Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Brandon Tuesday

A superb days birding at Brandon Marsh with the highlight being no less than three Whinchats at the Ted Jury Hide, which Martin picked up when they suddenly appeared on the 'goalpost'. Increased numbers of both Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler, along with the usual collection of Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Two Muntjac today, one on the top reedbed and the second to the rear of Horsetail Glade.

Garden Warbler - At least three singing around the reserve today!
Warblers also included the 'Olive Bench' Grasshopper Warbler, which now seems to have well established its territory, plus a definite increase in Garden Warblers, with three on my travels today. East Marsh Pool had at least five Little-ringed Plover, (6) Redshank, (4) Oystercatcher, (3) Common Sandpiper, fly-by Yellow Wagtail and a pair of Shelduck. The first Lapwing chicks I've seen this year looked very vulnerable with one or two Crows hanging around, not to mention the (30) Lesser Blacked-backed Gulls on site today! 

Garden Warbler once more!
Sand Martins are now carrying nesting materials into the artificial structure, House Martins were in greater numbers but Swallows seemed thin on the ground by comparison. Finally, while standing at the volunteers car park before heading off a Marsh Tit flew by calling.

The Brandon Marsh 2014 Report is now on sale and can be purchased from the Nature Centre or directly from the volunteers - Price of just £5

Monday, April 27, 2015

Patch Monday!

I decided to stay local today and began with a search of the marina grounds for any new arrivals. The Lesser Whitethroat, which I'd tried in vain to photograph on Friday, was still on site and singing well, so too a Skylark, so high up I never quite managed to connect. At least thirty or so Linnet in the field adjacent and a brace of Yellow Wagtail were on the west-side bund.

Common Whitethroat at Napton Hill
I gave Napton Hill a real go, spending almost three hours and venturing down as far as the canal. It was extremely quiet with the highlights being yet another Lesser Whitethroat, there seems to be lots in the vicinity at the moment, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Raven over and nesting Buzzard.

Two stunning Whinchat at Napton Reservoir today!
Napton Reservoir was obviously the place to be today but by the time I'd arrived and bumped into Richard Mays and Dave Cox they'd already found all the birds! A Reed Warbler singing from the reedbed and on the first field two gorgeous looking Whinchat and at least four Yellow Wagtail. These along with yet another two Lesser Whitethroat and a very showy Sedge Warbler. They'd heard a Cuckoo just before my arrival which was fantastic news as I've not recorded one around here for over three years and so a welcome record. A Common Sandpiper, which I managed to catch up with on my second visit this evening was another addition.

Just had to put in another shot of the Whinchat!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Post

If I'd have checked my twitter updates first thing this morning like I usually do I most likely would have diverted to Daventry Country Park for the reported Wood Warbler. As it happens I didn't and instead enjoyed my usual Sunday visit to Brandon Marsh.

Sedge Warblers becoming a little more photogenic
My only new bird of the year was Garden Warbler but it was a very satisfying visit with lots on offer. The Garden Warbler was singing and showing occasionally just prior to emerging from New Hare Covert near the golf course. Quite possibly the same bird Keith Barnsley had tweeted yesterday. Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat and Willow Warblers were all recorded and the Grasshopper Warbler, which has been reeling on and off for the last 10 days, was still at 'Olive Bench' and showing well on occasions. While there a Cuckoo, one of two today, flew across 'Alban's Reedbed' and both Reed Warbler & Sedge Warbler were singing well.

Redshank -East Marsh from last Tuesday's visit!
On East Marsh Pool lots of Sand Martin, several Swallow, single House Martin, a summer plumage Dunlin, brace of Ringed Plover and four Little-ringed Plover. I managed two of the six Common Sandpiper on site today, plus three Common Tern, six Redshank and four Oystercatcher. A tour of the remainder of the reserve yielded two Goldcrest, two Mistle Thrush, Linnet and Skylark around the 'Farm Field' and also recorded a brace of Cetti's Warbler.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Week in Focus

Another work party day at Brandon Marsh on Thursday and after strimming Bee-bank and lunch in the Wright Hide, where Jim, Peter and I had our first Swifts of the year, a nice wonder around the reserve. Lots of warblers now on territory and several butterflies on the wing but walking the bund that runs along to the derelict farm area a bird caught the eye! A Pied Flycatcher gave three tantalising views as it flew along the bund before disappearing from sight. Unfortunately, after work and returning with more members of the team for a search the bird wasn't relocated.

