Monday, September 27, 2021

πŸ“– Autumn Arrives πŸ‚

πŸ‚πŸAfter a late-summer surge and unseasonably high temperatures, it would seem that Autumn has finally arrived this morning with heavy rain and strong winds. Unfortunately, It was an awful morning altogether for Dazza's work flight down to Birmingham! She tells me it was a bumpy ride throughout and that they were required to circle a dozen times due to torrential rain before finally getting in at Birmingham, with some other flights even being diverted. 

A late Common Whitethroat at the Sand Loch, Forvie NNR

Since arriving back from Spain I've managed two visits to RSPB Strathbeg, Forvie Nature Reserve and my usual few hours around the Ythan Estuary and upper reaches. One thing that's struck me since my return is the reluctance of trees, shrubs and flowers to accept that Autumn is on the horizon. Full canopies with no sign of colour changes, lots of insects and bees still buzzing around and even plenty of butterflies, mostly Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, along with the odd Large White. My visit to Forvie on September 20th even threw up a late staying Common Whitethroat and also noted during my short walk a half dozen Stonechat, a single Wheatear and my first Common Darter dragonflies of the year.

Pink-footed Geese

Despite the late Summer warmth, accompanied by a long period of southerlies, the wind did eventually swing around to the northwest overnight Wednesday and on Thursday while having a garden tidy skein after skein of Pink-footed Geese drifted endlessly overhead, the floodgates have opened! Due to not having any previous experience of the late summer up here in northeast Scotland, I'm unsure as to whether the birds have arrived early or late but either way it's a wonderful sight to behold.

Whooper Swans ~ Another winter visitor from Iceland

Friday morning I was along the Ythan for a few hours pre-high tide and was delighted to see a group of 32 Whooper Swans drop in, another wonderful sight and interesting to think that it may well have been their first landfall since leaving Iceland! By the time I departed they were all fast asleep and who could blame them after another epic journey.

Redshank ~ Abundant around the Ythan

As is the norm the Ythan was awash with waders during my Friday 24th visit, hundreds or even thousands of Redshank, double-figure Greenshank and I managed my first Curlew Sandpiper of the year during my stop at the Waulkmill Hide. 

Peregrine Falcon from the Snub lay-by

In the end, I recorded fifteen species of wader with some huge flocks of Golden Plover and with this many waders to choose from the above Peregrine was never far away! 

Two Pectoral Sandpipers on Starnafin Pools, Strathbeg during my visit on the 16th.

Two trips to RSPB Strathbeg the first of which was on the 16th, mainly to catch up with the Pectoral Sandpipers. A quite remarkable three on one day at one stage but just two during my visit. While here I dropped onto a Whinchat, a decent Aberdeenshire tick along with three Stonechat while walking the farmland birds track. I also noted some early Pink-footed Geese fifteen in total which had obviously braved the southeasterlies. 

A good few Common Darters at Strathbeg

Also of note during my visit (2) Snipe, (3) Greenshank, (2) Ruff, (5) Curlew, (8) Dunlin, Blackcap, Water Rail and number of Common Darters along with Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell

One of two Grey Plover at RSBP Strathbeg

The highlights of my short visit on the 21st were my first two Grey Plovers of the year, not that regular up here in the northeast, Little Stint and just a single Pectoral Sandpiper today.

More Images of the past few weeks...

Greenshank on the Ythan

Black-tailed Godwit from the Waulkmill Hide

Pectoral Sandpipers after a quick Sparrowhawk fly-by

Wheatear enjoying the rolled hay vantage point 

One of six Stonechat at Forvie NNR

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Spain Trip Report 05 ~ 14th Sept 2021 ~ Part 3

The final part of my recent trip to southern Spain includes visits to Cantero's Los Arenales and Zapata. Details of both sites can be found HERE or by clicking on the tab Birding Spain at the top of the blog.

Rock Buntings occasionally do show quite well.

