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Tuesday 22 August 2017, Wokingham, cloudy, calm air, 22C

It may not have rained every day in August, as one of the more unreliable tabloid newspapers forecast, but we haven't exactly been reaching for the sun cream, either. Today has been fairly typical of late, largely overcast and humid.

Birding at the local gravel pit (now a nature reserve) has been pedestrian as all the lovely wader-friendly shallow pools have coalesced into one large lake just in time for Autumn migration. Common Tern and Sand Martin have had a good breeding season but a pair of Great-crested Grebe are now on their third attempt following previous lost nests as a result of a (probable) mink attack and flooding.

There are a few post-breeding mixed Tit flocks (Great, Blue, Long-tailed and Coal) around now with the occasional Chiffchaff amongst them and they are always worth checking through just in case there's something more interesting in there. In fact I added Coal Tit to my Wokingham 'garden list' just at the weekend!
Juvenile Common Tern

Grey Heron
Kingfisher - almost the classic 'No Fishing' photo!

Red Kite in the gloom
Good news for Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier) in Andalucia, as two chicks fledge, click on link to read more:
Bearded Vulture successes

Tuesday 25 July 2017, Wokingham, partly cloudy, calm air-light W-NW wind, 23C

A cool start to the day but cheering up late afternoon to leave a nice warm evening. During the last couple of weeks of changeable weather I've managed to 'dip' on yet another local Mediterranean Gull - this one a summer plumaged adult, too! Wader passage has been slow, with just a few Green and Common Sandpiper and a very small bird, that we eventually agreed was a tiny Dunlin, through (and one fly-over Black-tailed Godwit).

Good to see some interesting juveniles around with the nearby woods/hedgrows producing young Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and Wren. There are still agood number of Common Swift here, though the rain forecast for tomorrow may send a few on their way south.

When not birding there have been some lovely early Blackberries to snack on!
Red Kite
Red Kite

juvenile Common Whitethroat
adult Common Whitethroat

Early Blackberries!


Saturday 08 Jul 2017, Wokingham, mostly sunny, light N-NW wind, 27C

Today's light breeze and lower temperatures were a bit of relief after a couple of very still, hot and humid days when temperatures hit 32C. This may be the UK, but there is a risk that this may turn into a 'proper' summer! 
As is normal for this time of year, birds activity is reduced as they concentrate on breeding and feeding the resultant progeny.
Locally we have a pair of Barn Owl, of which I've only managed to get the following distant photo. They have four chicks, that should be fledging soon, so maybe I'll have more luck later on.
Adult Barn Owl

As 'reverse' wader passage begins we've seen Redshank, Ringed Plover, up to 6 Little-ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper but, as yet, nothing 'exciting'.
Today saw the highest count of Little Egret of the summer with 8 gracing the ex-gravel pit shallows:
2 of 8 Little Egret and a Grey Heron - interesting how posture changed the apparent size of the (same-sized) Egrets

Green Sandpiper

Grey Heron

juvenile Grey Wagtail

Little Egret
Beyond the lake is a landfill area with Methane release valves. Not sure if this was just a heat thing or if Methane escape was a factor, but recently cut grass was picked up in a mini-whirlwind.
Landfill Methane valve

Grass cuttings pulled up by a 'whirlwind'
The reason for a bird-free 'scrape' was explained by a visiting young Red Fox!
Red Fox

Some good news for Andalucia's Bearded Vultures

This year a total of 6 Bearded Vultures will be released in Andalucia, as part of the reintroduction project there. Last weekend one bird named Larva was released in Cazorla, and yesterday two birds were released in mountains of Castril.

