27/04 : Fuente de Piedra

A rather brief entry in consonance that the time I spent there. It was cold, windy, with grey skies and few birds on the area by the pasarela, due in large part to the activities of three photographers from a club in Córdoba who flushed everything in their desire to get superb photos and would have definitely benefitted from a dose of curare or something similar. They are the sort who give photographers a bad reputation and who generally mess up things for others - pure b****y selfishness in my opinion and even made the Reed Warblers shut up for a short time but didn't deter a distant Nightingale. However .... 
As noted there were few waders because of (a) the interference and (b) water levels have fallen considerably. One can only hope that the rains promised for today (Sunday) and hopefully tomorrow will dump some tens of litres per sq.m. and alleviate the situation.
Of passerines, very little except this female Stonechat (L) who was busy dealing with a very large green caterpillar and which she eventually swallowed with some difficulty - you can see the tail end of it in her gape. Meanwhile, the male, a splendid little chap as male Stonechats tend to be at this time of year, was giving me hell for daring to be on his patch of thistle territory (R). I saw a nice male Red-crested Pochard flight in, where his missus was, I know not but possibly sitting on a clutch of eggs. Plus a beautiful pair but distant  pair of handsome Shelducks also flew in but I was slow with the camera.

As for the waders, Redshanks won hands down numerically, with at least 35 in the area, including 26 on one pool by the road to Sierra de Yeguas. On a much lesser scale, there were 5 Curlew Sandpipers, including one in splendid breeding plumage, 3 Ruff, 4 Common Sandpipers and singles of Green (disturbed and never seen again) and Wood Sandpiper (ditto as for Green), plus the usual Avocets and Black-winged Stilts which will look for any excuse to have an attack of the hysterics. By that time the weather weas looking distinctly ominous so it was head for home and the feeling that my morning hadn't been entirely fruitful.
Please note that there will be nothing from me until sometime after 8/9 May as Birding-the-Costa is going on a short hol for a long weekend birding in Central Park, plus perhaps another park, and out at Jamiaca Bay by JFK airport.


24/04 : Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

A morning out with Sandra Sierra - a bird of prey expert - and Chris Feare, possible the last before he goes back to the Seychelles to continue his 40 (yes, forty) year project with the Sooty Terns. Chris had brought some of the results of the tracking of these by satellite or geolocators - fascinating stuff. That's research! We met at the laguna Dulce just before 9 and it was undoubtedly the morning of the grebes, both Black-necked and the Great Crested, a pair of which engaged in front of the hide. The courtship of these beautiful grebes is fascinating and the series of three shots below, even though they were against the light, show a part of it, each bird mirroring the head and neck actions of the other, is a joy to behold.

Great Crested Grebe courtship display
The grebes apart, Reed Warblers sang, Coots pottered around and the morning was further enlivened by Chris finding a Red-knobbed Coot which we managed to see well. A few White-headed Ducks and a Little Grebe fed close to the hide and some Pochard were much further over, as were some 10 Whiskered Terns which flew into the wind feeding (what a wonderful invention is the telescope!) and Gull-billed Terns winged their way across on feeding trips. Not a single harrier was to be seen.
From there we went on to Fuente de Piedra, stopping to look down on the western end where the Greater Flamingos have settled down to breeding chores and also hearing the fluting calls of a Golden Oriole. From there it was straight to the information centre, noting on the way that the water flashes on the left side of the road had dried out, thus depriving us of a fruitful wader source and also seeing the only Marsh Harrier of the day, and later a nice male Lesser Kestrel. Not that there was a great quantity or variety of waders in any case, but it wasn't for lack of searching.
Spotted Redshanks and Ruffs
Spotted Redshank
 The best was the presence of 2 Spotted Redshanks, one well on its way to full spectacular breeding plumage, and an amusing moment when a Common Redshank walked by one stopping to look up at it - many birders do not realise how big a Spotted Redshank is in comparison with  Common, and if one looks at the photo with the Ruff (males) one can get a good idea of its bulk.
Although we didn't do any sort of really accurate count, numerically, the most abundant was very probably the Wood Sandpipers with at least 8-10 birds present - what a good spring for this lovely wader, followed by Common Redshanks (6+) and 4 Ruffs and the 2 Spotted Redshanks. There were very few small plovers and we only really saw Little Ringed and not a single stint. Where have these last gone? The same question has been posed throughout Andalucía about the lack of Garganey this spring but we did see 2 pairs of Shelducks and way over on the lake at least 8 Black Terns were feeding.
Separating  Black from Whiskered at a distance can be a bit difficult when both are in breeding plumage as the white cheeks of Whiskered are often difficult to see, a better clue is the colour of the back and upper wing, pale and generally tern-like in Whiskered, rather darker and with a brownish-grey tinge in Black.

