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MARY'S BLOG - 2012/13


This is a regular Blog in which I intend to share my birding experiences in Spain, the UK and anywhere else I might visit. I will try to add to it as and when I go birding or see something that I think might be worth reporting. I would like to say 'thank you' to Bryan Thomas, who often comes out birding with us, and is providing some of his bird photos to include in the blog. Bryan thinks we should also thank John for doing all the driving, which often involves Bryan and I saying "reverse" or "stop" or "go forward again", whenever we spot an interesting bird. Then there are the numerous rough, or scrubby, or muddy tracks he has to drive down, so I think it is only fair that we acknowledge John's patience (I never thought I would say that) and driving skills.

Anyone reading this should please note that it is a personal account, written NOT by an experienced birder, but by an enthusiastic amateur who simply enjoys the whole birding experience! If you wish to make comments on anything I have written in the blog, please email me at Blog Feedback

Mary Brazier.

           

Photos - Me with my husband John, with our photographer friend Bryan Thomas and 'The Three Amigos!'


August - Belvide Reservoir

We have had a few visits to our local patch at Belvide Reservoir but the best one was when our friends, and fellow CBBC Members Dave and Linda came to see us, when we had great views of up to three Jays, including this one which seemed happy to visit the feeders.

           

Jay by Mary Brazierİ


29th June to 6th July - Northumberland

Following our cruise we had arranged to stay in an apartment in Cullercoats on the north east coast for a week. While we were there we took a ride up to Amble to join a boat trip round Coquet Island where many seabirds nest every year. We saw Guillemots and small rafts of Puffins on the sea. More Puffins could be seen at their nest sites on the island, along with many Common Terns, Sandwich Terns and Black headed Gulls. The bird we had hoped to see here was the rare Roseate Tern which the boat man was able to point out to us. although we only saw about two of these birds I was happy to have added another species to my life list. We met three young birders from Cheshire on the boat who told us they had left home very early to be on a boat to the Farne Islands by 6am, and by 6.30 had been lucky enough to see the rare Bridled Tern that had been found there and reported to birders with pagers. We didn't try to see this bird, though maybe we should have done as it appears to have stayed around for quite a while and been showing well. When we left the boat at Amble we watched Eider Ducks in the harbour, the rather scruffy males in their eclipse plumage and the females looking after their new offspring.

       

Puffins and Roseate Tern (left of 153) by Mary Brazierİ

We left Amble and had a picnic at Warkworth where we tried to avoid the Mallards and the noisy Black headed Gulls who were all after our food! A Grey Heron was standing at the edge of the water further up the river. Next we drove to the cliffs between Craster and Howick where good numbers of Kittiwakes nest every year. We enjoyed watching and listening to these birds for a while before John spotted something a bit unusual sitting on the rocks below. After trying to get a good look at it and checking our field guide we decided it was a Goosander which was a nice addition to the list. A Whitethroat singing loudly from the top of a bush along the cliff path finished off our day nicely.

This was another non birding holiday but during several trips to St Mary's Island, the North Shield fish quay and several beaches we still came across a few good birds. One afternoon I walked into the lounge of our apartment where John started to tell me that Andy Murray was about to win Wimbledon; "never mind that" I said "there's a Sparrowhawk sitting on the fence right outside the window!" John just managed to see it before it flew off. Brilliant! Species list - Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mallard, Goosander, Eider Duck, Fulmar, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Black headed Gull, Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Great blacm backed Gull, Common Tern, Roseate Tern, Sandwich Tern, Puffin, Guillemot, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Blackbird, Whitethroat, Great Tit, Starling, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Crow, Rook, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Linnet.

       

Goosander and Herring Gull by John Brazierİ


22nd to 29th June - Cruising the Norwegian Fjords

We were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary with a cruise to Norway, sailing from Newcastle. This was not a birding holiday at all but as always a few birds did catch my eye! On our first day, which was spent at sea, a walk around the deck found us a Fulmar, Gannets and a Great Skua attacking the Gannets, a new bird for us. The first port of call was Eidfjord, a lovely little town where we saw a Hooded Crow, a bird we haven't seen since our last cruise three years ago to the Baltic, when we saw them in Denmark, Finland and Russia. I suppose you could say they are just a Crow with a fancy jacket on, but they are something a bit different and we always enjoy seeing them. A coach trip into the mountains to see a dam and an impressive waterfall, also found us several Ring Ouzels, a bird I had been hoping to see for ages before we finally found some a few weeks ago during our trip to the Pyrenees. We waited such a long time to see one and now we have seen them in two different countries within a few weeks of each other! Back in the village of Eidfjord we found a Common Gull, a bird we rarely see in the UK or Spain, but it lived up to it's name in Norway by being rather common! The eidfjord bird was very feisty and proceeded to fly at anyone who crossed over the bridge where it may have been nesting.

       

Hooded Crow and Common Gull by John Brazierİ

Our next port was Bergen where the weather was rather drizzly and we did not look for any birds. When the ship sailed away from here, however, the sun came out and the sky was blue showing up the coastline and the many small islands to good effect. As we left the port 'afternoon tea' was just finishing and a few people decided to feed the gulls with leftover sandwiches and cake! I'm not sure this was a good idea but it did give us some opportunities to photograph the Lesser black backed Gulls which were making the most of the free food! Our next port was Skjolden, another pretty little place. From here we took a trip up into the high mountains where plenty of snow and ice still was still around. Here we saw Northern Wheatear, Raven and a very unexpected Bluethroat. I was very excited to see this bird as we usually see them in the winter in Spain at wetland sites, such as, San Felipe or Pego Marshes and I never expected to see one at the top of a mountain in Norway, but maybe this is where they go in the summer?

       

Lesser black backed Gull and Skjolden by Mary Brazierİ

Our final port of call was Flam, which was a bit larger than the other villages we had been to and was a lovely place. We took another trip from here up to a hotel with great views down the valley. In the trees below the viewpoint we spotted Pied Flycatcher, Chaffinch, Nuthatch and Redstart before travelling to another small town to join a two hour boat trip along the fjord and back to Flam, a very enjoyable journey, with the odd Common Gull following the boat. From Flam our ship set sail back to Newcastle with another day at sea to rest and enjoy watching the seabirds and the odd dolphin from the ship.

All in all our 'non birding trip had produced a small species list with a few additions to the year list and a lifer in the form of the Great Skua. Species list - Whooper Swan, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Great Skua, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser black backed Gull, Cuckoo (HO), Gannet, Fulmaar, Sand Martin, House Martin, Pied Wagtail, Bluethroat, Redstart, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Nuthatch, Magpie, Raven, Hooded Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Serin, Goldfinch.


1st to 8th June - The Pyrenees

Saturday/Sunday - We left Gran Alacant on Saturday and drove to Monreal de Campo for an overnight stop. On Sunday we set off again and the first good bird we saw was a Black Kite near Zaragoza, followed by a White Stork flying over the road in front of us. Soon Black Kites and Red Kites became a regular sight and a few more White Storks were seen nesting on pylons or on village church towers. By lunchtime we had arrived at Riglos, site of the fantastic Mallos de Riglos, 'Mallos' being the red stone rocky pinnacles that rise up above the village. This being Sunday, it was quite busy here with many rock climbers and a few tourists. For some reason the climbers kept letting off small explosions on the rock face and the noise echoed around the rocks causing Griffon Vultures and Red billed Chough to take to the sky. In the village lots of House Martins were building nests on the houses, Swifts flew overhead and at the viewpoint by the church a couple of Serin were singing in the trees. We ate our lunch here and then headed for our final destination at Isaba. We travelled up the Roncal valley seeing many Black Kites, Red Kites and Griffon Vultures, and enjoyed ssing the spectacular scenery of the gorge and several small villages on the way. We arrived at Isaba just after 5pm and were shown into our attic apartment. The accomodation was very comfortable and light with great views up to the mountains beyond the village. In the evening Julian who owns the apartments, came to see us and gave us two very good hiking maps of the area and showed us exactly where to look for various birds. Julian clearly knows his local patch well and offers guided trips to people who want them. He offered to take us to see Snow Finches, but as this required us to hike across the mountains in snow shoes we politely declined. Visit Metsola Apartments for more information.

       

Black Kite by Mary Brazierİ White Stork by John Brazierİ

Monday 3rd June - Isaba - Roncal - Anso - Zuriza - Isaba - Today we decided to look at the Anso valley and Zuriza, stopping in Roncal on the way for a quick look round this pretty village and to get bread for our picnic. From here we took the road to Anso, a scenic but winding road through woodland with great views of the snowy mountains in the distance. We stopped in Anso for a coffee and to look at the village, another very pretty place where we watched a Red Kite flying overhead. From here we took the road to Zuriza which passes through a gorge with very high cliffs on both sides. The river was rushing along, full of snow melt water from the mountains above. We stopped along the road to check the many birds in the air, most of which were Griffon Vultures. However, another large raptor appeared from above the cliffs and flew overhead giving us the chance to view it from below and letting us see it was our number one target bird, a Lammergeier, fantastic! It soon disappeared over the cliffs on the other side of the road but at least we had enjoyed a great view, if only for a short time, and it was only day 1! While we were here we also saw an Egyptian Vulture flying round in front of the cliffs for quite a while, another great bird. Near the Zuriza campsite I got a fleeting glimpse of a Rock Bunting and a Black Kite appeared from above some trees. From here we took another road back to Isaba and had a walk through a small gorge where many Griffon Vultures were nesting and giving us a great flying display as they moved around the gorge. Back at our apartment we spotted a Peregrine Falcon flying in front of the big rocky outcrop opposite our accomodation, which Julian had told us was nesting there. Not a bad first day.

       

Griffon Vulture by Mary Brazierİ Egyptian Vulture by John Brazierİ

Tuesday 4th June - Today we took Julian's advice and set off up the Belagua valley road which leads over to the French border. Before we left Isaba we had a Cirl Bunting in a tree and male and female Black Redstarts were in the car park. Once on the road we saw some spectacular scenery and a large flock of black birds was in the air near one of the refuges. Some landed in the grassy fields next to the road and we enjoyed watching both Red billed and Alpine Chough. A bit further up the mountain we spotted two birds on top of a tree and could easily see they were Ring Ouzels, a bird I have been trying to see for some time and a lifer for us. Higher up the mountain road we came to the snow line and at a ski station (now closed) we found several Wheatear plus our first ever Alpine Accentor, in fact we saw a few of them in this area, brilliant! As we were about to leave a couple of small birds landed near the car giving us great views of another new bird for us Citril Finches. On the way back down the valley we stopped at a fantastic viewpoint which looks right down the valley, and from here we could see many Griffon Vultures taking to the skies and coming towards us. As we were at a high point, some of them were just above eye level. John and I looked at each bird to check their identity and we could both see one bird which looked a bit bigger and a slightly different shape, amazingly we had another Lammergeier and this time we were able to watch it for more than just a few seconds!! We returned to our apartment for lunch before heading out again . We decided not to travel further into the Irati forest to look for rare Woodpeckers. Instead we had a look round Ochagavia, yet another very pretty village, where we saw a White Wagtail and a couple of Goldfinches on the rocks in the river, before we headed back to Isaba where a baby Black Redstart was hopping about outside our accomodation. Later that night, I woke to hear Tawny Owls calling, at least I think that's what they were.

       

Citril Finch and Ring Ouzel (distant) by Mary Brazierİ

Wednesday 5th June - John's 60th Birthday! - Today we took a long drive round the valleys. Passing through Roncal we joined the road to Anso and immediately saw a Red backed Shrike which was a nice start to the day. We were delayed slightly along this road as a road surfacing crew were laying tarmac! We passed through Anso and on through Hecho, stopping in Siresa for our morning coffee break. Our next stop was at the Boca de Infierno (Hell's Mouth) where Malcolm and Barry had seen a Wallcreeper in April. Sadly it did not appear and had probably moved up to it's usual summer nesting area above Gabardito. We decided not to venture up the rough road to the refuge there which then also requires a 30 minute hike up a rocky and muddy path to get to the bottom of the cliffs from where the bird might be seen. We satisfied ourselves with the fact that we had seen the bird there back in 2007. We continued along the road into the valley and onto the track that leads to the alpine meadows. The scenery here is really beautiful and we found plenty of wild flowers and butterflies but very few birds. A Black Kite appeared hunting over the meadows but that was it. We made our way back to the picnic area and while we were there a Dipper shot past us, zooming along above the river towards a nearby bridge. We watched the Dipper while it continued to dive in the river and then bob up and down on the rocks, giving us enjoyable entertainment while we ate our lunch. When John headed off to try to get a closer view of the Dipper an Egyptian Vulture appeared flying low around the area. I was yelling to John to look at the Vulture, which he eventually did, managing to get a few good photos at the same time. Next we headed back up the valley and, just before we got to Hecho, we came across 2 Egyptian Vultures feeding on a dead rabbit on the road. Sadly they flew off as we approached but continued to fly around, along with a few Griffon Vultures and Kites. Past Hecho the road opens out with fields on both sides and John spotted two raptors in the air. I dived out of the car to look at them through the binoculars and we both confirmed that they were Short toed Eagles. From here we went along the main road and then back up the bottom of the Anso valley, which we hadn't seen before. This was another lovely route, with a narrow gorge with Griffon Vultures nesting on the cliffs. We passed through Anso village again and headed back via the Zurifa road to avoid the road surfacers! I think it is fair to say that we had both enjoyed John's special birthday!

       

Red backed Shrike and Dipper by Mary Brazierİ

Thursday 6th June - Today we drove through Roncal and on to Burgui to have a look at this pretty village and pick up some supplies. From here we took the very good road towards Lumbier, stopping initially at the viewpoint overlooking Arbayun Gorge. Here we could see a few vultures on the spectacluar walls of the gorge and in the air. John called out to say he thought he could hear a Firecrest and sure enough, two of these little birds were hopping about in a tree right next to the viewpoint. We watched these birds for quite a while and both agreed this was the best view we had ever had of this lovely little bird. Next we drove to Lumbier, stopping initially to look at the feeding station where a few Griffons and Egyptians were waiting to see if any food was going to arrive. Unfortunately for them and for us it didn't! A few more Vultures and Kites were in the air as we left to visit Lumbier Gorge. We parked in the car park and walked through the long, dark tunnel that leads into the gorge. It was sunny and hot in the gorge so we didn't stay long as there is very little shade. The usual Griffon Vultures and Egyptian Vultures were present along with a few Red billed Chough. Crag Martins and House Martins were numerous and the odd Rock Dove could be seen flying on and off the ledges at lower levels near the tunnel. Numerous House Sparrows were in evidence but I was pleased to see a couple of Rock sparrows nesting on a rocky pinnacle. On the way back to the tunnel I spotted an Alpine Swift, which I had been hoping to see, and 2 or 3 more soon joined them in the air. We headed back to the picnic area for lunch and then left on the road towards Jaca, an impressive new motorway, until it ran out (not quite finished) and we were diverted onto the old road which runs alongside the Yesa Reservoir. The only birds we saw on this massive body of water were 2 Great Crested Grebes, an odd addition to our list.

