Monday, November 28, 2022

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Cadiz ~ Spain 28/11/2022

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Monday 28th November 2022 πŸŒ€ 20C ~ Wind NW @ 8MPH ~ With Dazza now on her holidays for the next week we decided to drive to Cadiz for an overnight stay, taking in the Cazalla Bird Observatory at Tarifa and La Janda on our way through. 

Griffon Vulture flies low over the observatory at Cazalla.

As you would expect the bird observatory was relatively quiet with most of the species you'd normally see here migrating across to Africa in the autumn now gone. However, there appeared to be quite an ongoing passage of Griffon Vultures even this late in the year and we counted around forty birds during a brief stop. Indeed, by the time we reached the turn-off to La Janda about 40 minutes later, we'd managed well over 100 birds.

Black-winged Kite ~ One of three seen today around La Janda

We took our normal anti-clockwise route around La Janda beginning opposite the turnoff to Zahara on the N340 and spent a few hours stopping/starting along the tracks. Despite a lot of species absent due to the time of year, there's still plenty to see and a full list of our sightings for today can be found HERE

Some large gatherings of Spoonbill at La Janda ~ This one separated briefly from one group.

In the winter months, it's a great place to see Cranes with 100s overwintering and along with the Cranes, White Storks, Spoonbills and Glossy Ibis can also be found in good numbers. 

Rice fields were being prepared for next year with Cattle Egrets following close behind.

With the rice fields now being prepared for next year, there are plenty of water channels to investigate but the sun's reflection can be quite harsh at this time of year, particularly as you look directly into it from the trackside. Green Sandpipers were in good numbers and Black-winged Stilt, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Snipe, LapwingGreenshank and Little-ringed Plover were all noted. 

Hybrid Lesser/Greater Spotted Eagle.

A couple of Red Kites were noted today along with nine Marsh Harriers but we drew a blank on Hen Harriers (a wintering species here). Still, we did manage views of an Eagle Sp. in our search for a Lesser-spotted Eagle and I've been informed since that the above bird is likely a hybrid Lesser/Greater Spotted Eagle which is known to the area.

Stonechats (at least 15 seen today) like Chiffchaff have been seen in good numbers throughout our stay.

Passerines of note today included Spanish Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, Black Redstart, Blackcap, Serin, Zitting Cisticola and over twenty wintering Chiffchaffs, the latter of which have been in large numbers during most outings in Spain throughout the past few weeks. 

If you are interested in the history of La Janda there's a good article called 'The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of La Janda' which can be found HERE

A Few More Images of the Day...

Another of the hybrid Eagle

Cattle Egret at one of the water pumps

Marsh Harrier ~ One of at least 9 seen today

A group of Spoonbills on the open rice fields

Thursday, November 24, 2022

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Guadalhorce Revisit ~ Spain 24/11/2022

 πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Thursday 24th November 2022 πŸŒ€ 20C ~ Wind ESE @ 3MPH ~ A few hours at Guadalhorce today and after hearing of a recent reintroduction of Marbled Duck to the site I was hopeful of catching a glimpse. I was unsure how many birds had been released and which Laguna would be best to find them but by sheer luck, I found four birds huddled together on the southern end of the Laguna de la Casilla. 

Marbled Duck at Guadalhorce

During this brief visit today, I decided to spend my time at just two of the hides, and my next stop was Laguna Escondida. Still, no sign of any White-headed Duck here and I've been told since that they have all but abandoned the site due to recent mosquito spraying. A real shame as this was my go-to place for this rare and quirky-looking duck. While here around (80) Shoveler, (4) Little Grebe, Kingfisher and towards the rear of the pool feeding between the reeds (5) Pochard and single drake Ferruginous Duck.

Closer views of the Black-necked Grebes 

Like Monday's visit the Laguna Grande held a large number of Cormorant and Shelduck and today the Black-necked Grebes had increased to nine and were a little closer to the hide.

