Sunday, April 30, 2023

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ ~ Spain Visit Pictorial Spring 2023

Thought I'd try something different and post some of the sightings I've managed at the halfway point during my latest visit to Spain. A visit to the La ConcepciΓ³n JardΓ­n BotΓ‘nico-Historico de MΓ‘laga, A drive around the Rio Grande and of course around the gardens and terrace of the villa. I hope you enjoy them!

A quick snap of a Firecrest while taking a breather walking around the Botanical Gardens in Malaga

A female Blackcap takes time out for a bath at the Botanical Gardens

A few large water features around the gardens provide a perfect opportunity ~ Black-tailed Skimmer 

A Serin taking advantage of the water features

Basking in the sun this Turtle ~ Not sure of the I'd but fits Mesoamerican Slider, which would mean an introduced species at the Botanical Gardens.

A Common Buzzard over the villa terrace ~ Always looks different in the bright Spanish sunlight.

A noisy Iberian Green Frog 

Scarlet Darter ~ Botanical Gardens

Orange-winged Dropwing ~ I suppose it does what it says on the tin

A Serin takes shade in the garden

Watching these amazing Bee-eaters along the Rio Grande

Another Bee-eater performs aerobatics over the Rio Grande.

A Cattle Egret from the car window while driving the Rio Grande ~ Luxury Birding!

Western Yellow Wagtail along the Rio Grande

Singing Crested Lark ~ Rio Grande

A Hoopoe forages as I park under some tree cover along the Rio Grande

A Swallowtail butterfly visits the terrace

A Lang's short-tailed Blue ~ A regular to the villa gardens

Another occasional visitor to the garden terrace is a Western Dappled White

A Wood White during a woodland walk at Refugio de Juanar

A Clouded Yellow visits the garden

Booted Eagle over the Villa

We watched from the villa as a wildfire in Mijas is brought under control quickly by the amazing Spanish firefighters. Memories of last year's devastating wildfire come flashing back.

Friday, April 28, 2023

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Sierra de Loja ~ Spain 28/04/2023

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Friday 28th April 2023 πŸŒ€ 25C ~ Wind SE @ 20MPH ~A day out at Sierra de Loja with Pete Worthy one of the Brandon Marsh Conservation Team members I worked with back in Warwickshire currently over on holiday. The unprecedented April heatwave continues as Cordoba breaks the all-time April record of 37.6C. It was a little cooler up in the mountains but we still experienced temperatures of 25C. (35C at ground level) An often strong breeze also brought a welcoming cooling effect.

Sierra de Loja is a limestone massif and its highest point is Sierra Gords at 1,671 metres. It is also an open and beautiful but remote and sparse place. In winter it is covered in snow and ice. 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, although I had a feeling the windy conditions would make things a little challenging today. You access the track that leads up to the top at the Los Abades service area exit off the A92 road to Granada.

After coffee & croissant at the services, we began along the dirt track investigating the woodland area before beginning our ascent. Here a couple of calling Western Bonelli's Warblers remained elusive and also here Serin, Goldfinch, Mistle ThrushCrested Tit, Chaffinch and Azure-wing Magpie, now renamed Iberian Magpie, which seems much less colourful to me!

Southeastern Spanish Ibex (now reclassified)

After clearing the woodland the initial ascent produced a couple of Iberian Ibex, Thekla Lark, a constant today and Common Swift before we reached our first stop at the quarry, some 1500ft.

Pied Flycatcher ~ tucked away in the vegetation.

A walk around the quarry, which has now been fenced off, produced StonechatBlack Wheatear, more Thekla Lark our first Red-billed Choughs of the day along with a few Jackdaws and a surprise Pied Flycatcher. A group of Spotless Starlings were nesting in the crevices and as ever Red-legged Partridges were scurrying around.

Rock Bunting ~ My favourite bunting!

A stop/start affair as per normal, picking up Northern WheatearRock Bunting and Black-eared Wheater, one of seven seen today before we paused at the 'fossil cave' for a snack and to get the scopes out for a scan. 

Smart-looking Rock Sparrow

A couple of Kestrels and a small group of Rock Sparrows were chattering away before we finally located a smart-looking individual on the rocks. A group of Crag Martins were busily scouting the area and scanning the cliff tops a few Blue Rock Thrush, several Black Redstarts and more Chough. All found by sight as since my last visit in November two huge turbines have been erected and the noise was drowning out any chance of hearing birdcalls! 

Singing Orphean Warbler making use of the hawthorn cover!

At the Charca Negra turn, we headed down to what I refer to as the 'Hawthorn Oasis' an unlikely area of Hawthorn, today in full blossom but providing a berry feast for migrating Ring Ouzels in the autumn. Two Woodchat Shrikes and a singing Orphean Warbler, along with Linnet, Corn Bunting, more Rock Sparrows, Chough and Black Wheatear.

