29 September : Guadalhorce

Spotted Flycatcher from terrace
I know it's unusual that I venture down to the Guadalhorce on a Sunday morning and even more so at the relatively late hour of 0930, but as today is the saint's day of San Miguel - the patron saint of beer - plus I couldn't face the thought of more translating, it seemed to be the best solution. Further, there was the chance that there might be something of interest brought down after the rain in the wee small hours of 28 September and the generally cloudy conditions. Plus, yesterday from the terrace I had seen a few Barn Swallows and House Martins moving westwards, as well as a party of 5 Sand Martins and, rather surprisingly, 2 Common Swifts when one when rather expect Pallids at this date. In fact, late swifts are being recorded all over Spain this past week.
So, down to the Guadalhorce to have a look around I went, to see if there was anything interesting in the wader line in particular but all is grist to the mill but really everything was rather less than one might expect to see.
Ducks were less in both number than variety than I would expect by this date. After all, one can hardly get overly excited about 3 Teal, 2 Shovelers and 2 Gadwalls as well as a few Pochards and aroud 10 White-headed Ducks (all of these on the laguna Escondida).
There were a few Barn Swallows and House Martins and a single Red-rumped but no big numbers and no swifts at all. There were the more Grey Herons, at least 15, and Cormorant figures had jumped to the dizzy height of 5 birds!
Raptors meant 1 each of Osprey (nice), Booted Eagle and juv. Marsh Harrier. Hardly overwhelming stuff, is it? And there were no migrant passerines at all to liven the morning, although a Kingfisher will brighten any scene, however briefly.
As for prime target, waders, I could hear at least three different Greenshanks from different points and moving around until finally a flock of 4 went up and flew around, gaining height, all the time calling and they were joined by 2 more and they all flew off up valley, with a single bird being seen later at the laguna Grande. The  wader pond in front of the second hide along the east bank gave only 1 Stilt although in total there mist have been around 30 birds between the río Viejo and the laguna Grande, and the aforementioned Kingfisher!
The sea was flat calm and there were a few Yellow-legged Gulls, surprisingly not a single Lesser Black-backed, no Audouin's or Med. Gulls, and on the laguna Grande a Black-headed Gull still in full juvenile plumage, which is rather late.
Fortunately there were some waders, as well as 3 Flamingos, down on the río Viejo which went some way towards alleviating a not very great morning's birding but most were distant and against the light, which is always a pain (select own site for pain). So, I had to make do with a singles of Little Stint and Common Sandpiper, 3 Dunlins, some 8-10 Kentish Plovers playing see-me-if you-can, as did the similar number of Little Ringed Plovers and around 10 Sanderlings. And not even a rotten Redshank!
Not a good morning with around 36 spp. seen, although I must have missed something. And I've still got the translations to carry one with!


4-6 October: International Bird Day(s) events in Málaga

International Bird Day : 4, 5, and 6 October

These events are organised by SEO-Málaga. Obviously, the talks will be in Spanish but will be of some interest and it will enable those who are interested to make contact with Spanish birders. Sunday morning, when there will be ringing in progress, will probably interest many. I have given a brief summary in English of the page contents above each page shown below.
Remember to click on the images to enlarge them.

Hotel Vinnci, where the talks will take place, can be found by checking how to get there from where one lives on  Google Earth or Michelin maps or similar.

Friday, 4 October: Hotel Vinnci at 19.00; talk on the status of Dupont's Lark in Andalucía, followed by a photographic projection of a trip to Patagonia.

