23 August : Cabo de Gata, Roquetas, Las Norias

Dave, you've really cut it fine with this one, sunshine! I was just about to close down for the time away when it came in! Was the Phalarope a Red (= Grey, which seems unlikely) or a Red-necked (much more probable)? I've put in Red-necked any way. I hate to suggest this, Dave, but it is August and b-all happens so I doubt that you'll get your camera and lens back until the end of the first week of September at the earliest.
Gilly is still working down at Aguadulce, but also this Friday she had a client near Almeria Airport.I dropped her off there first and headed to Cabo de Gata. I had one and a half hours till I had to pick her up.
I therefore headed directly to the first hide armed with a thermos of coffee. In front of the hide and near the causeway all the usual suspects were lined up. There were numerous Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Kentish Plovers and Greater Flamingos. There were groups of Mallards and Slender-billed Gulls plus a couple of Redshanks and a Ringed Plover. On the savannah I spotted a Woodchat Shrike and Thekla Lark. All of a sudden a group of Flamingos took off down the far end followed by gulls. Some bird of prey had to be around. Sure enough, one was flying slowly towards me - a Black Kite. Common as muck down Western Andalucia, but not here in the East.

Dunlin & Curlew Sandpipers
I picked Gilly up and dropped her off at her second client. A 6 hour shift this time. I headed to Las Norias. Again there was very little on the left hand  expanse of water from the first causeway apart from Great Crested Grebe. A Gull-billed Tern flew over. On the right hand lake I was again "wowed" (not) by Coot and Moorhen. I did disturb a Turtle Dove in the reeds and bushes at the rear of the pumping station.

Ringed Plover, male
I briefly stopped half way round to the second causeway. I had good views over the water, but only of more Great Crested Grebes. Reaching the dried up meadow at the junction leading onto the causeway I was glad to see a family of 5 Hoopoes feeding. At the heronry it was "as you were", with sightings of Little and Cattle Egret, Squacco and Grey Heron. No sign of any Night Heron. I know they can be difficult to spot sometimes, but this is my second visit without seeing any so I assume they might have left for pastures new. I again spotted a single Gadwall. I walked up to the little bridge then crossed the road to check out the smaller lake. Nothing new to be added to the list till I flushed a juvenile Purple Heron from the roadside reeds.
I then headed to Roquetas, not stopping at the lake or the "Red-knobbed Coot" pond. The track had up until that point been graded and the "No unauthorised vehicles" sign was gone, not that the Spanish abided by it anyway! I headed up towards the Salinas de Cerrillos, a 5km drive...walking in the heat not recommended hence the Group haven't ventured this far into the reserve. 4x4 still recommended...some parts were suspension test areas! 
Gull-billed Tern
I have fond memories of the Salinas.....watching Norman's very obedient (usually) dog "Freddie" trying to run after some Flamingos in paw-sucking mud. He didn't get far and he didn't disturb the Red (-necked?) Phalarope feeding nearby. That was in late August many years ago so was hoping the Salina might be a favourite stopping off point for those birds at this time of the year. No such luck, but the closest salina was apparently just the right depth for waders. It was packed. 
 I did a count up - 132 Black-tailed Godwits; 40 Curlew Sandpipers; 11 Dunlins; 2 Sanderlings; 3 Ringed Plovers; 2 Little Stints and 4 Kentish Plovers. There were also RedshankAvocet and Black-winged Stilt. There were good numbers of Little and Sandwich Tern. On further salinas there were hundreds of gulls: Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legs, Black-headed and Slender-billed.
It was a good day. Las Norias and Roquetas to be repeated on Sunday for another 5 hours.
Camera and lens still at repairers so photos from previous occasions.


