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Post Info TOPIC: The view from Madrid


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RE: The view from Madrid


12/03/2023 - mid morning - Casa de Campo, Madrid.

After several days of extreme physical discomfort (suffering with something akin to costachondritis) I galvanised myself to make an effort to get out birding so I took the metro line 5 for the 8 stops west to my old stamping ground.

It was a fine morning with snow capping the northern mountains and I realised that it must be over 4 years since I was last here.

Down in the valley bottom I was approached by 2 elderly gents holding a little bird guide who asked me what I had seen. Not knowing the Spanish names of most birds I thumbed through their little book advising them which species to look out for. At that point a Short-toed Treecreeper conveniently landed close by affording point blank views and working its way upside down along a low horizontal. They seemed very pleased as if I had engineered the whole thing so I took full credit and they departed after the customary handshakes.

I wondered on carefully as I still felt fragile and was listening to a Cettis Warbler when a woman approached and stopped next to me and announced that the bird was a Cettia. She had Leica 10x42 bins and looked a bit hardcore and seeing me with what to her eye might well be toy binoculars (Annes pink ones which I had borrowed) I think she had me pegged as a bit of a dude. I laughed and expressed my delight at bumping into another birder.

It turned out that she birded the site regularly and had lived in Madrid for 40 years though originally from Chile. We introduced ourselves (she was Amanda) and discussed the various species we had recorded on the site previously. As both Great Spotted and Iberian Green Woodpeckers were calling, I asked if she had ever seen Lesser Spotted here. She confirmed that it was present in a different section but not where we were presently. We walked along together logging various common species - my first for the year of both Blackcap and Iberian Chiffchaff when she stopped, peering high into a tall tree. Minor! She exclaimed.
High up sure enough was a Lesser Spotted Woody - a female. My problem was that my neck was at full stretch and getting bins onto it was so painful that my arms started shaking. I explained my problem that presently I had no flexibility in my neck - neither up or down or sideways.
No matter, she had never recorded the species in this section before and it was certainly for me a new species for Casa de Campo. At the little pool by the old bridge we logged a Little Egret (new for both of us in this section). We said our goodbyes as lunchtime was looming.

I logged 22 species - all common apart from those mentioned, and on reflection it was pleasing to log 3 woodpecker species in the morning.

Regards,

Mike P.

 

 

 



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07/03/2023 Manzanares Riverine Park, Madrid.

Mid morning today was a little sunnier and marginally warmer. Barb and I bused it down to Marques de Vadillo and after compulsory visits to three shoe shops we actually hit the river and logged a few species.

Serins featured first, followed by a couple of vocal Cettis Warblers with the promising theme falling short somewhat with the fly past of two calling Egyptian Geese. We added a few species not seen on my previous visit - Little Egret two Iberian Green Woodpeckers and a close encounter with a Short-toed Treecreeper, but still no Black Redstarts or Firecrests and no indications yet of any passage migrants.

Back at base we see that Paul has been out and about and with a Thai lifer under the belt.

Cheers,

Mike P.



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Tuesday 7th of March 2023 02:59:56 PM

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05/03/2023 - 10.30 am - Manzanares Riverine Park, Madrid.

Barb and I arrived on 2nd travelling via Amsterdam (as there are no direct flights now from Newcastle and driving up to Edinburgh again in the winter seemed tedious).

This morning despite a chilly feel to an overcast rather gloomy day I set out after a late breakfast to  get some modest exercise and to check out the riverside habitat. Barb and Anne went into the city on a girls day out doing some cloths shopping to take advantage of the current price offers.

There was little to get excited about - it was just a case of starting a list for my visit and to see if any migrants had appeared. As Barb and I had travelled light with just hand luggage we left our binoculars at home so I borrowed my granddaughters (pink) bins.

An hour and a half yielded a modest selection of species as follows:-

1 Lesser Black-backed Gull

12 Black-headed Gulls

9 Monk Parakeets

13 Woodpigeons

1 Collared Dove

num. Feral Pigeons

1 Common Kingfisher (site tick)

7 Mallard

3 Moorhens

2 Spotless Starlings

8 White Wagtails

5 Magpies

1 Chiffchaff

9 Blackbirds

2 Robins

num. House Sparrows

9 Tree Sparrows

2 Serins

Surprisingly there was neither sight nor sound of any Cettis Warblers or Black Redstarts or Iberian Green Woodpeckers but at least my little list is something to build on with the prospect surely of some passing migrants over coming days?

Regards,

Mike P.

 

 



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23/09/2022 - mid morning Rio Manzanares.

