málaga and towards us. It missed us but went to blanket the airfield and when the strong easterly, I reckoned a good force 6 gusting 7, the gulls on the laguna Grande panicked and we held down or put away optical equipment, micro dust not being highly recommended for optical gear. We were only on the edges but the dust got between our teeth and we made remarks about flying beach umbrellas, vanishing grannies and remarks of that ilk. The photo below shows what it was like looking towards Málaga across the laguna Grande.

And to finish off, as we went out, a the finding of dead Genet, a youngish animal, and we feel that it was probably killed by an intruding male as the female, the dead beast's mother, would then ovulate and the killer male pass on his genes. That, folks is what life is all about - sex and passing on your genes, which why there are more unfaithful male humans than females (birders don't have the energy, we're more centred on other things most of the time).
However, 44 species for the morning wasn't at all bad, a decent way to celebrate blog number 400 out of which more than few have been about the Guadalhorce. And tomorrow off to Lanzarote about you will be able to read in the fullness of time after about next Wednesday.


12/09 : Sierra de María

Rather a difficult day, so straight into Dave's report by Arboleas' Grouo visit to the sierra..
     As Rob and Val drove us towards the Sierra de Maria, we could not see a cloud in the sky. Before arriving in the town to meet up with Brian, Mary, Colin and Sandra, we'd already seen 8 Bee-eaters on the roadside power lines. After refreshments at the garage cafe we headed up to the chapel area. A distant Jay was seen, as was a pair of Chiffchaffs near the drinking water supply. The birds using the water trough were few and far between due to the very close proximity of a cat and kitten, but we did see Rock Bunting and both Crested and Great Tit loitering with thirsty intent!
     We wandered up towards the Botanical Gardens disturbing a Sardinian Warbler on the way. We then heard Bee-eaters. The first flock of about 10 flew over. We later saw flocks of 20+ & 40+ heading south. No swifts today, but we did see a few Barn Swallows and House Martins. A Booted Eagle soared above us. One of the Rangers gave us the good news that no school parties were due today so we had the walks to ourselves. We had good views of Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits. I was pleased to see the staff had constructed a very small water feature which attracted birds including the tit families, Serin and Chaffinch. An elusive Firecrest made an appearance, but as could be predicted all the summer warblers had left.
A Pied Flycatcher was sitting on one of the picnic tables as we arrived. Small pools of water were on most of the tables, which attracted Crossbill, Coal, Great, Crested and Long-tailed Tits to take on water. A Short-toed Treecreeper was seen and a steady flow of Griffon Vultures passed overhead.
     Well satisfied we headed home. Only 27 species in all, but what a great days birding.


08/09 : La Janda & Tarifa (Cazalla)

This lack of getting out is playing havoc with my mental state, which has been akin (I presume) to those addicts who suffer withdrawal symptoms. It's alright pretending to be satisfied with seeing a male Sparrowhawk - new bird for the garden/terrace list - on 31/08, or a Cory's and12 Balearic Shearwaters going E (05/09) or a Melodious Warbler, bonny though it be (06/09) and a Willow Warbler the following day. It's just not sufficient.
So when the metcast, which had been showing force 4-6 easterlies in the Strait all week and with reports that the migrant raptors were piling up as they were too scared to cross, when the forecast for Saturday showed force 2 the consensus of opinion in the fororoa forum was that the flood gates of migration would open, with which I agreed.
Thus, I was ready to rock and roll at 06.45 and by the time I got to La Linea it was lowly overcast and by the time I was crossing by the mirador del Estrecho the clag was so low that it was impossible to even see the tops of the blades of the lowest wind mills which were whirling round merrily - force 2 winds be damned! Change plan as it would take hours for the clag to clear. Going down hill towards Tarifa theare were three totally disorientated flocks of Black Kites, in sum perhaps 700-800 birds, milling around, totally uncertain as to what to do.
After a quick coffee at San Jsoé del Valle I was going down towards the canal on La Janda at just on 9 with a pallid sunshine trying to burn off. There were thousands of finches, Goldfinches, lesser numbers of Linnets, plenty of House Sparrows and the biggest flock of Greenfinches I have ever seen - a guesstimated 500 birds! And a single Melodious Warbler. Lots of Barn Swallows and few House Martins were feeding low over  the rice paddies and small flocks of Calandra Larks flew back and forth. There were flocks of Bee-eaters moving southewards high overhead, so high I saw few but heard them clearly.
It was windy enough to keep a flock of some 500 White Storks firmly anchored to terra firme whilst small numbers of Glossy Ibis flew back and forth - there were shooters but in spite of them I saw very good numbers of very nervous European Turtle Doves (the Collared Dove is now classed as a game bird in some communities - a bit late). I very distant plover may have been a Dotterel but heat haze and distance precluded a positive i/d.
The main objective on La Janda was raptors and I was not to be disappointed, there being so many Marsh Harriers, mostly juvs, with some adult females and a couple of immature males, that I gave up counting once past the 20 mark, and I must have seen over 30 on the circular tour as I went across tdhe top and back down the central track to Facinas. A couple of Green Sandpipers were flushed out of one of the paddies by a harrier, possibly the female Hen Harrier that I saw shortly after. It was along here too, accompanied by Cetti's Warbler having an hysterical attack that I saw the first of 4 Black-shouldered Kites, a most beautuful little raptor.
At about the same time I saw a melanistic Montagu's Harrier, the first of 4 for the day (the remainder being normal). These melanic birds are stunning and this one was a fantastic specimen, jet black with only a little barring in the axillaries and some more or less visible on the tail. There is a reasonable percentage of melanistic Montys in Galicia and this may well have been one of them. Another normal one, a female, sitting in a field had a wing tag, a rather dull orange one with a thickish black line through the centre and I shall try to find the provenance of that bird.
Short-toed Eagle
Surprisingly, going over the top by the smelly farm and stopping there was little in sight and that was very distant and included one huge black lump on the horizon which had a big bulge along the lione of the secondaries - God knows what that was but it would have been interesting. The track down to Facinas was quite productive, with a buzzard which I am certain was a Long-legged, too distant to photograph unfortunately but I did get some plumage notes. There was only one Raven but in the raptor line a few Black Kites, a single Short-toed Eagle and a couple of Honey Buzzards, young ones in pristine plumage. And a side note, my friend Ron who has been studying Honey Buzzards in North Yorkshire for the past 35 years told me only last week that there is still one of this years juveniles hanging around way up there - it had better get its skates on! I saw only 2 Kestrels all day, an amazingly low figure, and towards the end of thre track, having logged 4 Northern Wheatears and a single Black-eared, a male Peregrine flashed across the track and  a Yellow Wagtail was feeding along the edge of a trickle of water.
From there it was down to Cazalla, still windy, if anything more intense, Morocco was still invisible, and there were raptors everywhere, all totally indecisive, flying back and forth, going inland and obviously coming back for a second look. Counting accurately was impossible. There were also hordes of birders, both at the makeshift site on the south side of the road and at the new one, still unopened and illegally occupied by others - I wish the authorities (ie. Tarifa townhall who appear to be run by a bunch of procrastinators and/or incompetents) would get it opened up and stop blaming the Black Stork Group (Cigüeña Negra - COCN) people for their own incompetence. I have never seen so many birders there, it was quite frightening.
In the hour and a half I stayed there, there must have been some 20 Black Storks come down, and some daily totals, based on what I saw there and the relatively few raptors before are something on these lines : Black Kite - 1.400-1.500 birds; Short-toed Eagle - 150+; Booted Eagle - ca.30;  Egyptian Vulture - ca.30; Honey Buzzard - 30+ (many were apparently very low and following the shoreline out of sight and this therefore a big under estimate); Marsh Harrier - 30+.
It was, overall, a very satisfying day's birding and I am sated until this coming weekend when I shall be at sea off Lanzarote, about which you will be able to read in the fullness of time. Perhaps I should tell the wife I'm going to be away ....