A very regal looking Yellow Wagtail
I woke up on Friday morning to a Lesser Whitethroat singing at the bottom of our pontoon just after sunrise. Of course camera in hand and armed with the first coffee of the day I had to go and investigate. As per usual with these birds it led me a merry dance up and down the hawthorn and never even looked like showing. Even a couple of noisy Common Terns which arrived and drifted around the marina for a while didn't offer any photo opportunities, so breakfast it was. On route to the car park I did manage to put the camera to work when a very regal looking Yellow Wagtail was showing well on the west-side.

One of three Common Sandpiper at Draycote Water
I decided on another go at Draycote Water, in the hope that the flies had become less of an issue and as I turned into Tomlow Road a Barn Owl was day hunting and flew across the road in front of me! I spent the morning and early afternoon completing a circuit of Draycote with Bob Hazell and Keith Foster in very pleasant conditions, even the flies weren't too much of a burden. A couple of Yellow Wagtails were along Farborough Bank (4 in total), single Little Egret, two Common Tern were busy overhead and while Bob was on the phone a single Whimbrel dropped down just along the water line from us. Unfortunately the bird didn't stay long enough for Bob or I to attempt a photo and flew off towards the centre, emanating its unmistakable call as it flew. A Wheatear next at Farborough Spit and while Bob took yet another phone call, two Swifts flew high and north.

Sparrowhawk over Draycote
A Treecreeper at the 'board-walk' and as we emerged a large, probably female Sparrowhawk circled overhead. Good numbers of Blackcap around the circuit, each one scrutinised for Garden Warbler but sadly not. Other notables along the route included: (3) Common Sandpiper at 'The Inlet', (2) Sedge Warbler, (1) Grey Wagtail, (1) Lesser Whitethroat, a second Wheatear, a third Common Tern, several Yellowhammer and a couple of Tree Sparrows at the feeders. A worrying aspect to the visit was the complete lack of Hirundines during my stay with only a couple of Swallows and House Martins noted.

A stop off at Napton Reservoir on route home had Reed Warbler singing from the southern Reedbed, Sedge Warbler, ♂Bullfinch, Common Whitethroat, a brace of Lesser Whitethroat and across in the field through the second kissing gate a Tree Pipit, most likely the same bird I'd photographed last week.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Brandon Away-Day

Thanks to the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust I'd managed to secure the minibus once more and slotted in a short notice day out for the Brandon team. As I drove down to the main car park shortly before sunrise a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling from the top reed bed and while the guys were assembling in the car park a lone Little Egret flew over the nature centre, nice start!

Common Whitethroat - Thanks to Trevor Griffiths from the Brandon team
Target birds for the day were Nightingale, Stone Curlew and Woodlark. What better place to start than Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, near  St. Neots Cambridgeshire, a well know spot for our first target bird of the day. On arrival the fog that had been with us along most of the A14 had finally burnt off to produce wall to wall sunshine the whole day. We decided on this occasion just to take in the 'Heron Trail' and by the time we'd completed a circuit we'd managed to connect with three Nightingales, all in full song and one showing very nicely. Other species of note included: Noisy nesting Cormorants, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Goldcrest, Sedge Warbler, Cuckoo, Oystercatcher and my first Common Terns of the year. I might have had my first Garden Warbler too but certain team members failed to call it, but we mustn't dwell on that for too long!

Nightingale - Thanks to Trevor Griffiths from the Brandon team
Next stop was across the county and into Suffolk to visit Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve, a new destination for the team and somewhere we were really looking forward to. The area is part of the Brecks, of which a lot of the area would have been like in years gone by. Much of that habitat has now been lost so Cavenham is a remnant of that particular habitat of heathland and acid grassland. It is an important site and is designated a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The heath is next to the River Lark where it becomes wet grassland and fen and is surrounded by Birch woodland.

