Friday, 17 May 2019

Trujillo Birdwatching

Our first port of call in Spain was Trujillo, a 3 hr drive from Seville.
On arrival the first thing we did was wander down to the town square to find it covered in Marques - a very disappointing sight. Still we settled down to the first of many beers/wines in that square and watched the world go by and the birds fly overhead. House martin, swallow, swift were to be expected but a family of crag martins had obviously nested nearby and were back and forth alongside the buildings all day every day often landing on the rain gutter supports. Overhead the storks came back and forth and every now and then a few lesser kestrels circled or black kite flew past.

Crag Martin

Around 5 pm I took a walk down to the bull ring to look for the lesser kestrels (as I did every afternoon though nearer 6pm on the other visits). The kestrels were there but only sporadically. I'm pretty sure there were young in the nest holes so the birds circled a few time as they came in and were off  as soon as they had deposited their catch. Overall my success with the camera was pretty poor. I took a lot of (record) shots but in reality most of the time the birds were too distant and image quality was a bit of a disappointment.

The next morning I had a drive down to the bull ring before breakfast (it didn't get light till after 7.30) but the light was all wrong for the kestrels so I drove west to a park with a small lake. On the shore were several little ringed plovers, a common sandpiper and 4 black winged stilts. Serins were numerous in the trees though totally invisible.

After breakfast we went on the first of our birding drives - something my wife really looks forward to...…….not.
The route (assembled from various on-line trip reports) took us along the N521 where we found the first booted eagle of the trip, then a quick dive south along the CC57.2 towards La Cumbra. This provided woodchat shrike and bee-eater - birds we saw quite frequently but other than on this occasion they were always off before we could get close enough for a picture.

Booted eagle

Woodchat Shrike


It was then back up the CC 57.2 onto the CC 57.1 towards Santa Marta stopping at several places to scan for bustards (no luck though the grass was pretty long). Corn buntings were everywhere and frankly got to be a pain in the proverbial and crested larks were also very common.

Along a track off this road we did encounter a pair of whinchats and several Calandra larks and on a repeat visit on the last morning I bagged a shot of a juvenile Calandra at close quarters.

Calandra Lark
Juvenile Calandra

We then drove north from Santa Marta, crossed the Rio Magasca then along the CC 129 back to Trujillo. The only other notable find along this leg of the trip was a huge flock of Spanish Sparrows though they were very shy and on the wrong side of the car (the south side).

Spanish Sparrow

By lunch time we were back in the square at Trujillo for the most enjoyable part of the day - lunch and a few more beers.

Next day we were out early(ish) and off to Montfrague and the Salto del Gitano mirador. It was heaving with birdwatchers and photographers. Seeing the vultures was easy finding one close enough to photograph not so. Blue rock thrush and rock bunting were conspicuous by their absence. 3 (possibly 4) black storks provided the only real entertainment of the morning.

Around lunch time we went up to the visitor centre at Villarreal de San Carlos for a coffee and a wander where we had nightingale, woodchat shrike, and I'm pretty sure subalpine and spectacled warblers were singing in the scrub.

On the return trip we stopped again at the Salto del Gitano and it was excellent. There were not many people around at this time and blue rock thrush and rock bunting both came really close. Even the vultures put in a few incredibly close fly-bys.

Rock Bunting
Blue rock thrush

The final outing of our stay at Trujillo saw us start at the lake/dam at Alcollarin where we has excellent views of a black vulture plus bee-eaters and stonechats.

Black Vulture

From there we went towards Zorita  turning off just before the town and heading north along a minor road that links up with the CC24.1. We then turned right off the 24.1 just before  Santa Cruz de la Sierra in the direction of Madronera but taking the Ex208 back to base. Along these roads we saw at minimum 5 woodchat shrikes, 3 southern grey shrikes, several hoopoes and a small flock of bee-eaters but failed to get a single decent picture. It was very frustrating.

A very distant Southern Grey Shrike

Monday, 13 May 2019

Spain, 25th April- 9th May 2019

This year holiday was to SW Spain. As always it was a combined birding and family holiday so the dates were a little late compared to most birding trip to the area but I hoped for, and got,  better weather as a consequence.
The trip started with 3 nights in Seville, then Trujillo in Extramadura for 4 nights, then down to El Rocio in Donana for 4 nights with the final 3 nights being spent in Ronda. We had visited El Rocio and Ronda previously and wanted to repeat the experience.
We flew to Seville with BA and hired the car from Centauro (who were very good - we had a Nissan Qashqai with only 2000km on the clock) with us picking the car up as we departed Seville.
The places we visited were beautiful, the weather was gorgeous with temperatures in the mid to high 20's  only dropping to 20-22 when in Ronda (though the morning were pretty cool in most places). This allowed us take in all the sights we wanted and to eat outside most evenings.

