Saturday, 31 March 2012

Soddy and Siddick

Highlights today were Crossbill over Soddy Gap and a Willow Warbler singing at Siddick Ponds.
The other thing was a Drake Pintail, 1 at Soddy this morning then what must be another at Siddick Ponds  a couple of hours later.

Friday, 30 March 2012

After Work

Well 1400 1m cubed bags emptied of heather later and i'm returning home for good. No more working in Derbyshire and Snakes Pass.  So on my way home i decide to stop in at Sizergh Castle for the Hawfinch that had been showing well on and off all week. Today they did show well at times but as it was dinner time there were people coming and going too frequently so the Hawfinch would show on the ground for barely seconds. Also silly people kept parking in the bay they were feeding in.....Cant you F*cking see im taking pictures!!!!! Anyway two birds did eventually come down to the ground but for a split second, enough time to get pics of both Male and female. Given an early start and quite a sunny day you could nail these birds..
Whilst waiting for the Hawfinch to venture onto the ground, some more practice on the commoner stuff...

Nipped into Soddy Gap but nothing new in except i finally caught up with the Drake Pintail.
Also 15 Shelduck. A record for the site, 1 Goosander, 1 Long tailed duck still, and 2 Returning Mute Swans.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

More Local stuff

Rach and I started at Soddy with a very early and very surprising Little Ringed Plover. There annual now on Soddy but usually not till April or May, They are generally scarce in Cumbria, the good weather seems to be bringing things in Early. My Chiffchaffs are a week earlier than last year too.
Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover

I then took the opportunity to take some pictures of the common stuff seeing as the sun was shining. Mixed results but ill get there.
Tufted Ducks

Canada Goose


Tufted Duck
We then moved onto Drigg Dunes Via Broughton Bridge where my first Sand Martin of the year appeared.
On the Approach road to Drigg i checked through a few Geese 2 Greenland Whitefronts were a nice surprise. The birds were facing into the sun so taking pics were impossible. These were mixed in with mainly Greylags and a few Pinks.
Greenland Whitefronted Geese
We had hoped for Adder at Drigg but we couldnt find any. We did find a Slow Worm.

Slow Worm

We finished of at Eskmeals CWT a muddy DUMP! Looking for the officers which id had a report of a Black Redstart but no sign of any Office and none of the locals new either.. TYPICAL Cumbrian Reserves . I did find an Adult  Spotted Redshank on the Estuary.. So Not a bad day all in all.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Local Stuff

Started at Soddy gap/Low Meadows. 2 Chiffchaff Singing at  Low Meadows and one on Soddy Gap. Female Long tailed Duck was still on the main pond as were 8 Wigeon few Teal, Mallard 4 Shelduck and 8 Snipe. A few Meadow pipit moving through and a Lesser Redpoll Displaying.
Workington not much and no sign of Black Redstart few Meadow Pipit over
Met up with Keith at St bees 35 Wagtails half were Pied Wagtails and half were White Wagtails. 1 Wheatear 5 Twite, a few Ravens.. A Peregrine showed well as did a couple of Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk.
A Puffin left the cliffs and landed on the sea, plenty of Guillemot and Razorbill. A single  Black Guillemot near Fleswick Bay.
There had been a Fall of Goldcrest with a handful of Chiffchaffs.
White Wagtail

Northern Wheatear

Linnet and Twite

Female Peregrine


Friday, 23 March 2012

Laughing Gull or Not

Well I'm finally back in cumbria for a couple of days so i though id better go see if i could find the Laughing Gull that was found in South Cumbria. There had been reports of it being seen briefly on a couple of days on Standing Tarn but nothing confirmed. So Today Rach and I had the day in that area but unfortunatly we couldnt find it. The Only Birds of real note were a Green Sandpiper and Green Color ringed Coot on Standing Tarn. As there was only 1 color ring on this Coot i fear there should have been more, so the others have fallen off meaning i wont get any results from this one unfortunatly. We visited a few other spots around that coast but just a Little Egret and a load of Eider to show for it.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


Before Work in Derbyshire on Snakes pass i managed to finally catch up with the Scaup on Soddy Gap but this was in Cumbria.

Well an unexpected Family problem meant i was to stop in Derbyshire this weekend. So i had a little free time to walk some of the Cromford Canal to see some cracking Hawfinch.

I took the opportunity whilst wandering around looking for them to practice some Digiscoping.. Some OK Results on a dull day.

