Thursday, April 20, 2017

Diary Update #4 Spain 2017

🔆 Monday 17th April 2017 🇪🇸  ~ The last day of our short break and a visit to Laguna de Fuente de Piedra, a vast saline lake almost 7 kms in length and 2.5 kms in width. The lake, together with the areas of scrub, marsh and reedbeds that immediately surround it, has been given the status of Reserva Natural and has been fenced off to prevent human interference. That said there's a modern visitors centre with viewing gallery and plenty to explore, along with a couple of hides to investigate.

A baron Laguna Dulce ~ Another disastrous loss of habitat!
Firstly though a stop off on route at Laguna Dulce a short distance away, which produced a real shock! Normally a great place to see summer plumage Black-necked Grebes, a variety of wildfowl and numerous waders and warblers, it had been completely drained. According to the Andalusian Birding Society this is apparently due to illegal extraction of water by local agriculture, which I'm told resulted in no punishment or action taken against those responsible. Yet another disaster for the area and when you consider what's going on in Malta and Cyprus, it just gets more depressing!!

Gulled-billed Terns were in double figures today!
Feeling a little deflated we arrived at Piedra a short while later and thankfully spirits were immediately lifted. Although not as full as I've seen it in previous years there was enough water to make the visit viable. As we drove to the parking area several Gull-billed Terns dropping down to feed over the water and a good selection of waders included: Little-ringed, Ringed and Kentish Plover, Ruff, Common, Green and Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint and Black-winged Stilt. Across the roadside two small raptors on the wires were Lesser Kestrel, a Common Kestrel also perched nearby giving an excellent identity comparison.

Wood Sandpiper
A walk across the boardwalk of the smaller lagoons held very little water but a single White Wagtail and Wood Sandpiper were noted, on the nearby fencing a Woodchat Shrike and a single Marsh Harrier at distance.

One of three Juvenile Stonechat
Around the mirador we came across a family of Stonechat and watched them occasionally being fed by the parents. A Little Owl flew into a nearby tree from his hidden rocky perch and then proceeded to fly back again just as I approached, camera in hand! A walk south along the perimeter track that runs parallel to the main laguna was very quiet, save for the many House Sparrows which seem to have thrived here and a singing Crested Lark. The hundreds of Greater Flamingo, the speciality here, could be seen across the main laguna shimmering in the sunlight!

Singing Crested Lark
Just prior to arriving at the Lagunetta hides a large raptor overhead turned out to be a stunning Montagu's Harrier, which circled for a while before moving on. Plenty of water from the hide viewing area offered little wader potential but the gulls were in their element with Black-headed, Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and Mediterranean Gull all noted. Wildfowl included Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Shoveler and the odd Gadwall. Dee picked out a summer plumage Black-necked Grebe, single Snipe and Cattle Egret, with Dave contributing also by finding a White Stork nesting on a distant chimney stack across in the town. Only a single Whiskered Tern to be found today, normally there in good numbers.

Back at the Villa on our last night before heading home Turtle Dove, with Scops Owl, Red-necked Nightjar and Tawny Owl all heard while having dinner a great end to an excellent short break.

More images of the day...

One of three Juvenile Stonechat

Greater Flamingo

Species Seen:

Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Peregrine, Moorhen, Coot, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper,  Redshank, Greenshank, Ruff, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Tawny Owl (h), Little Owl, Scops Owl (h), Red-necked Nightjar, Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Bee~eater, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Robin, Nightingale, Stonechat, Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Pied Flycatcher, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Common Crossbill, Corn Bunting, Rock Bunting 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Diary Update #3 Spain 2017

🔆 Sunday 16th April 2017 🇪🇸  ~ Another very early start, this time in search of the illusive Red-necked Nightjars down at Zapata! Well illusive to me anyway as I arrived a few days to late last September to see them. The area in question is actually right on the perimeter of Malaga Airport and begins at the mouth of the Guadalhorce. Since my last visit here the unprecedented winter rains have certainly changed the terrain somewhat and driving off road in the dark here at the best of times is a risk! It was on my second circuit, after checking out the runway light stanchions that I flushed two individuals, which rose from the dirt directly in front of the vehicle lights as I spotted them, leaving a swirl of dust in their wake!! Good enough for a tick but must do better....

Record shot at dawn of my first Cuckoo of the year!
The sky was now brightening to the east so I parked up nearby the ford and managed to make out Black-crowned Night Heron and Squacco Heron standing midstream before they took flight. Several Nightingales in song and both Cattle Egret and Little Egret were beginning to move overhead.

Iberian Yellow Wagtail alongside the ford
A walk along the banks produced numerous Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper. A single Greenshank could also be made out over on one of the small shingle banks, a Cetti's Warbler and then my first Cuckoo of the year! At least four Crested Larks, Reed Warbler, Serin and two Iberian Yellow Wagtail.

