Sunday, 31 October 2010

Petrola - Tour Day 5

The steppe land habitat found near Petrola was the plan for today's birding. The morning was spent looking for Bustards around the large area of agricultural land near Bonete, birds recorded were - Great Bustard (28), Iberian Grey Shrike (8+), Calandra Lark (numerous), Stone Curlew (8), Red-legged Partridge (numerous), Little Owl (4), Jay (2), Black Redstart (numerous), Kestrel (numerous), Common Buzzard (2) and Whinchat (2).

Great Bustard

Black Redstart - Photo by Bob Thomson

Before lunch we stopped at a small pool near Petrola that had attracted lots of birds - 19 Black-winged Stlt, 8 Common Snipe, 1 Water Rail, 30+ Corn Bunting, 1 Kestrel, Marsh Harrier and 1 juv Glossy Ibis. We had lunch at Petrola lake recording Water Pipit (3), Ruff (1), Black-necked Grebe (numerous), Little Grebe (numerous), Shoveler (numerous), Wigeon (2), Red-crested Pochard (6), Marsh Harrier (4) and best of all 1 sub adult Golden Eagle.

The rest of the afternoon was spent searching other nearby area's of agricultural land and lakes recording a further 2 Golden Eagles (1 adult, 1 sub adult); other species of note included Hen Harrier (1 male), Wheatear (3), Rock Sparrow (2), Mistle Thrush (3), Black-bellied Sandgrouse (2) and Booted Eagle (1). Another great day with lots of good species and great views. Although this is the last full day of the tour, lets hope that tomorrow morning brings some more great birds.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Tour Day 4 - Alcoi

We began the day at Font Roja, from the car park we explored the various tracks through the woodland. Three hours before lunch here produced a number of good species including, Firecrest (5), Short-toed Treecreeper (numerous), Great Tit (numerous), Coal Tit (5), Long-tailed Tit (7), Crested Tit (6+), Blackcap (2), Willow Warbler (3), Black Redstart (4) and an adult Bonelli's Eagle.

Griffon Vulture - Photo by Bob Thomson

Black Wheatear

After lunch and some superb views of Crested Tit at Font Roja, we headed across the valley to the other side of Alcoi where a number of gorges can be accessed. Our walk into the main gorge produced 9 Griffon Vulture (including the wing tagged bird pictured above), Black Redstart (15+), Black Wheatear (2, pictured above), Sparrowhawk (1 male), Chough (2), Raven (3), Crag Martin (50+) and Blue Rock Thrush (4).

Thursday, 28 October 2010

El Hondo - Tour Day 3

Today we enjoyed the good fortune of being allowed into the main part of El Hondo, which has been closed to the general public for the last couple of months. Whilst the visit was obviously designed to see certain species we hadn't yet seen on the tour, access had been granted for me to help with ringing on site. Ringing from 08.30 - 11.00 we managed to catch the following;
Sardinian Warbler (1, below), Cetti's Warbler (3, below), Reed Bunting (1, female), Chiffchaff (6), Reed Warbler (2) and Robin (4). Tour guest Bob Thomson managed some excellent images of the birds caught and can be seen below.

Alpine Swift - Photo Bob Thomson

Cetti's Warbler - Photo Bob Thomson

Sardinian Warbler - Photo Bob Thomson

Spotted Eagle
After finishing ringing we moved onto to check the various hides and tracks around the reserve. Many species were recorded including; Moustached Warbler (3), Reed Warbler (numerous), Chiffchaff (numerous), Osprey (2), Booted Eagle (4), Hen Harrier (1,female), Marsh Harrier (numerous), Bluethroat (numerous), Fan-tailed Warbler (numerous), Purple Swamphen (1) and Water Rail (4). The sub-adult Spotted Eagle was also still present as pictured above. Possibly the most suprising find of the day was the 30+ Alpine Swift (pictured above) mixed in with a large Sand Martin flock which also contained small numbers of Crag Martin, Barn Swallow and Red-rumped Swallow.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Tour Day 2 - Murcia