Not everything went to plan however and there were several notable low-lights to the holiday.
The national cheese festival was being held in Trujillo which meant the town centre was covered in marques and totally spoilt the ambience of the place. It seems this takes place every year around the end of April/early May and lasts 5 days with a week or so taken to set up and possibly a similar time to dismantle afterwards so the town square is an unsightly mess for best part of a month. (Better research could have avoided this).

The road to the Jose Antonio Valverde Centre in Donana was a pot holed disgrace and the journey took an absolute age. They have also placed a mesh fence alongside the main reed bed near the centre so photographing birds from the car is near impossible now and the heronry viewed from the centre was almost devoid of herons. Pretty much a wasted day.

Finally at Ronda the path down to a mirador below the New Bridge was closed as new steps/paths were being constructed. This is a great location for photographing swifts early morning as you are pretty much level with them. I'll put this down to bad luck.

With a couple of exceptions the birding  was slow/difficult everywhere we went. I don't know whether our rather late date was the cause or whether I'm useless birding from a car (the main method especially around Trujillo). So whilst we saw quite a lot several species were conspicuously absent from our (non-existent) trip list (eg roller, Bonelli's eagle) and I failed to get decent images of several species I had high hopes for eg hoopoe, shrikes.

Subsequent posts will cover the birding at each of the places visited with the exception of Seville where there was little to see bird wise other than swifts, sparrows, parakeets and spotless starlings though I now know some of the swifts I photographed were palids.

Seville. The Alkazar (plus mallard)

Seville. The Alkazar

Seville Oranges in the main park

Trujillo. The tents in the main square 
Trujillo Dining and cutting out the tents

Trujillo. Same street as above but with some tents showing

Trujillo. Our hotel, the Parador.
El Rocio

El Rocio. Another view of the church this time with the sand roads
Ronda. The gorge from a restaurant

Ronda. The New Bridge. All 98m of it..
Bird photos will also appear on my Flickr site:-

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Long-staying Yellow-browed warbler in Dover

When a yellow-browed warbler was first reported on Birdguides at Penchester Gardens, Dover on the 2nd March I took no notice thinking it was a one day wonder. However a few days later it was still being reported quite regularly I started taking notice and seeing as how slow things were at my normal haunts I decided it was worth a visit.
My first attempt was unsuccessful. I arrived with little in the way of expectation because whilst reports were pretty regular I'd not seen any photos of it published. Several people were already there when I arrived and some had been waiting 2-3 hrs without a sniff. (One, who shall remain nameless, told me it was his 5th try and he still hadn't seen it). I gave up after an hour (I'd only paid for 1 hrs parking) but later learned it had shown soon after I had departed.
My second attempt, again for only an hour, was similarly unsuccessful.
By now a few pictures had been published so I thought another go was worthwhile.
My third visit was on a Sunday (the 10th March). I'd parked on the street a short distance away (plenty of nearby free parking on Sundays) and as I walked past the bus station on Penchester Road I heard a yellow-browed calling repeatedly. I quickly hurried into the gardens to find a few associates standing near where the bird had been calling. My first thought was they had been playing a tape but no, it was the bird that had been calling.
There's nothing like hearing (or seeing) a bird for yourself for increasing the enthusiasm so this time I stayed several hours. Eventually it showed fleetingly near the bus station but I failed to get any decent images. It then moved along the River Dour to the footbridge (where all the initial sightings were recorded) and I managed  a couple of shots. It was a dull day but I'd got an image. I'd seen a number of yellow-browed warblers during the previous autumn but failed to get a single image so getting any picture was pleasing.

Next day, the 11th,  I was back.  The sun was shining and the bird showed really well for a prolonged periods at the back of the bus garage and though I was pretty pleased with the images I managed the bird was always just a little too distant for really great shots - you can't get closer due to the River Dour being in the way, however this may account for why the bird stayed around so long.

My next visit was unsuccessful. I didn't even see it despite being there for 2+ hrs so I thought the bird had moved on however a day or two later it was reported again.
My final visit was on the 19th and again I'd parked in the supermarket car park so had 3 hrs with the bird. For a short while it was near the bus garage but then moved along the river to the footbridge area where it stayed for 30 minutes and so showed really well on several occasions  (perhaps because there was only 2 of us there). Whilst the area by the bridge is pretty shaded the bird was very close and the results achieved pleasing - my best set of YBW shots to date.

The bird continued to show for a couple of days with the last report on Bird Guides being on the 22nd though it may have stayed longer. Certainly I had stopped going.