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.


06/10 : Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

It was later than I hand intended when I arrived at the laguna Dulce, not that I needed to have hurried as it was a grey, coolish and definitely uninspiring morning with little promise of bettering at 09.50. Visibility wasn't great, not that it mattered as the lake was hardly teeming with birds. Coots, of course and most of those were along the far shore, a smattering of Mallards, 7 female Pintails to give some class, at least 20 Black-necked Grebes and 3 Great Crested Grebe, with a head count of 48 White-headed Ducks, which was quite an increase on the previous week.
From there it was a gentle ride to Fuente de Piedra, in parts perforce of circumstances beacause of the damned great potholes in the road to Sierra de Yeguas but at least the mud has either dried or been shovelled off. First stop was the top overlooking the laguna and it was here that I came upon the first of 2 Hen Harriers which made itself highly conspicuous by doing an ungainly crash landing in the top of an olive tree, the other being round at Cantarranas.
At Cantarranas the sun was starting to break through and two Common Buzzards flew off, possibly the same pair I had seen last week some 5kms away whilst I was to see a third later one, this last being given a good beating up by a Black-winged Kite (this is the correct name, not Black-shouldered). I think these little kites must have something about other birds of prey overflying as on Wednesday we saw another beating up a Booted Eagle. A single female Marsh Harrier sat in a field, they must be a philosophic species, either that or it had indigestion.
The road along from Cantarranas towards Fuente de Piedra has taken a fair beating and the fields on either side are full of washed channels and it was in and around one of these with a nice erosion channel that I came across a Grey Wagtail, saw 3 Northern Wheatears, the last being a big bird (photo on left) which I reckoned was one of the Greenland race, so notable were the differences in size, stance, plus colouration. It was while I was watching these that some Skylarks flew over and I saw the first of 3 Hoopoes for the day.
The last part of the morning was spent around the information centre and in the field on the right with the tower, just after one has turned of the road and which last winter hardly ever had a Stone-curlew in what had been a traditional site, abandoned then because I think that there was too much vegetation and which has been harrowed and sown with something held no less than ca.45 of these enigmatic birds. A lovely sight.
The water level has fallen slightly in the lake and there were certainly fewer Flamingos and Shovelers but this was compensated for by a big rise in Avocets, there being over a hundred, plus a smaller rise in Stilt numbers. I could only count 10 Ruff but the tamarisks hid part of the shore line. A look at the lake at the back revealed little except this rather fine adult Ocellated Lizard (above), very possibly the same that was there all last summer.
A surprise bird was a a solitary Common Swift which led a small migrant group of House Martins and 3 or 4 Red-rumped Swallows and I had previously seen a handful of Barn Swallows. To finish off I took the first part of the path over the walk way - what a pity that area is dry! and received a final reward in the form of this Southern Grey Shrike which couldn't make up its mind which way to go! Nothing rare but some rather nice views and a damned sight better than being at home.


03/10 : La Janda

Yes, it was Wednesday we - the we being myself , Peter Dunn. an old birding friend (we calculate 40 years) and co-founding member of the Filey Brigg Observatory back in the 1970s<, and Kath, Peter's wife,  went to Tarifa and thence La Janda, but since then I received Dave E-B's report on Sierra de María and we had a funeral to attend, so here I am on Friday night trying to get this shortish report done before going to the laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra tomorrow. So, on with show.
First stop, before 09.00, was Cazalla where it was blowing pretty hard as a flock of 5 Black Storks and 2 Black Kites struggling against the wind showed, although a Sparrowhawk was rather less fazed although it kept pretty low. Then to breakfast at the San José del Valle bar and after that on to La Janda.

