Sunday, November 21, 2021

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Spain ~ Late November 2021

Another autumn trip to Andalusia is complete with just a few loose ends to tie up including an afternoon visit to Fuente de Piedra and a drive up to Sierra Loja over the final week.

Wintering Common Cranes on Laguna Fuente de Piedra.

Fuente is always a treat but more often than not these days water is scarce on this vast saline lake, the largest lagoon in Andalusia. Normally awash with Greater Flamingo today the wintering Cranes outnumbered them, producing the usual amazing sights and sounds. 

Ferruginous Duck on the Laguneto

We arrived around midday and as we made our way from the car park to the Visitor Centre (closed as per usual) to enjoy our packed lunch a Red Kite drifted west. By the time we moved on to the Observatorio El Laguneto, the only other main body of water, we'd recorded four Black Redstart and at least twenty Blackcap feeding around the centre. 

Marbled Duck ~ Part of a re-introduction program here

From the hide, Black Redstart, Spanish Sparrow and Stonechat with the Laguneto holding double-figure Northern Shoveler, Grey Heron and Black-necked Grebe. However, the highlights while here consisted of three Marbled Duck and a single Ferruginous Duck

Black-winged Kite saved the day!

A drive around the roadside perimeter of the main lagoon as we headed home had to be the quietest we'd ever encountered and were it not for the sighting of a stunning Black-Winged Kite we'd have come home a little disappointed. 

The view across Seirra De Loja

Our final outing was a drive over to Sierra De Loja a limestone massif its highest point being Sierra Gords at 5400ft. It is also an open and beautiful but remote and sparse place. In winter it is covered in snow and ice, although no signs yet. The landscape consists of a few trees, low lying scrub and bushes but is mainly short, dry grass, and rocky terrain, the scenery is simply stunning and the birding can be very rewarding. You access the dirt road that leads up to the top at the Los Abades service area exit off the A92 road to Granada.

One of four Iberian Grey Shrikes seen today.

No sign of any Azure-winged Magpies a regular in the woodlands here as we made our way up the dirt track (which with care is easily drivable) but a couple of Black Wheatear, three Thekla Larks, Hoopoe, and the first of four Iberian Grey Shrikes seen today before we reached our first stop around 1500ft at the old quarry. 

Blue Rock Thrush from the quarry

A walk around the quarry had a dozen Red-legged Partridges scurrying past but a Blue Rock Thrush took the eye, along with more Stonechats, Thekla Larks and a single Corn Bunting.

Rock Bunting is a regular feature at Sierra De Loja

As we continued our ascent we paused when a group of 30+ Chough suddenly descended just below our position. While out photographing a couple Rock Bunting also appeared along with Iberian Grey Shrike.

Ring Ouzel at Sierra De Loja was taken in 2017 a little earlier in November.

At our turnaround point, some 5000ft up there's a small oasis of Hawthorn and although mostly depleted of berries by now we managed to locate a small group of wintering thrushes, which we regularly encounter up here. These included Redwing, Mistle Thrush and at least six Ring Ouzel. While here a small party of Southeastern Spanish Ibex (now reclassified) and during our descent, a flock of some thirty Rock Sparrows, along with a single Alpine Accentor, spotted by Dazza ended another brilliant visit to Spain and I hope you've enjoyed our posts.

More Images of the last few days...

Cranes over Fuente De Piedra

Black-winged Kite

Rock Bunting


Southeastern Spanish Ibex
Black-winged Kite

Friday, November 12, 2021

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Spain ~ Zapata 12/11/21

πŸ‚πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Friday, November 12th 🌞 20C ~ With Dazza working today I thought I'd take the opportunity to spend the morning at Zapata and in particular checking out the reedbeds which run adjacent to the airport perimeter road. During our visit on Wednesday, we failed to locate a few of our target species: Bluethroat, Penduline Tit and Stone Curlew

Penduline Tit ~ A brief rest bite before disappearing once more out of sight.

Sometimes it pays off to simply sit and watch for movement in the reeds or if you can find an area of bullrush lookout for the floating seeds as they are plucked out by Penduline Tits. After an hour of doing just that it was actually the fine whistled call that alerted me to a single bird that appeared in the reeds just below my position. 

