Tuesday, February 13

HUELVA Southwest Andalucia 1st -6th Febuary

Blue Throat

This is my second visit the Huelva
in a year and certainly won't be my last. My first visit was in June 2017 see link below for full trip report.
In my own opinion I think Huelva and surrounding area are very underrated maybe because Donana gets all the headlines. Its probably as good or even better than Extremadura. It has just about every habitat you could wish for, and a abundance of birds, I haven't wrote a trip report for this tour, as my friend John Edwards has it covered, for more details and in depth report of our February 2018 trip see http://johnedwards-je.blogspot.com.es/

Short eared Owl
(and below)


















    
About Huelva

Black Redstart

Huelva province in south-west Andalucia (between Cádiz and Portugal, has many interesting habitat's, and not least along its 75-mile coastline and part of the Costa de la Luz.) It is washed by the waters of the Atlantic, home to the mouth of the Guadalquivir River and to one of Spain's most beautiful national parks: the Doñana National Park, which has the UNESCO World Heritage designation. Odiel Marshes Biosphere Nature Reserve is located in the basins of the Odiel and Tinto rivers, around the town of Punta Umbría. In winter, they are made up of many beautiful lakes, Pools and Marshes, Stunningly beautiful areas of unspoilt countryside, chosen by some 200,000 birds to spend the winter, In spring many water birds use the fertile, green countryside, lakes, Salinas, and Marshlands to nest.



Fallow Deer

Great spotted Cuckoo

El Rocío

Ermita de Nuestra Senora

 El Rocio is located near marshlands that can
 be easily viewed from the promenade near the
church. It’s a great place to sit under a tree and watch the nearby Storks, Spoonbill, Ducks, Herons and other waders. El Rocio hosts  one of Spain’s biggest festivals attracting nearly a million people from across Andalucia and the entire country, and beyond. Rocieros,or pilgrims desend on El Rocío in wagons and on horseback to visit the Ermita de Nuestra Senora. People start pouring into the town in the week leading up to Whit Monday, so probably best avioded for that week for birding..




                                    Ermita de la Virgin De la Peña




Alpine Accentor
A Small chapel located at the top of a hill from where you have magnificent views of the low ground, this is the best high ground in the area and hosts a small wintering population of  Alpine Accentors, Blue rock Thrush, and sometimes Rock Bunting are present. The chapel was built in the sixteenth century, and is shaped like a Latin cross, beautiful stained glass windows and retablo are inside. If I understand correctly there is a colourful Catholic religious pilgrimage practice there with many horses several times a year. There's also a religious articles shop and a small cafe/ bar.

Alpine Accentor
(This photo taken in the Car park)



There were at least 7 Alpine Accentors behaving like Sparrows running around our feet, it seam its a regular feature there in winter, and so much easier to see them there than in the Pyrenees.                                     
.
         
                                               Accomadation

    
Early morning Moon
 We all stayed at Mazgon at the home of our guide Laury Grenon. A large house which has a separate entrance to our lower apartment with car parking: 2 Bedrooms, Lounge, Bathroom + extra Toilet and simple Kitchen at only €70 per night its great value! and is ideal for birders  who are out birding all day, but I guess the price would rise as the season goes on. Its an interesting drive to the accommodation as the sat Nav takes you through a Petrochemical plant and Docks which looks fantastic a night. A little further on the sat Nav takes you over some rough ground which make for a bump ride  to the accommodation.

Cepsa Oil Refinery
                               
Later on in the trip we found a much easier route to the house. Bars, Restaurants, Supermarkets are a 10 minute drive away in Mazagon
I would recommend  using a guide if time is short or unfamiliar with the area. contact Laury Grenon at info@andalucianaturetrips.com ( Highly Recommended )


Laury Grenon


     Many thanks to John, Michelle,                                           and Trevor.


   
     Hope you enjoy the photos
        Cheers Bryan Thomas
  



Our Last Sunset
  
Juv Night Heron


Black Stork

Ad Night Heron

Common Buzzard

Common Crane

Glossy Ibis

Curlew

White Storks
(Plenty of these around and already paired up)


To be continued




Saturday, December 23

Birding the Azores update

The only thing better than an unspoiled paradise is one that nobody you know has visited yet.

Flores is one of nine volcanic islands that make up Portugal's Azores region

Some people can say they’re familiar with the Azores, a group of nine islands some 901 miles off the coast of Portugal. But by and large, these rugged, salt-sprayed islands are one of Portugal's best kept secrets in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”
Picture emerald beaches, dazzling blue lakes, verdant pastures, volcanic caverns, bubbling mud pots, sprawling sunrises and  cascading waterfalls. UNESCO designated the Azores a Biosphere Reserve in 2009 for their impeccable preservation. Indeed, the islands make a very good case for a must see place/visit.√

With the advent of cheap direct flights to the Azores from the UK I've seen flights from as little as £16.00 and being out of the main tourist season. I thought it would be good to see what The Azores has to offer in terms of birding. I was not expecting   to see much, as it was just a short non birding break away.