Saturday, 5 October (continues on pages 2 and 3 with maps). Birds in Málaga city, a walk which takes in various areas such as the Alcazaba; also seawatching (see page 3)

Morning, seawatching from el Faro de Calaburras and el Peñón del Cuervo (maps below) and at 19.00, at the Hotel Vincci, a talk and photos of birds of Fuerteventura

Sunday, 6 October: Guadalhorce, from 09.00 to 13.00. Note that it is possible to park near and enter by crossing the sandbar at the mouth of the river (unless there's a lot of rain on Saturday). Do NOT, under any circumstances, park near the curve, but at the church or in fron of the school. Break-ins are still taking place.The programme is below and below that a map of routes of entry and tracks to follow. I shall be there from around 09.00 onwards subtly disguised as a migrant Quebrantahuesos until I get bored or the knees self-destruct, 

Do come along, watch, see something (if you're lucky), learn a bit (if you're really lucky), meet real Spanish birders (there are some really good ones), many of whom will struggle with their English whilst you struggle with your Spanish. A field guide and binocs. are useful.

25 September : Nijar garnet Nature Walk

A Nature Walk indeed! Brings back memories - nice ones - of the primary school from the long unplumbed depths of the brain, doesn't it?

Gilly had a note excusing her today as she was teaching  patchwork, so I'm writing this without her notes relying totally on my memory. This could go wrong on so many levels! 
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At Ros's request we headed for the extinct volcanic rim at Nijar where there are large deposits of sadly small garnets strewn along the dried water courses. After a cuppa at the service station at junction 487 we, that is myself and 12 other members, drove south to the next exit (481). From there we drove carefully cross country on a sometimes rough track to the parking area directly opposite the "Cuidad del Motor". On the drive I spotted a Common Redstart and a Kestrel. Having been here before I was able to show the group that there were garnets in the car park!
We then walked through the sometimes narrow gorge into the central area of the volcano. Above us on the ridge was a family of Black Wheatears and later a pair of Blue Rock Thrushes. There were a few Barn Swallows and numerous Crested Larks. A raptor soared above the opposite ridge. It was later identified as a Bonelli's Eagle. A definite second bird was seen later as were a pair of Booted Eagles. Sardinian Warbler and Greenfinch completed the list. Today wasn't about birds. The Bonelli's Eagles were a huge bonus. 
Today was about getting out in nature, somewhere different with birding friends. I think we all enjoyed the experience. Welcome to Les Senior, who we bumped into on last weeks Villaricos trip and joined us today. Thank you to Ros for suggesting today's outing. She & her husband Roger are going back to the UK till next year.
Hope I didn't miss too much out!


21 September . Fuente de Piedra and a cash appeal

Yesterday' morning's brief visit was more to see Chris Feare who has returned from yet another season in the Seychelles of 40 years studying the Sooty Terns - also colloquially known as Wideawakes because of the noise they make, measured out at 107 decibels Chris tells me, so they'd keep most of Málaga province awake.
With the advent of modern technology, the results that he is obtaining using only geolocators are incredible and show that birds from the Seychelles wander as far as the northern end of Madagascar, to western Australia and to the Bay of Bengal and off western of India. However, as geolocators have their drawbacks (basically an inherent inaccuracy in some cases), Chris is searching for financing to put GPS satellite tracking transmitters on the some Sooty Terns next year. Modern technology and GPS satellite tracking are very expensive but enable birds to be tracked in real time and anyone with a spare 5.000 pounds sterling (or anything lesser provided that it has 4 digits) can contact Chris through myself and help finance next year's even more advanced work and feel that they are doing something really useful with their spare cash.
We did, of course, do some birding (which I know will surprise you greatly) and although the light is always bad in the morning when overlooking the lake at the back. However, the lake has shrunk even more and so have the number of birds. There were a couple of Avocets, a Spotted Redshank and some Ringed and/or Little Ringed Plovers. The commonest wader by far, with a guesstimated 30+, was Little Stint but the light precluded seeing if any were disguised as Temminck's Stints.
The laguna itself is still chock-full of those pinky things whose name evades me for the moments and there were Gadwall, Shoveler and Black-necked Grebes out on the water. A small flock of 6 Shelducks did a flypast - very smart.
We did see a pair of Booted Eagles slowly circling their way westwards but there was a rather notable lack of passerines with the wind keeping them well down in the bushes but we did see a nice Whinchat, my first of this autumn, and when a couple of tractors started disc-harrowing the Stone-curlew field (the one where the tower is) a bundle of Barn Swallows started feeding over the disturbed insects, although how they managed to see them through the clouds of dust is obviously a mystery.
So, just a short entry and do take a look at the piggy bank!