24/04 : Las Norias & Roquetas

A lot to do this Thursday morning, inlcuding my own blog from yesterday, so straight in with the first, the story of Dave E-B and the Arboleas Group visiting Las Norias and Roquetas. It was also the day of the Great Crested Grebe, as you will see later. It seems rather late to see a raft of Black-necked Grebes, they should all be paired up and settling down to matrimonial bliss. By the by, Dave, Aylesbury duck are best seen with orange sauce! So, onwards ....
Great Crested and Little Grebes
As Bob Wright's Axarquia Birding Group visit to Las Norias and Roquetas was so successful (see www.birdingaxarquia2.blogspot.com) I thought I'd lead our group in their footsteps. I got a lift with Val and Rob down to the Service Station at Jct 420 on the E15 where we met up with John, Tony and Karen. After a quick cuppa we drove along to Jct 411, through Las Norias  and made our way to the first causeway. There was a gusty wind which wasn't good for birdwatching! Above us and over the water were numerous Pallid Swifts, Sand Martins and a few House Martins. Eventually we did manage to spot a Barn Swallow and a Crag Martin as well. The water pipe work seems at last to have been virtually completed, but the downside is they've put up fencing restricting access to that little pool to the left. We did however manage to have good views of a singing Great Reed Warbler. On the large expanse of water to the left there were numerous pairs of Great Crested Grebes, but not much else. A Cormorant flew right over us. Also seen were some Gadwall and Mallard. Our views to the right hand water were poor due to the sun being right in our eyes, but I don't think we missed much. We only added a pair of resting Red Crested Pochards on the far bank.

raft of Black-necked Grebes
male Red-crested Pochard
     We drove round to where the old heronry was situated. It was, as expected, deserted. There was however a raft of Black-necked Grebes. A Gull-billed Tern flew over. Disappointed, we headed for the second causeway. The "flooded" meadow on the junction had dried up so we parked up and checked out the smaller lake on the factory side. I spotted a Squacco Heron on the far bank amongst the discarded plastic sheeting. A further one appeared when the first flew off. Down near the factory we could see a Shoveler and some Common Pochards. The new heronry on the opposite side was far more interesting. Lots of Cattle Egrets nesting. There were numerous Night Herons on their nests as well. In the waters between the road and the colony there were more Great Crested Grebes and Red-crested Pochards. A Little Bittern gave us a fleeting view. A pair of Grey Heron was also spotted. We walked all the way up to the little bridge. On the way back a Purple Heron was seen flying. I spotted an Egyptian Goose resting on a bank in the reeds. An Avocet flew over.

unidentified dragonfly
Orethetrum cancellatum
     We then headed for the lake at Roquetas, John spotting a Kestrel on the way. The wind was really gusting now. There was very little on the water. Some Red-crested Pochards were sheltering close to the bank on our side. A couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew over. We walked up to the "Coot" pond.The only birds on the water there were Mallard, White-headed Duck, Coot and an Aylesbury Duck called Christmas Dinner! No sign of No.84 Red-knobbed Coot. We could hear Reed Warblers. A Little Tern flew over. We walked back to the vehicles. John shouted out, " Feral pigeons!". Yes,
Whiskered Terns over the lake.......everyone always remembers your mistakes! (See previous report!).
     41 species for the day. Not as good as Bob Wright's total but, in mitigation, we had the wind.....and no, I didn't count the Aylesbury Duck! Also seen were some great dragonflies.


