Friday, May 20, 2022

πŸ“– Cantera los Arenales ~ Birding Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ May 2022

🌀24C Friday 20th May 2022 ~ Today was quite hazy and occasionally overcast so I took an afternoon walk up the old quarry at Mijas, Cantera Los Arenales site details can be found HERE or by clicking on the Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ tab at the top of my blog.

The quarry looks down towards Fuengirola as you commence your assent.

It's a steep climb on the particular route I prefer to take but it's well worth it, when at around 775 meters you get stunning views across the Sierra de Mijas. Crested Tit, Firecrest, Crossbill and Short-toed Treecreeper can all be found quite easily in the woodlands which are dominated by repopulated pines, along with Holm Oaks and indeed all species were seen today.  

Black Wheatear on the fencing that looks down to the quarry

However, it's always worth checking the car park area before heading up. Here, you can find resident Black Wheatear, which seems to sing at any time of year, Rock Bunting, Sardinian Warbler, and occasionally I've managed Dartford Warbler, although not on today's visit.


Rock Buntings can be hard work in the bright sunshine, especially with their amazingly apt camouflaged plumage, although today with a little cloud cover and patience I managed two.

Rock Bunting ~ Blending into the background

There are a few more butterfly species appearing now and a couple of very pristine Spanish Gatekeepers were noted, along with a brief glimpse of a Western Dappled White

Spanish Gatekeeper

Western Dappled White

At my turnaround point, I usually pause for an hour or so to enjoy the scenery. Here you can find Crag Martin and later in early autumn Alpine Swifts. Today I had neither but did enjoy watching a couple of displaying Booted Eagles, which at one stage were rudely interrupted by a passing Peregrine

Booted Eagle

There were a few Painted Ladies on the wing while I sat and a passing dragonfly, which didn't pause for ID but I then noticed two or three yellow coloured insects flying a little like dragonflies. It took a while but one did eventually land. I was quite excited as I knew this was a new species for me and having researched briefly when I arrived back decided on Owly Sulphur, quite rare by all accounts. However, with the help of INaturalist, I've now reidentified as Libelloides cunii a genus of lacewings belonging to the owlfly family subfamily Ascalaphinae. The species of this genus are present in most of Europe. They inhabit dry meadows or dry coniferous forests. So not as rare as hoped but still a new species for me!


Libelloides cunii is a genus of lacewings belonging to the owlfly family

More Images & Videos of the Day...

Top of my chosen route overlooking Sierra de Mijas


Subfamily Pimeliinae

Spiny-footed Lizard

Black Wheatear at the car park.

Young Iberian Ibex


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

πŸ“– Guadalhorce ~ Birding Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ May 2022

☀️28C Wednesday 18th May 2022 ~ An early morning visit to Guadalhorce, details of which can be found HERE or by clicking the Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ tab at the top of my blog. 

Having only spent a few hours at the Laguna Grande when I first arrived back in Spain this was going to be a full circuit of the reserve, arriving just before sunrise. With temperatures now on the rise (28C today), I suspect most of my birding from this point on is likely to be early morning or late evening.

A very smart-looking Spotted Flycatcher

After parking at the church at Guadalmar, I always check the ditches, reeds and tamarisk along the roadside as I walk down to the reserve. At one point while standing on a raised area photographing an obliging Sardinian Warbler I was suddenly joined by a Spotted Flycatcher, which flew down to greet me. I wasn’t sure if he was looking too happy with my presence or not so considering I may well be close to his nest after a few quick snaps I bid a hasty retreat, what a great start to my visit!

Sardinian Warbler ~ Normally a real skulker but not on this occasion.

Walking across the access bridge to the site the House Martins, which nest underneath, were already busy feeding over the river and a Cetti's Warbler called from the reeds below. Looking across towards the road bridge the resident Rock Doves were also just starting their day. Two Glossy Ibis then passed over, dropping down onto the reserve and the usual hoards of Monk Parakeets were already marauding noisy beasts! Less noisy was a Hoopoe just prior to reaching my first stop of the day, the Laguna de la Casilla.