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Saturday, September 11th ☀️ 32C ~After the drive up to the parking at Puerto del la Graja, it's always a good idea to spend a little time checking out the rocks, shrubland and old quarry before making the steep walk up to the top. Dartford Warbler, Rock Bunting and Black Wheatear can all be found in the vicinity but during today's visit, I failed to connect with the latter for the first time in over 10 years.

Wall Brown enjoying a warm spot

It was a slow and steady walk today pausing every so often in the shade to shelter from 32C temperatures. There are still a few butterfly species on the wing and every so often I'd come across a Wall Brown or Striped Grayling perched on the rocks. A few Common Crossbills high up in the repopulated Pines along with Chaffinch and a small group of Long-tailed Tits

Firecrest ~ With patience curiosity usually gets the better of them!

Crested Tit ~ Another species of Canteros that can be quite obliging

As usual, I could hear Firecrests and Crested Tits calling for most of my stay and as I reached what is for me the summit I stopped for a while to try for some images.


The high point (around 2,000ft) of my walk is simply stunning with amazing views of the Hoya de Malaga and I usually spend an hour or so here watching the odd passing Raptor, which today included Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and Honey BuzzardCrag Martins and the occasional Alpine Swift are also regular sightings and today a Peregrine flew so close I could hear the whoosh of the air as it passed by at a rate of knots!

One of two Iberian Ibex ~ A first for me at Canteros

On the walk back down to the parking lots of cracking branches alerted me to two young Iberian Ibex feeding down in one of the ditches, a first for this sight for me. Also of note during my visit Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart and Short-toed Treecreeper.

Despite being over 50 kilometres away the fire could easily be seen from the villa in Mijas!

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Monday, September 12th ⛅ 28C ~After much needed overnight rain, particularly in relation to the ongoing fire just north of Estepona, one of the worst in living memory I arrived at Zapata in much fresher conditions. Although that didn't last long once the sun began to break through turning things rather muggy. 

The ford at Zapata after heavy rain crossing the Rio Guadalhorce 2018

You can easily drive around the rough tracks at Zapata but since getting Dave's 4X4 well and truly stuck a few years back I prefer to walk. In any case, you obviously get to see a lot more on foot. This is a great place to find Red-necked Nightjar in the spring and early summer but being so late in the year and day to be fair I drew a blank. 


Down at the ford which crosses the Guadalhorce, a Grey Wagtail was enjoying a wash, along with Cattle Egret, Greenshank and Little-ringed Plover which unfortunately I flushed as I approached. While photographing the Grey Wagtail an Osprey and Booted Eagle drifted over, so maybe I wasn't to blame after all. Further upstream a Little Bittern flew out crashing into the reeds further along but just too quick for a photo and both Chiffchaff and Reed Warbler were also noted.

Common Waxbill ~ Frustratingly difficult to photograph.

A largish flock of Common Waxbill, blow-ins from Africa which are now well established in Spain and Portugal soon made themselves known but these are very skittish birds and taking a photo can be a little frustrating at times. 

Bluethroat from my last visit before Covid in  Decmber 2019

A word with a couple of local ringers over coffee confirmed what I'd be feeling during the visit in that it was particularly quiet. I get the impression that like most things this year everything is a little late and species I'd normally record here over the autumn and winter like Bluethroat, Penduline Tit and Stone Curlew have yet to arrive. 

Whinchat along with two of four Wheatear

Having said that there was still plenty to see with Lesser Short-toed Lark, Woodchat Shrike, Hoopoe, Turtle Dove and at one stage a group of four Wheatear was joined by a Whinchat

Away from the birding a Dragonfly lifer for me at Zapata ~ Long Skimmer

Another excellent visit to Spain, great to be back & see my buddy Dave after so long and I'll be back in November with Dazza so hopefully, we'll catch up with a few noticeable absentee species before the year-end. 

More Images of the Visit...

A Canadair CL-145 water bomber passes close to the villa en route to Estepona! 

