Finca Focus - What's happening at Finca Limoneros

1 March 2011 (posted by Keith)
One consequence of the heavy rainfall over the past two winters has been that the river has been in full flow recently, resulting in an influx of fishing birds such as Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Great White Egrets and Cormorants like this one.

It is quite common now to see half a dozen Cormorants drying their wings like this in such an ideal spot as this tall dead tree.
4 July 2010 (posted by Keith)
Last evening, the day after Rafa Nadal's semi-final Wimbledon win but more to the point following Spain's quarter-final scrape-through against Paraguay, was a dubious time to be out on the road.

Much more traffic than usual was around, most packed with youngsters of all ages indulging in a cacophony of hooting, flag-waving and hanging out of car windows shouting 'Viva Espana' and the like. I didn't come across too many Argentinians, nor, come to think of it, Germans, those of the latter amongst my friends here being politely apologetic about their team's success so far.

It's just a little scary to even imagine what it will be like here if Spain actually win the World Cup. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, they have to get past Germany first, who much though it pains me to admit it are playing absolutely brilliantly and should provide a sterner test than the final itself. I just can't wait for Wednesday.

3 July 2010 (posted by Keith)
I'll be writing more often in future, and perhaps more about other subjects than the finca, local and birding issues. I expect to draw inspiration from 'Grumpy Old Men' as much as anything, so stand by.

I can't let the World Cup go by without a mention, and one thing has struck me (I seem to be pretty much on my own about this) from the BBC MOTD coverage. The commentators, as you probably know, are housed in a multi-sided glass studio with magnificent views of Cape Town. Astonishingly, these views display an almost perfect (if larger scale) replica of our village Alora, with Table Mountain a giant version of El Hacho, beneath which Alora nestles, and the conical green hill to the right a duplicate of our hill on which the Arabic castle stands.

My South African friends Johan and Maria have a finca on El Hacho's slopes, and when they return from running their B&B in Cape Town in September I'll be fascinated to find out whether their choice of Alora was intentional or a product of the subconscious.

28 May 2010 (posted by Keith)
I really just went for a walk in El Chorro this afternoon, but as always took binoculars and camera, and a good thing too.

The rough footpath up to the iron cross which overlooks the village at the foot of the gorge is a great birding spot. When Heidi and I were last there a few weeks ago the highlight was a group of Dartford Warblers, not often seen around the area, as well as Black Wheatears and others.

Today neither of these appeared, and I also missed out on the Golden Orioles I had hoped for, a particular stand of Eucalyptus being a particularly good place to find these exotics.

I did come across Blue Rock Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Red-rumped Swallow, a female Crossbill and an unexpected male Black Redstart, these migrating our way for the winter and not usually hanging around this long.

The weather has been peculiar this year, it has suddenly turned hot but like today occasionally very windy. The westerly wind, the Poniente, today was warm and gusty, not ideal conditions for Griffon Vultures which depend so much on the thermals. I did see 7 or 8, but on a more favourable day it wouldn't be unusual to see four or five times this number in El Chorro. A single Peregrine was also hunting over a distant ridge.

The best bird was this Rock Bunting high up by the iron cross, which posed 5 metres away whilst I fumbled around with the camera.

It's not every day I see these beautiful little passerines, but in fact, alerted by the characteristic 'tseep' call, I came across another one on the way down.

Don't forget to click the pictures for more.
5th May, 2010 (posted by Heidi)
The weather continues to be fantastic!!
Spring is here in full force, with the hedgerows full of flowers and birds. We wake most mornings to the sound of the Bee-eaters flying high above the finca, and a Hoopoe calling somewhere down by the river. Walking the dogs along the track is always interesting, Nightingales still singing madly in the treetops and all kinds of finches darting too and fro - and Swallows, Housemartins and Swifts circling across the track.

With the telescope set up in the finca garden we can keep an eye on the Bonelli's nest, where it appears this year they have reared only one chick. This year we have seen more Bonelli's in the area, several sightings at El Chorro and Pizzara, as well as our own local pair who have been using this nest site for at least 3 years. Such a privilege to see such a beautiful and rare Eagle feeding it's young - and such a thrill to be able to do it without leaving home!!
1 April 2010 (posted by Keith)
No fooling, this Hoopoe was marking out his Spring territory today on his vantage point just a few metres in front of the finca terrace. His call of two short syllables was different to the usual, which has a third longer one tagged on the end.

