Tuesday, September 17, 2019

πŸ“– Trip Report Spain Part2~ Autumn Migration

TRIP REPORT Part 2: Wednesday 11th September ~ Friday 13th September ~ The second part of my 5-day trip to Spain which includes visits to Guadalhorce and Canteros Los Arenales. (Site Details for both... HERE)

View from the villa terrace looking down towards Fuengirola and the Moroccan coastline beyond
View looking south-west towards Fuengirola.
☀️πŸ’¨28C Wednesday 11th September 2019 ~ Slept late this morning and then had a very enjoyable late morning/afternoon VisMig (visible migration) on the terrace of the villa. Our villa is situated at around 900ft up on the mountainside just below Mijas old town with stunning views down towards the town of Fuengirola and the Meditteranean beyond. On a clear day, the coastline of Morocco on the African continent can be easily made out. At any time of year, it's a great place to just sit and skywatch but during Autumn migration almost anything can pass by. Past years have produced Bonelli's Eagle, Osprey, Black Stork and Egyptian Vulture. Alpine Swifts are a regular passage migrant too.

One of three Pallid Swift passing through today on the stiff breeze.
There was a stiff northerly breeze blowing today with a reasonable number of Hirudines passing through which included Crag MartinRed-Rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow and House Martin. Common Swift numbers were lower than of late but at least (3) Pallid Swift was a real bonus.

Bee-Eater over the villa
Bee-Eaters have been constantly moving through wherever I've been during this visit, with some flocks numbering some 50+ birds over the villa today. In fact, three birds actually passed under the terrace pillars while we were having lunch. Late evening appears to be the best time, being diurnal (active by day), they tend to find a local roost for the night, although I've heard them passing over well after midnight on occasions.

Mediterranean Gull over the terrace was a complete surprise!
During the course of the late afternoon (14) White Storks passed NW, a group of (6) Honey Buzzards were also noted heading NW and overhead (2) Short-toed Eagle, (5) Booted Eagle, (2) Sparrowhawk, (3) Black Kite and a few local Cattle Egrets were other highlights. However, the best had to be my 1st terrace Meditteranean Gull in over 10 years! Over previous years Gulls have never seemed to make it up this far from the shore.

A local Cattle Egret passes by.
Species around the villa grounds included Spotted Flycatcher, Serin, Black Redstart, ChiffchaffSardinian Warbler and Turtle Dove.

☀️24C Thursday 12th September 2019 ~ Canteros Los Arenales is an old quarry to the back of Mijas. From the car park at Sendero Cerro de la Medialuna, you make an initial steep climb past the old extractions which lead on through the pine woodlands where there are lots of tracks to explore. At the apex, there are some absolutely stunning views at nearly 3,000ft across the Hoya de Malaga. This is one of my favourite walks and I spent an enjoyable 4 hours exploring today.

First bird of the visit ~ A juvenile Dartford Warbler.
As soon as I got out of the car the distinctive calls of Dartford Warbler could be heard echoing around the parking area. I also check the rocks in the immediate area too for the distinct flash of white rump against the pure black body of resident Black Wheatears and listen out for the short sharp 'tsi' of Rock Buntings. Today I got lucky when a juvenile Dartford Warbler popped up just as turned on the camera.

Two very confiding Black Wheatears
Two Black Wheatear soon greeted me, these are in my opinion very inquisitive birds and I've found them to be very obliging too in tolerating the camera.

An obliging Rock Bunting
Rock Buntings are a little harder to nail down but with patience, which I don't have too much off, they will eventually oblige.

One of a number of Firecrests throughout the visit.
As I made my way up towards the woodlands several Crossbill passed over and for the first time since visiting over the years, a Tawny Owl called from across the quarry. A distant Raven was cronking away and as I got a little higher Crag Martins began to appear. Firecrests are also a regular feature here and at least (3) were noted before I stopped for a rest and to take on water.

