Monday 5 March 2018

La Janda

Saturday 3 March

Straight after breakfast it was down to Los Lances beach, recording Woodpigeon, Cattle Egret and Spoonbill on the way, and what and unexpected and awful sight awaited us!  Not so much having to get through the foot-deep "pond" to reach the boardwalk to the hide but then discover that the said boardwalk was no more.  Evidently the storms two days prior had seen the sea reach well into land and rip up the woodwork.  Well, we went as far as we could which was just before the final turn seawards to the hide itself.  Then a question of using bins and scope to see what was on the beach with the sea still crashing ashore.  Up first were the resting gulls, mainly Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged with a few Black-headed thrown in for good measure.  Nearer to us we found eight Audouin's Gull, many wearing rings, and on the poles in the water a few Sandwich Terns with another score or more resting on the beach to the other side of the hide.

Audouin's Gulls gaviota de Audouin Larus audouinii at Los Lances beach
Also seen on the beach were a number of small waders including, mainly, Sanderling, Ringed and Grey Plover, Little Stint and Dunlin.  Apart from a few Cattle Egret the drive also held Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Spotless Starling and Little Egret with a White Stork over-flying.  Then it was back to the hotel,collect Jenny and head off to Tahivilla for the ABS cheque presentation to the Montagu's Harrier Project but not before adding Robin, Greenfinch, Blackbird and Chiffchaff to the morning's sightings.

Just a few of the Sandwich Terns Charran Patinegro Sterna sandvicensis on view
Duty done and accompanied by Jerry and Barbara Laycock in their car and Ricky and Sonia Owen plus Geoff and Lisa Chapman in the third car we set off for La Janda and were on site at the top of the track by 11.45; the weather calm and dry with a hint of warm sunshine for a few hours birding.  Rain expected by 1pm so a question of getting on with the job and, in the event, we were finished and departing for home at about 4.30 and still the rains had not arrived.  How fortunate was that!

Corn Bunting Triguero Emberiza calandra
As we prepared to set off down the track to the canal a distant marsh harrier disappeared over the hills to our left and looking along the fences as we very slowly descended the track we recorded Corn Bunting, many Stonechat, Crested Lark and a rather handsome Iberian Grey Shrike.  Stopping at the corner before starting off along the canal we had sightings of a number of Mallard and Cormorant but, best of all, a long-hovering Black-shouldered Kite to make a really fabulous start to what was to be a raptor experience extraordinaire.

Distant Black-shouldered Kite Elanio Comun Elanus caeruleus

Herons, Little and Cattle Egret were expected as were regular sightings of the local Jackdaws but, perhaps, not the Audouin's Gull that put in an appearance.  Not long before we found a score or more of Glossy Ibis followed by regular sightings of Goldfinch, Serin and Linnet, especially the last.  A pair of Black Stork made their way west high above s but it was to be little while before we picked up the first of the feeding White Storks albeit we had seen a large kettle of them as we entered the track.  What was amazing, at the time, was the number of Purple Swamphen recorded as we drove along.  With the river it seemed in full flood and the fields on the opposite bank becoming more like lakes, it was interesting to see the feeding going on in the reeds still projecting from the water with many Moorhen, Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler.  We managed to add a Reed Bunting and Ricky's car missed this bird but were compensated with finding a Penduline Tit!  On the banks we added both Greenfinch and Zitting Cisticola and on the left-hand side a couple of Green Sandpipers along with the frequent Crested Larks.

Male Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero occidental Circus aeruginosus
Before reaching the bridge we had also added Bluethroat and Black Redstart found near the water and the first Kestrels were up and about.  A stop at the bridge produced both Great Tit and Crag Martin and we realised that the water was continuing to rise at this end compared with yesterday afternoon's visit as there was no n longer any gap between water level and the bridge underside.  Driving down the avenue with the trees all sitting well in the water and the sight of the scores of Cattle Egret nests from last year, we picked up our first Red-legged Partridge and soon after a Pheasant.  A Great White Egret was showing well and then, taking a break for our picnic lunch before crossing the flooded stream, we watched both Marsh Harriers and Black Kites above the green slopes in front of us.

Black Kite Milano Negro Milvus migrans
Up to the smelly farm and then the straight road through the dehesa which, in addition to the Rock  and Collared Doves, dozens of Jackdaws and a small flock of Meadow Pipits, really started to produce the raptors.  Not just the occasional Marsh Harrier but dozens of Black Kites and at one stage it seemed that there was a Black Kite on every post on either side of the road.  Not long after, rounding a bend we came across a tree on the left which held almost thirty resting Black Kites.  Over the distant hills T'other Bob even managed to find a trio of circling Griffon Vultures.

A few of the remaining tree-resting Black Kites Milano Negro Milvus migrans (Can I see 15?)
Reaching the end of the road we turned left having found that the Great Spotted Cuckoos were not in the small thicket where seen last week and made our way along the badly-surfaced road and over the river.  But before crossing we found a field with about thirty Purple Swamphen at the rear and, as we watched, at least another score joined them before disappearing down the bank as yet another Marsh Harrier drifted over.  The set-aside field on the the far side of the bridge produced both a number of White Wagtails as well as a single Grey Wagtail and then Ricky, who had taken the lead at the previous junction, was out of his car, camera in hand and pointing to the far end of the green field.  Yes, he had found the wintering Lesser Spotted Eagle and it was certainly an impressive site to see such a huge bird drifting slowly along at no more then a couple of feet above ground level and, to cap it all, a male Hen Harrier was quartering the opposite direction.  Whilst we all jumped out to get a better, albeit distant, view Sonia remained in the car taking photographs - as can be seen.  The arrival of a handful of Black-winged Stilts to the field in front of us seemed almost insignificant.

Lesser Spotted Eagle Aguila Pomerana Aquila pomarina (PHOTO: Pagui Mateos Ruiz)

And that was it - or so we thought.  Returning the junction to take the road back towards the smelly farm Ricky stopped once more and, as we all looked right, a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos were found in the very same thicket as seen last week.  A great way to end of little birding adventure, say our farewells and head off for our respective homes passing once more through the "clouds" of Black Kites.  Fantastic day with about 65 birds recorded; over 100 Black Kites, Black-shouldered Kite, Hen Harrier and numerous Marsh Harriers then that Lesser Spotted Eagle and over 50 Purple Swamphens.  What's not to like about birding on a day promising nothing but steady rain?

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis, Heron, Black Stork, White Stork, Spoonbill, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Griffn Vulture, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Green sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Pallid Swift, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff, Penduline Tit, Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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