Sardinian Warbler
I took the track back to the main road along the river past a good area for Short-toed Lark and managed two, which flew overhead calling. A Common Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler and Sedge Warbler before heading home.

Dave drove down to a bar in Fuengirola in the afternoon to watch his beloved Man Utd and dropped Dee and I off above Mijas, where we headed off into the disused quarry Cantera los Arenales. From here you make a steep climb and can reach up to 3,000ft . There are lots of tracks to explore producing some absolutely stunning views across the Hoya de Malaga. Among the vegetation, repopulated pines predominate, although these are mixed with Holm oaks and other typically Mediterranean shrubs in the areas closer to the summit.

One of two Black Wheatear at Cantera los Arenales
We spent an excellent couple of hours and although the raptor passage was not prolific it was quality with many Booted Eagle along with single Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite and Bonelli's Eagle. The walk produced most of the woodland species you'd expect here including: Pied Flycatcher, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Jay, Chaffinch but strangely no Firecrest on this visit.

Black Wheatear
Finally a good search of the quarry back at the parking area produced two Black Wheatear, a real speciality here.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Diary Update #2 Spain 2017

🔆 Saturday 15th April 2017 🇪🇸  ~ Having picked up Dave from his delayed flight from Amsterdam at 2am from Malaga it was a sleep in for me this morning! I was still up just after 9am though and on the terrace for coffee and a vis~mig.

Wild Boar at work around the villa grounds....
The sheer amount of Common Swifts passing through at the moment is a sight to behold and in among the steady stream are smaller numbers of House Martin, Barn Swallow and Red-rumped Swallow. I'm hopeful that a few more Pallid Swift will come through while I'm here and an Alpine Swift is always on the cards.

Record shot of Booty Eagle over the villa!
Raptors have been a little thin on the ground but Common Kestrel, Booted Eagle and a Black Kite have all been noted. Bee~eaters are heard more often than seen and at one stage eight Crossbill passed over. In the surrounding scrubland just below the villa NightingaleSardinian Warbler, Serin, Jay, calling Red-legged Partridge and a Turtle Dove. The Wild Boar have also been at it again overnight with large swaths of ground dug up within the grounds. Several butterflies around the terrace including Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail and Clouded Yellow.

Rock Bunting at the observation area Refugio Juanar
In the afternoon a casual stroll, not particularly birding orientated, in the mountains above Marbella Refugio Juanar with Dee and Dave. At 1200 meters the mountain of La Concha is one of Marbella's most recognisable landmarks. We spent a little time around the olive groves checking out the many butterflies which included Small Heath, Clouded Yellow, Wall and Common Blue. The area is also covered in walnut and pine trees. Birds of note included Short-toed Treecreeper, Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting.

More images of the day....

Scarce Swallowtail

Clouded Yellow

Friday, April 14, 2017

Diary Update #1 Spain 2017

🔆 Friday 14th April 2017 🇪🇸  ~ Arrived at the mates villa in Mijas around 10:30pm last night local time after an hour delay on the flight from Birmingham with Monarch!

A nice shower, a glass of wine, a bite to eat on the terrace around midnight and It wasn't long before I remembered why I love this place so much! The moon up above the Mediterranean casting a glorious sheen on the water, a Nightingale singing in the scrub below and then to top it all a Red-necked Nightjar calling as it flew through, stopping somewhere close-by and continuing to call.

I was up an hour before sunrise and down at Guadalhorce just in time to be eaten alive by the mosquitos! After parking at the church I took the short walk across to the reserve. First bird, a Great Reed Warbler grating away in the reeds that run alongside the Guadalhorce. I paused at the bridge crossing, making out at least a dozen House Martin in the now improving light, several Grey Heron silhouetted further down the river, plus a Cetti's Warbler calling from below.

Spoonbill on Laguna de la Casilla
From here around to the first hide at Laguna de la Casilla is literally Club-Med for mossies.... Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, a couple of Nightingale in full song and the inevitable Zitting Cisticola (Fantail Warbler). The laguna was reasonably quite to start with, a couple of Pochard and at least twenty Black-winged Stilt, over 100 today in total I reckon with many nests! On to the del Rio Viejo and here four Spoonbills feeding, three Little Egrets and a single Cattle Egret, which flew through. Lots of Common Swift passage, in fact for the whole of my stay today and several Barn Swallows also passing thru'.