As i passed through Chatsworth house i took some shots of some Mandarin Duck and Red Deer.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Spain 01st March - 08th March 2012


Keith and I had planned a Trip to Spain some months ago and now the time was upon us to descend on Extremadura flying from Liverpool airport using Easy Jet for £75 Quid each and landing in Madrid. Once landed we picked up our hire car from Europcar and headed to our first location our Accommodation at the fantastic Casa Babel in Torrejon El Rubio (Facebook Page). We did have some afternoon light left so managed a little bit of birding on the way down. A big flock of birds were spotted in the distance so we stopped at  la Bazagona but the birds were just Lesser Black backed Gulls. We were hoping for migrating Cranes. It was a good stop however as it was our first taste of Spanish birds. Serin, Spotless Starlings, White Stork, Hoopoe, Southern Grey Shrike, Corn Bunting and a handful of Skylarks and Chiffchaffs.

Spotless Starling

Corn Bunting
White Stork

Back onto the Auto-via and we made our next stop the small village of Malpartida de Plasencia where a huge storm was brewing and landed on us, incredible sight. Our first Thekla Larks were showing well as were a mix of Hirundines including a couple of Red Rumped SwallowsHouse Sparrows were obvious but we were gonna have to wait for the Spanish ones. Back onto the main road and a fly over Griffon Vulture was a great start to our trip. By the time we reached our accommodation at Torrejon El Rubio its was completely dark, so all we had to do now was check in meet our Host Jose and go get some supper.. 
Casa Babel Accommodation


Keith had planned this trip to perfection so today's Route was through the Carceres Plains, via Monroy doing a circular via a minor sand track back to Torrejon El Rubio. It would be an early start before dawn to make the most of our days in Spain.
This was to turn out a fantastic route picking up Singing Hoopoes, Crested and Thekla Lark, Corn Buntings, my first ever Azure winged Magpies  amazing!!.. Black Redstart, Rock Sparrow and our first Spanish Sparrow. Spanish Sparrow would have been another lifer for me had I not seen one in the UK a couple weeks before..
Crested Lark
Thekla Lark
Spanish Sparrow
White Storks seemed everywhere as did Black and Red Kites. An early surprise was in the form of a Black Vulture (lifer) sat on a hill fairly close to the road but then a Griffon Vulture came and joining it.. SUPERB! We then stopped after hearing a strange loud call, only for a Stone Curlew to come flying out of the Oak Woodland bingo a nice surprise. We drove on a bit and spotted a raptor on power lines so just had to stop and check, we noticed a nest fairly close by too on the struts of the pylon, the raptor on the line was at first we thought female Goshawk with the male just visible on the nest, its red eyes peering at us menacingly, but after some help from the real experts this bird is in fact a Bonelli's Eagle and a lifer. So i don't mind messing the id up for a Bonelli's... 

Bonelli's Eagle

Once we finally got to the Plains I got my next lifer in the form of a Calandra Lark and whilst watching these I spotted what looked like Sandgrouse briefly as they landed out of site. We picked a vantage point up a sandy track only to find our first target of the day, Little Bustard, 60 of em Bingo....  After our fill of these and the larks we moved on a few more km and picked up our second target species 10 Great Bustards.

Adult Male Little Bustard (honest)

Calandra lark (honest)
Could this day get any better.. Oh yeh coarse it could. We Finally got to a dirt track 20km or so long and decided to have a slow drive along here, couldn't go fast the road was appalling.  Over head our next quarry species 5 Black Bellied Sandgrouse and not thinking we would get all our target species our last one popped up in the form of 50+ Pin-tailed Sandgrouse,these flew over calling and landed in fields but all too brief. A few Little Owls were in the area too. What a start to out trip the route to the Carceres Plain's and the Plains itself proved superb. We judged the day to perfection landing back on the main road home to Torrejon in the dark. 
Little Owl


Today the plan was Arrocampo Embalse de via the Embalsie De Torreyon Tietar Dam and then into the mountains of Sierra De Gredos y Valle Del Jerte. . We were driving past Penafalcon crag in the Monfrague National Park which wasn't a planned stop but we just couldn't drive past hearing the Vultures in the dark. So we waited for it to get light at only to get amazing views of The Griffon Vultures and a few Black and Egyptian Vultures. To our surprise our first Rock Bunting and Female Black Wheatear with a few more Black Redstart seen.
Female Black Redstart
Male Black Redstart
Angels Tears or Rock Daffordil (Narcissus triandrus Pallidulus)

A Black Stork landed on the shoreline and a couple more flew past. We moved onto the Dam at Embalsie De Torreyon Tietar for more amazing views of Griffon and Egyptian Vulture. Also great views of Red Rumped Swallow more Azure Winged Magpies and many Hawfinch's. A Singing Golden Oriol was a nice surprise.  Hoopoe were everywhere we went, i had never seen so many.
Azure Winged Magpie