Barb and I (in none birding mode and more with coffee in mind) enjoyed a stroll further downstream on our final morning in the city. We went some distance east past the modern huge tubular bridge and passing the Pasarela de la Playa we were increasingly hearing the constant explosive vocalisations of the resident Cettis Warblers. Just before the Pasarela de Praga we stopped and surveyed the riverine scrub below and a few short squeaks had the desired effect. Four Cettis responded - variously popping up and with two flying in to perch up boldly just beneath us.
I know that Cettis are well established these days in Manchester but it is my impression that they are less than annual in Durham and Cleveland and I probably havent actually seen one since the covid restrictions came into force. We probably heard at least ten birds along a two km. stretch and consider this particular section to be perhaps the easiest place in the city to hear and see them well. There were still no gulls to be seen yet and the only other birds casually noted were three Little Egrets and a pair of White Wagtails.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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20/09/2022 Madrid - Opera.

-Strolling mid afternoon in none birding mode after a nice lunch Warren pointed out a soaring bird very high overhead midway between the royal palace and the opera house - a Griffon Vulture and within seconds joined by a second.

These are common around Segovia and the Gredos mountains just north west of the city but I am pretty sure that these are my first sightings actually over the city itself.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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17/09/2022 - 08.10 am. Rio Manzanares.

I caught the bus down to the river again this morning (only about three stops from Urgel alighting at Marques de Vadillo) and was on site within a few minutes. 
The little glade was quieter with a couple of Blackbirds foraging (almost as persistently and in the style of S. American leaftossers) but still several Pied Flycatchers nearby on thin turf under the shade of shortish trees calling and again making repeated sallies onto the ground. I walked in and examined the ground closely and found scores of really tiny little flies about 1 to 2 millimetres in length flitting about within a few inches of the ground or at rest in the very short grassy patches. The size of the prey items hardly seemed to be worth the effort. I settled in for some 15 minutes just watching the flycatchers at close range.
I have a few nest boxes for Pied Flycatchers on private land back home in Wolsingham and I sponsored this species in the definitive publication The Birds of Durham some years ago, so have a particular fondness for them.

The Cettis Warblers were vocal again as usual here but better places to see them are a little down river. The only other species here today to add to yesterdays birds were a Grey Wagtail two Egyptian Geese and rather better - a pair of quite noisy Short-toed Treecreepers which entertained me at close range for some minutes.

I set off home after an hour encouraged to do so by the din of fighting dogs people bellowing down mobile phones as they passed by me skaters and cyclists whizzing by joggers clearing their mental cobwebs after a sweaty week in work and some guy seemingly addicted to incessantly bagging a drum.

If I go birding next week it will be either in Parque Sur or Casa de Campo rather than here again.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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16/09/2022 09.40 am - mid morning stroll by the Manzanares River.

Arrived here a week ago. In the past Barb and I used to top up our travel passes on arrival at Madrid airport costing 12 euros 30 cents each. Following Brexit we wondered last October when we arrived if they would even still be valid  - but they were - at reduced cost of about 6 euros each. This time we only had to pay 1 euro 60 cents each - quite simply the best travel deal on the planet available to pensioners for 30 days on metro and buses right across the Madrid Comunidad. Thats better than our son and granddaughter get and they are resident here.

With Anne back in school Barb, Warren and I have been out most afternoons enjoying the best of the city tapas bars with Vermut appetisers to kick off our gourmet expeditions as well as keeping abreast of the sombre news from the U.K. 
This morning with an admittedly late start I finally bused it down to the river with Annes binocs in hand to see if any migrants were around and was repaid by finding a scatter of around three juv/female Pied Flycatchers (with others heard) centred around a secluded little glade. The birds were making little sallies onto the seemingly dry ground often in loose company with Blackbirds and Tits and all seemed to be feeding well on presumably small invertebrates of some kind. It had rained heavily 24 hours earlier and perhaps this had provided some improved feeding opportunities? I shall get down earlier over the coming days as there was much disturbance so late with yapping dogs joggers cyclists and music blaring.. At least I have made a modest start and the Pied Flycatchers are site ticks for me along the river here, (never having visited previously in September). Species seen/heard were:-

1 Little Egret

4 Mallard

8 Wood Pigeons

2 Moorhens

25 Monk Parakeets

1 Iberian Green Woodpecker (h)

1 Great Spotted Woodpecker (h)

3 Pied Flycatchers (more h)

1 Robin

8 Blackbirds (nearly all fem/imm.)

2 Phylloscopus. sp. (silent and jigsaw views)

3 Cettis Warblers (heard only along 400 m. of riverine habitat)

5 Blue Tits

3 Great Tits

1 Spotless Starling.

6 Magpies

23 House Sparrows

1 Tree Sparrow

All in all a very modest tally - there surely has to be something more down here?