19-20/04 : double entry, Juanar & Fuente de Piedra

Two mornings out when I should have been finishing off the huge translation (which I have finished this morning and sent off to Madrid) but needs must at times.
19/04 - Juanar: Having awoken early I decided to hie me off to Juanar, a place which I haven't visited in at least 18 months for a variety of reasons. I wasn't intending to walk far but get there, stroll around the first 500 or so metres from parking down below, up the path, through the gates and to the end of the pines. I achieved that and all was looking quite good until 4 school buses from Marbella disgorged first a group of teenagers who were exceedingly noisy and whose teachers did damn all to shut them up, in spite of my sarcastic comment to one about the noise level and lack of control. On the other hand, three of the buses were full of years 1-3 and their teachers did have them under control.
Fortunately, I had done and seen virtually all that I wanted to before this invasion of the barbarians with the more interesting sightings being Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Bonelli's Warbler and the first of several Great Spotted Woodpeckers. A quick coffee in the parador (where de Gaulle wrote his memoirs and slagged off perfidious Albion) revived me and as I went out of the parador entrance a super little Crested Tit, perhaps the most engaging of this family in western Europe, bounced out of the pine and offered brief but excellent views. I went a couple of hundred meters up the track past the tennis court, picking up more Great Spotted Woodpeckers - I must have seen/heard six between calling and drumming and also heard a Green Woodpecker - a 'Yaffle' as they call them in some parts of the UK, plus a Nightingale heard and 2 female Pied Flycatchers and a single Firecrest.
Not a bad morning at all and pleasant in general but sorry, no photos to enlighten this text.
20/04 - Fuente de Piedra: I had arranged to meet Chris Feare at 09.00 and when I left the coast the weather wasn't bad, with some cloud but only light winds. By the time I got to the top of Las Pedrizas the cloud was down, visibility was not more than 25m and when a blast of wind hit the car in front, moving it half a meter right, I slowed rapidly and just in time, whilst the high van behind heeled over somewhat. Down on to the Antequera plain - the vega - it was mostly sun but the wind persisted and it was frankly cold and not overly pleasant once out of the car at Fuente de Piedra. The wind kept passerines down under cover, rocked the telescope and generally made birding less than 100% enjoyable and we lasted until only 11.00.
Wood Sandpiper just realising that it's going to be 
photographed and about to leg it for cover

There are still quite a few Wood Sandpipers around, they really are present in goodly numbers this spring and we also saw 2 Green Sandpipers and a single Common Sandpiper, but Redshank numbers have fallen. There was a distant flock of 100+ small waders, very probably stints we felt and which flashed back and forth but too far away to get any sort of identification, but we did see 4 Little Stints and 8 or 9 Ruffs which were more occupied sheltering from the wind in the vegetation. Of the passerines little, as they too were keeping under cover, but we did see a Yellow Wagtail, heard a Reed Warbler and I thought I heard a few phrases from a Great Reed, but the wind was not helpful. Not a roaring success of a morning but there will always be better days ahead..