Arriving at Arrocampo a large reservoir with a few hides we were a little disappointed to see no wader areas which we had planned to see. The day got better however with good views of Purple Swamphen, Fan-tailed Warbler more Spanish Sparrows, White Storks and more Larks. Returning to the car a small bird flew into the reeds that I immediately thought was a Bluethroat, as we were speaking to some other Brits we all got together to see if we could re find it. We waited about 5 minutes when I spotted it again as It landed on top of a Bramble bush for all to see (except Keith booo) it then moved into another reed bed where it was seen once more before we had to move on. Our target here however was Black Shouldered Kite best spot in the area apparently but we were struggling, was this to be our first dip... Naaaa just as we were leaving Arrocampo Keith spotted the Black Shouldered Kite Bingo! and what a bird, decent views as it headed off. Phew!
Purple Swamphen

We Made our way to the Sierrra De Gredos y Valle Del Jerte Mountains and on the way spotted our second Black Shouldered Kite.. When we finally reached the tops of the Mountains we found Woodlark, nice views of Dartford Warbler and even better views of Rock Bunting, but surprisingly no Eagles just more distant Vultures. On the way back down the mountain we stretched our legs around some of the woodlands but there wasn't a great deal special. White Wagtails and Serin showed well in the car park. We checked the river valley on our return to base, Greenshank was the most unusual wader.
Again we had used all the available light and headed back to base in the dark.
Rock Bunting

White Wagtail


Today's route was to Trujillo and through the Madrigalejo Rice Fields back to Tujillo.
At Trujillo  our target species was the Lesser Kestrel. Trujjllo is an amazing quaint village in the hills with amazing views over the town from the Castle. Back to the Kestrels yes we found at least 3 pairs and what cracking looking birds too. We walked up onto the castle grounds to watch them from there and whilst there the White Storks were looking stunning on all the buildings, more Serin and Black Redstart but the star of the show were 2 Flyby Great Spotted Cuckoos lifer.... A Hoopoe showed well in the gardens. Pallid Swifts were excellent to see flying around the village.
Male Lesser Kestrel

Male and Female Lesser Kestrel
Great Spotted Cuckoo
The the mist dropped so we moved onto the Rice Plains. On the way we found another pair of Lesser Kestrel and an Egyptian Vulture sat in a field hoping the lamb in there was on its last legs..
The Target species for today were Waders and Cranes. We found a dozen Common Cranes sat in a field getting ready to migrate no doubt, in the same area we were surprised to find large flocks of Red Avadavat wow what colorful birds. We drove around the area seeing plenty more Avadavats, Kites and Vultures.
Common Crane

Red Avadavat

Black Kite
Black Kite

There were very few Rice paddies with any water in them due to the drought Spain was having, any flooded paddies couldn't be viewed from the road except 1. This held Bar-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Green Sandpiper and a few Water Pipit. Flocks of Common Crane went over migrating. The surprise of the day however was a fly over Short-toed Eagle. This new area produced a few more Great Bustards.
We had a look at Guadiana res where we found another 2 Great Spotted Cuckoo a Great White Egret and some more late Common Cranes. Green Sandpipers were common in the concrete gullies. Southern Grey Shrike were plentiful. . We then returned to Trujillo for another look at the Lesser Kestrels and Pallid Swifts before heading back to base.
Bar-tailed Godwit

Great Bustard


Today we were going to concentrate on the Monfrague National Park , concentrating on the Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures and any Eagles. On arriving at Penafalcone Crag the Vultures were showing exceptionally well again. Black Storks flew past and Rock Bunting and Black Redstarts showed well again. 
Griffon Vulture

Egyptian Vulture
Black Vulture
Black Stork
We moved onto Portilla Del Tietar where we knew of nesting Eagle Owls and a chance of Spanish Imperial Eagle. Firstly we spotted a Wild  Boar on the opposite side of the river, then eventually we spotted the amazing Spanish Imperial Eagle which showed extremely well for us, landing on the ground then on then top of the crag and eventually out of sight in a tree, nest site?. We had a good chance to watch this bird for some time. After 3 hours we gave up on the Eagle Owl but we did see another Short-toed Eagle. Blue Rock Thrush seemed to be everywhere today.
Wild Boar
Spanish Imperial Eagle

 We then started back to Torrejon El Rubio but firstly we walked up to the Castle Castillo de Monfrague which is a ruined Muslim fort from the 9th century, where we again had good views of Griffon Vulture. A Short toed Treecreeper  and the Crag Martins  nesting on the cliffs. We headed for some petrol back to base and to pick Jose up (owner of our accommodation) he was gonna have an afternoon with us birding. Not before getting more great views of Blue Rock Thrush.
Crag Martin

Blue Rock Thrush
After picking Jose up we headed back to Portilla Del Tietar where Jose could point out the very hard to see Eagle Owl and its nest, bingo!!!    Thanks Jose thought we were gonna dip our first target bird! The Spanish Imperial Eagle showed well again including landing on what we now no was the nest. We also managed to spot a female Black Wheatear again. Southern Grey Shrike was a bird we saw regularly on our trips out.
We returned to our accommodation as it was our last night and we needed an early night, very early start in the morning to drive the 400km to Donana our next location for 2 nights before sunrise.
Eagle Owl
Black Wheatear
Southern Grey Shrike

Griffon Vultures


Early to rise today 430am start to get to Donana National Park and our new accommodation was at El Rocio and what an amazing village, nicest and strangest village ive ever been to, before it got light to maximise our day. We Arrived at Donana by 8am just as the sun was rising. We decided to pass the main lagoon as the sun was directly in our faces no good for viewing, we could still see Greater Flamingo and Spoonbills
El Rocio

El Rocio

El Rocio the street our hotel was on.

