search anser blogs

Birding notes from Malaga and Cadiz Province, Andalucia, 4-12 August 2016

A relaxing break from work.

Beer sunset at Villa la Palma

A week spent in two Andalucian provinces that are among my most favourite areas to watch birds in Europe, I just keep going back and love exploring new sites and visiting productive scenic places again.

I have put together some wildlife related notes and images from my family holiday this year that you may enjoy or find useful, although this was not a birding trip I often get a little bit of time to explore in the mornings whilst everyone else is waking or taking their time to get up and about. We rented a quiet villa in the mountains with spectacular views and great sunsets. Despite it being the hottest time of year and birds being in moult, the area still offered decent birding.

I made no real attempt to take pictures, just reacted to what came my way, this trip was all about relaxing and spending time with my family who do put up with me forever being distracted by wildlife. On the flip side I put up with ‘stuff’ too so it all balances out.

 Villa la Palma is near Gaucin, Malaga province, situated on the south side of the Rio Guadiaro within the Serrania de Ronda. The views from the house take in the Sierra de Grazalema on the north side. It is surrounded by Olive groves, woodland and some very steep open grazed fields with livestock the bells of which are among the only sounds you’ll hear, it is one of the sounds of the mountains. Cicadas and crickets also sing, it is a very tranquil place.

Griffon Vultures were present every day and seemed to be trying their luck at what has been described as a vulture restaurant or feeding station on a distant hillside. I noted up to 50 daily and they did circle very low over the pool at time giving brilliant views. Every single one carefully was checked for the rare Ruppell’s Vulture but I had no luck. I did a bit of research and visited this site, it is reached by turning off on a minor road to Colmenar west of Cortes de la Frontera.

The vulture site was very productive for birds but I did not see any vultures on my visit, it is within a fenced area to prevent ground predators from helping themselves to the food with interpretation and a public viewpoint on a nearby hill. I am not sure if food is being put out or not.

Other daily visitors from the garden were Booted Eagles (a pair were feeding young in the woods below the pool), Short-toed Eagle, Swift, Pallid Swift, Crag and House Martin, Red-rumped and Barn Swallows, Sardinian Warbler, Bonelli’s Warbler and I also saw or heard House Sparrow, Wren, Nuthatch, Serin, Golden Oriole and Blue and Great Tits. Nearby we saw Hoopoe, Alpine Swift (Venta/radio masts), Kestrel and Stonechat. A single Turtle Dove flew through. Best of all was the constant presence of a flock of c25 Bee Eaters with some juveniles among them. This flock gave us regular insect catching displays over the pool as they moved up and down the slopes. I did see two other flocks that went through South, a flock of 50 and 15, they did not stop so they may have been migrating.

Short birding/insect finding excursions were as follows

We visited Ronda to get provisions for the week and had a good walk around the old quarter, 30+ Red-billed Chough, Crag Martins and a Short-toed Treecreeper were all seen, it was a sweltering 40c.

A morning out with my son exploring took us the Jimena de la Frontera area. A slow drive across a country track south of the town took us past open fields, eventually we reached a copse on the edge of a village. We had great views of Stonechats, Red-rumped Swallows, 4 Short-toed Eagle, Little Owl, Woodchat Shrikes, singing Golden Oriole, Melodious Warbler, Kestrel, Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe and more.

We also walked a stretch of the Rio Horzgarganta from the bridge below the castle seeing Red veined and Scarlet Darters, Violet Dropwing, a bunting sp and a few frogs. It was getting very hot at midday so we headed back to the villa. A repeat visit later in the week was made to climb to the castle and enjoy tapas at a restaurant during the heat of the day, at the castle we added two Lesser Kestrel, Booted Eagle, Crag Martins and Griffon Vultures to our list of species seen.

A morning out at in the cork oak woods on the way to and back from the Vulture feeding station between Colmenar and Cortes de la Frontera was productive. Short-toed Treecreeper, Blue, Great and Crested Tits were roaming in a large flock, many Bonelli’s Warblers were among them. A Dartford Warbler or two hid in the roadside brambles and three Short-toed Eagles cruised overhead. Pretty sure I saw a Rock Sparrow on wires below Cortes de la Frontera on the drive up.

