June 2013 – Osuna Farmland and Lagunas

Twenty-six members of the Andulcia Bird Society met at the Venta Nevada on the eastern outskirts of the town of Osuna, in the province of Sevilla, on a very hot and sunny morning on Saturday June 15th, 2013.   A convoy of the seven most suitable cars was soon organised to take us on our journey and the remaining cars were left parked at the Venta.  We drove out of Osuna on the SE-715 and stopped at the second railway bridge to search the surrounding countryside for birds.  The countryside consisted of grass fields, sun flower fields and corn fields.  Some of the cornfields were now just stubble and many others were being harvested.
june2013-IMG 1278aThe first birds that we noticed were Black Kites as six birds were flying low over the surrounding cornfields.  As we scanned further afield with our binoculars we realised that there were a larger number of these birds flying over the fields.  We then found in the distance a row of large electricity pylons stretching across the fields and the metal struts of every pylon were filled with perching Black Kites – we estimated that there were at least two hundred birds.   There were also five adult Lesser Kestrel flying around this bridge and we were not sure what was attracting them.  An adult White Stork glided in circles above us and  while we were watching it an Egyptian Vulture appeared and also glided over our heads.  It was a two-year old bird.  Peter Jones informed us that it was an unusual sighting because immature birds of this species normally remain in Africa until their third year.  He suspected that this bird had remained in Andalucia and had never gone to Africa.   Also, while we were stood on the bridge we saw a Turtle Dove, a male Common Kestrel, a Rock Dove and a Red-rumped Swallow all fly past.  A male House Sparrow was perched on the fence bordering the railway track and a Raven was circling and calling in the sky above the fields.  We also saw a male Montagu’s Harrier flying low over the fields and during our time on this bridge we also saw a further three adult male and three adult female birds circling together above us.
june2013-IMG 1268aWhen we decided there was nothing new to see we left the second bridge and returned to the SE-715 and travelled to the third bridge.  We again used the height of the bridge to search the surrounding countryside for birds.  From this bridge we spotted Griffin Vultures circling above the fields.  In addition we saw a female Montagu’s Harrier flying low over the fields, a male Blackbird and several Swallows feeding above the fields.
Trying an area we had not visited before, we drove across the third bridge and continued on the farm track for about 1.5 km, deeper into the farmland.  Here we stopped to scan the farmland, hoping to find Little Bustards but were disappointed.  We did see a Calandra Lark flying swiftly past us.  As the bird was only about forty metres away we could clearly see its black under wing.  We also saw Crested Lark, another Raven circling in the distance, a few more Black Kite and another female Montagu’s Harrier.  This area of farmland is worth a regular visit in the future but as there was no shade and the heat had now climbed to about 37C we did not stay long and returned to the third bridge and back onto the SE-715.  We joined the SE-716 and drove towards the fourth bridge.  As we approached the fourth bridge to stop and again survey the surrounding countryside an adult Collared Dove flew past us.
june2013-IMG 6887---RollerFrom this bridge we spotted, to much excitment, our first European Roller.  It was initially perched in a tree and was partly obscured.  It kept moving to other tress where the view was as equally unclear, but it finally moved to a metal electricity post where we could see it more clearly.  Close by we also saw an adult Turtle Dove perched on the electricity cable and we could also hear a Hoopoe calling but initially could not see it.  However, it obligingly flew from its hiding place and perched on another of the metal electricity post for us.  In the same area we also saw an adult Southern Grey Shrike perched on the overhead electricity cable, looking around.  We also saw several European Bee-eaters fly past and more Montagu’s Harriers and Black Kites.
After about 2.3km from the fourth bridge we turned left onto a farm track, stopping within 100m of leaving the tarmac road to search some reeds and a copse of eucalyptus trees.  In a copse of eucalyptus trees there where Spanish Sparrows breeding.  It was difficult to estimate the number of birds because a lot of birds were keeping in the shade of the leafy branches because of the heat and those that weren’t were constantly on the move.  We estimated that there were two-hundred birds but I suspect this was on the low side.  Interestingly, we did not see any House Sparrows.  The noise that these birds were making was very loud and if we had been estimating on noise alone I think we would have settled on a 1,000 birds.  june2013-P1140243bBeside the the track there was also a small reedbed, bordered on one side with bushes.  We could heard a Cetti’s Warbler calling from a concealed place among the reeds.  While we were searching, it flew from its concealed position, across the reeds to another concealed position and continued singing.  We also heard a  Nightingale singing but could not see it.  At the back of the reeds we could see two Melodious Warblers perched in the top of the reeds, singing.  On the ground we found a young, dead grass snake.  It looked as if it had been captured by a raptor and had been dropped.