17/04 : Sierra de María

Before going on to Dave's report on the Arboleas group visit to Siearra de María, Richard Howard has written from Murcia with two bits of information as follows:
(1) Richard has a blogspot also www.murciabirder.blogspot.com which covers the Cartagena area and will be very useful for those of you who live that way on, and (2) with regard to the reservoirbirds page which was given by Dave in the last Almería report, Richard has pointed out that it can be read in English by clicking on the little Union Jack. Many thanks for the info., Richard.
probable female Spectacled Warbler
All sorts of first annual records are being reported, I had my first European Turtle Dove last week at Fuente de Piedra and several more were seen the same day at various sites in Andalusia; the first Red-necked Nightjar has been seen in Granada, the first Spotted Flycatcher along the río Fuengirola (more of that in my next report), a possible Greenland race Northern Wheatear has been seen and yesterday (17/04) Bob Buckler and a Wildwings tour group he was leading saw a Broad-billed Sandpiper - a very rare species here in Spain - at Odiel (Huelva), close to the information centre; there is video of it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0BEWx-PD9c&feature=share&list=UU_CxaGd90ySvfqYpoXIyRZA . There seem to be plenty of Wood Sandpipers around this spring, almost more than Green Sandpipers at plenty of sites. Now on to Dave's report. By the way, Dave, I go more for Spectacled rather than Whitethroat, pity we can't see the wings better and the image is slightly blurred.
  The weather forecast looked good, so, having picked up Tony and Kas, Gilly and I drove to María where we met up with Rod, Linda, Brian, Mary, Alan and John. After a coffee at the Garage Cafe we made our way up to the Chapel seeing a Woodchat Shrike and a pair of Cirl Buntings on the way. We had a wander and added Blackcap, Corn Bunting, Jay and Mistle Thrush to the list before ascending towards the Botanical Gardens. A small number of Griffon Vultures glided effortlessly along the mountain ridge. Linnet and Chaffinch were among the bushes. A very vocal Coal Tit eventually flew to a low wall where its nest was. As we reached the information centre a Woodlark serenaded to us from the top of a pine tree.
A pair of Long-tailed Tits were interested in the small man-made pool. We also saw Serin, Subalpine Warbler and Great Tit. We had good views of another summer visitor, Bonelli's Warblers. All of us, apart from Gilly, who had back pains, did the medium walk. Not much around but a Firecrest and a Melodious Warbler were excellent. Gilly meanwhile had been pleased to see nest building Short-toed Treecreepers in the pine tree next to her resting place. On the way back we saw a a warbler skulking some distance away at the bottom of a bush. You can see the photo. Is it a Spectacled Warbler or a Whitethroat? I'm sure the font of all avian knowledge will confirm its identity. After much scrutiny in Collins at the car we thought it was a Spectacled Warbler. The only sound it made was a short grating call. Looking at the photo and its chunky shape I'm more inclined towards a female Whitethroat.
Short-toed Lark
We then headed towards the plain, stopping off at the farm buildings on the way. As we were about to leave Tony spotted a high soaring Booted Eagle. Carrying on down we spotted Rock Sparrow and Northern Wheatear near to the water trough. John glimpsed a Roller, but it disappeared. Not seen one yet this year!  By the plain roadside we saw Calandra Lark. I spotted a Short-toed Lark. I was very pleased that all the others saw a small flock of them feeding on the ground near the hamlet. There, we also saw at least three Lesser Kestrels.
On the way back got photos of obliging Short-toed Lark and Corn Bunting. We stopped for lunch at the La Piza restaurant with Crossbills calling above us as they waited to drink from the depostito.  Tony then spotted a Hawfinch feeding on fresh leaves in a tree only metres away from us. It stayed for a good five minutes. We also saw a Common Buzzard.
Rod, Linda, Mary and later Brian went off to look at orchids as the rest of us, guided in the right direction by Brian, headed to the Vulture Feeding Station. A few Griffon Vultures could be seen. Kas spotted acrobatic Red-billed Choughs beside the "Grandmothers Molar" Mountain. We also saw Black-eared Wheatear.

46 species for the day. Weather great. What more could you ask for? Oh yes, saw a Roller on the way home!