       

Firecrest and Rock Sparrow by Mary Brazierİ

Our route took us back up the Roncal Valley to Isaba, but we decided to continue back up the Belegua Valley which we had enjoyed so much on Tuesday. We went as far as the ski lifts where we had great views of lots of Alpine Chough feeding on the short grass and an Alpine Accentor put in a brief appearance. Working our way back down we stopped to watch about 6 Ring Ouzels as they flew over and landed on a grassy bank. A couple of Citril Finch landed nearby and later, where the road loops round and goes over a bridge, we saw two more going into holes in the side of the bridge, perhaps nesting there. Further down the road we stopped for a last look at the fantastic view down the valley before heading back to our apartment for our final night there. While we were sitting in the car a Raven flew alongside us, flipped over onto it's back, flew along a bit then turned the right way up again and flew away! Why do they do that?

       

Alpine Chough and Red billed Chough by Mary Brazierİ

Friday/Saturday - We set off for home, down the Roncal Valley seeing a couple of Red backed Shrikes on the wires, along with the usual Griffon Vultures and Black and Red Kites along the way. We headed up to San Juan de la Pena, making a few stops on the way to look at the views and the birds on the cliffs and in the air. We stopped by the new monastery and took a short walk through the woods hoping we might see a Black Woodpecker as we had in 2007, but all we saw were Chaffinches and a Robin. We left here and followed a long and winding road down the other side of the mountain spotting a Mistle Thrush as it flew across the road. Before we eventually came to the main road we spotted our first Bee eater of the trip and stopped to have a look at it and heard a Cuckoo calling nearby. While there John called a Golden Oriole and we both saw two of them before they disappeared into some nearby trees, a nice surprise and always a great bird to see. We stopped to eat lunch near the Mallos de Riglos where a Black Kite flew up and down the river gorge. Our final stop was to look at a White Stork on a church tower in a small village and to take some photos. When we looked at the photos we saw there was a dead young stork hanging upside down from the nest, a sad sight. From here we continued to our overnight stop at Monreal de Campo and the next day returned home having had a brilliant trip to this beautiful part of Spain.

We had missed out on a few bird species, such as, Wallcreeper, Rock Thrush, Snow Finch, Black Woodpecker and White backed Woodpecker although all these species would have been possible if we had wanted to make a bit more effort. Maybe we will save them for another visit. We would certainly recommend a trip to the Pyrenees to anyone, and not just for the bird watching. Our base in Isaba was a good location and our rooms at Metsola Apartments were very clean, warm, comfortable and modern, with great views. Visit Metsola Apartments for more information.

During the summer I plan to put together a photo gallery for this Pyrenees trip with photos of the scenery, villages, flowers, butterflies and a few more birds.


23rd May - The annual Rufous Bush Robin 'twitch'

We picked Bryan up from home and headed off for our annual quest to find a Rufous Bush Robin at their usual site. Within minutes of arriving, one of the birds appeared close by. This was even before we had put our chairs down ready to sit and wait for the bird to appear! A few Spotted Flycatchers were flying around amongst the trees along with Goldfinch, Serin, Chiffchaff, Blackbird and a Hoopoe. Bryan set off after the Rufous Bush Robin to try to get 'that special photo', while we sat down and enjoyed listening to and watching the many birds that were in the area. After about an hour I was hiding behind a tree trying to get a photo of a Spotted Flycatcher on a rock, when a Rufous Bush Robin flew towards me and landed about twenty feet away. I didn't know which way to turn with the camera but in the end I had to go for the robin, but returned to the flycatcher soon after. We had the best views of a Rufous Bush Robin we have ever had and watched it displaying and cocking it's tail, he was surely trying to impress a female and he certainly impressed me! I never realised that the tail had two bands of black and white in it and the rufous colour that gives the bird it's name really is amazing. As we left the woods a black and white bird flew past and into a nearby tree. It was a Pied Flycatcher, a bird I have not seen before in Spain. What a brilliant morning and we were only away from home for about three hours, which proves that a short birding sprint can be just as enjoyable as a full days birding marathon.

       

Spotted Flycatcher and Rufous Bush Robin by Mary Brazierİ

   

Rufous Bush Robin by Bryan Thomasİ


20th May - El Hondo fields.

Today we decided to have a quick drive round the El Hondo area to find some birds! As we drove along the road to El Hondo I spotted a bird in a palm tree and asked John to reverse the car and drive a little way down a track on our right. A Roller was sitting in the palm tree so we got out of the car and crept round behind the palms to get a better look. We had a great view of the bird but, unfortunately, we also picked up a few mosi bites as we had forgotten to 'mosi up'! Moving on we continued to San Felipe for a brief comfort break, and I saw a Stonechat and a Sardinian Warbler while John saw a Magpie and a Red rumped Swallow. Then we both saw a Kentish Plover, possibly a young bird, walking across the staff car park. We passed through San Felipe, past the sheep sheds and down towards the Vistabella Road. As we approached the end of the road I spotted a bird in a big dead tree so we stopped the car. It flew off but not before we had identified it as a Cuckoo! We parked by the Vistabella house and as we got out of the car we heard it calling, satisfying us that we had got our identification right. We turned round and headed back the way we had come, onto the track by the big tree and followed this, picking up a nice Woodchat Shrike on a wire, on the way. Having not seen many Little Owls lately we were happy to see about five of them on this trip, with one of them peeping over a wall at us. Eventually, we made our way to our known Bee eater site where up to ten of these birds were found in various places. We watched one bird catch a large butterfly and feed it to it's mate on the wire. A bird we initially thought might be 'just another pigeon' turned out to be a beautiful Turtle Dove, a bird we hadn't seen yet this year. By now we were ready for lunch so we set off across the salinas, seeing the usual suspects, and arrived home happy with our mornings 'work'!

           

Roller, Little Owl and Bee eater by Mary Brazierİ


13th to 16th May - Los Teatinos, Andalucia.

To view Bryan's photos follow this link Birds in Andalucia By Bryan Thomas

We have just returned from a short stay at Cortijo Rosa Blanca in the tiny hamlet of Los Teatinos, just inside Jaen Province. There were six of us in all and we tried to come up with a suitable group name, with the best offer being from Trish who suggested 'The Scilly Six', but as only Bryan and Trish come from the Scilly Isles, it might be more appropriate to call ourselves 'The Silly Six' as we can be a bit silly sometimes! We have stayed at Rosa Blanca before and always enjoy the great hospitality provided by Mel and Wendy who own the B and B. On this occasion, as Mel was working in the UK, Wendy had to work extremely hard to feed and generally look after the six of us on her own, but I can definately say we didn't go hungry, so 'thanks a lot Wendy'!

We set off from Gran Alacant and stopped for a picnic at the start of the mountain road where a Booted Eagle appeared overhead and many small forest birds were singing in the trees. Wild flowers and butterflies were everwhere and a large stripy beetle crawled around on the ground. Further along the road we turned into the forest where 2 Jays flew from tree to tree near to the track before eventually moving further away. With most of the journey done we approached the village of La Matea and Bryan spotted a large raptor on top of a pylon, causing everyone to pile out of the two cars to have a closer look. The bird stayed for a while allowing us to identify it as a Short toed Eagle, which was easy to confirm when the bird flew overhead giving us great views of the speckled underwings. From here it was just a few minutes drive to Rosa Blanca where Wendy welcomed us with tea and biscuits before we unloaded our luggage and headed out for a walk. We passed through Los Teatinos and headed towards the next tiny hamlet seeing Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Serin, Nuthatch, Corn Bunting, Whinchat, Short toed Treecreeper, Griffon Vulture, and Rock Bunting on the way, and we had distant views of a couple of Chough on top of the rocks in the little gorge nearby. We heard and then saw a Nightingale as it sang from a bush in full view. Brilliant! This was a great start to our trip and later, after an excellent three course meal, we retired to the sitting room where we could hear a Scops Owl calling from a tree in the garden.

       

Cortijo Rosa Blanca (under the two Poplar trees in the middle distance) and Short toed Eagle by Mary Brazierİ

Day two found us exploring a river gorge with a disused fish farm and some occupied cave houses, complete with satelite dish! We could hear birds singing everywhere, including many Nightingales which seemed to be fairly common here. It was a bit of a climb down to the base of the gorge but it proved worthwhile when we heard Golden Orioles calling and I enjoyed a fleeting glimpse of one, while all the others had better views of these birds which I just kept missing! We all saw a good selection of other birds including Melodious Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Willow Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Raven, Jackdaw, Griffon Vulture, Nuthatch, and Short toed Treecreeper although not everyone saw every bird. At one point While we were watching a paritcular tree waiting for an Oriole to fly back out, Dave spotted another bird and took a photo of it just in case it might be of interest. Later, back at the B and B, we looked at the photo on the lap top, and Bryan was convinced it was a Hawfinch! A few Swallows, Swifts and Crag Martins flew above us, and back at the top of the gorge a Woodlark, with amazingly long claws, was perched on a fence. On the way back to have lunch we saw a couple of Red rumped Swallows hunting over the fields. We sat in the garden with a snack and a drink listening to a Nightingale singing from inside the hedge, a couple of Serin sat in a tree and, best of all, a Short toed Eagle flew right overheard, soon to be joined by two more. That is what I would call easy birding! After lunch we set off by car across some moors and past another small river gorge. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side with black clouds approaching and as rain began to fall we headed back to our accomodation to wait for the weather to improve. We did, however, manage to add Woodchat Shrike, Linnet and Crested Lark (or was it a Thekla?) to our list on the way back.

       

Woodlark and Nightingale by John Brazierİ

Day three saw us heading across the mountains towards the town of Hornos with a single target bird in mind. On the way we drove along a lane which leads to the source of the Segura River where we found good numbers of Wheatear and Black eared Wheatear perched on small rocks and an old tree trunk. A second detour onto some high moorland found us plenty of larks, possibly including Thekla Larks as well as Rock Bunting, Rock Sparrow a Mistle Thrush. Dave photographed a pipit which Bryan later identified as a Tawny Pipit, and although we just saw it flying away, it was a new bird for me. A Cuckoo could be heard calling and a group of Griffon Vultures flew overhead as we were admiring a large flock of goats. We continued our drive towards Hornos and just before we arrived John and I spotted a Grey Wagtail on a wall at the side of the road. We stopped briefly in Hornos for a coffee break before continuing out of the town and down the winding road that goes towards Tranco reservoir. Before we reached the last bend in the road we stopped in a rough lay by and walked back to look down on an area of trees where we had seen our target bird last time we were here. Within minutes Bryan had spotted the bird an Azure winged Magpie! In fact there were a few of them flying around the area giving us good views from our high vantage point. Suddenly, I spotted two yellow and black birds flying out of a big tree straight in front of us. I started jumping up and down shouting something but only Dave and Linda saw the 2 Golden Orioles I was pointing at, the others thought I was still looking at the magpies! Luckily, we had plenty more views of the Golden Orioles flying about between the trees, although they were a bit distant for a photo. After watching the birds for a while we set off down the hill and turned onto the track alongside the Tranco Reservoir to eat our picnic. A nice Red Kite flew over the lake but Grey Heron and Yellow legged Gull were the only other birds seen, although we could hear plenty of woodland birds singing. After lunch we drove back up the hill and stopped twice in rough laybys part way up the hill to look at the Azure winged Magpies and Golden Orioles again always hoping for a closer view and a possible photo opportunity.

      

Wheatear and Azure winged Magpie (distant) by Mary and John Brazierİ

We returned to Rosa Blanca on the high mountain road spotting two groups of deer and a small brown squirrel on the way. A medium sized brown raptor came out of the trees and flew along the road in front of us, but it was gone before we had chance to identify it. Dave and Linda had to leave to return to Gran Alacant but the rest of us enjoyed another great meal and relaxed in the sitting room, chatting, watching football (not me!) and listening to the Scops Owl calling in the garden. I woke at about 4.30am and heard a low screeching bird which Wendy later told us was an Eagle Owl. You could say we had the 'Little and Large' of the owl world!

Day four and it was time to leave, but not before Bryan had found a Firecrest in the garden and shown it to John, but once again I missed the bird! After a hearty breakfast we went for a quick look at the gorge where the Chough were but they were not in view. We drove past a tree holding a very brown Buzzard before setting off along the winding mountain road, always on the look out for something special. We had a brief stop near to a sanctuary where a Mistle Thrush was feeding on the grassy meadow and some small birds which Bryan said were Rock Sparrows were hopping about. Then it was downhill all the way back to Gran Alacant with good memories of an enjoyable trip. If anyone fancies a visit to this area we would all recommend a stay at Rosa Blanca, click here Cortijo Rosa Blanca Bed and Breakfast for information.

   

Mistle Thrush by John Brazierİ

Species list - Grey Heron, Griffon Vulture, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Short toed Eagle, Kestrel, Yellow legged Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo (HO), Scops Owl (HO), Eagle Owl (HO), Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Woodlark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark?, Crag Martin, Swallow, Red rumped Swallow, Tawny Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Whinchat, Black eared Wheatear, Wheatear, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler (HO), Bonelli's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Blackcap, Firecrest, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great tit, Short toed Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Woodchat Shrike, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Golden Oriole, Jay, Magpie, Azure winged Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Raven, Crow, House sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Hawfinch?, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting, Rock Bunting.


10th May - Countryside around El Hondo

Had a quick drive round the countryside looking mainly for Bee eaters which we found as we turned onto the Elche Road and also at our usual site. Didn't see too many other things but had a quick look at El Pinet where we saw Common Terns, Little Terns, Slender billed Gulls, Avocets, Black winged Stilts, Red rumped Swallows and a Kentish Plover.