There has been a lot of Hoopoe activity in the last week or two with Heidi reporting two birds squabbling on the ground, whether a dispute between two males or a mating display not being quite clear.

The Collared Dove seemed unimpressed and happily alighted on the nearby telephone line.

Click the picture to see a closeup of this gloriously exotic bird.
27 March 2010 (posted by Heidi)
Spring has finally arrived at Finca Limoneros!!

Woke this morning to brilliant sunshine, such a welcome sight after this winters' seemingly never-ending rain. The yellow Oxalis is in flower all over the hillside, almost fluorescent in its intensity and the Lesser Kestrels are back at the castle, I counted at least 12 on a walk along the river last week.

Walking the dogs along the track today was a pleasure, the hedgerows are full of birds, Serins, Sardinian Warblers, Linnets and my second sighting of the Woodchat Shrike this week!! The long puddle at the end of the track has become a favourite spot for a Green Sandpiper who dabbled happily beside the car as I watched him through the open window.

The river is still running very fast and the waders have been absent for weeks, finding other places to feed - but we're off out this afternoon to see what is about. Andalucia is glorious in spring!!

22 March 2010 (posted by Keith)
Greater Flamingoes are present in their thousands at Fuente de Piedra, one of the largest breeding grounds in Europe for these magnificent waders.

Click the picture and at the very top you will see some of the masses further out in the marsh.

Today's trip there was also excellent for raptors, with a pair of Short-toed Eagles hovering apparently motionless on the breeze at Penarrubia on the way. Closer inspection showed just how hard these birds work to maintain their static position, with both wings and feet in constant motion, as they search the terrain for snakes, their favourite prey being the Montpelier.

Several Marsh Harriers, Booted Eagles, both Common and Lesser Kestrels, numerous Griffon Vultures and the prize of the day, a Black-winged Kite, also made their appearance.

11 March 2010 (posted by Keith)
The dam at El Chorro is in full flow at the moment after the heavy and prolonged winter rains.

Almost all the sluice gates are open to allow water to flow into the river Guadalhorce, the reservoirs at Ardales being at 100% capacity after several years of drought.
4 March 2010 (posted by Keith)
Our local Bonelli's Eagles are back to their nest site on a nearby mountain and I am happy to report they are showing every sign that they are breeding again this year. The adults have built a new nest right next to the old one.

The fledglings, we expect, will be clearly visible from early April onwards, though I wouldn't be surprised to see them appear a little later than usual due to the very wet winter.

We'd be delighted to welcome birdwatchers in the next few months to view these rare and very beautiful raptors.
21 January 2010 (posted by Keith)
A morning birding today with Heidi on various spots on the river was fairly quiet, with plenty of small birds - Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Serins, Black Redstarts, Blackcaps, Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers amongst them.

The river is in full flow after lots of rain over the past few weeks, which has sent many wading birds elsewhere. No Black-winged Stilts were around, unusually, though a few Green Sandpipers, two Grey Wagtails and lots of White ones were easy to find as well as both Cattle and Little Egrets.

The most interesting sighting was a raptor which first appeared by the main roadside, flapping up to a wire then into a large tree, where it sat for some time while we watched through the scope. In flight, it distinctly hovered an two occasions, so the first thought was an out-of-season Short-toed Eagle, but its dark brownish colour and dark breast and lack of the typical large head soon ruled this out. This narrowed it down to Booted Eagle, some of which do overwinter in the area, or Common Buzzard, both about the same size.

As the bird later flew across to another tree I glimpsed palish patches underneath the wings, but its most notable feature was a very distinct pale, almost white, rump. I still wasn't absolutely sure due to these mixed signals, but a little research on the Web suggested that Buzzards do occasionally hover and white-rumped ones have been recorded, so the mystery was solved.

6 November 2009 (posted by Keith)
This extraordinary sunset over Alora village the other day was really exactly like this - no photo-enhancements required here.

