Saturday, 30 May 2009

Bempton Cliffs - Razorbills

The razorbills I think were really cute sitting on the cliff edges. They were quite content to watch the Gannets fly to and fro with only occasionally they themselves taking to flight, but would come back again to the exact location on the cliff.
At first glance you think they are just black and white, but upon a closer inspection you can see suble shades of brown merging to black. When they opened their beaks they revealed a beautiful golden yellow colour inside, that really stood out. What looked fantastic was the thin white line as though painted on their faces and beak...very artistic to say the least!.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Bempton Cliffs - Gannets

26 May 2009

I know this is a blog on birding activity within Andacusia, but I had such a wonderful time over in the UK last week that I had to mention it in the blog. We planned to get to see the sea birds that the UK offers. I had never seen a Razorbill or a Guillimot, or a Puffin, guess its one of the down sides of living in Spain, well the Southern coast of Spain that is. But really it was the Gannets we really wanted to see.

We drove 3 hours from Liverpool to Bempton and arrived there about 10.30. It was a dull day when we arrived but could see clearer weather out to sea coming in from the East. We arrived at the RSPB shop all excited, greeted by a very friendly girl who told us the best locations to view the birds and so we set off. It is only a few hundred metres from the shop to the cliff edges. Therer must of been thousands of birds all huddled together on the cliff edges while hundreds of birds where in flight. Gannets by far where in the majority, followed by Kittiwakes. They glided past us on the sea breeze and then came into land on the grassy slops like huge 737's. There were many people here, from keen birders to families out for the day. A few photographers where hoping to get the perfect shot and it was good to talk to some of these.

The Gannets must be one of the largest seabirds with a wingspan of nearly 2 metres. Truely a majestic bird to watch, even though
we never saw them dive in for the fish.
I will post another blog of the Razorbills and Puffins we saw at a later time.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Nerja Bee-eaters

19 May 2009

Today I got up early at 6.00am as I was meeting up with Martin Hierck, a bird photographer from Holland.
We decided to try to get some decent shots of the Bee-eaters that have arrived over the last few weeks. Last year I had discovered a nest site of about 30 birds, and so we went to see if they had returned. As we approached by car we could see a few sitting on the electric power lines looking down at us. We parked the car and made a strategy. We both agreed that photos of birds on power lines was not too good, so we found an old branch and tied it to the small foot bridge crossing the road. We had also seen them on this bridge and so figured they might like our branch. The sound of the bee-eater is distinct and we got excited. We both took our positions underneath some advocado trees and waited....and did we wait! One bird nearly landed but had second thoughts. After nearly an hour I said to Martin I would go on a walk about to see if I could try and move them from off the power lines toward our branch, but this had not effect. In the end we gave up, and decided to take a run in the car through the campo. After being towed out of an unusual deep ditch we set about our way. Plenty of Goldfinch and Serin, a few Kestrels flying overhead. On the road ahead of us we saw a snake about a metre in length, guess it was a grass snake, then slithered into the long grass. As we turn the bend a Blue Rock Thrush was sitting on a brick wall, sadly we couldn't get the cameras into position fast enough before it flew away. As time was pushing on, Martin had to leave and head back to Rincon de La Victoria. I decided I would have one last look at the bee-eaters. There they were again on the power lines. I took position under the same tree and waited. This time it only took 5 minutes before the first bee-eater landed on the branch we had erected, then came another and started to share his meal. It was wonderful to see them exchange bees together. It was a shame Martin could not have been there to share my excitement, but I guess that is what birding is all about...we just never know when the moment will happen. Birdlist: Goldfinch, Serin, House sparrow, Kestrel, Blue rock thrush, Bee-eater, Hoopee, Stonechat.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


12 May 2009

Thought I would get a real early start today as the Summer heat seems to intensify each day. By 12 noon it is quite hot and so I arrived at Guadalhorce when it was still dark at 6.00am. I had never been there in the dark before
so ventured over the bridge into the reserve. The tall trees next to the river attracted my attention as I could hear an unusual screach coming from one of the trees. The moon was out which gave me a sillohette of the tree. I saw what looked like a kestrel, same size but the sound coming from it was not that of a kestrel. While I was looking at it another bird much the same size flew near it and both birds flew off and landed in the scrub in the field. Once they took to flight I reckon they were two Nightjars. When I got home I listened on the RSPB site at the Nightjar call, and sounded very similar. Never saw much else while it was dark but I could see the dawn starting to break in the East. When I got to the furthest hide near the sea hide the dawn chorus was in full swing. After sitting in this hide for about 10 mins I decided to go and as I left another Nightjar was flying straight at me. It saw me when it was about 3 metres away and veered to the left. I could make out the white undermarkings as it flapped it's wings. Great excitement. Other than this not much else happened. I waited down near the pond edge under cover for an hour and half and waited to see if any other waders would arrive, but the whole pond was taken over by the Black-winged Stilts. Other than a lone Redshank and a Little-ringed plover nothing else. It was now 10.00am so I started a slow walk back. I met Manuel Aravjo doing some digiscoping but on the pond was only a pair of White-headed duck. When I got to the hide overlooking the main pond there was a Grey Plover amongst the rocks. I had read Andy's blog report as he had seen this bird earlier, so this made up for the lack of waders, as this was a new bird sighting for me.
Birdlist: Nightjar, Shovelar, Black-winged Stilt, Little Egret, Purple Heron, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed plover, Redshank, Goldfinch, Swift, Swallow, Martin, Kestrel, Coot, Blackbird, Woodchat Shrike, White-headed duck, Grey Plover.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Rio de la Miel