18 September : Rambla de Almanzora & Vera

Nice to know that although Dave has his camera and telephoto lens back the birds won't come close enough. I have the same damned problem, especially with harriers, all I get is a shot of a rear end -
often with a white rump - disappearing rapidly over the horizon! Meanwhile I am still seeing occasional Pallid Swifts and have had a couple of small warblers - Willow/Chiffs at a guess - in the garden where a Spotted Flyctacher is engorging itself. For those of you who live over in western Andalucía, reports from the Bonanza salinas are of many, many waders and in variety.

  Without looking through my records, I guess a gathering of 17 members of the Arboleas Birding Group overlooking the Rambla de Almanzora this morning was nearly the maximum we've had on a day out. Sometimes we were stretched over a hundred metres or more so some at the front missed some birds seen at the rear and visa versa. There was a reasonable amount of water near to the ford but not anything too interesting. Mallard, Black-headed Gull, Ringed Plover and a 1st winter Yellow Wagtail. Further up we added Green Sandpiper. Some at the rear saw Spotted Flycatcher, Southern Grey Shrike and Hoopoe. Around the sewage farm there were a good number of Cattle Egrets and loads of Mallards. 3 female Shovelers were also on the small lake. A Southern Grey Shrike perched on the opposite fence and a small number of Common Sandpipers was seen. Kevin spotted a Little Ringed Plover. A small number of Red-rumped Swallows flew over, but I personally saw only one Barn Swallow today and no Martins or Swifts. Tony and Kas who live near us in Arboleas report seeing loads of Alpine Swifts over their house and we have seen late afternoon flocks of Bee-eaters heading south.
Audouin's Gull, adult
     After a cuppa in Villaricos, we headed in convoy down to the beach. On the rocky islands near the harbour were Audouin's and Yellow-legged Gulls. Closer to us were some Sanderling. Kevin spotted a single Turnstone. I decided we'd do the walk in an anti clockwise direction so the sun would be behind us walking back along the beach. We headed along beside the reeds, hearing or seeing only Sardinian warblers. We then cut across to overlook the estuary by the broken down embankment.  We had good views of Little Egret, Audouin's and Black-headed Gull. Walking a short way towards the sea, I could see some fishing boats about 400 metres out and there around them were at least 12 Cory's Shearwaters. Barrie spotted a Sandwich Tern, then Colin spotted a juvenile Purple Heron  partially obscured by reeds at the end of one of the islands. We then headed back along the beach. A Little Egret was on the rocks as I passed. The stragglers added a Dunlin and Kentish Plover as well.
     We then drove to the dual carriageway near to the Consum supermarket in Vera Playa. Our arrival spooked a group of waders, but thankfully, eventually most returned. There were Redshanks and at least two Ruffs together with Dunlin and Kentish Plover. Some Teal were also seen as was a Southern Grey Shrike and Cattle and Little Egret. Met up with Les Senior, a birder from Turre and hopefully he may join us on some trips.
     Then we headed to the pond opposite the Consum. Gilly and I had visited on Sunday and attempted, without much success, to hack down some of the reeds with a machete to re-install a viewing place. Through the small slot we saw Common Pochard, Little Grebe, Grey Heron and Little Egret
    Also seen whilst on the road, were Roller and Kestrel. We ended with 43 species. Still having trouble with the photos. Not the camera or lens, but the birds not being close enough!