13/04 : Laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

Ferruginous Duck, male
The weather promised fine and indeed it turned out to be so all morning, with plenty of sun - shirt sleeve weather - and next to no wind. I was at the laguna Dulce beafore 9 to find that Federico was already there, having come down fron Córdoba and brought Diego Peinazo with him. As the first words were to the effect that I had just missed a pair of male Ferruginous Ducks, I wasn't overjoyed but these soon came back. and allowed some photos when they weren't trying to obscure themselves in amongst the reeds .
Black-necked Grebe
The laguna was absolutely splendid, not overloaded with birds which can make it very hard work searching for the scarcer ones.. We soon notched up all three species of grebes that were present, a pair of Black-necked in particular showing themselves off virtually in front of the hide (above), as did the Little Grebes, (L) whilst the Great Crested (above) showed themselves in brief bouts of display. Out on the lake a few Gull-billed Terns ploughed back and forth and over towards the far side and in the same area we finally picked up two Black Terns in full sooty breeding plumage and a single Whiskered Tern.  We were happy to pick out a somewhat distant Red-knobbed Coot (formerly known as a Crested Coot even though it never has a crest), this with a white collar showing it be one of the released birds from the reintroduction project, and later a male without any collar. I was even happier when Federico found a distant male Garganey, a superb little duck and totally unphotographable and there were a few Red-crested Pochards also. In the passerine line, whilst Reed Warblers are to be expected as was the very noisy Cetti's Warbler, it was very nice to see a single migrant Sedge Warbler. The only raptors seen were a female Marsh Harrier and 4 first year birds, plus a single male Montagu's Harrier from the car as we drove off to Fuente de Piedra.

On the way we came across a small group of Gull-billed Terns feeding on the insects over a  manure heap and these gave the best opportunity I have ever had to get some half way decent shots of the elegant (opposed to Elegant) terns.
After that stop for the terns, there was a couple of seconds' look over the top end but with nothing to attract us we made the car park the first stop where this Little Owl on a pole was keeping a beady eye on things. There was some sort of course on so the place was pretty full and by the time I left there was some sort of semi-vintage car rally driving in.
It's a pity some parents can't control their off-sprung but Federico helped one couple with pointed comments about the behaviour of their revolting children!
But that apart, the birding continued to be excellent, and the water flash on the left as one drives held a minimum of 15 Redshanks - with the others that we saw later there must have been well over 20 in the area, plus a Wood Sandpiper  - we saw 2 more later on the board walk flash, and a Common Sandpiper, and later a single Green Sandpiper. We walked the track towards but not reaching La Vicaria, on the way hearing but not seeing the gentle cooing of first European Turtle Dove of the season, the sort of sound that heralds hot summer days down here. I recorded three races of Yellow Wagtails, the British flavissima, flava and iberiae.   
The standing water on the far side of the road was duly scanned for us to be rewarded with the usual Stilts and Avocets, all three small plovers together - Ringed (6), Little Ringed (1) and Kentish (a pair), plus a flock of ca.15 Curlew Sandpipers, some in very smart plumage, and a single Greenshank, as well as a flock of at least 20 Gull-billed Terns resting We ventured further but time was getting on for me and a scan of the water on the left produced a few Shelduck, at least 6 Whiskered Terns and some Pochards, after which time I legged it for the car park and home, as my little canine friend would need attending to.
As Federico said this afternoon when he rang me, what a splendid morning's birding!


12/04 : a view from the terrace

'A view from the terrace'. It doesn't quite scan the same way (or sound it either if one tries to sing it) as Noël Coward's little ditty about a room with a view ('amazing the power of cheap music'). I  do hope that those of you of my generation appreciate these little gems of knowledge. But I digress.

