Friday, 16 January 2015

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Female Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus
Thursday 15 January

The first field visit for 2015 of the Axarquia Bird Group was at the Guadalhorce reserve in Malaga and with a super attendance of twenty-two members in glorious, sunny weather - if a little on the chilly side when we first arrived.  Great to see many regular supporters plus "old" friends from as far away as Almeria and Sevilla plus Ceri,  presently staying in Nerja.  In addition, also lovely to welcome a new member, Mari de la Torre from Malaga, who is presently studying in Granada to become an accredited wildlife guide.

Quite a few minutes were spent at the top of the entrance track to the site as we recorded Blackbirds, Black Redstarts, Stonechat and Robin as the group gathered.  Monk Parakeets made a short fly-by along with Collared Doves and, above us, there was a continuous movement in and away from the Laguna Grande by the wintering Cormorants.  White Wagtails, there were plenty on show this morning, were on the road below, the track and on just about every area of the reserve.  The same could also be said of the Chiffchaffs and what a winter it has been for this little Phylloscopus warbler, perhaps more seen than in many, many past winters.

Only a couple of the resident Rock Doves below the motorway bridge as we made our way towards the eastern canal and the Laguna Casillas but there were  many Coots to be seen.  No sooner there than we were presented with White-headed Ducks, Shoveler and Teal along with Little Grebe and the first Heron of the day.  Chiffchaffs and Sardinian Warblers below us which led to the discovery of the first Snipe and then a Little Egret made a rapid exit to the neighbouring water.  Meanwhile, We had a Marsh Harrier quartering behind us towards the sports stadium and then a female Kestrel came to visit us, posing very obligingly on the top of a relatively nearby tree.

Female Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus
Moving on to the Wader Pool we were greeted by a trio of Black-winged Stilts, which became five when the birds moved along to the old river, and a pair of Little Ringed Plovers.  A Kingfisher darted down the water then back to pose, first on the old hidden hide below then on a distant tree.  A single heron was at the back of the water and the Little Egret remained for a few more minutes before moving off.  Hidden behind the far island were four Greenshank, the same birds and place where seen last Monday and, once again, we found the Snipe.  Great fun watching a preening Meadow Pipit below us but even more exciting when we found the second Bluethroat of the morning; some searching in the grass but, I think, most if not all managed to see the bird.  naturally there were both Chiffchaffs and House Sparrows present.

Distant shot of Kingfisher Martin Pescador Alcedo atthis

Walking towards the beach we had Crag Martins above us and, again, (I think) the same female Kestrel keeping an eye on us.  Both Blackcaps and a Robin in the bush below and a number of Crested Larks and Meadow Pipits on the open ground to the left.  The large overflying gull flock was mainly Black-headed and Yellow-legged but also included at least two juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Indeed, at this point a few of the group spotted a tern above the canal but were unable to get a positive identity.  On the old river, Rio Viejo, to the right a pair of  Flamingos and both a Common and Green Sandpiper.  A couple of Kentish Plovers were also seen and, nearer the beach, a single Hoopoe.  Cetti's Warblers were calling and seen along with the first Goldfinches of the morning.

Very little on the calm sea other than a single Black-necked Grebe so the majority took to the beach to walk to the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande.  Another four Kentish Plovers were seen along with our "tame" female Kestrel now sitting on the fence and looking very damp as if she had recently bathed, whether by accident or design.  before reaching the Laguna Grande we recorded our first Zitting Cisticola and a small mixed flock of Goldfinches and Serins.  On the water itself were very few birds, just the odd Little Grebe and a pair of Mallards.  However, scattered all around the edges and trees were over an hundred resting Cormorants and a single Grey Heron.  Similarly, good numbers of Spotless Starlings and the lone Booted Eagle resting in his usual tree well camouflaged from prying eyes as it tried to get the proverbial forty winks.

Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus at rest and in the air

leaving the hide to make our way round to the Laguna Escondida we had more Blackbirds and the sight of the Booted Eagle in the air.  Both Meadow Pipit and Crested Larks were on the move and once at the hide we also had a good sighting of a Zitting Cisticola behind us. On the water, more Little Grebes along with Coots and Moorhens and both Mallards and White-headed Ducks. The main excitement came when an Osprey was seen behind us approaching the roosting Cormorants in the trees at the back of the Laguna Grande.  Too quick for anyone to grab a photograph but the bird landed at the back of the Cormorants and could just be made out by use of scopes,  In the bushes on the field to the front left of the hide we had a large mixed flock of mainly Linnets along with more Serins and Goldfinches.

Bluethroat Ruisenor Pechiazul Luscinia svecica (PHOTO: Arthur Oliver)

Then we were joined by David and Ann Jefferson along with Arthur Oliver who had decided to return from the beach by same outward journey for a further look at both the Wader Pool and Laguna Casillas.  And very well rewarded, too, they were managing to see, and only them, the small party of Penduline Tits feeding next to the Bluethroat.  What a lucky and privileged trio!

Penduline Tit Pajaro Moscon Remiz pendulinus (PHOTO: Arthur Oliver)

And that was just about the end of the  morning.  Gerry Collins and a few others managed to see the only Cattle Egret as it flew over the reserve and most of us had a good look at the Greenfinch as we approached the footbridge.  Once over the water, we, again, had another Kestrel but this time a male by way of a change.  Goodbyes exchanged most made their respective ways home whilst ten of us retired for a Menu del Dia in nearby San Julian.

Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis

But the story does not end here.  Derek and Barbara Etherton along with Linda Roberts were returning home via Zapata and wanted to take a look at the Guadalhorce behind the northern perimeter of the airfield.  Thank goodness I took up the invitation to join them at this very pleasant little site where the river is shallow, fast running with a number of small, grassy islands.  In addition to seeing more Cormorant, Cattle and Little Egrets, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Coot, Common and Green Sandpiper, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, many White Wagtails, Stonechat, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Serin and Goldfinch we were also able to add both Ringed Plover and Grey Wagtail to the day's tally.  And then, time to depart and our very last bird of the day.  Flying low over the water a single feeding Barn Swallow, our first of 2015.  Does this mean that summer has arrived, although judging by recent temperature it seems not to have departed from last year!

Birds seen:
Mallard, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Snipe, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Back-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Penduline Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Linnet.  PLUS: Ringed Plover, barn Swallow and Grey Wagtail.

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

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