       

Bee eater and Hoopoe by Mary Brazierİ


8th May - El Hondo

We arrived back in Spain on Monday and by Wednesday we were in El Hondo reserve with Dave, Linda and Bryan. I had decided to stay mainly in the big viewing tower to avoid the sun and most of the heat. Our first bird was a Squacco Heron flying nearby, our first for this year. After a while someone called a Little Bittern and I just saw it from the back before it disappeared into the reeds. A lifer for me! I was so glad to finally see this bird after reading about everybody else seeing them all the time. While we were there we had numerous sightings of these birds, at least four of them, both male and female, well worth getting out of bed for! A Common Sandpiper seemed to be feeding on the pathway to the hide and a Little Grebe and two chicks were in the water channel next to the path. There were plenty of Pochard on the lagoons, along with quite a few White headed Ducks and a few Red crested Pochards and Great Crested Grebes. A few Purple Herons were seen and one landed on the pathway and gave us good views of it standing there and as it flew away. It was good to catch up with our friend John Edwards and also to put a face to a name for Mark Begg who is an active member of my Facebook Bird Group. John (E) found a Great Reed Warbler and we all had a good look at it through the scope.

       

Little Bittern by Bryan Thomasİ and Great Reed Warbler by John Brazierİ

At about 12 noon we headed back towards the entrance, making a short stop at the tall viewing platform for a look over the lagoon there. Another birder pointed out a large colony of Whiskered Terns here and we also got a brilliant view of a Great Reed Warbler once Bryan had teased it out with a bit of 'pishing'! Plenty of the more common species were on the lagoons but sadly there was no sign of the Marbled Ducks which Mark had seen earlier. As we left the reserve a Montague's Harrier flew over the road in front of us, a nice way to end the visit. Dave, Linda and Bryan headed off for a picnic while John and I set off home via Elche FC to buy tickets for the football game on Friday night.

       

Purple Heron and Squacco Heron by Bryan Thomasİ

Species list - Great Crested Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Little Bittern, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Shelduck, Mallard, Pochard, Red crested Pochard, White headed Duck, Montague's Harrier, Coot, Purple Swamphen, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Common Sandpiper, Black headed Gull, Yellow legged gull, Whiskered Tern, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Roller, Hoopoe, Swallow, Blackbird, Great Reed Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, House sparrow, Goldfinch.


20th to 27th April - Rhayader area, Mid Wales

We spent a week in a holiday cottage on a sheep farm near Rhayader in mid Wales. We have been here before and it is a really lovely place to stay. We had four target birds so on our first day we set off for a walk across the fields and along the river. As soon as we left the farm John spotted a bird along the lane, and a quick look through the binoculars showed it to be a Redstart, or as John said 'a good start!' This was bird number one from my wish list. We made our way between the sheep and their new lambs, and came back through woodland along the banks of the River Wye, seeing more Redstarts along with many other woodland birds.

On our second day we drove round the Elan Valley visiting all four reservoirs and their attractive dams. At the first dam we found a number of Meadow Pipits and a couple of Wheatears on the grassy areas below the dam. We headed back the way we had come and stopped by the little church and I walked across the next dam scanning the water for any signs of life, although these waters never seem to hold any wildlife. To my surpise there was a distant bird on the water which I identified through the scope as a Goosander. Moving on to the third dam we were pleased to find that the water was running over the top of the dam which was an impressive sight. During a brief stop to look at the next dam a Chaffinch landed on a nearby post. The bird was so confiding it moved even closer until it was only about three feet away, the bird even waited for me to get the camera ready and then posed for photos! Our final stop was further along the road in an area of moorland where we ate our lunch and, due to persistant drizzly rain, we continued birding from the car. This proved quite sucessful as several birds came and sat on various fence posts close to the car, including Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit, and three Red Kites flew around the area.

       

Redstart and Chaffinch by Mary Brazierİ

           

Wheatear, Whinchat and Stonechat by Mary Brazierİ

Day three took us to the RSPB reserve at Ynys-Hir (the current home of Springwatch). On our way to one of the estuary hides we passed 2 Nuthatches and a Song Thrush feeding on the ground. From the hide we saw Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, 2 Oystercatchers, Pheasant and a Little Egret. We headed back into the woods and on the way a Red Kite flew low overhead giving us a great view of it. In the woods we saw a couple of people looking at a bird, which turned out to be a Pied Flycatcher, the second bird on my wish list. There were plenty of birds singing in the woods and during our walk we added Woodpigeon, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstart, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap to our list. When we left the reserve it was warm enough to eat our lunch at one of the picnic tables. From here I was delighted to spot a Treecreeper working it's way up a nearby tree, although John missed it as he had gone to get our lunch from the car! From the picnic area we were able to watch a variety of birds visiting the feeders, including Siskin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch. On the way back to our cottage we stopped to watch the Red Kite feeding at Nant y Arian from the road side, seeing 100+ Red Kites along with a single Buzzard. Another great day!

       

Song Thrush and Meadow Pipit by Mary Brazierİ

The next day we decided to have a quiet one and went over the fields and down by the river again. We found a place to sit and enjoyed watching a couple of Pied Flycatchers flying from to and fro across the river and moving tree to tree, appearing to mark out a territory. Later we were delighted to see 2 Grey Wagtails flitting from rock to rock and a Jay sitting in a tree on the far bank. We moved on to have a look at an old river bridge and as we arrived a bird flew quickly from under the bridge and along the river - a Dipper! At last the third, and most wanted, bird on our wish list! We returned to the other side of the river and sat opposite the old bridge from where we watched 2 Dippers moving around under the bridge for a little while. John was pleased when we spotted a Treecreeper as he had missed the one I saw yesterday.

           

Blackcap, Pied Flycatcher and Grey Wagtail by Mary Brazierİ

On Thursday our good friends, Rob and Sian drove up from their home in Swansea to meet us. We took another drive around the Elan Valley reservoirs, seeing most of the same species we had seen before. In the afternoon we went to Gigrin Farm to watch the Red Kite feeding there. Red Kite was the fourth bird on our wish list, but they were really easy to find as we saw them every day, including from the cottage. We have seen the feeding before but it is still very interesting to see over 100 Red Kites at close quarters. They tend to hang around in the sky together for a while until one bird swoops down to get some food and then many others follow suit. The constant movement and the mewing of the birds makes for a great atmosphere and there is so much going on it is difficult to know which way yo look! Quite a few opportunist Crows and Rooks also take advantage of the free food, along with the odd Buzzard. We all enjoyed watching the spectacle for about an hour before we decided we too needed something to eat and adjourned to a nearby pub.

       

Red Kites by John and Mary Brazierİ

Friday was our final day and we enjoyed sitting in the sun with a 'nice cup of tea' on the new decking on the back of the cottage watching the local birds, which today included a lovely Mistle Thrush down in the pig run! After lunch we took a last walk down by the river and went to 'stake out' the Dipper site. We sat on the old bridge where we had seen the birds earlier in the week but there was no sign of them so we walked over to the nature reserve to look under the bridge from the other side. While we we there a Dipper shot past us and under the bridge, landing on a rock just below where we had previously been standing, isn't that always the way? We headed back over to the bridge but the bird had gone and didn't return, although we watied about half and hour. They probably knew we were there. At least we had seen the birds on two occasions so we were happy with that.

   

Dipper (distant) by John Brazierİ

Species List - Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Goosander, Pheasant, Little Egret, Red Kite, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Curlew (HO), Common Sandpiper, Woodpigeon, Tawny Owl (HO), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Dipper, Dunnock,Robin, Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Pied Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Rook, Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin.

Woodp

12th April - Belvide Reservoir, Staffordshire, England

At last we have managed to get out to look for some birds! Belvide is our local patch in England and usually holds a good variety of birds on the lake, in the woods and in the surrounding fields. Our first stop was at the Scott hide where a fellow birder pointed out a Willow Warbler in some bushes just outside the hide. A scan of the lake found plenty of Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebe. I sensed some movement below the hide and when I looked down there were loads of frogs moving about in the water. On to the next hide where a nice Gadwall swam past and a Dunnock showed well on top of a low bush, singing well. From here we could see several Canada Geese and 3 Mute Swans took off and flew in front of us. We moved to the Gazebo hide which overlooks several feeding stations as well as giving a veiw over the lake. The feeders and bird table were very busy, with Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long tailed tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Blackbird, Dunnock and a Nuthatch all visiting the area. We stayed there being entertained well for a while before we set off back towards the exit. On the way back we had great views of a Wren singing from a low perch before it disappeared into deep cover. We met our birder friend again and he told us there were Fieldfare and Redwing on the nearby fields so we scrambled through the bushes to have a look at them. It was strange that we had not seen any of these birds during our visits in January or February, so I was pleased to add them to this year's list. We stopped at the excellent woodland feeding area which always holds good numbers of birds. The usual feeder visitors were in evidence along with a few others, namely Marsh/Willow tit, Coal tit and a Brambling. It had been a good morning and we both felt better for having had a bit of 'birding therapy'!

       

Brambling and Robin with Blackbird by Mary Brazierİ

Species list - Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Buzzard, Coot, Lapwing, Woodpigeon, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Willow Warbler, Long tailed Tit, Marsh/Willow Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Crow, Tree sparrow, Brambling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.


4th April - Stone, Staffordshire, England

For many years now I have been envious of our friend Rosemary who gets Siskins in the garden of her house near Calpe, along with many other species. I know these birds are around in Spain and many people have seen them, often in the pine woods, but not me. Imagine my surprise then when I looked out of the kitchen window while visiting my Mother in Law in England and spotted several small greenish birds eating the seed on the feeders there. Taking in their size and colouring I was thinking they must be the birds which have so far evaded me so I got busy with the camera while John went to find the bird book. Sure enough they were the elusive Siskins, what a result!

           

Siskin, Bullfinch, Long tailed Tit by Mary Brazierİ


27th March - El Hondo

At last, 'The Three Amigos' were reunited again! Sadly this was for one day only as Bryan got back from the Scilly Isles just before we were due to leave for our visit to England. We set off from Gran Alacant, full of hope, and met Barry at El Hondo, where we found, unusually, about 20 to 30 people there. John, Bryan and I set off to check out the reedbeds and some of the hides while Barry stayed in the tower. The reeds were very quiet and there seemed to be an absence of small birds. A Reed Warbler could be seen moving in and out of the reeds and a Moustached Warbler could be heard making quite a racket but it refused to show. I spotted an Osprey flying over and then a Purple Heron, our first for the year. When we returned to the tower a Great White Egret flew close by and Barry informed us he had seen 2 Little Bitterns, a Collared Pratincole and a Black Tern. Don't you just hate it when that happens?! There were plenty of ducks around including Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, White headed Duck, Gadwall, Shelduck and lots of Shovelers. A pair of Great Crested Grebes were displaying and Black headed Grebes looked good in their breeding plumage. Quite a few Grey Herons were flying about and the occasional Marsh Harrier was spotted. On our way out of the reserve we stopped at the tall viewing tower, and a fellow birder, Paul pointed out a White Stork in a nearby field. Someone spotted a newly arrived male Montague's Harrier which we had a few seconds view of and which was probably 'bird of the day'.

We left El Hondo and followed Barry to a nearby disused football field where the only bird we found was a Peregrine perched in a tree - a good bird though! We moved on to San Felipe where we bumped into yet more local birders, including John Edwards and a visiting Norwegian birder, Mel and Wendy, and Bob and Rose. Like El Hondo, it was rather quiet here birdwise and at one point we thought we might have seen more birders than birds today! We ate our lunch at the picnic area from where we were able to see Stonechat, Willow Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Bryan chased after a small bird to confirm it as a Subalpine Warbler. A Purple Swamphen was on the pool as usual, along with the reintroduced Red knobbed Coots. After lunch we walked round to the first hide where we had great views of a Zitting Cisticola but very little else. By now it was getting hot and we decided to drive home via our usual route around the local small roads and tracks. I remarked that we had not seen a Little Owl for a while, but this was soon remedied when one appeared sitting on a wall in one of it's usual haunts. On a road where we always seem to see a Green Sandpiper we saw two of them and later we found a nice Corn Bunting singing from a wire. Crossing back over the salinas we added the usual Avocet, Black winged Stilt, Slender billed Gull and Greater Flamingo to our list before heading for home. In the end the species list was better than we thought with the main absentees being the small reed dwelling birds, such as, Penduline Tits which were heard only. It had been a good day, despite the heat stroke I ended up with. At least I won't be getting that again for a while as we are now back in England where there is still snow on the ground!

           

Zitting Cistocola by John Brazierİ

Species list - Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard, Red crested Pochard, White headed Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Montague's Harrier, Osprey, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Peregrine, Purple Gallinule, Coot, Moorhen, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Green Sandpiper, Black headed Gull,Slener billed Gull, Yellow legged Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Common/Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Swallow, Stonechat, Blackbird, Moustached Warbler (HO), Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Penduline tit (HO), Southern Grey Shrike, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.


22nd March - San Pedro del Pinatar and Sierra Altaona

Today we planned to explore a new area of mountains to the south of the Sierra Escalona but decided to call at San Pedro del Pinatar on the way. We arrived at the salinas and drove to the car park by the beach. I had heard that Black eared Wheatear had been seen here a few days ago and was keen to add that species to my year list. We walked along the boardwalk to the beach where a pair of Audouin's Gulls were resting on the shore line. A survey of the scrubby area found a male and female Sardinian Warbler and a Skylark but little else. We walked back towards the car park and had a look at the lagoon and the water channel, whilst keeping an eye on the scrub. After a while John spotted a bird on the fence which on closer inspection turned out to be a Northern Wheatear, which would have been a good bird for us if we hadn't seen lots of them at Petrola just a few days before! We moved on to the next car park and had a walk round the boardwalk adding Southern Grey Shrike, Serin and Greenfinch to the list. On the way back along the track we found a few Sanderlings, a Little Stint and a Turnstone at the edge of the water. We stopped once more along the road and saw most of the regulars on the lagoon, namely Greater Flamingo, Avocet, Black winged Stilt, Shelduck, Black headed Gull, Slender billed Gull, Redshank, Black necked Grebe, and Yellow legged Gull. Our final stop was at the end of the road by the water channel. We were looking for the Dowitcher that had been seen here recently but sadly we didn't find it. We did, however, see a Kingfisher perched on an overhanging Palm branch which stayed there allowing us to see it well through the scope.

