A little rain yesterday and the first few drops have just started to fall so receiving the following report from my friend Derek Etherton reminds me how much I am missing both the area and my many birding friends. What a way to start the day and still look forward to more sunshine and a swim in the pool. But, I suspect, no Dunnocks or Egyptian Geese and probably very few tits - but it is hardly a fulfilling compensation on my part.
Being founder members of the IBC [Insomniac Birders Club] (you must remember to invite Marieke in Belgium to join the group) Barbara and I decided yesterday to check our local patch whilst the coolness of the dark prevailed. Arriving at Zapata at 0600hrs. and went straight away to check on the Red-necked Nightjars as they had been noticeable by their absence the last visit. No need to worry 3 of them were in their favourite position on the track, and one allowed us to drive within 6 metres, fully illuminated by the headlights, before suddenly taking flight. Now it was down to the ford where in the headlights Little Ringed Plovers were busy feeding [they seem to have had an excellent breeding season here this year] and a juvenile Night Heron was on the rocks! Little else was visible here mainly because of the very low water flow, so still dark we drove round the back track to check the upper reaches some 100metres up. Positioning for a water view in the early gloom, Grey Heron, Little Egrets, Moorhens and 15 Black-winged Stilts were in the shallows busy feeding. On the rock bar both Green and Common Sandpipers were joined by more Little Ringed Plovers.
As the faintest glimmer of dawn broke the first Cetti's Warblers were heard and we could just make out Crested Larks starting to move. When dawn breaks it seems so quick that things happen so we left this area, by now we must have counted 25 Night Herons flying in to their roost and many Cattle Egrets were leaving theirs to go hunting. Driving back to the main track where 30 minutes ago nightjars were feeding it was now House Sparrows, Serins, Goldfinches and Greenfinches to the fore. Further down we stopped on the corner as the first rays of the early morning sun became visible over Malaga port and viewed the reedbed. Well, in 3 years of watching this area [so, so pleased we discovered it] we have never seen so many Common Waxbills. By "many" I mean seriously in a 3 figure number. One flock busy early morning feeding numbered at least 50 birds and resplendent they looked in full breeding plumage. The males with their very black vent and amazing pink breast feathers contrasting with an almost lipsticked beak, super little birds, and noisy too!
Walking down the track juvenile Red-rumped Swallows were plentiful, presumably from the nests under the landing light pier, whilst Common Swift, House Martin and Barn Swallows fed over the reed bed. Plenty of Reed Warblers were on on show most with young in tow. A Purple Swamphen climbed to the top of the reeds before flying off. But everywhere we looked we seemed to see and hear Common Waxbills and not necessarily in the reeds, some were on the green fence, some on the paths and others in the scrub. No Short-toed Larks could be found in their usual place but they were soon located in the recently-harrowed field. This field must be heaven to the seed eaters because it was absolutely packed with all the finches, Green, Gold and Linnet feeding away in sizable flocks. A total of 4 Hoopoes were seen, 2 on a fence and 2 flying over the field. Unusually for here 3 Lesser Kestrel were feeding in the same area and as we turned away from them to look toward the reed bed a Little Bittern flew over the top of the reeds. It's noticeable that they seem to hedge hop in their flight pattern never rising more than a few inches above the reeds.
We carried on walking up the path noticing the Spotless Starlings are now flocking in large numbers and some of the mixed Sparrow flocks feeding were very large. I say mixed as there are some definite Spanish and Hybrids amongst the dominant House variety. Reaching the end of the track by the road where we know the Little Bitterns nested and where the one we spotted a few minutes before flew too we scanned tying to find it. No luck but even more Waxbills were busy and a family of Reed Warblers were visible. Just as we thought we had yet another Reed Warbler family we realised something was different about this new bird. The sound was different, almost insect like, it was much lighter almost greenish in colour. Processing the information, the bird was very cooperative by staying around we had to conclude Savi's Warbler, nothing else fitted the description or sound. We suspected we had recorded it earlier in the season but could then not be sure, this was a fabulous view, complete with its family.
By now 0900hrs. the sun had some real warmth so we started walking back to the car scanning the field and reed bed for any new arrivals, nothing exciting just Blackbirds, 4 Turtle Doves flew over and some of their Collared cousins were sitting on the fence. By now the Monk Parakeets had become raucous, no change there, as they flew around the track. The feeding field now had a small flock, some 8 birds, of Short-toed Larks and close by Linnets with males still very pink all very busy.
Back to the car by 0915hrs and the thought of churros & coffee had a certain calling, well you have to sin once in a while, don't you?
Now that's what you call a fabulous early morning's birding and back home in time to do the cleaning and washing and still have time to go shopping!!!!!
Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.