Kentish Plover ~ A regular nesting bird at Guadalhorce
Moving on to the Rio Viejo, the Old River, and here a good selection of waders which included: Avocet, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Redshank, Grey, Little, Ringed and Kentish Plover. On the opposite side of the track a lot of cutting back has taken place, quite severe in places and so it was quite easy to pick out the odd Crested Lark. Amazingly it wasn't until I was almost at the de Aves Marinas sea-watch area that I noticed my first Monk Parakeets, which are normally marauding the reserve in packs as soon as you arrive. Four Sandwich Terns was the best I could pick out in the low harsh sunlight across the water.

Bee-eater ~ In the morning light
I took the beach walk past the restricted nesting areas but the fencing looks like it's took a real battering over the winter and a lot of it is in need of repair. Several Kentish Plover scurrying around, gorgeous looking Wheatear and a couple of Bee~eaters before I re-entered the reserve to the north.

Wheatear ~ Along my beach walk!
My final stop was at the Laguna Grande but with lots of water currently covering the scrapes little chance of seeing any waders at close range. In fact despite most of the reserve getting a spring makeover the vegetation around the hide had not, thus restricting viewing somewhat. The four Spoonbill I'd seen earlier were now roosting here and every so often the Black-winged Stilts were forced into action by Yellow-legged Gulls carrying out reconnaissance on the nesting areas. Three Slender-billed Gulls, two summer plumage Black-necked Grebes out towards the middle and a single Mediterranean Gull were other nice finds.

Guadalhorce a good place to find ~Slender-billed Gull
My final stop was at the Laguna Escondida and here the majority of White-headed Ducks were to be found along with two drake Red-crested Pochards and from the rear of the laguna a Little Bittern in flight. Serin on route back to the car but It wasn't until I arrived back at the church that I spotted my first Red-rumped Swallows, with two overhead.

White-headed Duck ~ A Guadalhorce speciality!
After lunch down in Fuengirola we spent the evening on the terrace watching some excellent visible migration which included: Three Pallid Swift among the many Common passing through, plus Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite, Bee~eaters, Kestrel and I seriously hope that the two Red-rumped Swallows which are now hanging around the villa are not thinking of nesting against the new exterior paintwork!!

More images from today......

A dozen or so Painted Lady!
Red-crested Pochard


Kentish Plover


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Diary Update #24

⛅ Thursday 13th April 2017 A text message from Jim Rushforth at Brandon Marsh with news of a Grasshopper Warbler near the golf course first thing! It had me tempted but with a little further packing to complete before this afternoons flight to Spain I gave it a miss!

Common Redstart ~ Napton Reservoir
However, a few hours at Napton Reservoir later in the morning produced at least ten House Martins among the many Hirundines over the water before the cloud dissipated. At the top end of the reeds a year-first✅   Reed Warbler for me chattering away and a very loud Cetti's Warbler! No sight nor sound of the recent Lesser Whitethroat and indeed no sign of Tuesdays Redstart along the fencing, but I did locate probably the same bird in the horse field thru' the 2nd gate. Look towards the right hand end near the single stable if your visiting! Spain here I come ✈️

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Diary Update #23

⛅ Tuesday 11th April 2017 ~ Arrived at Brandon Marsh around 8ish and began my tour with a look at the Farm Field and top reedbeds. Quite a pleasant morning with plenty of sunshine but a slight nip to the wind. Nothing new here and coffee in the hide a little later didn't produce any new arrivals on East Marsh Pool: Common Sandpiper, (4) Redshank, (4) Oystercatcher, (5) Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover and Snipe! A single Sedge Warbler from the hide and the usual Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap around the reserve.

Smart looking Common Redstart ✅  at the top end of the reedbed in the sheep field!
To be honest I was grateful when a phone call from Richard Mays with a heads up on a Common Redstart at Napton Reservoir came through. I arrived within half an hour, just in time to catch up with Richard and Dave Cox, a Sedge Warbler singing away from the small pool near the car park.

Whats for lunch? ~ An inquisitive Common Redstart 
After an enjoyable banter I headed off to confirm the Redstart sighting 😀  I was onto the bird almost immediately, a smart looking male. Yesterdays Lesser Whitethroat was also very vocal in the same location and so I camped out and enjoyed my lunch while watching both birds, although the LW was extremely illusive. While here a Cetti's Warbler and♀Blackcap. The walk back to the car park produced White Wagtail and Common Sandpiper, when one flew across the reedbed before dropping out of sight!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Diary Update #22

⛅ Friday 7th April 2017 ~ Nuthatch activity in the woodland areas.

Nuthatch in Horsetail Glade, Brandon Marsh
Saturday 8th April 2017 ~ Black-tailed Godwit

Record Shot ~ Black-tailed Godwit on East Marsh Pool
Sunday 9th April 2017 ~ Common Sandpiper  was a new arrival!