Close encounter with a Crested Tit
While sitting I watched a group of Long-tailed Tits come quite close and among the chatter, a Crested Tit began to call. To my surprise, the bird popped up at close range directly in front me, a magical moment! I've always struggled when here to get a decent photo but today was the day.

A Common Redstart in a hurry
High up in the pines a Hawfinch was calling, that unmistakable sharp clicking 'pix' but I never quite managed to connect with this one. I was distracted during my search by a flash of red from the lower canopy and just managed to get a shot of a Common Redstart as it flew down into the scrub.

Female Pied Flycatcher ~ Butter wouldn't melt πŸ‘€
Having reappeared I watched the bird for a short while feeding contently on some small black berries, that is until another bird suddenly and aggressively appeared, sending the Redstart darting into the bushes. I was surprised to find that the assailant was a female Pied Flycatcher. It was an excellent 20-minutes or so before I moved on, with Short-toed Treecreeper, many Chaffinch and a couple of ground feeding Serin.

Sage Skipper ~ A new species for my Spanish list
Striped Grayling ~ A second new species for my Spanish list
Having reached the top of my climb I stopped for a good while to enjoy the views. With direct sunlight, this is also a good place to search for butterflies and I was delighted to be able to add the above two species to my Spanish List ~ Sage Skipper and Striped Grayling.

Orange-winged Dropwing ~ This one appears to have recently emerged.
Another addition to my records was my first Orange-winged Dropwing dragonfly a species that is spreading north from Africa into Spain and colonising relatively rapidly. The distribution maps in Dijkstra/Lewington, published in 2006, do not show it in Spain.

Greater Flamingos arriving at Guadalhorce
⛈🌞26C Friday 13th September 2019 ~ With my flight back to the UK this evening I managed a final early morning visit to Guadalhorce. There was a threat of thunderstorms today and as I drove down to the reserve some spectacular lighting could be seen away off across the Mediterranean. However, by the time I reached the reserve just before sunrise, the storm seemed to have dissipated.

Glossy Ibis ~ One of just 3 additions to my previous visit to Guadalhorce mentioned in Part 1
I took my usual circular route stopping at the hides Laguna de la Casilla and the Rio Viejo, ending up at my final stop, the Laguna Grande. Seawatching at this time of day is almost impossible with the sun low and directly ahead but a walk along the beach produced a few passing Sandwich Terns and Sanderling along the shoreline. My final additions to my Five-Day List were a flyover Stone Curlew and a female Ferruginous Duck, which I just managed to see before it disappeared into the reeds.

Record shot of Stone Curlew over Guadalhorce.
Full Species List...

Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Ferruginous Duck, White-headed Duck, Red-Legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis, Flamingo, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Osprey, Short-Toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Common Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Black-Winged Kite, Kestrel, Peregrine, Moorhen, Coot, Avocet, Black-Winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Little-Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Black-Headed Gull, Meditteranean Gull, Yellow-Legged Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Eagle Owl (H), Tawny Owl (H), Swift, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe, Kingfisher, Bee-Eater, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-Rumped Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail sp, Redstart, Black Redstart, Black Wheatear, Stonechat, Blackbird, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Wren, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Crested Tit, Long-Tailed Tit, Short-Toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Raven, Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Serin, Hawfinch (H), Common Crossbill, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting

More Images of the Trip...

Juvenile Kentish Plover at Guadalhorce

Stonechat at the Cazalla watchpoint, Tarifa

Red-Rumped Swallow over the villa


Kestrel at Guadalhorce

Redstart at Cateros Los Arenales

Spotted Flycatcher at Guadalhorce

Garden Warbler at Guadalhorce

Sunday, September 15, 2019

πŸ“– Trip Report Spain Part1~ Autumn Migration

TRIP REPORT Part 1: Sunday 8th September ~ Tuesday 10th September ~ A 5-day, short break to observe autumn bird migration in Southern Spain, staying at my friend's villa in Mijas. The weather, for the most part, was sunny and clear with cloud building on Thursday/Friday to produce nearby thunderstorms, although I wasn't affected. Temperature range 24C ~ 30C

