Thursday, April 26

Seven Days intense Birding



I should of been co leading Bargain Birders Bird Club this week, but due to ill health and cancellations  the trip  was cancelled but fortunately for me Richard Hanman  who runs the the bird club decided to visit Costa Blanca and go birding.

Common kestrel
Tucking into a locust

Day 1 – Local patch birding Santa Pola, El Pinet, San Felipe VC and El Hondo back roads.
It had been 7 months since I last went birding with Richard Hanman  so we were both keen to be out. We started at the Santa Pola Salinas birding from the various pull in sites off the main N332.
 Next stop was El Pinet

Greater Flamingo

We then moved onto San Felipe Visitors Centre picking up Great Spotted Cuckoo and Whinchat in the car park before entering the main reserve. From the observation deck we added a distant Short-toed Eagle, while the pool itself held Red-crested Pochard, Red-knobbed Coot and Marbled Duck. 


From the boardwalk we added Collared Pratincole, a lone Wigeon and Glossy Ibis. From the furthest hide we had good views of a Spotted Crake feeding in the margins.
Satisfied we’d seen everything at San Felipe we spent the rest of the day driving the back roads around El Hondo. This proved productive adding to our day list.
We finished the day with 65 species – a good start to our list and with Spring being late in Costa Blanca this year and many of the summer migrants were still to arrive I was feeling optimistic for the week to come.

Day 2 – Exploring the steppe at Bonete, Petrola, Corral Rubio and Caudette-Yecla valley.


An early start saw us leave Gran Alicant at 6am and drive to Bonete, arriving just before 8am and it was still chilly (5oC). We kick started our day list with Corn Bunting and White Wagtail. It wasn’t long before we located our first Great Bustard and by the end of the day we had seen over 70 of these iconic birds, suggesting a healthy population.



 As we explored the tracks around Bonete we added Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Rock Sparrow, Rock Dove, Northern Wheatear, Linnet and Calandra Lark.
At Corral Rubio the winter flood waters had receded allowing us to drive through the middle from one side to the other. Only a few Lapwing, Mallard, Coot and a lone Whimbrel remained, all other birds had moved on before the water disappeared altogether.
Next stop was Petrola to bird the saline lagoons near the abandoned railway station. 

Ruff

Here we had good views of a Ruff which had a white head as it started to develop its breeding plumage colours. Other new birds for our trip list were Water Pipit, Kentish Plover and Tree Sparrow Black Tern.

Kentish Plover

Time was ticking on so we headed to Higuerela for lunch under the shade of the pine and poplar trees. It was too early in the year for Golden Oriole but we did pick up Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch, Bonnelli’s Warbler, Iberian Green Woodpecker and Short-toed Treecreeper.
At 3pm, not quite ready to call it a day, we headed to Caudette to bird the Caudette-Yecla valley. Here we added Black Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Red-billed Chough, Woodchat Shrike, Raven, Stone Curlew and Greenfinch from the main track. Taking a minor track around the farm buildings we added Lesser Kestrel and flushed about 30 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.


 At 5.30pm our tummies were rumbling so we headed back to Gran Alicant. Our trip list now surpassed 100 species in just 2 days!

Day 3 – Morning in the mountains of Maigmo and Montnegre, afternoon at ‘The Clot’
We opted for a leisurely day in the mountains near Alicante. First stop was Maigmo which has been productive on previous visits. However, it had rained heavy last night and today the wind was gusting with an icy chill so most birds were hankered down and not showing. We did manage fleeting glimpses of Common Crossbill, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Firecrest and Robin, and we also heard a Wren singing and Great Tit calling.
When we’d had enough of being blasted by the wind at Maigmo we opted for a scenic drive to Tibi Lake and the Montnegre Valley.

Tibi Lake
 At Tibi, a few Griffon Vultures were up in the air, whilst a Peregrine perched on a cliff face waiting for less windy conditions. We ate our picnic lunch overlooking Tibi Lake where the only bird of note was Crag Martin. In Montnegre Valley itself we saw Blue Rock Thrush chasing off a Black Wheatear, other than that the valley was quiet.
Montnegre
We then spent a couple of hours sitting in the hides at The Clot de Galvany reserve. Here we added White-headed Duck, Teal, Common Sandpiper and Snipe to our trip list and watched as a testosterone-fuelled Coots gathered for a face off.

