Friday, 31 July 2015

Guadalhorce again!

Friday 31 July

My insomniatic (is there such a word?) friends Barbara and Derek Etherton, having decided that there was no advantage in taking a middle-of-the-night swim in their uncovered pool with its temperature still recording the mid-thirties, opted rather for a very early morning visit to the Desembocadura de Guadalhorce in Malaga to see what might or might not be about.  Arriving in that special dark period immediately before day-break, sad to say neither Red-knecked Nightjar nor Barn Owl were about but, at least, by the time they returned to the car at about 10 o'clock they had recorded 46 species including a rather lovely Whimbrel.

Read on for Derek's version of events.

A change to our normal routine today.  Still up early but as you & Steve had an hour at Desembocadura yesterday we decided to do the same.  As forecast it was marginally cooler this morning and so it stayed until about 1000hrs. We arrived at the church to park at 0630hrs. and waited in the car for 15 minuets so a little light could break.  I have to admit I'm not sure of walking onto this reserve with no one else around and with expensive equipment 'dangling' in the dark.  I know at my age I could never give chase to an opportunist posing as a jogger!  

We waited on the bridge and watched the bats feeding and a couple of Cormorants roosting in the eucalyptus trees.  Dawn was starting to show over Malaga and a lot of cloud was a welcome relief keeping things cool.  Sardinian Warblers started to 'chunter' and soon Barn and Red-rumped Swallows were feeding over the scrub.  Common Swift fed high and there was quite a movement of Grey Herons, a few Mallard also flew over.  From the Casillas hide plenty of Black Winged Stilt were still dozing.  White Headed Duck, Moorhen, Common Coot, Little Grebe were mooching on the water and a Reed Warbler was feeding in front of the hide.  Barbara spied a Water Vole busy with it's morning ablutions and it stayed to allow us super 'scope views.  Moving down to the next hide (Wader Hide) three Greater Flamingo circled around eventually to land in the water and join the existing Little Egret, Black Winged Stilt and numerous Little Ringed Plovers.  A Great Egret flew around, thought about it, but then departed without landing.

White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala  (PHOTO: Bob Wright)

Moving on down the track the half a dozen Audouin's Gulls were in company with a couple of Black-headed.  A lot of waders, mostly Ringed and Kentish Plovers had been joined by two Dunlin.  Just behind them were three Whimbrel and a couple of Curlew Sandpipers, soon to be joined by two Common Sandpipers.  Near the Sea Viewpoint two Hoopoes flew low over the track and there was mass feeding by a large flock of Greenfinches.  When we walked back up the track the Whimbrel took off from the left hand side, circled around and eventually landing over by the river.  By now plenty of Junta wagons were about and the Escondida hide was out of action with work taking place.

So off down to Laguna Grande and a rare, for this year certainly, Spotted Flycatcher posed for us on the Tamarisk trees.  From the hide Curlew Sandpiper still in their breeding plumage were right in front of the hide.  Several Dunlin were about.  Yellow Wagtail [blue-headed] showed well.  We were remarking on the amount of dead gulls on a couple of the islands when a Junta warden drove down, got out his vehicle dressed in waders!  He came and spoke to us apologising for the disturbance he was about to cause.  The reason?  His job was the undertaker!  So off he marched scattering the alarmed Black Winged Stilt, causing the Dunlin and Little Ringed Plover to suddenly develop broken wing syndrome.  He collected four bodies from one island [all gulls] and a few more bodies including a juvenile Avocet from the top of one facing the hide.  One presumes it is the lack of water quality that is causing the problem.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus (PHOTO: Bob Wright)

Walking back up the track to return to the car, joggers and cyclists were now around but I think it's the first time ever I've spent three hours here without sight of a fellow watcher!

Back to the car by 1000 hours and a list of 46 species.

I have read this report at least four times trying to find the missing link that keeps nagging away at me.  Not the fact that there were no birders but then realised I needed to think in the negative.  Unless Derek chose deliberately to avoid naming the raucous rascals, could it be that he and Barbara actually managed three hour at the reserve without once coming across a Monk Parakeet?

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