Daytime view from the terrace of the fire

Little-ringed Plover

Striped Grayling

Black Kite at sunset over the terrace

Short-toed Eagle

Spotted Flycatcher

Reed Warbler

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike

Wheatear

Firecrest




Sunday, September 19, 2021

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Spain Trip Report 05 ~ 14th Sept 2021 ~ Part 2

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Friday, September 10th ☀️ 31C ~ With Dave heading off to Holland during the rest of my stay It was time for a day out a little further afield and my annual trip to Tarifa for the bird migration. Although of course, I missed out in 2020 due to Covid!

Left ~ The view on arrival at the Mirador                 Right ~ The view at the Observatory 30 minutes later

Instead of using the AP-7 I decided on a toll-free route from Mijas down to Tarifa due to the huge wildfire just north of Estepona (more on that in part 3) and arrived at the Mirador del EstrechoI for coffee at around 9:30am. As you can see from the above images the views were somewhat curtailed by the low cloud and mist, not unlike an Aberdeenshire morning on occasions! But like home, the mist and cloud soon diminished and by the time I arrived at the observatory a short time later, the conditions were perfect.

Short-toed Eagle passing overhead the observatory

The first movement of note was a large group of Black Kites drifting low over Tarifa and just gaining enough height for the relatively short hop over to Morocco and the African continent. There was a slow but constant passage of Short-toed Snake Eagle and I managed double figures during my two-hour stay. 

Griffon Vulture ~ One of several today heading for the Straits.

Vultures are always an awesome sight at any time and it was good to see both Egyptian Vulture and Griffon Vulture, along with the odd juvenile passing through. I've also recorded RΓΌppell's Vulture on other occasions but sadly not today. 

Egyptian Vulture

Booted Eagle's and Honey Buzzards made up the numbers and I'm always surprised to see how many Sparrowhawks make the journey across. As spectacular as always there were a few species absentees from my normal haul, including Bonelli's Eagle, Black Stork and Harriers.

Always check the wires at La Janda for Black-winged Kites.

From Cazalla I always make the 30-minute drive further north along the coast to La Janda. Details can be found HERE (John Cantelo) but I have to say that in my opinion, the site has become less attractive more recently. Species such as Great Bustard can no longer be found here and there is little or no open water left where Glossy Ibis and Spoonbills can feed, let alone waders. Where there were once many rice paddies lots are now just ploughed fields. 

White Storks 

Still, it's a good area that can be viewed from the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle with plenty of areas to stop and observe some good species, although in places the track can be rough but easily manoeuvred. One species that I'm always on the lookout for at La Janda is the Black-winged Kite and I was lucky enough to encounter two of these ghostly looking raptors, always check the wires! On the other hand, White Storks can be found anywhere around La Janda and in huge numbers, congregating before the weather is just right for the crossing, they don't like flying over water and many stay for the duration.

Woodchat Shrike which I originally tweeted as Red-backed Shrike!

It's worth checking the large Sparrow colonies for Spanish Sparrow, two today and other passerines included StonechatSpotted Flycatcher and Corn Bunting. I was convinced I'd photographed a juvenile Red-backed Shrike (pretty rare for southern Spain) but the Birds of Spain forum soon were on it, with everyone in agreement this is a Woodchat Shrike, I yield to local knowledge, my experience of juvenile shrikes is somewhat limited! Also of note today around La Janda Common Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin Crested LarkTurtle Dove,  Montagu's Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Glossy Ibis, Bee-eater, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Cattle Egret & Little Egret, with Green Sandpiper along the ditches. 

Northern Banded Groundling

Is this a rare Zeller's Skipper ~ Found only in the Campo de Gibraltar in Europe

Away from the birding, La Janda is a good place to find Northern Banded Groundling a recent coloniser from Africa but I'll end the post on a mystery butterfly! This looks like an Essex Skipper or is it perhaps a Zeller's Skipper which can be found here but I've yet to research it and sadly I have no wing shots.

More Images of the Day...

Cattle Egret

Juvenile Turtle Dove

Black-winged Kite

Juvenile Egyptian Vulture

Northern Banded Groundling