One of my favourite drives takes in circular route with a stop at Grazalema, the Mirador de Boyar and Puerto de la Palomas, we also stopped in Zahara where we found La Gallo bar, this provided us with a great table outside and an extensive range of vegetarian tapas for 2.5 euro per dish, delicious! Birds seen included a smart Black Wheatear below Grazalema village, the mirador was a busy spot, Subalpine and Melodious Warblers, Woodlarks, Jays, Stonechats and  a Hawfinch. At the pass we watched a large eagle sp that drifted off before I could scope it, lots of Griffon Vultures, 30+ Red-billed Chough, Rock Bunting, Black Redstart and more Stonechats.

We visited the excellent Roman ruins at Acinipo and saw a pair of Black-eared Wheatear, two probable Thekla Larks (never looked at them through binoculars) and plenty of Swifts. A few individual Rock Sparrow flew past and a small flock also whizzed through down the hill. A pair of Turtle Dove rocketed through and zig-zagged over me, no doubt seeing any human contact as a potential death threat. I was shocked not to see this species regularly during the week.

Two Alpine Swift were seen over Cuevo de Gato near Benajoan, I have seen flocks of them here before. Worth visiting for the blast of natural air conditioning as the water spouts from the cave entrance. It is very busy with people on a hot August day.

Got to make a special mention to encourage anyone passing to stop at the store in the small mountain village in Algatocin, modest entrance but the place is a cavern full of stock, everything you need and refreshing to see an independent store. The bars and restaurants of these mountain towns were all very good and we did very well for vegetarian tapas pretty much everywhere we tried.

I hope you enjoy the images, they are a nice reminder of what was a great week.

 

Sunset view from Villa de Palma, Malaga Province

 

Villa la Palma sunset

Red-billed Chough over Ronda, Malaga Province.

Red-billed Chough, Ronda

Bonelli’s Warbler and Griffon Vulture, Villa de Palma, Malaga Province

Bonelli's Warbler, Villa la Palma Griffon Vulture, Villa la Palma

Juvenile Woodchat, Marchenilla track

Juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Marhenilla, MJMcGill

Stonechat, Marchenilla track

Stonechat, Marchenilla, MJMcGill

Short-toed Eagles (Marchenilla and Colmenar road)

Short-toed Eagle, MJMcGill Short-toed Eagle, Cortes de la Frontera, MJMcGill

Booted Eagle diving below Casares Castle

Booted Eagle, Casares castle

Weathervane or vultures this way?

Casares weathervane

Cork Oak woodland

Cork Oak woodland, Sierra de Grazalema

Bonelli’s Warbler, Cortes de la Frontera, Cadiz Province

Bonelli's Warbler, Sierra de Grazelema, MJMcGill

Bee, Grazalema

Black-eared Wheatear, Ancinipo, Malaga Province

Black-eared Wheatear, Acinipo, Cadiz, MJMcGill

Probably Thekla Lark, Acinipo, Malaga Province

Crested Lark, Acinipo, Cadiz, MJMcGill

Melodious Warbler, near Mirador de Boyar, Cadiz Province

Melodius Warbler, Grazalema, MJMcGill

Woodlark, near Mirador de Boyar, Cadiz Province

Woodlark, Grazalema, MJMcGill

Bee Eater, Villa la Palma, Malaga Province

Bee Eater, Villla la Palma

Bird sign, Bennaraba

 

Share
rispost
Filed under: Trip Reports
Author:

Martin

at 2:44 pm

March-May 2017 news and day trips.

Thank you for checking back with Anser Birding.

Residential trips

North Norfolk, Weds 17-Fri 19 May 2017  STILL FULLY BOOKED

This trip was fully booked with places claimed via email bookings almost immediately after it was advertised. At this time no places have become available and space is limited, we are unable to add another May date due to guide unavailability. Sorry we couldn’t accommodate you this time, everybody that booked originally would have been emailed to confirm early last month (April).

Contact via email- Martin@Anserbirding.com or text/call 07733 363905.

Next day/half day trip date

Thanks for checking but I don’t have anything planned in the next week or two.

