Thursday, 29 March 2018

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 29 March

With both Jenny and visiting son, John out for lunch and afternoon, my chance to get up early, but not silly early, and pay a morning visit to the Guadalhorce in Malaga to see if the Spotted Crake was still with us.  Seen by friend Steve Powell on Tuesday morning this week but I feared the worst as i set off in a mixture of sun and broken cloud along with a stiff breeze.  But, even if the "target" bird had moved on there was always the thought that there might be a Yellow Wagtail waiting to be recorded for the year.  How wrong I was!  On the other hand, it must certainly be true to say that the Black-winged Stilts have returned to the site with a vengeance as I counted well in excess of 100 birds on the various waters.



Greeted by a quartet of Jackdaws as I approached the reserve at 9.30 followed by the first of many Blackbirds I was soon walking along the embankment and noticed my first of three Little Egrets for the morning feeding under the trees just before reaching the footbridge.  Crossing the bridge I could but not notice the resident Rock Doves resting under the motorway bridge and a handful of House Martins feeding over the water.  Then it was on to the far side and a quick check at the Laguna Casillas produced a few Pochard and Mallard along with the local White-headed Ducks.  Just two Black-winged Stilts present but hold your breath.

Now it was straight to a gap in the track-side trees which gave me cover but a good sight of the "laguna" on the opposite side of the track between here and the eastern arm of the river.  Steve warned me that the pool (given its size even when full "laguna" sounds a little pretencious) was rapidly drying and the vegetation around rapidly growing so scope set up and camera at the ready even if it meant a long wait.  What a waste of time.  No sooner, seconds later, had I done this than a wandering birder/photographer appeared on site having walked through the meadow from the direction of the beach and then stopped at the edge of the pool to see what he could find.  I can tell you he found nothing other than the two small waders that he flushed.  Talk about pulling your hair out!  Nothing for it but to depart and bird elsewhere until this selfish individual had departed, which he did almost at once, presumably on the basis that there was nothing to be seen.

Before spending time at the Wader Pool I returned to the Casillas to confirm nothing else had arrived and was in time to see the departing Osprey, off no doubt to Zapata in search of his morning desayuno.  At Wader Pool I counted 38 Black-winged Stilts then started again when the next group arrived.  In total there was a maximum of 51 individual at any one time.  A couple of Yellow-legged Gulls passed overhead and then a couple of Chiffchaffs below me from the hide.  Not too many Barn Swallows to be seen  and even Spotless Starling numbers were much reduced form previous visits.  In the trees to the back I picked up a couple of Grey Heron and a Kestrel was hovering in the distance.  Also noted was the first Cormorant and Collared Dove of the morning with more to be found later when visiting the main hide on the opposite side of the reserve.


Moving on to the Rio Viejo the water level was still very high, even though there were signs of  a falling level in both the main river and the two previous pools.  At first it looked as if it was another black and white scenario with at least another 15 Black-winged Stilts but, no, a single Avocet below me near the bend.  Further away, using the scope, picked out first a resting Greenshank and then Redshank and a pair of feeding Black-tailed GodwitsGreenfinch and Goldfinch were found in the neighbouring bushes and then I spotted the pair of Gadwall well up the river channel towards the interior, having first noticed the arrival of a single juvenile Spotted Redshank.

With more and more cyclists and runners appearing on the scene I decided against walking to the Sea watch but did take a look at the open space behind the track but no Yellow Wagtail to be found, just the lone Crested Lark.  So back to spend more time in search of the Spotted Crake now that, hopefully, peace had been restored to the specific area.  Walking back I watched the distant Marsh Harrier above the trees and then set to for the possible long wait.  The area is now really quite dry and even the mud has turned to a white hardness with little evidence of any soft feeding area.  I eventually decided that these lovely little crakes had moved on as, even with good cover, there seemed to be no feeding area at all.  Great shame but at least I had good views on my last visit here.

The Laguna Escondida was very quiet with the stronger breeze blowing straight into my face.  A pair of Common Pochard and a handful of White-headed Ducks plus two Coots semed to be the total bird life here so on to spend more time at the main hide.  Walking around I became even more aware of the number of other walkers and cyclist now about.

No sooner had I arrived at the Laguna Grande with seven birders already in residence than I looked out to see three Slender-billed Gulls right in front of me.  However, at the very moment I lifted the camera the woman who had been collecting grasses or something on the wrong side of the fence but near the main track, chose that moment to walk up and in front of the hide to continue collecting whatever she was looking for.  I think we were all too surprised and shocked to say anything but the mass departure of all nearby birds certainly delivered the message as she bade a hasty retreat with lots of angry eyes following her all the way back to the main track.  But most things return to normal albeit the Slender-billed Gulls decided  the water further out might be a better proposition.


Four Slender-billed Gulls gaviota picofina Larus genei on the laguna Grande
Looking out I was greeted by at least thirty resting Black-headed Gulls but Cormorant numbers were down to just over a dozen and only one Heron.  On the other hand,right in front of the hide, I had a flock of at least forty Black-winged Stilts.  Even allowing for constant movement, there must now be well in excess of an hundred individuals on site.  Three Whiskered Terns were feeding off the water and the far island held a resting Sandwich Tern.  I quickly found the half-dozen Shoveler and later, away to the far left, a single Shelduck, two more Avocet and the earlier Slender-billed Gulls.  Good to see that the water still held a dozen Black-necked Grebes and even three Spoonbill on the "Cormorant island" to the left.

Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia resting with the local Cormorants Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo


Not sure whether it was sound or sight first but ere long a large flock of Flamingo were wheeling away on the far side of the laguna before getting closer and closer and finally right over the hide.  Very restless as these four dozen magnificent birds, always more attractive when in flight, whirled around the water giving excellent views to all present.  And so, at 12.30, I decided it was time to go home and let the general public enjoy their holiday at the reserve, noting the noisy quartet of Monk Parakeets as I made my way back to the footbridge.
 
 
 
The swirling flock of 49 Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus
Looks like just one juvenile - and well behind the main flock of Flamingos

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, Greenfinch, Goldfinch. 
One of the tree Whiskered Terns Fumarel Cariblanco Childonias hybrida feeding on the Laguna Grande
Record shot of a distant Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuellinegro Podiceps nigricollis

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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