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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20/10/21 Rio Manzanares, Madrid (10.20 to 11.50)

- A  stroll by a 2 kilometre stretch of river with Annes binoculars. With a late start and no great expectations I felt that I ought to do a casual list of what might be around as it is a while since I was last here and am not sure when we might be able to return.
A nice surprise was a new Madrid species for me in the shape of a smart male Sardinian Warbler which popped out from the riverine trees giving good views in response to my initial squeaks. Of course this is a very common species but I had come to the conclusion some time ago that Madrid at 2000 ft above sea level was perhaps not ideal for it - obviously this is not wholly the case.

Of the further 18 common species noted, 2 Egyptian Geese were loafing where I normally encounter them and 6 Little Egrets amounted to my new high count here, of some 8 Cettis Warblers heard I did see only 1, and on a section of lawn where the sprinkler system had just been turned off was a gang of House Sparrows and some 15/20 Spotless Starlings. Its rather odd that all the sparrows here today were House Sparrows, yet in Parque Sur, they all seem to be Tree Sparrows. Iberian Green Woodpeckers are also in the riverside park but never as abundant or showy as in Parque Sur.

Unfortunately the Monk Parakeets remain a plague species everywhere in all the city parks.

Regards,

Mike P.



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Tuesday 12/10/21

- An early evening stroll along the south bank of the Manzanares river.

The river flows west to east across the southern suburbs of the city and is canalised with a drop of some 15 ft. down to the water, which is generally shallow for most of the year apart from during the spring thaw. On the plus side along the northern bank is an extensive linear park planted with a good mix of tree species. The south bank is mainly a wide tree lined pathway for both cyclists, skaters, and pedestrians. The river bed has been allowed to naturalise with extensive sandy islands of saplings and scrub specifically with birds in mind, and accordingly provides ideal habitat for Cettis Warblers (of which I heard three along a two km. stretch).
On those occasions when I am down here primarily birding it is quite easy with patience to readily watch Cettis moving around in the reeds below. Little Egrets are certainly more evident now than even 3/4 years ago and hopefully as the riverine habitat matures further providing denser cover perhaps Night Herons will also take up residence.

Wednesday mid morning (13/10/21) saw us back in Parque Sur mainly to use the excellent workout facilities dotted around this large park. Warren buzzed off to do his repeat hill runs while I had a brief half hour workout interrupted partly by the shrill call of a nearby Short-toed Treecreeper and between my sets kept an eye on the foraging of an Iberian Green Woodpecker going about its business barely 30 feet from my park bench. Apart from a Chiffchaff a few Blue Tits and the usual regulars it was rather quiet.

Regards,

Mike P.



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11/10/21 Parque Sur, Madrid

- Really nice to be back in Madrid with family after a 19 month absence.

We arrived on Thursday having flown directly from Edinburgh and upon arrival the pleasant surprise was that our 30 day travel passes were not only still valid (despite having left the EU) but that the price was now halved to 6 euros each;- surely one of the greatest perks among travel deals anywhere on the planet?

Birding was hardly a priority and we enjoyed a great day out all together on Saturday at the 3rd day of the Spanish Open Golf event.

This morning we went out to Parque Sur which was devastated in the heavy snowfall of last winter when many trees fell under the unaccustomed weight of snow to see that everything there had been tidied and cleared very effectively.

Species noted were the usual Monk Parakeets, many Magpies, a few Wood Pigeons, about 6 different Iberian Green Woodpeckers (here always extremely confiding), Tree Sparrows, and best of all around 100 Common Cranes in V formation high overhead.

Regards,

Mike P.

 



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Monday 11th of October 2021 12:57:03 PM

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19/01/21 Tuesday

Our younger son Warren reports this morning of widespread devastation in Parque Sur, one of our regular haunts in normal times.

The boughs of a great number of pines lie shattered on the ground, along with some whole trees, which would appear to be due to the extreme cold of last week (possibly making the branches more brittle) combined with the weight of some 8 inches of unaccustomed snow. Doubtless, many of the huge communal nests of the Monk Parakeets will have been brought down as collateral damage. I dont know how hardy these pests might be in a sudden and severe exposure to low temperatures, but if the population has been thinned out by this weather, then I should see this as a good thing.

Regards from Durham,

Mike P.



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We arrived home from Madrid on Monday (03/03/20)

I belatedly learn of a first winter Bonapartes Gull well seen and photographed on a lake at Parque de las Cruces, Madrid on 29/02/20. I accordingly looked up the location of the park to discover that it is only some ten minutes walk beyond La Mina, a sports complex where our granddaughter attends three evenings a week!
Such is life, - I shall explore the site on my next visit, in the meantime no use crying over spilt milk........