The amazing cloud towards the left had a tornado-like shape with a huge hole in the bottom, another is the right-hand side, and the pattern was repeated in other places too. I for one have never seen anything quite like it.

2 November 2009 (posted by Keith)
Here's a picture to prove the point in my last post - one bird which appears, if anything, more luminously striking in reality than in the books.

Though our river Guadalhorce here has a reliable population and Kingfishers are regularly seen, most sightings, as elsewhere, are fleeting glimpses as they patrol past low over the riverbed, and decent photographs are hard to come by.

This, by far the best picture of the species that I have managed, was actually taken on the River Colne in Essex towards the end of September.
This was just one of those rare and glorious moments when a cautious approach to a viewing spot over a concrete wall paid off, and though this chap obviously knew I was there he wasn't suddenly startled and obligingly stayed around to pose for a minute or two.

20 October 2009 (posted by Keith)
Here's a male Crosbill drinking at the water butt in El Chorro.

Proof positive that the bird books, even the best of them, tend to picture birds at their most flamboyant. When you or I actually see these exotically-painted species - Green Woodpecker and Teal leaps out as other prime examples - they invariably show much duller colours than the books suggest.

Kingfisher, perhaps, excepted.
12 October 2009 (posted by Keith)
Miraculously I also found a Rock Thrush at Gobantes, confirming Heidi's sighting of a week or two before of a female of this rarity in our area.

A distinct view of its orange tail with black stripe as it flitted up and returned to its rock left no doubt in identification.

This is a poor picture as the bird wouldn't let me drive too close, but it's enough to be recognisable as a male in autumn plumage, much duller than its bright summer breeding colours. A great find for Heidi.
11 October 2009 (posted by Keith)
Heidi's great find of a couple of weeks ago proved to be just that, a little gem of a bird magnet set by a camping ground amidst the pines of El Chorro.

Click on the picture for a better view of the variety of birds attracted here - in this case a Crested Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit and a female Crossbill all at the same time. At various points I also saw visits from Great Tits, House Sparrows and a Collared Dove.

This is the easiest place that I know to see the rarer of these birds, especially Crested Tit and Crossbill. There are plenty around the area but the pine forests are vast and birds like these can be tricky to locate in the dense foliage.

6 October 2009 (posted by Keith)
I had travelled to Gobantes partly in the expectation of seeing raptors, few of which I'd seen in the previous few days. I wasn't disappointed, even though this excellent raptor-spotting place doesn't always produce much more than a few Griffon Vultures. It also has the great advantage of being reliable for smaller rock birds so a visit is always worthwhile.

This first visit was thin on Griffons, though a couple did fly in to roost later on. Much more interesting was the first raptor of the day, a Short-toed Eagle. Soaring on the abundant thermals this bird decided to take a break and suddenly plummeted down to the cliffs above me, wings folded almost flat, and alighted nonchalantly on a ledge. Making the silly mistake of not pinpointing the exact location I lost the bird after scanning the other cliffs nearby. Luck was on my side as, trying to find the perched bird again, I saw it launch itself into a diagonal power glide with wings fully outstretched and fly like an arrow at a particular point on the scrubby hillside. It had obviously spotted a snake - its predominant prey - but this one appeared to get away as the eagle eventually gave up after several passes and flew off with empty talons.

This is the sort of encounter typical of Gobantes - more than just a sighting to be ticked off on a list, a grandstand view of the sort of flying display most people see only on TV nature documentaries. The difference between a live Pink Floyd show and watching the same thing on DVD - just the sort of experience which ensures birding is never boring.

The eagle antics were equalled at least by the appearance soon afterwards of a Peregrine. This falcon I heard before I saw it - it had a distinctive call of four long screams and was, unusually, really letting loose on this occasion as it cirlced for quite a while close to the cliffftop. I had thought that this was mating or 'display' behaviour but this is far too soon - or late, depending how you look at it - in the season. My Collins guide, however, seems to suggest that this is the 'display' call. A bit of a puzzle which made the sighting a little bit special.

There were plenty of Black Wheatears, Crested Larks, Sardinian Warblers, Stonechats and Blue Rock Thrushes and a Dartford Warbler, but no sign of the Rock Thrush seen recently by Heidi. I'll be back soon to look for this elusive rarity in these parts.

