Thursday, 17 April 2014

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 17 April

A beautiful calm and sunny morning with next to no cloud as I set off for Torre del Mar to collect Bryan Stapley and so it remained as a total of eleven of us from the Axarquia Bird Group set off from the Gualdalmar church to the track up to the river and onwards over to the eastern arm of the Guadalhorce.  Being so warm, most left their jumpers in the car but an hour later the mist cam down, blotted out the sun and it turned quite cool to say the least.  Then, within thirty minutes or so, the sky had cleared and it became a very hot day.  Even better, by the time we departed for a Menu del Dia in nearby San Julian we had eventually topped 50 species for the extended morning; a most enjoyable time in good company.

A quintet of Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus over Laguna Grande
Having already recorded a single Common Swift and a pair of Jackdaws as we approached the church we were greeted by the first Blackbirds of the day.  Crossing the footbridge we had good numbers of House Martins and Barn Swallows along with the resident Rock DovesCetti's Warblers were singing away like there was no tomorrow and a visiting Serin put in an appearance in the rushes below.  A single Little Egret was found downstream hidden by low branches and, indeed, we were to see relatively few individuals during the morning.

Displaying male approaching female Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius
Arriving at the Laguna Casillas we had a small number of both Common Pochard and White-headed Ducks along with the usual Coots and a Moorhen.  However, it was the Little Bittern that "flashed" by but was seen by Andy and a few of us that really lit up our arrival.  Then it was a count of the first of the many Black-winged Stilts whilst, below us, both Cetti's and Reed Warblers kept up a constant chorus.  A Purple Heron flew over and having also found a well-concealed Snipe to the far right we recorded a pair of Mallards we moved on to the Wader Pool.  But not before Gerry had found a female Shoveler.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
Gadwall, Flamingo and Sardinian Warbler were observed before arriving at the next hide where we found a number of smaller waders including Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers.  More Black-winged Stilts to be seen along with a Little Grebe, Common Sandpiper and an Iberian sub-species Yellow Wagtail.  Overhead, we had our first Kestrel of the morning and the very rewarding experience of a Slender-billed Gull flying in from behind us.  Hoopoes continued to call and we did eventually find an individual at the very top of the distant bare tree.

Record shot of Slender-billed Gull Gaviota Picofina Larus genel

Moving towards the beach we found a single Flamingo and took a long look at the Rio Viejo where we found a pair of Dunlin along with Little Ringed, Ringed and Kentish Plovers.  A Greenshank was fast asleep in the right-hand arm of the water and then a single Greendshank flew away towards the wader Pool.  Very few gulls about but we did manage to identify both Black-headed and an immature Lesser Black-backed Gull.

One of two Dunlins Correlimos Comun Calidris alpina amongst the Curlew Sandpipers
Next it was along the shore and back into the reserve to approach the main hide at the Laguna Grande from the sea. A couple of Greenfinches were seen as we reached the main track and then a quintet of Glossy Ibis appeared overhead, busy circling as if trying to make up their minds in which direction they should eventually depart.  Obviously very indecisive as they were seen again near the end of the morning whilst we at the final hide! A single Cormorant passed overhead before we arrived at the hide.  A quick look around the water produced a small flock of Spotless Starlings and there were more Black-winged Stilts along with the odd Coot and Moorhen.  To the right a single Spoonbill was fast asleep whilst, on the island to the far left, a single Collared Pratincole rested before departing to join the rest of the small group that had been present a bare thirty minutes previously.

Sleepy Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia ignoring the Black-winged Stilt
Below us we had up to three Curlew Sandpipers present during the whole of our stay along with both Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers.  Just the one Avocet to be seen, presumably not the same individual seen on the old river.  At least a quartet of Grey Herons seen and above us many more feeding Barn Swallows and House Martins.  The first sight of the circling Bee-eaters coincided with the arrival of a very noisy group of tourists so time to move on to the final hide.

Bee-eaters Abejaruco Europeo Merops apiaster enjoying their desayuno
The attraction at the Laguna Escondida was the large number of Bee-eaters, most happy to rest n a nearby bare tree so giving excellent views. It was whilst watching these birds that Louise manage to pick up the strange yellow bird at the bottom of the tree almost concealed by the long grass.  Yes, she had found a Black-headed Weaver which most of us manage to see before the bird flew off across the water.  Apart from the House Sparrows, Marcus and a couple of others also managed to get a good view of the Booted Eagle that moved upstream and, as a bonus, even found the only Woodchat Shrike of the morning.  Somebody must have been wishing to reach the fifty mark as, at the same time, both a Collared Dove and a screaming bunch of Monk Parakeets crossed the water.  It was also hear that we had our best recording of the singing Nightingales and a Crested Lark joined in the concert from behind us.  Time to make our departure with the final species being  small charm of Goldfinches as we walked back to the footbridge.

Kentish Plover Chorlitejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus
Whilst at the Escondida we managed to get many sightings and photos of the "Black-headed White-headed Duck" which seems to be hanging around.  Whilst the assumption is that this bird is "White-headed" rather than a rogue "Ruddy" Duck, it still seems very strange.  Is this just a natural coincidental aberration or is this individual carrying some Ruddy Duck genes?  If the latter, the I think its days may be numbered.  Please stick in your own "two-penny worth" and let me know what you think.

Male White-headed Duck Malvasia Cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala
A most enjoyable morning with special thanks to the company of Gerry Collins, Louise Gray and Diana Porter from Salobrena, Lesley Laver from Nerja, Marcus and Liz Rootes from Competa, Brian Green from Triana, Ian Kirk from Benalmadena, my great friend Andy Paterson from nearby Torremolinos and yours truly from Lake Vinuela with a final tally of 53 species.

One of at least three Curlew Sandpipers Correlimos Zarapitin Calidris fgerruginea at the Laguna Grande
 Just for a change, I have added photographs of those "common" birds that we so often take for granted out here; the Moorhen, Collared Dove and Spotless Starling.

Moorhen Gallineta Comun Gallinula chloropus

Collared Dove Tortola Turca Streptopelia decaocto
Spotless Starlings Estornino Negro Sturnus unicolor in amongst the Bee-eaters

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Little ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Snipe, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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