Saturday, April 28, 2018

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ SPAIN 2018

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ ⛈☀️☁️18/24C Saturday 21st until Thursday 26th April 2018 
(first of 4 visits 2018)

With my flight back to the UK not until early evening (Thursday) I made an early start at Guadalhorce to make the most of my final day. Typically, being my last day the weather was absolutely gorgeous, with a light breeze, cloudless skies and a comfortable 22C during my visit.

Lone Spoonbill at Guadalhorce
It was an enjoyable morning, with the only additions to my previous visit on Sunday Spoonbill, Ruff, Greenshank and around 20 or so Sandwich Terns.

Native to sub-Saharan Africa but having been introduced to many other regions of the world these Common Waxbills are thriving at Guadalhorce!
I've listed below my full range of species for my first visit of four to Spain this year. I've also included a number of photographs not previously published on the blog. My next visit is in fact only two weeks away when I'll be visiting the Pyrenees once more and the NorthEast coast!

Corn Bunting



Kentish Plover

Black-winged Stilt

Birds Recorded in Spain 2018...

Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Garganey, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Quail, Pheasant, Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Balearic Shearwater, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Common Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Black-winged Kite, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Ruff, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Common Tern, Black Tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Swift, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Roller, Crested Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Sand Martin, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, Robin, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Willow Warbler, Western Subalpine Warbler, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Wren, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, Spanish Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Serin, Common Crossbill, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting, Common Waxbill (134)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ SPAIN 2018 ~ La Janda

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ☁️20C Wednesday 25th April 2018 ~ On my final full day of this short visit to Spain a trip along the coast to the Straights of Gibraltar and then on to La Janda. A huge agricultural area in southern CΓ‘diz province that was once one of the biggest lakes and wetlands in Europe. Sadly, a process of drainage started in the middle of the 19th century and completed in the late 1960s, destroyed this wetland paradise that was once on a par with DoΓ±ana in terms of ecological importance. The weather for the best part of this visit has not been what I'm used to in Southern Spain, with severe thunderstorms and laden skies, today was no exception, with low cloud over the hills.

After a brief stop at the Cazalla Bird Observatory in Tarifa for coffee, which although deserted at this time of year will be full to capacity come the autumn migration we continued on along the N340, leaving the road and onto the dirt track at the Zahara turn. However, when leaving Cazalla we were taken completely by surprise when three Roller suddenly passed across the access road in front of us!

One of the many White Storks around La Janda
Once on the dirt track at La Janda, we took a slow drive along towards the canal stopping to enjoy close up views of Stonechat and Corn Bunting, plentiful here. Across the ploughed fields to our left several White Stork and both Cattle and Little Egret, mostly following a couple of tractors which were working today.

Griffon Vulture
At the left turn along the canal, we paused for lunch and got the scope out for a good scan. A distant Marsh Harrier, several Griffon Vultures passing overhead, along with a single Black Kite, three Red-legged Partridge, Zitting Cisticola (Fantail Warbler) and several Crested Larks before we moved on.

Night Heron along the canal ditches
By the time we reached the open water next to the rice fields, we'd stopped on numerous occasions recording Night Heron along the ditches, Bee-eater passing through, Woodchat Shrike and a distant Montagu's Harrier. The open water, usually full of Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill and various waders was a disappointment, entirely due to the JCB that was excavating the ditches, utterly crap timing!

Notwithstanding, we spent a good 45-minutes here and despite the disruption did rather well. Towards the back of the pool waders included Ruff, Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank. There was eight Glossy Ibis in total along with two Spoonbill and a single Greater Flamingo. Overhead passed three Collared Pratincole, two Gull-billed Tern, four Red-rumped Swallow and perched on one the electricity pylons a Booted Eagle. Not a bad haul considering!

This Cattle Egret was not impressed as we passed gingerly by! 
Just as we crossed the canal to take the track down to the sluices, brakes on and out of the car as a Bonelli's Eagle passed overhead. From here it was a slow drive down to the sluices, mainly due to the 200 or so Cattle Egrets which were nesting right alongside the roadside and canal ditch. Trying to avoid them as they flew out along the track was a definite skill but we gingerly continued on without incident.

Melodious Warbler
Turtle Dove
Stopping at the sluices for a while a Nightingale was singing, only two today, plus a Turtle Dove and then I managed to track down a singing Melodious Warbler, which led me a merry dance before I finally got any sort of an image. Calls of a common Quail resonated, no chance of finding him but we did manage to see the calling Lesser Short-toed Lark as it flew by. The only further highlight on the way back to the main road was a distant Black-winged Kite perched on one of the many mobile irrigation towers.