☀️28C Monday 9th September 2019 ~ ALPUJATA MIGRATION WATCHPOINT (Mirador de las Águilas) A raptor migration watchpoint, named by Paco Rios of SEO-Malaga, who uncovered its potential. The site has recently been recognised and developed as a watchpoint by the local authority. Site Location: HERE

One of three Rock Buntings from the track leading to the watchpoint. 
On arrival at the site, just a 30-minute drive from the villa we took the short track which leads up to the observation point. The track itself was quite productive with Chaffinch, Serin & (3) Rock Buntings ground-feeding, one of which was displaced to a nearby dead tree as we passed.

Trektellen report for our visit ~ Although Blas's spelling of my name needs a bit of practice!
We spent a few hours with Blas & Paco the site coordinators and although the conditions for visual migration were not ideal we had a reasonable morning, the results of which are above. The stand out count for me was the (24) Sparrowhawk, quite surprising how many do in fact migrate through the southern region of Spain.

Greenshank at Gudalhorce enjoying the evening sunshine
In the late afternoon, I took a drive down to Guadalhorce near Malaga airport (Site Details HERE) where I spent an hour at the Laguna Grande Hide. Due to the suns position at this time of day, this is a perfect vantage point. I was happy to see that with little rains recently, unlike the current torrential rains & flooding just further up the coast, the lagoon is at a perfect level, with plenty of scrape for waders.

Juvenile Kentish Plover at Guadalhorce
From the hide a half-dozen Greenshank, (30+) Black-winged Stilts, which nest here along with various counts of predominantly juvenile Little-ringed, Ringed & Kentish Plover, all of which also breed in a protected area of the site. A brace of Whimbrel along with (11) Sanderling, (2) Turnstone, (2) Avocet, (5) Dunlin and a single Curlew Sandpiper. CommonGreen & Wood Sandpiper were also present, plus (13) Greater Flamingo roosting.

Whimbrel on the Laguna Grande ~ Guadalhorce
Full visit list:

Lagoon & Scrape:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Coot, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kingfisher.

Bee-Eater* on passage
Overhead & Passage:
Booted Eagle, Osprey, Kestrel, Common Swift, (1)Pallid Swift, Bee-Eater*, Sand Martin, (2)Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-Rumped Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail sp. 

Other Areas:
Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, Eurasian Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin

⛅️26C Tuesday 10th September 2019 ~ A drive down to Tarifa visiting the migration watchpoints at Cazalla and Mirador del Estrecho, then on to La Janda.

Huge passage of Black Kites over Tarifa
Arrived at the Cazalla Watchpoint shortly before 10am with a strong 30kts WSWesterly blowing, pretty chilly too by comparison at around 18C. It was apparent straight away that there was a very strong Black Kite passage underway with large groups passing low down towards Tarifa. Conditions with the stiff breeze were challenging and passage was particularly slow so we only spent around a half-hour here noting: (3) Griffon Vulture, (1) Egyptian Vulture, (5) Booted Eagle, (2) Short-toed Eagle, (11) Honey Buzzard, (2) Marsh Harrier(2) Sparrowhawk & (11) Bee-Eaters.

Close-up Black Kite at Mirador del Estrecho
At Mirador del Estrecho the Black Kite passage continued at pace but with no further raptor additions to the species list from those at Cazalla we didn't stay long. However, while here sudden loud twittering calls directly overhead was identified as a large group of some 30+ Alpine Swift which passed through 'swiftly' at height, with not even time enough for a record shot!

Black Storks noted on route to La Janda
The drive to La Janda (Previous Site Visits & Details HERE) took around 40-minutes and on the route more vismig was noted with a group of (9) Black Storks heading south-west. Immediately after departing the main N-340 turn at Zahara onto the dirt track which runs the perimeter of the area, we stopped for a while to watch a group of Cattle Egret, at least (3) Stonechat posed on the nearby fences while here.
Cattle Egret among the cattle  shortly after turning onto the dirt track

Griffon Vulture ~ A steady trickle over La Janda during our stay
We paused for our packed lunch alongside the 'Canal Principal' scanning the area from the top of the track which affords a good panorama of the old lake bed. As is the norm there were plenty of White Storks in the surrounding fields, which for the first time since I've been visiting had been planted with Cotton. A distant Montagu's Harrier through the heat haze and overhead a constant trickle of Griffon Vultures.