23 August : sucker for punishment visits Guadalhorce

I simply can't stay away and this morning I was going in at just on 07.30, which is early. And then I wonder why I need a siesta (which is, of course, the best Spanish invention of all time). What is more, it wasn't at all bad with some decent birds.
First stop, the first hide which overlooks the laguna de la Casilla where there were 2 Black-necked Grebes, young birds but fully grown, which shouldn't have been there at all. Then a flock of 18 Glossy Ibises overflew - I've never seen so many at once at the Guadalhorce - and about 90 minutes later a flock of 15, possibly the same as the first minus 3 or another lot. Who knows? A Kingfisher shot across and, surprise, surprise, a Purple Swamphen, as it was only on Wednesday that Antonio Tamayo and self were bemoaning their absence this year.
very young LRP
From there it was down to a rather fuller wader pool and a look from the second hide where there were the first 9 Little Ringed Plovers, the full total of mine being 25+ for the morning - a big fall from the figures earlier in late July and earlier this month. There was a very young LRP at the laguna Grande which I don't think could have been more than 4 days old. Kentish Plovers were present down on the río Viejo where there were 12+ and with a morning total of 18+ but there was only 1 Ringed Plover that I could find. A group of 3 Redshanks flew up-river and there were some few Stilts and 3 Little Stints, with only 2 Common Sandpipers seen, a fall from the previous visit. Dunlin numbers rermain low, with only 6 birds seen, 5 adults and 1 juvenile. A flock of 5 Green Sandpipers which whirled in to the laguna Grande, calling loudly and flying around, too nervous to settle and obviously moving birds.
The río Viejo also housed these very photogenic Audouin's Gulls (below) and there were still goodly numbers of Mediterranean Gulls whilst LBBs don't appear to have built up any more.
The first Teal were back with 3 at the laguna Escondida, where the male Little Bittern decided to show itself again, posing briefly but too distantly to photograph. There were 6 Grey Herons around, all young birds as far as I could make out. 
All the rest was pretty normal, White-headed Ducks, Pochards, Mallards, Little Egrets, still some Common Swifts around but notably fewer, plenty of Barn Swallows and, of course, Green and Goldfinches with some Serins, which just about ties it all up. The next entry of mine will be when I return from Madeira on 31 August but you'll have to wait a few days and bated breath (with luck).


21 August, Guadalhorce

the riff-raff - Monk Parakeets
Only a few hours since, when posting Dave's latest report from Almería, I swore that I wouldn't be going out in the heat but the need to go birding and withdrawal symptoms overcame what is often known as common sense. But by getting up early this morning and watching the first rim of the sun coming up over the horizon in the direction of Nerja as I entered the Guadalhorce ponds I at least started cool, although coming out later was another story in to which I shall not enter, with the added pleasure of meeting Antonio Tamayo to lighten the morning.
So, a brief breakdown of the more interesting species, starting with the almost continual westerly flow of Common Swifts, not dense but patchy with small, loose flocks moving through for perhaps something over 200 birds seen in the three hours, but with less than 10 Pallid Swifts seen. Yellow Wagtails are moving through and I must have seen half a dozen or so, plus a Reed Warbler with Antonio, but no wheatears yet and a Spanish birder who said there were lots of young Woodchat Shrikes while neither Antonio or myself had seen one - something odd there! There are still some very young White-headed Ducks on the laguna Escondida and there were some 8 or 9 Pochard there also, plus Mallard, Gadwall and a single Shoveler. There were 6 Grey Herons, so they are starting to build up.
Lesser Black-backed Gull, adult (nearly asleep)
As always, I searched especially for waders and saw a total of 9 species, the most interesting being the reducing number so Little Ringed Plovers (down to around 45), 2 Ringed Plovers and about 12 Kentish. There is actually little wader movemnet visible, with only slight variations. For example, Common Sandpipers had gone up to 7 and there were 3 Green Sandpipers, but only one each of Redshank and Little Stint. And I mustn't forget the 40 or so Stilts, which included a flock of about 30.
There were plenty of gulls on the laguna Grande with  Lesser Black-backs having built up to 100+ adults and a few (I didn't count) juveniles. There were equally good numbers of Mediterranean Gulls, an estimate of in excess of 100 birds, with over half being adults, some Yellow-legs and Black-headed.
As usual the view from the hide in the morning tends to show the gulls up sun of the observer, so views at times are not perfect but things weren't too bad this morning and I managed to read the rings of 4 Audouin's Gulls plus get some half way decent photos. So, in order of age here are below are some captioned photos with the ages of this very elegant gull of which Spain holds at least 90% of the world population.
Audouin's Gull in juvenile plumage, maintained until around early September some birds

