Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce

Wednesday 17 September

Out of the house and accompanied by Thekla larks and Goldfinches as I made my way down the mountain to collect Ton and Rian van Dijck, visiting birders from Holland staying in nearby Alcaucin, and on to the Guadlahorce in Malga for the first field visit of the new birding year for the Axarquia Bird Group.  Reasonable weather on the way down but Malaga was calm and somewhat cloudy with some heavy black accumulations in the distance.  All held well until about midday when we thought we heard a few spots of the wet stuff and had no sooner commenced our walk from the Wader Pool to the Sea watch when the heavens opened for the first of two heavy drizzles, to bring a fresh smell to the nose whilst, at the same time, rinsing our clothing and equipment!  But I digress.  There was a splendid turn out of members finally totalling 22 and including Arthur Oliver and Gordon Barratt from far away Almeria, the Salobrena group comprising Gerry Collins, Louise Gray and Audrey Bates, Lesley Laver from Nerja, Steve and Elena Powell for Frigiliana, Bryan Stapley and Marcus Rootes from the hills of Competa, relatively local to the venue Ian Kirk from Arroya del Miel, John and Jenny Wainwright from Salar, Howard Slade and Jurgen Breuer from Almarche across the valley from me above Lake Vinuela and a very pleasant surprise to s Ian Templeton back from Britain for a short stay in Frigiliana and, of course, not forgetting the most welcome return of David and Ann Jefferson.  A great morning's birding which resulted in a final tally of  60 species.

At least ten juvenile, but no adult, Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus present at the Guadalhorce
We were greeting with hordes of screaming and demented Monk Parakeets along with a Heron that seemed to have been frozen stiff in its tree rest.  Many saw the small number of Black-headed Weavers that have been around for the past week or so and, naturally, there was still a number of House Martins feeding in the air above us.  From our elevated vantage point we could see the first of the Cormorants resting above the Laguna Grande and there appeared to be a constant, if small in number, stream of Herons moving onto the site.

Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinrea
From here it was over the footbridge with views of Spotless Starlings, Rock Doves, Coots and Moorhens on the river and bridge below before we finally made the first hide overlooking the Laguna Casillas.  Apart from the occasional Coot and family of Little Grebes we also had a family of White-headed Ducks and a single Common Pochard, albeit by the time we returned the Pochard numbers had somewhat increased.  A Collared Dove flew over and a Sardinian Warbler put in an appearance behind us.  then came the first of many Kingfisher sighting as a flash of blue shot down the water and then cam e to rest not far below us.  The best sight, however, was when Elena found the Little Bittern that gave good views before flying off to the Wader Pool giving even better views to those still present.  Leaving, we were much delayed as we enjoyed watching a family of Red-rumped Swallows immediately below and around us.

Lovely to watch the Red-rumped Swallow Golondrina Daurica Hirundo daurica chicks being fed by parents

Arriving at the Wader Pool we had already seen our first juvenile Flamingo and we were to find another.  Indeed, I believe our total for the morning, all juveniles, was ten individuals.  In front of us we had a quintet of Curlew Sandpipers and a single Greenshank.  Also resent were a few Little Ringed Plovers, most of which seemed to be this year's juveniles.  Not too many Black-winged Stilts and just the two Little Egrets.  Similarly, a pair of Snipe were picked out on the far bank with the help of John's scope.  meanwhile, below us, we had a foraging Reed Warbler and both Barn Swallows and House Martins above.  More Kingfisher sightings.  Checking the large trees in the background we picked out not one but two Booted Eagles.  Whilst I was watching a Greenfinch fly past the hide others were recording both Serins and Goldfinches.  Whilst others moved on towards the sea, those remaining saw the lone Teal drift into view on the water below and the arrival of the first Common Sandpiper of the morning.

One of two Booted Eagles Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
A rather lengthy stop at the Rio Viejo (Old River) as we tried to identify the stationary eight Sanderlings and the three Turnstones descended onto a small island and immediately brought our attention to the Kentish Plover standing next to them.  A Green Sandpiper departed eastwards with a great flash of white to be replaced by a Sand Martin travelling in the opposite direction.  Similarly, a couple of Crested Larks were active to our left and then, for me, the bird of the day.  Having just watched a single Mediterranean Gull over the eastern channel and a single Little/Whiskered (?) Tern above it and then dropping to fish in the water, Ian Templeton had a small, nondescript bird in the bush below.  Very difficult to find as all we could see were the occasional movements of the branches as the bird moved around in the interior gorging itself on the mass of red berries.  Ian thought Garden Warbler and then, at last, a clear view as the bird paused in an opening.  The first Garden Warbler in about four years for me and John remarked that it was his first in Spain.  And whilst we were watching our Garden Warbler, Marcus and a couple of others were doing the same with a Whitetroat. Now here is a bird that seems to be in plentiful supply at the moment.  Finally, our attention was drawn to the first Redshank of the morning.

