Friday, November 30, 2018

📖 #68 ~🇪🇸 Late Autumn, Spain 🍁

Following Saturday's visit to Guadalhorce Dave and I decided to have a short walk around Zapata on the Sunday (never bird in Spain on a Sunday if you can avoid it), followed by a trip out to Laguna Fuente de Piedra on Monday.

Zapata ~ Tracks and ford washed away by recent floods
My remaining time of this short break in Spain was spent exploring Zapata, which despite being devastated by the recent rains still continues to produce. Zapata was a real find for me a few years back, thanks to Barbara and Derek Etherton from the Adalusia Bird Society and a great place for seeking out Red-necked Nightjars in the spring and summer. Only 20-minutes drive from the villa this extraordinary habitat runs alongside the Rio Guadalhorce to the north-west fringes of Malaga Airport (basically the opposite side to the reserve at Guadalhorce) it consists of scrubland, scrape, small pines and bushes along with large reedbeds and a ford. Normally you can off road but with the tracks either flooded or washed away I chose to park up in the village and walk, in fact you probably see more that way!

Woodchat Shrike at Fuente de Piedra
Firstly though, Laguna Fuente de Piedra on Monday, the largest in Andalusia at 1,400 ha and best known for it's breeding Greater Flamingos. Unlike Zapata, the lagoon has benefited from the recent rains, including the surrounding pools. Here, the highlight had to be a wintering and very sad looking Woodchat Shrike, which by rights should now be in sub-Saharan Africa, although a handful of winter records are listed in 'Birds of Iberia'.

Another view of the Woodchat Shrike
It was a blustery day and most species on the lagoon were way off in the middle, with the remaining Flamingos even further away feeding in the shallows. From the Mirador we could make out a group of over 40 Black-necked Grebes, along with many Pochard and Shoveler. Most of the waders have moved out to their wintering grounds but we managed a number of Black-winged Stilts and a couple of Greenshank.

One of many Wintering Cranes around the province
A drive around the perimeter of the lagoon held our target birds for the day, wintering Common Cranes feeding in the nearby fields, one field producing (5) Stone Curlews, also wintering here.

Male Black Redstart ~ Well outnumbered by females
Back to Zapata and the remainder of my visits were spent in glorious autumnal sunshine, with temperatures up to 20C and almost exclusively alone. Just walking the paths and tracks produced what seemed to be birds in every tree, bush, reed or track. Black Redstarts, Common Stonechats, Chiffchaff, Serin, and Zitting Cisticola seemed abundant and both White Wagtail and Crested Lark constant companions with Blackcaps in full song and Sardinian Warblers always present but elusive, this despite the never-ending flow of airliners landing just a short distance away! Also of note the many Painted Ladies, Clouded Yellows and other butterflies still on the wing, which sadly I didn't take time to explore.

Greenshank alongside the ford
The river held Greenshank, Common and Green Sandpiper, along with Grey Heron, Cattle and Little Egret.

Marsh Harrier constantly on the hunt at Zapata
Passing Osprey
A couple of Marsh Harriers seemed permanently on the go, this along with Common Kestrel, the occasional Booted Eagle, another wintering species and passing Osprey, one or two also winter here. At this time of year Crag Martins come down from the mountains and every so often one or two would pass through.

Male Bluethroat ~ Probably a 1st winter
The extensive reedbeds which run along the old river course held large flocks of Common Waxbill, many Chiffchaffs, a number of Cetti's Warbler and up to four Bluethroats during one visit.

Common Waxbill ~ first introduced to Portugal, from Africa, in 1964, from where it spread to much of the country and Spain
A real surprise came during Tuesday's visit when I came across a Wryneck, which having been foraging out in the open decided to head for the rocks as I raised the camera. I've included below the worst ever record shot of a Wryneck you'll ever see! Apparently, according to local birders, one winters here each year and this may well have been the first record this autumn.

Look closely and you should see a very elusive Wryneck in flight!
Having only heard one thus far, on Wednesday, my final full day I decided to just to sit tight close to a section of reedmace in the hope of catching a glimpse of another wintering species, Penduline Tit. It was hard work but after studying every movement for over an hour I finally caught sight of a single bird feeding. Unfortunately, the best image I could manage of this very flighty individual was the back end. Still a great end to a superb short break and luckily I'll be back here, this time with my wife Dazza for Christmas and New Year.

More Images of the Visit....

Black Redstart at the villa

Vueling Airbus on approach over Zapata

Spanish Coastguard ~ Casa CN 235 

Another Bluethroat at Zapata

Volotea Airlines based at Barcelona ~ Boeing 717


Serin at Zapata
Zapata down river
The coast of Morocco and Africa at sunset from the terrace
Another Booted Eagle display
Booted Eagle ~ I wonder where they get their name from?

Hoopoe at Zapata

 Species Seen...
Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, White-Headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Osprey, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Eagle Owl (heard at the villa), Hoopoe, Kingfisher, Wryneck, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Common Crossbill, Common Waxbill