Thursday, 26 March 2015

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Thursday 26 March

A mixture of cloud and blue skies as I set on a windy trip down to the Guadalhorce "ponds" this morning and, upon arrival, could feel the strength of the wind albeit less than yesterday. leaving the car at the primary school i soon encountered both Blackbird and House Sparrows as I made my way to the track leading up the river bank.  All here was remarkably quiet with not a bird to be seen until I crossed the footbridge when I found a single Rock Dove under the motorway bridge.  No point in stopping so carried on to the eastern arm and the hide overlooking Laguna Casillas.  As I approached the eastern arm I watched an Osprey work its way upstream against the prevailing wind and a couple of Sardinian Warblers presented themselves to my left followed by a wind-swept Zitting Cisticola to my right.

The lake itself, at first, seemed to hold just a couple of Mallards but within minutes others revealed themselves including a pair of Gadwall, at least eight White-headed Ducks,  a similar number of Common Pochard and a couple of Little Grebes.  At this point I was joined by Jerry Laycock who provided great company for the rest of the morning.  The Coots put in an appearance and a handful of Moorhens busied themselves about the water as a good number of Barn Swallows fed overhead. Eventually they were joined by just the single Red-rumped Swallow and a handful of House Martins.  A White Wagtail flew by beneath the hide and then a small warbler started feeding in the bush below.  The bird remained long enough to be identified as a Bonelli's Warbler, the first new bird of the day for this year's list.

Lots of White-headed Ducks Malvasia cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala on show
Walking towards the Wader Pool we had a good view of a female Common Kestrel resting in a nearby tree to the left and found the first Little Egret of the day as we approached the new water. Just the one Redshank on the water but a quartet of Avocet brought some colour (black and white?) along with a pair of Black-winged Stilts, more monochrome!  Spotless Starlings and a few Goldfinches were moving around in small numbers and a large flock of House Sparrows were feeding at the back of the pond beyond the Little Grebes.  Whilst the Barn Swallows fed we were entertained by a single Common Sandpiper as Grey Herons appeared beyond the far trees on their way the Laguna Grande.  A male Marsh Harrier passed over the back of the water and a few moments later we had a single raven at relatively close quarters.  See one corvid and another appears with a pair of Jackdaws in the trees to to our left.  Only the occasional Cormorant was seen so we left to speculate on how many, if any, we would find when we eventually reached the main pool.

Common Sandpiper Andarrios Chico Actitis hypoleucos
Time to move on and see if anything was about on the old river, Rio Viejo, the waste land or the beach,  A first Willow Warbler of the year was found and then a score of Back-winged Stilts on the far bank of the river.  Another single Redshank plus over-flying Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  The sea seemed deserted albeit a large flock of Yellow-legged Gulls was following the single fishing boat and, on the shore, a couple of Kentish Plovers.  Meanwhile, we had been joined by a male Kestrel which seemed happy to rest on a fence post.

Kentish Plover Chorlitejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus
Returning by the same route we picked up Greenfinch and the first Collared Doves along with one adult and three juvenile Flamingos on the river.  From the Wader Pool we also added a Crested Lark, a second was to foll an hour later, sitting on the dead tree in the far island.  The it was on to Laguna Escondida and no sooner had we turned left off the main track than we were confronted by a most handsome male Common Redstart.  The bird stayed long enough to be watched and a quick photograph was taken as the bird disappeared in to the lower branches of a large bush on the left. The next hide presented nothing new other than a howling wind direct into our faces along with a handful of White-headed Ducks at the back and a couple of Little Grebes.

Record shot of the male
 Common Redstart Colirrojo Real Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Approaching the Laguna Grande a single Booted Eagle gradually floated slowly away and, upon arriving, we could see that the Cormorants had not departed for distant shores as we counted over sixty along with a few Grey Herons.  At least one pair of White-headed Ducks was on the water and a friendly Common Sandpiper was active below the hide along with a pair of Black-winged Stilts.  Well over an hour was spent at this hide and over time we were rewarded with a number of sightings.  Amongst the feeding Barn Swallows one, lonely Crag Martin put in an appearance and then a pair of Yellow Wagtails of the "blue-headed" Iberian subspecies. A pair of Greenshank were taking a well-earned nap at the far side to the of the water to the right of the island but they did eventually wake up long enough to lift their heads out of their backsides.  No sooner had we got used to the nearby Redshank than it was joined by another five, one very much larger than the rest - until the birds landed and we saw that the odd-one out was a rather handsome Black-tailed Godwit gradually coming into breeding plumage.  This individual was with us till we left and, for most of the time, out in the open.  We seemed to have seen all the expected waders bar one when, right on cue, a single Little Ringed Plover put in a brief appearance below us.

The rather lovely Black-tailed Godwit Aguja Colinegra Limosa limosa that dropped in below the main hide
Returning to the car a Monk Parakeet landed in a tree immediately in front of us to take the morning's total up to 48 species.  As I approached Los Romanes I had at least a couple of Pallid Swifts above the car (Jerry also had Swifts above the river after I had departed) and on climbing the mountain track I was greeted by both a Stonechat and Thekla Lark  within an hundred metres of home to bring the tally to 51 species.

Other birds on show at the ponds:
Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus

(Blue-headed) Yellow Wagtail Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae
A rather sleepy Common Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

Redshank Archibebe Comun Tringa totanus

Only two Little Egrets Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta seen during the morning

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Pallid Swift, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

Four Avocets Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta came sailing in to the Wader Pool
Whereas the quartet of Greater Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus merely buried their heads!

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

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