Saturday 14 January 2012

Sierra Morena, Anduja, Jaen Province.

A Day of not looking in the right direction or being in the wrong place.

Black Vulture (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus).
I met Juan Perez at the usual place in Granada and we set off north for a change heading for Sierra Morena looking for the Iberian Lynx (lince iberico / Lynx pardina). We were meeting Manu, Silvia and Marisa at a bar near to the site at 09:00 which was why we set off a bit later than normal at 07:00. I had met Manu on several occasions doing the RAM sea bird surveys but it was the first time I had seen Silvia or Marisa. Whilst we were waiting for them to arrive we picked up a couple of Hawfinches (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes) in a tree nearby, heard and eventually saw a Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and watched lots of Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki) as they fed on the far side of the road. When the others arrived we drove the 14km or so to the site, which was easier than the last visit as the road had had some work do on it. Once we were on the dirt track all eyes were peeled as we were really getting into the area for the Lynx, I was looking off to the right and slightly behind when Juan had a Wildcat (Felis silvestris) run across the road in front of the car which I missed. 
Black Vulture (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus).
A little further on we picked up a fine Stag Fallow Deer (Dama dama) lying down under the Oak trees watching several females nearby. We decided to drive down to the dam first and have a look for the Wallcreeper (Treparriscos / Tichodroma muraria) which had been wintering in the area for the last few years but there was no sign, but we had good views of Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), more Hawfinches, Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros).
After a while we want back up to the Lynx area and settled down and searched the valleys and rocky outcrops nearby. After a while I had a walk back down towards the dam to see what birds were around, almost straight a way two Black Vultures (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus) flew passed very low and headed up towards Juan and the others. In the area I also picked up a Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) and along way off on a ridge a male Mouflon (Ovis orientalis). 
Black Vulture (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus).
On the walk back up the hill an immature Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) did a low fly past and a single Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) circled over a nearby hill.
Once back with the other we picked up Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Great (Carbonero Común / Parus major) and Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) and Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis). An adult and two young Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) came up the valley to the side of us giving good views, more Fallow Deer were picked out and Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) and Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) were added to the Mammal list. I then had a walk off in the other direction and had a chat with to English birders and soon wished I had not as ignorance was bliss till they told me that at 09:00 they had had the Lynx down to 25 metres and had the shots to prove it and they showed me some crackers. I went back to the others with the news and the two lads who showed the shot around again. 
Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus).
It was well into the afternoon by now and the cloud cover was just starting to break which meant that the Vultures started to get airborne, several Blacks and Griffons were picked up as was a stunning adult Spanish Imperial which showed well for at least 10 minutes. Eventually the clouds completely cleared but by this time they were casting very long shadows and a short while later we had to call it a day and admit defeat in our hunt for views of the Lynx but there are always the memories from my last three visits and the thoughts of the next. On the way back we stopped for a drink and after a chat we said our goodbyes and headed home.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga Province.

Tying things in with a trip to Ikea.