Audouin's Gull, 1st summer plumage
Audouin's just moulted to 3rd winter, nice new plumage, identification on bill colour which is still 2nd summer
So that's all folks. I shall be away all the week 25-31 August, sailing the ocean blue off Madeira and hope to return with lots of nice pelagic seabirds in the bag.


17 August : Las Norias & Roquetas

This missive from Dave was awaiting me when I returned from my annual, rain-blessed trip to jolly old England and the Bird Fair, the first drops trickling horizontally across the windows of the 737 as it came in on final approach - typical! Not that I did too much birding although 36 hours on the East Yorkshire coast gave little, with very few terns, no Sanderling at all, only 2 or 3 Oystercatchers and 6 Ringed Plovers, plus a solitary Greenshank winging its way south. 
In fact, there were more Peacock butterflies than birds, many in excellent condition, coming in off the sea from a SE direction on both the Wednesday and Thursday and by Saturday there were several around my sister's garden near Leeds. This movement had also been seen by an old friend that I met at the Bird Fair who lives down at Lowestoft (everyone has got to live somewhere).
So, after a long day down at the Bird Fair and spending far too much on a super drawing of White-faced Storm-Petrels by Ian Lewington, looking at trips and destinations and wondering why I couldn't win the lottery, it was back to sunny Spain last evening to be met by a wall of heat which was about double the temperature that I left behind. If the temperatures stay like this there'll be naught from me this week and then I'm off to Madeira and won't be back until 31 August.
So, on to Dave's report ... I see you got really excited, Dave!

   Gilly's job as a Care Nurse for Almeria Angels was sending her to Aguadulce, near Roquetas for a 5 hour shift, so I thought I'd chauffeur her down there and check out Las Norias & the Roquetas lake. Mid august is not a good time of the year for birding, especially in the hot afternoon but her shift dictated the timing!
Squaccco Heron
     I arrived at the first causeway to discover that the recent water pipe work had virtually been completed. There was a new fence and much of the vegetation had been removed giving better views over both sides.....not that there was much to see! The water level was down and there were new "No Fishing" signs. To the left I could see numerous pairs of Great Crested Grebes.....yes, that was it apart from a Yellow-legged Gull. I fared slightly better on the right hand lake. There were more Great Crested Grebes and some Little Grebes. Also seen were Coot and Moorhen....WOW!
     I headed round to the far side, stopping half way along next to the plastic greenhouses. The pipe work had again removed all the vegetation so one had great views over this side of the lake. In the shrubs were both Collared and Turtle Doves. At the end of the spit, which was obscured by these bushes, were a group of immature Gull-billed Terns together with some Black-headed Gulls. They revealed themselves when they all took to the wing. There were a few Barn Swallows and a Little Egret flew past.
Red-crested Pochard, female
     I then drove to the second causeway near the plastic recycling factory. There were a few Cattle and Little Egrets still hanging around the nearly deserted heronry. I managed to spot a couple of Squacco Herons down by the water's edge. Also seen was a Kingfisher, a Green Sandpiper and a Grey Heron. I had seen no wildfowl at all until I spotted a lone Gadwall hiding under some vegetation. There was a couple of unusual birds flying around the smaller of the pools. They were medium sized terns  with mottled black markings under wing and body. I could've got some great photos had both my camera and lens not been returned from the repairers with further focusing problems (repairers appear to be taking the whole of August off.....not a happy chappy!). Having looked in Collins the best bet would be White-winged Black Terns.
     I then headed for Roquetas. On the lake by the hotels I found 68 Greater Flamingos surrounded by at least a thousand Coots! Also seen were Mallard and a female Red-crested Pochard. The track up to the Red-knobbed Coot pool had been graded so up there I drove. Only Common Coots there together with a female Common Pochard and a Little Grebe with 4 young.
     26 species in total. Attached photos from previous visits.


