Tuesday 23 May 2017

Dipper; dipped then un-dipped!

Monday 22 May 

At last, a visit from the local Dipper Mirlo-acuatico Europeo Cinclus cinclus
Off to Velez de Benaudalla for the evening in readiness for an early morning appointment so what better way to start than spend the first evening at the Charca de Suarez reserve on the western outskirts of Motril.  Driving down "Turtle Dove Alley" we had our one and only Turtle Dove along with Blackbird, Spotless Starling and the local House Sparrows which had been joined by a Spanish Sparrow.  Plenty of Collared Doves to be seen and as we passed the back of the reserve there was plenty of activity in the mass nesting site of House Martins.  Both Chaffinch and Goldfinch put ion an appearance and Jenny was first to spot the Hoopoe resting on the wires above.  Also seen was a single Cattle Egret and a coupe of Rock Doves plus a pair of Mallard in a small stream.

And so we arrived on site with five minutes to spare before opening time and a couple of birders wandering about either in a dream or, more likely, awaiting the opening of the gates.  How wrong I was.  The first, Spanish speaking, informed me the reserve was closed and the second birder happened to be fellow ABS member Gerry Bennett from Nerja who had also made a special journey.  To say that Gerry was best from p;leased is somewhat of an understatement, the more so since he had checked the website before setting out and there was no mention of a potential closure.  What to do?  This was like a re-run of the olden days when I often found the reserve locked up on a Monday or Tuesday evening as if making up for the week-end opening but I had thought those bad memories were long gone.  Anyway, along with Gerry we decided to head off up to the picnic area at Velez de Benaudalla and see if the resident breeding Dippers might still be about.

Lots of Spotted Flycatchers Papamoscas Gris Muscicapa striata to be seen in the fading light
On arrival we seemed to be surrounded by Spotted Flycatchers and the White Wagtail at the river's edge was quickly replaced by a most handsome Grey Wagtail giving excellent views.  We had already recorded Chaffinches as we approached the parking area and could not miss the breeding House Sparrows making use of the numerous holes in the concrete wall on the opposite side of the river.  There were loud calls from the local Golden Orioles and Jenny managed to see a fleeting flash of yellow and picked out the perching individual as Gerry and I searched high and low for the Dipper.  But nary a specimen was to be seen; what a disappointment, we had dipped on a Dipper.  However, as the evening wore on we were entertained by the feeding Barn and Red-rumped Swallows above which were duly joined by a number of House Martins.  Driving back to the village we had the pleasure of a Green Woodpecker fly up from the verge into a low tree; lovey.

Difficult to enough light on this Grey Wagtail Lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea

This morning, Tuesday, I was back at the picnic site by 8 o'clock, leaving the House Martins and Common Swifts screaming around the village in the hope that the Dippers might still be about but as time wore on I feared the worst.  Had the youngsters fledged and the whole family moved away?  Had the nest site been disturbed or even interfered with as the river is a popular spot for both picnickers and bathers on warm days?

A very patient thirty minutes or so with, once again, numerous Spotted Flycatchers to be seen along with both White Wagtail and Blackbirds.  Chaffinches on the track and in the trees along with the calling Golden Orioles were not really a compensation.  A final walk upstream to the large weir and back again before departing to collect Jenny at the apartment.  But as I approached the nest site I saw a very pale leaf on a low branch just above the water and thought how strange.  Lifting the bins for  a closer view you can imagine my surprise and delight to realise that I was looking at the very white chest of the Dipper - he/she must have just had its morning wash!

The Dipper Mirlo-acuatico Europeo Cinclus cinclus that remained for many minutes; shame the light was far from perfect
Well, what a way to end a short visit and as a very special bonus I even had both Barn and Red-rumped Swallow along with a male Blackcap on the fence as I made my way back to the main road then added a Thekla Lark for good measure as we set off to Motril on the mountain route rather than the motorway.  A short detour via the high dam only produced a single Coot.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Cattle Egret, Coot, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Dipper, Blackbird, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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