Spanish Garden Birds – Observations of Pete Alden

posted in: Members Stories | 0

As a UK ex-pat moving to Spain, I initially found it difficult to decide if the birds I saw in the garden were rare or common. As an example Black Redstarts were in abundance, but Rooks extremely rare. After living in Spain for five years, I thought it might be of interest to those who have recently moved here to list the garden birds I see. Aware of the huge differences in habitat along the Costa Blanca, I also think that some more experienced birders may wish to compare their typical garden birds.

I live between Moraira and Calpe, just over a kilometre from the sea, in an urbanisation with many mature pine trees. Our plot is around a 1000 square metres, and being a lazy bird-watcher I spend a lot of time watching the garden birds from the naya where I get a good view of the trees, the sky, the sea and Calpe Rock. The nearest I get to seeing “water birds” are the Yellow Legged Gulls, or an occasional sighting of Grey Heron or Cattle Egret – never having seen any duck, geese etc. House Sparrows are common, as are Blackbirds, butDunnock and any type of Thrush are missing. Robins follow me when gardening, as do the similar Black Redstarts. Starlings are rarely seen. Also absent are Crows, Rooks, Jays, Jackdaws and Magpies, but Ravens regularly patrol their patch. White Wagtails (same species as Pied are often round the pool) and a Pipistrelle Bat once took up midday pool drinking!

There is plenty of noise from the Goldfinches and Serins, the latter flitting like bats around the trees, adding to the year round sound of the argumentative Sardinian Warblers. Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Siskin are often spied and the Short-toed Treecreeper is common. Great Tits and Coal Tits abound, with Long tailed and Crested Tits frequently putting in an appearance – but never the Blue Tit. Crossbills are noisy residents, already with young in February, sending pine seed debris spinning into the pool. Firecrests are common, butGoldcrest absent, the former nesting in our pines. Blackcaps are rare but seen all year. Spring brings plenty of Chiffchaff feeding on the tubs on the terrace, followed later bySpotted Flycatcher.

As summer approaches the numerous Crag Martins are outnumbered by the House Martins, Barn (UK) Swallow, Red Rumped Swallow, and Swifts but Sand Martins remain absent. Summer also brings the daily calls of the Bee-eaters and Hoopoe, but none as strident as the yearly appearance of the Wryneck. Of the bigger birds Woodpigeon and Collared Doveabound, joined by the Turtle Dove in summer. I have once seen a Peregrine following the flight path of the pigeons to nearby Calpe Rock, but Kestrel and Sparrow Hawk are the common raptors – Shrike have not been seen despite being reasonably local.

Tawny Owl which each year calls within metres of our bedroom window – although we never hear Little or Scops Owls.Other rareties seen only once have been Booted Eagle (circled above me for five minutes when I was pressure-washing the solarium), a lone Black Stork heading inland from the sea, and three Golden Orioles (heard before seen). We also have daily visits from several Peach faced Love Birds but these are known escapees – although they seem to be increasing in the wild.

Well that is it from the lazy birdwatcher, now a little wiser after five years of life here. I hope the above may help some new settlers to put things in proportion. I can recommend the book “Birdwatching in Eastern Spain” by Malcolm Palmer and Luis Fidel as a good introduction to local birdlife – it helped me considerably.