Monday, 26 January 2015

Three early summer migrants

Shoot me if you dare Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus
Sunday 25 January

Up at 5 o'clock to get my brother-in-law to the airport and with the forecast set fine for the day what better excuse than to carry on down to La Janda for a day's birding.  Duty one by 7 so round the corner to the nearby Plaza Mayor where I collected friends Derek Etherton and Mari de la Torre and we set off westwards in dark and windy conditions arriving at La Janda by 9.15 where we were greeted by clear blue skies and full sunshine but the temperature had dropped from an original 9 to zero degrees!  Not to worry, the birds made up for the chill and the temperature soon started to warm leaving us shedding various outer garments.  By the end of the day, arriving back in Malaga, once again in the dark, we had recorded 68 species including eight raptors and thirteen waders but, best of all, four early summer migrants (if you include Barn Swallow), Black Kite and with Northern Wheatear and Rufous Bushchat vying for "Bird of the day" along with Black-shouldered Kite.

One of many Lapwing  Avefria Europea Vanallus vanenllus to be seen
With a female ("Ring-tailed") hen harrier our first bird of the day you always had the feeling that we would be on to something special in the coming hours.  A small number of early-feeding cattle Egrets int he bovines as we passed through "windmill land" and then the usual stop after the bend at the top of the track leading down to the canal having arrived at La Janda proper.  No shortage here of Corn Buntings and Stonechats and soon we were adding Serins, Goldfinches and even a male Blackcap along with both a couple of Greenfinches and a  Black Redstart.  The first of many Red-legged Partridges had also been seen just before leaving the main road as had a couple of Cormorants but more of both were to follow during the morning.  Before reaching the canal we had our first Kestrel and there were to be many more; all Common rather than a site of an over-wintering Lesser Kestrel.  Also in the damp and sometimes very wet fields neighbouring the canal, we observed a good number of feeding Lapwings.

Record shot of the distant, solitary Black Stork Ciguena Negra Ciconia nigra

Once at the canal time to stop and scan the area where, in addition to good numbers of White WagtailsLittle Egrets and Grey Herons, we found a solitary Black Stork and the first of a trio of Great White Egrets.  The occasional Zitting Cisticola in the canal-side reeds and a calling Cetti's Warblers before the first of the Kingfishers flashed by.  Crested Larks on the flooded fields and both Moorhens and a pair of Mallards on the water rapidly added to the growing species list.  Then time to actually find the large Crane flock that we had heard for the previous five minutes or so and yet more Lapwings plus a small number of Spotless Starlings and the first of the many Jackdaws.  A Black-headed Gull drifted over and a short distance down the track on a large wet area we came across a small number of Yellow-legged Gulls in the company of eleven resting Spoonbills.

Not so much "Sleepy Lagoon" as sleep Spoonbills Espatua Comun Platalea leucorodia
Some considerable time was spent checking one area before the small overbridge to try and relocate the Rufous Bushchat seen by Derek.  The bird crossed the track from the reeds near the canal then briefly rose out of the grasses before disappearing again and for the last time.  But it was in view long enough to see the red back end and the diagnostic facial markings for Derek whereas, for me, I only managed the last sighting as it disappeared from view.  Surely the "bird of the day?"

Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba
Travelling on down towards the bridge on the right we had regular sighting of the above members of the heron family along with more Serins and Goldfinches plus the addition of numerous Chiffchaff and Kestrels.  But no other raptors and no Spanish Sparrows on this occasion until almost at the bridge when we recorded our first Marsh Harrier. Near this point we also found a handful of Linnets and the single Purple Swamphen that made the briefest of appearances as it crossed the canal.  Also seen in the flooded ploughed fields near the bridge a single Snipe up and then disappeared beneath the stubble.

Distant view of a male Linnet Pardillo Comun Carduelis cannabina

The drive up through the "avenue" towards the "smelly farm" produced a Great Tit and huge charms of Goldfinches, there must have been literally hundreds.  A few more Red-legged Partridges then a single Pheasant as we approached and passed the farm.  Checking the bushes on the right just after the farm we had a single Dartford Warbler and two Black Kites overhead.  A lot of Jackdaws in this area along with both Rock and Collared Doves plus a couple of Wood Pigeons.  Nothing else until we started the return journey back to the bridge when we picked up a trio of soaring Buzzards, another resting on a very small bush to our immediate left and then an immature Golden Eagle.

A Common Buzzard  Basardo Ratonero Buteo buteo at rest and at work
It seemed that every birder we met along the route from start to finish had found a Black-shouldered Kite but not us, even though all had described the area in which the bird had been seen and photographed.  Turning right at the bridge towards the main road we picked up more White Storks and Little Egrets and even another Great White Egret but no Glossy Ibis or the sort-after kite.  Then well beyond the expected location, we found our quarry as an individual took off form a pylon with its iconic V-winged silhouette and landed on a further pylon.  Trying to reach and pass the bird so that we would have the sun at least to the side if not behind us, the Black-shouldered Kite was joined by a second individual; a true pair.  What a way to end our La Janda visit.  Just as we had started with a Hen Harrier so we finished with a beautiful Black-winged Kite.

Distant views of Black-shouldered Kite Elanio Comun Elanus caeruleus

What to do next; obviously a quick trip down to the local golf course to find one of the Bald Ibis that reside in the vicinity.  Chaffinches and more Wood Pigeons as we entered the trees and then, a very pleasant surprise, a Green Woodpecker.  More Cattle Egrets but no Bald Ibis so off towards Barbate for a coffee and tapas before checking the river and ponds along with the grassy area often associated with these ugly ibis.

The ugly Bald Ibis Ibis Eremita Geronticus eremita found at Barbate
The tide was well out as we crossed the causeway but looking inland we soon found a number of waders along with, potientially, one of the day's special sightings.  At east five Grey Plovers along with both Redshank and Greenshank and a number of Ringed and Kentish Plovers before finding the single Oystercatcher and a couple of Dunlin.  Similarly, along with the few Yellow-legged Gulls we also found a resting Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Checking the grassy area immediately in front of me I suddently had a trio of Northern Wheatear "jump" up into the neighbouring bush not five metres away; wow!

Driving towards the track leading to the waters at the rear of the road I happened to notice three Bald Ibis feeding in a paddock on the left.  So, along the back track for a closer (and safer!) look at the birds where we actually found four individuals before they took flight.  Then it was on to the flooded pits where we found a score or more of Black-winged Stilts along with at least 150 Dunlin, all in best winter uniforms.  More Redshank and Greenshank along with a good number of Spoonbills and Little Egrets before realising that most of the resting gulls in front of us were actually Audouin's Gulls!  To our right on the track and neighbouring grass we not only had Crested Larks and Meadow Pipits but a single Lesser Short-toed Lark.  Finally, a last detailed study of the Dunlin flock also found a solitary Curlew Sandpiper in their midst.

White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia over La Janda
Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Bald Ibis, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Black Stork, White Stork, Spoonbill, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Marsh harrier, Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle, Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Crane, Oystercatcher, Back-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Rufous Bushchat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Cetti's warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chafinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Lovely to see so many early Orchids

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

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