Lamington National Park is in Queensland on the border with NSW. It averages 900 meters in elevation and is an important section of preserved rain forest which once covered all of this part of Australia. It is an area of high bio-diversity and the ancient Antarctic Beech forest remnants are absolutely spectacular, huge ancient trees some as old as 5000 years, all coated in green mosses and lichens, truly magnificent. Unfortunately I came across this armed only with my 500 mm birding lens so sadly was unable to capture the landscape.
I met a ranger at the information centre as I arrived just after daybreak. he was a birder and advised me to walk part of the Lower Bellbird Circuit which he considered one of the best for birding. Just opposite the start of the trail I spotted this large male Koala in some roadside eucalyptus trees. I remember being surprised at how big it was. I had seen Koalas when I was last in Australia about 40 years ago, and somehow thought of them as cuddly little teddy bears, but this guy was much larger than I remembered or imagined. Sadly Koalas are becoming scarce as homo-sapiens drives virtually all other life forms to extinction, so I was very happy to see at least one of this charming bear species. Another generation might not have the opportunity.
My first bird photograph from the park is probably my favourite Australian bird species, the Eastern Spinebill. This is a very exotic looking bird, one of the Honeyeater family that has a long downcurved bill perfect for extracting nectar from flowers by lapping with its brush-tipped tongue. It has large bright red eyes and a long, sleek black, white and buff coloured body. It was flitting around and occasionally hovering in some flowering trees and was extremely difficult to photograph as it never stopped moving for an instant. It reminded me of a very large Hummingbird. Really impressive.
My next sighting was this stunning Crimson Rosella. I think this is the most beautiful of all the parrot species I saw in Australia. The crimson and blue plumage is truly outstanding, only exceeded in beauty perhaps by the Scarlet Macaws I that watched in Costa Rica.
The wet forest habitat of Lamington is perfect for this species and it was quite numerous up here, whereas I didn't see any at all down below these mountains. I do believe though they frequent gardens and will visit feeders in many areas not at higher elevations.
The Grey Shrike-thrush is a fairly common bird that I saw in a variety of habitats. It is perhaps Australia's most loved songbird, being matched only by the rare Albert's Lyrebird in tone and melodic quality.
No prizes for guessing the name of the next bird. The Silvereye has a conspicuous ring of white feathers around the eyes. It is one of a very large group known as White-eyes, scientific Zosteropidae. They occur throught sub tropical Africa, S E Asia and Australasia.
White-eyes, or Silvereye in this case, are all small and very attractive little birds often pictured in oriental artwork and decorative illustrations. One can see why.
I didn't need to come to Lamington to see a Pied Currawong, it is a very common species right across Eastern Australia, but I quite like this photo of one on the Bellbird Trail. It had spotted me and was looking suspiciously down upon me as I pointed my camera up at him.
The Brown Cuckoo-Dove is a large rusty-brown pigeon with a long tail. It lives in rain forest all along the East coast of Australia and is quite a handsome bird to see perched on a horizontal branch over a forest trail.
Here's another look at the colourful Golden Whistler which I had photographed before, but it was quite numerous here in the forest, and very easy to find as it was making its distinctive whistling call constantly.
The female Golden Whistler lacks the male's bright yellow and black plumage, but I quite like the shot below with a large fern as background offsetting the birds very large, shiny eye.
Lewin's Honeyeater is a common resident of woodland and rainforest along the Eastern seabord of Australia. easily recognised by its large white half-moon earpatch.
It took me a while to identify this little woodland bird but by a process of elimination I have decided it must be a Pale-yellow Robin. This species is endemic to Australia and is only found in just two fairly small areas, one in N. Queensland and the other here, in SE Queensland and NE NSW, where it is relatively uncommon.
I actually took these photographs in Booyong Reserve near Ballina, not at Lamington. It is only found in lowland tropical and sub-tropical rainforest and I think I was lucky to get it. I have seen it described as rather nondescript, but I don't agree. I find it is a very attractive little lemon-yellow and olive-green bird with a very expressive face and large eyes. Not nondescript at all.