       

Sierra Altaona views by Mary Brazierİ

Next we set off inland, past the town of Sucina and got a bit lost! After a brief 'heated discussion' we decided to head for Cabezo de la Plata and work back. Once in this village it was easy to find the F48 road which goes over the mountain. This proved to be a very pretty route with great views. The road was narrow and winding but generally not too bad. After a while we saw a pull in at the side of the road, and there was a small bird on the fence. John pulled in and we got the bins on the bird. Would you believe it? It was only the sought after Black eared Wheatear! The bird was not where we had expected to see it, although I know they like mountains and rocky places so it was probably not that unusual, it was just that, not having seen it at San Pedro I thought we had missed out. Happy Days! We got the chairs out of the car boot and had our picnic lunch here, watching Jackdaws flying over and listening to a Cuckoo calling somewhere down below us but keeping well hidden as always. After lunch we continued along the mountain road, stopping periodically to look for the birds we could hear calling, but finding them proved to be an impossible task in all the pine trees. As we started to descend the other side of the mountain we passed a large meadow where two large black birds were on the ground. I nearly didn't say anything but decided they could be of interest so asked John to stop the car in a gateway. We got out to examine the birds and, sure enough they were Chough another bird that had been on my wishlist. We left the mountain and continued on our route. At one point we saw a couple of birds on a wire and stopped to have a look. One was a House Sparrow but the other turned out to be a Woodchat Shrike, another summer visitor to add to my year list. From here we went to find a small gorge a bit further on but didn't stay long, promising to re-visit the area again sometime in the future. We headed home, tired but happy, after another great day out.

       

Black eared Wheatear by John Brazierİ and Woodchat Shrike by Mary Brazierİ

Species List - Little Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Mallard, Kestrel, Red legged Partridge, Moorhen, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Sanderling, Little Stint, Turnstone, Redshank, Black headed gull, Slender billed Gull, Yellow legged Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo (HO), Pallid Swift, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Skylark, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Swallow, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Black eared Wheatear, Wheatear, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, Chough, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Serin, Goldfinch.


19th March - The plains and lagoons of Petrola

It was a bright sunny day when we met our friend Trevor and set off on our annual visit to Petrola. To our surprise, just before we arrived at our turn off, a single Great Bustard flew overhead and across the motorway! At the Bonete turn off we turned left towards La Higuerela and drove to the railway bridge where we parked and scanned the area for birds. I spotted another single Great Bustard in the distance and we all had a look through the scopes, just in case this was the only one we would see. Large numbers of larks could be heard and we managed to get a look at a couple of Calandra Larks sitting in a grassy field. We continued along this road passing a wooded area which held Goldfinches and Chaffinches. Suddenly a Jay appeared flying through the trees and this was soon joined by two more of these showy birds. As soon as we entered the village we took a sharp left turn onto a farm track which takes you across the plains. We spotted plenty of larks here and debated whether they might be Thekla Larks or the more usual Crested Larks. Further along the track we came across a Northern Wheatear, our first for the year, and the first of many we saw during this outing. As we were driving, John spotted a bird which flew fast over the road in front of us and into a small tree on the roadside to our right. We all stayed in the car and waited for it to re-appear. After a short while we heard the bird giving a strange call and decided to all approach the tree together in the hope of seeing the bird. As we came close to the tree the bird took flight, not giving us much chance for a good look at it. Only John saw the bird well and he was convinced it was a Great Spotted Cuckoo. (We have now listened to GS Cuckoo calls on the Internet and are happy with our identification.) After continuing along this road for a while Trevor spotted a group of about five or six Black bellied Sandgrouse, which although quite distant, gave us very good views through the scopes. After a while they took flight and we could clearly see the black bellies which give the birds their name. As we approached the large lagoon at the end of this track we there were raptors in the air and when we parked up near the lagoon we could see there were at least two Marsh Harriers, a male and a female. We had a great view from where we were and I twice spotted the male carrying a stick, presumably nest building or maintenace. We saw both birds perched on the ground and flying over the reeds, and for John and I these were the best views we have had of a male harrier as we are more used to seeing the females. We scanned the lagoon finding Coot, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Pochard, Mallard, a Grey Heron, Lapwings, Rock Dove and an unidentified wader, which might have been a sandpiper. We continued along the side of the railway until Trevor shouted 'stop' as he had seen a Marsh Harrier perched at the edge of the reeds. John reversed the and we all saw the bird fly off at close range. Just before we came to the end of the track where it meets a proper road again, we came across a large flood all across the road. Trevor and I got out of the car to reduce the weight inside, although for me it was more about not being in the car if it ended up stuck in the middle of the flood! I took my bag, my bins and the camera with me of course! Trevor attempted to test the depth of the water with a stick, but it was difficult as he couldn't reach the middle where the water was deepest. When he evetually threw the stick into the water John thought he had seen the stick bounce and decided he would take a chance. Luckily, the car got through and Trevor and I scrambled along the side of the road and got back in the car.

       

Wheatear and Thekla Lark by Mary Brazierİ

Next we travelled to the lagoons at Petrola and took the first turning which took us along the right hand side of the lakes. We drove along this road as it is usually easy to get close views of waders in the water on both sides as they are not normally disturbed by the car. Unfortunately, we couldn't go very far as the road was completely flooded up ahead. It seems there has been a lot of rain, or maybe even snow, here recently. Luckily, there were a few birds at this end of the pool, including Redshanks, a Water Pipit and at least 3 Yellow Wagtails of the blue headed Iberian variety. These birds were an amazingly bright shade of yellow with the contracting blue and white head pattern showing up well. On the other side of the road a Little Ringed Plover could be seen through the gaps in the fence. We stopped at the end of the path that leads to the hide to eat our lunch, continuing to scan the lagoon and the reeds and finding more Shovelers, Black headed Grebe and 3 Reed Buntings at the botton of the reads. After lunch we drove down the other side of the lagoon, where there is a high but distant view over the water. From here we could see a large group of Greater Flamingoes on an island and in the water. There were also plenty of Black headed Gulls on the water and 2 White headed Ducks were diving close to the shore. We left here and set off for across the tracks where Great Bustards are normally seen. After driving and scanning the wide open fields trying to distinguish birds from rocks and bushes for some time, John spotted a single Great Bustard on top of a ridge silloueted against the sky. As we continued a Kestrel was perched in a nearby tree and a lake on our right held more ducks, Coots and Greater Flamingoes. Finally the track joined the proper road again and we continued through Corral Rubio, turning right between two lakes. As we scanned the water to see what was present I was surprised and delighted to see a White Stork on the edge of the lagoon showing well, brilliant! As we moved further along the road there was more water on the fields and one of these temporary lakes held a group of Red Crested Pochard another new bird for this year's list. In fact I added 10 species to my year list during this trip. Further along this road towards Bonete, Trevor spotted a group of about 25 Great Bustards in a field on our right, this was more like it, a lot better than just the single birds we had seen so far. They were not too far away so we watched them for a while before they took off, giving us an excellent flying display. Our final stop was near some farm buildings which have previously held Rock Sparrow but we didn't see any this time. A Corn Bunting was singing from a wire, however claiming the title for last bird of the day. We had a short coffee stop at a garage cafe before joining the motorway and heading back down to the coast. It had been a long day as Petrola is about 95 miles from home, and that is before you start driving around the tracks. Despite this we all agreed that it had been an excellent day's birding with plenty of quality birds giving great views, and a few nice surprises along the way.

       

Redshank and Yellow Wagtail by Mary Brazierİ

Species List - Great Crested Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Red crested Pochard, White headed Duck, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Red legged Partridge, Coot, Moorhen, Great Bustard, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Redshank, Lapwing, Black headed Gull, Black bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark (?), Calandra Lark, Swallow, Water Pipit, Yellow Wagtail (blue headed), White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Wheatear, Mistle Thrush, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Crow, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting.

       

Great Bustards by Mary Brazierİ


12th March - La Finca golf course, Algorfa.

Today we went to Iceland (the shop not the country!) We decided to take a detour on the way to have a look at La Finca golf course near Algorfa. The course includes a few lakes of varying sizes and these held small groups of Shoveler, Pochard, Mallard, Moorhen and Coot. We found 3 Serins on a fence and a Cetti's Warbler was calling from the reedbeds. A Hoopoe landed on a nearby wall, and a Green Woodpecker flew past and onto the course, both species which like the short cut grass of a golf course. Not a proper bird trip but it certainly improved an otherwise mundane shopping trip.

       

Views over La Finca golf course by Mary Brazierİ


4th to 9th March - Mojacar area, the Guadalentin Valley and Sierra Espuna

Last week we had a few days away in Mojacar, stopping overnight in the Sierra Espuna on the way back. This was not really a birding trip but, of course, we were always on the lookout for interesting species! On our first day we went up into the village and the highlight of this visit was the sight of three Black Wheatears on a wire and then in a rocky area just below the village, the only trouble was we didn't have the big camera with us! Later that day we drove along to La Garrucha where we saw a group of about 15 Common Scoters sitting on the sea. The weather was not good for birds as it was windy and showery, but there were a couple of Cattle Egrets, along with a few Black Redstarts, Meadow/Water Pipits, White Wagtails and Crested Larks on a flooded field near the beach. The following day was lovely and sunny in Mojacar so we decided to drive into the Cabo de Gata and visit a few of our favourite coastal villages. Unfortunately, it appeared we were travelling away from the good weather and into more showery and windy conditions. We visited Las Negras, and Los Escullos, where we had seen Trumpeter Finches last year but there was little hope of seeing anything in the rough wind we found there today. On the way back we stopped off at La Isleta, but did not add any more birds to our list. On the way home we decided to call at Mojacar to look for the Black Wheatears again. It was sunny and warm there so we sat on a wall and waited. Red rumped Swallows were flying below us, and after a while I spotted our target bird on a distant crag. Then another appeared below some buildings to our left, and finally they both appeared on the rocks below us, and this time we had the camera with us! Later, back at the Hotel Indalo we watched House Martins flying in and out of the hotel balconies looking for nest sites and we remembered that some had been nesting on our balcony when we were here last year.

           

Black Wheatears at Mojacar by Mary Brazierİ

The next day we drove the coastal road to Carboneras and John spotted a Blue Rock Thrush as we flushed it from behind a rock before it disappeared again. On our way back I was pleased when I saw the bird in the same place, and a number of Black Wheatears were also in the area. On Friday we left the hotel and headed towards Alhama de Murcia where we drove onto the small roads and tracks around the Guadalentin river area. Corn Buntings were singing all over the place and there were plenty of larks around too. We saw Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Hoopoe, Kestrel and a Marsh Harrier but sadly, although we saw plenty of Magpies there was no sign of the Great Spotted Cuckoo we had hoped to see. On the plus side a single Little Bustard flew over giving us a great view of it. We enoyed a picnic by the Guadalentin river and later retired to a very nice hotel at the Santa Eulalia Monastery, which is situated in the woods at the bottom of the Sierra Espuna. A short walk round the gardens found us a Serin and a Green Woodpecker, and during another stroll the next morning we saw a female Blackcap in the monastery grounds. When we left we headed up the mountain eventually arriving at the highest point where there were some amazing views. In fact there were fantastic views all the way around the mountain. We could hear birds all the time but seeing them in the trees was another thing. We saw plenty of Chaffinches and I spotted one Coal Tit but that was about it. To be honest we were not really there for the birds as much as to enjoy the scenery. We ate our picnic in the woods on the way back down towards Alhama de Murcia, and had a drink in the little cafe there before setting off for home. We had a pleasant surprise as we were travelling on the motorway around Murcia when John spotted a large bird circling on our right and it turned out to be a White Stork, quite a good way to finsh off our trip we thought.

       

Corn Bunting and Crested Lark in the Guadalentin valley by Mary Brazierİ

Species list - Mojacar area - Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Common Scoter, Buzzard, Kestrel, Yellow legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Crag Martin, Swallow, Red rumped Swallow, House Martin, Meadow/Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush, House Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Reed Bunting. Guadelentin/Espuna areas - Little Grebe, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Red legged Partridge, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Black winged Stilt, Woodpigeon, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Swallow, Robin, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Sardininan Warbler, Southern Grey Srhike, Magpie, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Coal Tit, Blackcap, White Stork.

   

Little Bustard (record shot) in the Guadalentin valley by Mary Brazierİ


27th February - El Hondo and San Felipe.

A hardy group of five braved a very cold and cloudy day to take advantage of the new, later opening times at El Hondo. The previous 8.15am start was too much of a challenge for me and would have involved getting up at about 6.30am, which in my opinion is practically the middle of the night! We arrived at the North gate where a few other birders were also waiting. The warden opened the gate at 9.30, allowing us all, about ten people, to enter the reserve. We drove down to the parking area at the far end of the road, by the large viewing tower. Our first bird was a Booted Eagle sitting in a tree next to the car park. From the big tower we found a Buzzard sitting on top of a pylon, probably not enjoying the sharp rain shower that had just started. We were lucky to be protected by the covered tower, although there was little protection from the wind. A scan of one of the lagoons produced small numbers of Pochard, Black necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, and lots of Cormorants were perched on posts in the water. In the lagoon on the other side we found a Great Crested Grebe and a single White headed Duck. This was a good start as White headed Duck had been my target bird for the day.

The rain stopped and our little group of five decided to walk back towards the entrance where we initially visited the first hide. This looks over another large lagoon which held large numbers of Greater Flamingo, possibly hundreds of Shovelers and a few White headed Ducks. I found an interesting duck which I initially thought was a Pintail but, as I was directing Trevor to the bird, I did say it could be a Garganey as I sometimes get those two ducks confused. Sure enough Trevor told us it was indeed a Garganey, a bird we haven't seen for a couple of years, and Trevor was getting quite excited and having a bit of a 'Chris Packham' moment'! Springwatch viewers might understand that reference! Could this be bird of the day? Trevor then found us a pair of Gadwall and I shouted that a Kingfisher had just landed in the reeds next to the hide, thus scaring the bird away, sorry about that folks! We left this hide and walked along and turned left onto a path that runs alongside the lagoon, leading to another hide. As we walked along this track Trevor found us a Red rumped Swallow another bird on my 'wish list' for today. Swallows, Crag Martins and House Martins were flying around all over the reserve, a sign of spring, although the weather didn't feel much like it!