So we made our first stop the Centro de reception el Acebuche, part of the Donana National Park which had a few hides. A good start with Savis Warbler Singing (lifer) a Red Crested Pochard and a few other bits n pieces. An Egyptian Mongoose was a really nice surprise. European Pond Terrapin and a few Iberian Wall Lizards were also added to our list.
Fantastic shot of the Egyptian Mongoose take by Keith.

Carbonell's Wall Lizzard (Podarcis carbonelli)...

European Pond Terrapin/turtle

After checking in at our Hotel La Fonda Del Rocio in El Rocio we visited the hides/screens on the main lagoon. 100s of Greater Flamingo, 40 odd Spoonbill looking stunning in summer plumage, loads of Black-tailed Godwit, loads of Cattle Egret and Surprisingly loads of Glossy Ibis. Coot numbers were in the hundreds 500+. We moved around to the main center and found a single Red Kobbed Coot amazingly lucky really, more good views of Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Spoonbill and Flamingo. Its a real shame light is always bad here, not ideal for photography. A Single Temmincks Stint was the pick of waders.
Greater Flamingo


Red Knobbed Coot
We then headed for the coast at Matalascanas where we had good views of Audouins Gull and Yellow Legged Gulls. On the sea Black-necked Grebes, Gannets, Razorbills but no Shearwaters just yet. The commonest bird out there were the Bonxies, they were all over the sea. A Sandwich Tern was a nice surprise.
We then returned to the lagoon and sat having drinks and some food in a restaurant by the side of the lagoon, which gave us the ideal opportunity to watch the Egrets come into roost. 800 Cattle Egret and an incredible 300 Glossy Ibis as well a 1 Great White Egret that arrived very late. The moon was particularly bright.
Later that evening Keith was awoken by a Scops Owl outside his bedroom, lucky him!.
Cattle Egret


Our last full days birding started on the lagoon with good views of closer waders including 15 Little Stint and 5 Temmincks Stint. We moved onto another nature reserve very close to the lagoon infact part of it really, the Centro de recepcion La Rocina. We had great views of 2 Squacco Heron and at least 4 Purple Heron, both target species. 2 more Great White Egrets, Dartford Warblers and a few more Larks and Chiffchaffs. Never thought about looking for an Iberian.
We then had a sandwich in El Rocio and headed for another smaller reserve El Acebron, where we finally found 8 Night Herons and a couple of Firecrest with a few more  Short toed Treecreepers all our target species.
Squacco Heron
Temmincks Stint
Purple Heron
Night Heron

We returned to Centro de recepcion La Rocina where we could just sit and relax. Watching the Purple Heron and Great White Egret, also many Glossy Ibis and listerning to the Purple Swamphens calling.
Finished again on the main lagoon for the sunset and an Imperial Eagle. Then went looking for Scops Owl after supper but no sight or sound tonight
Great White Egret

Sunset over Donana Lagoon looking from El Rocio

Sunset over Donana Lagoon looking from El Rocio
Glossy Ibis
Spanish Nut (iris)


Well time for home with a 300km drive to Malaga to catch our flight back to the UK. If we wanted one last chance at some good birds it meant another early start. We headed straight for Guadalmar just outside Malaga which is a reserve Im very familiar with from last years trip to Spain. We weren't to be disappointed, starting with a Kentish Plover on the beach, and 6 Black necked Grebes and 8 Common Scoter on the sea. The Monk Parakeets were still showing well and being very noisy as usual.
Onto the main reserve with our first Booted Eagle Bingo target species, we found another 2 sat in trees when we got to the screens.15 White Headed Ducks were another trip tick and an Iberiae Yellow Wagtail was a nice Surprise.  The Black winged stilts were showing well as were some more  andSerin but no Flamingoes this time..... Swallows and House Martins always show well from this hide.
Booted Eagle
Iberian Yellow Wagtail

Black Winged Stilt
White Headed Ducks


Still what a great reserve and what a great end to our weeks trip in Spain. It was finally time to drag ourselves away and get back on that plane home. 168 Species totaled up in Spain with 3 UK species on the way home making the total 171 Species.... List here!!!
I just hope Keith had as good a time as I did.
Ive added a few videos to you tube here..