16 September : Tarifa & La Janda

A late entry for reasons beyond my control. Briefly, Monday Federico and I went down to Tarifa and La Janda for the day, arriving at the Los Lances observatory before 09.00 and where stayed for about 30 minutes. It was cool and overcast and rather pleasant. The first bird of interest was a Black-eared Wheatear before weven got to the observatory. On the sea some Cory's Shearwaters were moving towards the Strait and there were also at least 4 Balearic Shearwaters, plus a plumage type 2 Gannet. There were lots of birders, almost more than there were birds with few each of Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and a single Bar-tailed Godwit. A single juvenile Flamingo, perhaps not overly fit, was rather out of place although therer were somewhere around 10 Grey Herons wandering around. A male Peregrine, intent on catching his breakfast charged through at very high speed and caused total panic amongst the Spotless Starlings and was seen again a few minutes later bent on creating more havoc.
We were on to La Janda about 10, after a much needed coffee , and thr route was down to the bridge, acroos and over the top by the fram (atypically unsmelly) and then down the central, and in parts rather uneven, track south towards Facinas.
The first part of the drainage canal has had its banks cleaned - more like a scorched earth policy and Great Reed and other warblers, plus the Purple Boghens (we saw one briefly) are going to have a bad time if they carry on cleaning it up like that and ruining habitat. White Storks there were in abundance and Little Egret not at all uncommon but remarkably few Grey Herons and in the beginning (sounds biblical, doesn't it?) a few Glossy Ibises, but more of them later. There were plenty of Corn Buntings around and we saw several small (ca.20 birds) of Greenfinches but there was one big flock of 100+ Goldfinches. There was one small group of 5 nervous European Turtle Doves - they had every reason to be nervous too with the odd bangs going on. Later, going down the centre track, we saw a single Northern Wheatear and that was about that, apart froma constant southerly trickly of Barn and Red-rumped Swallows.
It was not until we got up near the bridge over the drainage canal that things livened up, and boy did they do so as there were open areas in the rice paddies. There were at least 10 each of Ruff and Snipe, plus a Redshank and 2 Spoonbills were feeding in there. But pride of place must go the vast numbers of Glossy Ibises and the birdwatchers there were treated to an incredible spectacle as waves of them flighted in, ss the following sequence of photos shows. There were masses of 'em, we guesstimated probably in excess of 2.000.

Leaving the Glossy Ibises behind and turning to raptors, there were few raptors all day: Kestrels, 2 or 3 Black Kites, 3 Honey Buzzards although were were to see more later from the Strait mirador, 2 Booted Eagles and 2 more in the Strait on the way home, and 5 Griffon Vultures. Not even Marsh Harriers were around in numbers and we probably saw only 5 or 6, including one incredibly tatty male who looked as though he'd been spun dry with highly negative effects, plus a juvenile Montagu's Harrier, the only one of the day And that was about it. When we stopped at the mirador overlooking the Strait the wind had risen to at least force 4 from the W and a few birds, mostly Honey Buzzards (20+) were trying to get across but having a lack of success against the wind and most were sufficently intelligent to turn back before even getting half way, as did 2 Booted Eagles.
I didn't make notes about the number of species but it could have been higher although the spectacle of the Glossy Ibises made up for everything