Typical Birding day/half days include some of the following Gloucestershire birding venues

These meetings usually fall on Fridays or Saturdays. Pricing and a selection of destinations follow

Forest of Dean-A variety of birds occur with Great spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Lesser Spotted (extremely elusive), Crossbill, Hawfinch (can be shy), Goshawk, Mandarin, Willow Tit (scarce), Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Redpoll, Siskin, Jay, Goosander and Dipper are all possible. In summer Nightjar and Woodcock can be seen and heard on nocturnal forays in good weather.

WWT Slimbridge where I work has plenty of events on offer year round. I usually cover the Sunday events. See website for latest sightings here http://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/slimbridge/wildlife/latest-sightings/

Upper Severn Estuary Includes migration of waders, wildfowl and passerines. Habitat, seasonal wetlands, intertidal estuary and freshwater pools and lakes.

Sharpness A good spot for ‘seawatching’ should we have gales or for watching visible migration. Black Redstarts (in winter), Peregrine and often Common Sandpiper or commoner waders.

Cotswolds Downland birds- Buzzard, Red Kite, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Grey Partridge (scarce) and Red legged Partridge (many release birds) Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Marsh Tit, Linnet, Golden Plover (in winter), Lapwing and more. Habitat-upland hills, heath and some sympathetically farmed areas.

Rarity reaction
If anything special arrives nearby (or futher afield) a half or full day of quality birding can be built around the target bird or birds. This type of trip can be organised at late notice with a very early start. If this is of interest then keep a close eye on what birds are around, twitter feed and here on the news page.

Pricing and how to book a place

Prices based on a minimum of four participants- £20-25.00  for a half day (5 hours) and £40-50.00 for a full day (10 hours).

It is best to text or call 07733 363 905 to confirm a place or if you have any queries, alternatively send an email to Martin@anserbirding.com . See below (near bottom of page) for the typical meeting point details if not meeting at the destination.

Do you use Twitter?
Anser Birding events are now on @AnserNews

———————-

General news

Watching Waterbirds with Kate Humble and me

The book I had been working on with Kate Humble, Think Publishing and A and C Black (now Bloomsbury) over the last couple of years is available in WWT shops, online, Amazon and all good book stores. It is intended as a bridge guide to introduce common wetland birds to those new to the hobby and also features the Great Waterbird Challenge for you to try out.

If you have bought it already, thank you very much, we do hope you enjoy using it. Link to bookshop.

https://www.wwt.org.uk/shop/shop/books/natural-history-books/watching-waterbirds-with-kate-humble-and-martin-mcgill/

Martin J McGill

—————————————————————————

Whitminster Meeting Point

Directions for events if you meet at Whitminster…. leave Junction 13 of M5 and head to A38 Roundabout. On the A38 take exit for GLOUCESTER, WHITMINSTER heading North. Second exit if coming from A38 South or 3rd exit from A419. Head up the hill and take first left (after Garden Centre) turning into School Lane. The village hall and car park is immediately on the right of this junction. Meet here. Opposite is the Old Forge Pub which is on the east side of the A38, School Lane is on the West side.

I also use the layby (4-5 cars) just past Whitminster School on the right. To reach here continue down school lane and straight over the mini roundabout, the layby is immediately after the school where the village ends!

Link to map to search for Holbury Crescent http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

—————————————————

BBC Tide Timetable for the West (note you can search anywhere in Britain from this link)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/coast/tides/west.shtml

Share
rispost
Filed under: News
Author:

Martin

at 2:21 pm

Northumberland (plus Teesdale and South Yorkshire) 6-10 June 2016

 

Northumberland with a bit of Teesdale, Durham and South Yorkshire 6-10 June 2016

A selection of images from the Farne Islands (all images Martin J McGill).

Seabirds, Inner Farne Sandwich Terns spiking Razorbill Puffins

Kittiwake on nest, Inner Farne, MJMcGill Guillemots, Farne Islands, MJMcGill Guillemot, bridled, Farns Islands, MJMcGill

Grey Seal, Farne Islands, MJMcGill 3 Grey Seal, Farne Islands, MJMcGill 2 Eider take off, Farne Islands, MJMcGill


This was a repeat visit to this attractive area with visits to Teesdale and South Yorkshire along the way. We travelled 980 miles during the trip and enjoyed some brilliant birding, most of it in sunshine with near cloudless conditions. We explored some new sites and visited some very familiar ones assembling a decent list of birds and some memorable birding.