On my way down from Lamington I spotted this superb Pheasant Coucal in a field by the roadside. I was able to stop and photograph it though the car window. This bird is actually a type of Cuckoo, but unlike other Australian cuckoos it is is not a brood parasite, it makes its own nest. In fact the male builds the nest, incubates the eggs and feeds the young. Admirable, a thoroughly modern male.
This is a male Satin Bowerbird. He has uniformly black plumage which strongly diffracts light to produce a deep blue metallic sheen.
Both males and females have beautiful violet-blue-pink eyes which I believe is unique amongst birds.
To attract a mate Males build specialized stick structures called bowers which they decorate with blue, yellow, and shiny objects, including berries, flowers, and many plastic items such as ballpoint pens, bottle caps, drinking straws and clothes pegs. As the males mature they use more blue objects than other colours. The bower seen here is therefore probably the work of an older male. Females visit these and judge them to choose which male they will allow to mate with them. In addition to building their bowers, males carry out intense behavioural displays, ie dances to woo their mate.
It should be pointed out that bowers are not nests, they are sculptures built and decorated purely with the intention of attracting a female. The female actually builds the nest before she decides which male she will accept for mating. She will then go on to lay and incubate the eggs on her own.
Here is the object of all that male attention. The female Satin Bowerbird is mainly greenish/brown in colour, lighter underneath with distinctly reticulated or scalloped patterns, and with the same very striking blue/violet eyes.
The Satin Bowerbird is endemic to Eastern Australia. A ringed specimen is known to have lived for twenty-six years in the wild, the longest life span of any known passerine species.
The coastline here is mile after mile of superb sandy beaches with rocky outcrops and river estuaries. I visited many locations from Ballina up to Tweed Heads and saw some wonderful birds and scenery. The common gull of Australia is the Silver Gull, fairly small and dainty I think it is very attractive as gulls go.
I photographed this Australasian Darter at Tweed Heads, one of the best birding locations of all. Not just for marine birds but a host of other species in the trees and meadows fringing the winding river estuary.
The Greater Crested Tern was one of a colony at Flat Rock, close to Byron Bay. It's a very large and impressive tern, completely dwarfing the Little and Common Terns which were also present.
The Terns were in company with flocks of Red-necked Stints, a common Australian wader...
...and fortunately for me a couple of Sooty Oystercatchers were foraging in the rockpools. This is an Australian endemic and is listed as vulnerable to extinction so I was very pleased to see it. There are estimated to be only around 4000 of the nominate form, and another 7000 of the slightly smaller Northern form in existence. They are only common around the coasts of Tasmania and the Bass Straits Islands, so this was a good sighting.
Unlike its cousin the Sooty Oystercatcher, the Pied Oystercatcher, another Australian endemic prefers sandy coastline to rocky shores. It feeds on bivalve mollusks and other invertebrates and uses a variety of methods to break open the shells. Both Oystercatchers are very handsome birds with bright orange bills and irises.
The Australian Pelican is a fairly widespread species in Australasia and has the distinction of having the longest bill in the bird kingdom. I find it is one of the better looking of the pelicans with black & white plumage, pink bill and large, clear eyes.
The Eastern Osprey, pandion cristatus is considered by some taxonomic authorities to be a different species to our Western form, pandion haliaetus. It is slightly smaller and found from Sulawesi to the Pacific Solomon Islands including Australasia. I took this photo on the end of the breakwater at Ballina, the bird very obligingly stayed on the Lifting ring allowing a good close-up shot. I like the light in this photo.
Together with the Osprey I watched this Brahminy Kite cruising up and down the length of the long breakwater, I am not sure if they will take live fish, being more of a scavenger, but they have been known to steal other birds prey, perhaps he was hoping the Osprey might drop something.
The Birds of Tweed Heads
Tweed Heads is a city on the Tweed River in north-eastern NSW, next to the border with Queensland. The first European to see Tweed Heads in 1882 said of it "A deep rich valley clothed with magnificent trees, the beautiful uniformity of which was only interrupted by the turns and windings of the river, which here and there appeared like small lakes. The view was altogether beautiful beyond description".