View over Sao Miguel

Ponta Delgad
The Azores islands, an autonomous region of Portugal, form an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic and are characterized by dramatic landscapes, fishing villages, and hedgerows of blue hydrangeas. volcanic and remote, the islands were first settled in the 15th century and are popular for hiking, whale watching, blue marlin fishing, surfing, diving and bird watching.

Azorean Chaffinch
Due to the central position in the North Atlantic Ocean, the islands are internationally recognized as a bird watching destination for observing certain groups of bird species. Besides the Azores Bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina), one of the rarest birds in Europe and endemic to a small area of São Miguel Island, and endemic subspecies such as the Azores Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs moreletti), it is also possible to observe several migratory species which are occasionally seen in the Azores, as the weather throws some of these species off course on their migration route. The archipelago boasts approximately 30 breeding species. The number of occasional species already observed and recorded in the archipelago, is approaching 400, including some extremely rare for the Western palearctic.

With my partner Trish we spent just a few days sightseeing and
Sete Cidades
wandering around Ponta Delgada, but I did managed a few photos of some of the birds. And as I only had a small telephoto lens with me, It was a bit limiting due to the distances involved. All in all it was a great place to visit, food and wine was of a very good standard and reasonably priced, very friendly people, picturesque locations and lots of potential for birding. If you fancy something different for a change why not give the Azores a try?

                Birds of interest seen but not the full list

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great blue Heron,
Grey Heron, Yellow legged Gull, Greater black Gull,
Lesser black backed Gull, Probable American Gull,  Grey Plover, Least Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Coot. American Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Azorean Buzzard, Azorean Woodpigeon,  Rock Dove, Azorean Chaffinch, Blackbird, Eurasian Starling,

whimbrel
Blackcap, Serin, Siskin, Gold Finch, Atlantic Canary, Robin, Goldcrest, Azorean Grey Wagtail, Long tailed Parakeet, and more.
Least Sandpiper

Grey Plover


Monday, December 18

Jack Snipe San Felipe

Saturday afternoon Trevor and I had a few hour spare and decided to check out our local area, Santa pola Salina, El, Pinet, San Felipe, and suroundfing area's. The weather was sunny and warm, our first stop produced good numbers of Shovelers, Pochard, Slender billed Gulls, a single Marsh Harrier, and a pair Black necked Grebe, and a lesser black backed gull… for only 5 minutes from my Casa and a 10 minute stop it was good start.


Slender billed Gull
On to the Salt Tower for a scan around, Marsh Harriers in the distance, Redshank, Dunlin, Great white Egret drifted past. Quickly on to the standing stones lay-by, a really close fly past of 6 Spoonbill showing well there large, flat, spatulate bill and of course the camera was in the car. ( I've got to stop doing that and be more prepared ) Trevor said what a treat to see them so close and see the yellow under the chin,  On the water there was several Great crested Grebe, and further away  another  'canteen'! Of spoonbills (30+ ) a fly past of a Great white Egret. I had to take my jacket off as it was to hot, barmy weather, only a few days before Christmas.
El Pinet was looking quiet, Avocets bobbin up and down, noisy Black winged Stilts, Dunlin, Kentish Plover, Redshank. A rather nice Water Rail showed close by on the water edge, car keys please "Trev" of course the camera is in the car, Sh*t missed the best chance, when the Rail was at it's closest and in the sun, but managed a recorded shot, it was turning out to be a good few house out.

Water Rail 
San Felipe, now having been here recently myself and read a fresh report that there nothing much happing, I decided not to take the camera. "Big Big mistake"  Purple swamp Hens slowly walking about taking no notice just ambling around, Red knobbed Coots showing well, Red crested Pochard, a few Common Snipe flying around and tucked in on the muddy margins, clockwork Blue throats running around tail cocked, Waterpipts, chiffs flitting about, Booted Eagle over and a Dark faze, 100 + Glossy Ibis over, you could  clearly hear the wing beats - noise as there went on there way, a bit of a birding moment.

Blue Throat
Suddenly my attention was grabbed by a small white sided wader drilling in the mud I new before my binoculars got to my eyes what it was, I shouted to Trev, "Jack Snipe" we quickly put the scope on it to confirm the ID, and off like rocket! like Usain Bolt back to the ******* car  for my camera, cursing all the ****** way there and back my stupid decision making. I arrived back, I shouted is it  still THERE! "No" Trev replied but  you should of been here 30 seconds ago it was right in the open, its gone now!! he said!  ( I think Usain Bolt would of been proud of me as I set a new world for the car and back )  more bad language followed, followed by more, now there a bit of history about this bird "Jack Snipe." Trev and I have been searching for many winters with no success and just bad luck not connecting with it, although not a mega! ( although it feels like ) its a Spanish tick for both of us. The Jack Snipe did re emerge  and I got a record photograph but it was more than three times the distance away. I managed a few photographs on our way back to the car.

