23 Sept. : Rambla de Almanzora and Villaricos (Almería)

It was back to our local patch, the Rambla de Almanzora, today. Gilly and I had already noted Yellow Wagtails (lavandera boyera)in a roadside meadow before we got to the "ford" meeting place overlooking the rambla. Barrie and Beryl were already there. 
Unluckily for the others, Gilly spotted a Glossy Ibis (morito) flying off up the valley! We also saw about 10 Cattle Egrets (garcillas bueyeras) flying over the desalination plant. After the other ten members arrived we commenced our walk beside the dry river bed. A Southern Grey Shrike (alcaudón real) showed well. A few Barn Swallows (golondrinas comunes) flew past and a Common Swift (vencejo común) was seen. Barrie was the first to spot the Common Redstart (colirrojo real) nicely perched on the power line. It was joined briefly by a Chiffchaff (mosquitero común) of which there were quite a few in the shrubs below. We heard Cetti's (ruiseñor bastardo), Sardinian (curruca cabecinegra) and Reed Warbler (carricero común). Also heard were Bee-eaters (abejarucos) and Jackdaws (grajillas) and Hoopoe (abubilla) and Greenfinch (verderón) were seen. At the sewage works there were a pair of Common Sandpipers (andarríos chicos). 
In a pool in the rambla were some young Moorhens (gallineta común) and in the larger pools there were numerous Mallard (azulón), a number of Black-winged Stilts (cigüeñuelas) and a flight of 4 Common Sandpipers (andarríos chicos) were seen. A Grey Heron (garza real) flew over. Retracing our steps, Gilly spotted a Kingfisher (martín pescador) which flew up the rambla, did a U turn and executed a wonderful fly past just below us. Gilly next saw a Pied Flycatcher (papamoscas cerrojillo), which was skulking around the tobacco plants and a Spotted Flycatcher (papamoscas gris) perched obligingly on the security fence by the sewage works. A Green Sandpiper (andarríos grande) was seen and the only other wader seen was a Ringed Plover (chorlitejo grande).
We had our usual coffee break in Villaricos before making our way to the beach, where there still a few "grockles". 
A solitary Audouin's Gull (gaviota de Audouin) was on the rocks by the harbour entrance and a Black-headed Gull (gaviota reidora) was on the shore line. Seeing nowt more we made our way to the estuary. Usually a mecca for hirundines, but not a single one. A Grey Heron (garza real) on the water pipe had caught a very large greyling(?) fish, easily as long as its neck. He kept picking it up assessing the size of it and his mouth and putting it down away. Kevin then spotted a Squacco Heron (garcilla cangrejera) on the spit, in fact there were two, together with some Audouin's (gaviota de Audouin), Yellow-legged (gaviota patiamarilla) and Black-headed Gulls (gaviota reidora). Also seen was a Sandwich Tern (charrán patinegro) and a Turnstone (vuelvepiedras). We moved onto the beach itself. Barrie spotted a Kingfisher (martín pescador) flying low over the sea. Three Ringed Plovers (chorlitejos grandes) were also seen.
Convoying to the dual carriageway above the "Consum" pools at Vera we were pleased to see a wide variety of waders. First on the list were Dunlin (correlimos común), followed by three Greenshanks (archibebes claros) and a Redshank (archibebe común), Kentish, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers (chorlitejos patinegro, grande y chico), Black-winged Stilt (cigüeñuela), two or three Ruff (combatiente) and a Wood Sandpiper (andarríos bastardo). Hot shot Gilly spotted a Wigeon (anade silbón) and also seen were Teal (cerceta común), Shoveler (pato cuchara) and Mallard (azulón). A couple of Little Grebes (zampullín chico) were spotted. There were 13 Greater Flamingos (flamencos) nearer the supermarket. Unfortunately our resident reed cutter is in the UK so there were virtually no views into the smaller pools. I did glimpse a couple of Grey Herons (garzas reales) and a Shoveler (pato cuchara). 
In spite of that we saw an incredible 53 species today. A good days birding in good company!
Got a note from my mother excusing me games next week, so the next report from Las Norias will be in a fortnight's time. In the meantime, good birding.

21 Sept. : Tarifa - La Janda

Before starting the account of the long awaited and much overdue trip down to Tarifa and La Janda with Federico, a quick comment that according to sources from northern Europe it looks like being a good autumn for Pallid Harriers (aguilucho papialbo),  A species which appears to be expanding its range westwards.  A juvenile Finnish bird is being satellite tracked and is currently in northern Spain. The daily position appears to be uploaded to the satellite link each evening when the bird is roosting, so herewith the link. 