Woodchat Shrike
    It was Antonio Tamayo, he of the Guadalhorce who many of you know, who baptised the garden below my terrace in Torremolinos as a ZEPA -a special protection zone for birds - after watching a Yellow-browed Warbler from it some years since, and that whilst sipping a coffee! Many of you will know that I am not a twitcher (thank god!) but a patcher, and the view from terrace naturally attracts attention. I answer phone calls out there and watch at the same time, often with excellent results, and have been doing so for the 30 years that I have lived here and hope for some more yet. I've seen somewhere around 112-113 species over the years and especially so in migration periods. But this last week has, I think, been the best ever for variety, as I shall show.
   But before belting into that, there have been requests for a list of bird names Spanish-English (or English-Spanish, if you prefer it that way around). I have got a pdf of the latest Spanish list with the names in both, but in my extreme ignorance haven't a clue how to upload it to this blog, so if you write to me at my private address (not the blog), andy.birds (at) gmail.com I shall be happy to send it on. So on to the real thing ....
Monk Parakeet biting bougainvillea
This spring has been, as far as I'm concerned on a  garden scale, poor,. Very few warblers, ie. Chiffs or Willow Warblers, and damn all else. Yes, there have been the swifts in (3 spp.) and swallows and martins, but nothing else. In fact, you could count the migrant small brown things on the fingers of one hand.
Until 09 April, and it's all happened since then for what I think have been the best four days in those 30 years and shows the value of watching your garden, hillside or whatever or wherever. you be. This is simply the migrant part, forget the family of Serins that are knocking around (the male is a little beauty), the Sardinian Warblers that catch the eye as they dive head first into bushes, the Blackbirds that forage the grass, the Pallid and Common Swifts that whizz past at high speed (not to mention the Ring-necked Parakeets and those bloody Monk Parakeets that are nipping long shoots off the bougainvillea) and the pair of Kestrels that scare the living daylights out of all the small birds when they appear. The photos shown here are all taken this week from said terrace.
Common Redstart, male
Common Redstart, female
09 April : 1 Melodious Warbler, 1 male Common Redstart, 1 Woodchat Shrike. 'Not bad,' you may say, but better was to come.
10 April : 1 Bonelli's Warbler, 1 female Redstart, 1 Woodchat Shrike, 1 male Orphean Warbler, a Nightingale singing not very melodically and rather hestitantly in the undergrowth the far side of the road below, he's got to practice more; if he was at school 'could do better' would be written on his report.
11 April : Sod all. I thought that it was all done for. But no.
12 April : 2 Woodchat Shrikes (they had a short but very violent fight, first in must have won 'cause the other went off in a huff); 2 Willow Warblers; 1 male Spectacled Warbler; 1 female Whitethroat (at first I thought it was a female Spectacled but a second appearance 10 minutes later showed it to be a Whitethroat, unless there really was female Spectacled around too, but I don't think so). So now why you see I'm a patcher.
Tomorrow off to Fuente de Piedra where the first flamingos have laid today and also the laguna Dulce, which may turn up summat interesting (as they say in Yorkshire).


10/04 : Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales

A nice day's birding with Dave & Arboleas, Co., Ltd. Warning : this blog contains bad language, and from Dave! Who would have thought it of him?

Gilly and I having missed last weeks birding with a trip to Extremadura with Rod and Linda, we were keen to get back to our local patch. So, having picked up Carolyn, we headed south to our old favourite, Cabo de Gata. We met up with 9 other Arboleas Birding Group members, including most welcome newbies, Tony and Karen, at the cafe at Pujaire. We made our way to the first hide. On the wader front we saw 4 Eurasian Curlews on the causeway, Dunlins, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Ringed and Kentish Plovers and Little Stint. Another wader was being very elusive on the causeway, being on the opposite side. It was eventually identified as a Spotted Redshank. Also seen was a Sandwich Tern, numerous Slender-billed GullsShelducks, a Northern Wheatear and a couple of Yellow Wagtails. A Corn Bunting was on a power line (photo from Extremadura) and a Woodchat Shrike was perched on a shrub.
      At the second hide Gilly counted 203 Greater Flamingos. I saw a red tail flash into a bush, calling a Black Redstart. It appeared a short time later as a lovely male Common Redstart.....not my only blurt of the day! A called Dartford Warbler turned into a Subalpine Warbler (R) after reviewing Gilly's photo. Also seen were a pair of Ravens, Sardinian Warbler and Hoopoe.

