Saturday, May 21, 2005

Spanish Birding: Day 2

A not so early morning walk round the accommodation again, produced 1 Little Egret and Grey Heron over, several pairs of Crested Larks, Goldfinch, a single Red legged Partridge, House Sparrows by the bucket load and a couple of Iberian Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava iberiae), but the highlight for me was the flock of 10 Common Swifts and 10 Pallid Swifts which came through.

Pallid Swift, Alijar, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

After breakfast (which we learnt the night before through hand gestures and broken Spanish we could make ourselves- it was toast all round!) we headed off for some proper Spanish birding action. On our way to the Bonanza Saltpans we had a couple of Red-rumped Swallows fly past the car and a single ring-tailed Montagu's Harrier. A couple of Cattle Egrets sat in a field with a Common Kestrel, House Martin and Swallow also seen.

The Bonanza Saltpans proved to be a fantastic stop for us, with waders being extremely numerous- including breeding Kentish Plovers.

Kentish Plover, Bonanza Saltpans, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Black-winged Stilts, Greenshank, Dunlin, Little Stint, Sanderling, Grey Plover and Ringed Plover were also recorded. A few Gull-billed Terns were flying along the river and raptors were plentiful over
the Do
ñana woodlands. Black Kites numbers probably reached well over 60 birds up at any one time and Booted Eagles were also fairly numerous. The major raptor highlight was a Spanish Imperial Eagle which I picked up as it drifted along slowly on near flat wings. A local birder who we happened across (or rather he happened across us) confirmed the id- he even offered us to show us around the Saltpans, even though we basically communicating in broken Spanish, German, English and of course through the use of the trusty field guide!

Other birds scored from that one spot included a flock of distant 70+ Greater Flamingos, 95 Glossy Ibis, 80 Spoonbill, Little Egrets, 20 Slender-billed Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls and more Iberian Yellow Wagtails.

The Slender-billed Gulls were truly stunning, with several showing some nice pink flushes. They're feeding antics made for some interesting photos.

Slender-billed Gull, Bonanza Saltpans, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Eventually our elected Spanish guide moved us along with a few stops before the next major scan producing a close Little Egret.

Little Egret, Bonanza Saltpans, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Where our guide took us to was fantastic for Terns with more Little Terns than you could shake a stick at and a single Black Tern and Gull-billed Tern, but no hoped for Audouin's Gull.

Little Tern, Bonanza Saltpans, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

As we made our way back towards Sanlucar for lunch we found a nice family party of Sardinian Warblers on the fence by the track but other than that it was more of the same really.

After a buying our lunch from a local store we headed out through the Algaida Pines in the heat of the day, with little of interest other than more Black Kites overhead. Eventually we reached a dry area which was excellent for Larks with heaps of Crested Larks moving about. By lucky fluke, a Roller was sat on the overhead wires in front of us, unfortunately though only Tony managed a shot- an excellent shot of it just taking off! The rest of us had to make do with a Woodchat Shrike which only Katie really got anything on it (click here), whilst Brian and Tony snapped a great Swallowtail (click here).

The Larks were proving to be pretty frustrating as they kept on flying into the heat haze and we couldn't get enough on them to be sure of anything; let alone our target of Lesser Short-toed! We carried on along the rough road towards the back of the Saltpans in the hope of some easier Larks further along. Another chance encounter, this time with a superb male Spectacled Warbler raised spirits further in the increasing mid-day sun.

Finally we seemed to hit it lucky when Katie and Brian had a Greater Short-toed Lark on their side of the car, and Tony and myself had one on our side of the car. They weren't Lesser's but they were a start! Katie balanced her digiscoping kit on her knee in the back of the car and produced a fine shot which can be seen here.

Travelling along further and another stop produced another Greater Short-toed Lark on Brian and Katie's side of the car, but apparently nothing on ours... or was there?! I could see something which looked vaguely Lark shaped and looked like it was moving, but only slightly. Eventually it moved a bit more- yep, it was a Lark, but which one? Brian got out and got his scope on it, whilst I balance mine on the back window revealing a short, stubby, finch like bill- Lesser! Jackpot!