Regards,

Mike P.



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Saturday, 29/02/20 Parque San Isidro, Madrid

- A much cooler start to the day, the four of us strolled through to the workout station in this the nearest park to Warrens apartment.

Warren introduced me to Sebastien, a French speaking Congolese who trains in the park. i mentioned my admiration for the forests there but that I knew of no birders who had ever ventured there in view of the alleged dangers. I tried to ask if he had ever encountered a Congo Peacock, but that was inevitably lost in translation!

I have found it good for Firecrest in the pines here on previous visits, but no sign today, the predominant vocalisations emanating from the Serins, and the Monk Parakeets. It was pleasing to witness the squawks of alarm as the parakeets left the trees to mob a Sparrowhawk suddenly soaring lazily overhead. I should like to think that they form its staple diet here.

Sparrowhawk and its worldwide close congeners (Sharp-shinned Hawk, Besra, Shikra etc.) may be the most effective and successful evolutionary template as the ideal small avian predator of smaller birds.

Regards,

Mike P.



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28/02/20 - Parque Sur, Madrid

Not really here in birding mode presently, -I am just in the park doing a few sets of press ups and enjoying the fresh air while Warren does his hill run sets nearby.

However in contrast to December, it is now pleasantly warm with Serins seemingly singing from most of the tree tops, and Iberian Green Woodpeckers calling every few minutes above the incessant din of the Monk Parakeets. The woodpecker call burst lasts for the same time as that of our Green Woodpecker but is more a short series of purer hoo hoo hoo notes lacking the laughing maniacal quality of our birds. Early in the mornings recently Warren has noted up to three Hoopoes foraging on the ground on his hill runs though (later) yesterday, we neither saw nor heard any.
No doubt migration here will tick up a notch in coming weeks.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Tuesday 25/06/19

A walk in Parque Sur this morning with Warren out for his repetition hill runs.

En route we noted no less than 5 Green Woodpeckers on both the gravel trail and grassy margins quite unconcerned as we walked by within 30 feet or so. - Certainly not a sight we can expect in the N E of England. One was feeding a fledged juvenile. As it seems that they have now been officially split, I am not certain how to refer to them so unless anyone informs me otherwise I should perhaps call them Iberian Green Woodpeckers. Also noted was a Hoopoe also poking around in the gravel and the ubiquitous Spotless Starlings and Monk Parakeets whose huge communal nests sadly disfigure so many of the pines.

Warren did thirteen hill ascents and I did a token two - my legs seizing up over the last (and steepest) final 10 metres of the slope on both occasions - so perhaps it did me some good? From Thursday onwards the expectation is that it will be hitting 40 degrees in a heatwave extending from Iberia across to Switzerland.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Wednesday late afternoon, - 26/12/18

I arrived alongside the river at 16.40 and already there were around 200 Gulls in scattered groups on the sandbars. By 17.10 numbers peaked at around 400 plus, with many birds interchanging and flying in both directions. I had by then ascertained that no Mediterranean Gull was present,just about 30 Lesser-Black backs, the rest the usual Black- headed. Suddenly the whole lot were airborne and departing apart from a solitary Lesser -Black Back, as if the whole flock had just been a pre-roost gathering.

I watched a consolation Black Redstart flitting on a revetment for a few minutes and this was closely followed by a pair of Egyptian Geese bombing downstream past me. Oddly the only other Egyptian Geese which I have recorded in Madrid were within yards of this same spot some 4/5 years ago, begging the question as to whether they might be the same individuals.

The gull numbers built up again slightly to about 100, before I left after an hour. 

There may well be other roost sites further downstream, and as this was my first serious effort it was useful in putting into perspective the probability that Mediterranean Gull here is a notable scarcity.

I came across a plaque outlining some of the history of this section of the river. This included some photos from 1905 showing hordes of people swimming and loafing on the sandbanks. Apparently with Madrid set in the centre of Iberia at 2000 ft. above sea level, there had been an appetite for a beach amenity to which the public had taken with enthusiasm, even including a restaurant. All was destroyed either during or after the civil war some 75/80 years ago.

Cheers,

Mike P.



-- Edited by Ian McKerchar on Thursday 27th of December 2018 10:37:10 AM

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Monday morning 24/12/18,

Two more ambles alongside the river have proved fruitless in terms of finding a Mediterranean Gull; on Thursday a two km. stretchof the river produced very few Gulls with just three Little Egrets the only trip additions. This morning I walked the same length with my step grandson Art, (visiting from Zurich) and though there were many more Gulls than I recall ever seeing, the Mediterranean Gull was not among them. Ideally I need to check ahead of the evening roost, but with none birding family to host/entertain I must do so with a degree of diplomacy.

