As a bonus it is always worth visiting Restaurante Cerezo in the village after a walk for an outstanding lunch, it never fails to impress.
These are a few dragonflies I photographed on a pleasant stroll along the banks of the Rio Cajula just outside Canilas de Albaida. This is a small river but there is always water even in the height of Summer so it is good site for dragonfly species that enjoy moving water.
As a bonus it is always worth visiting Restaurante Cerezo in the village after a walk for an outstanding lunch, it never fails to impress.
Here are a couple of photographs of a nice Little Bittern in breeding plumage, still with the bright red bill. One of a pair that showed well today.
Here are a few of the better butterfly photographs taken on our annual pilgramage to the Sierra Nevada in July. This time we were accompanied by our friend Hans Borjesson who was visiting Nerja on holiday with his family.
It is always an enjoyable day out not least because it's nice to be out of the intense midsummer heat by being 3000+ meters above sea level. We stop at various locations along the way looking for any of the many butterflies that like this elevated habitat.
The best stop this year happened to be at the Botanical Gardens located just below the ski station at Pradolano. I particularly liked the many Great Banded Graylings and several varieties of Fritillary seen there this year.
The only species that I had no prior photograph of was the Red Underwing Skipper seen in the Botanical Gardens. I have recorded this species before but without a decent photograph to prove it.
Agustin has created a virtual paradise for lovers of wildlife photography here in Southern Spain. Where else can you watch and photograph magnificent species in the wild with such certainty? I came tentatively hoping to photograph Hawfinch and Golden Eagle. I was not disappointed. I could have selected Imperial, Bonellis or Booted Eagles, Eagle Owl, Iberian Lynx or various other species. Eco tourism like this supports wildlife and encourages the local community to appreciate and protect the riches of nature around them.
The Golden Eagles came to the baited tree and rock perches on a regular basis. They flew up from the wooded valley below the hide which is located on a high point overlooking the Sierra Morena landscape. It is a truly awesome sight watching these magnificent wild birds of prey at close quarters, the perches were about 7 - 9 metres from the hide, too close to use a 500mm lens.
Here is the view through the glazed window of the Golden eagle Hide, taken with my mobile phone. It is slightly misleading as the perches are closer than they appear in this phone image.
Eagles were not the only birds attracted to the bait and I quite enjoyed photographing the Eurasian Jays that were constant visitors along with many Iberian Magpies. The jay shots were also taken with my old Canon 400mm f5.6L lens which is a superb workhorse in good light, all these images were taken through the glazed windows of the hide so I was quite pleased with the results.
Alpasin is a Wildlife experience company based in Adamuz, a small town in the Sierra Morena to the east of Cordoba. The owner/operator Agostin has created this incredible series of hides to allow photographers to get close-up views of such iconic species as Imperial, Golden, Bonellis and Booted Eagles, Eagle Owl, Egyptian and Black Vultures, Common Buzzard and perhaps most popularly the Iberian Lynx.
I had come hoping to photograph one of my nemesis species the Hawfinch, a bird I never properly captured on camera but one which I admired greatly for it's somewhat startling looks.
I was amazed that the very first bird to appear after getting settled in to the hide was the very species I came for. The Hawinch is an incredibly handsome finch, it is not a common bird in my part of Andalucia but up here in this part of the Sierra Morena it is apparently quite common.
Other species came and went, most notably Iberian Magpies and several species of Tit. I post one photo of a Crested Tit plus a rather nice shot of a Greenfinch.
The photo below is of the little passerine hide from which I photographed the shots above.
It had been an ambition of mine to see the World's most endangered cat for some time, The Iberian Lynx has made a comeback from being close to extinction. In 2002 only 94 individuals survived in two isolated in Andalucian subpopulations. Conservation measures have been implemented since then, which included improving habitat, restocking of rabbits, translocating, reintroducing and monitoring Iberian lynxes. By 2012, the population had increased to 326 individuals, to 855 in 2020, and to 1,111 in 2021. A success story.
This success doesn't mean however that they are easy to see. I knew my friend and wildlife guide Mick Richardson had been successful in finding them in the Sierra Morena near Andujar in Jaen Province, so I asked him to show me where and to give me an opportunity to see this magnificent animal., which he duly did. We stayed at La Caracola, a very pleasant Country Guest House close to the Sierra de Andujar Natural Park.
Our expedition to find the Lynx involved a long 4x4 drive up into the Sierra where the chances of finding our target species were greatest. Eventually we came to a few viewpoints from where the landscape can be scanned for the presence of the big cat.
After some time without luck I noticed a small group of people some distance further along the track observing something intensely with binoculars and long lens camaras. I walked along to them and was told they had spotted two Lynx in the dehesa below our position. Shortly afterwards I spotted a pair of tufted ears behind a low bush and realised I was looking at my first Lynx.
Incredibly the two animals were fairly close and they subsequently moved onto a large rock in open view where we all marvelled at their stunning beauty and took photographs as they virtually posed for us. One of the group that I made contact with had a small dog on a lead which the larger, male lynx took an interest in and he left the rock and crept through the wild flowers towards us. It was all quite surreal, these close and prolonged views of such rare and stunning animals was quite an emotional experience, one never to be forgotten. In all we were treated to twenty five minutes of this amazing wildlife experience.