6 June 2016

Our party of six (including me) met early for departure at Whitminster to make the most of the long June day. We encountered some traffic along the way, after North Lancashire it was clear. All congestion issues were quickly  erased with stunning views of moorland scenery and excellent weather. Our first birding stop followed soon after leaving Brough on our way to Middleton in Teesdale.

Scanning the moors whilst eating our lunch we spotted over 20 Red Grouse, three Buzzard, two singing Meadow Pipit, 3+ Golden Plover, Kestrel, two families of Greylag Geese and pairs of Curlew with young. Our next stop was at the magnificent High Force waterfall, it was very warm and sheltered here as we all watched and listened to a male Redstart singing, in addition we saw 3+ Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler (including a bird feeding young in the nest), Dipper, Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail on the river and Chaffinch, Bullfinch and Siskin in the woods/plantations.

Our next stop was at Langdon Beck where it was a pleasure to watch 9 Black Grouse feeding,a  Redshank  was ‘chipping’ Curlew ‘bubbling’ and Lapwing ‘pee-wit-ing’. Another Spotted Flycatcher was seen on wires near the hotel as we passed by. A walk to Widdybank gave us more excellent wader activity, Curlews, Oystercatchers,  Lapwing, Snipe and Golden Plover all called, displayed or kept an eye on their young as we passed.  We were briefly caught in a shower so sheltered behind a stone shed, not before seeing another 8 Black Grouse fly across the fields.

Watching from our latest viewpoint we picked up two male Ring Ouzel and a juvenile worming in the rain, a pair and single female Red Grouse, Pied Wagtails and undeterred a male Wheatear sang. Back at the stream a Song Thrush posed and Grey Wagtail fed, skipping from stone to stone. The area is also notable for Spring Gentian and other wild flowers.

We had used the time well and although we had already done very well there was time for another quick stop. Grindon Lough was a new site, it sounded to be an interesting place but also had a specific attraction. Arriving at the Lough it was not long before we spotted the recently reported Red-necked Phalarope spinning on the water, though it quickly disappeared.

Other species included 4 Ringed Plover, 6 Dunlin (some singing), 8 Redshank, a Greenshank, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard and 20 Wigeon. Subsequently searching the shoreline the female phalarope was relocated on the shoreline fast asleep with Redshank. A fine end to the birding day but we had get to our accommodation, we arrived mid evening making a short shopping stop and arranged to meet up the following morning.

7 June 2016

The weather was still favourable if a little cool on the coast so it was decided to stick to our plan and visit the Farne Islands, it took a couple of journeys due to an issue at the accommodation (small scale wetland creation) but we were all eventually reunited on the quay in readiness for the boat trip out to the rock stacks and islands.  As usual the Grey Seals and seabirds did not let us down, the crew skilfully got us in close to enjoy views but not cause disturbance. The seabirds were superb, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Kittiwake, Shag were all seen in vast numbers about the boat or on the cliffs. We landed on Inner Farne to be among (as well as plenty of other visitors) the vast tern colonies. Huge numbers of Arctic Terns with Common and Sandwich Terns in their respective colonies. Eiders and a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers were also great to see.

Back on the mainland we stopped at Beadnell Bay where it took seconds to get onto our fourth tern species of the day- two Little Terns fished the beach at high tide. Our next stop was at Amble for high tide, on the river Coquet we watched Eiders with young some of which were struggling to eat small crabs, also Sand Martins, Shelduck, two female Goosander plus in the fields behind a welcome find by Ian was a single Grey Partridge.

Another nearby stop overlooked Coquet Island, in the distance some of could make out 20+ Roseate Tern as well as the Sandwich , Common and Arctic Tern colonies and plenty of Puffin. A Stonechat fed in the dunes nearby. This concluded another day in the field.