Slender-billed Gull Laguna Grande

Guadalhorce can be an excellent place to find Slender-billed Gulls and I managed to pick out a single bird along with Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls.

With so many Black-winged Stilts at Guadalhorce bickering is a common sight.

Yellow-legged Gull ~ Laguna Grande

Site details can be found HERE or by clicking on the SPAINπŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ link at the top of the blog.

A FULL-LIST of today's site visit can be found HERE

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Cantera Los Arenales ~ Spain 23/11/2022

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Wednesday 23rd November 2022 πŸŒ€ 21C ~ Wind NW @ 8MPH ~My first look at Cantera Los Arenales since the massive wildfire in July and a visit full of trepidation. Thankfully the parking area and surrounding quarry were still intact but after setting off up towards Puerto de la Graja it became quite clear that the whole area had been devastated!

Left ~ The quarry just above the carpark ~ Right ~ The devastation becomes clear pretty quickly.

The fire ended up scorching 1,870 hectares in the municipalities of Mijas, Alhaurin el Grande and AlhaurΓ­n de la Torre with over 3,000 people evacuated. At the point of writing it's still unclear as to whether the fire was started deliberately or not!

The fire at its peak

Despite the devastation, I decided to walk the entirety of what is normally my turnaround point at Puerto de la Graja, just short of 3,000ft. By this stage Crested Tit, Firecrest and Short-toed Treecreeper would be a regular sighting but the silence was deafening, although occasionally I would hear a Crossbill as it transited overhead. 

This Peregrine Falcon passes unrewarded

While at the very top, a lone Chaffinch passed just below me followed by a sudden woosh of air which gave up a Peregrine in hot pursuit. Thankfully for the Chaffinch, the Peregrine passed by some moments later unrewarded.

Incredibly this Palm emerges from inside a burnt-out husk

Despite the devastation, there are signs of recovery with Palms and Flax-leaved Daphne starting to emerge. 

Lang's Short-tailed Blue butterfly.

Common Darter

On one now well-established plant a Lang's Short-tail Blue butterfly perches and on a scorched and burnt piece of wood, a Common Darter takes a breather, nature is such a robust and wonderful thing.  

Black Wheatear

Dartford Warbler

Female Sardinian Warbler

Having returned to the car I spent some time around the carpark searching the vegetation and rock face and ended on a positive note with a few of the species that reside here Black Wheatear, Dartford Warbler and Sardinian Warbler.

The view from Puerto de la Graja

Monday, November 21, 2022

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Guadalhorce ~ Spain 21/11/2022

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Monday 21st November 2022 πŸŒ€ 21C ~ Wind NW @ 6MPH My first visit to Guadalhorce this trip ended up with a creditable 58 species in just over 4 hours. Site details can be found HERE or by clicking on the SPAINπŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ link at the top of the blog.

A foraging Hoopoe on the wasteground 

After parking at the church, I always spend time checking out the treeline and reedbeds on the left of the roadside as I make my way down to the reserve. There was plenty of water and plenty of activity today with at least a half dozen Chiffchaff, (3) Blackcaps and (2) Black Redstarts. Midway down is an enclosed section of wasteground on the opposite side, always worth a look and here a Hoopoe was busy foraging.

Crag Martins ~ Which come down to ground level during the winter months.

A few Crag Martins as I crossed the Guadalhorce bridge before entering the reserve and also along the banks a Grey Heron, Little Egret and a Kingfisher.  As I made my way to my first stop at the Laguna de la Casilla an Osprey drifted silently overhead.

The Laguna de la Casilla was particularly quiet with the only species of note being (4) Little Grebe but just as I was leaving I managed to get a glimpse of a Booted Eagle which flew along the del Rio Viejo.  Before I reached the screen which overlooks the old river I could hear the Black-winged Stilts (Guadalhorce has a large population) and there were (8) feeding below, along with a single Ringed Plover but the quiet theme continued.