5 October 2009 (posted by Keith)
On the way to Gobantes a diversion up the track at Puente Coco produced instant confirmation that this winter visitor, the Northern Wheatear, is back already this year despite the warm weather.

There is just one particular spot where the track passes between two ploughed fields where I can be fairly certain of seeing these inquisitive birds in the right season.

You can see how good their camouflage is - until it is spoilt by the conspicuous white rump as they fly away.
4 October 2009 (posted by Keith)
It's good to be back in Andalucia for a while and it wasn't long before I visited one of my favourite places here, the high cliff country at Gobantes.

The weather is still very hot for October and after the rains the lake below is looking better than I have seen it for some years during the low water levels of the drought.

It seemed as difficult as ever to capture and do justice to the perfect azure tones of the water on a day like today, but I expect you will get the general idea.

25 September 2009 (by Heidi)
Today's trip to Fuente de Piedra was not as productive as yesterday but still interesting.

This is not the best time of year for this huge, shallow salt lagoon where in a good year over 10000 Greater Flamingoes breed in the spring. Often by late July/August it has shrunk to what looks like (from the air, at least) a puddle in the middle. April/May time is the peak time here but the smaller lagoons and marshland always provide birding interest at any time of the year - even when the main lake has dried up.

There were still Flamingoes there today but a long way away except for four juveniles in the small lake at the back of the reserve. We saw two Yellow Wagtails, one the Iberiae with clearly white throat and blue/grey head and the other without, plus a couple of juveniles.

Others included Hoopoe (2 adults, 1 juvenile), Common and Green Sandpipers, Lapwing, Peregrine Falcon (over reserve), White Stork, Willow Warbler, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Whinchat, Stonechat, Stilts, Kestrel, Little Owl, White Wagtail, plus the usual Moorhens, Mallards etc.

On the return journey we stopped at the Teba Gorge, where we saw Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Griffon Vultures (4) and Red-billed Choughs.

24 September 2009 - An Outstanding Birding Day (by Heidi)
An excellent day for birds today with guest at the finca, Jacob de Vries, a keen birder and photographer from the Netherlands.

We set out along the track to Alora village, which though only half a kilometre or so long is a great little birding area in its own right. The track is bordered by lots of tangled brambles and other unrestrained climbers and bushes amongst the olive trees, ideal habitat for warblers and other small birds. Today we saw Melodious and Sardinian Warblers, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Barn Swallow, Blackcap and 6 Red-rumped Swallows on the wire above the finca.

Down to the river where water birds included a relatively rare Orphean Warbler, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Black Winged Stilts (6), Moorhen (lots), White and Grey Wagtails, Green Sandpiper and a fortunate glimpse of a Kingfisher.

Our usual route took us north to the track into prairie country by Puente Coco. Birds are creatures of habit, and we were not disappointed as the regulars appeared one after the other - Crested Lark, Stonechat, (a more unusual) Whinchat, Southern Grey Shrike, numerous Corn Buntings, and Blue Rock Thrush. Raptors also came along, with a Booted Eagle overhead and a Short Toed Eagle.

Climbing further to the Gobantes area north of Valle de Abdalajis, numerous Red-billed Choughs and Crag Martins were easy to find, and we were soon rewarded with superb up close views of a pair of Black Wheatears.

We were so impressed with this pair which were on large rocks at the top of the Gobantes track that we almost missed the outstanding bird of the day, a female Rock Thrush who was watching us from the top of a rock. She came back to this rock several times, obviously a good vantage point.

The Rock Thrush is a bird previously unrecorded by us in our area, though its relative the Blue Rock Thrush is commonly found if you know, of course, where to look. The Rock Thrush generally prefers even higher ground than Gobantes, but this was positively identified by its reddish-orange tail and distinct spotting.

Both Spotted and Pied Flycatcher were also recorded here.

The lakes which serve as the main reservoirs of Malaga Province with their deep water and steep sides are not great bird magnets, and todays handful of species - lots of Black Headed Gulls, Mallard and Great Crested Grebe - was typical.