09 August : Guadalhorce (yet again) and other bits of info..

I must admit that I forgot to write this brief report of my third visit to the Guadalhorce in the week until a few minutes since (it is now 18.30 on Sunday, 11 August) so thought I'd better put finger to keyboard before shoving off to Blighty tomorrow. I met Carlos López-Jurado at 07.40, an even earlier start in the interests of self-preservation from the lascivious rays of the sun and we went in with the intention of getting out as soon as was reasonably possible, but that would depend upon the birds, which basically means the waders so herewith a quick resumé of that group.
Ringed Plover - 3 ; Little Ringed Plover - 97 (the highest total of the week and only explicable by birds that have bred upstream congregating down at the ponds before pushing off) ; Kentish Plover - ca.10 ; Redshank - 3 ; Dunlin - 3 ; Curlew Sandpiper - 3 ; Little Stint - 3 : Common Sandpiper - 4 ... and, of course, Black-winged Stilts!
One of the Dunlins was ringed, a double red/orange under a black over a white on its right leg (I think, but it was in water most of the time and never stopped feeding) with a blue flag on the left leg. However, as I can't be sure of the combinations I can't be sure of the source, but it may have come from a Portuguese project.
It was nice to see a couple of very nice, bright yellow Iberian race Yellow Wagtails and there seemed to be a lot of Zitting Cisticolas. There was a total of 8 adult and 3 young White-headed Ducks and we had brief views of a Reed Warbler. We read 7 more Audouin's Gull rings also and admired the Mediterranean Gulls, while Lesser Black-backs had remained at around 7-8 birds.
On the subject of rings, I have to admit that I made an error checking up on the flamingo ring from the other day (see blog for 07 August), simply by checking the wrong column in haste. This morning I rechecked with rather more care because I was 99% certain that I hadn't made an error reading it. So, by checking in the Flamingo Atlas of Tour du Valat (France) where one can find all the flamingo rings used up to and including last year, I can affirm that it was ringed in Sardinia in 2005.
And continuing on the subject of flamingos, yesterday was the annual flamingo ringing at Fuente de Piedra. I had been invited but discretion is better than after-effects if you've got knees like mine on the verge of permanent self-destruction. The photos are my own from a couple of years since to lighten this blog.
driving the chicks to the corral
However, the big chief, Manolo Rendón (a very good biologist and a thoroughly nice chap) rang me last evening to give account of their morning. He also gave me the results of the photographic census of the chick numbers, done from an aircraft and then taking lots of photos, splitting them up in to sections and then counting the dots, which according to Manolo was awful this year as there were so many sub-nurseries. However, it has been a record year with a grand total of 20.276 Great Flamingo chicks and to that one must add the 2 (two) chicks from the 2 pairs (yes, two pairs) of Lessers which bred and of which the young were doing fine when last controlled.
So, that's all folks until I get back from Blighty on late 19 August, having graced the Bird Fair with my presence and spread goodwill around whilst it will undoubtedly rain, temperatures will drop like the proverbial stone, skies will be grey and lowering and there may even be the odd tsunami! But that's an English summer when I'm there. Good birding!