There we went along the canal drainage bank, then across the bridge and up past the farm, then a couple of kms down the track between Benalup and Facinas, with multiple stops, of course. So basically, after the male Stonechat shown here had flaunted itself, it came down the second bird illustrated bdelow leftwhich was a bit of a puzzle. It's certainly an adult as it was in body moult and after much umming and aahing we put it down as a Melodious Warbler and not an Icterine (regrettably!), it being fortunate that Peter is a very experienced A class ringer. In the small birds line we had  quite a few Willow Warblers (10+) and a similar number of Yellow Wagtails, a single small flock of 4-5 Short-toed Larks, some Linnets and Greenfinches, a nice female Whinchat and a constant southerly movement of Barn Swallows and House Martins at a considerable altitude and one Sand Martin. Up beyond the smelly farm. we saw the pair of Magpies that have been hanging around in that area for at least a couplea of years now. A single Purple Boghen was heard in the thick reeds of the little pond at the beginning of the track to Facinas. There were plenty of White Storks and Cattle Egrets and a few Grey Herons. They have only just started harvesting the rice so at the moment there is little suitable habitat and the only waders we saw were singles of Snipe and Green Sandpiper.
In the small birds line we had  quite a few Willow Warblers (10+) and a similar number of Yellow Wagtails, a single small flock of 4-5 Short-toed Larks, some Linnets and Greenfinches, a nice female Whinchat and cuple of Northern Wheatears.  There was a constant southerly movement of Barn Swallows and House Martins at a considerable altitude and one Sand Martin. Up beyond the smelly farm. we saw the pair of Magpies that have been hanging around in that area for at least a couplea of years now. A single Purple Boghen was heard in the thick reeds of the little pond at the beginning of the track to Facinas. There were plenty of White Storks and Cattle Egrets and a few Grey Herons. They have only just started harvesting the rice so at the moment there is little suitable habitat and the only waders we saw were singles of Snipe and Green Sandpiper.
In the raptors line, a brief list with the approximate numbers seen and perhaps a comment where appropriate in parentheses: Griffon Vulture (2), Short-toed Eagle (2), Booted Eagle (2 on La Janda and no less than 7 between Algeciras and Marbella on the way back), Black Kite (13), Marsh Harrier (8 including one male), Montagu's Harrier (1, but it was a splendid melanic bird, the second one I've seen this autumn but they don't half make you think at first sight!), Common Buzzard (5); Sparrowhawk (5+), Goshawk (a big female which Peter saw but as it was me driving it was deemed better that I keep my eyes on the road), Black-winged Kite (10 with one giving merry hell to a Booted Eagle), Kestrel (less than 10, really remarkably few), Lesser Kestrel (about 5). Which makes a total of 12 spp. Not too bad and we had a jolly good day out.


03/10 : Sierra de María

After having had a large chunk of Andalucía battered, damaged and washed away following the tremendous rainfall a week since, news and film of which even reached Brisbane (Oz) from whence friends e-mailed to see if we were alright here. Dave's opening comment and the photo which prefaces his report say it all.
Meanwhile there is still plenty of  passerine passage and it appears that the Griffon Vulture passage has started. As usual, Cádiz province is notching up the rarities which have included Pacific Golden Plover on the Los Lances beach at Tarifa (and which was allegedly kept under wraps for four days) and a Lesser Yellowlegs up near Barbate, plus an odd report this morning of 2 Royal Terns inland in Granada province, but the photo quality doesn't convince me.
I was down on La Janda yesterday and shall post that tomorrow.

Motorway bridge self destructed, the driver escaped safely

To say a lot of water has passed under the bridge since last week would be incorrect in our area. The force of water during Friday's storm has brought down numerous bridges including one on the E15 Autovía at Lorca. Our access to that motorway has been cut off unless you want a 45 minute detour round the villages to the north of Huercal Overa. I therefore invited those who could make it to meet me at the Sierra de Maria as the roads that way appeared to be okay.
     Gilly and I, together with an old member who was here on holiday, Stan, met up with Brian, Mary, Adrian and Helen. After a coffee we headed up to the chapel. As we wandered round we saw Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Spotless Starling and White Wagtail. Near to the water trough there was a small flock of Long-tailed Tits taking the waters together with a Blue Tit and a Blackcap. We then walked up towards the Botanical Gardens seeing numerous Woodlarks, a slightly worn male Common Redstart. Cirl Bunting and a female Stonechat.
     A walk around the lower part of the Gardens was virtually birdless. Usually we come across a tit flock, but today we only saw a Sardinian Warbler in the small bird department and a Common Buzzard. Brian spotted a Crested Tit as we returned to the Information Centre.
     We then headed towards the plain. In front of us, as we travelled through the pine wood, we could see plumes of soaring Griffon Vultures ahead. We raced to the ruined farm buildings. There we counted between 50-60 Griffons to the north, many overflying us. Near to the water deposit was one, maybe two Pied Flycatchers and some Crossbills at the top of the adjacent tree. Also saw a large flock of Barn Swallows and a fast, low flying Sparrowhawk.
     On the plain we added Crested Lark, Carrion Crow and Corn Bunting. Helen and Adrian saw a Lesser Short-toed Lark as well. When we got to the Hamlet we were surprised to see there'd been a small fall of Yellow Wagtails, at least half a dozen in all. There were all put to flight by another Sparrowhawk.
     Also there were a group of Spanish Air force lads. It transpired they were waiting for some Hercules planes to do a "touch, drop and go" manoeuvre where they push out a vehicle or cargo through the rear door as they land and take off. We should've hung around to see it, but we were at the La Piza Recreation area when they flew low over, disturbing a flock of Crossbills.
     On the way back towards Velez Blanco we added a Kestrel, which took our tally to 35 species. Also saw a low flying Golden Eagle between Chirivel and Oria.
     A reasonable day. Hopefully we can head south next week depending on the road access!