11 September : Cabo de Gata and Rambla MoraleWhinchat

     Today Gilly and I headed south with "old" member Stan who's here on holiday for two weeks to Cabo de Gata. We met up with Rod, Linda, Tony, Kas and Kevin at the cafe in Pujaire. After coffee we made for the first hide. It was apparent immediately that there were large numbers of birds before us. The causeway was cram packed with Slender-billed and Black-headed Gulls as well as Avocets. Hiding amongst the hoards were a few Kentish Plovers.  Feeding in the water were Black-tailed Godwits but in small numbers. On the floating weed beds I spotted a Little Stint near a Black-winged Stilt and a pair of Yellow Wagtails. Kas spotted a Ringed Plover and Gilly found a pair of Eurasian Curlews on the savanna. A Little Egret was also seen. Behind us I spotted a juvenile-looking Roller on the power line. Also seen were Sardinian Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, juvenile Woodchat Shrike and Greenshank. Stan had his first official Raven on top of a pylon, his previous sighting being at the Tower of London!
     Moving on to the second hide, there were some Yellow-legged Gulls on the beach but naff all on the flat sea. It was nice to see the Sea Daffodils blooming. At the hide over 200 Shovelers took off en masse. On the steppes I managed to get an Eurasian Curlew, Northern Wheatear and a Lesser Short-toed Lark in my scope all at the same time. Gilly counted 478 Greater Flamingos.
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Whinchat male
     As we approached the public hide car park in the lead car we were greeted by a pair of Whinchats on the barbwire fence. From the hide we added Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper and Shelduck to the list. Gilly spotted a distant raptor on top of a pylon. Brown back, pale beige head. Osprey was discounted. If I was in Morocco, I'd plump for Long-legged Buzzard, but too distant to confirm. A Pied Flycatcher and Chiffchaff were in the shrubs as we left. Tony spotted a Grey Heron.
     As we were honoured with the presence of Kevin, we went to his viewing spot behind the next village. The salina was completely dry, so no birds there but I did manage to spot a Lesser Black-backed Gull amidst a huge flock of white/light grey unidentified gulls further to our left.
     After a second refreshment break....it was getting very hot....we made our way to the Rambla de Morales through the campsite. As we approached the parking area we saw a Kestrel. As we started to walk towards the lake I spotted movement high up in the eucalyptus tree. I just got a glimpse of a Common Redstart before it flew off. A Southern Grey Shrike was seen on a bush as we reached the water. There we found a couple of female Teal, Coot and a female Red-crested Pochard. Further up we added Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Common Pochard and White-headed Duck. There were numerous migrating Sand Martins and Barn Swallows. Gilly spotted a harrier flying low over the grassland, then the reeds. Although she took loads of photo none were good enough to be published but were good enough to identify it as a female Montagu's Harrier. As we headed back to the cars, a single Red-rumped Swallow was seen. Another Pied Flycatcher was in the eucalyptus tree.
     We had 55 species for the day. A very good days birding.

An additonal note from the Rambla Morales yesterday afternoon was sent me by an old friend, Rai Martín, who reported the seeing Golden Orioles of both sexes in the tamarisks, as well as many Willow Warblers in the Nicotiana plants along with some Bonelli's and Subalpine Warblers, as well as 3 Rufous Bushchats (or whetever they're calling them at the moment), a couple of Common Redstarts and several harriers (spp. not given),


8 September : something after the idiot has struck!

No doubt, dear reader, you are wondering if I have totally flipped my lid with that title but not quite, although last Thursday evening I did (that was the greeen, luminescent cloud over Torremolinos around 23.10h). As that well known Scottish poet, Robert Burns, he so beloved of the true Russian communists before perestroika (= prehistory now) as expressing feelings of the down-trodden Scottish worker living on mashed tatties and bashed neeps, wrote, 'The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley.'
This is all written in the vernacular so you'll have to work it all out for yourselves, but at 23.10 last Thursday evening, after spending the end of a long hour writing up two days' birding down at the Guadalhorce, hit the wrong button and instead of publishing it I deleted my efforts and I did not extend myself to saying 'Oh dear me.' Not flipping likely, I gave it the full range of my vocabulary, had a shower and sacked out.
It was impossible to get it done Friday and Saturday wasn't any better, so herewith a resumé of Wednesday, 05 September, down at the Guadalhorce with Federico, followed by another of the Thursday at the same place with Sandra, and to finish it all off, there will be a note on the trip that Federico and I made to Fuente de Piedra on the Friday morning. So, fasten your seat belts and off we go, although the entries for each will be brief.

