Madrid Redux

Justine and Sylvia
Justine and Sylvia

First stop on my way to Lima. It has to be there or Amsterdam and the Spanish capital has birding form (hawfinches, spotless starlings, Casa de Campo and El Pardo). This time I elected for a hotel near the airport on the grounds that it was a short taxi hop after a late flight.

Big logical flaw. Every cab away from Barajas carries a surcharge of 30 euros.

30 euros. That’s over £20.

Savour that thought and wonder why anyone falls for it twice. Maybe sufficient mugs pass through just the once to make the scam worthwhile. More than that, my driver had no clue where the Axor Feria was and dumped me outside a block of serviced apartments. Only after wandering up and down a bleak street did I find my hotel.

OK, I’ll dwell no further on Madrileño taxis.

What about the birds this time? Spotless starlings were still obvious, even from my hotel window the next morning, and venturing into the forecourt brought me a wholly unexpected pied flycatcher. I had to double-check it but needn’t have bothered because the whole town was dripping with them. They were the avian highlight of the weekend, Saturday of which was given over to social affairs as my lady friends, Justine and Sylvia, and my brother – all down from Edinburgh – were also passing through.

El Capricho was the metro station closest to my hotel and it took some finding as motorways carve up that northwest corner of Madrid and make walking near impossible. Hence the need for a taxi from the airport – oops, sorry, I promised I wouldn’t mention that again! Anyway all us Brits managed to coordinate enough to meet at a bar right by Plaza de España station, where euros somehow got converted into beers, gin and tapas. Then I had to get back to my remote quarter but a couple of decent bars on the way eased the journey.

For the Sunday £3.81 on Expedia had secured me a nearby hire car but this time the pedestrian unfriendliness of the locality defeated me. Not only that but my search was getting me deeper and deeper into an industrial wasteland complete with barking dogs and I don’t do either of those well. Discretion seemed the better part of valour and I spent the rest of the day dodging showers at Parque El Capricho and Juan Carlos I, which I’d worked a decade previously. It didn’t disappoint this time either with tree sparrows, a serin, Iberian green woodpecker, Sardinian warbler and the year’s sole spotted flycatcher, although no lifers.

Whinchats, Chipping Sodbury

Having walked half the perimeter of this Common in South Gloucestershire, I was getting a bit desperate. Reports lately have included whinchat, redstart and tree pipit, all of which my 2015 list is missing. It’s been a busy year at work!

So, I was nearing the site of 2011’s woodchat shrike and realised that’s where I should have begun. It’s rough grass dotted with shrubs and bordered by trees. Indeed a bird confirmed this by perching on a sapling; although I didn’t get on to it quickly enough, I followed its flight away and found the year’s first Continue reading

That Was the Month That Was

Major life disruptions the past few weeks have kept this blog quiet. Lesser of these have been business trips to Milton Keynes, which have netted regular red kite sightings and bizarrely crossbills over the Stacey Bushes trading estate north of the town.

Then, I’m on the move again – this time back to North Somerset and Clevedon. I’ve had it with sharing for a while, so I’m forking out for Continue reading

The Drought Bird

Steven's Creek
Steven’s Creek in Cupertino © Gordon Shukwit

Being unable to identify California species didn’t stop me from having a stab, with embarrassing results sometimes. After a visit to Stevens Creek on April 26th, 2001 I posted:

“Near the start of the Lookout Trail this evening a very rich song came from within a tree. I can’t begin to describe it but it was way beyond anything I was expecting. I couldn’t trace the bird and then the song stopped. On starting to walk past, I noticed Continue reading

Southern Grey Shrike, Tenerife

Teide from El Fraile
Teide from El Fraile

In preparing for my Peru trip, I’ve discovered another lifer to take me up to 1,091, but not the American species you might think. It turns out that the shrike I saw at El Fraile in the Canary Islands was not great grey (Lanius excubitor) as my Collins suggested but at the very least L. meridionalis.

I say this because there’s doubt about whether the species is even this Iberian version of our northern bird. Some would split the complex further into Continue reading