Since then of course most of the forest has been cleared but the area still retains a natural beauty because of the winding river. I spent a very pleasant few hours walking around the tree-lined banks spotting a good variety of birds as I went.
Australia's largest bird family is the Honeyeaters, and they were well represented here. The first one I noticed was the rather plain Brown Honeyeater (above), This was unexpected as it is well outside its range acording to my field guide, but there it was with that distictive yellow patch behind the eye.
After that rather plain example I spotted a spectacular Blue Faced Honeyeater which is quite a stunner. Long and sleek with royal blue cheeks in a black & white striped head. What I remember most about it though was those large, staring and slightly mad eyes. I can honestly say it "Snaked" its way around in the trees.
There were many habitats along my walk, riverbank, woodland, meadows, mudbank and even some mangroves where I was very lucky to capture a fantastic Mangrove Honeyeater, another very attractive bird with large, clear slightly blue eyes. It is endemic to Australia, and in fact to just this section of the east coast of Australia.
How's this for a great looking bird, the White-cheeked Honeyeater. A very active bird, so hard to photograph as it constantly flits from flower to flower gathering nectar with its long tongue and curved beak. Such a large bird also requires protein in its diet which it gets from eating crickets and spiders.
If you look closely you can see the long tongue projecting from the bill ready to scoop up nectar or honeydew.
This strange looking bird below is a Noisy Friarbird, another member of the Honeyeater family, but known as Friarbird because of the tufts of hair along the chin and under the eyebrow on an otherwise naked head. It is also very noisy when in a group roost.
Like other honeyeaters they feed on nectar but supplement this with insects and fruit. Below is a close-up showing the prominent hump, or casque, on the upper mandible.
The Fan-tailed Cuckoo below is a quite handsome looking bird with large eyes and a yellow orbital ring. It is slate-grey above with dull rufous/chestnut underparts.
This scaly/speckled one is a juvenile Fan-tailed Cuckoo. I am trying to imagine this bird being raised by a tiny Fairy-wren or Thornbill as these are the nests used by this brood parasite. Not only is there a massive size difference but the nest of a fairy-wren for example is a tiny, domed structure in which this big youngster simply would not fit. Nevertheless, that is what happens somehow.
The Leaden Flycatcher below is a female. I did see the males which differ substantially, lacking the orange breast but sorry I missed a good shot because they are a great looking bird. Can't win'em all.
Here's a Sacred Kingfisher. This is another forest species, doesn't only eat fish. Likes bugs, small animals & even small birds, anything that moves that it can swallow basically .
After birding on the Farm I started to explore nearby bird-rich locations discovered on the internet. The closest was a small rainforest reserve close by at Booyong a little further along Wilson's River. The Reserve is very dense primary rainforest which once covered this entire area, very little remains. Trails can be walked inside but as is often the case most birds are seen around the edges. This Sulphur-crested Cockatoo sat and watched as I entered the dark forest trail.
Rainforest is my absolute favourite birding habitat. The light is usually terrible, birds are often scarce and hard to get a clear shot at in dense undergrowth, all very challenging but It is therefore very satisfying to get a decent image of birds that most people never see. This little Rufous Fantail for example, one of a pair that followed me around and put on a superb display in the murky light. I was using flash, it was the only way to get anything at all, but I was pleased with the result.
Rustling sounds from the forest floor are the first indication of the presence of this curious bird, the Australian Logrunner. It spends its time in pairs on the ground scraping away the leaf litter in search of insects and grubs, always in dense undergrowth. I was again pleased to get a recognizable shot using flash.
These two were all I managed to capture inside the forest. I did catch sight of a fabulous Regent Bowerbird but not good enough to get a usable photograph. Pity, it is a very spectacular bird. nevertheless I sat opposite the entrance trails and observed the following,-
The Eastern Yellow Robin is quite a common little bird, similar to the British Robin in that it is not shy, in fact is one of the easiest birds to photograph. It is not related to the European Robin however, being in a different bird family.
