Saturday 4 February 2017

Rio Bilbao, Santona, Sollagua and Estuary and Rio Bilbao again, Bilbao, Cantabria.

A great days birding with several Spanish lifers and other good birds.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese (Barnacla Carinegra / Branta bernicla).
I was up and out early after a quick breakfast at the hotel heading just down the road in Bilbao to look for a 1st winter Iceland Gull (Gaviota Groenlandesa / Larus glaucoides) which had been reported on the Internet yesterday. It was just getting light when I arrived and I could not find any sign of the Gull but I did see Black-headed Gull (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Carrion Crow (Corneja Negra / Corvus corone), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba).
Black-throated Diver (Colimbo Ártico / Gavia arctica).
I spent a while looking along the river but decided to drive towards Santona where I was going to be spending the day birding along the Estuary. 
Black-throated Diver (Colimbo Ártico / Gavia arctica).
I started on the roadside between Santona and Cicero where I scanned the fields and pools on the landward side and the low waters of the estuary on the other. On the fields and pools I saw Great White (Garceta Grande / Egretta alba), Little (Garceta Común / Egreeta garzetta) and Western Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera), Eurasian Wigeon (Sibón Europeo / Anas penelope), Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), Mallard, Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Black-headed Gull and a fleeting Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) which flashed over the reeds.
Whimbrel (Zarapito Trinador / Numenius phaeopus).
On the seaward side I added Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia), Black-necked Grebe (Zampullín Cullinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) and on the margins Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis).
I moved on to Santona where I parked near the Bullring and then walked out to the port where I could see some more birders, I walked out towards them and as I did I had a Rock Pipit (Bisbita Costero / Anthus petrosus) my first Spanish Lifer of the day fly over me calling. 
Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia).
Once I reached the pier I had a chat with the five guys there and had my second Lifer of the day in the shape of 300+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese (Barnacla Carinegra / Branta bernicla) as well as lots of Eurasian Wigeon (Sibón Europeo / Anas penelope), Great Northern (Colimbo Grande / Gavia immer) x3 and Black-throated Divers (Colimbo Ártico / Gavia arctica) the latter coming in nice and close for some shots, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus), Razorbill (Alca Común / Alca torda) x4 and on the floating jetties several Great Cormorants and Shags (Cormorán Mondudo / Phalacrocorax aristotelis).
We had another or the same Rock Pipit fly over us and picked out Yellow-legged (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Gaviota Sombria / Larus fuscus) amongst the Black-heads out on the water.
Bar-tailed Godwits (Aguja Colipinta / Limosa lapponica).
During the talk we got around to the Hudsonian Whimbrel (Zarapito de Hudson / Numenius hudsonicus) which was in the area and decided to go around to the spot which was just a few KM around the bay.
I followed them and at the site we split up to check two areas, in the first spot I was with four of the group and we soon found plenty of the common Whimbrel (Zarapito Trinador / Numenius phaeopus), Eurasian Curlew (Zaoaito Real / Numenius arquata), Black-tailed (Aguja Colinegra / Limosa limosa) and Bar-tailed Godwits (Aguja Colipinta / Limosa lapponica) and lots of Grey Plovers (Chorlito Gris / Pluviali squatarola).
The other twitchers.
After a while one of the guys got a call to say that they had the Hudsonian at a spot just a couple of hundred meters along the bank so we relocated and I joined the biggest twitch I have been in since moving to Spain along with around 15 other birders who had travelled to see this bird. After around 40 minutes of watching the bird I eventually got views I was happy with, also seen were Dunlin (Correlimos Común / Calidris alpina), both Common (Negrón Común / Melanitta nigra) and Velvet Scoters (Negrón Especulado / Melanitta fusca) and yet another Rock Pipit which was feeding on the mud.
Great Northern Diver (Colimbo Grande / Gavia immer).
I said thanks and goodbye to the lads who I had followed round and then headed back towards the port at Santona as I wanted to get some shots of the Great Northern Diver which I did before heading out on to the opposite side of the Estuary looking for other species but only added Eurasian Oystercatcher (Ostrero Euroasiatico / Haematopus ostralegus) to the day and year list but I did get some better views of a female Velvet Scoter.
Great Northern Diver (Colimbo Grande / Gavia immer).

Just as I was about to head back towards Bilbao I met a Spanish Guy who gave me direction to a spot where I had distant but good views of two Whooper Swans (Cisne Cantor / Cygnus cygnus) and a single Greylag Goose (Ansar Común / Anser anser) feeding out on grassy meadows.
Velvet Scoter (Negrón Especulado / Melanitta fusca).
I then drove back to Bilbao where I started the morning looking for the Iceland Gull and soon found the bird sat on rocks on the far side of the river but as it was getting on and raining the light was really bad (it had been bad all day) as are the photographs but it was the fourth new species for my Spanish list seen during the day.
I later met Jayne back at the hotel and we went back out into the city again and found a nice Italian for our evening meal.
1st winter Iceland Gull (Gaviota Groenlandesa / Larus glaucoides) in the rain.

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