Sunday, 29 April 2012

White Storks & Med Gulls at El Hondo

This morning we finally got to photograph the Montagu's Harrier at El Hondo.  We have set out to watch them several times over the last few days and never made it because something else has taken our interest.  Well today we parked up and watched a pair hunting over the reserve.

We normally spend a lot more time at Hondo but there are so many mosquitos around that it has become almost impossible to spend any real time there without getting covered in bites.   If you intend to visit, make sure you are well protected against them, unless of course, you are one of the lucky few they don't bother to bite. 

As we had no other set plans for today we decided to drive around and just see what we came across.  Most people visit Spain and go to the Casino or for a dip, not us we go round the Camino's and the tip !

White Stork were on the local refuse tip and we saw 5 together on the posts around the perimeter fence.  There may have been more but as access is prohibited and we had a limited view it was hard to be sure.

Driving around the local area we came across a large flooded field just outside San Felipe Neri.  Mediterranean Gull (150+) and Glossy Ibis (29) along with  Black-headed Gull, Cattle Egret and Little Egret were all present in good numbers. 

 Montagu's Harrier

 White Stork  up to 5 present at the refuse tip

 Cattle Egret

 Med Gull

 and some more .........

and even more !

Scotland Day 2

Red Squirrel

Common Gull

Ok, another very brief post, just before we go out for our last full day. Yesterday was spent around the east coast, after getting great views of "Scottish Type" Crossbills and a superb pair of Parrot Crossbills, absolute beasts! We also finally caught up with the unusually hard black grouse from the dreaded screen at Tuloch Moor. Eider, Long-tailed Duck, summer plumage Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Diver, Sandwich Tern, Common Scoter, 1st Summer Spotted Redshank and a few other nice bits and bobs were all seen yesterday. The sun is shining and spirits are high ahead of today's West Coast visit. A more detailed blog from yesterday and today will be online later!!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Saturday 28 April - Murcia Lesser and Larger

Next week we have a two day booking with a party of 3 birders who are on holiday here for a couple of weeks. They have requested we take them out in the hope of seeing Lesser Kestrel and Little Bustard, so this morning we headed out to a new site we wanted to explore SW of Caravaca De La Cruz.  We set out at 8.00am (just as we would on a day tour) and reached our destination just before 10am.  The journey takes about an hour and a half but we stopped en-route for a welcome coffee and croissant.

Lesser Kestrel were showing in good numbers, on the telegraph wires, on the ground and in a deserted building at the crossroads (which was where we had previously seen them).   The light was not good, the weather was unpredictable, overcast and rain was in the air.  The Lesser Kestrel colony has definitely increased in numbers since last year, which is nice to report.   After watching them for a while we set off to explore the surrounding areas along the main roads and the caminos.  New territory for us, so no great expectations - boy were we in for a surprise !! 

An abandoned farm building not far from the main road was obviously a favourite spot for the hundreds of sparrows out here.  We recorded 4 different types: House, Tree, Rock and a single Spanish Sparrow all in the and around the same building - Sparrow.....tastic.  The poor light and strengthening winds made it very difficult to photograph these birds today but the pictures below are the best we managed to get.    Over the next 3 hours or so we drove slowly around the area and were lucky enough to see .......... in no particular order ........ Booted Eagle, Roller (2), Little Owl, Hoopoe, Black Kite, Chough (4), Great Spotted Cuckoo, Raven (3), Bee-eater, Northern & Black-eared Wheatear, Crested/Calandra/Greater & Lesser Short-toed Larks along with all the usual suspects.  
We were happy birders !   

As we headed back to take a last look at the Kestrels, Mark spotted a vulture above a pig farm, then another, then another, and another !  A quick diversion off the main road saw us heading across the land via a farm track in hot pursuit.  We entered the farm yard (which has public access if you stick to the track) and pulled up alongside the pig pens.  There were still 12 vultures in the air above us and we thought we had seen one on the ground.  We were busy scanning around the pig pens when there RIGHT IN FRONT OF US was a Griffon Vulture sitting in the field.  It was no more than 100 metres away from us, bold as you like, just sat in the field !  This bird was clearly winged tagged although we can't quite make out his number.   Definitely one of those birding moments that you will never forget !  When the "beast took flight" we moved on a were lucky enough to locate a further 8 birds on the way back to the main road. 21 Griffon Vultures in one day, in the space of 20 minutes what more can a man ask for ??   Well actually we would have liked the weather to be kinder so we could have got some good photographs to share, but we're not going to complain :-) 

Lesser Kestrel 


Calandra Lark

Griffon Vulture

Griffon Vulture in flight

Friday, 27 April 2012

Scotland Tour Update

Ok, so here it is, the first update of our annual Scottish Highlands tour. We have battled against adverse conditions (rain, sleet, snow, wind etc) but overall have triumphed. A more detailed blog will be added at the end of the tour, updates throughout and a full trip report will follow in a week or so. Today species of note included; Capercaillie (male and female), Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Ptarmigan (7), Golden Eagle, Red Kite, Osprey, Short-eared Owl, Dipper (feeding a chick), Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Ring Ousel, Crested Tit and a strong supporting cast. The images below are totally un-edited, straight off the camera, many are record shots and some "phone-scoped". Click on any of the images to view an enlarged version.