A surprise Stone Curlew 

Things improved as I walked down to the de Aves Marinas with Greenshank, Dunlin, Sanderling and more Black-winged Stilts on the old river but I was caught out by a Stone Curlew and just managed to get a record shot as the bird flew past towards the Laguna Grande.

(2) Sandwich Terns, this one heading in towards the Rio Viejo.

I spent a short time at the Marinas looking out to sea with Gannet, Yellow-legged Gulls, Great-black-blacked Gulls and (2) Sandwich Terns before a walk along the beach to my final stop at the Laguna Grande.

Black-necked Grebe ~ Six today on the Laguna Grande

The water levels had reduced considerably since my last visit in April and there was plenty of activity here. The open water was covered in Shelduck, somewhere in the region of 250 and an even larger number of Cormorants were perched all around the laguna. 

Grey Plover ~ Laguna Grande

Also on the water Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and (6) Black-necked Grebe, which can be found here all year round. Waders included (2) Little EgretSanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-winged Stilt, (2) Grey Plover, (7) Avocet and a single but distant Spotted Redshank. (9) Greater Flamingo and (2) Spoonbill were also noted but asleep for the whole time during my stay. 

Crimson Speckled Moth

On the walk around to my final stop of the day the Laguna Escondida, a nice find was the above Crimson Speckled moth, which I've recorded several times over the years in southern Spain. The laguna held a large number of Shoveler and is the best place on the reserve to find White-headed Ducks but sadly I didn't manage a single one during my stop, the first time I've failed in over 10 years of visiting!

A FULL LIST of the site visit can be found HERE

Finally on the way back to the car I spotted a large Vulture-type bird which came in from the north circling the reserve high overhead. As the poor photographs above show this was a particular scruffy bird, which looked like it had gone through the mill. A difficult call as the photos show little detail due to the position of the sun and overcast conditions but having discussed it with friends and passed it to some local Andalusian birders the general consensus is a probable 2nd year Griffon Vulture but I still remain unconvinced! 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Parque De La Paloma ~ Spain 20/11/2022

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Sunday 20th November 2022🌞 21C ~ Wind NW @ 5MPH The weather today was beautiful with crystal clear skies, a light breeze and a pleasant temperature of 21C.

Monarch Butterfly

Lunch in the nearby town of Benalmadena and an opportunity for a stroll around the Parque De La Paloma, where there's an excellent colony of Monarch butterflies. There was certainly plenty on the wing and we estimated around 40/50 were seen during our walk. 

Painted Lady

Also on the wing were a few Painted Ladies and of course, you can't help but come across the small groups of noisy and marauding Monk Parakeets

Monk Parakeet

Spent the afternoon and early evening on the terrace with the usual selection of species and joined today briefly by a passing Firecrest.

iPhone photo ~ Stunning sunset showing the distant mountains of Morocco and Africa

The sunset was spectacular and with the crystal clear air, I don't think I've ever seen Morocco showing so well across the Alboran Sea, simply amazing!

Saturday, November 19, 2022

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ On The Terrace ~ Spain 19/11/2022

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈSaturday 19th November 2022🌀 16C ~ Wind NW @ 8MPH I arrived in Spain yesterday morning in the heavy rain, very welcome rain by all accounts, for a 2-week stay at my friend's villa in Mijas. So with improved conditions, today was spent just chilling out on the terrace taking in the host of species that reside here.

Crested Tit ~ The one bird I always look forward to seeing daily.

Crested Tits are regular visitors to the grounds and if you sit patiently (with a beer or two) there quite happy to come and pose for a photo.

The elusive Sardinian Warbler.

Sardinian Warblers breed here and are resident all year round in the gardens and also at this time of year up to a half-dozen Black Redstarts arrive to spend the winter. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs are here too in smaller numbers and Red-legged Partridge are often calling from further down the hill and can occasionally come up to the villa to forage. There's a slow but constant movement overhead with Crag Martins coming lower down the mountains for the winter months and Common Crossbills are a regular fly-by. Today a couple of Ravens, Common Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk were also noted.