Beyong the reedbed area we could see derelect farm buildings in the background.  Flying around these buildings were about twenty Feral Doves and seven Lesser Kestrel.  Also perched on the top of one of these buildings was an adult European Roller, looking around.  As we returning to the cars, preparing to leave, we saw two adult Goldfinch fly past together.  Both birds were calling.
We continued along the farm track for about 3.5km to view some more old farm buildings.  On our way we spotted an Olivacious Warbler feeding in one of the Olive trees we passed.  When the large group of derelict farm buildings came into view we stopped some distance away to view the buildings.  They were surrounded by uncut cornfields and there were European Rollers perched on fence posts and flying off across the top of the corn to catch their prey.
jun2013-IMG 9590-Lesser-KestrelThe air was still, energy sapping and very hot.   We decided to walk  slowly and quietly towards the buildings so that we would cause minimum disturbance.  As we approached we saw an adult, light phased, Booted Eagle slowly circling in the bright blue sky overhead and Lesser Kestrels flying above the buildings.  We continued walking slowly and quietly among the buildings and were rewarded with an adult Little Owl flying from its perch in one of the buildings.  Someone had hung a wooden box up from an old beam in which it was nesting.  A lot of the group found the shaded, cooler interior of some of the farm buildings a welcome relief from the relentless heat of the sun.  This was despite the cowebs and spiders.
We counted twelve adult European Rollers flying around the buildings and we had tremendous views of them flying.  When they turned and the sun reflected from their blue, outstretched wings it was breathtaking and I regretted deeply not having my camera with me.  We also saw more Lesser Kestrels, House Sparrows, Crested Larks and a male Blackbird while we were at these buildings.
Returning to the SE-716 along the same farm track we saw Red-legged Partridge and Jackdaw.  On reaching the SE-716, we turned left and headed towards Lantejuela.  As we passed a farm we saw two adult Stone Curlews close to the roadside and close together.  One was standing and the other was brooding on a nest.  The nest was on the ground, beneath the overhanging branches of a bush.  We also saw a number of Cattle Egret in the fields.
We followed the SE-716 to the SE-710 and turned left to Lantejuela.
On reaching Lantejuela we turned right onto the SE-708 and drove towards El Robio for about 2km where we turned right onto a track that took us past Hoya Verde de Sal and on to Laguna Ballestera.  While driving along this track we saw six adult Collared Pratincole standing together on the ground and as we arrived at Laguna Ballestera we saw an adult male Kentish Plover standing on sandy ground, looking around.
june2013-P1140253At Laguna Ballestera we decided to have our lunch.  Unfortunately there were only two areas of shade, one created by a tree, which was quickly occupied and the other created by Pete Woodall’s garden umbrella that he had sensibly brought with him.  Not surprisingly, Pete suddenly acquired a lot of friends.
Laguna Ballestera contained quite a number of different birds.  There were two female Mallard swimming with their ducklings.  One had six ducklings swimming with her and the other had five.  There was also a male and female Red-crested Pochard swimming together.  There were about two hundred adult Greater Flamingo standing in shallow water, feeding.  An adult female Montagu’s Harrier was spotted gliding towards the laguna.  It was suddenly attacked by a male Black-winged Stilt, which are very protective of their young, and turned away.  There were about twenty birds present at the laguna.  An adult Yellow-legged Gull was floating on the surface of the laguna with its wings stretched out.  It looked as if it was using the surface of the laguna to keep cool.  We also counted fifteen Gull-billed Terns.  Some were flying and calling and some were standing on rocks at the edge of the laguna.  The Coot were quite numerous and among the approximate sixty adult birds we counted fifteen juvenile birds.  There were also five adult Avocet, three birds were standing in shallow water and two were swimming in deeper water.  Also, we saw about thirty adult Black-headed Gulls and counted six birds sitting on what looked like nests.  The nests were situated among the rocks that were along one edge of the laguna.  We also saw several ginger coloured young birds swimming among the adult birds.  I think they are referred to, in some quarters, as “Gingers”.
june2013 IMG 7053 Stone CurlewLeaving Laguna Ballestera we continued along the track and eventually came back to the SE-708.  We turned left, towards Lantejuela, and after about 1.3km, turned right onto the SE-705 towards our next destination, Laguna de Consuegra.  As we turned onto this road we saw three adult Iberian Wagtails land in a field beside the road and stopped to obtain a closer view.  We drove along the SE-705 for about 1.5km before arriving at Laguna de Consuerga.  To get close to this laguna we turned right onto a track, which took us to the laguna’s edge.