Another Black-eared Wheatear on the descent

Another scope session picked up at least six distant and high Griffon Vultures, the wind playing its part here but nothing more of interest before we began our descent. The descent was much of the same, unfortunately dipping on the sought-after Common Rock Thrush and stopping at the lower quarry for Spectacled Warbler and Dartford Warbler only produced the latter. Heard but not seen today Hoopoe and Cuckoo but an excellent visit in good company nonetheless. 

Thekla Larks ~ A constant companion at Sierra de Loja

Even in the windy conditions, a few butterflies to be found ~ Knapweed Fritillary

Two Woodchat Shrike today

The attractive-looking Red-legged Partridge

Province Orange-Tip ~ A very colourful and flighty species

Panoptes Blue ~ A tiny butterfly and a 1st for me!

Monday, April 24, 2023

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Fuente de Piedra ~ Spain 24/04/2023

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Monday 25th April 2023 πŸŒž30C ~ Wind SE @ 3MPH ~An early morning and chilly start at Fuente de Piedra arriving at sunrise to just 8C and clear skies. As I drove slowly onto the reserve, parking next to the pool on your left when you enter the reserve ('the disappearing pool') I could see immediately there was plenty to look forward to. *('the disappearing pool') This pool will be devoid of water in a few weeks!

Around 50 or so Greater Flamingos on the Cerro del Palo

A large gathering of Greater Flamingos, many Avocets, Pochard and Black-winged Stilt on the water and from the car I could make out at least ten Common Sandpipers, plus Little-ringed Plovers, Ruff and a few Little Stints feeding around the peripheral. 

A Purple Heron directly overhead

After parking, I made my way over to Sedero las Albinas for a walk across the boardwalk. In fact, I'd only made it halfway when a Purple Heron flew directly over my head! The lagoon was awash with birds and along with a few local photographers, I spent an hour enjoying the scene from the boardwalk. It's no exaggeration to say that I've never experienced so many different wader species in one small area and, provided you were quiet, the birds were extremely tolerant.

At least 17 Curlew Sandpipers mostly in breeding plumage.

The best way to give a further account of this part of the visit is to write a short pictorial of the species noted and this follows below.

Black-winged Stilt ~ Various numbers on the lagoons

Water Rail ~ Just a single bird noted. Seemed to be the main attraction for the photographers!

Ringed Plover ~ A count of seven on the lagoon

Little-ringed Plover ~ Display flight in evidence & lots of chasing around.

Glossy Ibis ~ A nice group of 16 birds on the Sedero las Albinas

Ruff ~ Great to see one almost in breeding plumage.

Little Stint ~ I counted 15 but could have easily been more.

Wood Sandpiper ~ Just a single bird noted today.

Spotted Redshank ~ Always nice to see in near-summer plumage.

Avocet ~ Good numbers around most areas of the reserve.

After the boardwalk, I had a quick walk to check out a few agricultural fields and scoped at least four Stone Curlew in the heat haze, the temperature was now well on the rise. 

The first of five Woodchat Shrikes seen today.

The first of five Woodchat Shrikes were also noted, plus a couple of Yellow Wagtails, one a Motacilla flava iberiae. As I made my way back across the boardwalk to begin my walk along the path that runs adjacent to the main laguna it seems I stumbled upon quite a rarity for the sight, a Grasshopper Warbler. Actually, I wasn't aware of this fact until I uploaded my report on Ebird when shortly after I received an email requiring more data. I only heard the bird, which was reeling for some time but had the good sense to record it on my Merlin App and so have updated my sighting report.

Gull-billed Tern ~ One of a number of birds commuting from the main lagoon across to the Laguneta.

A central track runs left from the centre and leads between mixed agricultural fields and the main lagoon, it ends at a railway crossing around a kilometre away. Despite being well protected by treeline there are a few areas where you can get reasonable long-distance views of the Lagoon. Unfortunately, the lagoon is extremely low on water and I estimate that less than 200 Greater Flamingos are currently on site. Lots of Shelduck and Gull-billed Terns and I managed to pick out two Kentish Plover on the salt flats.

Reed Warbler

Along the walk, CuckooReed WarblerZitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Nightingale, Stonechat, three more Woodchat Shrike and a single Spotted Flycatcher were the best, along with many House Sparrows.

A pair of Red-crested Pochard on the Lagunetta

My next stop was the Lagunetta Hide, where most of the waterfowl can be found and today there was a good selection. (5) Marbled Duck, Pochard, (6) Red-crested Pochard, (5) Black-necked Grebe along with Little Grebes, (5) White-headed Duck, (2) Northern Shoveler and (15) Gadwall. A Turtle Dove could also be heard and over towards the town on a large chimney stack I was happy to see the White Stork nest is still there with a single bird in residence. A creditable 72 species were noted today!

And the Best of the Rest... 

Glossy Ibis

Bee-eater ~ Taken on a drive of the reserve

Lesser Kestrel ~ 2 seen today.

Crested Lark

Curlew Sandpiper



Stone Curlew

Corn Bunting