Wednesday, May 25, 2022

πŸ“– Sierra de Loja ~ Birding Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ May 2022

 πŸŒ€26C Wednesday 25th May 2022 Another day out with Derek Etherton and this time joined by Andy Paterson another birder with many years of experience birding in Spain.

The Mirador at the top of Sierra Loja ~ 1600 meters!

I was delighted when asked to join Derek and Andy as this is one of my favourite places to bird when in southern Spain. 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.

Our view while having lunch.

Having accessed the track up Derek had the notion of driving to the top at a more rigorous rate than normal and then making our way back down slowly investigating the many areas we had earmarked for some of our target species. However, that went out of the window almost immediately as we passed the open woodland when we were suddenly into a couple of singing Western Bonelli's Warblers. From here on it was stop/start all the way to the top.

Western Bonelli's Warbler

As we cleared the woodland noting a couple of Azure-winged Magpies a few species on the track ahead and roadside fencing included Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting and Stonechat. The first of many Thekla Larks seen today also made an appearance as the habitat opens out just short of the quarry. 

One of (15) Thekla Larks seen today.

A shout from Andy and a quick exit from the car revealed (5) Honey Buzzards heading east and while here the unusual sight of both Red-legged Partridge and Rock Bunting sharing either end of the same rocky outcrop!

Rock Bunting right

Red-legged Partridge left

Just a short distance on and the first and only Iberian Shrike seen today. A search of a known Little Owl area produced just a single bird, which I was pleased to see in the knowledge that we are not lucky enough to have these lovely little birds in the northeast of Scotland.

Just the one Iberian Shrike today.

It was a great day for Wheatears with (21) Western Black-eared Wheatear, and this only counting those seen on the ascent, (9) Black Wheatear and 2 Northern Wheatear, one of which we believe is likely from the Greenland race.

An amazing day for Western Black-eared Wheatear

(9) Black Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

A short stop to meet up with a local guide Mick Richardson, who I've met on a few occasions. This so Derek, Andy and Mike could swap a selection of books. Mick was with a couple of clients and had told us that he'd seen one of our target birds for the day Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush but very briefly. It wasn't actually until we were on our descent a few hours later that we also managed to briefly connect! While here a couple of Black Redstarts and one of (8) Blue Rock Thrush that was seen today.

This Blue Rock Thrush entertained while the book swap took place!

Moving on after our short break a stop at the 'fossil cave' where a large colony of nesting Rock Sparrows were chattering away and at one point one of the local Red-billed Choughs tried its hand, investigating several nook and crannies but came up empty-handed. Just up the rock face a couple of Crag Martins and two more Black Redstarts.

Red-billed Chough at the 'Fossil Cave'

At one particular-stop Derek spotted a distant Golden Eagle drifting at height from left to right, a wonderful sight nonetheless and at one stage harassed by Common Kestrels & Choughs, two Ravens missing out on the event minutes later!

Golden Eagle ~ Likely a juvenile second-winter bird, with Chough in pursuit.

On to what I refer to as the 'Hawthorn Oasis' an unlikely area of Hawthorn just beyond the Charca Negra, today in full blossom but in the autumn full of berries and Ring Ouzel! On this visit a singing Melodious Warbler and shortly after another target bird for today, Orphean Warbler, in fact, two the latter observed while having lunch. Also while here a couple of Woodchat Shrike, around (30+) Red-billed Chough and a singing Corn Bunting.

Woodchat Shrike

A fantastic ascent where at our highest point the Pasarela Mirador at1600 meters the temperature got down to 13C. Very much the same on the descent with our final stop at the lower quarry, which I didn't actually know existed, there's local knowledge for you! Here we were back to 26C but spent a short time searching the shrubs and scrub for Spectacled Warbler, another target species. Nothing at first but patience paid off when a couple of Dartford Warblers appeared and it wasn't until just prior to leaving when a singing Spectacled Warbler alerted us to a single bird, which offered the briefest of views before we headed off.

One of two Dartford Warblers

A brilliant day and some of the best birding I've enjoyed in Southern Spain, made even more of an event by the company, haven't laughed so much in years!! 

Spanish Marbled White

Black-eared Wheatear

Azure-winged Magpie (now renamed Iberian Magpie)

Monday, May 23, 2022

πŸ“– Fuente & PeΓ±arrubia ~ Birding Spain πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ May 2022

🌀26C Monday 23rd May 2022 A day out with Derek Etherton an ex-pat local birder who I met some years ago. Our first stop today was due to be El Torcal renowned as one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe. This would be my first visit there since 2015. 
Unfortunately the closer we got it became apparent that with the strong winds and low cloud there was no point going on so we diverted to our next destination, Fuente de Piedra. By the time we passed through Antequera, the wind had dissipated and we were back to blue skies.

As with my last visit a week ago, there was still plenty of water in the smaller Lagunas but the main lake had receded even further meaning that most of the birds were becoming a little distant. First, a stop at the entrance to scan the wires and tower produced Barn Owl, three Black Kite, Lesser Kestrel and a Raven. The Cerro del Palo pool held an amazing 42 Glossy Ibis, plus Avocet, Black-winged Stilts and a single Black-tailed Godwit.

A large number of Glossy Ibis today!

The water was still high enough to cover the scrapes at Sedero los Albinas and a walk along the boardwalk failed to produce any waders but Cetti's Warbler and Reed Warbler along the reeds and Black-winged Stilt out in the centre. The walk back to the Mirador produced Zitting Cisticola, Corn Bunting, HoopoeSardinian Warbler, and Yellow Wagtail.

Western Yellow Wagtail ~ Motacilla flava

It was another warm one today and we spent time in the shade up at the mirador scanning the main Laguna. Here Derek located the long-staying Lesser Flamingo (information HERE) and we enjoyed some reasonable scoped Views. It's my first European sighting of the smallest Flamingo in the world, which I last saw in Kenya over 40 years ago! Also of note flying amongst the many Greater Flamingos were a couple of Black Terns.

Greater Flamingo at Fuente de Piedra 

At the Observatorio El Laguneto, a few Gull-billed Terns were fishing and on the water, a Black-necked Grebe was feeding a single youngster. Other wildfowl included Little GrebeRed-crested Pochard, Pochard, Marbled Duck, Gadwall, Shelduck and White-headed Duck.

Red-crested Pochard

Derek drove me to an area I'd not known about before which had been flooded some weeks ago and had produced many waders but sadly the area was now dry! He did however show me a large population of nesting Spanish Sparrows which we watched for a while taking nest materials from nearby tamarisk over to their nesting site in a copse of eucalyptus trees. Also while here Lesser KestrelBee-eater and Stonechat.

Male Spanish Sparrow

A short stop on route home at Observatorio de buitres en PeΓ±arrubia a small mountain range home to several species of interest, mainly rock-dwelling. The numerous existing ledges and cracks serve as innkeepers and roosts for Griffon Vultures, with six seen during the visit. Four Peregrines were also noted, two of which were likely juveniles and both Alpine Swifts and Red-billed Chough were constantly seen along the skyline.

Observatorio de buitres en PeΓ±arrubia

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.


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