There are a few butterflies still on the wing and the gardens make good habitat for Lang's Short-tailed Blues, with several seen today feeding on the Lantana. 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

πŸ“– Dusky Warbler ~ Forvie Sand Loch 12/11/2022

Saturday 12th November 2022🌀 14C ~ Wind S @ 5MPH An expected trip this morning to Forvie Sand Loch for a reported Dusky Warbler. The bird was first reported on the ABZ Whatsapp group at Slains Cottages Collieston at 10:50 but by 11:15 had relocated to bushes on the Loch corner.

My first attempt at the Dusky Warbler ~ Unfortunately with the sun directly behind the bird!

I arrived just before noon, parked at the Forvie Nature Centre and walked down to the area where four other birders were searching. It took a half hour or so before I finally heard the bird calling from the nearby bushes, that unmistakable clicking 'teck', quite similar to a Lesser Whitethroat. The bird was a little elusive staying relatively close to the ground but showed well intermittently over the short period I was on site. I was grateful to a local Wren, whose patch the Dusky Warbler had invaded and which would chase the bird off on occasion, where it would show briefly in the open. 

Dusky Warbler in the sunshine ~ A few seconds earlier & I'd have had the money shot!

I managed a few record shots of the bird, which was frequently calling but unfortunately these were in direct sunlight, apart from the one which I managed with the sun behind. Nevertheless a very welcome Aberdeenshire and Scottish tick. 

More Record Images...

BUBO Listing
NEW Scottish Life-List Since Relocating Permanently to Aberdeenshire in October 2020

Friday, November 04, 2022

πŸ“– Lesser Yellowlegs ~ Loch of Strathbeg 04/11/2022

Friday 4th November 2022🌀 10C ~ Wind WNW @ 8MPH ~ My weekly morning visit to Strathbeg today and along with the amazing spectacle of Whooper Swans, Barnacle Geese and Pink-footed Geese the added bonus of Lesser Yellowlegs which had first been reported yesterday. The Lesser Yellowlegs had been seen from the nature centre before my arrival today but a comment mentioned that it could likely be better viewed from the Dunbar Hide, so this was going to be my first stop. 

Whooper Swans ~ Strathbeg

A quick pause at Crimond Graveyard for Corn Bunting, where I managed two perched up on the phone wires opposite and then the usual sight of at least ten Tree sparrows on the feeders as I drove into the car park. Amazing to think that both of these national rarities are not as uncommon in Aberdeenshire.

Good numbers of Linnet around the farmland route ~ Strathbeg

The walk to the Dunbar Hide produced Reed BuntingYellowhammer, Linnet, Skylark and more Tree Sparrows, along with a Water Rail, which called from the reedbeds just as I arrived. With recent heavy rains, the low ground held much more water since my last visit with plenty of flooded areas to explore. I'd literally just organised myself when a Marsh Harrier flew directly in front of the hide, fortunately, the camera was at the ready!

Marsh Harrier from Dunbar Hide

Two Little Egrets to start and after searching through the many Lapwing and smaller groups of Golden Plover, Dunlin and the odd Redshank there was no initial sign of the Lesser Yellowlegs, that was until a Sparrowhawk flew through. I picked the bird out in the mayhem that followed among the many Lapwing in flight and followed it before it settled along the edge of one of the pools. The bird never came any closer to the hide during my stay but I did manage a few distant record shots of the bird, which was occasionally moved on by an unhappy Redshank.

Best of the bunch of record shots ~ Lesser Yellowlegs

Back at the centre, a look over Starnafin Pools before heading off held GoldeneyeWigeon, Teal and Shoveler, plus a single Pintail. More waders with at least (11) Snipe, (23) Dunlin and a single Black-tailed Godwit before a Great White Egret flew in.

Great White Egret ~ Starnafin Pools