Black Redstart


We started today at San Pedro Salinas where it was clear that many Black Redstart had arrived since our last visit a few days ago, a conservative estimate of 40 individuals around the car park and hide, gives you an idea of the scale of the arrival. As usual waders were abundant along with some other interesting species, totals were as follows; Spotted Redshank (32), Redshank (9), Greenshank (23), Dunlin (50+), Little Stint (14), Ruff (4, above), Bar-tailed Godwit (4), Curlew Sandpiper (1), Knot (1), Sanderling (26), Turnstone (4), Spoonbill (1 - left leg, lime over blue over yellow - right leg, red), Slender-billed Gull (19), Greater Flamingo (numerous), Avocet (numerous), Black-winged Stilt (numerous), Kingfisher (2 female), Black-necked Grebe (9), Pintail (7), Teal (2), Red-rumped Swallow (3 with 20+ Barn Swallow) and a single Melodious Warbler behind the second hide.

The afternoon was spent trying to obtain good shots of Sardinian Warbler at El Rassal, this was achieved after some time and the images will be posted on here at the end of the week. Other species of note here included, Crag Martin (numerous), Balearic Shearwater (16), Gannet (numerous), Whinchat (4), Black Redstart (20+) and good numbers of Swallowtail Butterflies. I will be ringing birds at El Hondo tomorrow so fingers crossed we catch a nice variety of species!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Local Wetlands


Audouin's Gull

Audouin's Gull

Having picked up Rob Thomson from Alicante airport this morning, we dropped off the bags and headed out to explore the immediate area. Rob is joining us for a 5 day tour this week with a particular emphasis on bird photography. The light is very good at this time of the year and I hope to post some excellent results on here at the end of the week.

We made El Hondo visitor centre our first port of call where a brief lunch was proceeded by a good hour walking around the boardwalks photographing some of the more common species on offer. These included - Bluethroat (8), Stonechat (5, pictured above), Whinchat (2), Sardinian Warbler (numerous), Marsh Harrier (1 male, 2 female), Cetti's Warbler (4) and Zitting Cisticola (numerous). The highlight was a single Short-eared Owl which was a new bird for me at this site.

Next port of call was Santa Pola Salinas where highlights included; Greater Flamingo (numerous), Slender-billed Gull (numerous), Black-winged Stilt (16), Greenshank (2), Little Stint (20+), Sanderling (20+), Dunlin (numerous), Kentish Plover (numerous), Spoonbill (3 juv) and 1 adult Booted Eagle.

Having secured some superb Booted Eagle and Greater Flamingo images (amongst others) we moved on to El Pinet. Here the star attraction was Audouin's Gull (above), we managed to find 12 mixed in with the many Yellow-legged Gull. Other species recorded here included; Black Redstart (3), Stonechat (4), Iberian Grey Shrike (1), Hoopoe (2) and a single Water Pipit. The Star species of the day however was a LESSER YELLOWLEGS which showed well at times but became distant after a while, flying between the pools viewed from the first and second hide (pictures to follow). Hopefully Rob will enjoy continued success tomorrow when we head into Murcia!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Costa Blanca Wetlands

Great Egret ( 3 of the 6)

Greater Flamingo

Caspian Tern (note metal ring on far left bird)

Caspian Tern

Today was my first full day back in Spain and we decided to do a tour of the numerous wetlands around the Costa Blanca. In total 73 species were recorded including; Little Stint, Greenshank, Golden Plover, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Greater Flamingo (above), Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, Slender-billed Gull and Marsh Harrier.

Santa Pola Salinas out-shone all the other venues today and provided all the main highlights - Temminck's Stint (2), Great Egret (6, above), Little Gull (1) and best of all 3 CASPIAN TERN ( note in the above picture that the left hand bird is ringed) Another Day and another good find, hopefully this will continue tomorrow .........