07 August : Guadalhorce (again)

An 08.00 start this morning when I met Carlos López-Jurado, editor of the Grupo Ornitológico Balear yearbook. It's been a few years since we last went birding together as my onw family affairs have intervened, but as a free agent now ...! The forecast was for it to be hot - very hot, and it didn't disappoint and by 9 we were starting to feel the heat but ebing brave, we went on.
Basically, we were after waders to see what had come, what had gone and what had remained static. The first waders we saw flying off to the north as we headed towards the eastern path, 12 of them, 3 Redshanks which had called and alerted me, and the remaining 9 were, I think, Dunlin but they were high and all we saw was the rear underparts. It wasn't until the second hide that we came across waders but in the interests of brevity, I shall just give the sum of totals from the following sites: wader pool (second hide), río Viejo and laguna Grande and then the total, along with a brief comment if one is warranted.
Black-winged Stilt - 70+ (including a flock of ca.60) ; Little Ringed Plover - 57 (a drop from the huge number on 05 August) ;  Kentish Plover - ca.7 ; Little Stint - 3 ; Curlew Sandpiper - 6 ; Dunlin - (9?) + 5 ; Whimbrel - 1 ; Redshank : 3 (see above) +  2 = 5 ; Common Sandpiper - 6 . 9 species of waders, not too bad.
Amongst other things of note, a constant westwards trickle of Common Swifts with only one or two Pallids mixed in; a single adult Woodchat Shrike, a few Bee-eaters, the male Little Bittern at the laguna Escondida and there also the Little Grebes with their 2 young.  On the laguna Grande there was a good selection of gulls and apart from 9 Flamingos, one of which was ringed but I couldn't read fully because of heat haze, although I believe it to be an Italian bird ringed in 2006. I also read the rings on 7 Audouin's Gulls, all I need now is the time to put them in to the Doñana web site.
One more visit to the ponds, this coming Friday morning at 07.30 with Carlos, before I go off to England next week to get wet and cold.


05 August : Guadalhorce

First, a note from the garden where I had no less than 2 Melodious Warblers (adult and juv.) on Saturday morning (3 August) and a different adult on Sunday afternoon.
An early morning start for Sandra and myself today, 05 August, meeting at 07.30 - beautifully cool! - and going in over the bridge 15 minutes later. Our prime objective was waders, although obviously everything is grist to the mill. The route was the same as always, down the east bank and check out the wader pool and río Viejo, to the seawatch mirador and then along the shore and enter in to come up beside the laguna Grande before having a look at the laguna Escondida.
There wasn't much on the laguna de la Casilla and we soon moved on to the second hide and the wader pool.There things started to look up with a count of 22 Little Ringed Plovers (so where were the rest?) and also 2 Common Sandpipers, plus a few Stilts. Moving down to the río Viejo and watching from the embankment soon revealed where the Little Ringed Plovers were with a minimum count of 55, plus 10+ later on the laguna Grande, would give a daily total of at least 87 birds! I don't think that I have ever seen so many. Numbers of Kentish Plovers were around 10, the same as previous counts but not a single Ringed Plover, with 2 more Common Sandpipers and then another later on on the laguna Grande to give a total of 5. It was nice to get good views of Curlew Sandpipers with a day total of 6, all still in varying states of red plumage, and a couple of very tired Dunlins sleeping like logs. There were 3 Little Stints there and once round the beach to go in towards the laguna Grande we flushed a Green Sandpiper.
Little Grebe, one chick in water, one on back
At the laguna Grande we had a fly-over Squacco Heron with its persil-white wings, possibly the same bird that Sandra saw briefly at the laguna Esconida (I was looking the other way!) and also a couple of Grey Herons. On the separate partially dried part of the laguna Grande just before turning right for the Escondida I found a Spotted Redshank peeping out and we spent several minutes waiting for it to overcome its shyness. We read 4 Audouin's Gull rings and one green one on a Mediterranean Gull - I must send these off!
The Escondida have a us good views of a male Little Bittern which flew the whole length of lake, a female White-headed Duck with 2 quite young ducklings, and amongst the many Little Grebes a pair with 2 very young chicks,little furry balls of nothing, probably from the nest that Juan had found the previous week and in which we could still see one egg. These 2 bits of nothing were quite happy climbing on and off Mum's back but regrettably they were rather distant and this shot is the best that I could do.
It was getting hot by them and we hied ourselves off. A good morning's birding with 38 species.