The White-browed Scrub Wren is also quite numerous but much harder to photograph. It's one of those that never stops moving and being an LBJ (little brown job) is quite inconspicuous.
The Golden Whistler on the other hand is much easier. Being larger and mostly bright yellow it is easier to see, plus it advertises its presence with it's constant, whistling song. A very attractive and jolly little chap.
Golden Whistlers are strongly sexually dimorphic, that is the males and females are markedly different. The female (below right) is greeny-brown and nothing like as colourful as the male.
The Grey Fantail is similar to its Rufous cousin in shape and size, just not so colourful. I saw this species around the edges of woodland rather than inside the forest.
There were many more species lurking inside that dark rainforest that I did not manage to photograph. For example the magnificent Regent Bowerbird and I also heard and caught sight of Green Catbird, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, and possibly Bar-shouldered Dove, although not sure of the latter. Anyway although very small Booyong is an excellent little Reserve with high biodiversity.
While at Booyong I spotted a flock of large, dark and very eerily noisy birds flying overhead. They flew with a very deep, slow and fluid wingbeat so I realised they were something interesting. I headed off in that direction and sure enough found a group of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos in a tree plantation, on private land but fortunately not too far from the road.
I had been really keen to see Black Cockatoos. Quite apart from their beauty they have a mystical quality and the Yellow-tailed variety is the largest of Australia's parrot species. Spectacular in sight and sound and beautiful in flight, it was exciting to see and hear them in the wild. This particular species is not one of the rarist but it is in decline due to habitat loss. I hope it does not go the way of the Australian Paradise Parrot which is either extinct or very nearly extinct due to habitat destruction to make way for cattle pasture.
About one hours drive NW of the Farm is the Nightcap Mountain Range National Park, it contains Boulder Creek Dam which provides the region's freshwater. It also happens to be an outstanding reserve for wildlife and birds in particular.
The first interesting birds that I picked up were these stunning Scarlet Honeyeaters feeding on nectar from a large waterside flowering tree.
The Scarlet Honeyeater is the smallest of Australia's Honeyeaters, which is a very large and diverse group. In other parts of the World it is known as the Scarlet Myzomela but I prefer the more descriptive name of Honeyeater. They do in fact occasionally hover in front of a flower to probe for nectar with the long, curved bill in a similar fashion to Hummingbirds and Sunbirds, but they also feed on insects. They were quite difficult to photograph high up in the canopy of a tall flowering tree, with the added complication that they never stop moving for an instant. Perseverence is required.
Every time I visited wooded areas I heard the distinctive and unmistakable sound of the Whipbird. There is no mistaking this noise. Starting with a peeping whistle & culminating in the loud cracking of a whip. The trouble had been in seeing the bird that makes this incredible sound. Well today I got lucky, a pair of Eastern Whipbirds appeared out of the thick undergrowth onto an open patch of grass and I was able to get a shot and actually watch them making their call. The whole body shakes as the whip cracks, it must take a lot of energy to keep producing that sound.
Ravens are quite common in Australia and there are three varieties. They are not easy to distinguish between each other and a couple of other Crow species, they all have white irises and are quite glossy, but I believe the one below is an Australian Raven. It is the only one with long hackles (Loose feathers) below the neck which were prominent when the bird was calling.
This next one however I think is a Forest Raven. Not just because of the thick wooded habitat but I observed it closely and heard its wonderful cawing call, deep, gravelly and far-carrying. A fantastic sound.
A feature of the Reserve here is a superb waterside boarwalk which passes through woodland along the banks of a creek winding its way down to the reservois. I spent some time here watching a startling blue Azure Kingfisher successfully catching fish from its overhanging perch. The light was not very good but I did get some recognizable shots.
I also squeezed off a few shots of a Little Pied Cormorant perched on a log below me. Not easy to get clear shots through the overhanging trees but this was the best of the bunch. I am always pleased to see new birds to add to my life list.