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Back in Spain - 300 to the good

I arrived at Alicante airport this morning to the sight of Mum and Dad waiting in the arrivals lounge with a sign saying -" Ashley Powell, 300 Club!" Yesterday I managed to see my 300th bird of the year after a trip to the east coast - Ferruginous Duck at Lackford Lakes (297), Great White Egret at Minsmere (298), King Eider at Dunwich Cliffs (299), Pallas's Warbler at Winterton Dunes (300), Grey Phalarope at Cley (301) and Little Auk (302).

So back to Spain; on the way back from the airport we noticed that a farmer was in the process of flooding his fields, we dropped the bags off at home and headed back less than an hour later to see if anything had turned up. We were rewarded instantly with a smart adult White Stork which had a black colour ring on its left leg. This is an unusual sighting for the area as this species is found more frequently in the west. Other species of note in the fields included; Greater Short-toed Lark (10+), Bluethroat (3), Whinchat (2) and 500+ alba Wagtails. A great start to being back, more updates tomorrow.

Morning at La Mata


Iberian Green Woodpecker

Today I spent the morning at Med end of La Mata; the first good bird of the morning came as the dog flushed a Quail soon after leaving the car. Other birds of note included the above Osprey and Iberian Green Woodpecker, Marsh Harrier (2, male and female), Hobby (1), Kestrel (numerous), Sparrowhawk (1). Mark.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Santa Pola Salinas

After returning a client to the airport for an early flight back to the UK, I decided to take the scenic route home via Santa Pola. I stopped at the lay-by on the southbound side for a couple of hours and recorded the following: Great Egret 1, Hen Harrier 1, Marsh Harrier 3, Bluethroat 3, Iberian Grey Shrike 1, Slender Billed & Audouin's Gull, Red-Rumped Swallow 5, as well as many waders including Avocet, Sanderling, Black Tailed & Bar Tailed Godwit, Little Stint, Greenshank, Redshank, Green Sandpiper etc.,

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Ibis on the Otter

Just a quick update today. I spent a couple of hours on the Otter Estuary in Devon today - walking inland along the river. After a short while I managed to locate my target species, the long staying Glossy Ibis. The bird showed well (as shown in the pictures and video below) feeding in a small pool behind the hide. My year total for the UK now stands at 295 (BOU). Other species recorded included; Teal (23), Black-tailed Godwit (7), Lapwing (26), Snipe (3), Wigeon (14), Cetti's Warbler (1) and Water Rail (1). Only 5 more species until i will have achieved my goal and can return to some less hectic birding!

Glossy Ibis, Otter Estuary - Devon

San Pedro Salinas & Playa La Mota

I visited San Pedro Salinas this afternoon - the best birds of the afternoon were without doubt two juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpiper. However, the best spectacle of the afternoon was a flotilla of Black-necked Grebe (400+), on the Salinas from the Playa La Mota. Other birds of note included Little Stint (2) and a good number of Slender-billed Gulls. The above juvenile Spoonbill, complete with coloured rings rounded of a pleasant afternoon birding in the sun.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Lost in the Gardens

I finally made the journey down to the "lost gardens of Heligan" in Cornwall today, to see the juvenile Green Heron which turned up last week. As you can see from the images and video below the bird showed very well, feeding actively on Roach fry and frogs. This Green Heron represents the eleventh record for the UK following a bird found in Kent two years ago. After watching the bird for a couple of hours I enjoyed a nice walk around the gardens with Lucy, well worth a visit if you're in this part of the world.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


I spent a very pleasant day at Calblanque Regional Park looking for those most elusive of species in Spain - Trumpeter Finch. After three hours of searching I gave up and headed for the Salinas del Rasall; the small pool closest to the car park held 48 Audouins Gull but little else. Walking from the car park to the hides I flushed a couple of Quail and there were plenty of other birds in the scrub which surrounds the footpaths here; Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher were all represented in small numbers. Arriving at the "top" hide it was clear waders were present. Amongst the numerous Redshank, Greenshank and Black-winged Stilts were some interesting other species including; Marsh Sandpiper (1) Curlew Sandpiper (18) Ruff (2). The day was rounded off perfectly as I walked back to the car when a juvenile Bonelli's Eagle soared overhead for 5 minutes before drifting towards the mountains.

