Wednesday, 25 March 2015

When a quiet day goes mad

Wednesday 25 March

I use the word "quiet" figuratively as up here on our mountain top it was anything nut quiet as the bitingly cold wind charged in off the mountains behind us.  Time, therefore, to take a drive down to the coast where at least we found some shelter (and recorded Collared Doves!) before returning to Casa Collado.  And that's when the madness started.

Late afternoon and time to check out the emails knowing that I would be off to the Guadalhorce in the morning and friends David and Ann Jefferson were hoping to pay a return visit to El Robledal in search of some elusive Crested Tits.  As far as I knew, it was a day at home for all we birders.  First a short email from Steve Powell to inform me that he was relaxing on the beach, in Thailand, with his daughter and very young grandson and that he had already seen some gorgeous birds.

Next up an email report from John and Jenny Wainwright to pass on news about their visit to Fuente de Piedra and the Laguna Dulce earlier in the day.  Lots of good sightings and an acknowledgement that water levels had certainly risen as a result of the past week's rain.  John's account, complete with three photos appears below.

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
Then a short email from David Jefferson to say that he and Ann had paid a visit to the Guadalhorce and, amongst other birds, thought that they had found a Red-rumped Wheatear.  Wow!  Now that would have been a cracking find and I just hope that the bird might be about on the morrow when Jerry Laycock joins me at the site for the morning.  However, when studied closely on the computer it was found to be a Common Redstart; still a good find.  (But check out the two in your "Collins" and see how closely they resemble each other.)  Gave Andy Paterson to pass on the news and also discovered that he, too, was at the "ponds" for the earlier part of the morning before having to return home early.  He then informed me that Pallid Swifts were pouring in off the sea and over his apartment and as he spoke, were being joined by a good number of Common Swifts.  So that was Common, Pallid and Alpine Swifts recorded today along with a good number of Woodchat Shrikes.

Then, earlier this evening, a second email from David including a photograph of this extremely rare wheatear to the area.  Meanwhile, the wind is still howling outside so I just hope things will be a little quieter tomorrow for my little birding expedition.

John's report follows:

Lagunas Piedra and Dulce  Wednesday 25 March

A bright, sunny day but a bitterly cold wind.

The journey across was very uneventful seeing only Collared Doves, Spotless Starlings and a few House Sparrows.  As we approached the centre we could see a good amount of water in the flood meadow and also around the boardwalk, which is normally a poor wader sign, which indeed it was; only a single Common Sandpiper on the flood.  We did, however, find three Black-tailed Godwits, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Black-winged Stilts, Black-headed Gulls, three Snipe, Hoopoe and a White Wagtail.

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
At the boardwalk we saw Avocets, more Black-tailed Godwits, Shovelers, a lone Lapwing, Common Coots, Moorhens, two Shelduck and in the grasses here we found Yellow Wagtails (iberiae), Meadow Pipits and a Sardinian Warbler in the small bushes here.  Looking over the laguna from the mirador, a few - very distant - Greater Flamingos, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Redshanks and another Lapwing.  While I was scanning the laguna, Jenny located four Alpine Swifts in a small flock of Common Swifts.  Lots of Jackdaws about here also.

At the closed hide just prior to getting engulfed with forty schoolkids, we saw White-headed Ducks, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, but nothing different than that which we had already seen.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

Moving over to the Mirador Cantarranas we located a Woodchat Shrike, two Pallid Swifts, lots more Common Swifts, Barn Swallows and House Martins, Crested Larks, Serins, Sardinian Warblers and House Sparrows, while on the back edge of the lagunetta we found three juvenile Common Cranes.  Also about were at least eight Shelduck, Shovelers, Mallard, Redshanks, a Common Kestrel, a male Marsh Harrier and more Avocets.

Onwards to the Laguna Dulce, en route seeing a pair of Ravens, and on arrival at the laguna two rafts totalling some sixty Red-crested Pochards and a smaller group of Gadwalls, also several Greater Flamingos were noted along the back edge of the laguna along with Shovelers, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Mallard and TealCommon Coots, Moorhens and Little Grebe were seen in the shallows to the left of the hide and on the shoreline another Yellow Wagtail.  A female Marsh Harrier came across, but dropped into the reed bed and then over by the ruin we spotted a male Montagu´s Harrier, which flew away in the direction of Campillos.  Another male appeared over the reed bed to the right of the hide. Cetti´s Warbler, Blackcap, Goldfinches and Great Tit were about in the reed beds and small bushes. Pallid Swift, Barn Swallows, House Martins and more Common Swifts were seen also. 
Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

The wind had picked up now and as it was coming directly into the front of the hide, so we decided to move across to the smaller lagunas.  At these we had a few Greater Flamingos and afore-mentioned gulls but nothing else, although coming back from them we did spot a ring-tail Montagu´s Harrier, another pair of Ravens and a Black Kite.

A lot of great birds here including the mention of the first Montagu's Harriers for the year.  However, it was the reference to the three juvenile Cranes that really took my attention.  Cranes have normally gone by the end of February and, occasionally, you hear of a few during the first week of March but less than a week before April seems very late.  And why just juveniles?  Are these birds that have lost their parents?

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

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