Yellow Wagtail ~ difficult to pick among the greenery! 
⛅  Monday 10th April 2017 ~ Since my last post on Thursday 6th I've spent a few hours each day at Brandon March in search of new arrivals. Despite the wind backing to a southerly over the weekend, along with high pressure the anticipated influx never quite came to fruition. Clear skies probably meant that any birds passing through would simply continue on to their breeding grounds. That said a smart looking Black-tailed Godwit dropped onto East Marsh Pool on Saturday morning and Sunday morning produced my first Common Sandpiper of the year, which was still on site today!

One of eleven Swallows at rest at Napton Reservoir today!
Today things did improve with three year-ticks in total: Firstly a single House Martin ✅  overhead as I paused at the Sheepfield Gate to listen for warblers, the second a Yellow Wagtail on East Marsh Pool. At Napton Reservoir a Lesser Whitethroat   ,which was singing quite well at the top end of the reedbed was my third, two days earlier than 2016, when I also had my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year at Napton. Also at the Reservoir: 11 Swallows and although I'm still analysing a distant photograph taken on my Canon SX50 on full zoom, a possible Tree Pipit?

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Diary Update #21

⛅  Thursday 6th April 2017 ~ Once I'd arrived at Brandon Marsh this morning I decided to give the work party a miss, basically to give my back a little respite! I took my usual route and managed to hear my first Sedge Warbler of the year singing along the access track near the 'Olive bench'.

Despite many throughout the reserve a rare sighting of a Common Frog!
I spent a while in East Marsh Hide for coffee and then on to Ted jury Hide but nothing new had arrived in overnight! A Muntjac on Wigeon Bank was a nice distraction! With work set on the East Marsh Pool I took the opportunity to spend some time touring the rest of the reserve, finding a small Frog nestled in the Primroses as I passed the Fisherman's Pool. My first walk around the Farm Pool and Top Reedbed early on produced little but after a snack in the centre the day had warmed sufficiently to produce a number of Butterflies!

Orange Tip butterfly on River Meadow!
At the Horsetail Glade bench a couple of Orange Tip, my first for the year, plus Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. Down on River Meadow, a nice sun-trap along the blossom held four more Orange Tip and a further two Small Tortoiseshell.

White Wagtail ~ Napton Reservoir
A stop at Napton Reservoir on route home produced of note single Snipe and Cetti's Warbler, which showed well but briefly, Raven over and a White Wagtail, my first local one this year!

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Diary Update #20

⛅ Monday 3rd April 2017 ~ With our guests now departed Dee and I enjoyed an afternoon stroll around Gibraltar Point. This particular site has never quite yielded for me during other visits and this one was no exception. The beach area and sea we're also exceptionally quiet with little movement.

One of eight Corn Buntings at Gibraltar Point
That said a very enjoyable walk in the warm sunshine and and an even more interesting one around the Pleasure Beach in Skegness. I'd forgotten it was half-term in this neck of the woods! From a birding perspective the highlight had to be a group of eight Corn Buntings around the new Nature Centre.

⛅ ☔ Tuesday 4th April 2017 ~ Headed for home today after the long birthday weekend in Lincolnshire, stopping off at RSPB Frampton Marsh on route. The visit started off well enough weather wise but a sudden downturn mid afternoon with heavy rain cut the visit short. Frankly I was ready to go with the weekend celebrations catching up with me fast!

Not my best ever photo of ~ Spotted Redshank!
The birding we did manage produced a few winter late stayers with a half dozen Whooper Swans, single Pink-footed Goose and it was surprising to see so many Brent Geese still here, with several large flocks. Waders included the usual selection found here, notables being: Spotted Redshank, Grey Plover and a couple of summer plumage Golden Plover!

Red Kite over the marina today appeared to have a damaged right wing!
⛅ Wednesday 5th April 2017 ~ With my back causing a few issues currently a steady walk around Napton Reservoir late afternoon. A real influx of Swallows here with eleven chattering away over the water, which incidentally remains extremely high! A couple of Grey Wagtail along what little of the bank is still showing and the surrounding treeline produced Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was brave enough to attempt a short flight in the chilly breeze. As I arrived back at the marina a Red Kite drifted over from Napton Hill, directly over the office, then heading off towards Napton reservoir.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Diary Update #19

⛅  Sunday 2nd April 2017 ~ A long weekend of birthday celebrations in the Lincolnshire Wolds arranged by Dee has given me little time for birding, with close friends staying and some amazing surprises, including the arrival of my best mate Dave from Spain, things have been hectic!

Wheatear ~ One of a couple seen today!
However, I managed to grab a few hours on a coastal walk this afternoon and although birding wasn't the priority we did manage a couple of Wheatear. A Greenshank was also calling close by but I never managed to make contact!

With everyone departing in the morning I'm hopeful of getting in some birding time Monday and Tuesday!