Tuesday 25 February 2020

Zapata and Rio Grande

Monday 24 February

Wonderful morning's birding with friends Barbara and Derek Etherton at Zapata followed by a visit inland to the confluence of the Rios Grande and Guadalhorthe.  Lovely clear blue skies and blazing sunshine when I left Mezquitilla but soon found out that there was a low-lying mist in Malaga which seemed to hang around till mid-morning before the temperature rapidly climbed - but not enough to dampen the birding.  Approaching the river from Zapata we had our first Greenfinch of the day quickly followed by a range of small birds including Zitting Cisticola, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Crested Lark and very many Serin.  No shortage of Collared Doves and a quartet of Cattle Egrets flew over as we reached the shingle banks of the river.

Goodbye Osprey Aguila pescadoa Pandion haliaetus, happy hunting

No sooner had we seen our fist over-flying Little Egret than we picked up the quartet of Mallard on  the water along with a few Moorhen.  A Green Sandpiper was seen landing on the weir upstream and then both Greenshank and a very close Osprey as it started its search for morning breakfast, gradually moving away up river.  A Common Sandpiper on the far bank and a second Green Sandpiper as we prepared to drive through the ford.  At this point we also got a clearer view of the newly-arrived quartet of Little Ringed Plovers.

Little Ringed Plovers Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius
A visit to the "drain channel" produced both a further Green Sandpiper and a rapidly disappearing Snipe.  Having seen a couple of Kestrel on the way into the site, our next sighting was most strange with an individual resting on the side of a large earth pile.  Making our way back to the ford we found a feeding Meadow Pipit and above the water many feeding Barn Swallows along with a small number of House Martins.  Lots of Chiffchaff feeding in the nearby bushes and even a handful of Monk Parakeet flew over.

Green Sandpiper Andarrios Grande Tringa ochropus

So on to the reed bed passing both Crested Lark and Blackbird along with more Serins and Stonechats on the fence.  Only a very few Common Waxbills noted but we did manage to find a Robin and whilst checking out a female Stonechat a lovely Bluethroat walked into view with a vibrant blue throat and no white spot.  Indeed, a second individual "popped up" from behind the grass before both moved off to the other side of the track.

Male Blue Rock Thrush Roquero Solitario Monticola solitarius

An even stranger, for me, sight was that of a male Blue Rock Thrush at such a low altitude behind the airport and as we finally departed to partake of our breakfast at a local venta we recorded both House Sparrows and a single Corn Bunting.

Suitably refreshed we st off for the Rio Grande and, upon arrival, made our way through the tres to the confluence with the Guadalhorce.  Many Chaffinches seen in the wood and then a long stop to both listen to and watch the movement of a Great Spotted Woodpecker

Very distant record shot of Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major

At least three Jays were moving through the trees and on reaching the water we could see nearby White Wagtails, a handful of Cormorants resting in a dead tree on the far side of the Guadalhorce and upstream a distant Great White Egret.  Ere long another couple of Great White Egrets flew past heading downstream.

Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba

Lots of feeding Chiffchaffs along with a couple of Blackcap and Black Redstarts.  A Raven was heard calling away to the back of the trees and, once more, the Great Spotted Woodpecker seem to arrive to check out on what we were up to!

Water Pipit Bisbita Alpino Anthus spinoletta

Driving up the Rio Grande we soon recorded Little Egret and a closer look at a Great White Egret. A Common Sandpiper was feeding at the water's edge and then we found a pair of Water Pipits and a nearby Meadow Pipit.  Just a few meters away a first summer sighting of a Blue-headed (Iberian) Yellow Wagtail.

Blue-headed (Iberian) Yellow Wagtail Lavandera Boyera Iberica Motacilla flava iberiae
From the road bridge we also found more Mallards and Little Ringed Plover plus  a few Cormorant resting on the large, upstream  water pipe.  A very distant Buzzard was confirmed atop a pylon but unable to positively identify the distant soaring raptor.  Whilst we added Blackbird, Stonechat, House Sparrow and Goldfinch along with another Kestrel and a couple of Cattle Egrets, I think we were all rather surprised at the very small number of Barn Swallows on site.  Finally, as we set off back to Malaga a lone Raven passed the road
Birds seen:
Mallard, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Osprey, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Little Ringed Plover, Snipe, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Jay, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Waxbill, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Male Kestrel Cernicalo Vulgar Falco tinnunculus
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