Friday, 13 November 2015

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Thursday 12 November

Wonderful morning out with the Axarquia Bird Group at the Paraje Natural de Desembocadura del Guadalhorce reserve in Malaga with a total of sixteen present including Danish and Scottish visitors as well as long-time friends.  As ever, I am grateful to John wainwright also sending in a report on the visit so I have been able to add any missing birds to the following report.  In the end, great company with a finally tally of over fifty species and, on returning home, found that Jenny had slept through much of the morning as she recovers from her broken wrist and had then been visited by friends so not on here own.  Even better, she was well enough for us to attend the local Torre del Mar cinema and enjoy a performance of  Verdi's "Aida" from La Scala, Milan.  What a wonderful way to end the day!

The morning started surprisingly cool with much cloud instead of the promised full sun but it certainly made for better birding as, when the cloud finally cleared, it became very warm indeed.  Welcomed by a good number of Blackbirds and a foraging Sardinian Warbler along with a pair of White Wagtails on the road and both Cetti's Warblers and a Mistle Thrush as we awaited the remainder of the the group.   A rapidly departing Green Sandpiper was seen overhead along with the usual screeching of the marauding Monk Parakeets which kept us awake as we made our way to the entrance footbridge.  A pair of Grey Wagtails disappeared down stream and there was no shortage of either Black Redstarts or Zitting Cisticolas about and these were to be found all over the reserve.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Crossing the footbridge the river seemed completely deserted save for a handful of the resident Rock Doves on their usual perch under the motorway bridge.  But John Wainwright managed to find the lone Kingfisher resting in the reeds below a small tree upstream of the above bridge and, I think, seen by many.  Then it was on towards the Laguna Casillas passing a Great Tit, Greenfinch and more Zitting Cisticolas.  As walked we were aware of the movement to and from the Laguna Grande by the wintering Cormorants and there was always a Grey Heron or two to be seen plus small, isolated flocks of Yellow-legged Gulls.

All in a frazzle Little Egret Egretta garzetta
As expected and fore-warned, the water level in the lagunas was very high but, unexpectedly, very few birds about.  Jut the one Coot and a Little Grebe albeit a pair of Mallards flew over.  However there was a dozen or so Crag Martins feeding above along with a handful of Barn Swallows, so somebody is still finding sufficient food to put off the long migration south to furthest South Africa for at least a few more days.  In the tamerisks below a little movement and a pair of Blackcaps were revealed along with  very small charm of Goldfinches in the bushes neighbouring the hide.  Naturally at this time of the year, it was not long before we started to add regular sightings of Chiffchaffs to the list.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis (PHOTO: Jenny Wright)
Walking on down to the Wader Pool it was not so much the pair of Collared Doves passing overhead that caught our attention as the single Whimbrel which seemed to appear out of nowhere.  The pool itself contained very few birds but we did manage to locate a pair of Snipe and then a rather lovely Reed Bunting immediately in front of us and only partly obscured by the covering reeds.  Steve thought he had found a second individual only to discover to his, and the rest of us, surprise that it was a juvenile Bluethroat he had photographed.  The beautiful shot by Steve can be seen.

Juvenile Bluethroat Luscinia svecica (PHOTO: Steve Powell)
Better seen from the track overlooking the old river, Rio Viejo, was the resting Osprey along with scores of Cormorants and then a single Booted Eagle.  A couple of Hoopoes, seen by Ivan and his wife, passed low near the river bank and, at the far end of the now large pool, were four Greenshanks and a single Common Sandpiper whilst near the far bank we found a pair of Shovelers just when we began to think we were not going to see a single duck on the waters!  A pair of Moorhen made their way across the water and beyond the trees we caught sight of a Marsh Harrier drifting by. no doubt looking for a little light refreshment.  Robins were also seen as we walked in both directions but the amazing site was that of a total of 31 Grey Herons arriving in the area en masse from, what appeared to be, off the sea.  In addition, a Common Redshank was heard but not located.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
The open ground towards the Sea Watch produced a number of Stonechats and Crested Larks along with at least a pair of Lesser Short-toed Larks.  The odd Blackbird and a handful of Goldfinches were forever swapping sides and then the first of a few Meadow Pipits to add to the list.  More Black Redstarts and, looking out to sea, a fair number of both Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls plus a single Gannet but, even better, the Osprey had decided it was time to go a fishing and it passed immediately overhead as we all suddenly remembered that we had cameras somewhere or other.  The return walk towards the Lagunas Escondida and Grande produce both a point of discussion and an amazing surprise in terms of raptors.  First, resting well up the ladder on the side of the left-hand tall chimney, what appeared to be a Kestrel or could it possibly be a Peregrine Falcon from way it was posed?  It took at least another two observations from further along the track to confirm the former as it s colouring became more evident and no sooner had we resolved the matter than the cry went up from John that there was a Short-toed Eagle overhead.  There was indeed and a very late specimen it most certainly was.

And then the Osprey Pandion haliaetus suddenly appeared overhead
Arriving at the Escondida we were greeted by a school party of over forty youngsters so decided to give it a miss and head straight to the Grande, thus making sure that we had the seats and uninterrupted views.  Perhaps a little spiteful on our party as we were soon joined by the teenagers and some were quite interested and enjoyed the opportunity to share our experience and look at the birds through our scopes and binoculars.  What did we see?  Apart from the Osprey which had now returned to its previous resting place, and the Booted Eagle there were numerous Cormorants and Grey Herons along with very many Shovelers and a smaller number of both Pochard and White-headed Ducks and just the single Gadwall.  There were very few Mallards on view but a small number of Coot could be seen.  Whilst looking the other way a pair of the original five Great White Egrets flew overhead to add to the couple of Little Egrets that had been noted in the adjoining water.

A pair of Shovelers Anas clypeata (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Making our way back to the footbridge, we managed to add both Serin and Linnet whilst our Danish friends called in at the Escondida and found a single Black-necked Grebe.  Anything else to report?  A quick visit upstream, by car via the road through the airport to Zapata in order that others might discover Derek and Barbara Etherton's "home patch" revealed a good number of Common Waxbills, a first sighting for some.

Resting Osprey Pandion haliaetus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
All in all a splendid day which I hope others enjoyed as much as i did despite not still having recovered from whatever bug it was that I picked up at the beginning of the week.,

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Osprey, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel,  Moorhen, Coot, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark,  Crag Martin, Barn Swallow,  Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.

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

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