Hoopeo

This is an open hide and below a couple of Black-winged Stilts were feeding in the shallows. To the rear two Cattle Egret flew overhead and a few Yellow-legged Gulls but nothing further to report at this stage. Next off to the 'Wader Hide' which is often more productive and here I found what I imagined were the two Glossy Ibis that flew over me at the bridge. It's worth spending a little time here and by the time I moved on, I'd noted Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Avocet, Shelduck, Greater Flamingo, (17) Black-winged Stilt and Little Egret

One of two Glossy Ibis from the 'Wader Hide'

By the time I reached the del Rio Viejo the sun was well up but in a favourable position and although the water level was still high there was plenty of scrape along the shoreline to check. The first species of note was a Curlew Sandpiper, my first for the year and he was quickly followed by a near summer plumage Grey Plover, RedshankBlack-tailed GodwitLittle-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover and three Dunlin.

Grey Plover on the Rio Viejo

Curlew Sandpiper

A stop at the de Aves Marinas viewpoint, which overlooks the sea is always difficult with the low sun at this time of day so I soon moved on to my walk along the beach. I chose to stay close to the perimeter fence as this is a great place to view the nesting Kentish Plover and by the time I re-entered the reserve I had plenty of images. The sea was particularly quiet with little passing through and a bit late for the usual scurrying Sanderling


Kentish Plover viewed from the perimeter fence.

Now mid-morning and the heat rising my final stop was the Laguna Grande, best viewed in the late afternoons, once again the sun playing its role. But despite this and the water still staying at a high level, it was a productive stop. The Island was once more full of roosting Sandwich Terns, a single Whiskered Tern nestled in. A lone Spoonbill was at the far side and Greater Flamingos, Avocet and Black-winged Stilt were feeding. Also noted while here are many Common Swifts overhead and small numbers of Red-rumped Swallow and Barn Swallow too. At one point a Bee-eater flew low for water and also noteworthy Reed WarblerZitting Cisticola, Spotless Starling, White-headed Duck and before I left both Audouin's and Slender-billed Gull ended an excellent visit.

Audoin's Gull over the Laguna Grande

Slender-billed Gull just prior to leaving

More Images of the Visit...

Glossy Ibis

Grey Plover

Slender-billed Gull

Monday, May 16, 2022

πŸ“– Fuente de Piedra ~ Birding Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ May 2022

☀️26C Monday 16th May 2022 ~ Today an early morning visit to Fuente de Piedra, details of which can be found HERE or by clicking the Spain link at the top of my blog. In fact, my day started a little earlier when I was up briefly to take a few snaps of the lunar eclipse. It was only half complete at about 4.30am local time but I did manage some images.



I was looking forward to my visit to Fuente in the knowledge that the early spring rains had replenished both the main laguna and the smaller ones too. On my last few visits, most recently in November 2021, they had all been devoid of water. In fact, the pool on the left as you drive in (Cerro del Palo), was almost full and host to a dozen or so Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilts, Avocet, Marbled Duck and a few Gull-billed Terns. I could also make out a couple of Little-ringed Plover on the perimeter. The main laguna was about 2/5th full and where the bulk of the Greater Flamingos was feeding. 

Marbled Duck/Teal taken from the car as I drove in.

After parking, I made my way over to Sedero las Albinas for a slow walk across the boardwalk, this can be an excellent place for waders, particularly if there is scrape showing. 

The boardwalk at Sedero las albinas

Unfortunately, and dare I say it but it was too full, with no exposed scrape for waders, with the exception of a single Common Sandpiper. More Black-winged Stilts, Marbled Duck, Coots and Moorhens, my cup is always half full, but I have to say that I was left a little deflated on this occasion!

Black-winged Stilt on the Sedero ~ Always photogenic & despite my disappointment with the lack of waders I've no right to complain.

Actually, my disappointment had all but disappeared when shortly after a pair of Lesser Kestrels was on the prowl for breakfast. It's a bird I've struggled to get any decent images of over the years but today I managed a few better ones.

Lesser Kestrel ~ A pair hunting over Fuente today.

My next stop was Observatorio El Laguneto which always has water no matter when you visit and here White-headed Duck, Marbled Duck, good numbers of Pochard and at least a half dozen Red-crested Pochard. The Gull-billed Terns were busy fishing and on the opposite side of the water, a Little Grebe had a single youngster on board in typical grebe fashion and good to see a White Stork is still nesting on a distant chimney stack.

