Friday, 20 January 2017

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce, Malaga

Thursday 19 January

Dave and his bird group my be "hardy up in the north-east of Almeria and "mad dogs and English may go out in the midday sun"  (must have spent July in the region), but it tales a Welshman and a Dutch lady to go birding in the cold, wind and rain!  Dry when I collected Lisette and left Algarrobo for Malaga for the monthly meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group but once skirting the city some light rain and then, arriving at the Guadalmar church, more persistent  and heavy rain.  So, we sat in the car for fifteen minutes and watched the antics of a Robin, Black Redstart and White Wagtail and then, with no other members putting in an appearance, spent fifteen minutes trying to work our way through the maze of one-way streets on the Guadalmar estate until we finally reached the western-most chiringuito, recording House Sparrow, Blackbird and Kestrel on the way.

At last time to find some shelter, both beach side chiringuitos were closed, and take a look out to sea where the choppy waves were constantly hiding any resting gulls.  No shortage of both Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls followed by the arrival of Black-headed Gulls.  A handful of Cormorant were feeding off shore and then Lisette, whilst I was answering a phone call, was able to see both a dozen or so Gannets and a small number of Sandwich Terns.  By now Lisette was feeling the cold so made a dignified retreat to the nearby hotel for some warmth and an expensive copy whilst I picked up some very close Monk Parakeets feeding on the grass along with Spotless Starlings and a ringed BlackbirdChiffchaffs were flitting about the hedges and Lisette also recorded a Crested Lark.

We could see the lighter, brighter sky to the south and once we had found an open bar for a coffee the rain had stopped and it even felt a little warmer, probably up to 5C!  So, the short ride round to the mouth of the Guadalhorce where we could check out the lower reaches of the river, shore and relatively sheltered sea.  A single Grey Plover and Turnstone on the shore were joined by a handful of Sanderling and even a Kentish Plover put in an appearance.  A lone Little Egret flew down river, took one look at the rough sea and then promptly returned from when it had come.  Collared Doves and more Chiffchaffs feeding around us along with a couple of Meadow Pipits, House Sparrows and a Stonechat.  Strange to sea a female Kestrel on the opposite shore of the river standing in the water and, presumably, taking a drink.  Not too many Crag Martins feeding in the air  but an almost last look out to sea found a "floating black blob" which, when scoped, was revealed to be a Common Scoter.  Finally a rather lovely Sardiniian Warbler as we made our way back to the car to head off via the airport to the Guadalhorce at Zapata.

No sooner had we arrived at Zapata where by now the clouds were breaking and the temperature had upped another couple of degrees or so, than we found numerous Chiffchaffs and stopping to take a closer look at the exposed water in the reeds we picked up our first of a number of Bluethroats recorded.  Overhead we had the sudden appearance of a female Marsh Harrier and quickly followed by a second, giving the appearance of mother and juvenile.  Also in the battered reed bed we found Greenfinch and a Heron. Working our way along the track towards the turn to the ford, now almost certainly inaccessible unless you have a death wish or a very large-wheeled tractor, we picked up White Wagtails, Serin and Goldfinch plus a couple of Little Egrets along with a passing Cattle Egret.  Similarly, no shortage of Stonechat, Spotless Starlings and more Robins.

Passing the devastated flood meadow we came to the turn to the ford which looked wet and treacherous, especially for a two-wheel drive car.  Ant to think less than twenty-four hours earlier I had driven right down to the river.  A Hoopoe on the grass next to the car as we turned near the bridge the we sat and observed the large puddles at our end of the track more Bluethroats and a Meadow Pipits came to drink and even a pair of Green Sandpipers.  A single Greenshank put in an appearance whilst overhead we had our first sighting of the circling Booted Eagle.  This bird seemed to stay with us for the rest of our stay and was later joined a second individual.

It was whilst we were on this track that we received a call from Corrinne and Oliver Hibbett to say that they ,too, had turned up at the Guadalmar church, slightly late and no other members present so made their way to the two hides, Casillas and Wader, on the far side of the reserve.  Here they recorded White-headed Duck, Booted Eagle and Black-winged Stilt amongst other common ducks and passerines.

Working our way back along the track to the airport end exit and homeward journey we stopped to watch a Sparrowhawk shooting swiftly left with a Marsh Harrier behind.  then, to the front, we had a Buzzard and in the distance, near the hills a good, long observation of a Bonelli's Eagle. We also had a couple of Ravens in the area for about ten minutes.   Crested Lark, Stonechat and a two trees full of Collared Doves on and near the fields to our left with, finally, at the end of the track more feeding Chiffchaffs in the reeds along with another Robin and a Great Tit.  For such a bad start, a total of 43 species plus the additional two from Corrine and Oliver made a very respectable total for the day.  By the way, not taking a camera paid off with the number of species recorded but, on the other hand, we had very near sightings of both Bluethroat and Hoopoe that were just calling out for a photo.  I must check my telephone ans see if I was successful!

Birds seen:
Common Scoter, White-headed Duck, Gannet, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Buzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

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

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