Thursday, 25 February 2021

Zapata and the Rio Grande

 Wednesday 24 February

A most enjoyable morning's birding with friends Derek and Barbara Etherton and Micky Smith. Meeting up near the arches at Zapata at 8.30 it was to be a cold, dull and very windy morning unlike yesterday which had been gloriously sunny, warm and wonderful.  Notwithstanding, some lovely birds were seen at both sites and, indeed, for me ten new species for the year which, in itself, is not so surprising given the recent long period of municipality lockdown preventing visits to some of my favourite birding sites.

No shortage of either Collared or Rock Doves plus the resident House Sparrows on arrival in the village along with the passing Spotless Starlings and overflying Lesser black-backed Gulls.  No sooner had we set off and we were soon recording White Wagtails and very many Goldfinch and Serin. Approaching the ford over the river the first Black Redstart was noted and, upon arrival, a Green Sandpiper on the far bank quickly followed by the sighting of a Common Sandpiper.  No shortage of calling Cetti's Warblers before adding both Mallard and Moorhen before a Cormorant took off from slightly upstream.  Above us a good number of feeding House Martins as we then moved off towards the track to the reedbed.

The security fence seemed to be full of Serin before finding a single Corn Bunting.  A couple of Zitting Cisticola were noted along with the first Blackbird.  On the far side working our way back adjacent to the airport's perimeter fence we soon added both Stonechat and Sardinian Warbler and more Chiffchaffs.  Luckily, Derek was the only one to get his eyes on the handsome male Reed Bunting but then we found a couple of Penduline Tits and, whilst watching their feeding, were distracted by the departure of a pair of Bluethroat.  A pair of Great Tit were feeding above the Penduline Tits.  Meanwhile, a Raven leisurely wandered away over the airfield and upon returning to the opposite of the reedbed we passed the feeding flock of about thirty Cattle Egrets busy feeding alongside (and on!) the sheep flock.  Alongside the Cattle Egrets were numerous feeding White Wagtails and almost at ground level a good-sized flock of Barn swallows.

Cattle Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubucus ibis

Both Kestrel and Crested Lark were observed as we made our way back to the river where upon we were rewarded by the site of a single Grey Wagtail on the opposite bank a lone Little Ringed Plover made a hasty departure upstream.

Grey Wagtail Lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea on the Guadalhorce at Zapata

Time for a well-earned coffee break just outside Zapata and then on inland up to the the confluence of the rivers Guadalhorce and Rio Grande.  Straight along the path through the woods to the actual confluence passing both Jay and Chaffinches on the way.  A lazy Buzzard was using the thermals and then a Booted Eagle before many more Goldfinches and Serins plus a couple of Blackbird.  A few White Wagtails and once at the water's edge we were able to watch the many feeding House Martins along with fewer Barn Swallows but also a couple of Red-rumped Swallows and the occasional Sand Martin.  Upstream, a lone Cattle Egret rested on the back of a grazing pony.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus

Back to the car to drive upstream, noting a passing Wood Pigeon, along the riverside track we recorded a couple of Black-winged Stilts, a small number of Mallard and a Green Sandpiper.  Now we had even more hirundines, especially Barn Swallows and House Martins, before finding a couple of Little Egret.  But time stood still as I looked across the river and saw a female Yellow Wagtail of the UK Motacilla flava flavissima sub-species working a tiny grass island.  As we sought out the bird again a couple of the newly-arrived Iberian Blue-headed Yellow Wagtails of the M. flava iberiae sub-species.

Greenshank Archibebe Claro Tringa nebularia

Departing the site we took the inland circuit back towards the Malaga motorway recording another Kestrel and Raven along with a quartet of Hoopoe.  Also noted were more Blackbirds and Chiffchaffs plus a couple of Greenfinch and many, many more Goldfinches.  All in all a most enjoyable and successful double visit with a final tally of species approaching the 50 mark.

Birds seen:

Mallard, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Penduline Tit, Great Tit, Jay, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting. 

Is this more of a Sheep rather than Cattle Egret?

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