We squashed into the small hide at the end of the track where we had a good view of the high reedbeds and out over the lagoon. Now and again we spotted small birds moving about in the reeds but they always turned out to be Chiffchaffs. At last John spotted a single Penduline Tit to the left of the hide and most of us managed to get at least a fleeting glimpse of the bird before it flew away. We sat watching the hirundines feeding over the reedbeds and several large flocks of Greater Flamingos were flying from left to right, perhaps looking for a place to shelter from the wind. They certainly made an impressive sight. We were keeping an eye on the time as the three hours we were allowed to be in the reserve was passing by very quickly. We were hoping to get another, and hopefully a better look at a Penduline Tit so we decided to hang on until 11.30 and then move on. We waited and at last our patience was rewarded when Trevor spotted, first one, and then three Penduline Tits. They were moving about quite low down and partly hidden, but eventually they moved through the reeds until they were right in front of the hide, giving us all great views of these lovely little birds. While we waited Trevor showed me a Mediterranean Gull which was with all the Black headed Gulls and I was able to see the difference between the two species which was useful as I always struggle to separate them.

           

Penduline tit by John Brazierİ Booted Eagle, and 'Five go birding together' by Mary Brazierİ

We moved on and started walking back to the main tower, on the way there I spotted a large raptor ahead of us flying, not too high, over the path we were on. I had the binoculars on it and the bird looked huge, much larger than any buzzard, harrier, or most eagles, so I was sure it must be the 'famous' Great Spotted Eagle that overwinters here. While I was looking at the bird, one of the other birders from the tower appeared, waving at us and calling 'Great Spotted Eagle, thus confirming my thoughts and hopes, fantastic! This was the best view I have had of this bird, the only other views being of a distant bird, recognised by someone else. In my excitement, I was not sure whether the others had got a look at the bird, in fact I think I was having a 'just me and the bird' moment! I think and hope they all saw it. I didn't even think to point the camera at the bird, which is unusual for me! We returned to the tower where the helpful birder pointed out a couple of Great White Egrets flying in the distance, although I was a little distracted by a pair of Great Crested Grebes doing their famous courtship display. We continued to look out for the Great Spotted Eagle but saw only a Marsh Harrier hunting over the reeds. Another raptor appeared flying over the lagoon and I called it as an Osprey which Trevor confirmed, giving me another great bird from today's 'wish list'. This was turning out to be a brilliant day! While we were in the tower, John and Dave were enjoying great views of Red rumped Swallows, which were flying underneath us, allowing us to get a good look at the red rump which gives them their name.

Time was running out so we drove back along the road, stopping before we reached the reserve entrance, to climb up another small viewing platform to look for Glossy Ibis which we had been told were there. It was very chilly so Linda and I soon retreated to the car, while the others scanned the area, seeing one possible Glossy Ibis flying. We left the reserve at 12.30 and made a quick stop to look at the rubbish tip, but found nothing of note there. Next we headed to San Felipe visitor Centre to use the facilities and to eat lunch. Due to the cold we had our picnic in the cars, which was rather reminiscent of an English picnic! Having re-fueled and warmed ourselves up with a hot drink we set off to look for the Wryneck we had seen last week. Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be seen. While the others were still searching for that bird, I had a look in the other direction and spotted a male Hen Harrier. The others all saw this bird as it periodically appeared above the reeds, another great bird! We walked round the boardwalk hoping to see the harrier again but saw nothing at all. We had a quick look at the pool next to the picnic area where the Red knobbed Coots, Little Grebe and two Snipe we had seen last week were still in attendance. From here we decided to drive home via some of the tracks around the area, including the palm farm road, the Rojales road past the new Carrizales reserve, and the 'little reserve'. We didn't see many birds on this route, other than Green Sandpiper, Crested Lark and Kestrel before heading back across the salinas adding Avocet, Black Tailed Godwit and Dunlin to our list. It had been a great day so I asked the others to each name their 'bird of the day'. John and Dave chose Red rumped Swallow because they had not had such good views of them before. Trevor chose Spotted Eagle because this was the first time he had seen it, after many attempts! Linda chose Penduline Tit because it is a lovely little bird and I chose Garganey because no one else had chosen it. To be honest any of those birds, or even the Osprey could have been my 'bird of the day'!

       

Greater Flamingoes and El Hondo view by Mary Brazierİ

Species list - Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Cormorant, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Garganey, Pochard, White headed duck, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Osprey, Great Spotted Eagle, Kestrel, Red legged Partridge, Coot, Moorhen, Avocet, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Black tailed Godwit, Snipe, Black headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Swallow, Red rumped Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler (HO), Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Penduline tit, House Sparrow.


26th February - El Clot

Today we went to El Clot to check the bird situation for Stefano who is arriving here from Italy on Wednesday. We parked at the far end and walked along the path until we came to the point where the fence stops. On the way we passed a Southern Grey Shrike showing well in a tree on our left. We sat in the hide which overlooks the marshy area where a Marsh Harrier had put up a flock of Black winged Stilts and a few Teal. Barry had been here yesterday and had seen a good mix of hirundines but we initially saw only Crag Martins. On the way to the wader scrape we flushed a bird which might have been a Stone Curlew but we couldn't be sure. The scrape had held water a week or two ago, but has now dryed up again. The only birds there were a couple of White Wagtails and a single Moorhen. On the way to the main hide we saw many Black Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers, a Robin and two Song Thrushes. We found two men painting the main hide but hardly any birds. Moving on towards the mirador more workmen were digging a hole across the whole path so we climbed above the mirador and looked down on the pool, but once again the birds seemed to have been scared away by all the activity. We carried on up the hill towards the two viewing towers. From the second tower we scanned the area in front of us and I spotted a Green Woodpecker in a distant tree and another in the tree next to it. As we came down the hill one of the woodpeckers flew off, while the other allowed us to get close enough for a dodgy photo before flying away. We heard it calling and saw it a couple more times as we continued our walk.

           

Southern Grey Shrike, Green Woodpecker and Marsh Harrier by Mary Brazierİ

Quite a few Greenfinches were around and a mixed flock of Goldfinches and Linnets flew over. While we were looking at a distant Buzzard we spotted more Crag Martins with the odd House Martin, Swallow and a Pallid Swift amongst them. It had not been the best birding visit to the Clot but we had enjoyed the walk and decided that Green Woodpecker was probably our 'bird of the day'.

Species list - Little Egret, Shelduck, Mallard, Teal, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Moorhen, Black winged Stilt, Pallid Swift, Green Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Magpie, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Serin, Linnet.


20th February - San Felipe, Crevillente and Elche Reservoir.

Today eight of us from Gran Alacant joined the Costa Blanca Bird club's February field trip. On route we ticked off Little Owl and Marsh Harrier before meeting the others at the San Felipe visitor's centre. The group set off towards the first hide and someone spotted a bird on a fence post which initially looked like a sparrow. On closer inspection through several scopes, it was found to be a Wryneck, a good bird to start us off. We could hear Bluethroats moving around in the scrub but most of us only caught glimpses of them. Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Southern Grey Shrike, Hoopoe and Kestrels were easier to see. The lagoons were filled with Coots along with a few Little Grebe, Black necked Grebe and Shelducks. The group split up for a while, meeting up at the picnic area where we admired the recently re-introduced Red knobbed Coots on the small pool, and two Snipe were spotted on the far bank. Next we travelled up to Finca Bonelli's Eagle in the canyon behind Crevillente. Here Colin and Jane provided tea, coffee and biscuits while we all looked at this year's nest and searched for the Bonelli's Eagles. While we chatted and admired the views, one of the eagles was spotted flying over the ridge and we saw it deliver a meal to the second bird whose head could now be seen in the nest.

       

Bonelli's Eagle by Michael Duddellİ and the cliffs where the Bonelli's Eagles nest by Mary Brazierİ

We left here and enjoyed a nice lunch at a nearby restaurant before travelling to the Elche Reservoir. A short walk took us along the edge of the water where there are extensive reed beds and high rocky cliffs. The water held mainly Coots, Mallards, Little Grebe and Black necked Grebe and a Purple Swamphen was heard. The sky held hundreds of Crag Martins, some of which appeared to be sitting against the rock face. At the top of a rocky ridge someone spotted a Black Wheatear and later on a Blue Rock Thrush, both giving reasonable views through a scope. Before we left three Cattle Egrets flew into the reedbeds and apparently the area holds a roost of some 3000 of these birds, although we didn't stay long enough to see this. A Starling roost can also be seen here when the light goes. There is a known site for Eagle Owl a short distance away, but again we didn't wait to see this as it had been a busy day and we were ready for home. As we reached the main road our friends in the car behind attracted our attention to tell us that we had a flat rear tyre so we pulled in to deal with it. We were very grateful for the help given by our friends, including Paul who put out warning triangles and directed the traffic, Trevor who helped John change the wheel and Dave who generally supervised operations! Greta, Linda, Brenda and I 'did our bit' to help empty the boot and replace stuff when we were ready to go. A minor drama but speedily dealt with. We had not seen a high number of species but it had been a good day, with great company and interesting places to visit.

       

Elche Reservoir views by Mary Brazierİ


13th February - El Hondo fields and San Felipe

The 'third amigo' has been replaced! Well not really but while Bryan is away on the Isles of Scilly, we arranged to go out for a few hours birding with CBBC Member and part time GA resident, Mark Etheridge. Mark has been out and about in the area over the last few days so he took us straight to a field where he had seen a group of Cranes, and what do you know? There were 14 Cranes in the same field, a good start!

       

Common Cranes - by John Brazierİ

Mark had confidently promised to find me a Bluethroat so we headed to San Felipe and walked around the boardwalk and on to the first hide. From there we could see a few Little Grebes on the water, and two Purple Swamphens in the reeds at the other side of the lagoon. While we were there Mark set about using his 'secret methods' to try to bring in a Bluethroat and within minutes one had arrived, giving us the best views we have ever had, brilliant and definately bird of the day! Thanks Mark! From the second hide we added a Black necked Grebe to our list but otherwise birds were quite scarce.We tried to entice some Penduline tits out, but although we heard some, we didn't actually see them. We had our lunch at the picnic area watching Red knobbed Coots and Chiffchaffs through the viewing screens, and a Snipe flew in and landed at the far end of the pool. While we were there John and I were pleased to see our first Swallow of the year. We headed home, passing, but not stopping at the Elche rubbish tip, which was a pity as Barry and Malcolm had apparently seen 2 White Storks there today. They must have been in the same area as we were but sadly, we didn't bump into them. All in all we had a good day out although it's a shame Bryan wasn't with us as he might have enjoyed the close views of the Bluethroat, sorry Bryan!

       

Bluethroat and lunch at San Felipe - by Mary Brazierİ


9th February - Waxwings at last!!!

We have been hoping to see Waxwings all winter and have been checking local bird sightings websites regularly. Before Christmas the birds were all over Staffordshire but we were still in Spain. By the time we came back for Xmas they had either dispersed or else we, and perhaps everyone else who might report sightings, were too busy with Xmas festivities to go birding. We have come back to the UK for two weeks and have been checking websites but not really expecting to see these birds. Then, last night on a Staffordshire bird sightings website, someone had reported them in Essington, opposite the Working Mens Club ( WMC). Essington is not far from where we are staying so I hatched a plan to get up this morning and go for a look around. This was our last chance to see Waxwings before we go back to Spain on Monday as these birds will surely have gone by the next time we are here. So, off we went, me filled with hope and John not expecting much. We drove along the road looking for the WMC and I spotted it coming up on the left, a quick look to the right and I was jumping up and down shouting 'Waxwings, Waxwings!!'. We stopped by the WMC and I was out of the car like a shot. Brilliant!! There were 50+ Waxwings sitting in a tree looking fantastic. After a while they flew off but I saw where they went so we followed them and at one point they came down to a nearby berry bush and we got really great views. Another birder turned up while we were there, spotted us, and stopped to look and take photos of the birds. I can't believe I have added Brambling and Waxwing to my life list in just one week. Result!

           

Waxwings- by Mary Brazierİ


7th February - Belvide

It is our second week in England and we have managed a short visit to our local patch at Belvide Reservoir. There was lots of activity at the woodland feeders where we watched Blue Tit, Great Tit, Marsh Tit, Long tailed Tit, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Pheasant and, best of all several Bramblings! I have been wanting to see one of those for a long time. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was moving around in a nearby tree, and I spotted a Treecreeper climbing the trunk of another tree beyond the feeders. On and around the reservoir we found the usual Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebe, Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen and Mallard. Moving on to the Gazebo Hide we added Reed Bunting to our list before returning to the Scott Hide to look for a Water Rail and a Bittern which had both been seen earlier. Sadly all we saw were a couple of Coots! We had seen the Water Rail here previously but on that occasion we didn't have the camera, typical! On our way back through the woods we caught sight of a Jay flying around, which was a nice end to the morning. By now we were getting decidedly chilly so it was time to return home for a nice cup of tea!

       

Brambling, Chaffinch and Greenfinches- by Mary Brazierİ


30th January to 1st February - Whitley Bay area, Tyne and Wear

Last week we returned to England to attend the funeral of my Mum's oldest friend, who died aged 91.The funeral was sad but it went as well as these things can go. While we were in the area we had a bit of time to look at some of our favourite places and to see a few birds. At St Mary's Lightouse it was blowing a gale and I had to hold tight to the car door for fear it would end up in the North sea, and me along with it! I had to get out the car though to check the beach and the rocks for waders. I found Turnstone, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Cormorant, and a small group of Eider Ducks on the sea. On the nearby fields there were lots of Lapwings and about 10 Curlews. At the North Shields fish quay and later at Tynemouth we saw plenty of Herring Gulls and Black headed Gulls and several young Starlings all hanging around the car parks where people tend to give them their leftover chips.

       

Black headed Gull by John Brazierİ Immature Herring Gull by Mary Brazierİ


24th January - El Clot

I had arranged to meet Brenda, who is a member of my Facebook bird group, at the Clot, as she lives in Gran Alacant and I thought it would be nice to put a face to the name. Dave and Linda came along too and we all met at the main car park and and set off towards the mirador. It was a very windy day which proved to be a deterrent to the birds who were generally keeping hidden to avoid being blown away. A few Black Redstarts were flitting about or feeding on the ground and a couple of Greenfinches put in an appearance. From the mirador we could see plenty of Coots and Teal, but the wind was cold so we walked round to the main hide. The pool held a reasonable amount of water but far less than it used to. While we were there a few male and female Teal, along with several adult and a few young Moorhens ventured out to feed. Someone spotted a pair of Shovelers in the far pool through a gap between the reeds, and this was possibly the best bird of the day. A White Wagtail came down to the edge of the water and a few Starlings flew in to the reeds. Other than that it was very quiet but we enjoyed meeting up with Brenda and had a nice, albeit windy walk.