Click here: Bearded Vultures to read more:
 

Wednesday 21 June 2017, Wokingham, sunny, light S-SW wind, 32C

Flaming June it is as the warm spell continues into Midsummer's Day.
The recent local birding highlight was a 1st summer Mediterranean Gull but excuse me if I'm not overly excited having seen plenty in Spain over the years! Also, despite being 'ever present', it manages to time its absences perfectly with my visits....
A male Kingfisher was showing well this morning, and there was a brief glimpse of a Barn Owl, hunting low over the reedbed no doubt looking for breakfast for its 4 chicks.
On the 14 June I finally got a good look at a local Hobby then a couple of days later was treated to the spectacle of 5 of these wonderful raptors hawking insects over water near Stodmarsh in Kent.
There are still lots of dragonflies around which is great to see.
male Kingfisher

Common Blue Damselfly

A shy Muntjac Deer

male Kingfisher
It's a Hobby!

Common Whitethroat

The local wheat field

Monday 05 June 2017, Wokingham, scattered rain showers, light-fresh S wind, 16C

A bit quiet bird-wise here, though I was delighted to find a Little Tern at the local reserve (just the 2nd for Berkshire this year).

Little Tern - very much a 'record shot'!
The Lesser Whitethroat is still singing away in a nearby hedgerow and, as well as the many Red Kite, there are at least 3 Common Buzzard in the area.

Common Buzzard
The recent warm spell brought out a good number of Butterflies and Dragonflies. Here are a few of them:

Speckled Wood
Banded Demoiselle - male
Beautiful Demoiselle - female

Chaser sp.?
Emerald Damselfly?

Red Admiral



Monday 22 May 2017, Wokingham, mostly sunny, light S-SW wind, 23C

A lovely warm late Spring day today with a couple of good sightings in the morning and a bit of excitement during the afternoon as I heard what I thought might be an Iberian Chiffchaff.

A 15 min bike ride to the local lake nature reserve at 08:00hrs produced several Red Kite, a Common Buzzard, a Common Tern, a Red-legged Partridge (not that common a sight hereabouts), 2 singing Whitethroat, 1 singing Lesser Whitethroat, 2 singing Garden Warber and a singing Nightingale.

An afternoon walk around nearby crop fields/woods/stream produced another Common Buzzard, more Red Kite, a Little Egret and a strange phylloscopus warbler......Initially I heard a bit of a Willow Warbler-like cascade (would be late for a passing Willow Warbler) but it soon became apparent, as it began its song with chiff, chiff, that it was a Chiffchaff sp. My initial thoughts were Iberian but something about it wasn't quite right - the flourish was too strong and the song concluded with a couple more chiffs for good measure. I didn't get a good look at it and as I tried to record its song, someone appeared, calling after their dog, and the bird fell silent! Another look an hour or so later was fruitless. I alerted local birders, just in case, but spent a night doubting that it really was an Iberian!

I managed to hear it with another birder this morning (Tuesday 23 May) and our consensus was that it was a mixed singing Common Chiffchaff (a mix of Chiffchaff and Willow Warber). A new experience for me!

A couple of shots of a Roe Deer in the fields:




Saturday 13 May 2017, Wokingham, mostly cloudy, light SW wind, 18C

An early morning visit to Lea Farm gravel pit in search of a Lesser Whitethroat (according to reports, "...always singing loudly in the field next to the car park.." but not today!) produced a Hobby and a possible Great White Egret (seen at a distance by three of us but none got a good enough look to be 100% certain). Also seen were Red Kite, 19 Common Tern, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Little-ringed Plover, Cuckoo and 10+ Sand Martin; a (presumably different) Lesser Whitethroat, Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Garden Warbler were all heard.

Bar-headed Goose (Escape!) on nearby Black Swan Lake,  Dinton Pastures

Last Black Vulture in Alinyà shot by poacher

The last surviving Black Vulture in the Alinyà area of Catalunya was recently found dead, shot by a poacher.......

Vulture Conservation Foundation article

New project relating to veterinary NSAIDs: Article

The following article looks at a new project to look at the impact of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory use, including Diclofenac, on scavenging avian species in the Iberian peninsular:

Vulture Conservation Foundation Article

Peter E's visit to Sevilla....