Post Fair Isle Update.

The above picture was taken shortly before we departed Fair Isle on the last day of our successful and enjoyable 2010 Shetland tour. However, the smiles were short lived, not due to the tour i might add, but more that usual suspect - Mr Sod and his Shetland law!! Within 20 minutes of touching down at Sumburgh airport, news filtered through to us of a Lanceolated Warbler on Fair Isle!! (the groups main target of the tour). As if to add insult to injury 3 further Locustella's had been found on the Fair Isle warden's morning census - at least one of which was thought to be a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler!!
A frantic half hour or so ensued as we assessed the viability of going back to Fair Isle, eventually we decided to grit our teeth and enjoy the remainder of the day on Shetland mainland before the ferry to Aberdeen later that evening. Our despair was slightly lifted by the superb views of both Radde's and Booted Warbler we managed to achieve, however there was another twist in the story! Having boarded the boat an hour early to enjoy some food news came through of a Swainson's Thrush which had been found just up the road but with the hire car keys given back, it would unfortunately be another one which has to be put into the category - "dipped on Shetland!"
The tour did manage some excellent scarce/rare migrants and vagrants during the trip so we didn't dwell on the few we missed. Trip Highlights included - Arctic Redpoll, Melodious Warbler, White's Thrush, Buff-bellied Pipit, Red-flanked Bluetail, Booted Warbler, Radde's Warbler, Bluethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher and many Yellow-browed Warblers, Barred Warblers, Common Rosefinch and the sheer numbers of common migrants such as Pied Flycatcher.
Since returning from the trip I have remained in the UK in the hope of completing my goal of seeing 300 species in the UK this year. On the 6th of October i made the trip North to Hartlepool where i was rewarded with superb views of a juvenile Woodchat Shrike. Yesterday (11th October) found me heading down to Seaton in Devon to see the Solitary Sandpiper pictured below, a beautiful vagrant which showed very well within the vicinity of 3 Green Sandpiper, excellent for comparison. My current total for 2010 stands at 294 so I have 6 to see before the 20th when I plan to return to Spain.

Above 3 Images - Solitary Sandpiper - Seaton, Devon

Sunday, 10 October 2010

San Pedro Salinas / El Hondo

Sunday Saunter

Last night we had heavy rain for a few hours so this morning I decided to head for the Salinas at San Pedro. I wasn't disappointed - good numbers of Avocet other waders were present along with 400+ Flamingo. Grey Plover 3, Curlew Sandpiper 30, Little Stint 7, Temminck's Stint 2, Knot 2, Bar-Tailed Godwit 14, Black-Tailed Godwit 18, Ruff 1.

Also noted : Little Tern 4, Bee-eater 1 and the biggest surprise of the morning was a single Juvenile Roller.

After lunch I visited El Hondo recording the following :

Purple Swamphen 3
Booted Eagle 2
Kingfisher 2
Bluethroat 7
Cattle Egret 100

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Mar Menor & San Pedro Salinas

Mar Menor between Punta Brava and Los Urrutias first bird of note was a Woodchat Shrike on the fence of the Abandoned building just before you enter Punta Brava other birds of note in the area Bluethroat 3 Lesser Short Toed Lark 3 and a pair of Pintail on the Mar Menor.

