Saturday 13 February 2016

Zintillating Zapata with Derek Etheton and Company

13 February 2016

Just for your pure pleasure and enjoyment I have copied below a wonderful report received from Derek Etherton with his account of a visit yesterday to the Guadalhorce at Zapata, just behind Malaga airport, which I think, like me, you will thoroughly enjoy.  Of course, having read the report you may well find your reaction meanders from that yellow streak of jealousy and be anything from frustrated though annoyed to well p***** off at the sightings!  But still a great and fascinating day's birding so do make sure that you include Zapata on your regular visits if you live within range of the airport.

Zapata and the Rio Grande: 12 February

We, Barbara and I, met up with Peter Ashley yesterday early morning at Zapata.  One of his 'wants' was to find Penduline Tits [not always the easiest request!] and also to explore further Zapata and to 'discover' the Rio Grande.

So it was an 0815hrs meet, all into our car and the ford was the first stop.  Both Common & Green Sandpiper were busy feeding with below them a lone Greenshank.  Cormorants were actively fishing and both Little Egret and Grey Heron patrolled the banks.  Cetti's Warblers announced their presence as only they can and as usual seemingly hundreds of Chiffchaff went about their business.  A few Mallard flew over as we stopped to view mid stream and then from nowhere a Marsh Harrier appeared, saw us and seemed to panic by seriously altering its course!

The arroyo on the opposite side held the first Bluethroat of the day, a fleeting glance but far better was to come.  A Snipe was in its usual location surrounded by both White and Grey Wagtails, Serins, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Linnet made up the bulk of 'small' stuff in the scrub.

Recrossing the ford to real change had occurred so it was park and walk up the river bed to try for something different.  Many Coots, Moorhen, Collared Dove, Mallard, Little Ringed Plover, and many more of both Sandpipers.  Crested Larks scampered around and as usual the Jackdaws flew around the motorway bridge and Crag, Sand and House Martins joined by Barn Swallow hawked the river.  

So back to the car and drive round to the reed bed, by now a perfect day for viewing, still and sunny, so hopes were raised for the target birds, Common Waxbills and Penduline Tits.  Parking at the usual spot plenty of Stonechats around along with House Sparrow, Blackbird and Zitting Cisticolas everywhere. Before parking we stopped to view a Grey Heron close by and suddenly a Kingfisher [female] made her presence known and then afforded us a long super view as she perched on a Reed Mace in the early sun.  Now standing near the car a couple more Bluethroats were picked up and whilst looking at one in front of the concrete building an Osprey was spotted heading for the river.  A consensus decided to pile in the car and head back to the ford and hope for the spectacular, and as you can guess we were not to be disappointed, arriving back and fortunate enough to see the bird miss it's target on the first run but looping round and breakfast-fished a second time.  The Osprey's do seem to favour fishing here in the shallow, clear waters so can be seen most mornings and afternoons.  

Feeling buoyed  by this  wonderful sight we returned to continue our reed bed searches.  Walking down the track both Crested and Sky Larks were viewed and a 'murmuration' of Spotless Starlings kept us entertained.  Suddenly alarm calls were everywhere and the LBJ's dived for cover as a large raptor appeared from nowhere.  It soon returned from the back of a building with an angry Common Kestrel chasing, but dwarfed by a female Hen Harrier, a first for us here.  After the excitement died down we continued on walking eventually to find a small quantity of Common Waxbills feeding on the flower seeds of a purple coloured flower.  Busy little birds, never still and seemingly always eating, but still no Pendulines.  Getting toward the end of the track hordes of House Sparrows were in the hedgerow and the reeds contained so many Chiffchaffs and Cetti's Warbler in full view.  Suddenly on a stand of Reed Mace 2 Penduline Tits were spied busy pulling out the seed heads and scattering the 'fluff' everywhere.  Super views only some 15 metres away and judging by the colourations a distinct pair.  After a time they moved on and so did we, it was gone 1100hrs and no breakfast yet, so La Cohete to eat whilst Peter returned to exchange his car at the airport.

Regathered we drove up the A357 to the Rio Grande stopping to view a Booted Eagle on the way.  At the river we soon added Black Winged Stilt, Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit.  Other than that nothing extra was added until we reached the upper part of the river where Ravens and a distant Black Stork obliged.  

Returning back to collect Peter's car at 1400hrs we had clocked up 52 species, a satisfactory trip by any standard.
Now that's what I call a great morning's birding with all efforts concentrated on the birding.  Photographs of all can be found by searching the Internet.

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

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