Thanks to Peter E for the following resume of a recent trip to Sevilla:

"Sevilla is a beautiful city, and the Alcazar Real and gardens is surely one of the wonders of the world! Sevilla is not a great place for birds however, although we did see the Lesser Kestrel colony from our hotel roof-terrace and circling the Giralda. Swifts, swallows and martins were everywhere, and blackbirds, spotless starlings and monk parakeets common. Greenfinch and hoopoe were also seen as was just one white stork flying over. In the river Guadalquivir, a night heron was spotted along with other ducks, and many turtles or terrapins had clambered out of the water to bask in the sun.
One day was spent in the Donana National Park where greater flamingo, spoonbill, glossy ibis, little, cattle and great white egrets were plentiful on the El Rocio lagoon, together with black-winged stilt, egyptian goose, shelduck, and one black swan (which must surely be an escape). Black kites were everywhere.
At El Acebuche, azure-winged magpie were in the picnic area (as they were on my last visit 15 years ago) and we added bee-eaters, corn bunting and woodchat shrike to our list. A beautiful pale booted eagle was overhead. Donana is surely another of the world's great wonders!"

Wednesday 10 May 2017, Wokingham, partly cloudy, light SE wind, 17C

I hear from Gaucin that the Honey Buzzards are in full flow heading north towards their breeding grounds.....

Here, today's excitement was generated by a species that wouldn't cause much of a stir in Andalucia....a Cattle Egret! First spotted mid-morning in Twyford, a few miles down the road, there seemed a fair chance that it might drop in to our local lake at some time. After a morning dumping rubbish at the municipal tip in Reading (balanced by a nice sandwich and a pint of Brakspear's at the Green Man pub in Hurst!) I headed off on my shiny new bike for the 10-15min ride to the Dinton Pastures/Lavells Lake/Lea Farm gravel pit complex; such is the traffic around here that it would take a good 20min to drive and then there's nowhere to park.

Dinton was quiet, other than a few noisy Egyptian Goose, but at Lavell's there was a very handsome Greenshank plus 1 Shelduck, a Sedge Warbler in full song and a pair of Reed Bunting. Of note at Lea Farm there were 2 Red Kite, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 pair of Great-crested Grebe, 6 Gadwall, 2 pairs of Common Tern (there were 16 birds yesterday making an incredible noise as they squabbled with each other and a couple of Black-headed Gulls), 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Little-ringed Plover, 3 Lapwing, 1 Oystercatcher, 1 Cuckoo, 4 Sand Martin, 4 House Martin, 3 Swallow and 1, presumed escaped, Bar-headed Goose. Just as I was thinking of leaving I spotted a distant egret, with only my binoculars (haven't worked out how to carry the 'scope on my bike yet!) I had to look very carefully but it was clearly a Cattle Egret, just the 10th record for the county of Berkshire and the 2nd for this site.

Greenshank

Greenshank and Little Egret (a few days ago)

Common Tern

Cattle Egret (it was a long way off!)

Saturday 29 April 2017, Wokingham, partly cloudy, light S-SE wind, 14C

Haven't been out much for the past couple of weeks due to various appointments and the small matter of redecorating the flat! The sighting of a superb drake Garganey on the local gravel pit/lake was the highlight.
I'm missing the raptor migration over Gaucin, though I need to be vigilant as someone saw two Hobby over their house just a couple of km from us!
Some photos from the local pits/lakes.....

drake Garganey

drake Garganey

drake Garganey with Tufted Duck

Great-spotted Woodpecker

Lapwing

Lavell's Lake in the early morning mist

Footpath to the hide

River Loddon

Ring-necked Parakeet

4 - DAY BIRDING TOUR (based in Gaucin) - DAY 4

SAN PABLO PIG FARM – MARCHENILLA TRACK – RIO HOZGARGANTE – LA JANDA – VEJER – BARBATE MARSHES

WEATHER: sunshine all day, light westerly wind. Top temp 23C.