Common Snipe

I can't complain it was good afternoon out birding with Trevor, as we left San Felip we found where the Glossy Ibis had gone, a flood field across the road, with 70 Lapwing, Plenty of Jackdaw, loads Cattle Egret,  Waterpipt,   Whitewags, Bluethroat, couldn't stay long, justs scanned through the field, sun had almost set, we set off for home,

Jack Snipe


Just wishing all my friends far and wide a very Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 17

Sierra Espuña

Today with my good friend  Trevor Asley we decided to visit Sierra Espuña, Murcia. leaving Gran Alicant  at 8.45 arriving about 10.30. Our target bird for today and hoping to see  was  "Hawfinch" which has  been seen there recently. A few stop on route to look at  birds on the way up the mountain. Adding  Jay, Crested Tit, Long tailed Tit, Crossbill, Coal tit, Great tit, Chaffinch, to our list.
Moving swiftly on to the top and a early lunch break. The weather was sunny, blue sky and warm with light winds, I said to Trevor no need for my thermals today, it was perfect conditions, soon we arrived at the Ice Caves, we were greeted by a good number of Mistle Thrush and Ring Ouzel flying around and calling.

Ring Ouzel







 We didn't have to wait very  long for our target  bird to arrive, maybe about 15 minutes, not one bird but two which showed  well and for a prolonged time.
Hawfinch
 At this time we normally would have had a werther's moment, but sadly we didn't have any of these celebratory sweets! So we settle for a thumbs up,  Ring Ouzel's Redwings, Crossbills arrived frequently, giving great opportunity for photography.  And then the weather started to change  suddenly the clouds started gathering blocking the sun,  wind was picking up pace, and whistling  through the pine woodland,  temperatures were dropping like a stone. At these altitudes (1400 meters ) the weather can change very quickly, We persevered  for total two and a half hours, in freezing wind chill conditions thank god I had my Ron johns on??? ( long johns)
We left the ice caves battered by the ice cold winds but with a little skip in our step and happy, its not every day you get to see Hawfinch at a few meters, the best views I've ever had, and well worth the effort to get there,
Not a big list but quality day's birding and a few nice photos.
                       Many thanks to Trevor

Redwing
History of Sierra Espuna Regional Park
Sierra Espuña generally enjoys a Mediterranean mountain climate. The Regional Park of Sierra Espuna is absolutely stunning! It is located inland in the province of Murcia and covers some 25,000 hectares. It has been protected since 1930 and in 1992 it was classified as a Regional Park. Pine trees cover most of the park and, as it has some 20 mountain peaks above 1,000 meters the views over the top of the pine forests are magnificent. It takes its name from its highest mountain, the Espuna at 1583 meters

 Ricardo Codorniu
The park has quite an intriguing history. The region of Murica enjoyed great prosperity during the late 18th century when it plundered its natural resources including most of its pine forests. When Ricardo Codorniu, a passionate nature lover and forest engineer returned to the region in 1889, he was devastated by the destruction which the years of economic boom had caused. He set about restoring the forest, replanting some 19,000 hectares and becoming known as the ‘apostle of tress’. As you drive though the park you’ll notice evidence of his hard work as a lot of the pine trees are planted in straight lines.
Today the park is criss crossed with many hundreds of kilometres of marked walking and cycling routes. The mountain road is very well maintained and there are numerous panoramic viewpoints as well as some great picnic and barbecue areas. If you’re lucky you’ll see the Moufflon mountain goats, wild boars and circling Golden Eagles.

Ring Ouzel




Saturday, December 9

LOOKING BACK ARCHIVE BIRDS PHOTOS from the ISLES of SCILLY

Thought I would share some photos that I've taken on the Isles of Scilly over the years. its good to get some of these images on-line instead languishing on hard drives and in cupboards and draws. It reminds me of some good times birding and a lot of laughs, for every photo there a story behind. Hope you enjoy the photos and it brings back some good memories of Scilly



Ovenbird St Mary's 2004

Marsh Sandpiper St Mary's 2008

Little Crake St Mary's 2002

Semi palmated Sandpiper St Mary's 2003






American Robin Tresco 2006

Black browed Albatross at sea 2009


Blackpoll Warbler St Mary's 2007
Front cover British Birds Oct 2008
Red eyed Vireo St Mary's 2003

Scopli's Shearwater at sea 2005 

Blackpoll Warbler St Mary's 2008

Snowy Owl St Martin's 2008

Cream coloured Courser St Mary's 2004

American Nighthawk 1998



Common yellow Throat St Mary's 1997
Red eyed Vireo St Mary's 2003

Wilson's Petrel at sea 2005