Federico and I arrived down at the Cazalla observatory,  just outside Tarifa, at around 09.15. It was grey and reasonably windy but not cold. The first raptors were already moving, Black Kites (milanos negros),  Short-toed (águila culebrera) and Booted Eagles (águila calzada), a very nice male Marsh Harrier (aguilucho lagunero), a single Osprey (águila pescadora) and a flock of no less than ca.55 Black Storks (cigüeñas negras), of which we also saw more during the day.  Apparently last Saturday some 500 Black Storks were logged migrating south, which is a fair chunk of the western European population, somewhere in the 15-20% range, I believe.
The birds were coming over reasonably high so we decided to push  off to the Apolo XI bar (I saw the Apollo XI moonshot fly back in 1969 when I lived in the Bahamas) at Tahivilla, have a coffee and try our luck on La Janda.  The track alongside the drainage canal wasn’t particularly great, with lots House Sparows (gorrión común) and a surprising number of Corn Buntings (trigueros).  There were a couple of Green Sandpipers (andarríos grandes) in amongst the rice, some White Storks (cigüeña blanca) standing around but which took off south as the morning warmed up and a few Glossy Ibises (moritos). Occasional Marsh Harriers (aguilucho lagunero) and juvenile Montagu’s Harriers (aguilucho cenizo) floated around but it wasn’t until around 3 kms down the track that I spotted an Otter (nutria) cross in the rear view mirrow! A very chance and very fortunate observation!

The cutting of maize had started and ploughing was under way. Seeing 6 or so Lesser Kestrels (cernicalo primilla) was to be expected but the bonanza of insects and other creepy-crawlies revealed by the cutting and plough had attracted a massive number of Cattle Egrets (garcilla bueyera) and Jackdaws (grajillas) which must have come in from kms around. Our joint guesstimate was a mínimum of 3.000 and perhaps as many as 5.000 of the first, and around 800 of the second. Whatever the numbers, it was an amazing sight.
Going across the by the smelly (actually, not at all) farm, we stopped on the top road where normally I have some success but there was nothing, largely because of the noise of men working somewhere close. So, from there it was down to the central track which leads to near Facinas. It too was disappointingly poor for the first few kms but we ran into a quite spread out mixed party of passerines and this provided some very good views of Northern Wheatear (collalba gris) (8+) and also Black-eared Wheatear  (collalba rubia), a single Yellow Wagtail (lavandera boyera). There were, of course, the standard Stonechats (tarabilla común), but it was nice to come across no less than a mínimum of 10 Whinchats (tarabilla norteña). 
More surprising was the number of Tawny Pipits (bisbita campestre) – 10 at the least.

An unexpected surprise was the sight of 4 Roe Deer (corzos), an adult female with a younger animal and 2 more near adults from their size, galloping across one of the dried fields And all that rather sewed up the day, although we stopped a few minutes on the way back, watched more Booted Eagles (águila calzada) and later on Paco of the Cigüeña Negra observatory sent me a message that we had missed a Rüppell’s Vulture (buitre moteado) by 10 minutes. Thus is birding! 


16 Sept. Cabo de Gata & Rambla de Morales

Apologies to Dave and all, but for some reason this damned machine put his e-mail report in 'spam' and I've only just seen it. The wonders of modern technology, you'd think it'd recognise mail from Dave by now after all these years.