White Stork over La Janda

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ SPAIN 2018 ~ Cantera los Arenales

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ☀️24C Tuesday 24th April 2018 ~ Just a 10-minute drive from the villa above Mijas, I absolutely love this place!

Parking at the old quarry car park 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.

Black Wheatear ~ Two in the car park today
Before I go anywhere I make sure to check out the rocky crags which surround the car park for Rock Bunting and Black Wheatear, which nest here. I had two of each on this visit, plus a few Serin singing from the shrubbery and a Raven over. Listening out for Dartford Warbler I managed the briefest view of a single bird and then the unmistakable call of Bee-eater, with six passing through.

Angry Firecrest having a territorial row with another bird
The only downfall as you make your way up the track is the dog s**t. This is a popular walk at weekends and I avoid it at all costs when over here. However, weekdays are quiet, today I only met one hiker and a dozen or so mountain bikers. About halfway up you begin to encounter the pine woods, there is a good population of Chaffinch here and the usual woodland birds, plus Short-toed Treecreeper, which were quite vocal today. Crested Tits are another regular here and Firecrests are abundant.

Crossbill ~ Four today at this small watering hole
Find yourself a small puddle and settle down for a while and with a little patience the Crossbills will arrive, four birds paid the above water source a visit while I waited!

Spanish Festoon ~ One of my favourite butterflies
It's not just the birding that brings me up here, with such a diverse habitat there's plenty more on offer. Butterflies were in abundance today, with several Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, Wall Brown, Green-striped White, Morrocan Orange-tip, Clouded Yellow, Cleopatra, and one of my favourites, Spanish Festoon.

This Ocellated lizard was surprised by my presence
Lizards are also a feature and any movement in the undergrowth is worth stopping to investigate! The above Ocellated Lizard was surprised to see me.

Reaching the top of my walk I spent some time just enjoying the passage of birds, these included my first Red-rumped Swallows of this visit, Honey Buzzard, Alpine Swift, Common Swift and Barn Swallows. A pair of Booted Eagles nest up here and I managed a brief view of the display flight before they disappeared, although they were calling for most of my stay!


Ocellated lizard

Monday, April 23, 2018

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ SPAIN 2018 ~ Fuente de Piedra

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ ☔️☀️22C Monday 23rd April 2018 ~A severe thunderstorm here in Mijas yesterday evening, which seemed to rattle on well into the night gave way to a bright start this morning. Today a visit to Laguna Dulce near Campillos, then on to Fuente de Piedra the largest lagoon in Andalusia, covering an area of 1,354 hectares, it is considered to be one of the most extensive and characteristic endorheic complexes in Spain. Last nights storm appeared to have grounded a number of species with at least six Spotted Flycatchers and a male Pied Flycatcher on the roadside fences as we drove up to Campillos.

Stone Curlew ~ Laguna Dulce hide
On my last visit to Laguna Dulce in November the lake was dry but what a contrast today! With an extremely wet winter in the area, the lake was almost to capacity. Around 40 Greater Flamingo feeding in the shallows and a selection of Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe. Common Pochard was represented by around a dozen birds and equally matched by its more conspicuous compatriot Red-crested Pochard.

Woodchat Shrike ~ Feeding well
While sitting in the hide we were treated to an excellent view of a Stone Curlew as it flew at eye level from left to right. Just below a group of House Sparrows and Corn Buntings were keeping one eye on a Woodchat Shrike, which was perched up and already on with the breakfast. A Hoopoe made a brief appearance at treetop level and around the hide Nightingale and Reed Warbler in song. Overhead just a few Barn Swallows passing through along with the odd Common Swift.

Just a small selection of Greater Flamingo from Mirador de Cantarranasat Fuente de Piedra
As we drove along the access road through to the centre parking at Fuente de Piedra it was no surprise to see so much water in the pools and main lagoon. I'd seen the lagoon from the air as I flew into to Malaga on Saturday afternoon, in fact, I've never seen it so full, great news for the 50,000 Greater Flamingo that reside here.

Wheatear ~ First species of the visit
While Dave used the facilities I heading down to one of the smaller pools, coming across a very confiding Wheatear. Dare I say it but there seemed too much water, well if your a wader that is. Still, I picked out a Common Sandpiper and Little-ringed Plover on the peripheral, plus a lone Cattle Egret across on the far side.

Obliging Great Reed Warbler
From here we made our way down from the Mirador for a walk along the track which skirts the main lagoon down as far as the olive groves. The loud grating song of a Great Reed Warbler, which obligingly kept climbing the reeds offering some excellent views. A few Nightingales singing, but well undercover as usual and plenty of Corn Buntings along the fences.

