Wednesday 12 December 2012

Where's the Rio Velez?

Now back at Casa Collado and decided that I ought to take a look at the local birding patch so took myself off down to the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar for the morning.  Morning?  An hour would have been plenty of time.  

The new extended lagoon with side arms at the Rio Velez, Torre del Mar
On arrival at the coast end of the site, having been warned that here was a large muddy pool under the bridge, I parked up and set off for the beach with the intention of walking a reverse course to that normally taken.  Reaching the mouth of the river I soon discovered what had been going on over the past three weeks since the torrential rain that we received just before my departure to the UK.  The track had received a delivery of mud, sand and goodness know else and was now about a foot higher than previous.  The large side walls protecting the meadow were now hardly bigger than humps at the side.  At first I assumed that the walls had been washed away but on closer inspection I saw, s above, that rather than the walls being lower the path was higher!  The sea had surged in and reached the old concrete build and has now carved out a metre deep cliff in front of the concrete wall.

Looking upstream towards the N340 road bridge

As for the lagoon, what lagoon?  The water coming downstream and has both washed away and scoured the banks on either side so removing all the bushes and wild shrubs from the meadow.  At the same time, having reached the town-side bank, all the vegetation has been torn out along with much of the bamboo cover.  Where once there was a meandering stream that increased in width during the rainy months, there is now a full-flowing river albeit the water has now receded slightly.  At its peak the water must have been form bank to bank, approaching an hundred metres down stream, so leaving no shingle banks for the small waders and no vegetation for the many warblers and Nightingales when they return next spring.
The newly-created island in the former lagoon

As for the actual mouth of the river, we are used to a range of self-made channels that link the river to the sea but there is now one almighty wide river mouth.  Indeed, the silt brought down by the Rio Velez has created parallel spits on either side which seem to stretch out into the sea for about fifty or more metres.  They must be solid as fishermen were already making use of this natural pier.  And looking closely, I would think that the gap between the end of the two spits is shallow enough to walk across the short distance as they curve in towards each other; but it might be a little on the chilly side at this time of the year.
An overall view showing the wider lagoon

So what of the birds?  I was greeted by a pair of Chiffchaffs and soon added both White Wagtail and Crested Lark.  On the whole, tough, there was very little about apart from the large mixed flock of Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls on the river and I did manage to count three Moorhens and a single Grey Heron as I walked upstream.  The return walk back down the track produced a number of Goldfinches and Serins plus the delight of the morning, a small flock of about a dozen plus Sky Larks.  A few noisy Monk Parakeets passed overhead and, as to be expected, the resident Rock Dove colony had survived the rains.
 Black-headed Gaviota Reidora Larus ridibundus and Yellow-legged Gulls Gaviota Patiamarilla Larus michahellis

The occasional Blackbird flew over the river and I did see a pair of Robins disputing the available territory.  The growing fields produced Stonechat, Black Redstart and Greenfinch along with a few House Sparrows and, as well as the Moorhens, three Mallards seemed to be happy with the new water arrangements.

A final total of a miserly twenty species was supplemented by the sight of Kestrel, Little Egret and some low-flying Crag Martins along with a number of Spotless Starlings.  Finally, a Blue Rock Thrush and a small party of Chaffinches on the mountain meant that I returned home having recorded 25 species for the morning.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Egret, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Skylark, White Wagtail, Crag Martin, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.  

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