Stone Curlew- Don't panic!! I took this one in France a few years ago.
We parked alongside the wood and decided to take a long walk down to Temple Bridge. Before heading off we had lunch and sat overlooking the open heathland where two Red-legged Partridge, Oystercatcher and a couple of Raven flew over prior to setting off. As we emerged to overlook the heath, which stretches out both sides of the track our first scans produced the odd Skylark, Emily spotted a Muntjac Deer and there were also a couple of Hares to be found. First bird of note was a stunning ♂Stonechat perched up on the many fences but it wasn't long before the first of five Stone Curlew were located. By the time we'd reached Temple Bridge Meadow Pipit, Linnet, a couple of Wheatear, a single Yellowhammer and a Grey Wagtail entertained while we took a breather. The team split up on the walk back, some including myself elected to take a stroll through the birch woodland, where the best we had was four Mistle Thrush. This turned out to be the wrong decision as those who elected to retrace their steps came across a gorgeous singing Woodlark! Fortunately and undeterred I elected once all were back aboard to take the bus gingerly along the track, where thankfully the whole team managed great views of probably the same singing Woodlark, a real treat.

A stop at Eldernell, prior to Fish and Chips at 'Eye', produced a few more ticks for the day including Little Egret♂♀Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Buzzard, mating Cranes and to end the day a lovely Little Owl perched on the electricity pylon as we drove back to the main road.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Weekend Update!

A steady flow of spring migrants continue to feed into the county and a visit to Napton Reservoir on Friday morning before moving on to Brandon Marsh produced my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year! The Tree Pipit I'd managed to get a record shot of on Thursday evening was still on site and four Yellow Wagtail were being constantly displaced by the strimming and grass cutting that was taking place. Also of note an influx of around twenty or so House Martin were actually my first of the year.

Record shot of Tree Pipit at Napton Reservoir
No additions to my Brandon Marsh year list during my Friday morning visit. However, during today's regular Sunday visit a Lesser Whitethroat singing near Sheep-Field gate was an early record for Brandon. Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, and Common Whitethroat were all noted around the reserve, along with the now established Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. On the pools single Green and Common Sandpiper, (4) Little-ringed Plover, (4) Redshank, (4) Oystercatcher, single Common Gull and (2) Shelduck.

Tawny Owl was a nice treat! Thanks to KS for the heads up!
On my travels some nice views of a Tawny Owl today and after an afternoon snooze I spent an hour or so at Draycote Water, while her indoors settled down to the Grand Prix. Three Little Gulls, Yellow Wagtail and a fly-by Ringed Plover were my reward. Thankfully the dreaded black flies were nowhere to be found!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

High Pressure!

With high pressure finally settling over the UK during the past week those spring migrants held up by the recent northerlies have finally begun to arrive. Brandon Marsh has been a cacophony of sound with many Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcap. Sand Martins are already in and out of the artificial structure and Swallows are now in good numbers.

Yellow Wagtail - Napton reservoir
On Monday I decided to start my day at Draycote Water but after registering my first Yellow Wagtails of the year and catching up with the recent Little Gull I abandoned my visit due to the sheer numbers of black fly. On to Brandon Marsh where the highlight was three White Wagtail on East Marsh Pool. Tuesdays visit to Brandon had my first ♀Blackcap, a fly-by Cuckoo and at least three Sedge Warbler. The mid morning sunshine had brought out a good number of butterflies, including a couple of years firsts, Green-vein White and a half dozen Orange-tip. A stop off on the way home at Napton Reservoir had four Yellow Wagtails before I got fed up with the several dog walkers chucking sticks into the water.

1st Orange-tips of the year at Brandon Marsh
Thursday is work party day at Brandon Marsh but I arrived just after sunrise and took a tour of the farm pool and top reedbeds before work. I was quite surprised that during my tour I didn't come across a single Sedge or Reed Warbler and over recent years this has also been a great spot for my first Grasshopper Warbler of the year. As it turned out I was on the wrong side of the reserve! When I reached East Marsh Hide for coffee news of Reed Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler near the 'Olive Bench' from the chaps had me on my way and sure enough a reeling Gropper and at least two Reed Warbler from the bench area. A Cuckoo was also calling from the golf course and back at the hide my first Common Sandpipers. While working on the conservation area at least two Common Whitethroats were new to the reserve, a single Snipe and two Little-ringed Plover were also recorded.

Record Shot of Napton Reservoir ♂Whinchat
During lunch a phone call from Richard Mays instantly turned me green with news of Montague's Harrier and Whinchat on my doorstep at the nearby Napton Reservoir. Fortunately I managed to connect with the stunning ♂Whinchat when I dropped in on the way home. Tree Pipit also heard during my stay. Sadly my dreams of a Montague's Harrier perched on my roof when I arrived back aboard didn't come to fruition! Record shots on Richards blog.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Enjoyably Hectic!