Having reached the furthest point from cover at the Sea Watch to check out the water and confirm mainly Lesser Black-back Gulls and a few Black-headed Gulls, the heavy shower of very thin drizzle caught us on our return o the Wader Pool hide.  It certainly brought the hirundines down and so revealed a couple of Common Swifts.  The Garden Warbler was till active in the same bush but we also had a Sardinian Warbler make a hurried exit and away.  Whilst a few of us continued the return journey to visit both hides, others took the beach to complete the circuit and managed to come across a Woodchat Shrike.  More Flamingos at the Wader Pool along with a lone Ringed Plover plus another Redshank and Little Egret.  Even a pair of Mallards.

Ringed (AZYY) Audouin's Gull Gaviota de Audouin Larus audounii
Nothing to add at the Casillas hide other than the increase in Pochard numbers so it was on to the Laguna Escondida.  mainly Moorhens and more White-headed Ducks here along with Little Grebes and Coots.  However, there was a pair of Gadwall at the far end.

Plenty of White-headed Ducks Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala to be seen
And so we finally came to the Laguna Grande where we, too, saw the lone Avocet as it delicately fed below us with a ringed Audouin's Gull (AZYY) watching on.  A large number of resting Yellow-legged Gulls with an immature Audouin's Gull  but also a quartet of Oystercatchers.  John eventually counted 37 Grey Herons on this laguna along with half a dozen Cormorants.  Before leaving at the end of the session we were also able to add a single Dunlin with a very strange, crooked beak and also had the delight to welcome a trio of Spoonbills, one carrying an assortment of coloured rings on both legs.  At the back of the water two Shovelers hove into view and the previous group also managed to find a Spanish Sparrow.

It looks like mother Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia looks after junior whilst dad takes a well-earned rest!
Returning to our cars we finally manged to find a Blackbird and having had one had soon recorded another four.   Then, as we were approached by four horsed and young foal, a a Cattle Egret flew in to take up its position on the rear end of one of the mature horses.  The last bird was a calling Cetti's Warbler from the reed below as we walked away from the footbridge.  One short of sixty for the day as we ate our Menu del Dia in San Julian when we looked up to find a Common Kestrel in the sky above.  A perfect ending to a most enjoyable visit in very good company.  On the other hand, the moment this is published somebody will tell me of the bird(s) I missed!

Avocet Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta
No sooner had I saved and closed the above, gone downstairs from the studio and then re-checked my email than I received a report from John and Jenny Wainwright outlining their observations of the day.  John and Jenny were first to arrive at the Guadalhorce and remained behind a little longer after the rest of us had either departed for home or to San Julian to take advantage of a Menu del Dia.   His email confirmed my suspicion that somebody was bound to have seen something else!

Interesting to find a quartet of Oystercatchers Ostrero Euroasiatico Haematopus ostralegus

After we left a further two Spoonbills made their presence known on the Laguna Grande taking the total to five with just the one ringed individual but, as shown below, also picked up a few other species.  Extracts from John's report includes the following:

As we progressed along the track Jenny spotted a Turtle Dove and I a Sardinian Warbler. Cetti´s Warblers were in good voice here today, although I only saw one. A Grey Heron sat on a bare tree on the opposite bank along with two Collared Doves. 

Cattle (Horse?) Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
In the distance a Booted Eagle sat in one of the tall bare trees, just below two Jackdaws and to their right a Cormorant flew in. Also about in the area of the reed beds to our front we saw Chiffchaff, House Sparrows, more Sardinian Warblers and Goldfinches.
And then there were five Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Into the reserve and towards the first hide we spotted a Zitting Cisticola, Blackbird, Crested Lark and a call from Steve gave me my first Banded Groundling (Brachythemis leucosticta) dragonfly though sadly no photo.  (But both Gerry and I managed to get a shot.)

Banded Groundling Brachythemis leucosticte (PHOTO: Gerry Collins)

So, it would seem, a new final total of 64 species.

Juvenile Dunlin Correlimos Comun Calidris alpina

Birds seen (updated):
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Back-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Little or Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler,Sardinian Warbler, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Black-headed Weaver.

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

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