Kingfisher (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis).
Jayne and I headed down towards Malaga to go and collect the last two cupboards needed to complete our kitchen from Ikea, on the way I dropped Jayne off at the Larios shopping centre and then drove on wards to Guadalhorce. As soon as I parked I was greeted with cracking views of a Kingfisher (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis) which was fishing from some of the riverside rocks along with a Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta). 
Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta).
On the sandier margins there was a single Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), around 20 Sanderling (Correlimos Tridáctilo / Calidris alba) and at least 12 Kentish Plover (Chorlitejo Patinegro / Charadrius alexandrinus). Out at sea I quickly picked up around half the flock of 30 Common Scoters (Negrón Común / Melanitta nigra) Andy Patterson had reported earlier in the month (www.birdingthecosta.com), Mediterranean (Gaviota Cabecinegra / Larus melanocephalus), Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis), Northern Gannet (Alcatraz Atlántico / Morus bassanus) and Balearic Shearwater (Pardela Balear / Puffinus mauretanicus). I then walked along the beach to the entrance track into the reserve, on the way I picked up Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Monk Parakeet (Cotorra Argentina / Myiopsitta monachus). 
Kentish Plover (Chorlitejo Patinegro / Charadrius alexandrinus).
I walked on to the reserve and to the hide overlooking the main pool, White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala), Black-necked Grebe (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) and Greater Flamingo (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber) were all very quickly on the list as was a nice Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) which was pointed out to me by a Spanish birder who was already in the hide. Also here were Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera), Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo). 
White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala).
Mick Smith then joined us in the hide just before a group of school kids came in. We then decided that we would move around to the next hide where it was a little quieter and as soon as we arrived I picked up a single Purple Swamp-hen (Calamón Común / Porphyrio porphyrio) right at the back of the pool just before it disappeared out of sight behind some reeds. A couple of Spanish birders then joined us in the hide just as I picked up a distant Osprey (Águila Pescardora / Pandion haliaetus) way out over the far side of the coastal motorway. Mick and I then went off, he headed back towards the coast and I went around towards the wader hide. I went straight past the first hide on the way down to the sea watch point but had a good look from the second where I picked up several Little Ringed Plovers (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Green (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) and Common Sandpipers (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula) and Bluethroat (Pechiazul / Luscinia svecica). Further along the track to the sea watch point a couple of Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia) were roosting on a small patch of mud and several Dunlin (Correlimos Común / Calidris alpina), Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Grande / Charadrius hiaticula) and Black-winged Stilts were all franticly feeding on the far shore of the last pool before the beach.
Purple Swamp-hen (Calamón Común / Porphyrio porphyrio).
As the sea watch point was full of fishermen and their kit I went straight down on to the beach and started to wall back towards the car, as I reached the bank on the far side of the river I bumped into Mick again and we had another chat and I managed to get some quite nice shots of the Kingfisher which was still fishing from the rocks. We then had a quick look out over the sea before heading off to meet Jayne for some lunch.

Monday 9 January 2012

Laguna Herrera and Fuente de Piedra, Malaga Province.

A trip over into Malaga Province.

Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus).
Jayne had a late in the day appointment over in Fuente de Piedra so we decided that we would have a look in at the Shopping Centre at Antequera on the way and as we were in the area Laguna Herrera and the main lagoons at Fuente. Our first stop was at the bar at junction 149 off the A92 for a coffee and tostada, which went down very nicely. We then headed up the Cordoba road towards Laguna Herrera, on the track into the site there were as usual good numbers of finches, buntings and sparrows including Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus). Further out in one of the winter cereal fields 2 male and 1 female Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) were feeding amongst a large flock of Northern Lapwings (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus) and a few Golden Plover (Chorlito Dorado Europeo / Pluvialis apricaia). 
Spanish Sparrow (Gorrión Moruno / Passer hispaniolensis).
On the lagoon the most obvious species were gulls with hundreds of Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus) and Black-headed Gulls (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) bathing in the shallow water. On the margins Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus) numbers had risen from the last time I visited and had reached at least 30, a couple of Green (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) and a single Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos) were feeding amongst a few more Northern Lapwings. Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) were all perched on the overhead cables whilst Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis) were all in the reeds.
Black-tailed Godwit (Aguja Colinegra / Limosa limosa).
On the flooded fields on the opposite side of the track from the lagoon there were a good three thousand gulls either on the marginal mud or out in the water, almost all were Lesser Black-backed along with a few Black-headed.
We then went on to the Shopping Centre and then Fuente, I started with a look around the small lagoons near the wooden walk way and was very happy to find a couple of winter plumaged male Reed Buntings (Escribano Palustre / Emberiza schoeniclus) mixed in with a flock of at least 3 male Spanish Sparrow (Gorrión Moruno / Passer hispaniolensis), a good number House Sparrows and a few Corn Buntings. While I was watching the Spanish Sparrows a fine male White-spotted Bluethroat (Pechiazul / Luscinia svecica) was seen feeding on an open area of mud. 
Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber) and a single Lesser (Phoenicopterus minor).
Also in this area were Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata) and Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus). On the next larger lagoon a small flock of 5 Black-tailed Godwits (Aguja Colinegra / Limosa limosa) were a nice find in their silvery winter plumage, also on the water were a pair of Eurasian Wigeon (Silbón Europeo / Anas Penelope), lots more Northern Shovelers and Eurasian Teal and a few immature Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber). On the margins a couple of Water Pipits (Bistita Alpino / Anthus spinoletta) were strutting around with a single Grey (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) and lots of White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). 
Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber) and a single Lesser (Phoenicopterus minor).
I then moved up to the mirador below the Oak tree from where I successfully scanned through the thousands of Greater Flamingo’s and located the long staying Lesser (Phoenicopterus minor) a much redder bird with an obvious all dark bill. Also on the main lagoon I added Avocet (Avoceta Común/ Recurvirostra avosetta) a small group of 5 birds were roosting in the shallow water, 30+ Common Crane (Grulla Común / Grus grus), Shelduck (Tarro Blanco / Tadoma tadorna), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta).
I then continued on around to the two hides overlooking the freshwater pools, there were lots of bird but almost all were either Lesser Black-backed Gulls or Northern Shovelers. While I was there a female Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) came in low over the trees and flushed all the smaller duck before snatching a male Eurasian Teal in flight, almost immediately the bird escape but was badly injured and dived straight for a small clump of rushes and weeds out in the water. The Harrier followed it in to the vegetation and must have eventually found its catch as I could see it plucking the bird. 
Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus).
Also in this area I picked up Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) and Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis). I then walked back around towards Jayne in the car seeing a single Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago) on the way. We were still a little early for Jayne appointment so I went around to the first hide on the eastern side of the main lagoon, from here I had better views of the Lesser Flamingo and added Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Grande / Charadrius hiaticula) and Little Stint (Correlimos Menudo / Calidris minuta) to the year list.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Cacín Valley and La Malaha, Granada Province.