This is a large and picturesque laguna and it contained a lot of birds and among them were two surprises.  An adult male Shoveller was seen standing on a small island in the centre of the laguna and it was very late in the year for a bird of this species to still be present.  Also an adult Black-tailed Godwit, in full breeding plumage, was standing on a small island in the middle of Laguna de Consuegra.  They are now usually on their breeding grounds in northern Europe.
There were about thirty Whiskered Tern seen on and around the laguna.  There were five nests in view with two birds standing on each nest.  We also saw several birds carrying nesting material and other birds were flying to and fro in front of us.  There were also Collared Pratincoles flying above the laguna and they seemed to favour an area to our right.  There were also about thirty birds and a large number of these were standing on a grassy area facing into a mild breeze that was beginning to blow.
june2013-IMG 7349---Whiskered-TernA large number of Black-winged Stilts also occupied the laguna and when a female Marsh Harrier was seen gliding, lazily over the reeds towards the open water of the laguna it was soon driven away by six of these noisy birds.  There was also two female Red-crested Pochard and a beautiful male swimming on the laguna.   Close to them was a male Common Pochard and as we were watching these ducks five Sand Martin flew past.  A Little Egret was seen landing among some tall green reeds and another light-phased Booted Eagle glided overhead.
At this stage, despite a mild breeze, the heat was beginning to take its toll and some members of the group decided to call it a day and return to Venta Nevada.  The remainder returned to the SE-708 and turned left towards the A-351.  We were going to stop at Laguna de la Turquillass, but it was so full of reeds that we could not see any water.  We therefore moved on and at the junction of the A-351 we turned right towards Osuna intending to stop at Laguna Grande.  But on reaching the laguna and turning into the field opposite to park our cars we decided that it had so little water in it that it was not worth continuing to be baked in the relentless heat.  We therefore also returned to Venta  Nevada to end a very successful days birding.
Birds seen on the day 53 species. (Shown in systematic order using English and Spanish names)
English Names
Red-legged Partridge, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, Greater Flamingo, White Stork, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Black Kite, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Western Marsh Harrier, Montague’s Harrier, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Coot, Stone Curlew, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Collared Pratincole, Black-headed Gull, Yellow Legged Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, European Roller, European Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Southern Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Common Raven, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Cetti’s Warbler, Western Olivaceous Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Blackbird, Nightingale, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Iberian Wagtail, Goldfinch    .
Spanish Names
Perdiz Roja, Anade Azulón, Cuchara Común, Pato Colarado, Porrón Común, Somormujo Lavanco, Flamenco Común, Cigüeña Blanca, Garcilla Bueyera, Garceta Común, Milano Negro, Alimoche Común, Buitre Leonardo, Aguilucho Lagunero, Aguilucho Cenizo, Águililla Calzada, Cernícalo Primilla, Cernícalo Vulgar, Focha Común, Alcaraván, Cigüeñuela Común, Avoceta Común, Chorlitejo Patinegro, Aguja Colinegra, Canastera Común, Gaviota Reidora, Gaviota Patiamarilla, Pagaza Piconegra, Charrán Cariblanco, Paloma Bravía, Tórtola Común, Tórtola Turca, Mochuelo Europeo, Carraca Europea, Abejaruco Papirrojo, Abubilla, Alcaudrón Real, Gragilla Occidental,  Cuervo Grande, Calandria Común, Cogujada Común, Avión Zapador, Golondrina Común, Golondrina Dáurica, Ruieseñor Bastardo, Zacero Pálido, Zacero Común, Mirlo Común, Ruiseñor Común, Gorrión Común, Gorrión Moruno, Lavandera Boyera Iberica, Jilguero Europeo.
David Hird
Chairman of Andalucia Bird Society

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