Friday 4 August 2017

Zapata and Rio Grande, Malaga

Friday 4 August

Up very early and away to Zapata at the back of Malaga airport where I arrived a few minutes after six.  Still dark and a drive to the far end of "Nighjar Alley" produced the first and only Red-necked Nightjar as the bird took off immediately in front of the car and moved away over the bank on my left.  It never ceases to amaze one how large these birds are when seen at close quarters.

Then it was a casual drift back to the ford through the Rio Guadalhorce where I met up with Derek and Barbra Etherton along with Lindsay and Keith Pheasant to see the early morning light arrive and the awakening of the local bird life.   The roosting water birds started to move about and there were at east a quartet of Grey Herons along with a dozen or more Night Herons, either in the water or flying overhead. Whilst a couple of Moorhens paddled about the first of the Little Egrets dropped in to search for their breakfast and, once settled down, must have totalled at least a dozen.

Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea in the early morning shade
A small number of Cattle Egrets flew over and looking skywards we soon picked out half a dozen Glossy Ibis heading upstream.. At least an hundred Spotless Starlings gathered on a neighbouring wire and a hint of a murmeration which, about an hour later, became more of an explosion as a single Sparrowhawk whizzed round the corner from behind the reeds to see what night be take by surprise.  Along with the Spotless Starlings there were four Jackdaws then the arrival of a Purple Heron.  No sooner had the bird settled in a nearby tree than two more followed by a fourth individual graced us with their presence.  Checking the water and it edges we soon added both White and Blue-headed Wagtails and whilst a number of both Grey and Night Herons continued to rest we could but not notice the very sorry-looking Yellow-legged Gull which eventually walked its way down stream along the levelled gravel.  Little Ringed Plovers and Green Sandpipers were also active along with a flashing Kingfisher and, much closer to us, a family of young Cetti's Warblers and a reasonable-sized flock of Linnets and Goldfinch.  On the far side of the river both a couple of Blackbirds and a Hoopoe whilst, above,  a good number of Common Swifts had arrived along with accompanying Barn Swallows and House Martins.  Constant checking did eventually confirm the presence of a small number of Pallid Swifts , the arrival of a pair of Black-winged Stilts and even a trio of departing Mallard.

Gone nine so time to move on to the lower Rio Grande after a short stop for breakfast.  Upon arriving it was obvious that there was no shortage of Little Egrets but closer inspection also revealed a single White Stork and more Green sandpipers along with Common Sandpipers.  A handful of Black-winged Stilts were present and more Little Ringed Plovers.  Feeding over the water were mainly Barn Swallows and the occasional House Martin and as we made our way downsteam to cross the river and continue on to the narrow bridge to park up we encountered both House and Spanish Sparrows and Crested Larks plus a number of Collared Doves and a single Turtle Dove flying away from us back across the river.

Just a lone White Stork Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia at the Rio Grande

However, perhaps the best sighting after the recent comments was the sight of a number of calling, flying and resting Bee-eaters.  Always a lovely sight and so welcome; the first for me since returning from the UK.  And once looking up it soon became very evident that they were not the only birds in the sky.  First a Booted Eagle quickly followed by a Short-toed Eagle.  Lovely to see these birds in their natural element as the single Black Kite seemed happy to just sit and relax on an electricity wire, although we did eventually see the bird flying low upriver.  With a number of Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Serins moving about near the tree tops we were to regular catch sight of more of these lovely raptors then the big moment when we happened to find a trio of Honey Buzzards circling and slowly making their way westwards.  The first week of August would suggest that these early arrivals are non-breeders.

At last, Bee-eaters Abejaruco Europeo Merops apiaster heard and seen
Immediately in front of us a male Sardinian Warbler with both adult and juvenile Grey Wagtail on the stream that represented the Rio Grande river.  Lindsay hear and then just a brief view of the Golden Oriole that flew into the trees, and also revealing the resting juvenile Common Kestrel, on the far bank below the bridge whilst above the bridge Lindsay then managed to find the first Spotted Flycatcher and Barbara a second Jay of the morning.

By now it was becoming quite hot and gone 12.30 so we made our way back downstrean and continued on to the confluence of the Rio Grande and Guadalhorce where, upon arrival, we were greeted by a single Iberian Grey Shrike and a few Chaffinches.  A couple of Mallards on the far Guadalhorce and more Little Egrets along with a pair of Black-winged stilts but, after recording over fifty species for the morning, it was time to say our goodbyes and a make a start for home 
food, a swim and a well-earned siesta - but not necessarily in that order.

Lots of Little Egrets Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta this morning

Birds seen:
Mallard, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, White Stork, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Red-necked Nightjar, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

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