San Pedro Salinas plenty of Flamingo at close range today other birds of note Ruff 3 Curlew Sandpiper 30 Grey Plover 3 Bee-eater 5 and Black Necked Grebe 40+

El Hondo Visitor Centre Wed 6th October

Decided to go for a walk around the Visitor Centre at El Hondo late afternoon/early evening. The first thing that caught my eye was the number of flava wagtails on the islands and banks of the new scrape in front of the visitor centre 100+. Heading towards the corner hide the next thing to stop me was a stunning Bluethroat (11 in total in the 2hrs I was there). At the corner hide I was watching the wildfowl and I had a Great Reed Warbler singing nearby, also from this spot I recorded 5 Glossy Ibis. Only other birds of note were 5 Bearded Tit off the boardwalks.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Guadalentin Valley

Weather was a little overcast but still warm when we left home this morning around 7.45am for the hours' drive to the Guadalentin Valley. Leaving the RM23 for the servicio road leading to the valley we startled a flock of around 400 Serin which flew across the road in a firework like display of colour. We watched them settle again in more or else the same place on the side of the road before moving on.

The tracks were very dry as there has been very little rain here recently. The goat herder was out with his goats and dozens of Cattle Egrets were taking advantage of a free lift perching on their backs as they made their way across the land, quite a sight !
The goats flushed 4 Stone Curlew as they made their way across the field.

The temperature had risen to a comfortable 25 degrees by the time we stopped at the first of several reservoirs to scan for birds. We recorded good views of Bluethroat and Redstart 2. Scanning the field alongside we saw Black-Bellied Sandgrouse 12 but the most surprising bird was a Great Reed Warbler singing away in the large reed beds opposite.

Heading for the fields we had seen Larks in previously, we recorded Iberian Grey Shrike 5, Black-eared Wheatear good numbers of Yellow Wagtail, Hoopoe, Whinchat and Kestrel. Larks were less obliging but we managed 4 species Crested, Calandra, Thekla and Short-Toed.

NOTE: The 3 Buff-breasted Sandpiper were still present last night around 7pm.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Fair Isle - Day 5

Another day of quantity rather than quality. Morning birding was much better than the afternoon, as strengthening winds and lashing rain made birding nigh on impossible. The group still managed to see some interesting species during the day though, non less so than this Bluethroat which was trapped during the morning:

During the afternoon the group headed up to the north end of the island, where many tired migrants were sheltering from the gale force winds battering the south-east of the island. Although the wind was still strong, good numbers of migrants were taking advantage of the relative shelter at the top end of the island. All in all, the group recorded:
Song Thrush - 157, Blackcap - 3, Robin - 4, Goldcrest - 8, Chaffinch - 35, Redwing - 42, Siskin - 124, Jack Snipe - 4, Skylark - 84, Reed Bunting - 6, Snipe - 11, Golden Plover - 7, Buff-breasted Sandpiper - 1juv, Pied Wagtail - 2, White Wagtail - 1, Whinchat - 3, Lapwing - 4, Little Bunting - 1, Yellow-browed Warbler - 2, Willow Warbler - 2, Fieldfare - 2, Wheatear - 5, Redstart - 1, Pied Flycatcher - 1, Swallow - 4, Brambling - 197, Lesser Whitethroat - 1, Chiffchaff -3, Hen Harrier - 1juv, Woodcock - 1, Ring Ousel - 7, Snow Bunting - 26, Long-tailed Duck - 1, Arctic Redpoll - 1.

Hopefully with winds dropping tomorrow we will be able to get off the island tomorrow as our aeroplane was cancelled this afternoon. If not I'm sure the group will find plenty to do and as many of the team keep reminding me - "there's plenty of worse places to be stranded in October!"
Spent a Couple of hours around the Med end of La Mata this morning before it got too hot. The Osprey is still present as were 30+ Whinchat. A Kingfisher was a nice surprise from the hide as was a Water Rail feeding out in the early morning sun. A pair of Marsh Harriers were hunting over the reed bed and a Hobby perched in a small tree nearby adding to the mornings sightings. Whilst watching the Hobby 3 Bee Eaters flew over. Other birds seen were: 7 Hoopoe and 3 Iberian Grey Shrike. An update to the garden bird list to date: Serin, Hoopoe, Osprey and Crossbill.