After seeing a report of an Osprey at Brandon Marsh Saturday evening don't ask me why I didn't head over at first light this morning, there was obviously every chance it would still be there. Instead I decided on a dawn search of the marina grounds and surrounding fields for spring arrivals.

Record Shot of today's Osprey - Thanks to John Osbourne from the Brandon Team for the image!
Thanks to phone calls and texts from Richard Mays and Denis Woodward informing me the bird was showing well I finally headed off. As I came through the locked gate about thirty minutes later I thought I was hearing things when a Cuckoo was clearly calling from the 'Tip' area. Intent on bagging the Osprey I made my way straight down to the 'Olive Bench' were thankfully the bird was still there and Jim and the chaps had the scopes trained already. While enjoying the Osprey another year first was a Sedge Warbler singing from just below, in fact there were two.

Lots of Willow Warblers around today! This one in the gorse!
A walk over to the 'Tip' area a little later in search of the Cuckoo proved fruitless. Although some of the guys had heard it from somewhere near River Pool, which makes me think it had probably moved over towards Alban's reedbed. The circuit of the tip and the farm area produced several Willow Warblers and a couple of rarities for Brandon in the shape of three Rooks over and a single Red-legged Partridge along the track. As we passed the farm a group of eleven Linnets and good views of the Osprey overhead, which had took flight around 8.30am and drifted over towards the A46.

Back at East Marsh Hide a Yellow Wagtail on the Islands and many Swallows and Sand Martins but I missed a single House Martin over the pools after I'd headed off for a well deserved coffee! Oh yes and among all this Jim, Derek and I managed to repair the steps to the Ted Jury Hide on a very hectic and enjoyable morning!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Back On Patch!

Back on the patch this morning and an early start at Brandon Marsh after a quick scan of the marina for any overnight arrivals. None to be had and despite high hopes there were no white, grey or yellow in the Pied Wagtail roost, which numbered around 25 birds today. 

To Brandon and it's amazing what a difference a week makes, the place was alive with birdsong with at least a half dozen Willow Warbler during my walk, plus several Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing away. East Marsh Pool had (4) Redshank, (4) Oystercatcher, (2) Little-ringed Plover, (2) Green Sandpiper and the Sand Martin structure was a hive of activity. My first UK Swallows of the year too before a phone call from Richard Mays had me literally on my way back home, well Napton Reservoir as it happens just across from the marina. The reward was a nice Ring Ouzel on the field just below the Reservoir and showing very well when I arrived, a nice local tick and thanks to Richard for the call.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Guadalhorce and Home

Arrived back into the UK over four hours late in the early hours of this morning after an horrendous flight home, which even included thunderstorms all around on takeoff! I suppose we should be grateful that the flight wasn't cancelled after Ryanair cut 250 flights yesterday thanks to the French air traffic controllers strike, although I probably would have preferred to head back to Dave's.

Purple Swamphen
Anyway with our scheduled departure not until 9pm it was an opportunity to spend a few hours in the afternoon at Guadalhorce. It was still blowing an absolute gale when we arrived but thankfully the wind eased as the day wore on. The walk from the church to the footbridge had Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, noisy Monk Parakeets and a fishing Cormorant, plus feeding over the bridge a group of House Martin. We decided to begin at the Del Rio Viejo and Laguna de la Casilla hides and the first bird of note was a Purple Swamphen nonchalantly walking across the lagoon. Waders included a couple of Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover, Avocet and several Black-winged Stilt. There were four Greater Flamingo, seven White-headed Duck and a mixture of Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Gadwall and Little Grebe.

Red-legged Partridge - Guadalhorce
As we walked between hides along the footpath a bird instantly caught the eye flying up from the rocks that run alongside the riverbank, a Black-eared Wheatear. We managed a couple of views of a very flighty bird but never quite got to nail it. A couple of Red-legged Partridge were also meandering between the rocks and Serin, Crested Lark and Greenfinch, of which there were many, were also recorded. The old river was a little quieter than normal but still held a large flock of Spotless Starling a single Redshank, Greenshank and over thirty or so Black-winged Stilt.

Little Egret
As we approached the sea-watch observation point, where the waves were almost crashing over the top a Whimbrel and Little Egret were feeding at the Rio Viejo mouth and a Hoopoe flew across the path and almost got blown away! The walk along the beach to the other side of the reserve was bracing and here Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover and Little-ringed Plover were all sheltering. The usual Yellow-legged Gulls were to be found but unfortunately no Tern activity. Sadly the high waves have also demolished the fence which separates the beach from the Plover nesting area and this was strewn with tidal waste.