It's been nearly three months since the group had ventured down to Cabo de Gata so we were looking forward to today's trip. Gilly and I picked up Richard Shropshire from Los Gallardos on the way down. We met up with the other nine members at the Pujaire cafe. After a quick coffee we headed for the first hide. We immediately saw our first Marsh Harrier (aguilucho lagunero) of the day and more were seen later, including one bird setting off out to sea. Scanning the shoreline I spotted 12 Grey Herons (garza real) There were numerous Shovelers (pato cuchara) together with a few Mallard (azulón) There were one or two Little Egret (garceta común), an Eurasian Curlew (zarapito real) and a good number of Black-tailed Godwits (aguja colinegra). Little waders included Ringed (chorlitejo grande) and Kentish Plover (chorlitejo patinegro) and Little Stint (correlimos menudo). Gilly spotted a Little Tern (charrancito). Hirundines were mostly Barn Swallows (golondrina), but some Sand Martins (avión zapador) and a Red-rumped Swallow (golondrina daurica) were seen. 
A seawatch from the beach only produced a Sandwich Tern (charrán patinegro). The high winds were producing some decent rollers (waves, not birds!). Dave and Myrtle had already seen some Stone Curlews (alcaravanes) by the time we got to the second hide. They also pointed out a perched small bird. A juvenile Woodchat Shrike (alcaudón común). Gilly counted 466 Greater Flamingos (flamencos). A passing walker kindly put up a Whimbrel (zarapito trinador) and a Southern Grey Shrike (alcaudón real) was spotted.
The view from the public hide was magnificent. Loads of birds. There was a huge raft of Avocets (avocetas) and Barrie counted nearly 50 Black-necked Grebes (zampullines cuellinegros). There were numerous Redshanks (archibebe común) together with a few Greenshanks (archibebe claro). The shoreline had mainly Kentish Plovers (chorlitejo patinegro), but there were some Ringed Plovers (chorlitejo grande) and more Little Stints (correlimos menudo). Also seen were Sanderlings (correlimos tridáctilo) and a few Knot (correlimos gordo). All at once groups of waders took to the air. Must be a raptor...a juvenile male Montagu's Harrier (aguilucho pálido) and yet more Marsh Harriers (aguiluchos laguneros) were seen!
Dave and Myrtle headed to the shops and Jacky went for a walk so it was left to the rest of us to go for a coffee in Cabo village before making our way along the beach side track to the Rambla de Morales, seeing yet more Marsh Harriers (aguiluchos laguneros) on the way. Not many birds were present with Coots (focha común) and Yellow-legged Gulls (gaviota patiamarilla) Colin was the first to hear a Zitting Cisticola (buitrón).
There were a small number of Greater Flamingos (flamenco común). Three White-headed Ducks (malvasía cabeciblanco) were also present. Barrie then spotted a single Black Tern (fumarel común) as it patrolled up and down the very green waters.
Gilly had stayed with the vehicles and got an artistic shot of a Marsh Harrier (aguilucho lagunero) heading out to sea!
We then said our goodbyes. As we were in a 4x4 we headed along the track towards the campsite and added a Gadwall (anade friso) in a pool further down. As we approached the campsite a flight of 20+ Bee-eaters (abjarucos) flew past.
Ended up with a total of 44 species. Not bad considering we saw hardly and small land birds. They presumably were keeping their heads down, sheltering from the wind!


09 September, Sierra de María (Almería)

What can I add to Dave's introduction about the long, hot summer? Not a lot except that according to one evening news met. report, July was the hottest since records began with temperatures of 2.5ºC above the average and as far as I can see the same occurred in August, which was hotter than the gates of hell at times. All this made birding somewhere between extremely uncomfortable and bloody impossible, especially when rounded off by the heavy rain and, in Almería and Granada, heavy rainfall and flooding this week. So, off we jolly well go on another year of birding with Dave and the Arboleas Group. Thanks, Dave! 
After  two and a bit months off due to the excessive heat, we returned to birdwatching, following serious thunderstorms, heavy rains and flash floods, to a lovely day up at the Sierra de Maria. Approaching the town I spotted a "big bird" perched on a pylon, some 1,000 metres away. After zooming in with the camera it turned out to be a Short-toed Eagle (culebrera europea). Combined with a Kestrel (cernicalo vulgar) sitting on another pylon nearby, it was a good start! We met up with Trevor and Ann, Phil and Jen and new member Jim at the cafe bar in Maria. Whilst having a coffee we saw the House Martins (aviones comunes) were still hanging around. Also seen were Spotless Starlings (estornino pinto) and a Blue Tit (herrerillo común). 
We headed up to the chapel. Spotted 6 Magpies (urracas) (could do with some gold!) and some Wood Pigeons (paloma torcaz). Phil spotted a dark bird flying along the cliff face of the mountain ridge. I think it was a Raven (cuervo). The water trough was dry so no birds there. 
By the Information Centre we spent some time trying to ID some warblers flitting around in the middle of a holm oak and ended up with Chiffchaff (mosquitero común) and Subalpine Warbler (curruca carrasqueña). By the small pools we added Chaffinch (pinzón vulgar), Coal Tit (carbonero garrapinos), another Blue Tit (herrerillo común), Willow Warbler (mosquitero musical) and a Serin (verdecillo). Gilly and Ann hung around the gardens as the rest of us wandered round the lower walk. Here we saw our first Griffon Vulture (buitre leonado) of the day as well as a Blackbird (mirlo) and a flock of 60 migrating Bee-eaters (abejarucos). I spotted a small flock of Red-billed Choughs (chova piquirroja) floating along the mountain ridge. Returning to the Information Centre we added Goldfinch (jilguero).  
An impressive 24 Griffon Vultures (buitres leonados) were using the cliff face to gain height. I was just saying to Jim the commonest eagles up here were Booted (aguila calzada) when one flew past. Gilly and Ann were entertained by a couple of young Iberian Squirrels (ardilla ibérica) playing tag round a pine tree. 
Trevor and Ann saw a Jay (arrendajo) as we were heading to the farm buildings. Only added a Carrion Crow (corneja común) there. Nothing at all at the sheep's water trough so we motored along the plain. Birds few and far between with only Crested Lark (cogujada común) and about four Northern Wheatears (collalba gris). 
We stopped briefly at the hamlet and were met by another Booted Eagle (aguila calzada) soaring above us. The Lesser Kestrels (cernicalo primilla) presumably well gone. As we made our way back, Gilly spotted a raptor flying slowly over the ploughed fields. A Black Kite (milano negro), uncommon to us up here. Our first for Maria?
We ate our lunch at the La Piza forest cafe watching Jays (arrendajos), Crossbills (piquituertos) and Long-tailed Tits (mitos) either taking the waters or the cheesy wotsits sprinkled by the small pool. Gilly and I also had a Great Tit (carbonero común) after the others had left.
A really enjoyable day. Ended up with 31 species. Birdspotter of the day...Phil !