I feel it important to add here that this was an extremely lucky event. Mick had been here on numerous occasions and sometimes missed out completely or only managed fleeting or distant sightings. No-one should expect to get so fortunate as we were that day.
As well as the iconic Lynx we had several other target species here in the Sierra Andujar Natural Park. Otters can be seen below the dam on the Embalse del Encinerejo on the Jandula River. We did get good views of a pair swimming and I was fortunate enough to see one slide off the bank into the water, unfortunately I was too slow to capture this on camera but it was a nice wildlife sighting nonetheless.
The Sierra here is known for Iberian Imperial Eagle which in fact was about the first bird we saw on our arrival as there was one perched on an electricity pylon. We did see it several times thereafter flying around the area but the only photo I managed was on the pylon.
Our main bird target species was not an eagle but a diminutive woodpecker. The Lesser-spotted Woodpecker is a hard bird to get in Spain. It does breed in a few locations but it is scarce and notoriously difficult to see, not least because of it's small size and that it likes to nest and forage up high in very tall trees. After some searching we finally located a solitary bird and were lucky enough to hear it drumming as well as emitting it's unforgetable ringing call. I was quite pleased with these photographs in the circumstances, the bird was very high up and the light was not great, so getting anything worthwhile was difficult. This bird is a male as can be seen from the red spot on the crown.
As well as the L S Woodpecker there were other birds to be seen. I grabbed a quick shot of a Cirl Bunting, a Black Vulture passed overhead, numerous Jackdaws were nesting nearby and a pair of Kingfishers frequently flew up and down the river, often perching on rocks or low overhanging branches.
Hide Photography at La Caracola
As well as being a comfortable country hotel conveniently located for wildlife watching in the Sierra Andujar, La Caracola also benefits from having a very nice photographic hide in the gardens complete with a bird bath and feeding station. It was great fun sitting inside watching and photographing the various bird species that visited to feed, drink and bathe.
The most numerous and conspicuous visitors were the Iberian Magpies, a wonderfully exotic looking bird that can often be quite wary of human presence, but not here. I soon discovered that I was "over-lensed" as Mick put it, I couldn't get such large birds to fit in the frame with my 500 mm lens so switched to an old 400mm f5.6 with more success. Even this proved to be too long for the closer birds so I was forced to pick out the ones on perches slightly further away from the hide. Even so I am quite pleased with the results and post some of the better quality images here.
Cacin Valley and locality
An early start for Elena and I to meet Mick Richardson for a day out on his patch around Huetor Tajar and the Cacin Valley. We arrived at Cortija Tajar hotel where Mick was already having coffee and after some refreshments set off to drive around the agricultural areas behind Moraleda de Zafayona, taking in El Turro, Chimineas, La Malaha, Ventas de Huelma, and on to Cacin and the Valley.
It wasn't long before we spotted the first oh many Great Spotted Cuckoos. I only post one shot of the many I took. There were plenty of other birds to be seem including Green Woodpecker and Iberian Grey Shrike. The most exciting event however was a small group of 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouse amongst the newly planted almond trees. Although quite distant I did get a few recognisable photos of this hard to get species.
We paused to photograph a Hoopoe foraging aound on the ground beneath a large tree, seemingly unperturbed by our presence. This is quite a common bird in this part of the World but I always enjoy seeing Hoopoes as they are so exotic in appearance and was always a bird I admired in books as a boy.
Mick knew exactly where to find the numerous Little Owls that he sees on a regular basis. Sure enough there they were allowing us to get some decent shots.
Definitely the most unexpected sighting for me was the distant Iberian Imperial Eagle perched on a large pylon while being mobbed by a Black-winged Kite! Mick was familiar with this impressive raptor as it had been around for a while, amazing. We also spotted a Hen Harrier quartering the fields although it never got close enough for a photograph.
Other birds of note include Stone Curlew (Briefly), Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard.
We saw more Great Spotted Cuckoos and I learned to recognise their call, somewhat like a demented Green Woodpecker is Mick's description. Not at all like the lovely sound of the much welcomed Common Cuckoo call of Spring.
Probably the bird of the day proved to be a lifer (in the wild) for me. The Long-eared Owl is seldom seen and is much sought after by birders. Mick is one of a few who know of this roost which we passed by and got fleeting glimpses of this magnificent bird through the branches of the tree that provided its cover. We did not linger for fear of spooking such a rarity and I promised not to post this on any social media for fear of bringing more people in so causing disturbance. It was a great sighting for me.
After the Cacin Valley we returned to a site near Huetor Tajar where Mick had recently been seeing a lovely male Penduline Tit. I was very keen to get a sighting and if possible a photograph as I have only ever had fleeting glimpses of this charming and quite elusive little bird. In the event we enjoyed prolonged and stunning views of this solitary handsome male as he flitted along the reeds of a dried up dyke. I was thrilled to get some very nice photos, some of which I post here.
What a great day it had been and once again many thanks to Mick for showing us some spectacular birds on and around his patch.
