Thursday, 15 February 2018

Zapata and the Rio Grande

Thursday 15 February

Up extremely early and arrive on time at 7 o'clock to collect our Dutch birding neighbour and take to the airport for her return flight to Holland.  Then it was down to Zapata, behind Malaga Airport, for a couple of hours followed by breakfast at a local venta then off for a couple of hours to the confluence of the Rios Grande and Guadalhorce just beyond Cartamar.  What a morning that saw 60 species including eight new birds for the year.

Early morning Greenshank Archebebe Claro Tringa nebularia
Welcomed on the way down to the river by House Sparrow, Collared Dove, a huge murmuration of Spotless Starlings, Blackbird and Stonechat, we were soon sealed in the car, having just met up with Barbara and Derek Etherton by the arches, and studying the lower reaches of the Guadalhorce near the ford.  The water seemed to have recovered a little but there still appeared to be some contamination as in front we could see shoals of very large fish (Carp?) and both the local Cormoranats and Little Egrets giving them the greedy eye till they realised that no matter how big their eyes might be, there was just no way these birds were going to be able to swallow any of these monster fish!

Little Egret garceta Comun Egretta garzetta and Cormorant Cormoran Grande Phalacrocorax carbo walking on fish!
On the shore line in front of us we had a quintet of Greenshank and both Common and Green Sandpiper.  The couple of Wood Sandpiper were an added bonus and at least seven Little Ringed Plovers were counted. 

Wood Sandpiper Andarrios Bastardo Tringa glareola wondering whether to eat the fish of flee with his life!

Having seen Mallard and watched two pairs of Gadwall paddle across the river, we then checked out the two Great White Egrets as a Kingfisher flashed across the water.  Slightly up stream three Glossy Ibis were taking their rest and we even located a Night Heron along with the resident Coot and Moorhen.  Whilst the pair of Kestrel seemed to be initially mobbed by a handful of Jackdaw, a Buzzard was located above the trees.  Naturally there were White Wagtail and Chiffchaff to be seen and then a couple of Snipe on the far bank as a female Marsh Harrier drifted over on the lookout for breakfast and had to decide whether or not to help itself to a Little Egret.  In and around the bushes we also had Serin and noisy Cetti's Warblers before located a couple of Shoveler as both Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls put in an appearance.

Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus

The short tip across the river to the deep culvert produced a couple of Bluethroat whilst a Sparrowhawk was seen overhead.  Our return trip to cross the river produced both Hoopoe and Blackcap and even a lone Red-legged Partridge on the river bank before recording a the first Grey Wagtail of the morning.  Driving along the track and past the reed-bed we had a small number of Common Waxbill and a few Greenfinch.  Both Crested Lark and Zitting Cisticola were seen on the fence and a little later also the first of a couple of male Sardinian Warblers.  Above numerous Crag Martins and so to breakfast before heading slightly inland.

Arriving at the Rio Grande we first travelled slightly downstream on the dusty track and stopped to watch a handful of Siskin and a few Chaffinches feeding, presumably taking on grit.  Then it was on to the river's edge where we recorded four Black-winged Stilt, more Common and Green Sandpipers along with Serin, Goldfinch and Crested Lark.  Two Great White Egrets put in an appearance and then we move upstream to check out the Guadalhorce.  Here we found many White Wagtail and Crag Martin along with female Black Redstarts (had the males already returned to higher ground to stake out their preferred breeding site?)

Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba
Crossing the river we stopped to identify the Water Pipit and then found a good number of Blackcap feeding on the rotting pomegranates still hanging on the trees.  Movement in the green cover below us as we stood on the bridge helped us locate our first Willow Warbler of the year and then a Buzzard flew past soon to be followed by a Booted Eagle.  A Jay was calling form the Eucalyptus trees and another seen on the track below the bridge.  Making our way back to the main road we first recorded a lone Meadow Pipit and then, high above us, a raven drifting right to left.  Our final stop at the nesting area of a local Bonnelli's Eagle duly delivered the bird as it soared above a neighbouring hilltop.  And that would have been the end of a fabulous morning had I then not found the missing Cattle Egret as it flew over the road in front of me as I approached the slope down into Torre del Mar.

Grey Wagtail Lavandera Cascadena Motacilla cinerea

Birds seen:
Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-legged Partridge, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Snipe, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-Headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail,  Bluthroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap. Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Waxbill, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch,Goldfinch, Siskin.

Fish fish and more fish in the river

Early morning shot of the Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Piegadis falcinellus

A peak-a-boo Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba on the upper Guadalhorce

Another early morning shot, a Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius

Record shot of male Siskin Lugano Carduelis spinus

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