Friday, 28 December 2018

Axarqua Bird Group Visit to Guadalhorce

Thursday 27 December

Well, time to walk off the turkey and see what might be about at the Guadalhorce in Malaga.  Seven of us turned up for the December meet of the Axarquia Bird Group with the promise of a cloudy but dry morning, a little wind but also the possibility of some sunshine come late morning. In the even it was a little windier and colder then expected on the exposed parts of the the reserve so we were all well wrapped up for the session.  But then, come late morning, the clouds broke, the breeze eased and we were all wondering just how to try and remove a few layers as it got warmer and warmer and probably reached 20C by the time we departed for our respective homes at about 2.30.  But it was a very enjoyable morning and lots of good bids to be seen by  the group which included John and Jenny Wainwright, Marcus and Liz Rootes, visiting Dutch birder Lisette Heikoop and her friend Henk along with myself.  Our final tally for the visit was just about 60 species.

Approaching the entrance slope up to the western branch of the river we were greeted by both House Sparrow and Chiffchaff along with the first of very many Spotless Starlings to be seen during our stay.  The stretch from the entrance to the footbridge was inundated with Back Redstarts, they seemed to be everywhere.  In addition, was also picked up Robin, Sardinian Warbler and Greenfinch whilst Cormorants, Herons, Monk Parakeets and Collared Doves passed overhead.

But the best was yet to come.  We eventually located the "LBJ" beneath the shrubs next to the viewpoint and were delighted to recognise our little Bluethroat.  No sooner seen than we had a raptor in the sky.  Having finally identified the bird as a Booted Eagle a second distant individual was also seen and, at the same time, an Osprey in close proximity.  Not to be outdone, a Common Kestrel drifted past on the other side of the river.

Dark morph Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Time to cross the bridge and enter the reserve proper, noticing the resident Rock Doves below the motorway bridge, and so onto the Laguna Casillas where we found a good-sized flock of Common Pochard along with a few Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and a Little Grebe.  The first Stonechat of the morning put in an appearance and Marcus was able to see the Song Thrush that dashed past the hide whereas some of us also recorded both Blackbird and many more Chiffchaffs as the first Cetti's Warbler let out a blast of song.  meanwhile, over towards the church we could see a handful of Crag Martins feeding high above.  And then the Kingfisher flashed across the water.  Not seen by all but we were to see at least seven more sightings during the morning so I am sure that all saw at least one individual.

Male Pochard Porron Europea Aythya ferina (above) and the flock on Casillas
Moving on the Wader Pool and passing more Chiffchaffs and Black Redstarts we then encountered our expected Black-winged Stilts. A White Wagtail was wandering along the shore and a Common Sandpiper came into view to our left.  But on the water itself we soon picked out the pair of Black-tailed Godwits and a single Common Redshank before the trio of Spanish birders already at the hide indicated where the Spotted Redshank was hidden behind some low vegetation.  The bird eventually came out into full view and, evidently, it has been present on this water for the past few days and, by all accounts, seen by very many Spanish birders, this not being a usual site for recording this lovely bird, albeit in winter plumage.  In addition to the few Mallard we also picked up a pair of Teal and at which point a rather lovely female Marsh Harrier drifted over.


Spotted Redshank ArchibebeOscuro Tringa erythropus and below with Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus and feeding Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
The walk to the Sea Viewpoint was also productive with 23 Sanderling feeding on the Rio Viejo (Old River).  Regular sightings of a few Yellow-legged Gulls and at least three Hoopoes seen.

Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops
A Crested Lark was recorded at the back of the scrub area and and a small charm of Goldfinches passed by. Marcus and Lisette following behind managed to get a good view of a Dunnock and John and others saw the few Linnets.  Once at the Sea View we had a sight of both a single Little Egret and a Black-headed Gull then searched the sea itself where, apart from the large number of Yellow-legged Gulls following the fishing boats, we managed to find a good number of Gannets plus a single resting Sandwich Tern and a single Great Skua.

Common Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus

The return walk and on to the Laguna Escondida produced a couple of Serin and a Robin plus more Hoopoes, Crag Martin, Black Redstarts, Goldfinches and Chiffchaff but, probably best of all, the sight of three Booted Eagles immediately overhead and a male Kestrel in a nearby tree.  The laguna itself was very quiet with just the odd Moorhen, Coot and Little Grebe until a Marsh Harrier appeared at the back of the water looking for its midday meal.  That brought out both Mallard and Teal.  All this and a pair of Kingfishers busy dashing back and forth across the water.

Booted Eagle Aguililla calzada Hieraaetus pennatus

A Zitting Cisticola was picked up on the way to the Laguna Grande where we found a large number of Cormorants plus a single juvenile Flamingo and yet more Herons.  Lots of Spotless Starlings and the occasional Common Starling were seen whilst on the water we had a large flock of Shoveler plus maybe a dozen Shelduck, a few Mallard and even a single female Pintail.

Female Pintail Anade Rabudo Anas acuta
Towards the back of the water we counted a flock of fifteen Black-necked Grebes.  Scope searching eventually found the single Ringed Plover and three Dunlin at the far side and resting in the tree at the back a Buzzard. But right in front of us was a single Greenshank that remained in the same area for the whole of our stay. On a final note, you will see that there was still not a White-headed Duck to be seen on site.

Greenshank Archibebe Claro Tringa nebularia admiring its own reflection
So there you have it, a wonderful morning's birding in great company and a splendid way to walk off the turkey and end the year.  All that remains is for me to wish all readers a very happy and healthy New Year with the promise of lots of great birding to come.


Birds seen:
Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Great Skua, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus



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