Stopping by the campsite at El Chorro, the water butt was proving an irresistible attraction for both a Crested Tit and a Coal Tit (with clear white patch on the back of head and is such a lovely little bird) and then a small flock of Crossbills - who all returned over and over to drink.

More tomorrow about the second day of our bird tour.
3rd September 2009 (posted by Heidi)
We have a Yoga class starting here at Finca Limoneros today!
The class starts at 2.30 here in the living room, it will hopefully move outside when the weather cools down a bit. We have moved all the furniture - and washed all the floors!! Until they all arrive I'm not sure how many are coming - loads of interest though! Our teacher lives in Campillos and sells Indian spices on a stall at the Farmer's Market on Thursday mornings so she will come here straight from there!
We're quite excited about this Yoga class, its something I have wanted to do for ages and something I would like to be able to offer to our visitors too. Debbie teaches Hatha Yoga and is prepared to teach classes to individuals or groups, with prior notice of course!
So watch this space and I'll let you know how we get on!

29 August 2009 (posted by Heidi)
An early morning trip to the river proved fruitful this morning. We woke early (to the usual sound of the Bee-eaters, who seem to be calling day and night at the moment) and after a quick coffee we drove down to the natural rock pool by the blue bridge. The telegraph pole was empty of Kestrels but a beautiful Spotted Flycatcher sat on the gate and let us study him for a while. Every so often he would make as if to fly away and then change his mind and flutter back to his perch - typical behaviour from a Flycatcher.
The olive groves were busy too, Sardinian and Melodious warblers flitting from tree to tree - we could hear the Chettis warbler too but only catch occasional glimpses of the birds themselves, as usual. Small groups of Little Egrets and the occasional lone Grey heron were heading down the river in search of an early fishing spot.
We parked by a fig tree, the ripe fruit falling stickily on the ground beneath where colonies of ants were busy cleaning up. Pushing through the canes down the the waterside, binoculars at the ready we were pleasantly suprised to find the water level suprisingly higher than in previous visits at this time of year. We had a wet winter and the river Guadalhorce is still flowing at some rate here.
The air was full of dragonflies, dozens of them zipping across the water, small vivid red ones and larger jeweled blue Emperor dragonflies - occasionally they would stop for a moment on a rock or reed so we could admire them.
We sat for a while and just enjoyed the morning, and then, as the icing on the cake we caught a glimpse of the Kingfisher heading up-river, well worth getting out of bed for!!

25 August 2009 (posted by Heidi)
Just as we thought summer couldn't go on any longer it's starting to feel like we've seen the worst. The heat has dropped during the last two weeks, the nights are cooler and the dawns are fresher. Don't get me wrong, it's still hot, but its bearable during the day and we can sleep without the aircon on again.
Last night we went back to our land on the other side of the river. It's been three months we realised, since we were last there and we have a lot of weeding and clearing to do!! Going back, we had to pay the obligatory visit to our neighbours, Paco and Pepa, who have appeared in Keith's diary once or twice and who have the most inspirational garden (which I will post on another time!!).
Sitting on their terrace , apologising profusely for our failure to visit more often, we realised we could hear Beeaters, lots and lots of them. They were flocking in the Poplar trees on the river, dozens and dozens of Beeaters! The trees were full of them, squabbling and fluttering from branch to branch - and then this morning when I walked the dogs I saw them rise from the trees in a large cloud, what a fantastic sight!
What, I wonder is the collective noun for Beeaters? (suggestions include an irridesence, and of course a rainbow) anyone know?
Sunday 2 August 2009
(Posted by Heidi)

After a late night watching the 'Stolen Gnomes' play at Finca Rocabella
the plan this morning was a day at the lakes - heading off about one with sandwiches already made (no barbecues allowed during August) and a cool box full of soft drink.
What a great idea!! It was blissful, lying half in the shade, 10 feet from the water watching families, some complete with grandma and grandpa, enjoying their day on the water. The boys took a pedalo and headed off into the next bay to jump off the rocks there and we just relaxed. The water was cool and soothing after the heat of the week, we swam and dozed in the shade. It's a bit like being at the beach but without the sand and the crowds!
It was gone 7.00 when we left the lake, winding our way back to Alora along one of the prettiest roads I know, relaxed and tired. We will definately be spending more Sundays on the lakes!!
Thursday 30 July 2009(Posted by Heidi)
Hard to believe July has already gone by! The days are hot and the nights are warm too at the moment, we have swum in the pool almost every night this week - it helps to cool the body down before bed.