Bluethroat ~ after several walks up and down the reeds one is finally located.

One of my target species located and next to the Bluethroat which I'd actually heard a few times during the morning, its unmistakable dry throaty clicking deep within the reeds. Finally, having the patience of a saint and at one time even being completely distracted by an Egyptian Mongoose, a European first for me I finally connected with a Bluethroat.  

My 1st ever Mongoose in Iberia.

Such is the case of the Egyptian mongoose, which is native to North Africa but is also found in Spain and Portugal. It has, though, no pre-human fossil record in Iberia, and would be incapable of swimming across the Strait of Gibraltar. So the evidence points to it having been carried there by human agency.

Blue Rock Thrush ~ My 2nd for Zapata

An excellent morning thus far and from here a leisurely walk back to the car checking out the surrounding scrubland for Stone Curlew but without success. On New Years Eve 2019 I recorded a Blue Rock Thrush here, obviously, a wintering bird coming down from the mountains for the duration and today another, almost in the exact same location! Other Species of Note today: Common BuzzardBlack Kite, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Serin, Common Waxbill, Chiffchaff, Greenshank, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Hoopoe and Skylark.

More Images of the Day...



Common Waxbill

Penduline Tit

Black Kite

Thursday, November 11, 2021

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Spain ~ Canteros Los Arenales 11/11/21

πŸ‚πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Thursday, November 11th ⛅️ 21C ~ Whenever I visit Spain there's always one particular area that's on my 'must do' list and just a 10-minute drive from the villa is the old quarry at Canteros Los Arenales ~ Site details HERE 

Black Wheatear ~ One of my favourite species

At the car park at Sendero Cerro de la Medialuna, there are rocky outcrops and a good selection of repopulated pine mixed with Holm oaks and other typically Mediterranean shrubs. Almost immediately on arrival you hear the grating calls of Dartford Warblers echoing around the old quarry. Just sit for a while and it's not long before the stars of the show appear in the form of Black Wheatears

Black Wheatear ~ Even at this time of year the birds are happy to produce a short blast of song.

I've been coming to this part of Spain for over 10 years and this is always one of the highlights for me. These are sedentary birds but have quite large territories and the best time to see them for me is late autumn. Some actually mate for life and today I managed to see three birds in total, including a pair.

Black Wheatear

From the car park I took the steady walk up to around 2,500ft to Puerto de la Graja which offers stunning views across the Hoya de Malaga. Species of note today included Crag Martin,  Short-toed TreecreeperRock Bunting, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Siskin, Crossbill and Peregrine. Some large congregations of Chaffinch winter up here too and in amongst them you can sometimes find Brambling, although not during this visit. However, today was all about Black Wheatears!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Spain ~ Zapata & Guadalhorce 10/11/21

A morning visit to Zapata and then across to Guadalhorce ~ Site details can be found HERE

The ford at Zapata

Although the dirt tracks at Zapata are perfectly drivable we prefer to park in the urbanization and walk, we tend to see more that way. Our first point of call was the ford, the walk down producing several Black Redstarts and Stonechats, along with the odd Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler and Serin. The Rio Guadalhorce water level seems pretty low at the moment and the whole surrounding area looked parched. This is the likely reason why a couple of tankers were parked just off the ford uploading water. As we approached Dazza called a Little Bittern, which flew across the ford and deep into the reeds. Although we've noted them here before it was one of the best views we've had thus far. 

Common Waxbills ~ Now well established from the African continent

A walk alongside the river produced the usual flock of Common Waxbills, more Black Redstart, Greenshank, Jack SnipeLittle EgretRinged PloverKingfisherGrey Wagtail and a few wintering Meadow PipitsCetti's Warbler could be heard in the reedbeds but we never managed to see any this time out.

White Wagtail

As we walked down towards the airport perimeter road and the extended reedbeds one of the local farmers was ploughing. The field in question was awash with White Wagtails, we counted thirty or so before giving up!

Cattle Egret

After a while, a Cattle Egret flew in and Dazza and I watched with amusement as he was literally following the tractor everywhere looking for a tasty morsel, almost getting run over at one stage.

