Saturday, 25 June 2011

Aquila Latest News

Hi to all the regular readers of the blog and anyone who may be visiting for the first time (please feel free to become a follower by clicking the "follow" tab on the right of the screen), just a quick update to let you all know what is currently going on. As you will have noticed we have not posted for some time now, due to moving back to the UK for the next couple of months. The reason for this is two fold; firstly I will be aiding a number of environmental consultancy companies with some specialist species surveys during the remainder of the summer, secondly - with daily temperatures in Spain regularly exceeding 40 degree's, heat-haze is drastically reducing the amount of time you can spend in the field.

During this brief time in the UK we will still be making regular posts from all our birding trips, so please continue to visit the blog. Also previously un-published images from Spain will sporadically be posted. Your feedback on these is most welcome and any comments would be appreciated. During the last few weeks we have also been busy working on an extensive website up-date which will now include a photo gallery, this update will go "live" in the next week or so and yet again all comments would be gratefully received. Happy birding! Ash.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

We spent this afternoon birding the many Camino's between San Fulgencio and the Vistabella Road at El Hondo. The air-conditioning in the car proved to be invaluable as the temperature reached 100 degrees ! Don't get me wrong I am not complaining about the heat, but it does make it damn hard to take good pictures. Nothing out of the ordinary today, birds recorded included Bee-eaters, Rollers, Squacco Heron, Night Heron, Purple Heron, Greater-spotted Cuckoo, Cattle Egret, Little Egret and the very accommodating Little Owl sheltering from the heat in the roof space of a disused barn. Three of todays best photo's are shown here - and now the pool is calling and I am answering ................ Splash !!

Bee Eater

Little Owl

Cattle Egret

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Local Tour Summary

Just a quick post to round off our recent Costa Blanca local Five day tour and a few pictures from the last morning birding around the fields of Catral and Dolores. Many thanks to Anthony, Mike and Dawn and to Tracy (Mum) for the Superb Evening Meals and packed lunches in the field. A grand total of 160 Species were seen in Five days and a full list and trip report will be available on our website soon.

Red-rumped Swallow

Glossy Ibis

Red-rumped Swallow

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Sierra De Espuna / Guadalentin Valley Day Four

Day four started at the Sierra De Espuna as we had visited this area last week we were quietly confident of a good result for Blue Rock Thrush, Tawny Pipit and Rock Sparrow. It is a fantastic sight and the scenery alone is worth the visit. Full list of birds seen is in our trip report which can be found at aquilabirdtours under the trip reports tab.

Starting at the top of the reserve we recorded : Red-billed Chough, Tawny Pipit (see below) and Rock Bunting. Birding our way slowly down the mountain we recorded Short-toed Treecreeper, Rock Sparrow (see below), Jay (see below), Tree Pipit, Bonelli's Warbler and Blue Rock Thrush. No Wild Boar to contend with today but good views of Wood Lark and Firecrest around the picnic area.

Tawny Pipit


Rock Sparrow

Leaving the Sierra De Espuna's behind us and heading for the Guadalentin Valley we had good views of Black Kite and Short-Toed Eagle. Luckily we had pulled over for a drinks stop when the Eagle soured above the car. A definite for the photo album !

Short-Toed Eagle

The Guadalentin Valley is always a favourite with guests because of the diversity of the habitat and the amount of different species you can record in a relatively small area. Although the site is not a big one, you can drive/walk along the small caminos used by the landowners for hours. Bee-eater, Roller, Magpie, Greater-spotted Cuckoo, Greater and Lesser Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Hoopoe, Little Bustard, Hobby, Stone Curlew, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Subalpine Warbler and Spectacled Warbler were amongst the birds seen today. We have more pictures from todays trip which will be in the trip report available on the website shortly.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Day 3 - Wednesday 7th June 2011

Rufous Bush Robin (1) was our target bird at La Mata nature reserve. We arrived nice and early to get on these birds before any human disturbance as previous trips have confirmed this as the best time to see them. Woodchat Shrike (2 pr) with chicks (35) were also recorded at this sight. Turtle dove, Stone Curlew, Serin (30+), Hoopoe (2) and Montagu's Harrier are also worth mentioning. Spotless Starling were particularly active here today, and although "only a Starling" they are very striking when perched out in the sun.