18-25 August, Gran Canaria

I like islands as a rule, especially if they have lots of birds, preferably easily accessible in my physical state. I So, in a vain attempt which may best be described as going from frying pan to fire after the hottest July in Spain  since records began (no, it wasn't last year), with temps. around 2.4ºC above the mean and with the oldest inhabitants daying that they have never known anything like it, my friend (female) and I hied ourselves off to Maspalomas at the south-eastern end of Gran Canaria. This is not an island renowned for its birding and this wasn't helped by the heat, the god-awful mountain roads (even worse than Madeira) and a general lack of easily accessible habitat. Not a good birding tourist ad., is it?
So what did we see? The basic answer is not a lot (shades of Eric Morecombe!). We stayed in a very nice little bungalow in the huge complex but very spacious and well planned tourist area of Maspalomas. We were visited every morning by one or two extremely flighty Canary Islands Chiffchaffs (mosquitero canario).
Canary Islands Chiffchaff
There were occasonal visits from a male Canary (the real thing) (canario) and regrettably there were also the now ubiquitous Monk Parakeets (cotorra monje/argentina), although these were outnumbered by the Rose-ringed Parakeets (cotorra de Kramer) (why did they change the name from Ring-necked?). There were considerable numbers of migrant Common Swifts (vencejo común) the first evening there and although numbers varied over the days, with obvious influxes, there were few identifiable Plain Swifts (vencejo unicolor).
We did a 2 hour pelagic, ostensibly in search of dolphins, of which we saw a a couple of pods of Spotted Dolphins (delfín moteado) but not geat views, nowhere as good as in the Strait, and I'd seen and swum with a biggish pod of 50+ of these when I lived on Andros. There were also 3 distant blows from some species of whale, but not Sperm and which may well have been from Bryde's, which the skipper informed were the most likely. as also being the most common in those waters.

The only common seabirds were Cory's Shearwaters (pardela cenicienta) (above) but these were not particukarly cooperative when it came to photos. These were seen from every place and particularly visible in the channel between Gran Canaria and Tenerife. There were very few Yellow-legged Gulls (gaviota patiamarilla), and - big surprise - a juvenile Black-headed (gaviota reidora) (below)! Bet that thrilled you, it didn't me.
There there is a huge protected dune area of some 4 sq. kms at Maspalomas which makes one feel like Lawrence of Arabia when staggering through it and which did my knees no good at all. On the western side of the dunes there is standing fresh water in the form of La Charca de Maspalomas and which we visited twice, both times in late afternoon. The first visit on 19 August produced some 12 Whimbrels (zarapito trinador), which had reduced to 5 by the second on 24 August and was reduced to zero by the time we left as the birds took off in the general direction of Africa as dusk fell. A pair Greenshanks (archibebe claro) remained on both visits, as did 13-14 Kentish Plovers (chorlitejo patinegro) and a single Ringed Plover (chorlitejo grande) which I see is now being called Great Ringed Plover by some, makes me imagine a plover the size of a Moa!, while the second visit also produced 2 Sanderlings (correlimos tridáctilo) one still showing the remains of breeding plumage.
We saw 2 Buzzards (busardo común) in the whole trip, and the best bird was seen at Puerto Mogan whilst my friend was cooling off in the sea. I had taken a coffee and was strolling when there was a bit of a kerfuffle and panic amongst the feral pigeons when an immature Barbary Falcon (halcón tagarote) flew over.
And thus back home, with the first migrant Chiffchaff (mosquitero común) of the the autumn in the garden on 30 August. Otherwise, the action is down in the Strait with records of Rüppell's Vulture (buitre moteado), probably 2, and I am going to try and get down there one day soon and take a look at La Janda. I shall also try and get some info. in the blog from time to time, so if you are totally bored take a shufti - just in case!
Good birding!