3rd time unlucky.

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After a call a couple of days earlier from birding friends John and Jenny Wainwright, Jayne and I headed down to the Embalse de Bermejalis to try and catch up with the three Egyptian Geese (Ganso del Nilo / Alopochen aegyptiaca) that they have recorded there on a few occasions now but I could not find them even with quite a long drive and walk around the shoreline. I did get views of at least 6 Great Crested Grebes (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), Grey (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) and White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). 
Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus).
Whilst I was birding Jayne had collected two large backs of cones off the pine trees which we were hoping might stop the ****** cats from dumping in every bodies plant pot!!!
We then started the drive back towards home via the Cacín Valley, the gorge was still very quiet as none of the breeding birds had returned to there nests and the wind kept most other species down low in the cover. We did pick up Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis).
View of the Sierra Nevada from above Cacín.
Once we reached Cacín we made the decision to turn east and head for Ventas de Huelma along a winding mountain road looking for the larger raptors but we dipped totally and had to be happy with some nice views of a female Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius), a male Hen Harrier (Aguilucho Pálido / Circus cyaneus), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata), a Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) which sat well for the camera and a Mistle Thrush which stayed long enough for one shot. We then stopped and had a baguette in the bar on the main junction in Ventas de Huelma (Meson Banardo’s or something similar) and what a baguette, the olives which were given as tapas were fantastic but the baguette was out of this world, mine was huge and stuffed full of very nice pork and Jayne’s cheese and onion was equally as good and all for less than nine euro!!!
The Moon from the roost site.
Our next stop was a little further on towards Granada at a Harrier and Owl roost, when we arrived there was an empty car but no people but I soon discovered that the occupants were Spanish wildlife photographers (I use the description loosely) as all they did was make loads of noise and kept any birds that were approaching the roost well away in the distance. No Short-eared Owls (Búho Campestre / Asio flammeus) showed at dusk and as we have already seen birds here this winter I can only guess they these pillocks had flushed / disturbed any birds there. I got distant views of at least 3 male and 3 female Hen Harriers (Aguilucho Pálido / Circus cyaneus) but to make things worse just as the birds needed to get into the roost the photographers decided to pack up there hides and made even more noise.