Elena and I agreed to meet friend and guide Mick Richardson at Fuente de Piedra at 0800 so it was an early start on Tuesday morning. We were all surprised to see some water in the ponds to the left of the entrance drive with a variety of waders present, the most notable being Black-tailed Godwits along with some other more common species.
The main lagoon however was very low and although we could see fairly large groups of Flamingos in the distance it did not look promising for the coming breeding season again, having failed last year this is disastrous for the birds and the small town which benefits from the tourists who come for the Reserve. There has not been much rain admittedly but irrigation is the main culprit, much of it being illegal. I was pleased with this shot of a Glossy Ibis with matching colour reflections on the water.
On the ponds behind the Information Centre we were pleased to find a pair of Marbled Ducks, always a good bird to see, plus Mick added Red-crested Pochard to his ever expanding year list. It is nice to see the abundance of Rabbits here busy bringing nesting material to their burrows.
Before departing for Osuna we photographed the Jackdaws that are resident in the trees by and on the roof of the main building.
After a welcome coffee break at Osuna I was delighted to finally see the Stone Curlews that I have always been told are seen regularly amongst the olive trees on the right just outside the Venta San Francisco and for the first time in my experience they were there and I was pleased with one or two photos of these imposing looking birds, taken through the car window. Shortly afterwards we picked up a distant party of Great Bustards, our other target species for this location.
After Osuna we headed for Brazo del Este on the west bank of the Rio Guadalquivir. I made the mistake of following my GPS which took me to a part of the area I was not familiar with, so it took a while before we met up with Mick who had arrived some time earlier. One of the first interesting species was a small flock of Black-headed Weavers, an African that have become resident in this area. No males in breeding plumage were present but I did get a decent shot of this one which could be male or female.
Shortly afterwards I spotted a group of Black-crowned Night Herons quite close to the vehicle track, allowing for some good photographs.
Along the way we picked up many more species including a Black Stork, Spoonbills Western Swamphen, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kingfisher and a variety small birds and waders that are too numerous to mention.
From Brazo de Este we drove to Sanlucar de Barrameda and our overnight accommodation for a well earned meal and some sleep.
First thing in the morning we went to Bonanza for the salt pans which were enveloped in morning fog, so we tried for the nearby Laughing Doves that Mick knew about. They nest in some tall trees around a pond not far from Bonanza. Sure enough we saw a pair in the tall trees but unfortunately I was unable to get a clear view for a photograph and it was not long before the birds flew off. Oh well that's birding. By the time we returned to the salt pans the fog had lifted. There was a good selection of waders present but the only photograph I took was of this Slender-billed Dove which is very elegant and always nice to see.
From Bonanza we skirted around Sanlucar to arrive at Chipiona to see the Little Swifts that nest in the eaves of the yacht club there. Sure enough there were quite a few of these very scarce birds wheeling around coming and going from the building such that with patience and perseverance we managed to get some decent photographs on the wing. I switched to my old 5.6L 400mm lens for this purpose as it is lighter and focuses so much faster than the big 500mm. The light was excellent so no need for the bigger lens anyway.
It was nice to get a shot with two swifts in one frame, I was using high speed burst mode and just got lucky on one occasion. The best photo however is the one below which captures more detail on this delightful little high speed flyer.
After Chipiona we went to a rather strange newly built holiday resort along the coast from Chipiona called Costa Ballena. The landscaped green areas with a network of lakes and ponds attracts a large number of gulls and a few waders. I photographed this Common Gull which was one of several and is noreworthy only because they are quite rare in Southern Spain. We also spotted the Ring-billed Gull, a vagrant North American species. Mick managed to get a photograph but I missed out on it.
The only other photos worth posting were these two Turnstones which were foraging around the newly landscaped waterway. After Costa Ballena it was time for Elena to depart for home, saying goodbye to Mick who was staying on for one more night in Sanlucar.
Our garden list has expanded lately, since the arrival of Siskins for the first time in seventeen years we now have regular visits to the seed bowl of some delightful Crested Tits. We have seen them previously in the pine trees near our house but this is the first time they have actually come onto the terrace and taken seeds.
The one on the right here appears to be offering or at least showing a seed to his companion but I didn't see any acceptance of the proffered gift, in fact the bird on the left looks a bit taken aback by it.
Great Tits are another regular species attracted to the feeders at this time of year, this one looking quite imperious on the perch. It is however a long time since we have seen any Blue Tits, they used to visit infrequently but now not at all. Also the number of House Sparrows has declined drastically to virtually none, strange.
Greenfinches on the other hand are prolific, the most numerous of all the birds on our terrace. I suspect Elena's restaurant supports the entire local population which has increased year-on-year with the ready supply of food on demand.
Another notable visitor to the pine trees just beyond our boundary is the Long-tailed Tit. A sizable flock passed through one morning this week and I managed a couple of hurried shots, this little bird is always on the move and is hard to get a bead on.
It is a great pleasure to observe the continuing presence of Siskins amongst the feeding flocks. As I said earlier this is the first year this species has shown up here.
Retired seafarer living in Frigiliana, a white village in Malaga Province in southern Spain. Married to Elena. Keen bird and wildlife watchers.
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