We were back down to just the two of us today, Jimmy and I left Gaucin at 8am and headed towards the coast along the Algeciras road. At San Pablo we turned onto the San Martin road and headed for the pig farm. Jimmy wanted a better picture of Bee-eater and an early morning visit would give us the right light conditions. Jimmy had a choice of over 100 Bee-eaters to choose from, he took his time and got some great shots. We also saw Raven, Booted Eagle and Griffon Vulture whilst at the pig-pens.


European Bee-eater

The Marchenilla Track was close by and offered a short-cut back to the Algeciras road so we drove the entire track into the ‘hamlet’ of Marchenilla. We made many short stops along the way, Jimmy went berserk with his camera, his best shots were of Corn Bunting, Stonechat and Tawny Pipit.

 
Common or Northern Ravens

A quick visit to the Rio Hozgargante was made as we arrived at the Algeciras road, we simply hopped across the main road and drove a couple of hundred meters to the river. We had hoped to see Golden Oriole but having heard one calling we couldn’t locate it. Other species seen included Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Jay, Blackcap, Robin, Blue Tit and several, unseen Common Nightingales sang out loud.


Tawny Pipit


It was approaching 10:30  when we finally set off for Tarifa, but even then a couple of stops delayed us. The first was at the Lesser Kestrel Colony near Castellar where we watched only 4 or 5 Kestrels and the second was at the San Roque White Stork colony where we got great views of the newly hatched Stork chicks in the nest. A seasonal pool nearby held 4 Little Grebes and 5 Little Egrets.

We by-passed Tarifa and headed directly for La Janda where we spent a couple of hours driving along the central track and then the road to Benalup. I can’t say that there were too many highlights because it was quite barren with no water in the newly ploughed rice fields. A couple of Marsh Harriers drifted by, also White Storks, a single Glossy Ibis and innumerable Cattle Egrets. Lots of Corn Buntings, Linnets, Goldfinches and a few Zitting Cisticola were seen.


Red-rumped Swallow

The huge Cattle Egret colony found on the Benalup track is now in full swing, full of noise, movement and territorial squabbles, a few pairs of Glossy Ibis were also nest-building. We also had great views of both Red-legged Partridge and Red-rumped Swallows at the end of the track.

A brief stop at Montonmedia Golf Course produced nothing more than a single Hoopoe, lots of Jackdaws and several Woodpigeons. The Bald Ibis colony at Vejer was fairly quiet as all the birds are sitting on eggs at the moment, a couple of birds were seen in flight.

At Barbate marshes we had wonderful afternoon light and plenty of birds to look at. There are probably over 100 pairs of Collared Pratincoles breeding on the islands and about 3 pairs of Stone Curlew. Lots of Short-toed Larks joined Crested Larks, Tawny Pipits and Northern Wheatears onto our sightings list. Many Western Yellow Wagtails could be seen of three races, iberiae, flava and flavissimo.


Collared Pratincoles


Lots of waders were out on the marsh we logged Pied Avocet, Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed and Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilt. We also found Calandra Larks, Woodchat Shrikes and a single Orphean Warbler fed in the bushes.


Western Yellow Wagtail - the British version ​flavissimo

We left Barbate at 4pm making a stop at the Mirador de Estrecho where Jimmy took some pictures of Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar. We arrived back to a very busy Gaucin, crowds were gathering in preparation for Easter celebrations including a ‘Bull Run’, how nice – I’m so glad we are off to Coto Donana early tomorrow morning.

This ended our min-tour around Gaucin, we had seen just under 120 species and had some wonderful weather during the tour.

IF YOU WANT TO FOLLOW OUR ADVENTURES IN COTO DONANA THEN CHECK OUT THE WINGSPAN BLOG AT:

WWW.WINGSPANBIRDTOURS.COM/BLOG