05/09 : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

Long time no write, long  time not gone out (bloody knees and just too damned hot) and therefore little to no news but I hope to get down to Tarifa-La Janda in the next 48 hours beafore shoving off to Lanzarote within 10 days. I had a short break away, which included the Bird Fair where I gave the talk without receiving cries of disapproval and putrid fruits and vegs. to some 250 brave souls, signed a few of the books, and met up with friends, these including Dave and Gilly. By the by, Dave, remember that Monty's juvs. and females also have a white rump and
The massive fire, over 8.500 hectares razed, sent a frightened Jay down to Guadalhorce and the same day I had a male Sparrowhawk at home, a new garden bird, but the only other sp. of note has been a Spotted Flycatcher hanging around. 
Note that the Tarifa Bird Fair has been cancelled, I have heard various reasons but one of the main ones heard (and the official reason) is lack of interest in investment for a stand for a week by potential exhibitors - hardly surprising, given the present economic climate.
Dave and Gilly have now returned home after seven weeks away and, of course, made a bee-line for Cabo de Gata and Rambla Morales, and here is their report.

After nearly seven tiring weeks in the UK, Gilly and I were looking forward to getting down to some birdwatching on our local patch. We met up with Colin and Sandra at Pujaire, the village just before Cabo de Gata Nature Reserve. At the first hide we saw that the water level was at a reasonable height for the wading birds. Lots of Ringed Plovers, outnumbering the resident Kentish Plovers by about twenty to one. No sign of any Avocets or Black-winged Stilts which was strange. We did see a few Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Dunlins, Curlew Sandpipers and individual Little Stint, Greenshank and Grey Plover. There was one Eurasian Curlew on floating weeds to the left and a couple on the right hand shoreline. We then spotted a flight of 25+ on the savannah to the right. Also seen were Grey HeronLittle and Cattle Egrets, flocks of feeding Slender-billed Gulls and, of course, Greater Flamingos. (Gilly counted 480 from the second hide). Small birds were few and far between, due, I suspect, to the blustery easterly wind keeping their heads down. Did see Red-rumped Swallow and Chiffchaff.
1st autumn Black-eared Wheatear
     On the beach was a small flock of Yellow-legged Gulls. As we walked to the second hide we saw a juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Greenfinch and Willow Warbler. At the hide spotted a few Black-winged Stilt sheltering from the wind. Little birds included a 1st winter Black-eared Wheatear and a Common Redstart. Also seen was an elusive Whimbrel and a Southern Grey Shrike.
     Moving on to the public hide, the fencing behind it provided some shelter from the wind for a Spotted Flycatcher and a possible Whitethroat. Found the Avocet! Must have been 400+ huddled together. Also seen was a Yellow Wagtail and a Sardinian Warbler.
     After a short snack break we headed to the Rambla de Morales, via the campsite. There was no sign of the Little Swift (reported last week) but numerous House Martins to get the heart fluttering! As we approached the eastern end of the lake we saw a large harrier heading over the horizon to the left. Brown with white rump. Had to be a Hen Harrier! On the water were about a dozen White-headed Duck.There were numerous Mallard and a few Teal were sheltering in the reeds.
44 species for the day. A good days birding spoilt by the wind, but very glad to be back.