Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Zapata with Derek, Barbara and Luis Alberto

Wednesday 16 March

Everyone to their local river it would seem!  Whilst four of us were working the Rio Velez, and it was quite hard work given the amount of vegetation, jungle might be a better description as it needs so much management to bring it back to its former self, friends Derek and Barbara Etherton along with a mutual Spanish friend Luis Alberto were taking advantage of an early morning visit to the Guadalhorce at Zapata (behind Malaga airport) and then on to Alhaurin de la Torre.  We might have managed 41 species in just over three hours but our neighbouring trio turned up almost 70 species during their birding stint.  And what's even more annoying, they also saw all our good birds plus a few more!

Derek reports as follows:
Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius (PHOTO: Luis Albert Rodriguez)
After last weeks efforts and the weekend trip to Cabo de Gata, we joined Luis Alberto for a planned early morning trip that by sheer coincidence remained within Alhaurin de la Torre [our home town].  Meeting at Zapata at 0715hrs we transferred to the X-Trail and went birding!  Aiming for the reeds for the sunrise we encountered Red Legged Partridge, Crested Larks, Serins, Gold & Greenfinches along the main track. Moving on to the reed bed we drove slowly down and parked in the normal place, en route we spied a couple of Iberian Hares in the fenced off area, always welcome site and a single Gadwall on one of the open patches of water.  Mallards were many and Cattle Egrets were still leaving their roost and flying overhead. 

Penduline Tit Pajaro Moscon Remiz pendulinus (PHOTO: Luis Albert Rodriguez)

Walking slowly down the track watching both sides it was amazing to spot the many species in the now breaking sunlight.  The air quality was superb after an early morning shower had cleaned the atmosphere and the birds also seemed to like it.  In no particular order were Meadow Pipit, numerous Blackcaps, Sardinian Warblers, Cetti's Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, Bluethroats, Linnet, Hoopoe, Barn & Red Rumped Swallow.  The first of the Common Waxbills were spotted immediately after we located the feeding Penduline Tits, they looked absolutely stunning in the early morning sun pulling out the seeds from the reed mace.  Purple Swamphen, Coots and Moorhens called from the ditch and as we neared the road end several Little Egrets and a Grey Heron rose up to fly into the field nearby.  A couple of Snipe flew over and as we followed the flight Jackdaws joined them.  The first of the seasons Woodchat Shrike posed well on top of the bamboo and a Robin skulked around the bottom.
Woodchat Shrike Alcaudon Comun Lanius senator (PHOTO: Luis Albert Rodriguez)
Walking back to the car Common Kestrels were busy hunting, the first of days raptors, and Corn Buntings sung from on top of the fences.  Driving down to the ford we soon encountered Little Ringed Plovers, Green & Common Sandpipers and of course White Wagtails.  Stopping in the middle of the water we were all amazed at the activity of the extremely large fish who seemed to be in a breeding frenzy in the shallow water, so much so that several swam under the car and many were washed over the top to the lower waters.  It just confirmed the common sense of the Osprey who favours this patch for fishing.  In the concrete ditch the other side Yellow Wagtail was found and returning a Water Pipit gave us very close views.

By now we decided it was breakfast time so started to drive back on the main track but suddenly halted by LA's and Barbara's cry of 'stop', there on the left showing well a Wryneck.  We seemed to have been blessed with this species this winter and today was no exception.  Carrying on a Booted Eagle was spied wheeling around in the now blue sky as we sought our refreshment.

After cafe & tostada it was on to another area in Alhaurin de la Torre to visit a Bonelli's Eagle nest.  Parking close by we walked up through the pine trees and recorded Chaffinch, Blue, Great, Crested & Long Tailed Tits, Short-toed Treecreepers [long word for a small bird!], Firecrest and on the rocks a Blue Rock Thrush. The olive trees by the track side held a Western Bonelli's Warbler and a couple of flying Wood Pigeons.  A wren sung sweetly and Crossbills called from up high.
Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis (PHOTO: Luis Albert Rodriguez)
We set up to view the Bonelli's nest, being careful not to show any passing walkers what our interest was. One enquired was it to see the Ibex so we said 'yes'.  Nothing was stirring on the nest with the female sitting on eggs at the moment but after 15 minutes a Short-toed Eagle soared over and we expected some action from the male, but no, nothing.  However 10 minutes later all hell broke out, the female for whatever reason left the nest and partook in some display flying only for a pair of Peregrine Falcons to come from nowhere and attack her.  The noise and flight action was incredible to hear and watch with all 3 raptors in view for minutes.  The Bonelli's decided to withdraw from the action and perched in a nearby pine and at this the Peregrines departed followed by a lone Sparrowhawk.  What amazing action we had just witnessed and hopefully Luis Alberto will have a couple of photos later on his 'blog'.

Walking back to the parked car we were buzzing with what we had just seen but found time to record several Spanish Festoons and a solo Jay.

Saying our goodbyes at 1330hrs we had enjoyed some six super hours of birding, clocked up 68 species, and all within our village/town, not bad for a day!

Great report Derek of a fabulous morning and, no doubt, there are others now wondering why they did not visit heir local river in the warm sunshine before the wind picked up from late morning.

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