Spotless Starling

Santa Pola and El Pinet were our next locations, where we hoped to get close up views of Terns. Anthony had requested some time watching the Terns as they interest him the most. If you have been following the blog you will know that we have several reliable sites for Terns; El Pinet being the best at the moment. Good views of Little Tern fishing just a few metres away from the car at Santa Pola pleased the group. Whiskered Tern along with a variety of waders including Black-winged Stilt (and chicks), Little Stint, Kentish Plover and Spoonbill were also recorded before we moved on to El Pinet.

The habitat at El Pinet Dunes is ideal for the Terns and as Anthony wanted to spend some time watching them the rest of us settled down in the picnic area for lunch. In the two hours we spent there the following species Tern species wererecorded: Whiskered, Little, Common,Gull-billed and Sandwich. The usual Gulls were present in good numbers many with chicks.

We moved onto the Vistabella area of El Hondo and the following species were seen (in addition or different to Mondays visit): Little Bittern (see pic below) Black-crowned Night Heron (see pic below), Purple Heron, Marbled Duck, Great White Egret and Cuckoo.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Little Bittern

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Day 2 - Tuesday 7th June- Pink Day !

An early start to the day saw us headed out to Castilla-la-Mancha in the hope of seeing the pair of Lesser Flamingo that have been reported at Laguna De Manjavacas. We arrived on site after a 3 hr drive to be met in the first field by a single White Stork. Initially we were surprised to see how big the area was, it is a well laid out reserve and although there are no facilities here, there is ample parking with reserved spaces for the disabled. There is a boardwalk that leads round one side of the lagoon providing good but distant views of the colony of breeding Greater Flamingo.

The short walk along the edge of the fenced off lagoon was eventful in it's own right. We recorded Savi's Warbler, Bearded Tit x 2 small family groups and Moustached Warbler. Although we did not see it we heard a very vocal Water Rail nearby.

The obvious target bird for the day was soon located in glorious colour. Even at a distance you could not mistake the bright pink blob which was viewable with the naked eye. Binoculars and Scopes provided excellent views without disturbing the bird in any way. One bird was out in the open amidst the hundreds of Greater-Flamingo, which in itself was a fantastic sight somewhat overshadowed by the "little pink one" as Dawn described this rare bird. The 2nd bird was tucked up safely with the chick amongst the breeding Greater-Flamingo on a small bank on the lagoon. A conservative estimate of the number of Greater-Flamingo present at this site is 400 pair ! A spectacular display of these fantastic birds.

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo

We watched the Flamingo for around 45 mins taking photographs the whole time - the best of which are posted here for you to enjoy. We would like to point out that these photographs were taken at a distance, using Nikon photographic equipment with a zoom feature, so as not to cause any disturbance to the birds or their habitat. Conservation of this breeding site is important and common sense and a respect for the area should be advocated at all times.

The site continued to provide good birds for the duration of our stay which included : Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Black Kite, Honey Buzzard and Marsh Harrier.

After lunch we made our way back to Quesada with a planned stop at Yekla providing the group with: Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse 20+ Black-bellied Sandgrouse 20+, and Black-eared Wheatear amongst the usual suspects at this site.

A full list of birds at this site will be available in our trip report which will be posted on the website at the end of the tour.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Local Tour Day 1 - Monday 6th June

Squabbling White-headed Ducks

A morning pick up at Alicante airport to collect 3 guests for this tour. Mike and Dawn from Cheshire and Anthony from Ireland. As soon as we had settled everyone into their accommodation we headed out to El Hondo Parc Natural where the White-headed Ducks entertained us chasing each other across the water. We also recorded Black-necked Grebe, Marbled Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Squacco Heron 11, Little Bittern, Night Heron and Purple Heron. Audouin's, Slender-billed, Mediterranean and Yellow-legged Gulls were all in attendance.

Shelduck at El Hondo

Terns included Whiskered, Little and Gull-billed and a single Black. Collared Pratincole were present in good numbers as were Shelduck.

The winner of the cutest scene of the day award was given to the Great-crested Grebe with it's chick which Dawn wanted to take home with her.

Great-crested Grebe and chick

Other birds of note recorded here were Turtle Dove, Montagu's Harrier, Woodchat Shrike and Iberian Grey Shrike. Nightingale which rounded off a good start to the tour.