22nd January - San Felipe, El Hondo fields and Santa Pola Salinas

We met up with Bryan, Dave and Linda and set off towards the San Felipe reserve. We drove up the palm farm road and John had a brief glimpse of a Kingfisher as it whizzed along a water channel but no one else managed to see it. Several Cattle Egrets were seen along this road, but the hoped for Glossy Ibises from the other day had unfortunately moved on, although a few Lapwings were still at the far end of the field and, as usual, White Wagtails, Kestrels and Southern Grey Shrikes were easy to see. At the end of this track, where it meets the Vistabella road Bryan spotted a male Blackcap in a big tree on our left. We continued towards San Felipe past a few villas where we sometimes see Little Owl and I was saying that we hadn't seen one yet this year when one appeared!

       

Little Owl and Southern Grey Shrike - by Bryan Thomasİ

As we arrived at San Felipe I spotted 3 Cranes flying over and pointed them out to the others. We walked round to the first hide but there were no birds, probably because the reeds were being cut with a noisy strimmer at the edge of the lake. The other lagoon was mainly popluated by Coots, with a few Little Grebe and the odd Black necked Grebe, but unusually, no ducks of any sort. We made our way back towards the visitor centre and Bryan found some Penduline Tits in the reeds, which were seen by John and Dave, but rather annoyingly Linda and I missed them. We walked round the boardwalk where Penduline Tits could be heard but not seen! It was a nice sunny day so we had our lunch at the picnic area while keeping an eye on the small lagoon there. This held more Coots, Moorhens, Chiffchaffs, a Purple Swamphen and at last some ducks, but only Mallards! We also saw two pairs of Crested Coot which I believe have been brought here from elsewhere in Spain in an attempt to create a breeding colony, but can I count them on my year list? We watched a few Marsh Harriers and a Kestrel flying around before we headed back along the lanes seeing a Green Sandpiper, a Hoopoe, a Booted Eagle and a Buzzard. In a wet field we spotted a badly injured Lapwing which was unable to fly as one of it's wings was hanging off, suggesting that it may have been attacked by something and we didn't give much for it's chances of survival. A Meadow/Water Pipit was feeding nearby but we didn't get a good look at it.

       

Crested Coot and Kestrel by Bryan Thomasİ

There did not seem to be many birds around by now so we set off for home across the salinas for a bit of 'drive by birding'. As we passed the big lay-by on our left we saw there was a Great White Egret quite close to the road so we decided to come back for another look and a possible photo opportunity. After driving nearly to Santa Pola we found a place to turn round and came back to find the bird still in good view and took a few initial photos from the car. Once we all got out of the cars the bird moved further away as you might expect. At least Bryan had at last managed to get a good shot of this species which seems to have been evading him up to now! Some small waders were sheltering at the edge of the lake and I was pleased to get the chance to take a photo of a Turnstone at close range before it moved away. We drove along the N332 and turned into another parking area from where Dave, Linda and I set off across the muddy scrub towards some Greater Flamingoes which were closer than usual, and Dave and I attempted to photogragh them. Bryan and John stayed by the car where they watched Slender billed and Audouin's Gulls. After this we set off home having had another good day's birding.

       

Slender billed Gull and Great White Egret - by Bryan Thomasİ

Species list - Little Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Great White Egret, Greater Flamingo, Grey Heron, Common Crane, Shelduck, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Coot, Crested Coot, Purple Swamphen, Moorhen, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Turnstone, Green Sandpiper, Black tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Slender billed Gull, Yellow legged Gull, Audouin's gull, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow/Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Penduline tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Common Starling, Magpie, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting.

           

Injured Lapwing, Turnstone and Cattle Egret - by Mary Brazierİ


17th January - Around the El Hondo fields

Today was the first outing for the year of 'The Three Amigos'. We decided to do our regular trip around the Santa Pola salinas and the El Hondo fields and I especially wanted to look for the 80+ Glossy Ibis which had been seen by Barry and Malcolm yesterday. Our first stop was at the lay by next to the salinas where a number of small waders were sheltering at the edge of the lake, including Dunlin, Turnstones and a Redshank. It was no wonder they were hiding from the wind as it was quite strong and very cold, meaning that we didn't stick around very long. We moved on to the next pull in for another scan of the lake but found very little, other than the usual Little Egrets, Greater Flamingos, Shelducks and a Grey Heron. We set off across the lanes and headed for the 'palm farm road' where we saw a Great White Egret flying and a few Cattle Egrets following a farmer on his tractor. As we neared the end of this lane we spotted the flooded field Barry had told me about and, as he had said, it was filled with birds! There were 80+ Glossy Ibis, hundreds of Lapwings and Starlings, 8 Golden Plovers, 4 Wood Sandpipers a few Little Egrets a Great White Egret, a Green Sandpiper and numerous White Wagtails and Cattle Egrets. It was a spectacular sight especially when the birds periodially took off and flew around a bit before landing again!

       

Glossy Ibis and Wood Sandpiper - by Bryan Thomasİ

After a while most of the Glossy Ibis took off and flew away across the fields to our left so we set off in pursuit and found them again on a nearby farmer's field. While we were looking at them a group of three large birds came flying towards us and we quickly realised these were Common Cranes, an added bonus. A nearby flooded field was filled with more White Wagtails along with some Tree Sparrows and the odd Water Pipit. We decided to have a look at the new Carrizales de Elche reserve, and after sucessfully navigating the log over the water channel we disturbed a few Coots which flew off to the other side of the lake. The place was very quiet birdwise but we did flush 2 Green Sandpipers and a group of 10 Cranes were seen flying over the nearby fields. We decided to re-visit the original flooded field to see if the Glossy Ibis had returned and try to get some photos. The Glossy Ibis were indeed back in the field and we sat in the car watching them, and enjoying the sight of another group of about 30+ Common Cranes as they flew overhead. On the drive back over the salinas we spotted 2 Spoonbills feeding close the the edge of the lake and not far from the road. It had been a great day out and we enjoyed catching up with Bryan and seeing some amazing birds.

       

Glossy Ibis flying, and feeding with other species on a flooded field - by Mary Brazierİ


15th January 2013 - San Pedro del Pinatar and Cabo de Palos

This week we joined the CBBC field trip to the Mar Menor which provided a good opportunity for me to finally get my 2013 bird list going. At the San Pedro salinas we found about 28 CBBC Members but not so many birds. The salinas were quieter than normal giving us just Shelduck, Greater Flamingo and Black tailed Godwit. At the beach a group of Turnstones were feeding in the sea grass along the shoreline, along with a single Sanderling and a Cormorant was fishing just off the beach. We examined the scrubby area behind the beach finding Sardinian Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Hoopoe, Greenfinches and Southern Grey Shrike. We moved on to our next location at Las Urrutias where a scan of the sea found us Great Crested Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Common Scoter and possibly bird of the day, Velvet Scoter, a lifer for me. We walked across the old airfield where we saw Crag Martins, Crested Larks, a few Red legged Partridges, two Booted Eagles , one pale phase the other dark phase, and a Kestrel. Our next stop was at the sewage farm near El Algar, a very smelly place! Some of the pools had dried out but a short hike through the undergrowth took us to a large pool next the the windmill where we found Black necked Grebes, Little Grebes, Shelducks, Coots, and a Common Sandpiper. Around this area we also saw Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel and a single Ringed Plover.

At this point we left the other members as they went off for lunch, and John and I, and our friends Dave and Linda set off to Cabo de Palos where we had a coffee stop at a cafe next to the small marina. When we came out of the cafe I heard and then saw two and then another three Parakeets fly from the other side of the marina over our heads. Despite me jumping up and down yelling 'Parakeet', the others were too busy looking at the menu and none of them turned round in time to see these birds! We drove round to the lighthouse and parked up to eat our picnic next to the little beach there and I spotted a Sandwich Tern fishing near to the shore . After lunch we had a walk round the lighthouse grounds where we saw mainly Black Redstarts, Stonechats, House Sparrows, Starlings and Sardinian Warblers. Next we headed back to the Palos Salinas where we found the usual Avocets, Black winged Stilts and Slender billed Gulls, along with Audouin's Gulls, Black headed Gulls, Yellow legged Gulls and a Redshank. From here we headed home having enjoyed a great day out with good company and good birds.

       

Looking at Common and Velvet Scoters near Las Urrutias and the windmill at the El Algar sewage farm - by Mary Brazierİ


8th January - Back in Spain.

For anyone who has been checking to see whether we found any Waxwings I have to inform you that I did not, although John says he saw some one day when he was driving without me! I am quite disappointed but I will be looking out for them again next winter. There has been a distinct lack of birding since Xmas but now that we are back in Spain I am looking forward to starting this year's list. So far I have ticked off a few easy targets along the Carabassi beach road, including Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Little Egret and Cormorant. I expect there were others but it is quite difficult to spot birds when you are just driving by in the car. I need to get my birding hat on again soon!


22nd to 28th December - Blithfield Reservoir

22nd December - We have now relocated to a rented cottage on the edge of Blithfield Reservoir in Staffordshire. It is nice and peaceful here, and after battling through the crowds in Morrison's Supermarket yesterday, I think we are now ready for Christmas. Today it is raining and more rain is forecast for tomorrow so our birding is confined to watching any birds that might swim by, or fly into the trees down by the lakeside. So far we have seen Coot, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe and a small party of Long tailed Tits in the trees. In addition, a group of noisy Jackdaws can usually be seen hopping about on the roof of the farm buildings here. The mist is now gathering so I don't expect to see much more today. We will see what turns up tomorrow.

December 24th - Well I wasn't here most of yesterday, and when I was here I felt quite ill! Today there was a brief glimpse of the sun between the showers and I managed to spot a Grey Heron down by the lake along with a Crow chasing two Magpies or it may have been the other way round, oh and there was a Blackbird too.

December 26th - We managed a a short trip over to the woods and the other side of the lake today and found plenty of small birds on the feeders and lots of ducks on the reservoir. The highlight though was seeing a Treecreeper as we entered the woods and watching it climbing up a tall tree for a few minutes.

December 27th - After a short shopping trip into Rugeley, we drove to the little Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Wolseley Bridges. The initial brightness of the day had be now disappeared to be replaced with yet more rain, Nevertheless, we donned our wellies and plodged round the soggy paths to have a look around as we had not been here before. There were a few Mallards, Mute Swans and Canada Geese and the usual suspects were taking advantage of the feeders. We went to have look at the River Trent, which was very high and I spotted a lovely male Goosander and then a second one, both near to the river bank and moving down river, not that they had much choice in that as the river was running very fast! A great bird to see, especially as we had gone out with no expectations, just a need to get out to the house for some fresh air. I was pretty pleased to have added two new birds Treecreeper and Goosander to my year list in just the last two days! I'm still hoping for a Waxwing on December 31st!

       

A rainbow over Blithfield Reservoir taken from the bedroom window of our cottage, and the River Trent where two Goosanders were seen under the overhanging trees on the right - by Mary Brazierİ


18th/19th December - Belvide Reservoir, M6 Motorway, Stone and Wolverhampton.

This week we managed to escape from the madness of Christmas for a morning and paid a quick visit to our local patch in England. It was nice to walk through the trees and look at the regular visitors to the bird feeders, including Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Robin, Blackbird, Tree Sparrow, and a female Pheasant making the best of the free food. At the first lakeside hide, through the mist, we could just about make out a few ducks (Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Teal), along with Canada Geese, Mute Swans and Great Crested Grebes. There is an area of reedbeds in front of the hide and I was just thinking that we could see a Water Rail here when John whispered and pointed to one just below us! We watched it as it caught a fish and paddled about in the water, giving some of the best views we have had of this bird. Great! The only negative was that we had forgotton to bring the camera with us, so we missed a really good photo opportunity! After visiting a couple more hides, we returned to the first woodland hide where we had excellent views of a Wren, another bird we don't often see well. After that it was time to return home to warm up, and for me to get on with some more Christmas preparations.

The following day we set off to visit John's Mum in Stone. On the way up the M6 we saw a Buzzard perched in a tree and there were plenty of Lapwings on the many flooded fields. From John's Mum's kitchen window we watched Bullfinches, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long tailed Tits along with Nuthatch, Robin, Blackbird and a Collared Dove visiting her feeders. On the way back down the M6, in the semi-darkness a Grey Heron flew over the motorway.

While staying with my Mum in Wolverhampton we noticed there were six to ten Blackbirds feeding in the garden and the neighbouring gardens. There also seem to be plenty of House Sparrows around which had previously disappeared for a few years. There are also quite a few Magpies which nest in the area, much to my Mum's disgust!


11th December - El Pinet beach

I know I have gone back a day but I wanted to thank all the CBBC people who looked at my fuzzy photos of some 'mystery ducks' which I had seen the day before the field trip. Obviously, it was difficult to even see the birds on my camera screen so I emailed copies to a few people who I thought might be able to help. In the end the consensus seemed to be that the birds were Common Scoters, which is what Els had already advised me! To be fair Els had been confident of her identification and so I was pretty sure that is what they were. Having looked at some photos on Surfbirds I was more convinced and emails from Malcolm and from CBBC member Paul seemed to settle the matter. Just for interest, here is a fairly poor photo but maybe you can tell what they are! I have included a photo of some Sanderlings which we also saw running along the shoreline.

       

Common Scoters and Sanderling by Mary Brazierİ


12th December - San Felipe and Vistabella area

Today we joined 25+ other CBBC Members on the club's December field trip. We began with a walk around San Felipe, trying to keep out of the way of a walking group and a coach party of school children. I have never seen the place so busy! There were plenty of birds around too. On one of the lagoons we saw a Purple Swamphen already with chicks! Several Little Grebe and Black necked Grebe could be picked out amongst the numerous Coots. Marsh Harrier and Buzzard were seen, along with a nice Hen Harrier hunting over another lagoon. Many small birds could be heard, if not always seen. These included Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Stonechat, Penduline Tit and Zitting Cisticola. On a nearby field we found several Meadow Pipits and some lucky people also saw a Bluethroat and a Kingfisher. A Southern Grey Shrike was perched at the top of a tree, a small group of Golden Plover were sitting in a field and a Snipe and a Green Sandpiper took flight nearby.