Nightingale in song!
Finally a half hour in the hide overlooking the Laguna Grande produced few additions to the day list with the exception of Grey Heron, several Barn Swallows, a brace of Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiaeand Dave and Dee were amused with how long it took for a couple of Kentish Plover to mate, although they did seem to be at it for an awful long time! Final birds of the day, and indeed this visit to Spain, were a Nightingale in song as we walked back to the parking along the Rio Guadalhorce and a trio of Common Sandpiper along the bank. Another superb trip #birdingspain and I can't believe it's now only three weeks to our Oregon trip USA!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Fuente de Piedra - Spain day 5

Our penultimate day in Spain and the weather resembled something more akin to the Scottish highlands with an absolute hoolie blowing in off the sea! Having said that when we arrived at our first stop, Laguna Dulce, Booted Eagle and Raven on route, at least the sun had come out.

Gull-billed Tern over Laguna Dulce
The laguna has plenty of water currently and we were greeted by a hole raft of Red-crested Pochard, numbering in the region of 50/60 birds. Lots of House Martin, Sand Martin and Barn Swallows feeding over the water, along with the odd Common Swift and a nice pair of Black-necked Grebes almost in full summer plumage. A decent selection of water fowl with White-headed DuckPochard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Great-crested Grebe and Little Grebe.

Wood Sandpiper - This one at Fuente de Peidra
Not too many waders represented today with a few Lapwing, a single Little-ringed Plover and a brace of Black-winged Stilt. Around the hide area House SparrowCetti's Warbler, Serin and plenty of Goldfinch, plus a Hoopoe calling from across the road but not located. Towards the back and at real distance Greater Flamingo and a group of Terns roosting were probably Gull-billed Tern and a single Cattle Egret was also noted. Out of the wind in the sunny areas a few butterflies to be seen with Swallowtail, Clouded Yellow and Small White.

Whiskered Tern at rest - Fuente de Piedra
On to Fuente de Piedra and the recent  rains have certainly paid dividends with plenty of water on the flood meadow and in the main laguna, where 1000s of Greater Flamingos shimmered in the sunshine. As we drove to the parking area several Whiskered Tern along with Gull-billed Terns were fishing and waders included: Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Snipe, RuffBlack-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Black-winged Stilt and a single Little Stint.

Common Sandpiper
Standing on the boardwalk was extremely hard work, particularly with the scope attempting to blow over at any moment. Here a couple of Wood Sandpiper along with more Little-ringed Plover, Kentish PloverWhite Wagtail and a number of Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae)

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae
Around the mirador a Little Owl Calling but not picked up and a walk south along the perimeter track that runs parallel to the laguna was very windy. Despite the conditions several Corn Bunting, a large flock of mixed Jackdaw and Spotless Starlings, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, and deep in the reed bed my first singing Nightingale of the year. We visited the Lagunetta hides which were, dare I say, too full of water offering no wader potential but the gulls were in their element with Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed all noted. Wildfowl included Pochard, Shoveler and the odd Gadwall, plus on the Island several Cattle Egret and a single Little Egret

A lone White Stork over the visitor centre
As we left the centre a lone White Stork graced the sky and the drive back, taking in several stops around the the lagoon produced Lesser Kestrel, Kestrel, ♂♀Marsh Harrier, Red-legged Partridge, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler and to end a very challenging day a small flock of Linnet.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Serranía de Ronda - Spain Day 4

Some indifferent weather today with low cloud, sunny periods and rain showers as we headed off into the Serranía de Ronda. This is excellent birding country with well vegetated valleys of cork-oak, pines, Holm oak and other broad-leaved tree varieties. The highest parts of the route into Ronda itself are mountainous with only a sparse covering of broom , cistus and other scrub plants.

Low cloud today bringing the Griffon Vultures low down!
Despite the low cloud there was a constant passage of vultures overhead, entirely Griffon Vulture but with the exception of a lone Egyptian Vulture over Ronda itself. Stopping off at predetermined sites on route which included Parauta, Cartajima and Juzcar a decent selection of species were noted despite it being still a little early in the year.

The sun shone just in time for this Rock Bunting!
At Parauta Stonechat, Rock Bunting, Rock Sparrow, Rock DoveSardinian Warbler, and Great Spotted Woodpecker and at Juzcar the Smurf Village, yes every house blue and the set of the recent Smurf movies Cirl Bunting, Crossbill, Jay, Subalpine Warbler and a passage of around a dozen Bee-eater!