      As we approached the public hide we could see a coach unloading hoards of kids, so we reverted to plan B and went to what is now called Kevin's Viewing Point behind the houses in the next village. Here we added Audouin's Gull, Greenshank, Turnstone, Redshank and Sanderling. I checked the old farm buildings way over the other side of the salina. A blob to one side was a Little Owl though some said it could be anything!

     As we headed back towards the public hide, seeing the coach coming towards us was a welcome sight! Alone in the hide we saw Black-tailed Godwits and Curlew Sandpipers. There were still 5 Black-necked Grebes present. I scanned the long line of Sandwich Terns on the right hand causeway not spotting the Common Tern in their midst....good spot, John!

      Suitably pleased with our tally so far we headed to the Rambla Morales via the campsite. A Kestrel sentry did not move as we passed. We were met by a Bee-eater near to the parking area. Later, whilst we were at the lake, Rob, who stayed with the vehicles, saw a second one going into a nest hole. The rest of us headed along the track towards the brackish water being shouted at by a flight of Black-winged Stilts and serenaded by Reed Warblers. On the water we added Common Pochard, Coot, Moorhen and White-headed Duck
A feeding Zitting Cisticola (R) gave Gilly great shots with the camera. She also managed to grab one of the three Gulled-billed Terns (above L) that flew up then down the lake. On the water there were lots of Black-headed Gulls with the odd Slender-billed.  A great find was a Little Gull, obligingly swooping low over the water flashing its black underwings. A flock of birds then flew directly over the top of us. 

I blurted, " Bloody feral pigeons!". To my embarrassment they began to feed over the water.....Whiskered Terns! It was just one of those days! A Little Grebe and Cattle Egret were also seen to end a very enjoyable day in good weather for a change. 62 species in all.

I was asked today to put on some websites for birding information in Spain. 
www.rarebirdspain.net ..............................   the month's rarities (in English) 
www.birding-the-costa.blogspot.com .........  Andy Paterson's website (dat's me, folks) 
www.reservoirbirds.com ............................  rare birds in Spain as they occur (in Spanish)

www.andalucianguides.blogspot.com ........ Stephen Daly's website (super photos)