Black Tern skimming the main Lagoon
Normally very protective of the breeding Greater Flamingo here, with a long high treeline preventing any chance of decent views from the tracks I was astonished to find a section of trees cut away. This offered fantastic views of the lagoon and reasonably close in some thirty or so Black Terns skimming the water. Whiskered Terns and Gull-billed Terns were also in good numbers, along with several Mediterranean Gulls among the many Black-headed.

Willow Warbler
Heading back along the track to the centre, Crested Lark, Woodchat Shrike, Willow Warbler (above) and Melodious Warbler along the hedgerow and then a Great Spotted Cuckoo, which flew out of the hedge and into the treeline. Some brief views as the bird moved through, all the time keeping to the Lagoon side but constantly calling and enabling us to follow. Unfortunately, I gave up the search after 20-minutes, aware that my buddy Dave was getting bored! (these none birders).

Greater Flamingo from the Lagunetta Hide
A stop at the three hides at the centre produced Avocet, Black-necked Grebe's, Pochard, White-headed Duck and Red-crested Pochard. Over towards the houses in Fuente de Piedra village from the Lagunetta hide a White Stork had set up home in a high chimney.

Iberian Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae)
We were annoyed to find that the wooden bridge which connects two more pools was closed for repairs so instead, we elected to take a driving tour of the Lagoon. In fact, this was a bonus, with most of the surrounding fields still in flood and offering great habitat to explore. At least six Iberian Yellow Wagtails heads ranging from blue to almost black, plus a good selection of waders which included: Greenshank, Redshank, Little Stint, Ruff, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin and Wood Sandpiper. Some of the deeper floods offered Little Egret in good numbers, plus a pair of Garganey. Just a few raptors today which included Common Kestrel, Booted Eagle and Common Buzzard.

Cattle Egret at Fuente de Piedra

More Black Terns on the Lagoon

Sunday, April 22, 2018

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ SPAIN 2018 ~ Day 1

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ☀️22C Sunday 22nd April 2018 ~ My first visit to Spain this year staying at my buddy's villa in Mijas. I had planned to go up to Sierra Loja today, but with low cloud and poor visibility at first light and a 90km drive, I thought it was a bit of a risk heading off up a mountain. Instead after breakfast, I decided to stay closer to home and drag Dave out for a visit to Guadalhorce, my favourite local reserve near Malaga Airport.

Record shot of Western Subalpine Warbler
As we walked alongside the Rio Guadalhorce towards the footbridge that takes you across to the reserve there were at least 50 or so House Martins, which nest here each year under the bridge structure. Passing over the bridge a Hoopoe and from the reeds below Cetti's Warbler and Reed Warbler before a Nightingale also broke into song. Before continuing on I noticed some movement in the scrub and managed to obtain a record shot of the above Western Subalpine Warbler which never quite broke full cover before flying off.

Booted Eagle over Guadalhorce
Prior to heading down to the reserve itself, we decided to take a stroll along the opposite side of the river which takes you under the main A7 autovia, where a group of Rock Doves were in residence. There were plenty of House Sparrows to be found too but from within the group I managed to connect with two Spanish Sparrows. Zitting Cisticola was a constant companion zitting away overhead, occasionally landing for a breather and then seven Bee-eaters passed straight through, calling as they went. Just as I was contemplating the fact that there weren't many Monk Parakeets around today six obligingly landed nearby but were sent on their way by a Booted Eagle passing overhead. This must have spooked a Wryneck too, which lifted, unfortunately disappearing over the rock bank and out of sight.

Curlew Sandpiper nearing full summer plumage
Heading onto the reserve and at the first hide at Laguna de la Casilla a Western Bonelli's Warbler was singing for a short while. Four Pochard, two White-headed Duck, single Gadwall and three Little Egrets before I moved on to the del Rio Viejo. Here a dozen or so Black-winged Stilt, some already on nests, Wood Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover, Redshank and Curlew Sandpiper, which was almost in full summer plumage!

Wood Sandpiper at del Rio Viejo
At the Old River, where the water levels were quite high compared to what I normally encounter a further selection of waders which included Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Greenshank and Avocet. At the far side two Audouin's Gulls at rest, along with a solitary Sandwich Tern. When I reached the sea I paused for a while at Aves Marinas sea-watch tower, pretty rough seas today but I picked out a single Balearic Shearwater and there seemed to be a constant passage of Terns, almost entirely Sandwich but at least two Gull-billed noted!

Whimbrel along the beach area
I took the beach walk past the restricted nesting area, where several Crested Larks could be found, a solitary Whimbrel dropping in briefly but not a single Kentish Plover, which nests here.