Best Wishes to all for a Merry Christmas!

Mike P.



-- Edited by Ian McKerchar on Monday 24th of December 2018 12:12:02 PM

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Wed. 19/12/18 mid morning

I resumed for a quick hour where I left off in October, - on the Manzanares River.

Since my last visit, much of the emergent riverside vegetation has been cut back, but still leaving plenty of habitat for the Cettis Warblers, several of which I heard.

In contrast to October the Gulls were back on the sandy river islands, so I set about checking through them, but found nothing different from the usual culprits, Lesser black backs (5/6) and Black- headed, which numbered around 80/90.

Leaving, after a modest 15 species logged I encountered something new, - a Spanish birder complete with scope, tripod and expensive bins;- a Madrid tick for sure!

We quickly got chatting and got onto Gulls, and he showed me a pic of a first winter Mediterranean Gull, apparently regularly coming onto the river islands towards dusk to roost. Though I have readily found Slender-billed and Audouins Gulls previously in Murcia, Mediterranean Gull would actually be a Spanish tick for me, so I feel further encouraged to redouble my efforts on the river.

Interestingly the Spanish for Mediterranean Gull is Gaviota cabecinegra which literally translates as Black-headed Gull, and demonstrates the mismatch and dangers of relying unduly on logic as regards nomenclature!

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



-- Edited by Ian McKerchar on Wednesday 19th of December 2018 11:52:16 AM

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Thursday, Oct 18 -  9.05 to 10am

Manzanares River

After the school run I stayed on the bus for three more stops alighting at Marques de Vadillo, crossed the busy road and viewed the riverside gardens from the Puente de Toledo. The river is canalised but over the years sediment seasonally washed down has given rise to vegetated margins and muddy islets. Cettis Warblers have become established and I counted 5 vocalising along a 300 metre section. I saw 3 on my stroll, one of which perched up affording an excellent view for some 20 seconds or so.

As the vegetation is wispy here, with reed and sedge, it is rather easy to follow the movement of the birds through the stems, especially from the vantage points afforded by the numerous footbridges above the river, - all in sharp contrast to the birds of Casa de Campo where Cettis lurk in rigid thick brambles.

A Chiffchaff, several White Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail were noted among a modest mix of other common species expected here, but unusually I saw no gulls at all, nor could I find any Black Redstarts before I had to leave for some shopping with Barb.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Wed Oct 17th

San Isidro Park (10 until 11 am)

A cloudless pleasant morning with great views over the city (with Barb and Warren).

Warren comes here regularly doing a circuit over the training apparatus for dips and pull-ups etc. I joined him for a few half hearted efforts on the rings and to make a token start on some abdom work.

Although the park gets much disturbance from rampant dogs and their bellowing owners, the birds seem largely oblivious to this, and I have readily seen Firecrests and Serins here at certain times of the year. Today however the general flavour on entering the park was of noisy parrots and pigeons, and there was a distinct lack of small passerine activity, - no warblers at all for example, only around 30 Tree Sparrows, several White Wagtails, a few Spotless Starlings, a Robin, plus a group of Blackbirds making a racket sufficient to have me checking in case they were scolding an owl, - but no luck there. The best of the rest comprised a scatter of 4 Green Woodpeckers and a fly-over Hoopoe.

On the stroll back I found myself looking wistfully at TV aerials, with thoughts of Timperley next Sunday.......

Cheers,

Mike P.

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Hi Dave and John,

Thanks both for your input re Woodpecker treatment; - I lean towards just retaining it as a form of Green Woodpecker, regardless of latest thinking, - just curious really. I tend to be rather inconsistently conservative in my taxonomic opinions based on (outdated) 2005 Clements treatment. Basically, for the present, I still like the general concept of subspecies in the traditional sense, as I feel the evolutionary process (ie natural selection) driving divergence does not progress uniformly across all forms equally, but at differing rates and to varying extents. In short, the resulting theoretic line between a species and a subspecies will generally be blurred at any one time.

Its time I got back to the woods!

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Thats true John - As I use the IOC list and I live in Britain I was being a bit presumptuous!

It was agreed at the IOC congress in August to set up a working party to try and reach a consensus on a world list but how long that will take goodness only knows. 



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Dave Cropper wrote:

As the BOU now follow the IOC World list Mike, you can now indeed count Iberian Green Woodpecker as a full species. 





Not quite Dave,

Would be correct if an Iberian Green Woodpecker was ever seen in Britain/Ireland but in world birding terms it rather depends which taxonomy one follows. Many still use Clements, for instance, where Iberian Green Woodpecker is still a sub-species (for the moment at least).