7 May 2009

Took the moto up to Rio de la Miel, just out of Nerja and past the pueblo blanco of Maro. The road twists and winds up the valley until you get to the top of the mountain range. From here one can see the snow still present on Sierra Nevada.

Not a great birding site, but one can easily expect to see the usual tits, blackbirds and serins. I stopped off near a stream and had a wander up a path to some pine trees. In the distance I could see what looked like a falcon of some sort flying near the crags, but too far for a positive ID. Could of been a Peregrine. Also spotted perched on a crag in the distance was an eagle. If only I had my spotting scope, maybe then I could of identified it. Walking back to my moto I saw a lovely Pied Flycatcher on a dead branch. He was quite happy letting me watch him and he would fly into the air and catch his meal. Also at this altitude there were Stonechat and Whinchat, normally I only see them in the Winter down on the coast.
Birdlist: Great tit, Serin, Blackbird, Nightengale, Pied flycatcher, Stonechat, Whinchat, Goldfinch.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Fuente de Piedra/Alhama de Granada

5th May 2009
After last Monday's amazing birding day I decided to head up to the lagoon again at Piedra. I arrived at 8.45am and there was no one in sight. Great!, I thought. But to my disapointment there were not many birds in sight either. I couldnt believe the contrast from the previous Monday when there were flocks and flocks of waders everywhere! Now there was a few on the various ponds.
There was a group of flamingoes nearer to me than last week so I spent some time watching them and was able to get a nice flight shot. The pink underneath their wings is beautiful, an amazing looking bird!
There was a couple of Avocet, a few Dunlin feeding away, and the usual Redshank. Went to see if I could see the Red-crested pochards again, but they seem to have vanished too. The Curlew Sandpipers were still there, as were the Ringed Plovers, but really not much else. On the wooden bridge a very tame Swallow kept flying and landing on the bridge, and came withing 10 feet of my lens.
I think it was a Marsh Harrier that flew past in the distance over the lagoon, and then at 10.30 a coach load of school kids started to walk towards me. I decided at this point to head somewhere else....and so decided to go and see if the dipper's were still at Alhama de Granada.
I took the road from Antequerra to Granada instead of down to Malaga, passing Archidona. I had heard there are Short-eared Owls in this area, and thought about an evening visit there sometime. Turning off the main A92 toward Alhama the scenery this time of year is wonderful, rolling green fields of grasses and wheat. On the way saw Woodchat Shrike, Kestrels galore, and also a Sparrow hawk.
When I got to Alhama I excitedly started to walk the path through the gorge. I could hear the waterfall in the distance and as I got to the small pond saw the Dipper fly toward the waterfall. I got in position and waited. Had my sandwich and coffee out of a flask and was enjoying the sun on my back whilst listening to the sound of running water. The Grey Wagtails I had photographed some weeks earlier came to visit me again, this time they brought their new family with them. The baby one was so small and was happily churping away, waiting for his mother to come and feed him. Just then in the back undergrowth there was the dipper. I was looking at him through the camera lens waiting for him to get into a better position for a photo, but he was too busy bashing a small fish on the rock. He was trying to kill this fish for about 3 mins and when all life was hammered out of the fish he flew away again in the direction of the in mouth. I saw the dippers fly up and down the river atleast 15 times but they never stopped on the rocks to where I could get a nice shot.
Just as I was about to call it a day, in between a rock and the log on the embankment, I noticed some movement. Just then a baby dipper appeared! I was so excited, I couldnt find him through my lens and when I went to have another look, he had gone. Just then his mother made a brief appearance on the log and flew off. I didn't even try to get a photo this time, just wanted to savour the moment, even though it only lasted 2 seconds! I was so happy I had been about 8 feet away from a dipper and it's chick.
Driving home just before Zaffaraya, I saw my first Azure-winged Magpie outside of Donana, so all in all a good day really with 30 species observed.
Birdlist: Black-winged stilt, Avocet, Redshank, Dunlin, Common Tern, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen, Ringed Plover, Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Curlew Sandpiper, Kestrel, Sparrow Hawk, Blue tit, Great tit, Dipper, Nightengale, Woodchat shrike, Sardinian warbler, Azure-winged magpie, Jackdaw, Grey wagtail, White wagtail, Robin, Blackbird, Blackcap, Serin