04 September - Guadalhorce with Federico. The first Cormorant of the season welcomed us and Grey Heron numbers had reached double figures. There were still reasonable numbers of both Pallid and Common Swifts around and both Barn Swallows and House Martins were hanging on in there too. A couple of European Turtle Doves made fast, now-you-see-me, now-you-don't, which is hardly surprising given the persecution they suffer. Reed Warblers are moving through and we sawe and heard three or four. Ducks species were much the same as usual with nothing outstanding although there were 2 early Teal which zipped out at high speed.
This autumn the Guadalhorce really is being quite dire for waders with few in species and numbers. After all, one really can not get too worked up about 3 Little Stints, 2 Common Sandpipers and 2 Redshanks with a single Turnstone was investigating a dried tussock on the laguna Grande. And while I like the small plovers, I'm getting just a bit bored with 38 or so Little Ringed and 7 Kentish. Gull numbers are much the same and while LB-bs are going up in number, Audouin's are going down, as are Mediterranean, whilst Black-headed remain fairly constant.
Total = 41 species.

05 September - Guadalhorce with Sandra. Locking the car keys in the car inside my rucksack did not make for an auspicious start and the total of species seen appeared to follow the trend, And it's not even the Ides of March! Little Ringed Plover numbers had fallen to 31and I forgot to count Kentish Plovers, but there can't have been more than 5 or 6. Dunlin numbers had halved 1 and Little Stints had fallen to 2. On the plus side there were actually 3 Redshanks and a single Spotted Redshank - this probably being the bird of the day whilst the Turnstone was still investigating the same dried tussock - it can't have been there all the time since the previous day, or can it? On the other hand, Common Sandpipers had risen to the dizzy heights of 4.
A Kingfisher did a single fast, low-level pass and was gone, whilst 2 Booted Eagles circled lazily around. With the addition of 2 or 3 Red-rumped Swallows, delightful birds, the swifts and swallows were much the same as the previous day.
Oh yes, I got home as my daughter's companion went to my place, got the spare car key and brought it out to me. He has gone up in my estimation.
Total = 28 species.

06 September - Fuente de Piedra with Federico. Bonb had been up to Fuente on Wednesday and reported lots of waders and variety on the large dried out pond behind the information centre, so we hied ourselves up there. The lake itself still has lots of water and is full of flamingos, mostly adults but with quite a lot of chicks. I have never, ever, in the 30 or so years, seen so many birds there, perhaps 30.000 or more? all spread out as far as the eye can see. It is worth a visit and is quite eye-catching, reminding one of photos of lakes in the Rift Valley.
As for other things, we had a juvenile Marsh Harrier, which was nice to see, as well as 3 Spoonbills and a juv,. and adult Night-heron. There were quite a few Shovelers on the laguna and also Black-necked Grebes and Coots all probably a portent of the numbers to come. Then it was time for the waders.
I didn't do much of count as the main troubkle with the hide that overlooks the laguna t the back, the pantaneto del Pueblo, is that in the morning one is looking into the sun and it is undoubtedly better for observation later in the day when the sun has gone round. However, that apart, we notched up 12 species of waders, which makes a nice change from 6 or so at the Guadalhorce: Avocet, Stilt, LRP, Lapwing, Snipe, Dunlin, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff. Well worth the trip and we finished off with a Melodious Warbler.
But do, if you have the time, go and have a look at the lake. It really is quite stunning.

Other news. Friday saw a huge passage of Honey Buzzards down in the Strait with some 20.000 logged going over to Africa. Dotterel have also been recorded on thre Los Lances beach last week. Closer to home, I had my first Pied Flycatcher of the autumn in the garden yesterday (07/09) and the Spotted Flycatcher is still around and the Rose-ringed Parakeets have returned after a summer sabbatical.
Finally, my sister has just rung from the beach south of Bridlington, East Yorkshire, to report Ostercatchers and a Lancaster bomber about which latter she got terribly excited.

I am now going to take great care and press the 'publish' button. Wish me luck as I press this goodby .....


4 September : Sierra María

I agree, Dave, and perhaps we can look forward to the weather cooling down a bit. I was at the Guadalhorce today and shall be tomorrow, so all you unlucky folks can look forward to a double dose! Friday I hope to be at Fuente de Piedra as Bob tells of good numbers and variety of waders on the lake behind the information centre.  And as Fuente de Piedra = flamingos, there are still plenty of those and it looks as though one of our 2 juvenile Lessers from this year has turned up at Gallocanta (Zaragoza) as it was seen there on 29 August (E. Pelayo in rarebirdspain). Just like starting autumn term at school, isn't it?