Day 4 – Looking for larks in the morning, exploring Guadalentin Valley in the afternoon.
We were up early (5am) to pick up Eddie Walker, one of my birding buddies from Guadamar, and set off to explore a promising new patch near Yecla in search of larks. We spent some time separating Crested Lark from Thekla Lark, but some birds proved easier than others.
Fortunately separating Lesser Short-toed Lark and Greater Short-toed Lark was much easier. As we scanned the vegetation and bare soil patches we picked up Calandra Lark, Whinchat and Woodchat Shrike Bonnell's Warbler but dipped on connecting with Dupont’s Lark. We got lucky with a Golden Eagle that appeared from nowhere over the top of us. also added Dartford Warbler and Sub-alpine Warbler to our trip list.
At 1pm we moved on to Guadalentin Valley and quickly picked up Spectacled Warbler. We criss-crossed the tracks around the arable fields and in doing so flushed Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Little Bustard. Other new birds seen here were Red-rumped Swallow flying along the river bed, Little Ringed Plover feeding in the field reservoirs, and a distant Booted Eagle tucking into a rabbit.
Highlight of our visit to Guadlentin though was a Great Spotted Cuckoo which perched obliging in a tree affording all great views and the opportunity for some full frame photos.

At 5pm we decided we had time for a quick stop at Alhama Pools, a green oasis in the middle of a busy industrial estate. Here we saw the common ducks and grebes from the hides and watched as hundreds of swifts, swallows and martins performed their aerial acrobatics feeding on the wing.

Day 5 – Looking for larks (again) in the morning, exploring Argamon in the afternoon.


More photos to follow
Cheers bryan








Tuesday, April 24

Spotted Crake

I've been a bit slow update my blog due other commitments but here's my latest photo of one the Spotted Crake at San Felipe.
Now the water levels are a little lower there's a little mud fringe where this Bird was performing well at just a few meters photo taken about a 2 weeks ago.

Saturday, April 7

Estepas de Yecla

Today a return visit to Yecla. Arriving 8.30ish very cold only 6 to 7 degrees, low cloud even foggy,  2 Yellow Wagtails, a few Meadow Pipits,  Rock Sparrow, Iberian green Woodpecker.
Iberian green Woodpecker

A distant Woodchat Shrike on some irrigation sprinklers,
nice start to the day moving down the track,

Rock Sparrow
4 Black eared Wheatear's just around the corner near the animal pens, Greater short toed Lark, Chough, Raven, Magpie, Crow, Thekla Lark, Stone Curlew, we spent about an hour moving up and down this part of the track.

Thekla Lark
 Another Black eared Wheatear, a pair of Little Owls showing very well. Tree Sparrow, Hoopoe, also there.
Black eared wheatear
All ready seeing some different birds from a few days before I was hoping we might still get the Sand Grouse, fingers crossed they'll be in the same area? some big flocks of linnet, Goldfinch, Serin, Greenfinch in smaller flocks.
Little Owl
We took a de-tour up towards the Tree line hope for something different only to find more Greater short toed Larks, and plenty of Calanrda larks. Great spotted Cuckoo raucous call heard, ending up back at the main road, we decided to check the other side of the main road.
Temperatures Still down, cloudy and a brisk wind. 2 Woodchat Shrikes perched up in the top of a bush, quite different from the birds seen 2 days ago,
Woodchat Shrike
heading back to where the Sandgrouse had been seen, I wasn't that hopeful they be there. Eventually we arrived at the area, we scanned, listened and waited  "nothing" then I heard just one call, I said there here! "get out the car", we scanned the stone field in front of us, but nothing!!
Suddenly they got up!! "Pin tail" I called, we watch them disappear over the other side of the valley.
"Result"  we connected with the Sand Grouse and a shake of the hands to celebrate, that was good i said, then without warning another group even closer not seen by us, some twenty plus took flight, so well camouflage and  so easily overlooked.
I wished I'd remembered normally they don't all fly up, if it only handful taking off  there's usually others that  stay motionless and freeze /cling to the ground. 

Greater short toed Lark

Lesser Kestrels are around but hard to correctly ID as Common kestrels are prominent in the area. Today at least one male Lesser and two females. The usual Barn  where they nest  may not to be an active site this year??
Heading back Black eared Wheatear Black Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Mistle Thrush.
No Golden Eagle today, that would have been the icing on the cake so that will have to wait for another day.
Cheers Bryan.

