Friday, 21 April 2017

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 20 April

It seemed like a lovely, warm and sunny morning when I set off from Mezquitilla for this month's meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group at the Guadalhorce in Malaga.  However, as soon as I arrived and opened the car door thinking it was time to dispense with my jumper, I realise my mistake.  the sun might have been shining but there was a gale and a half blowing and reaching the path leading up to the western arm I could see the storm and tempest off the cost with huge waves crashing in and the trees all in full sway motion.  As the ten of us set off for the eastern arm I could not help but think what rotten weather and we are all going to be sorry we made the journey.  In the event it really was an ill wind, etc as we had fabulous birding, no doubt helped by the very windy and stormy conditions that we originally berated, resulting in 6 gull species, 3 terns and no less than 16 wader species.

Lovely to see Mick Richardson and Kevin Wade after such a long time along with Ian Kirk and john and his friends from Granada province.  Welcomed by local Spotless Starlings and a handful of Bee-eaters we made our way up to the footbridge where there were many feeding House Martins and, presumably, once nesting below the bridge. The short walk to the eastern arm produced both Zitting Cisticola and Linnets and then, seen by everyone bar me (isn't that always the case!), a low "Kestrel" which once bins on it, just in time, revealed the bird to be a Short-eared Owl.  A rather mega sighting so late in the year and presumably on its way north from Africa and possibly driven ashore by the strong winds.  Both Heron and Little Egret flew over and a Blackbird crossed the track as we approached the Casillas hide.

Once settled in the hide we soon found Common Pochard and White-headed Duck along with a pair of Mallards and a couple of Little Grebes.  A few Coots about and the occasional Moorhen and a busy Sardinian Warbler below the hide.  Overhead, in addition a plentiful supply of House Martins we also had a small number of Barn Swallows and at least a couple of Red-rumped Swallows.  The Common Swifts added to the Pallid Swift noted by Mick as we approached the hide.  Little charms of Goldfinches all over the place then the piece de la resistance, a Little Bittern on the opposite bank in full view.  As I so often say, leave the camera at home and the birds will come and show themselves!

Finally, saying goodbye to the pair of Gadwalls that has suddenly arrived we moved on to the Wader Pool with a pair of calling Greenfinches overhead and singing Nightingales to our right.  Pleased to see that, at last, the water levels were receding and exposing mud and sand so lots to be seen apart form the numerous Black-winged Stilts.  The waders included both Little and greater Ringed Plovers along with a Little Stint and a mixed group of larger birds including Dunlin, Curelew Sandpiper and a Wood Sandpiper.  A very busy Willow Warbler drew our attention as a Crested Lark descending on the sand for a short stop.

Time to move on see that the old river, Rio Viejo, was in good form and producing a wealth of birds to emphasise what the bad weather was doing to present such a show for our benefit.  Kentish Plover was soon added to the list and then on the opposite bank at the river bend a standing Squacco Heron with a Common Sandpiper feeding alongside.  Time to really concentrate with both bins and scope and see what else was to be found, excluding again the very many Black-winged Stilts.  Scoping towards the far end I picked out a couple of Avocets feeding and to the right a quartet of resting Gull-billed Terns.  Meanwhile, on the nearer shore, Mick had found a small flock of Little Terns.  The distant small island held a couple of Oystercatchers resting under the lone bush and right at the back a Grey Plover feeding alongside a Ruff.  No shortage of Dunlin and plenty of all three small plovers, Little Ringed, Ringed and Kentish Plover.  A few Yellow-legged Gulls floating around and a stray Cormorant passed over the site.

We did all make the relatively short walk against the wind to the Sea Watch and , in addition to the impressive breaking sea, managed to record a passing Audouin's Gull and a handful of Balearic Shearwaters making slow headway out on the sea plus a lonely Sandwich Tern looking for its lunch.  A lone Kentish Plover appeared on the sandy shore to the east giving very clear views to those who had previously relied upon the use of a scope.

Time to work our way back and we noted that the Gull-billed Terns had now been joined by a trio of Sandwich Terns and a Sanderling was also found.  Both a Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull were taking shelter next to each other which also gave a great opportunity to compare identifiers.  A pair of (Iberian) Yellow Wagtails were feeding  and also a single Redshank was found.

The walk back past the two hides and on to the Escondida produced a Common Kestrel, Serin, Rock Dove and House Sparrows and, on arrival, it was a delight to see a handsome male Red-crested Pochard and a few White-headed Ducks along with Coot and Little Grebe. Overhead, many circling Bee-eaters presented a welcome sight.  A Reed Warbler was singing away below the hide and so on to the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande with a screeching by-pass from a small flock of Monk Parakeets to help us on our way.

Finishing up at the main pool provided us with many Little Egrets and Cormorants but also a pair of Spoonbill.  A single Greenshank was at the far back behind the island and a few Little Terns were feeding over the water.  Not only Lesser Black-backed Gulls abut as we departed we also noted the single Slender-billed Gull amidst them.  So, despite the weather, we ended the morning with a rather impressive 66 species.

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Balearic Shearwater, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Redshank, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Short-eared Owl, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Willow Warbler, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

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