The beeaters are up at dawn, calling from the riverbed below - the best alarm clock I could wish for! Walking the dogs early is still a joy, I remember to take the binoculars now and have been watching a Melodious Warbler on the abandoned olives at the end of the track.

The trees are full of life at that time of day and its nice to sit on the irrigation channel and watch for a while.

All too quickly the sun begins to make its presence felt and its time to head for the finca and the welcoming blue of the pool and a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
25 July 2009
(Posted by Heidi)
It's been a busy week!!

Martin has been helping Marina to give Art Estation a revamp, repainting the 'band room' in a more dramatic style! She wanted to do something to give this room more atmosphere and being an artist means that Marina's eye for colour and contrast have resulted in a whole new look.

I dont want to reveal too much until it's ready but it's dramatically different - more theatrical and we love it!!

I took advantage of the empty house to finally get round to making the Tomato Ketchup I have been wanting to make. The recipe is simple enough and I love all the chopping and peeling that goes into these things. The house smelled of vinegar and spices all day, not something everyone likes - but it's worth it in the end!

The ketchup is great, far better than any commercial ketchup and I'm really pleased with it, we've already eaten a whole bottle! Next project is to try the new Lemon Marmalade recipe I have found, who knows it could be on the breakfast menu next week!!
22 July 2009 - Birthday!
(Posted by Heidi)
Another 'gathering' at Finca Limoneros last Saturday night to celebrate the passing of yet another birthday for yours truly! As usual a wonderful mix of friends, barbecue and music, topped by a wonderful cake! (Thank you Geraldine!)

Everyone brought something to cook and something to drink - these things have to run on a 'bring and share' basis -so plenty to eat and drink!

Later we were joined by Manolo, John and Mike who accompanied 'the girls' along with Kev on his slide guitar and of course Patrick on keyboards.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, some of our visitors went late night swimming but most of us sat in the courtyard with the candles and the music, .......great things birthdays!!
18 July 2009 - Pelicans!!
(Posted by Heidi)

Today deserves two entries to the Finca diary!! Yesterday was my birthday and as well as having a great barbecue and jam (see the previous entry) I was also lucky enough to be given this wonderful photograph from our friends Russell and Roman Porcas.
Russell is a professional photographer and will hopefully be exhibiting some of his work in the apartments over the next few months.
17 July 2009 - Summer!
(Posted by Heidi)

The Summer is now fully upon us, it's been in the high thirties all week and we try to take advantage of the early mornings and cooler evenings.
The track to the finca is now edged by dried grass and brush and the general look is one of heat and dust. Some things however are thriving in the heat, the olive trees are already laiden with this autumn's crop - and it looks like it could be a good year!
The garden here at the finca is looking great too, Oleander, Passiflora, Pomegranate and believe or not Roses are all in full bloom!
Evenings by the pool, with the swifts and beeaters overhead - (and the obligatory Gin & Tonic in hand!) are just the perfect ending to a summers day.
14 July 2009 - Our Green Credentials
(Posted by Heidi)

You can save the world without sacrificing comforts. We've found these ecological, organic and plant based products to replace the harmful chemicals we use in our homes and on our bodies that cause the most damage every day.

And as we like to show our 'Green Credentials' here at Finca Limoneros as much as possible, we are proud to announce that we are now a distribution point in the Guadalhorce area for Cleanerway Ecological Products

For more information contact Heidi on 0034 952 49 8334 or email Heidi through the 'Contact Us' page.

10 July 2009 - a fairytale
(Posted by Keith)
This has nothing to do with Spain, but I can't resist showing you this picture, taken by the River Colne in Colchester, of the most beautiful insect I think I have seen, a Banded Demoiselle damselfly.

Click on it to see it in its full glory. I am not surprised to learn that this creature is said to have inspired the legend of winged 'fairies'.