Cheers John

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As the BOU now follow the IOC World list Mike, you can now indeed count Iberian Green Woodpecker as a full species. 



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Sunday Oct.14th 2018

Arrived here on 12th (with typically unfortunate timing in context of events in Timperley). Nevertheless we have two family birthdays to celebrate here, and the Timperley bird will just have to wait in line to make it onto my GM list.

After a late start this morning l hopped onto line 5 westbound on the Metro for the 15 minute ride to Casa de Campo on the western fringe of the city.

On arrival, there was a cool eye watering breeze with the northern mountains swathed in low cloud.

There was little to get excited about over the first hour, the best of a modest bunch being a sharpei Green Woodpecker, very common here of course, and differing from its UK congeners in different head pattern and slightly different vocalisations. Ive always treated it as a subspecies of our bird but as Im not on the ball as regards the latest splits, if any of you have a more recent taxonomic grasp I should appreciate an update please.

I was surprised to hear the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker in view of the date, so crept up to investigate. I located a female and close by a drumming male, with another bird somewhere well behind me giving the usual call, so 3 birds were obviously having some interaction.

Despite listening carefully I found no Firecrests or Crested Tits, both of which are regulars here, but was hearing Cettis Warblers spaced out at intervals along The valley bottom where a small mucky stream runs. I settled by a thick pine trunk to see if I could glimpse a particularly vocal Cettis some 40 feet away in dense bramble type cover. After some 20 mins the Cettis was winning hands down, seemingly at eye level able to travel sideways wearing an invisibility cloak- yes, I know, par for the course for these. I moved in very quietly to within 10 feet and still was unable to see even a rustle. (At other times I have noted them scurrying on the ground, but here any view of the muddy side to the streamlet was too restricted).

I decided to give up, but gave a few very low gentle squeaks prior to setting off for home. Immediately the Cettis started diving through the undergrowth as if it had suddenly undergone a personality change, popping up, calling, moving again calling again and finally perched up some 6 feet away at knee height on the brambles in full view-rather in the manner of a bold brazen Whitethroat. - Mike the winner on points!

Along the path some 100 yds along, A strongish single zit note alerted me to a flash of a Treecreeper as it shot off to a thick tree trunk and promptly vanished around the blind side. The birds here of course are all Short-toed and I always like to check them out visually to reinforce my mental picture; typically they always look dingy, longer billed and with less fore-supercilium than our UK birds and with louder lower calls. The finer points on the flight feathers are just about impossible to distinguish unless captured in a good photo or in the hand; - at least to me. I tried a couple of squeaks and obligingly the Short-toed broke cover and flew closer onto a nearby trunk- a decent view, so I strode off smiling to catch the train back to Urgel.

In summary, a steady couple of hours enlivened by a bit of fun at the end.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 

 

 

 



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-Been here all week and done no birding at all. Its actually rather nice to switch off and watch the football with a beer, go rowing on the lake in Parque del Retiro, or swimming with Anne in the outdoor baths. 

Its very sad to read about the moorland fires back in GM; - I wonder what the longer term damage might be?

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Wednesday, 28/03/18

A return visit to Casa de Campo still only produced a modest 25 species in a 90 minute session (10.30 to noon). 

I found no trace of either Crested Tits nor Short-toed Treecreepers, despite a marked improvement in the weather; perhaps I should get up earlier? They will doubtless be around,- I just havent put the time in.

Hoopoes were calling and chasing about and I settled down to watch one at close range as it foraged beside a sandy track some 20 feet away. I counted the black spots on top of its crest. Had someone asked me how many there were I shouldnt have known; - how well do we actually look at common birds, rather than just identify them and move on? -There were 4 black spots, so for what it is worth I know that some Hoopoes have 4 black spots here, but do they all?.....

I took a short cut through the pines towards the climb up to the metro station and heard a Firecrest, so sat down to coax it into view with some gentle squeaks. I find that trying to squeak in cold weather is almost impossible as my lips are too tight to hit the best pitch. Today however with nice warm weather it was easy to do properly and effectively and the Firecrest instantly broke cover and made its way towards me, almost landed on me and perched some 8 feet behind me for several seconds. Firecrests still take my breath away, and this one was so easily my highlight bird of the morning.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Monday 26/03/18.

Our 30 minute train journey south out of Atocha station was a prelude to a great day in Toledo. Below one of the old bridges over the river Tagus my first house martins of 2018 had already returned to their sizeable colony under one of the arches, this comprised about 50 nests in a traditional long established site.