Booted Eagle over Zapata

Just before reaching the reedbeds, which were almost devoid of water due to the low river levels, a Booted Eagle drifted over towards the airport. I have to say that the reedbeds and scrubland were very disappointing today with no sign of any of the species we usually encounter here: Stone CurlewPenduline Tit and Bluethroat. Although we did manage Short-toed LarkCrested Lark and Marsh Harrier. I'll try again on Friday.

The new Guadalhorce River Bridge

Guadalhorce Reserve has changed a little since my last visit with cyclists finally being banned and now directed over towards the new river bridge away from the reserve. However, joggers still use the tracks and can often flush birds so the afternoon is not one of the best times to visit, the best time for me is dawn.

Black Redstarts in abundance at this time of year

At this time of year, things are a lot quieter on the birding front but there's still a good selection of species to be found. As with Zapata, there's a real abundance of Black Redstarts when wintering birds join the resident populations and by the time I entered the reserve, I'd noted a further six. 

Black-necked Grebe ~ Laguna Grande

The hides at Laguna de la Casilla and the Rio Viejo had the usual colony of Black-winged Stilts, along with eleven Greater Flamingo but few other wading birds with only Green Sandpiper and Ringed Plover. The Laguna Grande held Common Sandpiper, SanderlingKentish Plovergood numbers of Northern Shoveler, two Black-necked Grebe and unusually a single Shelduck but was devoid of Gulls. 

Mediterranean Gull at the river mouth

In fact, the best area for gulls was at the river mouth where I managed Mediterranean Gull, but no sign of any Adouin's. Other notables included: Hoopoe, Sardinian WarblerZitting Cisticola, Serin, Crested Lark, Buzzard and Crag Martin.

The best of the day was a Western Subalpine Warbler, my second for the site but unfortunately during this brief sighting, the bird stayed directly in the sunlight.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Spain Jaw-Dropping! 09/11/21

Since visiting Spain many times over the years I've had many jaw-dropping moments from a birding perspective and today I encountered another.

Crested Tit ~ Fortunately, I always have the camera at the ready.

While sitting having coffee on the terrace in the late afternoon I suddenly heard the call of Crested Tit. Then literally from nowhere four suddenly appeared directly in front of me. I regularly encounter Crested Tits at Canteros Los Arenales, a quarry much further up the mountains to the north of Mijas but in ten years of visiting this is the first time I've noted them in the villa grounds. The birds hung around for an hour or so before their calls faded in the distance, what an absolute treat!

Crested Tit...

Monday, November 08, 2021

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Spain November 2021

Back to my friend's villa in sunny Spain for the next couple of weeks, primarily for Dazza to recharge her batteries, having not been outside of the UK for the past few years obviously due to Covid.

Clouded Yellow ~ A frequent visitor to the villa terrace.

Naturally, birding will play its part over the period but for the first few days we've just been chilling out around the villa terrace and the odd walk, including an afternoon stroll around Paloma Park. El Parque de la Paloma or "Dove Park" is by reputation one of the most beautiful on the Costa del Sol, located in the centre of BenalmΓ‘dena. To be honest one of the reasons for our visit was to have a look at Monarch butterflies. In Europe, the Monarch is one of only two species recorded of this large but mainly tropical Danaidea butterfly family. The other is the Plain Tiger also known as the African Monarch, which I was lucky enough to come across in November 2017 at the Laguna Del Mata, Alicante.

One of a dozen or so Monarchs seen at Paloma Park on Monday 8th.

The Monarch is mostly recorded as a sporadic migrant in small numbers to Europe, possibly from the resident populations in the Canary Islands and not as you would imagine blown in from the Central American populations, although these do occur. Small resident populations have also taken hold in Southern Spain like here around Malaga and in particular Paloma Park.

Monarch Butterfly at Paloma Park

During our walk today we recorded twelve Monarchs around the park, a Spanish first for Dazza and me and a thank you to Fred Stokes (Brandon Marsh) for the 'heads up' who has been visiting Benalmadena regularly for many years.

A few images from around the terrace...

Sardinian Warbler

Lang's Short-tailed Blue

Wall Brown

Large White