Figbirds were moving around in the trees, the male is easy to pick out with that red patch around the eyes......
.....but the female is completely different. Grey-brown with a speckled breast, it looks like a thrush.
There were plenty more birds to watch here but many I had already seen elsewhere. In my search for new and interesting species I needed to vary the habitat & seek out new environments.
While Elena was away selling her flat in Russia I flew to Australia to visit my sister Anne & family in Australia. Anne & John live near Ballina/Byron Bay in NSW in an area known as the Northern Rivers. It's beautiful country, not unlike parts of rural England with rolling hills of woodland interspersed with rich cattle pasture and mixed farmland.
Here are a couple of shots of sister Anne & John on their lovely farm.
And here are another pair of residents. This Tawny Frogmouth pair once frequented the veranda but seem now to prefer roosting in a large tree by the chicken house. They are of course active by night but during the day are not at all perturbed by us getting really close, being used to their friendly landlords by now.
The female (I think) below has adopted a typical "I'm just a tree" pose.
I sepent my first full day looking around at some of the bird life on the farm, and there was plenty to see. Laughing Kookaburra's are common in Australia and are easilly seen, often just one bird one its own perched in an exposed position waiting to sight a lizard or similar prey to pounce on. This is typical feeding behaviour of Kingfishers which is what the Kookaburra is, it just doesn't eat fish.
The Superb Fairy Wren is an attractive and very common little bird, overlooked perhaps because it is so tiny but any close examination of any low bushes or tall grass will usually reveal these little gems flitting about after insects, never still so not easy to photograph.
A stretch of Wilson's River runs through the farm and the first bird I saw down there was a stunning White-bellied Sea Eagle, a fairly common raptor in this part of Australia. The white-bellied sea eagle is revered by indiginous people in many parts of Australia, and is the subject of various folk tales throughout its range. They are very susceptible to human disturbance, particularly around nest sites, so numbers are declining quite considerably as a result.
Whilst down at the river I also spotted a pair of roosting White-breasted Woodswallows. These quite small and attractive birds are not related to swallows or hirundines at all, in fact their closest relatives are the crow-like Butcherbirds, Currawongs and Australian Magpies. Very strange.
Here for example is an Australian Magpie, not much similarity is there...
...and this imposing looking, crow-like bird is a Pied Currawong. Again how different is that from a Woodswallow but the taxonomists assure us they are cousins. Named by indigenous Australians after the sound of its distinctive call the Currawong was very common on the farm. .Anne also fed a Pied Butcherbird daily from a bowl on the kitchen window inside the covered veranda. It was very tame. I could not focus the camera that close so in fact did not get a shot of it at all, but it is almost identical in appearance to the Magpie. Not at all like a Woodswallow!
Another familiar sight from the kitchen veranda was a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets feeding on some tall flowering rush stems in the garden. A true parrot these lorikeets are a very colourful and spectacular sight.....
......as are the Eastern Rosellas which could also be seen from the kitchen veranda foraging on the ground in the grass and occasionally flying up onto a fence post as seen here.
Crested Pigeons were another very attractive bird that could be seen every day hanging around the chicken house, obviously after the grain that John scattered around for his choocks. When startled, the crested pigeon takes to the air with a distinctive whistling 'call', the source of the noise can be attributed to the way the air rushes over a modified primary feather found on the wings. It diverts attention of ariel predators away from birds remaining on the ground.
One of the most common Australian birds is the Willie Wagtail. Not related to the true wagtail family it is named after its habit of waving its long tail up and down while foraging on the ground for insects or seeds. A very familiar sight wherever there are parks or gardens, it has adapted well to human habitation.
While walking around the extensive pasture on the farm I spotted quite a variety of water birds, not least this White-necked Heron.......
...and often numerous Australian White Ibises.
Purple Swamphens and Pacific Black Ducks wandered around the place like they owned it, behaving like domesticated chickens even though they are wild birds, White-headed Pigeons were seen a lot and Noisy Miners were prolific, another of those birds that have benefited from human presence.