We were not in birding mode however, as there is much to see and do in the architectural gem that is Toledo, and it was Annes first visit. The Tagus is of course Iberias longest river, and Anne enjoyed the tirolina, the gravity powered crossing high over the river hanging from a wire in a safety harness.

Cheers, Mike P.



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Friday 23/03/18

I took the 15 minute Metro ride from here (Urgel) to Casa de Campo to see what might be about on this my first visit of the year. 

The mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama to the north of the city were capped with snow, and these made a fitting backdrop to a passing White Stork. The highest peak, Peņalara, is marginally over 8000 ft and affords easy walking. As it turned out the birding over the next 90 minutes by way of contrast was somewhat underwhelming. I noted my first Blackcaps of the year, and heard a scatter of Cettis Warblers along a streamside walk of around a mile each way, but heard nothing of my main targets, Crested Tits and Short-toed Treecreepers.

Oddly, all the Sparrows here were House Sparrows, whereas in the other city parks they seem to be overwhelmingly Tree Sparrows.

On Monday we are heading off south to Toledo on the fast train (AVE) for a day out and a change of scene.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Wednesday, 21/03/18 - 10 am.

After the school run within my granddaughter, I strolled round to San Isidro park, only ten minutes walk from Warrens flat.

After yesterdays biting wind, a fresh breeze and clear blue skies had more birds singing, and I was encouraged to hear the first buzzy songs from the Serins, two females of which were foraging in the grass alongside a Green Woodpecker and a gang of Monk Parakeets.

I noted the first Chiffchaffs of the year both in the pines and flycatching by an ornamental pond, but all remained silent. Though they looked ok for our common species, I did harbour concern in case I should overlook an Iberian Chiffchaff. A White Wagtail was also flycatching at the waters edge.

My main target for the morning was Firecrest, so I settled against a tree trunk to listen, but Coal, Great, and Long-tailed Tits were all I noted before a park employee strode alongside with a large noisy lawnmower which did nothing to help my quest. Before too long however, on the very edge of audibility, I though I caught a hint of zit, zit, from the deep cover of the higher trees, so decided try a few squeaks to speed things along. About a dozen small birds and a Magpie zoomed in, and one even from below, surely had an eyestripe?

I backed off to get a better angle and to relieve an aching neck, and within a few seconds manage a nice view, - my first Firecrest of the year.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 



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We arrived back in Madrid last evening feeling liberated from shovelling snow, and the daily diet of Brexit and Novichok.

A walk in Parque Sur this morning (20th March) produced the first Swallows, flashing by and keeping low to the grass due to the biting wind and with temperature hovering at zero. In addition to a few more common species, a Hoopoe was calling and within seconds flew overhead, being pursued and harried by a persistent Tree Sparrow. A Spotless Starling and several Green Woodpeckers (sharpei) were about. The calls of the woodpecker here differ slightly from our British form, being to my ear, less ringing in quality.

All in all, a modest start to my birding here, and hopefully the weather will soon pick up, and some more migrants will appear. I aim to explore some new sites within the Madrid Comunidad using my travel pass rather more, (while I still qualify for it).

Cheers,

Mike

 



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Today we return home after enjoying a family Christmas with Warren and Anne (now aged 11), with birding very much sidelined, in part due to poor weather over the last week, and as I couldnt find room in our luggage for our bins, due to top priority given over to Barb bringing out Christmas cake and Christmas pudding and brandy sauce mix ( seemingly not obtainable in Madrid?)

Annes birding phase over recent years has for the present at least been superceded by fascination with modern dance, and I wont overface her with birds in the meantime. A future project may well be to visit the Prado (which Anne enjoys) and compile a list of as many bird species as we might find in many of the paintings there; for example a good start is to be had in The garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronimus Bosch (El Bosco), - one of the great works on show.

I accidentally did note both Black Redstart, and sharpei Green Woodpeckers, confiding as usual, in Parke Sur, and if it is at all possible, even greater numbers than ever of wretched Monk Parakeets bombing over all areas of the city. 

We are back at Easter and my Madrid Year list will effectively start then?

Regards,

Mike P.



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Another morning, another venue;- this time at Casa de Campo, the former royal hunting park of the Spanish kings which forms a sudden mass of forest to the west of the city just 15 mins on line 5 of the metro.

The first notable species I heard, then saw, within 10 mins of the start of my walk comprised a loose party of some 7/8 Crested Tits in the pine scrub,- always a welcome sight as it is many years since I last saw them in Scotland. A Short-toed Treecreeper (common here) promptly appeared, duller than its U.K. counterpart, longer billed and with its supercilium mainly obvious only behind the eye. I have never seen one in the U.K., and wonder,  having seen so many over a fair period in Madrid's parks, if I could have as much confidence with the i/d of a silent vagrant at say Dungeness?