Northern Banded Groundling ~ A recent colonist from Africa
A number of Northern Banded Groundling were flitting around, plus a Clouded Yellow butterfly but sadly my search goes on for my first Zeller's Skipper butterfly, which was only re-discovered in this area in 2011. After lunch a walk alongside the canal ditches produced (3) Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper. The Cotton plants had also attracted a couple of Cirl Buntings and within the crop gaps, Crested Larks and I inadvertently flushed a single Stone Curlew.

Zitting Cisticola ~ Fantail Warbler
Over the next few hours and before re-entering the main N-320 some 5 miles later we stopped at various points to check out the ditches, fences, rice fields and irrigation towers. The ditches only produced several more Green Sandpipers and the arid areas and bushes alongside the track more Crested Larks, plus Yellow Wagtail, Fantail Warbler, Woodchat Shrike and some huge populations of House Sparrows, with a number of Spanish Sparrows.

Short-toed Eagle
At one time I did try to sneak up on a Black-Winged Kite perched on the pylons but was sadly left with a poor record shot as it departed! (2) Short-toed Eagle, (3) Marsh Harrier, (5) Booted Eagle (2) Montagu's Harrier, (4) Honey Buzzard, (3) Egyptian Vulture and (2) Eagle sp. all noted before departing.

**Disappointingly the open water, an area of rice field left cleared during my last few visits which produced many Waders, Ibis and Spoonbill have been fully utilised this year so there was no open water to speak of!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

πŸ“– August!

⛅️☀️☁️ 🌧 ⛈πŸ’¨18/33C August 2019 ~ August for me is my least favourite month for birding, I travel little, with the odd rare excursion and for the most part, I like to spend it out on the canal enjoying the weather. That is of course if we have the weather and with the exception of the last Bank Holiday weekend, it's been dreadful. Despite all else, I can't recall an August thats been so persistently windy!

This amazing Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar has to be for me the main highlight of my recent visits to Brandon Marsh.
With the weather in mind and mostly being confined to the marina, I've made several visits to Brandon Marsh over the period to prevent boredom from setting in. I did work with the Conservation Team on Thursday brush cutting the Islands and banks around East Marsh which was very enjoyable. However, my other visits were spent in the early part of the day dodging the kids and some of the ridiculous activities that the trust has the audacity to call educational. Anyway, I'll just concentrate on the nature aspect of my visits and not politics.

Green Sandpiper
I spend little time in the hides during my summer visits, preferring to explore the woods and meadows. That said an influx of Green Sandpipers has been one of the highlights recently, mainly on Teal pool where eight were reported on the 28th, I personally only managed five, which is likely my highest count here for a considerable time.

Young Blackcaps are already taking advantage of the Elderberries.
There's plenty of activity in the woods with lots of young birds frantically feeding up and the first autumn 'tit flocks' are forming up, mainly made up of Long-tailed Tits but carrying the odd Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Willow Warbler. Blackcaps are still the most abundant warbler and in some cases are still singing, not quite the full persona but more like mumbling to themselves as they feed, fascinating to listen too.

Juvenile Common Buzzard from the Ted Jury Hide
Talking of young birds I managed to photograph the above juvenile Buzzard during a brief visit to the Ted Jury Hide also on the 28th. The bird stayed for some time constantly mewing to what I assume was the parent circling high above.

Other Highlights from my Visits included...

Migrant Hawker ~ These late summer Dragonflies are now in good numbers

This Emerald Damselfly is a first for me at Brandon!
Silver Y Moth

Still, small numbers of Painted Lady to be found in this exceptional year for the species.