A good day down on the coast with some good birding friends.
I set off quite early to make my way up to Granada where I picked Juan Pérez Contreras up from his house and then we both headed off down to the usual point at Peñón de Jolúcar on the eastern side of Torrenueva near Motril to carry out February's RAM sea bird count. When we got there we met up with Bob Wright a friend who runs the New Birding Axarquia blog before we all headed up to the high point for the sea watch. We were soon there and set up, after a few minutes Juan said it was time to start the count and we were soon building up a decent list of species in fairly good numbers. The list included Northern Gannets (Alcatraz Atlántico / Morus bassanus), Balearic Shearwaters (Pardela Balear / Puffinus mauretanicus) and two of the much more uncommon Med / Yelkouan shearwaters (Pardelas Mediterráneas / Puffinus yelkouan), singles of both Arctic (Págalo Parásito / Stercorarius parasiticus) and Great Skua (Págalo Grande / Stercorarius skua) I unfortunally did not get on to the latter but the former was a nice year tick. We also recorded very good numbers of gulls but the commonest by far we Mediterranean (Gaviota Cabecinegra / Larus melanocephalus), followed by Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Sombria / Larus fuscus), Yellow-legged (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis), Black-headed Gull (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) and a single adult Audouin's (Gaviota de Audouin / Larus audouinii), Sandwich Tern (Charrán Patinegro / Sterna sandvicensis), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo), a Kittiwake (Gaviota Tridáctila / Rissa tridactyla) which was seen by Juan and a single Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egreeta garzetta) which did a flypast.
On the way back down to the cars we had a look at the bank finding several spikes of Ophrys foresterii, Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) and a Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus) which flashed between the apartment block by the car.
From here we went towards the fish port and all piled into one car to go in and have a look through the gull flocks there, we saw plenty of Med, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged, Great Cormorants, Great Crested Grebe (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and a Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus).
We then made our way out and collected the rest of the cars before heading for Charca where we had a wonder around the hides, right by the entrance Juan and I had two Monk Parakeets (Cotorra Argentina / Myiopsitta monachus) in the trees. After checking the first hide seeing Red-knobbed Coot (Focha Moruna / Fulca cristata), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) I headed to check the trees where some Night Herons (Marinete Común / Nycticorax nycticorax) sometimes roost but found nothing. From here I went to catch up with Bob at the small hide over looking the Laguna del Taraje, on the way I had good but brief views of a wintering Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla) and heard a couple of Penduline Tit (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus). I got to the hide but Manuel the warden and a colleague were working on the roof so Bob had moved on, I stayed a short while and had views of the Moustached Warbler (Carricerin Real / Acrocephalus melanopogon) which was wintering here along with Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) and Purple Swamp-hen (Calamon Común / Porphyrio porphyrio).
I moved on checking the very quiet new scrape where I only added around 15 or so Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca) and a small flock of Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis). I eventually caught up with Bob in the main hide where we spent some time checking through the birds there and added Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Northern Shoveler (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), my first Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) of the year, Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis).
Again we continued on around the rest of the hides and ended up back at the small hide over looking Laguna del Taraje where we stayed until the reserve closed at 13:00. On the walk around to this point we saw a couple of Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) butterflies, Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and heard a screeching Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus). We sat in the hide for a while and were joined by Juan and Fran and after a short while we heard a small group of Penduline Tits in the reeds at the side of the hide which Juan managed to call in by making a very convincing squeaking noise. This gave us time to get some nice views of a difficult to see bird, from here we headed back to the gates and had a chat with Manuel before making our ways home after a very pleasant and productive morning.
Photographs from the top: Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egreeta garzetta), ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull (Gaviota Sombria / Larus fuscus), the Ring, Monk Parakeet (Cotorra Argentina / Myiopsitta monachus), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Red-knobbed Coot (Focha Moruna / Fulca cristata), male Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), female Common Stonechat, male Penduline Tit (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis).