Thursday 18 October 2018

Axarquia Bird Group visit to Rio Velez

Thursday 18 October

Well, what can I say?  With the forecast stating there will definitely be heavy rain lots of early emails from members of the Axarquia Bird Group informing me they would give the morning a miss.  Indeed, a message at 8 o'clock from Lindsay up in Competa not only informed me that it was already raining but that they were now forecasting the worst storm for ten years!  But here in Mezquitilla still dry.  A few spots as brother-in-law Chris and I set of a few minutes before 9 and dry all the way to the Hyundai garage near the Rio Velez on the N340 even though passing the bus station in Torre it was obvious that they had received more than a heavy shower judging by the size of the puddles in places.

Storms to the east - lightning to the west

Safely arrived, and still dry, a group of ten screaming Monk Parakeets flew over and, rather than hang around, Chris and I set off under the bridge and down the track towards the beach.  Dry all the way even though constant rumbling thunder on our right towards the west.  Approaching the hide we even had sun in our faces making sighting very difficult.  Having birded the neighbouring area to the hide we decided to check out the beach and mouth of the Rio Velez before the rain started.  All very dark to west and east and the river had burst through its lagoon crating havoc.  As we approached the river a Heron took off and a Moorhen ran down the ban into the water.
Rio Velez basin with break to the right (east)
Outfall from the Rio Velez
All that was seen in the river itself were two Coots.  So with now much lightening and rumbling we made our way back to the hide thinking we might be in need of some shelter.  Once here and all quiet we then decided it might be prudent to continue on back to the car.  Scope in the car, coats off and as I turned on the ignition the heavens absolutely opened up and this was to be the most violent storms I have seen in many a year.  I have a feeling there must be a moral to this story somewhere!  By the way, now well after mid-day and as I write this report the rain is still tipping it down.

And what about the birds; did we see anything?  Too right we did and had recorded 26 species in the hour including two new bird of the year for me!

Serin Verdecillo Serinus serinus

Once under the road bridge and onto the track we had a couple of feeding Great Tits and a pair of Collared Doves resting on tip of the first pylon.  In front drinking form a puddle the first Robin of the morning and a Blackbird.  The birds were then briefly joined by a male Grey Wagtail which returned a few minutes later.  To the left a Hoopoe sat on the fence happily eating its breakfast whilst a second individual foraged below.  In front a largish mixed flock of Goldfinch and Serin and even the odd Greenfinch.  Then the birds were up in the air as a Kestrel passed over before re-settling.  Looking at the newly-arrived water in the river we managed to pick out at least a dozen Mallard and, as far as we could see, all males.

Hoopoe Abubilla Upupa epops
A male Stonechat was on the fence as made our way down to the hide with a number of calling Cetti's Warblers to accompany us, we could see a very large flock of hirundines totalling at least a hundred.  Mainly Barn Swallows but also including a fair number of House Martins and a handful of Red-rumped Swallow.  What at first looked like an out of place Chaffinch turned out to be a female Common Redstart on the fence, we think the second of the morning as Chris had previously seen a similar bird further back on the track.  Amongst the small flock of House Sparrows feeding from the fence next to the pump house we also found a pair of Common Waxbill.

One wet and tired Red-rumped Swallow Golondrina Daurica Hirundo daurica

Looking from the hide towards the river we in time to see a Song Thrush fly across the reed tops in front of us as well as a number of Blackbirds and a pair of Robin.  Above us active feeding by the swallows and martins and even a single Common Swift was spotted.  Then, to cap it all, having told Chris that we yet to see one of the local Crested Larks, he said he was looking a little brown bird and was it another Serin?  Scope set up to look at the field about fifty metres distant and two small brow birds close to each other.  The one on the left with its back towards us appeared at first sight to be a possible Linnet but then we looked at the second individual, looking our way, and had the great excitement and pleasure of seeing a Whinchat.  This all in the first hour before we took our walk to the beach.

So we may have been small in number with just the two of us present but, come on, look at the birds we saw and not a drop of rain touched our heads.

Bird seen:
Mallard, Heron, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Swift, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Common Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.

7 of the hundred plus hirundines
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