Some of you may well have read of the rediscovery of this incredibly rare, long thought to be extinct, Australian Night Parrot Geopsittacus occidentalis. The Birdwatch web carried the news and gave some details. However, an old birding friend who lives in Brisbane (we were at university half a century since and I shall be birding with he and his wife next year when Down Under), was one of the invitees to the special press conference and was able to provide me with extra details.

The Night Parrot Geopsittacus occidentalis is known from only a few specimens in the 20th century, one being a flattened bird on a road in the bush, another which decapitated itself on a wire fence. It is a relative of the Australian Ground Parrot and the New Zealand KakapoThe only previously accepted sight record of the species by the Birds Australia Records Committee was of two to three birds at Minga Well, Western Australia, on 12 April 2005.

Here enter stage left an Australian birder who became obsessed with finding, perhaps rediscovering might be a better expression, this incredibly rare species. John Young, the birder in question, spent 5 years on his search in the extreme conditions of the Australian Outback, and where he went it is virtually impossible to be further out! he covered some 11.000 miles and wore out two quad bikes in the process.

The press conference before an invited audience at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane on 3 July announced the rediscovery, showed 6 (six) seconds of video and a few images were released of some 600 claimed to exist by John Young. The bird is seen to be hopping like a kangaroo! My friend says that it is very convincing. 

The bird was filmed in a small area of some 38 square miles of private property in the Diamantina National Park in SW Queensland where it butts up against the Northern Territory (a lonfg way from Western Australia), which, as David said to me, is like it being in your back garden in Australian terms! It's a big country! The exact site was not released, apparently to loud applause when it was explained that it was not being given in order to dissuade twitchers and for that reason too sound recordings of its calls are not being released. Plans to set up a properly controlled search and then design conservation measures are being considered.

1 August : Guadalhorce

I was in to the Guadalhorce even earlier this morning and the House Martins that roost on the beams of the bridge (above) weren't even totally awake, allowing a count of 81 actually still in the process of waking (and that without the help of a coffee!) while around 30 more were flying around. A total of around 110 birds!
The temperature was delightful and thin layer of cloud kept it that way until gone 09.30 but after that it went upwards whilst I went outwards. But in the middle I had some quite interesting birding. Obviously, my main interest was the waders, even including the Stilts with still remarkably young ones for the date. I was also interested in getting a better count of the Little Ringed Plovers than I did the other day and paid a lot more attention to the counting, finally coming up with a total of 43 on the pool in front of the second hide, another 17+ further down on the río Viejo and around 10 on the laguna Grande - total: ca. 70 birds. There were about the same numbers of Kentish as the other day, 10+, a single Ringed Plover (probably the same bird by plumage), only 2 Little Stints but one was certainly different to the 4 seen two days since and in splendid breeding plumage, and what were certainly the same singles of Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper and Knot (laguna Grande).
A 10 minute seawatch gave 4 Cory's Shearwaters following a fishing boat, my first of this year! Also a single adult Sandwich Tern, with another 1st summer bird (seen by Eric last week) on the laguna Grande.
Audouin's giving another hell!
Gull numbers on the laguna Grande were about the same although adult Lesser Black-backs had risen to 8, including one rather big, dark bird (probably a male) of the intermedius race. There were at least 40 Mediterranean Gulls in amongst them.
Some rather nice Audouin's gave excellent views (although against the light)  and this of 4 adults, with one of them giving another a good chew-out! I shall not make any comments about females and hen-pecked males, I promise.
As for the rest, some very high density display and fighting - real ding-dong stuff - amongst 6 Gadwalls on the laguna Escondida where there was only 1 White-headed Duck. 3 Grey Herons came in from the north-west and landed after making a couple of circuits and the same for a Purple Heron which came in from the east.
Total: 43 species. And the next visit? Perhaps tomorrow afternoon to try and get some photos of gulls in good light.