On the first evening at the Costa Esuri Apartments near Ayamonte on the Spain/Portugal border we had a stroll around the golf course and noticed there were many small birds to be seen around the watered greens and fairways. I decided to venture out on the course again tomorrow in better light if possible.
Next day we all made our way to nearby Castro Marim over the Portuguese border. This is an area of wetland heath and marshes with a Reserve Visitor Centre. There was not too much water about after such a prolonged drought but those pools that were still wet did have some interesting waders, not least a Spotted Redshank. However I am more interested in small birds, passerines and songbirds are my main interest and I was delighted to capture some decent shots of one of my favourite species, the Dartford Warbler.
In my youth I had always hoped to see this little bird but never did. Its population in the UK declines quite drastically in severe winters, it almost disappeared in the 60s when I was looking. Fortunately with global warming winters have been very mild since then so the species is doing much better and now can be seen on heathlands or in Reserves across much of Southern Britain.
Yes, I know it's a lot of photos of one species, but I like it and was so pleased to get them. The Dartford Warbler.
In the afternoon we went back to the golf course and with permission from the course manager ventured out to look for some other small species. It didn't take long to pick up a flock of Common Waxbills flitting around between some bushes, they liked picking up dropped seeds from the path as you can see below.
Just a bit further along on the same path, a Bluethroat ventured out from the undergrowth, also looking for seeds or insects.
My practice of shooting first and asking questions later paid off with the next little brown job, I briefly saw movement in a bush & fired off a quick shot or two, it was identified later as a female Common Redstart, a good capture.
Northern Wheatears were abundant and I post this shot of one on a special kind of fence purely for the composition.
Hoopoes are always a good bet on a golf course, they like the watered fairways which are great for their soil-probing bills seeking out insect food. The Iberian Grey Shrike was a bonus as it was the first we had seen on this trip surprisingly.
Later we all ventured out with the course manager himself who arranged a golf buggy convoy for us, to one of the only ponds that still contained any water. Here we were treated to the spectacle of a good variety of wildfowl and waders. The star of the show was a Wigeon which is very rare in S. Spain. It was a bit too late in the evening for a worthwhile photo of it but I couldn't resist this Purple Swamphen that put on a good show right in front of all of us....
...and a Black Winged Kite that flew overhead and commenced hovering over a nearby fairway, giving us all a fine display and rounding off another good day.
Next morning we made a very early start to get to Malaga Airport in time for our flight to London on family business. It had been a good trip and I believe the group's species total was 117, which is not bad for late October and I am sure Elena and I had seen nearly all of them.
It was time to head West. There was an ABS field meeting at Bonanza Salt Pans on Saturday morning, after that we would make our way along the east bank of the Rio Guadalquivir, cross over to Coria del Rio to visit Dehesa de Abajo and then on to the Odiel Marshes, & ending up at the Costa Asuri Apartments near Ayamonte on the Portuguese Border, for some birding in that local area.
We stayed the first night in a delightful Hostal (Gran Capitan) in Chipiona but first we swung through La Janda, where we met many of the ABS participants with the same thing in mind.
Here we saw Common Cranes already grazing in the fields, numerous Marsh Harriers, a distant Spanish Imperial Eagle on a pylon, a stunning Bonellis Eagle which I was too slow to get a really good photo of, and a compliant Black Winged Kite that sat on a wire allowing photography, not perfect as it was in bad light, but better than anything I already had. This ignores all the more common species of this area which included Griffon Vultures, hundreds of White Storks, Glossy Ibis, Common & Green Sandpipers, Short-toed larks and many more, not least a Wood Sandpiper which I do not normally associate with this location.
Out West Day 2, Bonanza, Trebujena & on to Brazo de Este
Saturday morning, and aware of the large numbers of people with the ABS group we decided to avoid the madding crowd and head off to the Salt Pans of Bonanza before they arrived. As we entered I shot a beautiful large Monarch butterfly in the weeds along the narrow spit between salt pans.
There were waders in the shallow pools but far fewer than I remember from previous visits. However at the far end we enjoyed watching some Caspian Terns fishing in the river. We were also treated to the spectacle of an osprey carrying a large fish for its breakfast, unfortunately a little too far away for a decent photograph.
One or two waders caught my eye, here is a nice shot of a Little Stint showing some beautiful patterning on its upper plumage.
This Common Sandpiper scurried up and down the dried mud bank displaying great strength and agility in its quest for food.
We did not stay long at Bonanza as it was about to become very overcrowded. Instead we made our way up the small roads that skirt the East bank of the Guadalquivir, spotting a gaggle of Greylag Geese near Trebujena. Any geese are quite rare in Andalucia so it was a nice find.
I have always found the east bank of the Guadalquivir much better for birding than the west. The Donana has dried up and become virtually devoid of life, destroyed by drought and illegal strawberry farming. The rice fields of Isla Mayor can be worth a visit during the rice harvesting period, otherwise it's largely a waste of time.
On our journey northward we spotted many raptors including a pair of Red Kites heading south, and this female Marsh Harrier quartering the water meadows.
As we entered the most productive area known as Brazo del Este I snapped this fine looking Black Stork.
Spoonbills were prolific, but nothing like the numbers of Glossy Ibis which were literally in the thousands. Large areas of shallow pools were carpeted with them, here's a shot of many taking to the air after being spooked by something, possibly a passing raptor.
I was also pleased to see some of the colony of Black Headed Weavers that breed here, their pendular nests still hanging from a tree roost that we knew of old.
Here are some typical scenes from Brazo del Este. White Storks are everywhere, a Cattle Egret rides a wild pony with Glossy Ibis's wading in the background.
At the end of the day we crossed the Guadalquivir by the little car ferry to Coria del Rio, where we spent the night in a hotel. It had been a good day.
Out West Day 3, Dehesa de Abajo & Odiel (to be continued)
After an early breakfast we drove to the Dehesa de Abajo. The Visitor Centre for the Reserve is on a low hill which overlooks the lagoon which for us is the major habitat of birding interest. Entry into the Reserve was 25 euros per car and we could see that the lagoon was mostly dry with just a few waders on the exposed mud. Where there was water however was heaving with Flamingos, many hundreds of them interspersed with wildfowl and waders.
We decided to skip the entry fee and just observe what we could from the road which skirts the lagoon. Unfortunately the water was over on the far side so I took a long range shot of the Flamingos and then we headed off for the Odiel marshes by the quickest route.
The first thing that attracted our attention as we approached Odiel Visitors Centre was a row of gulls and Terns on a spit that separates the salt pans over to the right. Here were a pair of Caspian Terns at rest with many Sandwich Terns and some Mediterranean Gulls. I also spotted a lone Slender Billed Gull amongst them.
The pond to the left of the Visitor's Centre was partially dry but where there was water was well stocked with waders, in particular Black Tailed Godwits and Curlew Sandpiper, but there were many others including Dunlin, Avocet, Common Sandpiper and Ringed Plover, plus wildfowl including Gadwall, Shovelor, Pochard, and the ubiquitous Mallard.
From the Visitor Centre car park they have opened a boardwalk extending out over the river which at low tide gives excellent views of the mud flats and associated waders.
It's a great vantage point to watch the Whimbrels, Turnstones and all manner of waders feeding below.
As you drive along the causeway with the river on one side and extensive salt marsh on the other you never know what might turn up. This Grey Plover for example and a Black Winged Kite hovering in search of prey, another Osprey with fish for lunch and a stunning Flamingo in front of one of the Caspian Terns
The Odiel Marshes never fail to provide a great selection of birds to see, varying with the time of year and state of tide, but always something worthwhile.
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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