Wednesday, April 4

Yecla

Today another visit to Yecla steppe area with a regular visitor and friend. Arriving about 8.30  with clear blue sky and light wind's. It looked like it could be a promising day, it wasn't long before we connected with a fantastic Black eared Wheatear,
Black eared Wheatear
Rock Sparrow, were displaying, and showing well. A few Swollen shinned  Stone Curlew were running around, a Southern grey Shrike showed. Good numbers of  Linnets, Goldfinches, and Serin.
I was try to move us along quickly to maximise your chances of seeing the Sand Grouse, they seem to show / fly around better in the morning, but we just kept hitting into birds, another Black eared Wheatear. A very close Thekla lark, Hoopoe, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, good numbers of distant Calandra Larks displaying and in full song,
Thekla Lark
 while scanning I pick up 2 black bellied sand Grouse, but my direction were not good enough so they got missed. Eventually we arrived at the best area for the Sand Grouse we could hear them calling, it sounded like good numbers were present, the call vaguely recalls Mediterranean Gull, by now the wind had got up and it was cold, but the light was still good, Greater short toed Larks, and Lesser short toed lark, were showing  well.
Greater Short toed Lark
As we made our way in the direction of the calling Sand Grouse, Out of nowhere a Great spotted Cuckoo put in a show with the usual noisy clattering. A pair of Chough seem to nesting in a abandon finca roof space, Calanrda larks had by now given themselves up for a photo.
Calandra Lark
And at last our target bird for today's trip Pin tailed Sandgrouse showed up, just like buses, they all seem to turn at the same time? Not one but fifty to sixty, all sheltering  behind a stone ridge out of the strong winds, Scopes came out and a prolonged view of these iridescent golden bronze coloured birds, Happy days. we move in closer eventually they flushed as one, like a squadron of the RAF Red Arrows,  they  circled around us several times at low level looking more like Waders in close formation than Sandgrouse, a great fly past before landing in the next field.
Pin-tail Sandgrouse
Lesser Kestrels were mobile, with a few just sat in the stone fields,  Booted Eagle over and Buzzard. A Male Fox came trotting by on a mission and not bothered by out closeness. We decided to have a break and a cupper. I wander off for a leak, and look up! a Golden Eagle was over the top of us I call out "Golden Eagle" we watch it climb higher and higher and then suddenly it folded its wings and dived at great speed it pulled out of its dive and plucked a Lark out of the sky, amazing and really close view, what a treat to see this behaviour. (Sorry no photos just to quick)
Heading off down the track  Northern Wheatear Black Wheatear, 2 Woodchat shrike,
A really good days birding. 
 Unfortunately I'm going to have to do it all again on Friday hard life isn't it??
hope you enjoy the photographs
cheers Bryan.

Thursday, March 22

Bonete

Great Bustard
Even though it was quiet cold at Bonete, the above photo is showing signs of
 heat diffraction making the photo out of focus and more like a water colour painting

I've Been out and about Birding recently Bonete and surrounding area's, highlights there, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Peregrine Falcon, Garganey. The water levels around the lakes and pools are looking low for this time of year, considering that its been a somewhat wet this winter, these will probably dry out fast this year.

Northern Wheatear


At Yecla  highlight's, Honey buzzard, Red Kite, 3 Great spotted cuckoo, Pin tailed Sandgrouse,  Calandra, lesser short toed, Greater short toed  Thekla, Crested, sky, Larks. Big flocks of Rock Sparrow, Northern Wheatear. Blue rock Thrush, Tree sparrow. There seems to be a high number of Common kestrels, in and around this area and far fewer lesser this year, some Common kestrel in the usual Barn site for the Lesser Kestrel just to confuse us??

Kestrel
This hoopoe (below) had us playing games every time the car engine got turn off his crest came up, so on / off with the car engine till I managed to get a photo "great fun"


Rock Sparrow

Wednesday, March 21

George Resezeter

George Resezeter


So sad to hear the news  that George Resezeter and has died suddenly and didn't recovered from a stroke, larger than life, enthusiastic/obsessive Photographer. He was a professional press photographer working for the Oxford Mail where he covers everything that the news paper dealt with, but his passion was Rare Birds, one of the greats, so grateful that our paths crossed and became friends
Rest in peace