8 June 2016

Our destination for the morning was Holy Island (Lindisfarne), the tides were favourable so we crossed early in the day, as a reward for being the first car in the car park a Barn Owl flew past (Barbara called it). A very pleasant walk along the Crooked Lonnen, out to the Lough and back along the Strait Lonnen was enjoyed although migration was almost non- existent. A Willow Warbler in the sallows perhaps the only bird classed as still moving. The breeding birds were much as you would expect, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Lapwing,House Sparrow, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Gadwall, Reed Bunting, Reed and Sedge Warbler.

A search of the dunes at the Snook gave us two Grey Partridge, Stonechat and Meadow Pipits. Moving off the island to Budle Bay we stopped to scan the channels and mudflats, Little Egret, Mute Swans, Gadwall and Eider the best we could muster.

Driving south we headed for Hauxley NR which was closed so it was off to East Chevington instead, we saw a pair of breeding Marsh Harrier, Great Crested Grebe with young, Sandwich, Common and Arctic Tern visiting to bathe. We had booked boat trip to circumnavigate Coquet Island with time drifting off the tern terraces. A similar range of species were seen but a Red-throated Diver flew past South on our way out. The crew were very good to give us a few drift pasts aboard and to really look at the many Roseate Terns in detail and compare with the other tern species present.

Everyone seemed to be very happy with the views of Roseate Terns and agreed it was now acceptable to count as our fifth tern species of the trip. Being so focussed on our target bird it was easy to forget the thousands of seabirds that were also on show. Back ashore a quayside stop for a chippy tea was followed by our drive back to the accommodation to end another good day.

9 June 2016

After breakfast we made a visit to a local gravel pit and surrounding fields, breeding Goldeneye was a bonus and a brief Tree Sparrow was nice but we also saw/heard 2 Redpoll, 3 Common Sandpiper, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Yellowhammer, Tufted Duck, Little and Great Crested Grebe.

We moved off South to Widdrington open cast (now full of water) and picked up on two first summer Little Gulls hawking over the lake as well as more familiar wetlands birds. At Druridge Pools a brief Grasshopper Warbler was seen, Whitethroat, Tree Sparrows with broods, Lapwing, Shoveler, Teal, 2 Yellow Wagtails, Gadwall, Snipe displaying and Curlew on the shallow floods and marsh.

At Cresswell Pond we watched more Tree Sparrows (on feeders) and a few Lapwing and Shelduck, the nearby cafe was a popular stop for a fresh brew. Having a  bit of time on our hands to finish the day off I decided to go even further South to another new site- the River Wansbeck river mouth.

We arrived in good time but took a while to establish where the footpath actually was, a local boatyard chap pointed us in the right direction so we walked along the cliff top looking down onto the channel and mudflats. It wasn’t long before everyone was getting great views of our afternoon target- a first summer Bonaparte’s Gull. This North American visitor fed on the mud and stream despite getting a bit of negative attention from the other gulls. This happened to be another sun trap so the chance to soak up a bit of heat was taken before finishing for the day.

10 June 2016

A travel day to make our way home with an iffy forecast on the cards, we decided to get going and take in a site on the way. The weather was not great on the homeward drive, we abandoned any notion of looking for Honey Buzzards in Yorkshire so planned to visit another new site- Potteric Carr YWT. Approaching the reserve the rain had stopped and sun was out, we made our way through the visitor centre and walked the whole route taking in a stop at the cafe along the way. The reserve was superb.

Species seen on our interesting route included a large variety of wetland birds but the highlights were Pochard, Mediterranean Gulls, breeding Black-necked Grebe with chicks and the dragonflies and Roe Deer , it says it all that we didn’t even mind not seeing the Hobbies and Bitterns. This was our last stop before getting home. Thank you to all five for joining me on this very productive June tour.

A few more images from the trip follow.

Martin J McGill

Coquet Island

Coquet Island

Coquet Island

Coquet

Kittiwake flock

Kittiwake 1

Roseate Tern (left)

Roseate 3

Roseate (left) with Common Tern

Roseate 4

and another

Roseate Tern 1

and another

Roseate Tern 2

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern 1

Bonaparte’s Gull, River Wansbeck.

Bonaparte's Gull, MJMcGill

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow, 2, Northumberland

Share
rispost
Filed under: Trip Reports
Author:

Martin

at 2:10 pm