       

Purple Swamphen and Little Grebe by Bryan Thomasİ

Near the Vistabella house we saw two Kestrels flying around and in the distance six more raptors, probably Buzzard and/or Marsh Harrier could be seen. As our convoy moved on we passed several flooded fields holding large numbers of White Wagtails, Lapwings and other unidentified species. Our final stop at the little bridge by the palm farm was humming with birds, including several Song Thrushes, Jackdaws, and Black Redstarts. A Robin, a Little Egret, a Cattle Egret and a Great White Egret which flew over close by. Two more Marsh Harriers were seen, one on a pylon and one sitting in a field, giving good views through the scope. A Booted Eagle flew over, once again giving everyone a good view of it. A great meal at Tano's in Santa Pola ended the morning and we headed home while others continued on to watch the fishing boats returning to port.


10th December - Carabassi beach and El Clot

We had a short trip out today stopping by the Carabassi beach where we found Cormorant, Little Egret, Turnstone and Little ringed Plover. A highlight of the day was when we spotted a flock of birds flying high over the sea and identified them as Common Cranes, about 26 of them. I don't know where they were going but it was interesting to see them over the sea.

       

Turnstone and Little Egret by Mary Brazierİ.

           

Little Egret and Common Cranes by Mary Brazierİ.

We moved on to the El Clot car park where there were plenty of small birds flying around. Sitting in the car we were able to observe Hoopoe, Black Redstart, White Wagtail, Chaffinch and Spotless Starlings.

       

Black Redstart and Hoopoe by Mary Brazierİ.


6th December - Finca Bonelli's Eagle

Today eight CBBC Members from Gran Alacant set off to Finca Bonelli's Eagle for our annual Christmas Party. We hadn't planned to do any birding on the way but we couldn't resist a couple of stops on the way. The first stop was to have a look at the Elche Tip, we really know how to enjoy ourselves! The smell was appalling and unfortunately there was nothing exciting around, just the usual Cattle Egrets, Jackdaws and various gulls. Our next stop was at the old quarry at the bottom of the Crevillente canyon. It was very quiet here 'birdwise', possibly because it was a Spanish holiday and there were hunters with guns and dogs, walkers and horse riders. We hung around a bit and after a while Paul called to say a large bird was about to appear from behind some rocks and we all watched it as it flew past us and off out of sight. At first we thought it was a raptor but it didn't look quite right. Bryan said it was an owl, and after consideration of size, shape and habitat, we came to the conclusion that it was an Eagle Owl! It must have been disturbed by people or dogs and was probably the closest view we have had, or are ever likely to have of this owl. Having said that, I still wish we had seen it for longer, or had seen it perched, but I suppose I should be satisfied with a ten second view of this amazing bird!

By now it was time to set off to Colin and Jane's for lunch. We spent an enjoyable few hours eating, drinking, chatting and looking for the Bonelli's Eagles, which sadly failed to appear. We returned home tired but definately not hungry, having had another great day out.

       

Xmas Party time, and Colin, Jane and Enrique at Finca Bonelli's Eagle by Mary Brazierİ.


3rd December - Cabo de Palas, Calblanque and San Pedro del Pinatar

Today we set off with Bryan to visit the Mar Menor area. It was a glorious sunny day, with only light winds and incredible light. Our first stop was at the Cabo de Palos salinas where the usual birds were present, including Greater Flamingo, Avocet, Black winged Stilt and Slender billed Gull. We parked on the far side of the lagoons and found a small group of Dunlin and Little Stint, two Kentish Plover a Little ringed Plover and a Greenshank. On one of the low walls between the lagoons we found, first one and then another seven Stone Curlew. They were the closest I had ever seen this species and we had great views through the scope. We drove back round the lagoons and stopped to take a few photos and check the pools for more waders. At the far end of the road we examined the scrubby area where a few small birds seemed to be moving about. Quite a few Greenfinch were around and we saw and heard Sardinian Warbler and Dartford Warbler. Suddenly, Bryan called out Wryneck and in my excitement I couldn't decide whether to look through my binoculars or the camera! In the end I went for the camera and got a couple of record shots before the bird flew out of sight. This had to be the 'bird of the day' for John and I as we haven't seen one for at least three years. Unfortunately, Bryan was so busy showing us where the bird was he forgot to take a photo!

       

Greater Flamingo by Bryan Thomasİ Wryneck (record shot) by Mary Brazierİ.

We moved on to the lighthouse and found plenty of Crested Larks and Black Redstarts as we walked around the area. There were more Sardinian Warblers along with Stonechats, Southern Grey Shrike and a Song Thrush. Bryan was pleased with the Song Thrush as he rarely sees them in Spain, although he sees them all the time when he is on the Scilly Isles. A Kestrel was hunting and returning to feed on a pylon near to the sea, but we couldn't see what it had caught. We stopped for coffee at a nice cafe between the beach and the harbour before moving on to Calblanque.

       

Crested Lark by Bryan Thomasİ and Kestrel by Mary Brazierİ.

At Calblanque we took the left hand track, passing a Little Owl sitting on a dead tree, and at the salinas we observed 20/30 Audouin's Gulls on the far side of the water. We parked near the beach and ate our picnic lunches while being continuously distracted by flocks of small birds, including Linnets, Greenfinches and Meadow Pipits. A few Cattle Egrets were wandering around in the scrub, several Stonechats were in the area, and a Kestrel hovered overhead.

Our final stop was at the San Pedro del Pinatar salinas. Here we found more Greater Flamingo, Avocet and Black winged Stilt, along with a few Black necked Grebes, Slender billed Gulls and Shelducks. Good numbers of Yellow legged Gulls were around, together with Little Egrets, 2 Hoopoes a Grey Heron, a Water Pipit, about 6 Black tailed Godwits and a Redstart. On our way back home we added Great white Egret to our list as we crossed the Santa Pola salinas. All in all it had been another good day's birding with fantastic weather and a few highlights, such as, the Wryneck and the great views of Stone Curlew.

       

Shelduck and Black necked Grebe by Bryan Thomasİ

Species list - Black necked Grebe, Cormorant, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Buzzard, Kestrel, Red legged Partridge, Stone Curlew, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Little ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Black tailed Godwit, Slender billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Yellow legged Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Common Statling, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.


29th November - Stuck at home!

We have had little opportunity for birding this week due to rain, high winds, and multiple headaches! Therefore, I thought I would post some photos of a Golden Eagle taken at a Hagley Falconry Centre during the summer. We may have seen a Golden Eagle flying, at Escalona last week but we couldn't be sure. They can be seen in this area if you know where to look, and if you have a bit of luck! You would have to be very lucky to see one as close as this though. They really are a fantastic looking bird!

           

Golden Eagle by Mary Brazierİ.


23rd November - Maigmo Mountain

Today a 'sub-group' of the CBBC set off to the Maigmo Mountains for a spot of birding and a picnic. We followed the mountain road, negotiating the many bends and avoiding all the major pot holes. On the way up we passed two cyclists who impressed us by riding all the way to the top, and showing no signs of being tired! They told us they had cycled 58Km from San Juan in Alicante and asked Trish to take their photo as a record of their achievement. Not long after, a man rode up on an impressive, orange Kawasaki motorbike, and he also asked Trish to take a photo of him and his bike. Quite funny really as I thought Bryan was supposed to be the professional photographer! We had a look at the view from the Balcon de Alicante, but it was a misty day so the view was not as good as it can be. While a few of our party set off to explore the area, Bryan started to set up a picnic table with bread and seed and a few perches in a bid to encourage the birds in. We could hear a few birds calling and after a while I spotted two birds fly in to land in a nearby tree. One perched at the top of the tree and I scrambled to get the scope out of the car boot! Once I had got it set up and got onto the bird I was delighted to see it was a Crossbill, one of my target birds for the day. I called Bryan over and he started to take a few photos. Luckily, the bird stayed in view long enough for the others to get a good look at it.

       

Crossbill and Coal Tit by Bryan Thomasİ.

This area is not a place to come if you want to see a large number of species, but it is a good place to find a few specific birds. After a little while some birds were tempted in by the food on the picnic table and we all had great views of Crested Tit and Coal Tit. The only other bird of note was a Jay which kept appearing and disappearing between the trees. Overall, I think we all had a good time. I had added Crossbill and Crested Tit to my 2012 year list, we had all seen Crested Tits and Coal Tits and everyone, apart from Dave, had seen the Crossbill. We all enjoyed our picnic lunches, and Bryan had taken a few more photos for his collection. Happy Days!

       

Crested Tit by Bryan Thomasİ The 'Gran Alacant Bird Group!'


20th November - La Mata and Sierra de Escalona

It was great to get out birding again after all the recent rain and a trip to La Mata is always enjoyable. About 30 people turned up to the CBBC field trip and it was good to chat and get to know a few more people, I even found another Wolves fan! Putting football aside there were lots of small birds flitting about amongst the vines, although most of them turned out to be Black Redstarts! That may be a bit of an exageration as we also saw small flocks of Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Linnets and Serins. Various Larks were also around but Buzzard and Kestrel were the only raptors we saw. On a more positive note, at one point I was looking at two Hoopoes, a Green Woodpecker, two Goldfinches and a Stonechat all in the same tree!

We left La Mata and had a short stop by the Embalse de Pedrera, which was fairly quiet apart from small numbers of Black necked Grebe, Grey Heron, Cormorants and a few distant ducks. Our 'super bird spotter' friend Dave found a Peregrine Falcon sitting on a rock, embarrasingly, I had previously dismissed it as just another rock! Clearly my eyesight is not getting any better! After a pleasant lunch in Torremendo we moved on to our usual parking place opposite a ridge in the Sierra de Escalona. Some of the group went for a stroll in the woods but I stayed at the parking area and was rewarded when someone found two Little Owls sitting next to each other by a little house, soon followed by two Mistle Thrush sitting in a tall, bare tree. A Green Woodpecker was also heard and seen while we waited to see if any raptors or owls would show up. A Buzzard was the first to pass over the ridge, followed some time later, by a possible Bonelli's Eagle and another possible Golden Eagle or it could have been another Bonelli's Eagle. Unfortunately the hoped for Eagle Owl had failed to show up by the time we left at about 6pm.

       

La Mata and Embalse de Pedrera by Mary Brazierİ.


16th November - El Clot

We just had time for a quick walk to the mirador today where we found just a few common species plus a nice Purple Swamphen as a small bonus. The scrub held plenty of Black Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers a Robin and a Blackbird and that was about it.

   

The mirador at El Clot by Mary Brazierİ.


8th November - Around El Hondo area - again!

After a couple of days of rain we were keen to 'go find some birds' again, so we collected Bryan from his house and 'The Three Amigos' were back in business! Our first stop was by the salinas, in the pull off by the big rocks. Here we had a slight mishap whilst trying to work out how to make the car window go down fully so that Bryan can get his big lens through the gap! John managed to lock the door so that it would not shut again! After some 'umming and ahhing' Bryan opened the door handle in the car and it was fixed. Sorting out the window will have to wait until another day. With the panic over we started to survey the lagoon and Bryan spotted a Squacco Heron on the far side, in amongst the Little Egrets and Grey Herons. While we were there a car pulled in and we were happy to see it was fellow CBBC member and friend, Trevor. Either Bryan or Trevor spotted an Osprey hovering over the lagoon on the other side of the road, we had great views of it, especially through the scope, possibly the best views John and I have ever had of this species. After watching the bird for a while I had a scan around the lagoon on our side of the road and spotted a Great White Egret along with Great Crested Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Shelducks, Shovelers and various species of gull. Bryan saw a Black necked Grebe and Trevor informed us he had seen Whimbrel and Redshank from the lay by back along the road. While we were standing there a group of three, then another four Spoonbills flew overhead; a great sight! This was shaping up to be a good day's birding.

       

Osprey and Squacco Heron by Bryan Thomasİ.

Trevor decided to follow us as we set off on our usual route, with the first stop being just past the bridge after the 'little reserve'. John spotted a raptor sitting on a distant pylon and we all had a look at it through the scopes. Initially, we thought it might be Tonn, the Great Spotted Eagle and we all got quite excited for a while. Bryan suggested we try to get a bit nearer so we parked a bit further on and then walked along a very muddy track towards the bird. When we looked at it at closer range we started to doubt our initial identification and decided, rather glumly, that it was probably a Buzzard. We drove further along the road and saw quite a few raptors in the air, including, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier and two Booted Eagles with one apparently going to land in a tree on the right, before changing it's mind as we approached. We have seen one there before so it might be worth checking that tree again next time we are out. Continuing along to the crossroads we turned right on to a minor road, passing the new reserve which we had visited with the CBBC in September, and noting a few cars parked along the track, probably Spanish birders. At the roundabout we headed along the small track to the area by the Palm farm where we had previously seen the Black Shouldered Kite. Unfortunately, it appears that this bird has now moved on. More raptors were showing, including several Booted Eagles and we flushed large numbers of Collared Doves from the trees along the road, in fact more Collared Doves than I have ever seen! From here we went to the Vistabella house, where not a lot was happening so we moved along the road and stopped opposite the place where we had seen the Osprey last week. The Osprey wasn't around but when we scanned the fields opposite, someone spotted a Kestrel perched on a stick and a raptor in the air. While looking at the raptor we spotted another bird which looked to me like a White Stork. I got the scope on the bird and noted that it had no white on the back but it did have a white area on it's front. We considered the other options but decided it did not look grey enough to be a Crane and the white patch suggested it was not a Glossy Ibis. Only Bryan and I saw the bird well but I am sure it was a Black Stork despite the fact that sightings of this bird are quite unusual.

       

Booted Eagle and Collared Dove by Bryan Thomasİ.