After our enforced summer break it was good to be back in the birdwatching saddle. Gilly, Ros and myself met up the Trevor, Ann, Colin, Sandra, Rod and Linda at the garage cafe in María for a coffee before heading up to the chapel. We'd already seen House Martins round the town, but round the chapel was slightly disappointing, not helped by the stalking cat near the water trough. We wandered up to the botanical gardens seeing Chaffinch and Rock Sparrow. The water pools in the gardens are always an attraction for the birds. We saw Coal Tit, Serins and Crossbills. Further along the lower trail I spotted a Crested Tit. As we headed up the medium trail, leaving Ros and Gilly with her bad knees to await our return, we saw loads of Mistle Thrushes and small flocks of Chaffinches and Rock Buntings. I found the birding very frustrating there as we had glimpses of birds flying and disappearing into trees, rarely making a sound so it was impossible to get identification on them. We did see a confirmed female Subalpine Warbler and a Short-toed Treecreeper. Colin, I think, spotted some high flying raptors. The highest one was the easiest to ID, an adult Booted Eagle. The lower three were, I believe, Common Buzzards. Also seen was a single Crag Martin. Gilly had seen a Jay and another Subalpine Warbler. We also had a possible Whitethroat.
     We then headed towards the plain. The highways department are finally tarmacking the widened road from the campsite entrance and beyond, so we couldn't stop at the old farm buildings. There was very little on the plain. Three Carrion Crows, a Crested Lark and best of all were some Lesser Short-toed Larks. At the hamlet Gilly spotted a couple of Lesser Kestrels. However beyond them in the distance Griffon Vultures were seen. Once we got our eyes in we saw two plumes, one of 45 birds, the other 30 birds. 
     A Jackdaw was added to the list as we headed to the La Piza forest cafe for lunch. Here there were a few Crossbills, but not the numbers of previous visits. A Booted Eagle soared overhead. 
Whilst there one of the owners showed us a book called "Guia de Aves de la Comarca de Los Velez" which is a guide to the birds of the area. (ISBN 84-611-2821-4) Very impressive with the text in Spanish, English and French. Fully illustrated. €15, I believe.
     The photos are still from previous trips, solely because there were no opportunities today with my newly repaired and returned lens which appears to be working well.
    With a pair of Ravens seen on our way out, we ended up with 28 species for the day.


25-30 August 2013 : Madeira, pelagics and land

Catarina and Hugo
I have just spent the five days 25-30 August in Madeira, flying round trip from Málaga with a boring 4-5 hours in Lisbon between flights to and from Funchal.The plan was simple, spend three days at sea with Catarina and Hugo of Madeira Wind Birds. Back in 2010, seven of us from Spain went out with them in May their 11m RIB 'Oceandroma', saw a lot and ever since then I have had a string desire to see what migration at sea might be like in late August. It didn't work as I had expected or hoped, and Catarina and Hugo were also rather disappointed, but the morning of 30 August an enormous bird, not a marine species, a surprise which I shall leave to the end.
I stayed at the White Waters Hotel in Machico which has the advantage of being close to the airport, not expensive, comfortable, with very pleasant owners and staff and only a short walk from the small harbour and a river which is worthwhile taking a look at. As I had little free time the days when not at sea and a lot of work to attack, I didn't bother hiring a car to visit other sites but got a lot of work done instead.
For the samwe reason I I am going to put all the species seen in order, with photos where I have any, and comments about the numbers seen of each and a commentary if there's anything useful to say. Note that we saw no Sooty Shearwaters, only 2 Arctic Skuas and there were few stormies, much fewer than we had all hoped for.

Abundant, especially the Tuesday when we were down towards the SW of Madeira.