Australians are naturally obsessive about invasive alien species, the Indian Mynah being a case in point, but this Noisy Miner is an endemic species that has exploded in numbers since humans have affected the landscape. They are aggressive and greedy territorial gangsters, driving many other species out and almost complelely taking over. Research has found culls of noisy miners can dramatically increase the number of other birds by up to 40 times and the number of species by 10 times in some areas. "There is just no question that if we could control the noisy miner we could have a huge biodiversity impact straight away," said professor Roberts, an eminent ecologist.
I watched this pest in action and noted that where Noisy Miners exist there are very few other birds present, particularly small species. A scourge on biodiversity in Australia.
One little bird species that has not been driven out completely by the wretched Miners is the Fairy Wrens. There are not many but their habitat is grassland and very low thickets, not the haunt of the Miner, so some have survived. The one below is a Red-backed Fairy Wren, a little charmer that I saw in the paddock on the hill above the house.
The farm is 80 acres of natural beauty, with a river and two dams (ponds), and wooded areas. I remember identifying at least 30 species here as follows,-
White-bellied Sea Eagle , Tawny Frogmouth, Pacific Black Duck, Wood Duck, White-necked Heron, Straw-necked Ibis, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Dusky Moorhen, Willie Wagtail, Jackie Winter, Welcome Swallow, Australian Raven, Torresian Crow, Pied Currawong, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Crested Pigeon, White-necked Pigeon, White-breasted Woodswallow, Superb Fairy Wren, Red-backed fairy Wren, Noisy Miner, Masked Lapwing, Purple Swamphen, Magpie Lark, Eurasian Coot, Laughing Kookaburra, Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet,
There are undoubtedly many more but I am not able to identify everything I see. John assures me that he often flushes quail on his morning walks but I wasn't that lucky. It was a great place to be for anyone, let alone a birdwatcher from the other side of the World, so needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
After a long, hot August with family visitors we finally got back some birding. We joined Derek and Barbara Etherton at their local patch in Zapata and along the Rio Grande, followed by Teba Rock and Fuente de Piedra. Although the latter was very dry we had a surprisingly successful morning.
For example we spotted eight different raptors, Honey Buzzard, Montagu's Harrier, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Peregrine, Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Griffon Vulture.
The most unusual of these was the Montagu's Harrier, well done to Barbara for spotting it, I thought Elena was a good spotter but Barbara really does have hawk-eyes.
The biggest surprise of the day for me were the nine Black Storks on the Rio Grande. I normally associate this bird with Central & South West of Spain. These nine birds apparently were here from Poland, one did have a ring and I expect they had been identified from that.
In total we picked up 66 species which I thought was quite outstanding given the time of year and how dry it had been recently.
Fuente de Piedra for example has very little water and is quite sad at the moment. We were very pleased though to pick up both Bonellis and Olivaceous Warblers in the shrubs near the Visitor Centre. Very nice sightings.
Waders were very few apart from the ubiquitous Flamingos. The scrape on the left of the entrance driveway is bone dry unfortunately, due to a dispute with a local olive farmer who claims it floods and damages his adjacent olive trees. It seems that farmers always get their own way, often to the detriment of the environment and wildlife. I would suggest the reserve advises him to plant something else which might benefit from free irrigation & continue to keep the scrape wet to attract more birds. That is after all what they are there for..
100 species "Birdathon"
After such a good morning and having seen 66 different species quite easily I expressed an interest in one of Derek's "Birdathons". That is to try to reach 100 species or more in a single day. So about a week later, Derek, Barbara, Bob Wright and I stood in a moonlit glade up in the Montes de Malaga listening to a noisy Tawny Owl calling from a tree right next to us. As dawn slowly crept up we heard and saw more, including Green Woodpecker, Jay, Blackcap, Hawfinch and Crossbill. However Derek made the observation that we were about ten birds short of what he had hoped for and had picked up on past attempts here.
After a very hearty breakfast we moved on to El Torcal where it was already busy with tourist buses. Again we dipped on a number of expected birds here such as Rock and Cirl Buntings but the unexpected Rock Thrush was a bonus. Well done Barbara again for spotting it.