Good birding,



03/04 : Fuente de Piedra & Laguna Dulce

I never did get the three days birding of the last week in March written up but as there was (a) nothing particularly outstanding, (b) no nice photos and (c) having sister out from the UK by the time I got round to even thinking about it, all was distant past but this one, when I get round to it after this first bit, will be on line this afteroon.
It's not often that I get queries about birds and less so about calls, but Prof., Chris Feare has written to ask how one can tell the difference between the call of a Rose-ringed/Ring-necked Parakeet and a Tornado. Well, Chris, the Rose-ringed has relatively gentle and certainly less grating squawk in comparison with the Monk Parakeets that we have down here and is dumb in comparison with a Tornado, which also calls on the wing. The call of the Tornado is a huge, frightening blast of many millions of decibels and will leave one deaf and trembling in a direct, high speed, overhead pass. Chickens will refuse to lay eggs, cows to give no milk and many, both young and old, to have an attack of the vapours and/or throw a major whoopsie (in the case of maiden aunts). I think that sums it all up. You'll know one when you hear it!
Migration is in full swing with first records of many species on a virtually daily basis, including an early Whinchat near Velez Málaga. I have had disappointingly few migrants in my garden but on 01/04 I happened to be looking out when a Wryneck dropped in for no more than 45 seconds, definitely a case of pure luck and 'now you see me, now you don't' and a new species for the garden. More intriguingly there have been records of two trans-Atlantic species. The first was a Song Sparrow in Algeciras, seen and photographed by some Finnish birders but which is almost certainly a case of 'passage-assist', or in simple English, hitching a lift on a boat plying the Atlantic. Such hitching of lifts is well documented. The other species was an American Wigeon seen during one afternoon at Palmones, near Algeciras, in the company of other migrant ducks including Garganey and which stayed only the one afternoon. That, I believe, was very probably a bird that arrived last autumn, migrated south and is now moving north but many degrees east of where it should be, not, as some think, a recent arrival after the storms which continue in the Atlantic.
So, now to yesterday's trip to Fuente de Piedra and the laguna Dulce at Campillos with Ron Appleby before he returns to the Arctic wastes of North Yorkshire. In fact, we darned nearly didn't get as about 07.30 an Armageddon-like cloud came in from the west and it was belting down over the sea. Fortunately, by the time Ron had got here the cloud had gone on to create havoc elsewhere (note how unselfish I am) and we were off, We were up at Fuente by 0925 to be met by greyish skies which promised little of hope and a cold, and I mean cold, wind which too got worse. However, nevear let it be said that we Yorkshire sèptuagenerians are easily thwarted from birding and we had a jolly good morning. The wind basically precluded seeing much in the passerine line as they were either absent or just keeping under cover (or both). We had a look at the lake behind the information centre (nothing of note) and walked the board walk and path towards La Vicaria and very profitable it was.
There is a lot of water, too much for the Flamingos to settle down for breeding and I counted at least eight different nuclei. The same applies to the Gull-billed Terns and we saw only 2 all morning plus another at the laguna Dulce, a numerical disaster at this time of year. Nesting waders are also having it crude, as there is little in the way of accessible margins for nesting and we saw only a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, relatively low numbers of the Hystericals (a.k.a. Black.winged Stilts) but reasonable numbers of Avocets, although few seemed interested in territorial behaviour. It is also a disaster for short-legged waders and there were no stints of any description but on the other hand the long-legged waders are present.
We saw at least 18 Redshanks, 17 of them on one pool the far side of the road to Sierra de Yeguas, there were two flocks of 5 Curlew Sandpipers in each (we know they were different because the plumage composition was different in each). 2 Wood Sandpipers seen from the start of the boardwalk were quickly joined by 5 more which swept in fast and low and gave good views. The Ruffs also gave good views, there being one stunning male (large top photo) which will be even better once in full breeding plumage. The photo on the left shows the size difference (sexual dimorphism) between the males (the Ruff, on the right) and female (Reeve in older English, on the left).
There was a small selection of ducks but we saw only 2 Gadwall, a few Mallard, Shoveler numbers are down considerably and some 10 Shelducks, plus a very attractive pair of Red-crested Pochards, the male hardly a role model for inconspicuity. It was just after we had commented on the lack of harriers that we saw the first Marsh Harrier, a very bonny male, and we were to see another male later, as well as a females and 2 young birds. There were few Yellow Wagtails, only one was a male flavissima (the British race), the remaining few males all being iberiae.
As the weather was worsening visibly from the west and rain was on the way, we decided to make a quick sortie to the laguna Dulce and indeed the first drops were falling as we arrived and the wind was whipping up wavelets with many of the water birds distant and not hugely visible. We did see a few White-headed Ducks and although the few Great Crested Grebes were feeding we couldn't see what. However, this morning Manolo Rendón, Lord High-Everything-Else of Fuente de Piedra and the other lagoons, rang me to tell that he was watching them eating tritons, otherswise known as newts! A couple of pairs of Black-necked Grebes were showing well next to the hide, ruby red eyes brightening a dull grey and by then wet morning. There were lots of hirundines around, mainly Barn Swallows and at least 100 Sand Martins, many of which took turns resting in the tamarisks (above). By which hour it was time for Ron and I to head down for the coast, the rain accompanying us all the way, and he well satisfied with his last birding morning here this winter.