Gull-billed Tern ~ Fishing over the Laguneto

A walk around the grounds and a short distance along the perimeter of the main laguna was a little quiet, with most birds paired off by now and down to business. There were a few songsters though and I managed to find Melodious Warbler and Western Bonelli's Warbler, a strange quirk of late is when I find one of these species I almost immediately find the other, it's happened on three consecutive occasions!

Melodious Warbler at Fuente de Piedra

Western Bonelli's Warbler at Fuente de Piedra

Finally, a drive to a few other areas of the reserve produced a Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and my bird of the day. I've always maintained that no matter how rubbish an image is it can always be used for ID purposes, in this case, a male Montagu's Harrier. The black band across the secondaries is clearly visible on the upper wing.

Male Montagu's Harrier


More Images of the Day...

Barn Swallow having a wash & brush up

One of many Greater Flamingo

My 1st Black-tailed Skimmer of the year

Crested Lark



Sunday, May 15, 2022

πŸ“– Birding Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ May 2022

Arrived in Spain last Tuesday afternoon (10th) for 3 weeks at the villa after a gruelling 36hrs travelling. From Hungary back to the UK and then out the following morning to Spain. Sounds complicated I know but we'd already booked Hungary before I'd decided about my Spain trip!

View from the terrace towards the sierras at sunset ~ A magical time of day

For the most part, I've taken things easy and enjoyed birding from the terrace, always a delight from my high vantage point with Crested Tits, Sardinian Warblers and Serin around the garden. There are currently hoards of Swifts passing overhead, recently joined by a few Red-rumped Swallows, plus the occasional Eagle passes and calling Eagle Owl and Red-necked Nightjars in the late evening are just surreal. Butterflies are also frequenting the garden along with many interesting insects including Bee-flies. and Hoverflies.

Greater Bee-fly in the garden.

A Short-toed Eagle hunting over the villa

For over 14 years I've actually never visited in May and can already see the difficulties I'll encounter from a birding perspective after an afternoon walk at Zapata which can be a good area to search for Stone Curlew & Short-toed Lark in the early spring and late autumn. Of course, this is when the fields have been ploughed and the vegetation has fallen back but at this time of year, they are in full bloom with thriving crops and daisies 3ft high making the birding a little challenging! Although there are butterflies to seek out and the Daisies have many advantages.

Clouded Yellow taking advantage of the vast daisy fields.


Even a few hours at Guadalhorce with the notion of photographing the many waders that feed close by the viewing screen at Laguna Grande produced another surprise. 

Laguna Grande ~ Normally waders feeding in the foreground.

With the exceptional rainfall this spring and no sluices at Guadalhorce the laguna was full with just a small island showing which was full of roosting Sandwich Terns and the odd Mediterranean Gull. On closer inspection, Common Sandpiper and Dunlin were also noted.

Roosting Sandwich Terns with the odd usurper!

But despite my surprise, Guadalhorce is never a disappointment and I spent an hour or so here with Greater Flamingo's, Glossy Ibis, SpoonbillWhiskered Terns, Honey Buzzard overhead and of course White-headed Ducks, for which Guadalhorce is well known. The Monk Parakeets were as noisy and as boisterous as ever, along with the many Spotless Starlings.

A few White-headed Ducks at the Laguna Escondida today

On the walk back to the church at Guadalmar where I always park for security the trees and willows are always worth checking out. A Serin perched briefly on the fence line and I'd heard a Western Bonelli's Warbler calling and I'm sure I caught the back end as it disappeared into cover but a little more showy was a Melodious Warbler which did pose briefly for a photo.

European Serin

Pretty sure this is Bonelli's Warbler!

Melodious Warbler was more confiding.

Despite my earlier comments regarding Zapata, the ford was running like a train, no doubt due to the recent rains and did produce the usual waders normally found here. Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Little-ringed Plover & Common Sandpiper. Also Cetti's Warbler, Nightingale and a few Cattle Egrets overhead.

Black-winged Stilt

Ringed Plover

Little-ringed Plover