A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Friday, 3 July 2015

Southern Spain Trip Report - Day 6

Day 6 - Sunday 17th August 2015

Our final full day was upon us, and with no further sites for Red-knobbed Coots on our journey back down to Malaga, we decided to check out the fields and towns near Osuna on the off chance any Bustards would be present. Checking several Sparrow flocks for any Spanish Sparrows sadly drew a blank, and every single Kestrel we encountered was frustratingly a female! There had been several reports of Lesser Kestrels near Osuna, where after a while we eventually encountered a male Kestrel perched on a pole – could this be my much sought after Lesser?!
Common Kestrel - Spain
Photo by Alex Jones
With Chris initially identifying the bird as a Lesser Kestrel, happiness soon turned to disappointment after a closer look at Alex’s record shots revealed a speckled front and back! As the bird flew off this became much more obvious – it was another Common Kestrel.

A fantastic pair of Montagu's Harriers flying overhead provided spectacular views of these amazing raptors - their thin wings clear to see against the brilliant blue sky, whilst a juvenile Woodchat Shrike proved to be very showy in a nearby shrub. 

Montagu's Harrier - Spain
Juvenile Woodchat Shrike - Photo by Alex Jones
Sadly (though not unexpectedly) no Bustards were present in any of the fields (this was a wintering site more than anything) and the only other bird of note was incredibly a second Gibraltar Buzzard (Chris’s words on spotting it were “Oh no not again…”)

Our final stop of the trip was to the Laguna de Fuente di Piedra to try and locate the Lesser Flamingos that were reported from the site during the summer. Extremely rare in Europe and originating from Africa, several individuals have been joining the breeding flocks of Greater Flamingos at Laguna de Fuente di Piedra over the years, and are deemed to be of wild origin having joined up with migrating flocks of Greater Flamingos.

We arrived at the visitor centre and proceeded on to the reserve, where before long the huge pool full of Greater Flamingos came in to view – hundreds of birds feeding as one in a massive flock. With any of the much smaller Lesser Flamingos impossible to distinguish from the larger birds at this distance, we headed closer to gain a better vantage point, Chris and Alex setting up their scopes whilst I scanned though my binoculars.
Laguna de Fuente di Piedra
Photo by Alex Jones
Knowing what I was looking for, but expecting a long hard slog of trawling though every individual bird (my task made even harder through the lack of a scope) I was therefore astounded when as soon as I raised my bins to my eyes to begin checking, miraculously one of the first birds I set eyes on was a Lesser Flamingo!!
Lesser Flamingo - Spain
Lesser Flamingo - Spain
Excitedly getting Chris and Alex’s scopes on the bird in question, the three of us took in the differences between this smaller species of Flamingo. Almost half the size of the Greaters, with much shorter legs and a smaller body and neck, the facial pattern was also distinctive, with a much darker eye and a deeper dark red and black bill.
Lesser Flamingo - Spain
The smaller size is really apparent!
Scanning further, we spotted another two birds mixed in with the flock, indicating that there were at least 3 present on the pool, and they came ever closer to the side allowing some great record shots.
Lesser Flamingo - Spain
Lesser Flamingo - Spain
Lesser Flamingo - Photo by Alex Jones
With the afternoon pressing on, we headed back to the car, stopping to admire a nice Western Olivaceous Warbler (only the second of our trip) showing well by the side of the pool and feasting on a large dragonfly.
Western Olivaceous Warbler - Spain
Arriving in Malaga we were greeted by absolutely thousands of people –apparently a week-long festival called the Malaga Fair was in full swing - and the streets were absolutely packed with people which resulted in utter chaos when trying to find our hotel. Managing to eventually find somewhere safe to park, we were then faced with a simple ten minute walk to the hotel turning in to an hour long struggle through the streets as we heaved our suitcases through the bodies and past discarded drinks, litter and I dread to think what else. After what can only be described as a complete nightmare, we eventually found our apartment – when we were then faced with a half hour wait for the owner to arrive from across the other side of the city! Never again!

After the streets calmed down slightly in the evening, we thankfully enjoyed a nice final night’s dinner of paella in the restaurant opposite to celebrate the end of our trip.
Our final day approached and with several hours before our flight back to Manchester we enjoyed a nice leisurely visit to the beach on Malaga seafront for some ice cream and cool pineapple juice (my staple drink in Spain). Several Monk Parakeets perched in the palm trees above and the area was thankfully 1000 times quieter than the chaos of the night before!
Malaga Beach
Having achieved several of our main target species (even the outside chance Lesser Flamingo) with White-tailed Swift, Red-necked Nightjar, White-headed Duck and Marbled Teal all seen, we had missed just the elusive Red-knobbed Coots – clearly one for another trip! Thanks to Alex for doing the majority of the driving during the week, and with some great scenery, food and fantastic company throughout, we had enjoyed what was a hugely successful and entertaining trip exploring Southern Spain. 
Southern Spain

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