Brian took a couple of record shots of it, as it sat there singing, eventually moving into thicker stuff. See his record shot here.

Pleased with finally nailing Lesser Short-toed Lark after it seemed so hopeless at the beginning, we carried on to the back of the Saltpans for a quick bite to eat (bread role and crisps brought in Sanlucar). There seemed little of interest at first, with just a line of Coots and Yellow-legged Gulls to keep us entertained, but a better look at the Gulls revealed another wanted bird for the trip- a 2nd summer Audouin's Gull!

In high spirits, we headed back through the pines on another fruitless search for Azure-winged Magpies. Here we recieved at text from Steve Dudley and Josh saying that a Trumpeter Finch had turned up in Suffolk- damn! But not to worry, there wasn't much we could do about it really, so we just looked up and enjoyed displaying Booted Eagles and low flyovers from Black Kites as they headed to their nests and flock of 5-6 Griffon Vultures heading over. Nice!

On the Laguna de Terelo we picked up a good few White-headed Ducks (see pic below), a Tree Sparrow, Black-necked, Great-crested and Little Grebes.

White-headed Duck, Laguna de Terelo, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Our plans to head north for some more wetland type species was severely in jeopardy when we hit a long road, which was in bad nick making for a slow route. Thankfully, a Collard Pratincole appeared on a bank by the side of the road, followed by another, and another....and then a Purple Heron.... and then a Grey. We decided we probably wouldn't make it to Brazo del Este, so stopped and watched the amazing sight of 50+ Collard Prats flying out of a field after a low flyover Black Kite put them up. Thrilling!

Purple Heron, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Collard Pratincole, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

As well as the Prats, which let us get reasonably close to them there were a few Great Reed Warblers croaking from the reedbed and Zitting Cisticola was calling loudly behind us, with a couple of Red-rumped Swallows in for good measure, it was a good place to stop.

Further along the beaten track, we happened across a few Woodchats, a flyover White Stork, Turtle Dove and more Crested Larks.

By now evening was upon us, and things were clearly cooling down enough for more bird activity so we headed back towards the
Laguna de Terelo. However, despite Tony's excellent navigation skills and Brian's brilliant driving, we ended up getting lost somewhere in Sanlucar. It has to be said we did get lost on more than one occasion during the trip, usually with spectacular results and this time was no different!

Luck rather than judgement and navigation skill saw us at what is now known in all our notebooks at the "Hidden Pools of Sanlucar" (which Brian christened). It was a great spot with over five Little Bitterns sat around one of the pools, one of which when taking off nearly knocked us all out! An immature Night Heron also took off from out of sight and a couple of elusive Purple Gallinules eventually showed reasonably well.

Little Bittern, Sanlucar, Spain, 21.05.05 | © Will Bowell

Eventually we made it alive to
Laguna de Terelo and saw plenty more White-headed Ducks, 3 Red-crested Pochards and hords of Egrets and Herons on the island. The highlight for me was a flock of 5 Squacco Herons which appeared from nowhere in front of the hide, top notch!

Yet again there was no sign of any Azure-winged Magpies in the Algaida Pines, but there were a few bits and bobs of interest including another Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warblers, Short-toed Treecreepers and Blue Tits. The highlights from our search before dusk for the Azure wings, really were the Spotted Flycatcher, flycatching by the track, a Wryneck which only I managed to see as it flew off into the pines and a Long-eared Owl, sat right out in the open, but spooked by us and quickly disappeared!

We arrived in the clearing at dusk, in anticipation of one of our big targets- Red-necked Nightjar. It wasn't long before Tony and myself picked one up singing, half heartedly, and it wasn't long after that before they were all in full flow. About 8-10 birds sang around us, which is pretty good considering we could only hear a small part of the clearing. We enjoyed incredible flight views in the half light and after dark, incredible views in the torch light. One bird even sat singing above us on the observation tower! Smart or what?!

A magical way to finish a superb day!

Day 3 >>>

Day 1 >>>
Day 4 >>>


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