Alpine Swift - several over the town
The ancient town of Ronda itself stands 744 meters above sea-level and despite being an extremely busy provincial town offers some stunning birding. Once in Ronda head for the El Puente Nuevo (the new bridge - actually 18th century)  which spans the Tajo gorge, a hundred meter deep chasm. Here the views are exceptional and Crag Martin, Alpine Swift, Barn Swallow, Pallid Swift and Common Swift were all noted. There have been the odd White-rumped Swift reported over the years but sadly not during our stay. Perhaps a little early as these birds are renowned for displacing House Martins from their nests and taking over!

Red-billed Chough - As close as I could get without climbing the cliffs!
Keep an eye above too for the many more Griffon Vulture and Raven, plus there's a large population of Red-billed Chough, although the blighters would never come too close. During our stay a lone White Stork drifted over too along with a single Booted Eagle and despite being a great place to see Bonelli's Eagle we were unfortunate today. 

Serin - Very common in Ronda!
Finally the Puente Viejo (The old bridge - actually 17th century) and here you can walk down to the river and this proved very successful with Crag Martins skimming the water, a few Spotless Starling having a drink and Serin everywhere. Blue Rock Thrush and both Grey Wagtail and White Wagtail were also recorded along the river.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

'Never on a Sunday' Spain Day 3

Talk to any birder whether Spanish or Expat and they'll tell you 'never on a Sunday' and this was Easter Sunday. With that in mind and knowing everywhere would be mobbed once more I decided to stay put and bird from the patio! At least for the morning and early afternoon anyway.

Painted Lady - several appeared this morning around the villa.
It was a good choice as the visible migration seemed to continued at pace. First it would be a group of Barn Swallows, then House Martins, followed by Common Swift! In fact with so many Swift coming through I'm astonished I've not managed to pick out any Pallid or Alpine thus far. Bee-eaters come through in dribs and drabs but today a marked increase in raptor numbers with four Booted Eagle and a brace of Short-toed Eagle. Another migrant, although I'm unsure as to whether these migrate through Spain, were several Painted Lady butterflies. These along with Wall Brown, Small White, Spanish Festoon and Clouded Yellow.

Record shot of a passing Short-toed Eagle in the morning haze!
Also of note before lunch were a half dozen Crossbill, Serin, Sardinian Warbler and my first Blackcap of the visit, when one suddenly broke into song.

Black Redstart
After lunch we decided to head up above Mijas to a disused quarry, Cantera los Arenales, an area which overlooks the surrounding sierras and meanders deep into pine forest. Amazingly it wasn't as busy as we anticipated but low cloud did hamper the visit for a short while. The first birds of note were, Black Redstart, Kestrel and a very stunning ♂Stonechat, I always feel the Mediterranean birds look more vivid than those at home. Eventually the cloud cover dissipated and the sun shone allowing several butterfly species to take flight and these included: Clouded Yellow, Moroccan Orange Tip and Black-eyed Blue. Although heard on several occasions we never managed to connect with either Firecrest or Crested Tit, birds we've seen here regularly but Coal Tit were plentiful, plus the odd Crossbill.
Managed a slightly closer view in the failing light of the Turtle Dove
This evening the local Turtle Dove was in his favoured spot and just after dusk not one but two Scops Owls calling. It's also the first time I've seen the ISS pass over outside of the UK. From our position here it passed almost directly overhead, Dave was most impressed!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

My Birthday Day! Spain Day 2

Temp - 14C/19C - Occasional cloud and hazy - Wind SE @ 10 mph

I can't quite get used to the sun not rising until just after 8am in this neck of the woods and arrived at Guadalhorce a little earlier than anticipated this morning. The Scops Owl which had been calling just below the villa last night was still going when I got up and in fact after dinner tonight in Fuengirola we may well go in search of him.

Record shot of last nights Turtle Dove singing to the rear of the villa!
On arrival at Guadalhorce shortly after first light there were around a dozen or so House Martin as I crossed the footbridge onto the reserve. A Cetti's Warbler was calling from the reed bed below and also within the same clump of reeds my first Reed Warbler of the year. I decided to begin at the Del Rio Viejo and Laguna de la Casilla hides and on route the usual Sardinian Warbler and Serin, along with small groups of House Sparrow and Goldfinch. However, It wasn't long before the calmness of the morning was shattered by around a half dozen Monk Parakeet!