10 July 2009 - Beeaters!
(Posted by Heidi)
Woke this morning to the distinctive sound of Beeeaters all round the Finca. For the last few days we have seen and heard more Beeaters than ever - evenings particularly being the best time to see them as they glide across the valley. This morning I remembered to take my binoculars while I walked the dogs, something I usually forget to do. There are Beeaters everywhere!!
The telegraph (do we still call them that?) wires were providing a welcome resting place for what appears to be this years juvenile Beeater population - dozens of youngsters, their colours slightly dirtier looking than the adults, spaced along the wires in the morning sunshine - Wonderful!
I also spotted a pair of juvenile Kestrels, closer to the village - perched on the same telegraph wire with an adult keeping an eye on them. They are often there in the mornings, our walk must fall into their territory and thanks to the binoculars I got a really good look at them today.
7 July 2009 - Youtube Link
(Posted by Sherill)
Sorry it's taken so long....but finally we have a video clip of the Midsummers's Eve Party at Finca Limoneros. As we only remembered to do some recording quite late in the evening, much eating and drinking had already taken place, so apologies for the inferior quality of film but you get the idea!
4 July 2009 - that wagtail
(Posted by Keith)
The wagtail reported by Heidi on 29 June was most probably, I think, a Yellow Wagtail. It's a bird with lots of variations, my Collins bird guide listing 11 different races. The Iberian race has a distinctly blue-grey head and is olive-coloured on the back as opposed to grey. The amount of yellow varies with age, juveniles not showing much at all.

The picture is one I took a few years ago at the Rio Grande between Alora and Malaga.

The time of year is a good indicator, the Yellow being a summer breeding bird which winters in Africa, and the Grey showing mostly in winter. Despite being shown on my distribution map as a resident of Spain, I do believe most of the Greys we see in Andalucia do migrate to northern parts during the hot summers.

How about that picture from Ellis' super-duper camera, Heidi?

1st July 2009 - Hot!
(Posted by Heidi)
Temperatures here this week have reached 40+ and we are slowly melting!! The pool has been such a godsend, one or more of us seems to be in it all the time at the moment! Despite his broken collar bone even Ellis has managed to submerge himself several times today!!

We collect our drinking water from a spring just outside the village called El Fuente de la Higuera (the fountain of the fig tree) where you can fill up your containers with cold spring water which runs all year from the nearby Sierra de las Nieves. Tonight's queue went on for hours!! Dozens of people sitting around the spring, dozens of plastic bottles at their feet, waiting their turn patiently, chatting and cooling down after a long hot day. Best bet is to just join them, sitting on one of the stone benches under the tree, half listening to their conversation - so what if it's nearly dark by the time we've had our turn, at least it's cool now - cool enough to think about one last swim before bed!

29 June 2009
(Posted by Heidi)
Out of the house before the heat this morning. Martin and I headed down to the weir behind los Caballos restaraunt to try and catch sight of the Wagtails I had seen two weeks earlier while birding with David Lovegrove. We struggled at the time to identify them, obviously Wagtails but with no obvious black or yellow visible, so I wanted to go back for a longer look.

Turning off the road we were treated to a close up view of a Woodchat Shrike sitting on the power line - his chestnut head unmistakeable, such a handsome bird. Sneaking up to the weir we could see the usual terrapins sunbathing and three young black winged stilts shuffling uneasily on the edge of the water like uncertain teenagers and after a couple of minutes, there he was..... the wagtail! Out came the book, out came Ellis' mega camera with the mega lens and obviously out came the binoculars.

After some debate and what hopefully would be some reasonable photos it was agreed that it had to be a juvenile, but of what?! Having studied the (what turned out to be really average) photos carefully I've discovered that he does have some yellow, he must be a juvenile grey wagtail - very blue-grey head and small yellow patch under his tail. Mystery solved!?
Now all I have to do is take some pictures of the warblers that we keep seeing along the irrigation chanel in the hope that I can identify them!!
27 June 2009
(posted by Keith 27 June 2009)
An opportunistic picture from last week, taken through the car window in the rolling prairie hills of Puente Coco, the best I have taken of a Black-eared Wheatear. As usual, click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

Photographs (mine, anyway) rarely do justice to this beautifully marked and coloured summer visitor. This one is of the pale-throated variety, the other one being even more striking with its black throat - I am not too sure which is more common as they both crop up quite frequently.