Little-ringed Plover ~ Laguna Grande
My final stop was at the Laguna Grande but with lots of water currently covering the scrapes little chance of seeing many waders at close range. That said a Little-ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper dropped in for a short while. At distance a couple of Black-necked Grebes and in among the many Gulls two Slender-billed, a regular here.

A shy Whinchat
The final bird of an excellent visit was an elusive Whinchat, but I did manage to capture one image of him watching me, watching him!

Clouded Yellow
There were a number of butterflies on the wing today but just the three species noted: Clouded Yellow, Wall and Swallowtail.

Friday, April 20, 2018

πŸ“– #30 ~ Dawn Chorus

🌞22C Friday 20th April 2018 ~Wanting to make the most of the fine weather I watched the sun come up from Alban's Bench, Brandon Marsh this morning! The bench gives great views of Newlands reedbed, which was alive with song. At least three reeling Grasshopper Warbler, one showing quite well, plus two Reed Warbler and numerous Sedge Warbler. The surrounding Hawthorn and Bramble yielded Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Dunnock, Blackcap and Wren, just a wonderful cacophony of sound.

A Brandon Marsh 1st for me ~ Ring-necked Parakeet.

After enjoying the dawn chorus I made my way around to the Wright hide for my first look at East Marsh Pool. However, just prior to entering the hide a noisy squawking call turned out to be a Ring-necked Parakeet, a Brandon first for me, although I'm not sure a welcome one! The bird sat on top of a tall willow for a while before heading East and thankfully disappearing from sight.

Osprey over East Marsh ~ Now into its 3rd day on site.
From the hide (4) Little-ringed Plover, (4) Oystercatcher, (2) Redshank, Kingfisher and (3) Common Terns, which simultaneously lifted as an Osprey, now into its third day at Brandon flew straight overhead, eventually coming down over towards River Pool!

Low cloud and mist had descended by the time I arrived at Teal Hide, Yellow Wagtail overhead on route, but I found the Osprey perched across on River Pool. After a short stay, I headed off down to Ted Jury Hide, where the only addition to my day list was a Lesser Whitethroat.

Wheatear ~ Car park bank.
Next stop Top Reedbed and Farm Field with a stop at the Nature Centre. While here I received a message from Dave Cox, who'd just arrived and located a Wheatear on the car park bank. Well done Dave, I'd obviously missed this one and by the time I connected the bird had been flushed towards the new fencing area by the arrival of a group of noisy schoolchildren.

Finally, the tour of the farm area yielded a further two Grasshopper Warbler, making five for the day. More Orange Tips on the wing when the sun returned with Small Tortoishell, (5) Brimstone and single Comma, along with a year first Holly Blue. More sightings of Osprey while in the East Marsh Hide for lunch and reports of a Cuckoo which I didn't manage to hear or see.

Off to Spain in the morning to get away from this heat πŸ˜€

BUBO Listing

Thursday, April 19, 2018

πŸ“– #29 ~ Glorious Brandon

🌞26C Thursday 19th April 2018 ~After yesterdays away-day I had a short sleep in this morning, arriving at Brandon Marsh shortly after 9am. What a stunningly gorgeous morning with clear blue skies and a very slight breeze.

Osprey over East Marsh Hide ~ Brandon Marsh
I was just about to take a tour of the top reedbed when word came through of a drake Mandarin Duck on East marsh, so I headed off for a Brandon tick! On the way down to the hide my first Garden Warbler of the year at the Horsetail Glade bench, a Reed Warbler singing from the pool side of the bank along the central marsh, but by the time I'd reached the hide, there was no sign of the Mandarin. I spent a short time here, my first two Orange Tip butterflies of the year flying past and was just leaving when the Osprey, now into its second day visiting decided to take a flyover, offering some stunning views over the hide.

Garden Warbler

Lesser Whitethroat ~ Brandon Marsh
After enjoying this amazing spectacle I headed off to the Ted Jury hide picking up my first Common Whitethroat of the year near the fallen Field Maple to the rear of Carlton Hide. A little further along the track towards the Jury hide a Lesser Whitethroat burst into song and after following the bird along the Hawthorn it finally popped up for a photo!

It was a pretty good day all around with plenty of butterflies on the wing including (6) Orange Tip and various counts of Brimstone (8), Peacock (2), Comma (2) and Small Tortoiseshell (2). Other birds of note today away from the pools included two reeling Grasshopper Warblers, one from Jury hide and a second from Alban's Bench, where Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were seen and Reed and Sedge Warbler were singing!

Osprey on River Pool

Osprey over East Marsh hide!