Saturday 29 June 2013


Headed east to Filey early doors and was soon watching a smart drake Surf Scoter with a gang of Common Scoters just off the Brigg. The tide was in, so I watched from the cliff top. The bird frequently stretched it's head up skywards as if showing off the white nape patch to the female Common Scoters it was with. When asleep, it was easy to overlook, especially if the white nape patch was not obvious. It has been a while since I have seen a drake Surfer in the UK and to add the species to my tiny Yorkshire list in this way was top drawer. I had half an hour's seawatch before Dad duties called me back west. The Cory's Shear had gone back south past Spurn and a few Manx were the only birds of note besides the usual hordes of auks, Gannets and Kitts.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Tiln Tick

And so fell my biggest British
bogey bird - Melodious Warbler. Having assumed I would eventually nail a Malodorous Warbler on the south coast it was a bit of a surprise to be heading down the A1 to Retford to twitch a singing bird, a first for Nottinghamshire that somebody had pulled out of the bag in the Idle Valley.

I heard the bird as I approached a very Acro-like rapid twittering and churring with Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat tones, plus a section of rapidly-repeated Blackbird alarm calls. Quite different from the singing Icterines I have heard over here and if anything, a bit like Marsh Warbler. The bird was keeping down in a small pine plantation and was out of sight most of the time. After a while, it popped out in the open where I got good views of the bird's upper half. I didn't want to go until I had seen the wings and legs, so hung on for a while. Changing position the bird suddenly appeared on a bare pine branch and allowed good views for a few minutes as it sang incessantly. A smart bird and most unexpected British tick.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Some birds from Andalucia...

Marbled Duck, Salinas Viejas

Red-crested Pochard family, Salinas Viejas
Audouin's Gulls, Salinas Viejas

Black-winged Stilt, Salinas Viejas

Cattle Egret, Las Norias

Purple Gallinule (and White-headed Ducks), Salinas Viejas

Gull-billed Tern, Salinas Viejas

Kentish Plover, Salinas Viejas

Lesser Short-toed Lark, Salinas Viejas

Little Egret, Las Norias

Roller, somewhere or other!

Little Bittern, Salinas Viejas

Slender-billed Gulls, Salinas Viejas

Night Heron, Las Norias

Short-toed Lark, Salinas Viejas

Thekla Lark, Las Almoderas

Squacco Heron, Las Norias

Iberiae Yellow Wagtail, Salinas Viejas

White-headed Ducks (and Black-necked Grebes), Salinas Viejas

Woodchat Shrike, Salinas Viejas

Zitting Cisticola, Salinas Viejas

Andalucia, Spain - 31 May - 7 June 2013

20 years ago, me and a mate took a package tour to Roquetas de Mar, just west of Almeria in Andalucia, Spain. We had never heard of this place and were delighted to find a big nature reserve at the western end comprising arid scrub and a large area of disused saltpans - Salinas Viejas/Punta Etinas Sabinar. These were packed with flamingoes, ducks, waders, terns and gulls, and our highlight was finding an adult Lesser Crested Tern.

20 years on and the coastal strip has been drowned under a sea of plastic as thousands of hectares of arid land once home to larks, Stone Curlews and Bush-chats is now covered of plastic greenhouses growing tomatoes and peppers. Fortunately, the Salinas are protected and are still in tact. Birding-wise, an enjoyable week was had and it was interesting to compare the birdlife in early June to what we had recorded in late July, back in 1994.

