Thursday 16 January 2014

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 16 January

The weather forecast was spot on; overnight rain followed by more rain!  On the other hand, when contacted to see if we were still meeting as it was absolutely poring down in Granada province, being still dark I had to actually step outside to see what was happening.  Yes, there was a steady light rainfall but in the east I could see a glorious red sunrise and the cloud cover was not dense but broken.  So, on the basis that somebody might turn up I drive down to the Guadalhorce in Malaga for the monthly meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group and parked where I have advised everybody not to park - on the basis that the rain had stopped and I decided, having arrived, to walk over to the eastern arm whilst, at the same time, any late-comer might recognise the car.

Ten Monk Parakeets flew over by way of a welcome and a soggy-looking White Wagtail put in an appearance on the other side of the road.  Walking up the bank to the track I could see in excess of thirty Cormorants roosting in the trees at the back of the main water and another forty or so suddenly appeared in front of me having taken off from the river between the bridges to move in to the main reserve.  Five Blackbirds were on the fence top and a female Sardinian Warbler was feeding below the wooden fence to my right.  Making my way towards the footbridge I also had a couple of Back Redstarts and a pair of very bright Serins.  From the bridge, a single Little Egret downstream and a handful of Coot along with the occasional Moorhen.

The magnificent Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
Leaving the bridge to cross over to the eastern arm and the Laguna Casillas, a single Cattle Egret moved inland and then an adult female Marsh Harrier came into view quartering the field to my right.  A Kestrel was hovering close by, the first of a handful to be seen during the morning and then, on arrival, my mobile took to the airwaves and announced that Gerry and Diana from Salobrena along Lesley from Nerja had arrived, seen my car and were making their way over to join me.  So at least there were four of us present for the monthly meet.  The water itself contained a pair of male White-headed Ducks and a dozen Pochard along with a pair of Mallards, a single Little Grebe and a few Coots.  Overhead the large number of Crag Martins began to descend to feed over the water.  Indeed, we were to see numerous individuals all over the reserve.  In front of us there were numerous feeding Chiffchaffs, as indeed there was at every poolside, and a rather lovely male Stonechat posed close by.  Then, in a bare tree to the far right at the back of the water, a lone Booted Eagle which remained long enough for all to see as well as photograph.  Whilst at this water we also had the pleasure of seeing a pair of Water Voles; what a special treat that was.

One of the two Southern Water Voles Rata de Agua Arvicola sapidus  seen on the Laguna Casillas

There was/is still plenty of water on the Wader Pool if not waders themselves other than a quartet of Black-winged Stilts.  At least a dozen Teal and a couple of Little Egrets arrived and departed as did the single juvenile Flamingo.  A Robin arrived to scratch around below the front of the hide and a single White Wagtail was feeding at the edges.  No sooner had a lone Greenfinch flown seawards in front of the hide, passing a Meadow Pipit on the way, than it was replace by the first Redshank travelling in the opposite direction.  At this point Lesley found the Snipe that quickly disappeared from view only to reappear with another.  In the trees to the back left the Cormorants continued to rest but they were accompanied by a pair of Peregrines which remained through this first stay.  The tree next the Peregrines then provided our second Booted Eagle of the day followed by a resting Marsh Harrier.

Juvenile Grey Plover Chorlito Gris Pluvialis squatarola on the Rio Viejo
All seemed quiet on the old river, the Rio Viejo, but we did find a single Greenshank and a juvenile Grey Plover.  The outlet at the back contained at least five Grey Herons and a lone Sandwich Tern patrolled the eastern canal whilst a male Kestrel followed the action from atop his concrete pylon.  Nothing to see on the sea so back the way we had come, passing more Sardinian Warblers and a pair of Great Tits, with the Wader Pool hide providing a view of a well-concealed Common Buzzard along with more Black-winged Stilts and Little Grebes and a very close view of a Snipe.

The very watchable Snipe Agachadiza Comun Gallinago gallinago on the Wader Pool

So it was on the Laguna Escondida and that did that produce some excitement!  Not so much the large number of Little Grebes, nor the constant supply of both Chiffchaffs and Crag Martins, not even the White-headed Duck nor the first House Martin (just the one) of the year, but a very close and exposed sight of yet another Booted Eagle that really let us experiment with camera settings as it posed quite happily in front of us.  Meanwhile, overhead and behind us, we had a constant aerial display from fourteen flying adult Flamingos.

A fly-past from the fourteen Flamingos Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus
Then, finally, it was on to the Laguna Grande where we were presented with numerous Cormorants, at least twenty Grey Herons and a score or more of Shoveler.  A single Spotless Starling accompanied by a single Coot fed in front of us and the n the only Black-necked Grebe of the day duly turned up, again immediately in front of the hide.  On the far island we could see the resident three juvenile Flamingos nearby along with more Herons.

Only the one Black-necked Grebe Zampullin Cuelinegro Podiceps nigricollis
Time to call it a day having managed to spend almost four hours on site with only a couple of occasions when we saw, rather than felt, the odd spot of rain.  The walk back to the entrance provided a Cetti's Warbler and a second Zitting Cisticola along with just a handful of Black-headed Gulls flying towards the sea.  A trio of Crested Larks were on the first track and then, right at the end, not only another Crested Lark but also a small charm of Goldfinches, another male Greenfinch and a handful of House Sparrows.  Lovely company and 45 species recorded, including eleven new for my 2014 Year List and guess what, not a single Rock or Collared Dove to be seen in the area!.

Lovely to see so many Teal Cerceta Comun Anas crecca

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-headed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus

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