I shall be posting from the UK in the next few days, so anyone interested in what Sherill and I are doing nowadays should tune back in soon.

22 June 2009 - Kestrels Rule OK
(posted by Keith on 25 June 2009)
With little time spent during our week's holiday at the finca devoted to birding, I had to be content with the odd sighting as we travelled around in the car.

The area of the valley around the finca is now undoubtedly Common Kestrel territory, with sightings every day. Watching House Martins through my binoculars, I was stunned to see the male Kestrel swoop down and attack one of the Martins in flight (though I have seen them swoop on birds on the ground before, this was the first time I recall seeing an attack on a bird on the wing). Unsurprisingly (the Kestrel might be a falcon but he is no Peregrine or Hobby) he missed completely and was immediately mobbed and driven off by three or four other Martins.

Most other sightings were of male and female perched on overhead wires along the track. The best was prompted by the appearance of a Booted Eagle, circling tightly as it drifted down the valley. The female Kestrel took great exception to the intrusion into its territory and mobbed it repeatedly until the buzzard-sized raptor (quite unfazed) eventually moved away at its own leisurely pace.

It seems that life as a raptor is never free from frequent harassment by either smaller raptors or other birds such as Jackdaws - not from the obligation to harass larger raptors who infringe your patch (unless of course there are no larger raptors - in Spain you have to be a Griffon Vulture to qualify for exemption on this count).

20 June 2009 - Midsummer's Eve barbecue and evening of music...
(posted by Sherill on 22 June 2009)
We were back at the Finca in June to combine a few items of business with a week's holiday. Heidi and Martin. who took over the running of the business in February, have taken to the job like ducks to water, and this Saturday was an opportunity for us all to get together to meet old friends - and some new ones - in a typically comradely Andalucian atmosphere.

A magical evening of delicious Mediterranean food, which started with Keith's paella cooked on the barbecue.

The finca's famous BBQ is an impressive cast iron affair complete with high-tech cranking device to raise and lower the grill. Martin seen here, copes with the demand from 30 hungry guests.
Our own Aussie Mike was also on hand to make sure the barbie was stoked up to its full potential - and way beyond for a while as clouds of smoke lowered the visibility!
Once everyone had been fed and watered, the music began, as it usually does, in spontaneous fashion. Kevin - who also plays double bass and harmonica - has recently taken up slide acoustic guitar and kicked off the proceedings. He was soon joined by Mike on a suitably muted bass guitar, and Heidi on percussion.
More musicians soon joined in.

Patrick, a local resident from the Netherlands, can seemingly play along with any tune and make his keyboard sound like almost any instrument - the magic flute was especially memorable.
The girls finally plucked up the courage to perform. Topping the bill, Marina and Geraldine made their debut on acoustic guitars, whilst Kevin switched to harmonica.

Heidi proved to not only have a really fine voice but also a rare ability to remember all the lyrics!

Awesome music from everyone captured in picture by Russell Porcas- thanks to you all guys.
Thursday 28 May 2009
(Posted by Heidi 29 May 2009)
My morning walk with the dogs is something I look forward to each day. Once the boys are in school, around 8.15, we head out along the lane, the dogs eager to see what this morning will bring.

Its been quite an education, this walk, in the 3 months since we've been here - I've learnt where the spotless starlings roost, I've learnt that hoopoes can hiss and curse (!) and I've even seen a pair of cuckoos fly by! There are freshwater crayfish in the irrigation chanel and a Sardinian Warbler's nest in the lemon grove next door.

This morning two special things happened. First I heard my first Golden Oriole of the year down in the river bed, always special for me - I love their fluting call and tomorrow I will walk the dogs that way in the hope that I might catch a glimpse of him. The second was the House Martin babys are out, maybe about twenty of them, sitting on the fence watching their parents collecting mud from the last puddle to repair their nests. We watched them for ages, still fluffy at the sides, mouths still yellow - such a lovely walk!
I wonder what tomorrow will bring!