Other significant year ticks were Green Woodpecker and a scatter of White Storks which here are all year residents,

Oddly, there was not a note from the usually common Cetti's Warblers.



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As we are now in 2017, I galvanised myself to emerged out of a warm bed (albeit after 9am) and had a stroll down by the Manzanares river, having borrowed my granddaughter's binoculars.

There was little of note in birding terms, only 17 species, the pick of which being a single Black Redstart, a Chiffchaff, one Little Egret, a couple of underwhelming Spotless Starlings and the ubiquitous Monk Parakeets. I did hear several yaffles from a Green Woodpecker (here the sharpei sub sp.) but failed to see it.

A group of 4 young ladies (who turned out to be visitors from Venezuela) stopped me to ask for directions regarding a good place to walk in the area. After setting them on a good interesting route to take in the Puente de Toledo, (about a km upstream), I explained that the binoculars which I was cupping closely in my gloved hands belonged to my young granddaughter;- these happen to be bright pink in colour, hence my need to explain, somewhat to their amusement.

Happy New Year to all.

Mike P.



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-Playing kickabout football with Anne and a couple of little mexican kids and their dad in Parque Sur on Sunday when Anne stopped playing, pointing skyward to a raptor with a forked tail, - a Black Kite, and our first for Madrid City. With no prompting from me she remarked on its odd tail, - pretty good for a 7 year old.

The kids beat the oldies 8-5.

Cheers,
Mike P.

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I noted the first Swifts of the year on 15th, screaming high overhead, preceding a thunderstorm which cut short our visit to the park with our 7 year old granddaughter Anne.

- Not done any birding thus far, the main highlight last night being Gareth Bale with his amazing 60 yard sprint culminating in a precision finish and solo winning goal to vanquish Barcelona in the prestigious Copa Del Rey final; a great night to be a Madrid fan.

It´ll take a bloody good bird to top that!!!!

In the meantime, I´m keeping a watchful eye on Manchester Birding....

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With better weather over the last few days I spent several hours this morning at Casa de Campo, sauntering about 6 miles along the creeks and woodland trails.

A noticeable feature was the unwelcome increase in the packs of feral cats which can hardly be of benefit to the bird population. The birding was rather steady but patience was the order of the day. My usual banker spots for Cetti´s Warblers produced none and the best of these was occupied by a couple of gross looking filthy cats.

I then heard a Cetti´s a good 100 metres away from it´s usual site (the one where the cats were), where I have managed to obtain "record shots" in the past.

I tracked the song bursts to a 20 x 30ft patch of dense bramble and crept quietly to within 30 ft, then stood dead still for 30 mins. I generally quite like to pit myself against the bird at each encounter with Cetti´s to see if I can see it, (I normally win, but by no means not every time).

They are normally easier to see in Phragmites by looking for movement of the reed stems, but this is harder in bramble. Either way, a Cetti´s is best searched for by a lone observer, when the option to "squeak" it out is more readily available, and often works straight away in the right setting.

This morning I decided just to wait quietly to see just how long and difficult it might be. The bird was giving typical song bursts but then repeating the final "PENT" several times, and on one rendering repeating the final note 8 times, (which I have never heard before), and also a very subdued low key version of song, before reverting back to its typical burst. 

It was a typical impressive performance that the bird sang from different sections of bramble without the slightest movement of vegetation, and I suspect it was moving either on the ground below deep cover or very nearly on the ground. I finally spotted it in deep cover from scanning low down over the area of its latest vocalisation;-a lousy view, back on, but unmistakable in that its tail was typically held high, waying laterally (as if top heavy).

Pleased to have won my game, my attention was drawn to a couple of short monotone notes high above, and glassing almost vertically I noted the rather dowdy brown tones of a Short-toed Treecreeper, another bird I like to test myself on, - (no identification problem here as its the only certhia present). The Madrid birds seem always to be short in the supercilium and really unmistakeably duller browner beasts and the call is stronger and not as high pitched as that of its UK cousin.

I´ve never seen "Short-toed" in Britain as I ve never fancied the arduous twitch from Durham to Dungeness,-( in fact I´d prefer a short term prison sentence if given the choice).

best Wishes,

Mike P. 

 



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After some 3 months of birding inactivity on my part, interest was rekindled on 31st August by a noticeable influx of Pied Flycatchers in Parque Sur (probably into 3 figures), with a single Melodious Warbler to add spice, -both Madrid local patch ticks.
Temperatures are a little more bearable now after the early August peak of 42 degrees.

Regards,
Mike P.

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This forum is dedicated to the memory of Eva Janice McKerchar.