Monday 28 September 2015

Zapata and the Rio Grande

Monday 28 September

It's all birding, birding at the moment as I publish Derek's report and, outside, torrential rain and thunder!  But at least it should be fine for the Axarquia Bird Group visit to Charca de Suarez on Thursday.

We met up with a couple of old friends Ian & Sarah Ward from Casarabonela this morning for a visit to Zapata before breakfast.  Some days you know it's just going to be a good 'un, especially when the first two birds of the visit are Osprey and Night Heron!  Stopping in the middle of the Guadalhorce is now a must for us [so long as the river is not flooding!] and this morning was no exception.  Green Sandpipers, Squacco Heron, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Grey Herons and Grey Wagtails [back in force] were busy feeding.  Returning back to dry land and walking carefully up the drier areas a juvenile Montagu's Harrier passed low overhead, first record for us here.  We managed very close views of the Squacco,  a Greenshank and a couple of Green Sandpipers and at least two Kingfishers.

Squacco Heron Ardeola raliodes (PHOTO:Derek Etherton)
Driving round to the reed beds specifically to find Common Waxbills, Ian and Sarah have never recorded these, it took us all of 5 minutes to find them.  Plenty of Cetti's calling, Zitting Cisticolas, Gold and Greenfinches, Serins, Linnets feeding.  Both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows were feeding and buzzing around us and whilst viewing these we were aware of a raptor calling.  Searching, four pairs of eyes always easier, we eventually discovered a Bonelli's Eagle high up heading toward the runway.  Wondering why it was calling so insistently we discovered why when it found it's mate. You go for months without seeing one and then they are like London buses, two at once.  They came so close together high in the sky, wheeled around for a few minuets before departing over the mountains, fabulous moment!   In 2 hours we notched up 40 species so with our tails held high it was off for breakfast.

Green SanpiperTringa ochropus (PHOTO:Derek Etherton)
Continuing the river theme we then travelled up to the higher reaches of the Rio Grande.  Nice to see it now with some water flowing.  Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails and lots of Sandpipers were making the best of it.  The top end gave us so many Grey Wagtails, Long-tailed Tits, Raven, Booted Eagle and a single Black Stork rising from the meadow to climb high on a thermal.  Whilst watching it climb we were lucky enough to pick a Peregrine Falcon high in the sky, no wonder the Feral Pigeons were nervous!  Lower down the river a couple of Short-toed Eagles gave us a close display and driving through the woods produced more Chiffchaffs and Chaffinch.  

Short-toes Eagle Circaetus gallicus (PHOTO:Derek Etherton)
A total of 51 species in all with the raptors the highlight for all 4 of us.

Sounds like a fabulous day Derek and more to come later in the week.

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

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