Thursday 21 November 2013

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Rio Velez, Torre del Mar

Thursday 21 November

Bluethroat Ruisenor Pechiazul Luscinia svecica

It might have started cold and cloudy but, as the sun forced its way through, it certainly started to warm up.  Eleven of us this morning for a relatively short visit to the Rio Velez in Torre del Mar and, as usual, we were welcomed by the local Rock Dove and Moorhen population as we gathered under the N340 road bridge at the start of the track down to the beach fir the November meet of the Axarquia Bird Group.  Now that during this past month saplings have been planted and a new hide erected opposite the pump house, the track itself has been widened at the start so giving ample parking space.  And it was here that we were able to welcome Tony and Karen Scott to our group for their first, of many we hope, monthly sorties with us.  Tony and Karen only yesterday moved in to their new home above Lake Vinuela having "transferred" from Dave and Gilly's Arboleas Bird Group.  Anyway, you are both very welcome.  After what seems a long break it was also good to see Gerry Collins from Salobrena and Leslie Lave for Nerja back with us.  Also present were Pat and Eric Lyon from Sayalonga, Steve Powell from Frigiliana, the Triana trio of Jim Moore, Dan Wilkinson and Brian Greene plus myself.

One of scores of Chiffchaff Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita at the Rio Velez
Introductions completed under the watchful eyes of yet more Rock Doves, Collared Doves and a male Blackbird, not to mention a rather handsome male Black Redstart on the field behind us, it was time to go birding.  At the water's edge below us we had both White and Grey Wagtails and at least a dozen Mallards were drifting about on what was left of the river.  A Heron flew by and a Kestrel was picked up above the trees on the opposite bank but, most of all, there ere Chiffchaffse everywhere.  Trying to hang onto their traditional territory, the few Cetti's Warblers were screaming their heads off and we did mange to find a single Zitting Cisticola.  A "swarm" of raucous Monk Parakeets flew over s we walked down toward the pump house.

A "peek-aboo" Water Pipit Bisbita Alpino Anthus spinoletta
Before reaching the above and taking a look at the newly- installed wooden hide, we had both Water Pipit, at least three seen during the morning, and a handful of Meadow Pipits.  The latter were found all the way down the grassy side of the river but, on this occasion, only as singles or pairs rather then the usual handful.  A number of Ringed Plovers were also found and my only single Little Ringed Plover remained absent until we return walk to the cars.  A Snipe took off in its crazy zig-zag flight upsteam and then a small flock of sixteen Sanderlings but this week with out their solitary Dunlin friend.

Sanderlings Correlimos Tridactilo Calidris alba at play

Also seen on the walk down to the pump house were Serin, Goldfinch and Greenfinch along with large flocks of Spotless Starlings, all making good use of the available drinking water at the river's edge.  More Black Redstarts and then a couple of Black-winged Stilts along with a pair of Dunlin.  Whilst the nearby Stonechats were rather cute they could not possibly compare with the lone Golden Plover that posed at the riverside immediately in font of us.

A lone Golden Plover Chorlito Dorado Europeo Pluvialis apicaria at the Rio Velez
Time to leave the Chiffchaffs behind and pause at the new hide.  What a noise but from where?  It would appear that the local secondary school had decided that this would be a good morning for their teenage pupils to undertake a little practical field work.  Unfortunately, the accompanying teachers had take their charges for a walk along the river's bank so disturbing and driving away any birds in the vicinity, if not by presence then certainly by noise.  We did encourage them up away from the river and into the hide; not necessarily a good move.  The moreso when we discovered that this was only a third of the number present.  But, on the other hand, they were all polite and welcoming, just not used to being quiet and observant.

A most handsome male Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros
From the hide we had further views of both Meadow and Water Pipit, Black Redstart, Robin, White Wagtail and another Heron.  A number of Coots had found sufficient dept to justify a stay and on the distant lagoon we were able to identify four gull species; Black-headed, Mediterranean, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls.  A Cormorant or two were also seen whilst, once on the beach, we even managed to pick out a distant adult Gannet on the horizon.

Record shot of the lone, late Red-rumped Swallow Golondrina Daurica Hirundo daurica
But our stay on the beach was to prove very rewarding.  Not just the single Black-necked Grebe that a couple of members saw or even the Crested Larks on the far shore but the two hirundines.  The grebe matched the low-departing Osprey that was seen by a couple of the group as it headed up river shaded by the tall rushes.  Whilst we were not surprised to see the single Crag Martin that had come down from the hills we were certainly not expecting the lone Red-rumped Swallow that fed over the water and flew around our heads.  However, it was the Bluethroat, not the House Sparrows, that really kept our undivided attention.  Indeed, there must have been at least three individuals present.  We thought we were lucky with one feeding in the long grass then a well-exposed individual in front of us and finally a bird that flew in behind us to feed at the water's edge within ten metres.  This was certainly one bird that expressed no fear.

Bluethroat Ruisenor Pechiazul Luscinia svecica

Considering that we were on site for little more than a couple of hours and had up to thirty teenagers wandering around at the lower end of the track, we ought to be very gratified to have recorded at least 42 species.

An ever watchful Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

Birds seen:
Mallard, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron,Osprey, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Golden Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.
Now what could be possibly capturing everybody's attention?  Look carefully at the lower picture.

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