We drove round to the parallel road where a group of Spanish birders were on the side of the road. I went over to ask what they were looking at and they told me that eight Common Cranes had just disappeared out of sight. I realised the group included Sergio, from the Spanish bird group AHSA, who had taken the CBBC to see the new reserve in September. I told him I thought we had seen a Black Stork and he said it was unusual but not impossible, especially if it was just a single bird. Sergio and his four companions told us they had been bird ringing at the new reserve where they had ringed a lot of Chiffchaffs along with Blackbird, Robin, Bluethroat and Blackcap. We parted company and they went off to try to find the Cranes (which we didn't see), and we went looking for the Black Stork. Driving back to the area of the 'little reserve' we spotted a raptor on a post and stopped to have a look, meanwhile Trevor, in his car behind us, was looking at the Black Stork flying further away behind the raptor and we hadn't even seen it! Heading off in the direction the bird had gone we parked up and scanned around a bit seeing a small flock of Tree Sparrows and two Booted Eagles sitting on a pylon. Other small bird flocks were around including Linnet, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Skylarks. Unfortunately, we could not find our mystery bird, despite driving around a few more lanes so we gave up and headed for home. Back at home, nursing a major migraine, I watched a lovely male Sardinian Warbler moving about in the Hibiscus and wondered if it might be easier just to stay at home and wait for the birds to come to me!

       

Sardinian Warbler by Mary Brazierİ.

Species list - Great crested Grebe, Black necked Grebe, Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Spoonbill, Grey Heron, Black Stork?, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Shoveler, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Osprey, Kestrel, Coot, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Stint, Black headed Gull, Slender billed Gull, Yellow legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Skylark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Southern Grey Shrike, Starling, Tree Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.


1st November - Around El Hondo area

Today we went for a short drive across the lanes around El Hondo. We had a look for the Black Shouldered Kite in the place where we had seen it previously, but, if it is still in the area, it failed to show itself today. There were plenty of small birds in and around the fields including, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, and Stonechat. Raptors were represented by Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle and Buzzard, and finally, our 'bird of the day', a fantastic Osprey seen from the road, flying over one of the Hondo lagoons. Cattle Egrets were about as usual and Little Egret, Greater Flamingo and a few others were added as we crossed the Salinas. Not our best bird trip but to be honest we didn't work very hard looking for the birds. We enjoyed a pleasant morning out and are looking forward to more outings, and lots more birds over the winter!

       

Meadow Pipit and local view by Mary Brazierİ.

Species list - Cormorant, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Osprey, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black winged Stilt, Avocet, Yellow legged Gull, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Southern Grey Shrike, Common Starling, Magpie, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

       

Osprey at a distance and zoomed in version by Mary Brazierİ.


12th October - A Walk round El Clot

It has been a long time since we have been to the Clot so on the first cloudy day for ages we decided to risk a walk round. We collected Dave and Linda and parked on the road that goes over the hill to El Altet where there is easy access. The first bird I spotted was a Southern Grey Shrike at the top of a tree, always a reliable bird and very easy to see. We had a look at the pool from the Mirador and saw one Little Grebe along with a few Teal who are arriving to spend the winter here as usual. We walked to the two towers (nothing to do with The Lord of the Rings) and saw and heard plenty of Sardinian Warblers. On the way to the main hide a Grey Heron flew overhead. The pool was, as usual, a bit short on water, and a bit short on birds too! An adult Moorhen was on the far side of the pool with four youngsters, presumably this years offspring. Two White Wagtails were in front of the hide, along with a couple of Goldfinches and more of these were flying around the area in small flocks. Good sized flocks of Common Starling were also around, another bird which comes here for the winter.

On the way back we were hoping to see a Little Owl as there is usually one here. A scan of the surrounding trees, however, failed to reveal on owl. While looking for the owl, Dave, who is fast becoming our 'top bird spotter' found a Green Woodpecker perched on a distant tree trunk so we all had a look at it through our bins. While we were doing so something caught John's eye and this turned out to be another Green Woodpecker which had just flown in to a tree right in front of us! It climbed the tree and perched nicely on the top, it's just a shame none of us had thought to bring our 'big' cameras with us, typical! When the bird flew away we headed back past the Mirador and another Green Wooodpecker (or it might have been one we had already seen) flew in front of us giving a nice display of it's undulating flight and showing it's distinctive yellow rump. By now the clouds had mostly disappeared and it was getting hot, (too hot for me anyway) so it was time to leave. It had not been our most productive trip but was still an enjoyable one. on reflection, it was probably not the best day to go, it being a Spanish holiday, as there were plenty of cyclists (not allowed!) and dog walkers (not allowed!) around to disturb the birds. Despite this I am sure things will improve as the year progresses and more winter visitors arrive.

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The pool in front of the main hide at EL Clot by Mary Brazierİ.


9th October - The Two Amigos plus Two go on a Twitch!

We don't usually go in for 'twitching' but sometimes, when I hear a certain bird is in the area, I just have to go and look for it! On this occasion the bird in question was a Black Shouldered Kite, a lovely little raptor which I haven't seen for a couple of years. Yesterday Barry sent an email telling me about the bird with information about where it might be found, so today we set off from Gran Alacant on our mission. We arrived at the location where the bird was yesterday and scanned all the pylons, initially finding a Southern Grey Shrike and two Kestrels. On the way there we had also seen Marsh Harriers, Booted Eagles and large flocks of Cattle Egrets. We had been hanging around on top of the little bridge for about 15 minutes when Dave saw a bird fly in and called out "is that it?" John had a quick look in the scope and confirmed it was a Black Shouldered Kite! We all had a look at the bird through the scope which gave us a great view of this distinctive raptor. We had a quick look around the vistabella area but nothing was showing so we returned to Santa Pola for a nice lunch on the sea front. A very good Day!

Mark Etheridge followed Barry's directions to the site this week and has kindly allowed me to use two of his photos which are a lot better than mine!

       

Black Shouldered Kite location and Cattle Egrets by Mary Brazierİ.

Black Shouldered Kite by Mark Etheridgeİ.


2nd October - Vistabella

We set off for the Vistabella area in response to information received from Barry about a Black shouldered Kite he had seen there the day before. We drove and walked up and down the road for a while but saw no sign of the target bird although we did find a nice big spider! We came across fellow CBBC Members Mike and Cynthia, but unfortunately, they had not seen the bird either. Sadly we had to admit we had 'dipped out ' on this one. There were a few other birds around though, including, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Booted Eagle and lots of Kestrels, maybe 8 or 10 all flying around above the fields. Mike told us he had seen good numbers of Yellow Wagtails on one of the fields and we found just a couple in another, along with a small flock of Little Ringed Plovers which flew in while we were watching. There was another bird with them which I thought might have been a Dunlin. A nice female Red Crested Pochard was swimming in the channel by the side of the road and stayed just long enough for a quick photo before we left the area.

               

Vistabella house, Spider, Little Ringed Plovers and Red Crested Pochard by Mary Brazierİ.


1st October - La Mata

We paid a brief visit to La Mata hoping to find the Osprey which is usually around, but sadly it did not show itself today. A few waders were about, although identification was difficult as the water's edge is some distance from the hide. The small waders may have been Sanderling and these were accompanied by probable Little Ringed Plover and/or Kentish Plover. There were also a few larger unidentified waders. Birds we could identify included Hoopoe, Southern Grey Shrike, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Crested Lark, Skylark and a possible Richard's Pipit. A few distant raptors were high in the sky to our right, which we thought were likely to be Buzzard or Booted Eagle.

   

La Mata by Mary Brazierİ.


25th September - Areas around Santa Pola, El Hondo and El Pinet

Today we joined the CBBC field trip around our local area. It was great to catch up with people we haven't seen since before the Summer, and to meet new people who came along for the first time. A scan of the salinas found us a distant Great White Egret and a Spoonbill which took off and flew towards us before landing again just out of sight. The usual Greater Flamingos were on the far lagoon and several species of tern flew around. Our next stop was a visit to a new lagoon which has been created by the local Spanish bird group, AHSA (click here for details of their work) AHSA . This new reserve, although quiet when we visited, looks like it could be a good spot for birds in the future. In fact Collared Pratincoles nested here this year and hopefully they will use the site again in the future. The site is not an easy place to find but that might prove beneficial to the birds. While we were there a female Marsh Harrier was flying over the nearby reeds and a Booted Eagle flew over head. We also heard Reed Buntings singing, which seemed a bit strange this late in the year. From here we moved to the back gate of El Hondo where I spotted a Yellow Wagtail as it flew away. Other members were lucky to see a Kingfisher flying away down one of the water channels but sadly I missed it! We all moved on to El Pinet in the hope of seeing Collared Pratincoles which Barry said had been there on Saturday, but when we arrived they were no longer around. By way of consolation we did find 2 or 3 Stone Curlew sitting amongst the rocks on the edge of the lagoon and on one of the islands. A few Black winged Stilts and Avocets were feeding on the lakes, along with four Sanderling and a Redshank. While some of the members went off to enjoy a nice lunch, we headed home hoping we were not going to miss any rarities!

       

Booted Eagle and Black winged Stilt by Bryan Thomasİ.


16th to 22nd September 2012 - Tarifa

On 16th September we travelled to Guadix for an overnight stay in a cave house. On the way we spotted Hoopoe, several Magpies and a single Beeeater. Next day we drove to Tarifa and saw a few White Storks on nests in Algerciras. Once settled in our bungalow at the Hotel Meson de Sancho, we sat out on our porch and added Blackbird, Robin, House Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail to our list, all seen in the hotel gardens.

Day one of our Tarifa trip proper found us having breakfast at the Mirador cafe, looking across the sea towards the mountains of Africa. A nice Redstart showed itself near the car park as we left. Our first stop was at the information centre at Huerte Grande where we were given two maps and lots of useful advice by a very helpful lady. I would recommend an early visit here to anyone visiting the area (closed on Mondays), as the information on where to find the watchpoints is invaluable as the sites are not well signposted. From the information centre we took a drive along the track towards the sea but stopped after a little way as the track was rather rough and John didn't want to risk his new tyres! We walked along a bit and found the trees and scrubby areas on both sides to be alive with birds, such as, Chaffinch, Stonechat, Goldfinch, Great Tit and Wheatear. House Martins, Swallows and the odd Red rumped Swallow flew overhead and then we had our first view of migration in action when a single Black Kite flew over, soon to be joined by more of these birds, about 18 in total, a good start! Our next stop was at El Algarrobo watchpoint (km 100) which is reached by a quite tortuous road and the need to grapple with a rickety makeshift gate! At the watchpoint the birds just seemed to appear from over the hills in small groups and gradually drift over and off towards the coast. I asked the Migres monitor what birds we were seeing and he pointed out Honey Buzzards, Short toed Eagle, Booted Eagles, Egyptian Vultures, Sparrowhawk and a Montagues Harrier. While at this site we also saw Griffon Vultures which I think are part of a local colony, and a slightly unexpected Cattle Egret, although it was amongst some cattle! We have heard and seen a lot about migration on TV but it was great to see it actually in progress.

       

Africa and Tarifa by Mary Brazierİ.

The next day started off a bit drizzly so we had a quick stop at the Cazalla watchpoint (Km 87) where the Migres men were in attendance and advised us that the wind was not in the best direction for the birds to migrate. The noticeboard there showed that on Monday over 700 White Storks had gone over and counts for some other birds were also in the hundreds. It was a clear case of 'you should have been here yesterday!' As we were leaving a Honey Buzzard flew low over the car park giving us a great view. Apparently these birds tend to push on regardless of bad weather conditions. We drove South to Bolonia to have a look at the big sand dune there and, yes, it is quite big! On the way we drove by a field where a Marsh Harrier was hunting. We had a walk around the Roman ruins which were quite interesting. While there we spotted a Sandwich Tern over the beach and a Black Kite flew over towards the sea but seemed to change it's mind and headed back inland. Crested Larks, Stonechats, Sardinian Warblers and a Zitting Cisticola were all seen around the area.

From here we drove up the mountain road into the Sierra de la Plata where we happened upon a Blue Rock Thrush quite close by before it disappeared behind a rock, isn't that always the way! We saw the 'Moor's Cave' before setting off back down the mountain. On the way down we saw a Black Kite perched in a tree and another raptor flew overhead. While we were admiring the views a small group of Griffon Vultures appeared from behind a ridge and flew overhead and when we stopped to look at the view near the lighthouse, several Griffons did a fly past in front of us! We also watched a lone raptor set off across the straits to Africa, a fabulous sight. On our way back to the main road we saw a Southern Grey Shrike and a couple of Beeeaters on a wire. Back at the hotel we added a Blue Tit and a female Blackcap to our list.

       

The big sand dune at Bolonia and a Black Kite heading for Africa by Mary Brazierİ.

On our last full day we drove North to the Punta Secreta area hoping to get good views of Gibraltor, but sadly it was mostly hidden under a large cloud. We had a walk along the cliffs where we saw Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Stonechats. On the beach and the rocks there were plenty of Yellow legged Gulls and a single Turnstone. We parked by the lighthouse for a while and a steady stream of raptors appeared including Booted Eagle and we think a Short toed Eagle although our raptor identification skills are not really up to the task! Griffon Vultures were also around and at least we know what they look like!

           

Raptors gathering, Griffon Vulture and Buzzard by Mary Brazierİ.

On Friday we left the hotel and went for a last look at the Cazalla watchpoint. The weather was better, although still windy, and the raptors just kept coming. A group of 4 or 5 Egyptian Vultures gave a good display, flying quite close by with one landing in a field below us. Booted Eagles were much in evidence and a Kestrel/Lesser Kestrel flew across in front of us. The birds seemed to either drift off down the valley on our left towards the coast, or they flew higher and over the hill to our right, towards Tarifa and Africa, presumably pleasing the group of birders who were assembled on the other side of the road! The number of birders was increasing along with the birds, perhaps they could forsee a good migration day.

           

Egyptian Vulture, Booted Eagle and Kestrel/Lesser Kestrel by Mary Brazierİ.

A highlight for us was the arrival of a group of 5 or 6, maybe more, Black Storks flying close to one of the wind turbines before disappearing behind the hill, probably sensing it was too windy for them to fly over the straits and waiting for a better day. Eventually, we had to set off home, with another overnight stay at the Guadix cave house. We had really enjoyed our trip to Tarifa, the only issue being our poor raptor identification skills which is a bit frustrating when there seem to be raptors just about everywhere! I have sought advice from Malcolm Palmer in identifying some of the birds in my photos and he tells me that one of my blurry birds is a Black headed Tchagra which I have never even heard of but apparently they come from Morocco so could well be in the area, amazing!

       

Black Storks arriving and Honey Buzzard by Mary Brazierİ.


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