 If this wets your appetite for next years tour please feel free to make an enquiry, there are only 3 places remaining!! More tomorrow........

2 Caper Vids taken on the phone held to the scope!

 Red Grouse

 Red Kite

 Above 2 imges - Golden Eagle

 Above 3 images - Ptarmigan

 Crested Tit - Honest!!

Capercaillie (hand held HTC HD to scope)

Thursday 26th April 2012 - Dolores

This mornings aim was to visit El Hondo (as we never made it yesterday) and try to photograph the Montagu's Harriers which are usually seen by the North Gate.  Once again we were waylaid by the sight of several flooded fields en-route.  We were determined to make it to Hondo, and so forced ourselves to give each field a quick scan and move on.  

The field that these pictures were taken in was just too good to miss.  The water had reached the middle by the time we passed it and it was alive with birds.  Monty's were instantly put on hold as we parked up enjoyed a couple of hours photographing and watching these birds.  

There is a narrow canal to the right of the field where the Night Heron and Great Egret sat on the wall (at different times of course).  To the left and in front of the flooded field are smaller areas of land with low growth vegetation.  Around the fields there are telegraph wires and mature palm trees, which provided such a mixed environment, we had the opportunity to see different species of birds without moving from the car.   Full list of species below the pictures. 

 Night Heron

 Southern Grey Shrike 

 Common Sandpiper

 Gull-billed Tern

Whiskered Tern

 and again ............

 and one more ...........

 Purple Heron 

Med Gull 

Collared Pratincole

 This field is about the size of a football pitch and was flooded yesterday morning. With so many good vantage points we were able to watch the birds for 2 hours totally undisturbed.

Species List

Purple Heron
Cattle Egret
Night Heron
Grey Heron
Great Egret 
Little Egret
Glossy Ibis 12
Yellow Legged Gull
Med Gull
Gull Billed Tern
Little Tern
Whiskered Tern
Common Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper 2
Ringed Plover
Black Winged Stilt
Collared Pratincole
Southern Grey Shrike
Great Reed Warbler 
Fan Tailed Warbler
Moustached Warbler
Sardinian Warbler
Golden Oriole 
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Bee eater
Spotless Starling

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Wednesday 25th April 2012 - Bonelli's Eagle Crevillente

This morning me made the short drive to Crevillente to view the pair of Bonelli's Eagle that nest there.  We had good views of the adults in flight as well as their 2 chicks in the nest. 

The middle picture shows the adult flying into the nest with it's talons full of vegetation. 

Others bird of note were Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift and Bee-eater.  

If you would like to see the Bonelli's Eagles and need a guide we would be happy to take you on a 1/2 day tour basis.  If you would like more details of the tours we offer visit our website.  

 Bonelli's Eagle

Bonelli's Eagle

Pallid Swift

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Monday 23rd April Flooded Field at local Goat Farm

Yesterday morning we headed for El Hondo Visitor Centre, as the day before we had heard a Bittern booming there.  As this was the second time we had heard the unmistakable call from the boardwalk,  in as many days, we thought it was worth an hour surveying the reed beds.  

Criss-crossing the many camino's on the way we eventually ended up at the South Gate on the Vistabella Road.  From here we could see and hear Med Gulls and Terns just to the east of where we were parked.  Our planned hour at El Hondo was put on a back burner, as curiosity got the better of us and we wanted to know what was getting so many birds so excited.  We followed the birds and the noise to a large field in front of a goat farm that we regularly stop at.  

The farmer was flooding his fields and there were birds everywhere! It looked as though the water had not long been released and it was still flowing steadily into the field.  A 10 minute stop turned into 3 hours as birds just kept dropping in to feed. 
(Full list of the species seen below the pictures) 

Part of the Flooded Fields

Purple Heron

Great Egret

Greenshank and Redshank 


Wood Sandpiper

Cattle Egret 

Species List

Greenshank (4)
Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Wood Sandpiper (7)
Common Sandpiper (5)
Green Sandpiper 
Black-winged Stilt (25+)
Little Stint (1)
Collared Pratnicole (40+)
Purple Heron 
Grey Heron
Little Egret 
Great Egret (2)
Cattle Egret 
Southern Grey Shrike 
Woodchat Shrike
Gull-billed Tern (4)
Whiskered Tern (30+)
Mediterranean Gull  (12)
Black=headed Gull 
Yellow-legged Gull
Marsh Harrier
Montagues Harrier 
Quail  (heard)
Nightingale (heard)
Booted Eagle
Glossy Ibis (13)
Common Swift 
Pallid Swift
House Martin 
Sand Martin 
Red-rumped Swallow
Barn Swallow
Corn Bunting
Cormorant (2) 
Fantail Warbler