Lots of Black-winged Stilt around Guadalhorce
On the lagoons a brace of Spoonbill were still napping alongside four Little Egret and at least four White-headed Ducks, a half dozen Pochard, a lone Little Grebe and a couple of Gadwall were noted. Waders included Greenshank, Little-ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper and several Black-winged Stilt.

Kentish Plover on the beach this morning
The walk to the seafront was pleasant enough and I managed the briefest views of what I believe could well have been a Bonelli's Warbler. The old river was incredibly quiet, with the exception of around thirty or so Black-winged Stilt. A Green Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Zitting Cisticola, a number of Barn Swallow passing through, several Greenfinch and a few Spotless Starlings kept things going until I reached the observation area. The sea itself was flat calm and save for a few Yellow-legged Gulls there was nothing else to get excited about. Along the beach a lone Sanderling, along with a half dozen Kentish Plover before I reentered the reserve and stopped off at the hide overlooking Laguna Grande. The laguna was probably the fullest I've ever seen it, offering little for any passing waders and I managed no additions to my day list on a rather quiet visit.

Two species of note over the villa this evening, the first a very large unidentified raptor, which passed at height when I wasn't prepared, the second my first Short-toed Eagle of this visit.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Spain Day 1

Temp - 14C/20C - Occasional cloud and hazy - Wind S @ 8 mph

A very welcome week away in Mijas at my best mate Dave's villa and after our late arrival and subsequent late night, plus today of course being Good Friday I decided on an easy start to the holiday. In fact I spent the entire morning watching an amazing visible migration from the comfort of Dave's patio around 1000ft up in the hills near Mijas, Fuengirola.

Spanish Festoon
To start with two Crossbills were singing from a nearby cedar tree and it wasn't long before I'd bagged my first Barn Swallow and Red-rumped Swallows of the year. A chorus from above alerted me to well over 200 Common Swift passing through in the morning haze, shortly followed by a couple of House Martin. Another familiar call and at least a half dozen Bee-eater down below heading inland off the Mediterranean. A Booted Eagle drifted north over Mijas and both Serin and Sardinian Warbler kept me company throughout my watch, plus a single Cattle Egret among a few cows down below on the scrub land and occasional calls of Red-legged Partridge. Many butterflies on the wing, mostly Spanish Festoon and Wall but the occasional unidentified one floated past.

Corn Buntings around El Torcal
In the afternoon Dave decided to take us on an hours drive across to El Torcal, despite my warnings that the place would be rammed. The Spanish just love their holiday days! It was, in fact extremely rammed and so we decided to drive a little further on and take a walk in less crowded company until the place quietened down a little. The morning haze had dissipated to produce a very springlike afternoon and several Corn Buntings were singing away along the track. At least seven Griffin Vulture appeared over the mountains, along with a couple of Kestrel in display flight. A constant passage of Barn Swallow and at least twenty or so Bee-eaters passed overhead. Several Crested Lark were along the track often flying high up in full song.

Griffon Vulture - Constant movement over the rock formations
El Torcal de Antequera is a nature reserve in the Sierra del Torcal mountain range located south of the city of Antequera. It is known for its unusual landforms, and is one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe. The area was designated a Natural Site of National Interest in July 1929, and a Natural Park Reserve of about 17 square kilometres was created in October 1978.

Rock Bunting - Humbug head!
The drive up to the summit produced Hoopoe and Ring Ouzel and I have to say that despite still being extremely busy we had a very lucrative visit. At the mirador (viewpoint) some excellent views of Griffon Vultures passing overhead and just below one of several Black Redstart during our visit. Around the nature centre a pair of Rock Buntings posed well for photographs and Blue Rock Thrush were everywhere, although mostly distant!

Black Redstart plentiful at El Torcal
We took the 3km walk, which was very hard going and pretty noisy, the Spanish aren't known for their ability to hold a quiet conversation but the wildlife was still around with more Black Redstarts, Rock Bunting, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and a couple of Iberian Ibex. The drive down from the summit had a few more Griffon Vulture circling and a single Pallid Swift.

Iberian Ibex at El Torcal
Back at the villa in the evening a welcome jacuzi, followed by a pre birthday BBQ and to top off a very enjoyable first day a purring Turtle Dove and calling Scops Owl in the scrub land just below the villa, its still calling as I post. What a great way to end my 57th year on gods earth!