Saturday, 1 June 2013

John and Jenny at the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar

Friday 31 May

"Very interesting!" as the little man used to say on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in" back in the way distant past, probably late 1960s.  Even Goldy Hawn was a very young scatter-brain back then; mind you, forty years on her condition is still probably the same!   Anyway, having found a Roller at the Guadalhorce yesterday I thought that it was perhaps just an odd late bird passing through.  Considering we saw ours as late as 12.30 it may be too much of a coincidence to assume that the same bird had travelled up the coast to the mouth of the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar in time to be seen and photographed by John and Jenny Wainwright on their visit to my local patch.  If not the same bird, does this mean tat we are actually experiencing a late movement of these lovely birds and, if so, will there be any to see when I get to Extremadura next week?  I certainly hope that there will be a good number in residence to greet us.

Here follows John's report plus the sightings made at the follow-on site at the Alcaucin picnic area as the couple made there way back home to Salar via the Sierra Tejeda.  Compared with my visit to the river a couple of days earlier there was obviously much more about so, presumably, the drop in wind may have helped reveal more activity.


Velez-Malaga 31st May 2013

A very warm day with a light breeze.  As we drove in the direction of Alhama de Granada we saw Bee-eaters, seven Lesser Kestrels, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Azure-winged Magpies and Woodchat Shrike.

One of many Spotted Flycatchers Papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata to be seen at the Rio Velez
After we had been to Velez-Malaga to sort some things out, we headed for Torre del Mar and the Rio Velez.  We parked just away from the road bridge and looked over the river where we saw Redshank, Spotted Flycatcher, Nightingale, Moorhen, Cetti´s Warbler and Wood Pigeon.  Also along the river we saw Barn Swallows, Red-rumped Swallows, House Martins, more Spotted Flycatchers, Ringed and Little ringed Plovers, Grey Heron, Herring Gulls, Little Stints, Goldfinches, Monk Parakeets, Common Swifts, Spotless Starlings, Grey Wagtails, Greenfinches, House Sparrows, Black-winged Stilts, Reed Warblers, Zitting Cisticola, a lone Kentish Plover, three Hoopoes, White Wagtails, Serins and as we drove back down the track to leave the area a Roller flew onto the power lines - stayed long enough for a few photos - then flew off in the direction of Malaga.

A freshly-arrived Roller Carraca Europea Coracias garrulus - from the Guadalhorce in Malaga?
Leaving Tore del Mar, we then turned off at Alcucin and the mountain track through the Tejadas.
Our first bird as we hit the dirt track was a beautiful Booted Eagle patrolling the edge of the forest, but he turned off and headed for Vinuela.  Also here we saw Serins, Crested Tits, Blackbird, Short-toed Treecreepers, Chaffinches and a Green Woodpecker.

At the first picnic site we found Grey Wagtails, Blackcap, Short-toed Treecreeper, Great Tits and Spotless Starlings.   Onto the Protection Civil area where we saw Crossbills, Coal Tit, Chaffinches, Jay, Mistle Thrush and a very strange looking albino Blackbird.

Melanistic Blackbird Mirlo Comun Turdus merula with apparent red eyes suggesting an albino.

As we proceeded to the La Alca├║ca picnic site we could here the Golden Orioles in the valley - the only birds we saw here was a Short-toed Treecreeper.  The rest of the journey to the main Zafaraya road yielded Cuckoo, Melodious Warbler, Great Tits, Sardinian Warbler, Wren, Corn Bunting, two Subalpine Warblers, Common Magpie, Stonechat, Nuthatch, Crested Lark, Woodchat Shrike and a Jay.

Western Marbled White Melanargia occitanica butterfly
 
Lots of butterflies here including Small White, Provence Orange Tip (formerly Moroccan), Knapweed Fritillary, Cleopatras, Painted Lady, Spanish Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Western Marbled White and Common Blue.  Also a very wonderful looking Assassin Bug_Rhinocoris iracundus.


Assassin Bug  Rhinocoris iracundus
 All photographs by John and Jenny Wainwright


A wonderful report full of great birds.  The "albino" Blackbird is interesting as there should be no pigment, an all white bird.  There are many occurrences of birds, especially Blackbirds, bearing a varying degree of white feathers and often giving a "pied" appearance.  However, these birds usually have normal coloured eyes whereas the picture John has taken certainly seems to suggest that this a red-eyed bird which, I imagine, would make it an albino.  Birds with "normal" coloured eyes are known as leucistic, a genetic mutation that prevents pigments from being deposited normally in its feathers.  Sometimes these birds are also referred to as partial albinism.

A true albino has no colour pigment at all; it appears completely white and with red eyes.  This condition can appear in all animals including humans.

It just seems so strange.  Come back in ten years time and we will find a whole flock of white-marked Blackbirds!

Plumage description:

  • Leucism is often confused with the rarer condition albinism, a genetic condition that prevents the production of melanin in the body; in leucism, these colouring chemicals are present in the body, but are not deposited in feathers
  • Some colours in birds' plumage come from other pigments such as carotenoids, so birds can be albinistic and still have some colour
  • Leucistic birds may be completely white and still have melanin in their bodies; such animals will have dark eyes and white feathers
  • Albino birds and animals also have pink eyes, as the only colour in the eyes comes from the blood vessels behind the eyes
Here endeth the science lesson for today!





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