Tomorrows itinerary has changed, as news of a breeding pair of Lesser Flamingo in Castilla-La Mancha has tempted us to drive the 300+ km to the site. Fingers crossed we are able to locate the birds and give our guests this opportunity to see these rare birds here in Spain.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Sierra De Espuna / Guadalentin Valley

Today we left Quesada at 08.45am to visit the Parque Regional Sierra Espuna, arriving at approx. 10.00am to bright sunshine, a light breeze and a temperature of 24 degrees. The road climbs slowly winding around the forest with several safe and purpose built pull in spots; however, we have found the best way to properly appreciate the spectacular surroundings and impressive mountain views, is to avoid the temptation of stopping on the way up and start from the top. The landscape at the top is bare compared with the terrain further down which is dominated by pinewoods planted at the beginning of the 19thcentury. A perfect setting for our main targetbirds of Tawny Pipit, Rock Bunting and Wood Lark - all of which have been reported at this site previously. Tawny Pipit more recently, but less frequently, is on our “most wanted” list.

We were hardly out of the car at the top of the Parque when we were treated to the unmistakeable song of Red-billed Chough circling above us in good numbers of 50+ - a great start to our onsite bird list. There is very little human activity at this height and we were hopeful of the Tawny Pipit here. A short wait rewarded us with good views of Thekla Lark, Mistle Thrush & Rock Bunting.

Rock Bunting

Amid the rocks the wild flowers were abundant and numerous species provide a display of colour in this varied habitat. Whilst admiring the flora we heard the distinct call of the male Tawny Pipit. Three birds were chasing each other across the road just above where we were standing. We watched them through the scope and binoculars for some time before deciding to get settled into place and wait in the hope of getting a good photograph. Our patience paid off - what a beautifully marked little bird!

Tawny Pipit

With our “most wanted” bird spectacularly recorded we started our descent to the nearby visitor café/bar. A cup of coffee was on the menu – what we actually got was a lot more than we bargained for! The café/bar was closed (we have since learnt that it is only open at the weekends), but there at the top of the steps was a very dis”grunt”led wild boar! Without upsetting him and his feeding family we were able to get some good shots of the group – from a very safe distance and the security of our car.

As we slowly made our way down the mountain, birding as we went and pulling in to scan the habitat and enjoy the views, we recorded Iberian Grey Shrike, Serin, Sardinian Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, Short-toed Treecreeper, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Crossbill, Coal Tit, Firecrest, Crested Tit and Stonechat before pulling over to enjoy lunch 'Al Fresco'.
Song Thrush, Magpie and Robin were added to the days sightings as we enjoyed our lunch looking out across the mountains with the pine trees behind us. We continued down the mountain and stopped at the visitor centre, where environmental and conservation information is readily available in English and Spanish. Toilet facilities are available here and are open every day.
At the next viewing point we were entertained by a particularly active Ardillas (Squirrel) and a very vocal Tree Pipit. One of which (the squirrel) was definitely not shy and showed off to its admiring audience whilst the other (Tree Pipit) stayed well and truly hidden in the mature trees in front of us. Short-toed Treecreeper, Wren, Jay and Blackbird were all added to the days total as we approached the exit to the Parque and the perfect habitat for Wood Lark. The familiar songs of the Wood Lark rang out loud and clear for us to enjoy whilst we scanned the trees ever hopeful of completing our target list for the day. A single bird completed our treble and we left the site to the sound of the Rana Perezei Frog which is present in the small springs which represent a small part of this interesting and varied habitat. It should be noted that there was a distinct lack of the expected Raptors at this site, with only Kestrel being recorded. A full species list for this site (incl. enroute) can be found at the end of this report.

Short-toed Treecreeper

Guadalentin Valley

The Guadalentin Valley is a river valley which is surrounded by agricultural land and numerous small reservoirs used for irrigation during the summer. We had no target birds here as this site regularly produces a wealth of birdlife and is guaranteed to satisfy all levels of birder. We arrived on site at approx. 14.30 – the temperature had risen to 30 degrees enroute. There was some activity in the fields today as the land owners were harvesting and we wondered if it would affect our enjoyment of the area. In fact that couldn’t be further from the truth, we were entertained by Rollers, Bee-eaters, Greater-spotted Cuckoo and Kestrel within the first half hour of arriving. Tree Sparrow showed well as did a Montagu’s Harrier hunting in the afternoon sun.
One of the reservoirs held nesting Little Grebe, a small cluster of Trees above the dry river bed held the Cuckoo and the Rollers put in a star performance.

Roller - What a stunning bird to round off our day !