A day with the Axarquia Bird Group.
I started out from home at around 07:30 and headed for Laguna Herrera which is not too far from Antequera over in Malaga Province. The area was still sodden and many of the fields were extremely water logged, the Lagoon was full to over flowing which meant doing the circular route that I used to do was not possible as the track on the northern edge was flooded. Anyway on the drive along the track to the lake I could hear Lark species calling and singing constantly, these included Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Crested (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis) which were joined by Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and surprisingly by a displaying Northern Lapwing (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus) which was performing aerobatics over the first pool on the right of the track. In the ditch a couple of Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula) were chasing each other around and harassing a nice male Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) and a pair of Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata). Out on the flooded field good numbers of both Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Gaviota Sombria / Larus fuscus) were loafing around on the mud while several Black-winged Stilts (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) and hordes of White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) were feeding on the margins. The main Lagoon was quite quiet, there were lots more Gulls, loads of Eurasian Coots (Focha Común / Fulica atra), a few Common Moorhens (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus) and a single Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) which flew in from the fields and landed in the remains of the reedbeds. At this point I discovered that the track was flooded so retraced my way back to the main road and went around the site from the other direction, on my way back out to the road I added Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris). Once off the road again I started to see Larks again with a couple of nice big groups of Calandras flying over the track. Along the first stretch I also picked up a couple of Little Owls (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) siting on the tops of the water outlets in the fields, a Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallingao gallinago) which flushed up from a ditch, House Sparrow (Gorrión Común Passer domesticus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla) and Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa). I then turned back along the track towards the Lagoon and in the large trackside ditch found a couple of Green Sandpipers (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), lots of Song Thrushes (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) which came up out of the reeds, a Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) which was sat on a wire along with a group of Linnets (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and a Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus). Down near the pool a Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis) dipped across the road and a Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica) flew along perching on the wires infront of me. On the pool the only new birds were a small flock of Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), a single Common Starling (Estornino Pinto / Sturnus vulgaris) in with around 20 or so Spotless Starlings (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and a couple of Shelducks (Tarro Blanco / Tadorna tadorna). I then came to the flooded part of the track so I turned around and went back to the junction in the track but went straight on instead of turning left and followed the large drainage ditch out towards Mollina, along here there were several flooded fields which had large numbers of Gulls on them which were joined by several other species including 8 Dunlin (Correlimos Común / Calidris alpina) and a dozen or so immature Greater Flamingo's (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus roseus). Other species seen before I reached the motorway were Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti).
I then made a quick stop of at a picnic area near Humilladero where I checked out an area of Pine woodland near the entrance and quickly added Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilargo / Sylvia undata), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) and a flock of 5 or 6 Siskin (Lúgano / Carduelis spinus) which appear to be much commoner this winter than usual.
I was by now running a little late for the bird group meeting so shot off to the visitors centre at Fuente de Piedra where I met up with the rest of the birders, we went up and around the side of the centre and scanned the main lagoon from the side of the building. From here we could see some of the several thousand Greater Flamingo's which were on the site, along with huge numbers of Northern Shovelers (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata),a couple of dozen Shelducks, a female Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) and a group of 3 Black-necked Grebes (Zampullín Cullinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) which were diving out on the main Lagoon. We then moved on around to the main view point with the oak tree where we were swamped by a very noisy group of school children who were soon quietened down with a few strong words of Spanish from Andy Patterson, from this watch point we did not add any new species so we headed around to the smaller of the two hides. On the small pool we saw Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) before moving around to the hide which gives views over the larger lake, here we picked up 4 Tufted Ducks (Porrón Monudo / Aythya fuligula), Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera), plus more nice Black-necked Grebe and lots of Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca). I then walked back to the view point and along the pool margins birding with Andy Patterson, we did not add any new species but had a good chat and put a few parts of the world to rights !! From the far side of the board walk we started to find good numbers of passerines including several small flocks of Corn Buntings and House Sparrows which had small numbers of Reed Buntings ( Escribano Palustre / Emberiza schoeniclus) and a single male Spanish Sparrow (Gorrión Moruno / Passer hispaniolensis) mixed in with them. We walked out to the road and then turned back and added singles of both Cattle (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) and Little Egrets (Garceta Común / Egreeta garzetta) the day list. We then went back to our cars and started to make our way anti-clock wise around the reserve, I was just out on the road when Andy rang me to say he had relocated the Ruff (Combatiente / Philomachus pugnax) which John Wainwright had seen earlier so I turned around and had a look at this bird which was on the far shore of the pool on the exit road along with a couple of Snipe. On the largish pool to the west of the lagoon I had driveby views of a flock of Northern Lapwings with around 30 or so Golden Plovers (Chorlito Dorado Europeo / Pluvialis apricaia) mixed in with it along with a couple of feeding Avocets (Avoceta Común / Recurvirostra avosetta). We then moved around the lake between the Olive groves and cerial fields until we came upon a flock of Common Cranes (Grulla Común / Grus grus), in the same area we picked a Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) before we moved off to the nearby view point. A couple more Marsh Harriers were seen from here including a nicely plumaged Male bird which sat in on of the willow near the reed beds for some time. From this point we also saw Purple Swamp-hen (Calamon Común / Porphyrio porphyrio), Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea), Raven (Cuervo / Corvus corax) and Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula).
I then spilt off from the party and while they went for some lunch I headed for Laguna Dulce which was quite disappointing, the lagoon appeared almost devoid of birds but with a quick scan I did manage to locate a small flock of White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala), a Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and a very distant Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) perched up on a dead tree on the far shore.
I then headed back towards home, on the way I picked up a couple of Great Cormorants (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo) perched in a dead tree near Archidona and several flocks of Woodpigeons (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) which flew over the motorway. Once I was back on the local patch I added a few more species to my day list including a very smart male Brambling (Pizón Real / Fringilla montifringilla) which perched in a leafless fig tree along with several Azure-winged Magpies and a male Blackcap. I then had a look along the river and scanned the fields on the northern back where I found the immature male Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus) which Juan Perez and I had seen a few days ago but the star birds were a flock of 28 Stock Doves (Paloma Zurita / Columba oenas) which were mixed in with larger numbers of Woodpigeons. I then headed off home and picked up the final and 80th species of the day a Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major) which was on the feeder in my garden.
I saw 80 species of bird during the day topped by the Stock Doves which are quite a rare species down here in Andalucia.
Thanks Bob for organising the day which I greatly enjoyed.
Photographs from the top: Laguna Herrera first thing, Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus), male Spanish Sparrow (Gorrión Moruno / Passer hispaniolensis) on right, Common Cranes (Grulla Común / Grus grus), Greater Flamingo's (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus roseus), view of Fuente from the southern shore and a birdless Laguna Dulce.