Other birds here included Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Griffon Vulture, Black Wheatear, Sardinian and two excellent sightings - Subalpine and Spectacled Warblers.
Our list was building slowly but it became increasingly obvious that we were not getting the numbers we had hoped for. For one thing it was too hot today. In such heat birds are less active, prefering to stay cool and conserve energy. If we were to have any chance of reaching our target we would need to extend our search area. So it was off to Fuente de Piedra to make up for the lack of bird numbers seen.
Flamingo and Lapwing were easy. Olivaceous Warbler took a bit longer but it was still flitting around in the same bush as last week. A few waders were present including Snipe, Green Sandpiper and Black-winged Stilt. Linnets and Serins were seen and finally we started seeing all the Hirundines that had eluded us until now, Barn and Red-Rumped Swallows & House Martin.
From Fuente we drove across country to Teba Rock, picking up along the way a beautiful Common Redstart, probably the best looking bird of the day. I did not have my camera ready unfortunately, this was not a day for photography, it was all about seeing as many birds as we could in 24 hours. We also picked up Northern Wheatear and a couple more Lark species, Raven, Common Buzzard and a Kestrel finally put in appearances and things were looking up.
By the time we reached the Rio Grande however we were still a long way short of our target and it was now the hottest time of the day so all pretty quiet on the birding front and not a Black Stork to be seen. We did pick up a couple of Wagtails and Egrets before moving on to Zapata. Perhaps to make up for the lack of Black Storks a lone White Stork gave us a flypast, and a solitary Black Kite made an appearance. We also added Little Grebe and Turtle Dove, but we were still 28 species short of 100. Our only hope was to proceed on to the Guadalhorce and hope for the best.
As we entered the reserve the first birds we saw were some noisy Monk Parakeets. Another tick. A Cormorant in the riverside trees and both Common and Pallid Swifts and the deficit was coming down. We were all delighted to see a Pied Flycatcher, the first of the year for all of us. From the main hide we picked up some new birds, Kentish Plover, Greenshank, Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls and best of all a magnificent Osprey eating its fish in a tree on the far side.
We moved on to the Laguna Escondida and found White Headed Duck, Shoveler, Pochard and had excellent views of a Kingfisher.
On the way to Laguna Casillas we spotted a Booted Eagle overhead. This left us needing another 14 birds and Derek identified an overhead Short-toed Lark, I found the first of several Whitethroats and with a Blue-headed Wagtail we were down to a target of 11. At the Wader Hide we picked out a Wood Sandpiper and a Sanderling and finally a small flock of Jackdaws, incredibly the first of the day. Just nine to go and on the "Old River" was a large gull roost within which the telescope revealed a pair of Caspian Terns, a couple of Slender-billed Gulls and at least one Audouins Gull. Only six required now and I called the others to check out a Warbler I had been following in the bushes on the other side of the track, we finally all had excellent views of a lovely Orphean Warbler. Bird of the day for me as it was a "Lifer". Pity I wasn't carrying a camera.
More scoping on the Old River revealed a couple of Little Stints, and then a small flock of Curlew Sandpipers flew in. Just two to go and although we were all very tired at this point we trecked down to the seawatch in the hope of perhaps a Tern, Gannet or Turnstone. As it happened the first bird we saw was a Balearic Shearwater flying quite close in, shortly followed by many more. Then another shearwater appeared but much smaller. The others agreed it must be a Yelkuan Shearwater. I acceded to their superior knowledge gratefully as I had no idea and was delighted to have reached 100 at last. We then retreated to a bar in SanJulien to celebrate with a long, cool drink. As it happened our recorders had forgotten to write down Ringed Plover so our final total was 101 species.
I decided to name this blog The Story of "O"s because we made double O, and three of the best birds of the day were the Olivaceous and Orphean Warblers plus the magnificent Osprey. I have been told The Story of O has other connotations. I wouldn't know.
100+ Day Tally – 12 September 2017-09-14
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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