No decent photos to publish although with some very good views on the Monday (5 birds), including one with a a lot of white in the underwing along all the greater coverts and possibly the outer part of the median coverts. None seen the Tuesday or Wednesday.
One seen from the harbour wall of Machico on the Monday morning and 4 at sea in the afternoon; none specifically identified on the Tuesday and 1 on the Wednesday.

Because of large similarities at distance and the difficulties of specific identification when a high speed Pterodroma passes a boat which moving inall dimensions, at distance and with the light not always favourable, it was necessary to assign some in this way: 3 on Monday, 5 on Tuesday, none on Wednesday.
All seen of the newly designated species Calonectris diomedea; common each day with a flock of ca.300 feeeing in association with an estimated 200 Common Dolphins and 3 Bryde's Whales on 27 August. On 28 August when returning to port in the late dusk it was almost frightening the number of near misses we had with Cory'0s returning to the Desertas Islands and am certain that some also had their little hearts beating after taking violent evasive action.


Seen in small numbers (min. 13 on the Monday, none on the  Tuesday and 3 on the Wednesday), low numbers had also been reported by seawatchers from Porto Moniz on the N side of the island (and who had also recorded a Barolo Shearwater).

Seen only on the MOnday (3 birds) and Wednesday (1).
Very few seen, 1 on the Tuesday and 2, possibly 3, on the Wednesday. In the fourth phito it is possible to see the yellow interdigital web. The photos are not of good quality because of low light values.
find the Wilson's S-p

In the final few minutes at sea on Wednesday evening before starting for port and with poor light, we saw a single White-faced Storm-petrel, a single European Stormie and a single Madeira Stormie (sp.) crossed the bows once started back. In sum, a poor showing from the point of view of storm-petrels. It wasn't any better for skuas either, with only 2 Arctic Skuas seen on the Monday afternoon and a Common Tern.
From the harbour wall of Machico, where I walked every morning and watched for between 30 and 45 minutes, there was a this years juvenile Northern Gannet on Monday morning and on a daily basis between 1 and up to 4 Common Terns and three mornings with Roseate Terns with a maximum of 4 on the Friday morning.There were very few Yellow-legged Gulls, these notably darker on the mantle and coverts than the Málaga birds I see. On the Friday morning a surprise was the presence of 2 juvenile Black-headed Gulls. Waders were limited to up to 16 Turnstones which fed on the stone groynes and at the river mouth at low water.
I walked up-river more than once and apart from 3 young Moorhens on the Monday and never seen again in the dense vegetation, there were always Grey Wagtails, many of these juvs. I had seen a few Common Waxbills but on the Friday morning I came across various flocks, the largest of some 30 birds, with a tiotal of  at least 100 feeding on the seed heads. There was also a small flock of Canaries but of other species, little indeed, with singles of Blackbird and Blackcap and a few Spanish Sparrows, as well as up to 6 Plain Swifts each day.
Common Waxbills (2 photos above)
 Canary, male
And the suprise species I mentioned at the beginning? Friday morning, whilst seawatching, there was a commotion amongst the few gulls and feral pigeons, a panic typical of the presence of a bird of prey. I found it easily, it was impossible not to see as it flew lazily from left to right, minimum range of less than 100m and perhaps 25-30m up ... a damned big falcon, like a king-sized Peregrine but not a Peregrine, that left me in doubt as to what it was as I have seen the species in northern Norway - a Gyrfalcon, a juvenile or 2nd calendar year bird (by body and underwing plumage), a female (by size) dark phase (by plumage overall) and with a not very marked moustachial stripe. I got a great look at through binoculars but the camera wasn't switched on, so I took the binoculars were the only choice. It was not wearing falconer's jesses. The description should be with the SPEA as I write this.

As a post scriptum, on the Friday I had lunch with Catarina and Hugo they described, with a luxury of detail, their observation this year of the birth of a young Sperm Whale, which is absolutely incredible and probably seen by very few on this planet. That is another part of the attraction of the sea.

And as you haven't bothered to ask, yes I enjoyed the pelagics as always, especially in good company, even though we could have seen more, but that's birding for you.