Saturday, 22 August 2015

Zapata and the Rio Grande

Saturday 22 August

They are at it again; will they never get a decent night's sleep?  Derek and Barbara Etherton were up early and collecting mutual friends Lindsay Pheasant and Micky Smith for yet another visit to their local patch to take in both the Guadalhorce at Zapata and the Rio Grande.  As with my visit earlier this month, still no sign of the elusive Barn Owl but I am sure that one of us will get another chance soon.  meanwhile, read Derek's report of another wonderful morning's birding and some very good species recorded to make it all the more worthwhile.  Now I wonder what Derek and Barbara will produce for me next week?  Whinchat and Bonelli's Eagle would be very rewarding.

Friday 21 August
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

The insomniacs meet up with Mick Smith and Lindsay Pheasant yesterday morning in the car park of Lidl's.  We get a lay in now that Autumn seems to be approaching and light does not appear until about 0700hrs.  We drove down the track at Zapata looking for the elusive Barn Owl that has stayed hidden for the last few weeks.  No luck again yesterday but as usual several Red Necked Nightjars were on the track affording superb views in the car headlights.  Several Iberian Hares crossed over together with a few Rabbits.  As the first glimmer of dawn broke and the early Crested Larks started to move a slightly different approach, one B and I tried last week, was suggested.  This entails driving to the weir/ford as daylight breaks [it happens so quickly], stop with the engine off in the middle of the water, and just sit and watch!  It's amazing, as your eye adjusts so much is happening, Common Sandpipers were bathing, 2 Night Herons busy fishing, Grey Herons behind them.  A male Kingfisher landed on the reeds a bare 5 metres. from us.  Little Egrets soon appeared with many of the Cattle variety rising from the roost in the reedbeds behind.  Little Ringed Plovers were plenty and a Green Sandpiper flew in up the river, over the car and landed to feed.  Luckily nobody was coming from the village to cross the water, few do very early, and in the 10 minutes we were there the first glimmers of sunlight were starting to show.  Sufficient for us to move the car 10 metres or so to dry land and get out to walk.  Moving up the side of the river a large flock of finches, Green, Gold and Linnets were joined by 5/6 Turtle Doves feeding in the bone dry scrub.  Viewing them it was thought that there was a Lesser Short-toed Lark among them, but even with the help of a 'scope the bird stayed too well hidden.  Moorhen and Coot were active and a flock of 30+ Mallard flew overhead and several Yellow Legged Gulls wheeled around.  Barbara was scanning the river edge some 400mtrs+ up under the motorway bridge and asked for the 'scope.  Yes, she had found the Little Bittern that seems now to be in residence in this area.  Super views for all for a good 5 minutes until it disappeared back into the reeds.

One of many Short-toed Larks Calandrella brachydactyla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
By now it was half past eight and time to move down to the reed beds to find the usual and unusual suspects.  Walking along in the now warming sun several Common Waxbills, Zitting Cisticolas, more Turtle Doves, Barn and Red-Rumped Swallows, Common Swifts, House Martins flew over the reed bed.  Two more Kingfishers were having a game of chase low over the reeds.  We were fortunate enough to see the second Little Bittern of the day fly over the reeds to land quite close by and spend 5 minutes 'chuntering' away.  Walking down to 'Short-toed Lark corner' we were not to be disappointed.  I'm sure these little birds know us now as they seem not to fly away quite so quickly.  Stonechat, House Sparrows, Spotless Starlings and Sardinian Warblers were a plenty. A wander back to the car at Spanish breakfast time had 3 juvenile Red Rumped Swallows perched performing their morning ablutions.

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica at their ablutions (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
So 39 species in under three hours and a well deserved breakfast for all.  After that it was up to the upper reaches of the Rio Grande where some interesting birds have been found recently.  We soon added Purple Heron, White Wagtails, the family of Booted Eagles we have followed recently and discovered their nest area.  A Grey Wagtail eventually was found and as we scanned the area between the two bridges on the track we found a Lesser Short-toed Lark, lovely 'scope views for all of us.  Many Bee-eaters were wheeling around, gathering perhaps to leave us, amongst them were many House Martins and the adult Booted Eagles were above.  A Golden Oriel was briefly spotted flying up in the eucalyptus trees.  Another Kingfisher was seen fishing away [5 for the morning!] and several Little Ringed Plovers, Green and Common Sandpipers were by the water.

You can never see too many Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Returning to the car, two Black Storks glided in low above us to land in the nearby water.  Sadly not to stay long enough for a picture.  Still another ten species added for a morning total of 49.  

By now it was too warm, so home and lunch was the general consensus, a good mornings birding and nice company. 

It sounds like an absolutely fabulous morning and I especially like the thought of the Booted Eagles, Little Bitterns and the fleeting view of the gorgeous Golden Oriole.  Similarly, you can never see too many Red-rumped Swallows.

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