The Salinas at Roquetas De Mar, looking north to the Sierra Nevada in the distance. Note the acres of plastic...
Birds recorded at the Salinas Viejas, Roquetas de Mar were as follows:
  1. Mute Swan - A pair present
  2. Shelduck - Several pairs present
  3. Mallard - Fairly common
  4. Gadwall - Several pairs present
  5. Marbled Duck - One adult seen on 1 and 2 June on the third big viewable saltpan in from the entrance. A nice surprise! Not recorded by us in 1994.
  6. Pochard - Several pairs present
  7. Red-crested Pochard - A couple of pairs, with highest adult count of 5 together on El Hornillo (the big lake before the entrance to the Salinas) on 6 June.
  8. White-headed Duck - Up to 10 present on El Hornillo (6 June), and up to 25 on the Salinas at the western end, accessed from the road on the north side (adjacent to the Lighthous
  9. Black-necked Grebe - Two pairs present on the western Salinas and one pair on El Hornillo.
  10. Little Grebe - One pair seen
  11. Great Crested Grebe - A couple of pairs.
  12. Cormorant - Occasional birds seen.
  13. Little Bittern - One male seen in the reeds just past the entrance on 4 June. Not recorded by us in 1994. 
  14. Night Heron - Several seen, usually in reeds on El Hornillo.
  15. Cattle Egret - Fairly common.
  16. Little Egret- Present in small numbers.
  17. Glossy Ibis - One seen on 2 June.
  18. Spoonbill - One seen on 6 June.
  19. Greater Flamingo - Up to 300 present, usually on the western most Salinas.
  20. Lesser Kestrel - One or two present.
  21. Kestrel - One seen on most days.
  22. Moorhen - Fairly common.
  23. Coot - Very common on El Hornillo, with up to 200 present. A few on the western Salinas.
  24. Purple Gallinule - One seen on the western most Salinas. Not recorded by us in 1994.  
  25. Water Rail - One heard on 4 June.
  26. Oystercatcher - Four seen on 2 June.
  27. Avocet - Up to 20 present.
  28. Black-winged Stilt - Common.
  29. Stone Curlew - Fairly common in arid scrub areas. Seemingly congregating to feed on golf course at dusk.
  30. Collared Pratincole - Fairly common around the Salinas. 20 in a flock hawking insects on 2 June.
  31. Little Ringed Plover - One or two seen most days.
  32. Kentish Plover - Common.
  33. Ringed Plover - Several present on 2 June. These birds were dark and were with Sanderling - perhaps Tundra race.
  34. Sanderling - Three present on 2 and 4 June.
  35. Redshank - Fairly common. 
  36. Greenshank - One on 1 June.
  37. Black-tailed Godwit - One on 1 June.
  38. Black-headed Gull - Common.
  39. Slender-billed Gull - Common. Up to 30 seen most days. Often a steady westerly passage along the beach during the day too. Not recorded by us in 1994. 
  40. Yellow-legged Gull - Common.
  41. Audouin's Gull - Fairly common. Largest group of 16 on 2 June.
  42. Little Tern - Common.
  43. Sandwich Tern - Common.
  44. Gull-billed Tern - Common. Seen in the Salinas and frequently hunting over the golf course. Not recorded by us in 1994.  
  45. Common Tern - Common.
  46. Whiskered Tern - Two (an adult and a second calendar year) present on El Hornillo on 5 and 6 June. Not recorded by us in 1994.  
  47. Collared Dove - Common.
  48. Turtle Dove - One or two seen most days.
  49. Pallid Swift - Very common.
  50. Common Swift - Common.
  51. Hoopoe - Fairly common around the golf course.
  52. Bee-eater - One seen on 31 May and 4 June on the north side.
  53. Roller - One seen on the wires by the road on the north side on 31 May.
  54. Crested Lark - Common.
  55. Short-toed Lark - One or two pairs present in arid area at the eastern end of the Salinas.
  56. Lesser Short-toed Lark - Several pairs present in the arid areas adjacent to the Salinas and singing constantly in the mornings.
  57. Barn Swallow - Common.
  58. House Martin - Very common.
  59. White Wagtail - Fairly common.
  60. Yellow Wagtail - 'Spanish' Wagtails, iberiae, seen regularly.
  61. Blackbird - Common around Roquetas.
  62. Sardininan Warbler - Very common.
  63. Spectacled Warbler - One seen singing by the lighthouse on 5 June, others heard most days.
  64. Zitting Cisticola - Very common. 
  65. Reed Warbler - Very common.
  66. Great Reed Warbler - Common, but not singing particularly vigorously, presumably busy breeding.
  67. Spotted Flycatcher - A couple seen around the golf course.
  68. Woodchat Shrike - One or two seen most days, on the golf course and in the scrubby areas.
  69. Southern Grey Shrike - One seen by the lighthouse on 5 June.
  70. Magpie - Fairly common.
  71. Jackdaw - Fairly common.
  72. Spotless Starling - Very common.
  73. House Sparrow - Very common
  74. Serin - Very common.
  75. Reed Bunting - One heard at El Hornillo on 5 June.
Other sites of note that were either found in other people's trip reports or through Dave Gosney's Birding in Andalucia (thanks Paul Doherty for lending me this!).

Canada De Las Norias. 
These lakes lie just east of this small town, close to the A7/E15 junction due north of the Salinas near Roquetas De Mar. It took about 20 minutes driving to get there. Sadly, the site was not as good as it sounded, with very little on the water. No White-headed or Marbled Ducks or Black-necked Grebes were seen despite two visits. The best feature was the small heronry which allowed close views of Squacco and Night Heron, along with Cattle and Little Egrets. Maybe this site is better at other times of the year as there isn't much other water around. Perhaps the encroaching plastic greenhouses is putting the birds off. Well worth a visit if you are staying nearby, but I wouldn't travel too far to this place.

Cabo De Gata/Las Almoderas Steppes/Salinas De Acosta near Cabo De Gata village.
A beautiful area, with stunning scenery, particularly at the cape.

We visited Cabo De Gata very briefly and only saw a pair of Peregrines, Alpine Swift and a Black Wheatear. There are apparently Trumpeter Finches around. Also, the interpretation panel has a picture of a Mediterranean Monk Seal! I checked the rocks carefully, but couldn't see any. The weather was too calm for any shearwaters while we were there.

The spectacular (and hot!) Las Almoderas Steppe area is accessed on a track on the way between Retamar and Cabo De Gata. Gosney suggests this track is opposite the entrance road to the visitor centre, but it is in fact back towards Retamar by about 100 metres. It is the only track on the north side and you can see the aircraft beacon on the hill so it is easy to find. We had great views of Little Owl on the ruins on the left as you go up the hill. Birds here included lots of singing Thekla Larks, two grunting Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying around giving good views, a cracking Bonelli's Eagle overhead and a few Southern Grey Shrikes. No sign of Dupont's Larks here which may still be in the area, though mid morning was perhaps not the best time for seeing them!

We only popped into the Salinas De Acosta but they looked to hold similar birds to the Roquetas Salinas though the habitat seemed less varied. The site is set up with birders in mind, with a couple of nice shady hides and car parks. It would have been nice to spend some time here and if you stay in this area it would be definitely worth it. A large flock of Greater Flamingoes were present here, c350, plus Avocets, lots of terns and gulls, and a few passage waders - Black-tailed Godwits, Sanderlings and Ringed Plovers.

Las Cuevas Del Mojon near La Mojonar
This was a site between Roquetas and Las Norias which I had read was good for larks and Red-necked Nightjar but best of all Rufous Bush-chat. Sadly, the entire site had disappeared under a sea of plastic. Unless of course I hadn't managed to find the place!

Mountains north of Almeria
A few random stops on the way to Tabernas (no Trumpeter Finches!) provided good views of Rock Buntings, Bee-eaters, Black Wheatears, Roller, Spectacled Warblers etc, plus some species not seen elsewhere such as Chaffinch and Wood Pigeon.