Wednesday 20 February 2019

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Monday 18 February

Distant Serin Verdicillo Serinus serinus
A beautiful day with lots of warm sunshine and hardly a breeze so a second day with visiting American birder Jon and Nancy and their friends Betty and David.  Today was to be a "Guadalhorce Day" with a morning visit upstream from the airport to Zapata and, following a coffee break, the afternoon at the main reserve  near the beach at the Desembocadura.  The main target for the morning was to try and locate the local Waxbills and hope o find a selection of waders.  We may not have found the Waxbills but Jon and Nancy certainly turned up trumps (but not of the Donald persuasion!) with Nancy enquiring about a small brown bird near the water which was quickly identified as a Water Pipit quickly followed by Jon spotting a yellow-coloured wagtail.  I, naturally, thought it would be a Grey Wagtail but, no, a returning Yellow (Iberian) Wagtail, my earliest recording of same in the past sixteen or so years.

Yellow Wagtail (Iberian) Lavandera Boyera Centroeuropea Motacilla flava flava

Still not finished as once in the red bed Jon asked about a small brown bird with black on its face.  Black on the rear end could be the less common form of Waxbill so bins on the spot and a handful of Linnets located.  However, Jon the spent time with the Collins and identified the bird that he and Nancy had seen; a pair of Penduline Tits.  I should have sent longer checking out the reeds rather than assume I had located the unidentified bird.  So extra brownie points to Jon and Nancy; worthy members, now, of the Andalucia Bird Society.

The morning had started well with the sighting of Spotless Starlings, Serins and Goldfinches along with a small flock of Greenfinch. Not just House Sparrows but also a couple of well exposed Zitting Cisticola, a passing Hoopoe and a hovering Kestrel.  Then on to the river with the occasional Cormorant flying over and Coots paddling about up stream.    Crested Larks on the scrapes behind and a number of White Wagtails on the river bank.  Our first wader was a good sighting of a Green Sandpiper and then more Moorhens and even a couple of skulking Heron.

With good numbers of Barn Swallow and House Martin feeding overhead we then also found Crag Martins whist back on the water a pair of mallard drifted down stream.  Nancy picked out the foraging Water Pipit and Jon discovered the Blue-headed Wagtail under the bank just below the ford.  A Common Sandpiper appeared alongside one of the, now, two Green Sandpipers present giving good views and a chance to compare size and markings.  Only one Little Egret as we made our way across the ford to check out the field above.  here we found more Crested Lark and a Little Ringed Plover in the drainage channel.  Another Kestrel overhead and also Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  The nearby bushes produced the first Sardinian Warbler of the day, Chiffchafffs were feeding in the trees and a Blackbird flew away.

Common Sandpiper Andarrios Chico Actitis hypoleucos
Once up in the reed bed area we had Jon and Nancy's Penduline Tit discovery along with Linnet, more Meadow Pipits and Goldfinch.  A Reed Bunting was sitting atop a bush and we watched  pair of Red-legged Partridges gradually making their way across the neighbouring ploughed field.  But then the special sighting.  Even the Cetti's Warblers were calling loudly for the benefit of all around.  Not sure who found it first but I suspect it might have been David.  Well-concealed behind a large boulder at the back of the same field with rushes growing behind, a Sparrowhawk was enjoying its breakfast.  Mostly concealed by with that penetrating yellow eye and barred chest it was really getting stuck into its prey.  Riping out down feathers, eating, eating and eating.  At one point we could see a raptor with a crop the size of a hen's eggs; just like a pigeon having filled itself silly on the local sprouts.

Record shot of feeding Sparrowhawk Gavilan Comun Accipiter nisus
After our coffee stop we arrived at the main Desembocadura reserve about 1.30 and there was a Meadow Pipit on the path waiting to greet us.  A White Wagtail appeared on the other side of the road and as we approached the river bank the first Cormorant flew over on its way to the rest of the colony of the Laguna Grande.  Nothing on the water but above us we watched a Booted Eagle making lazy circles in the sky.  Nearer to us a Kestrel was hovering over the meadow on the other side of the river.

Black-winged Stilt Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantopus
So on to the Laguna Casillas where we found a good-sized flock of Pochard along a smaller number of Coots.  Maybe a half-dozen Teal and the first sighting of the local Black-winged Stilt.  Numerous Spotted Starlings in the trees to the back and a couple of Monk Parakeets dashed by as is their want.  A lovely Black Redstart was seen below the hide whilst above we had a passage of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and then a sighting of a distant Marsh Harrier.  Also here we found our fist of many irregular sightings of the wintering Chiffchaff who were, perhaps, making the most of their last few weeks before heading off north.

Common Pochard Porron Europeo Aythya ferina
The Wader Pool was mainly a question of counting the Black-winged Stilts but a pair of Teal did put in an appearance as did a single Little Egret and in a distant tree we picked out a resting Buzzard.  On down to the Sea Watch recording Sardinianain Warbler, Greenfinch and Crested Larks. Lots of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the sea and moving around above us and the return journey confirmed a Redshank and on the Rio Viejo (Old River) along with a Green Sandpiper and many more Black-winged Stilts.  A Little Ringed Plover had arrived on the Wader Pond in our absence and then it was time to move on.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus with Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

At least three pairs of White-headed Duck on the Laguna Escondida plus Little Grebe, just the two, a few Coot and Moorhen and a shy heron at the far end.  Finally, we spent considerable time at the Laguna Grande where at least 30 Cormorants were counted, many in full breeding plumage.  A Trio of Collared Doves put in a visit and below the hide we had excellent views of Chiffchaff, Black-winged Stilt, both White and another Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail followed by a visit of a Common Sandpiper.

Booted Eagle Aguililla calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
On the water itself there seemed to be still very many Shoveler but the Black-necked Grebe flock seems to have been reduced to just the eight individuals.  At least five pairs of White-headed Ducks so very pleased to see the return of this iconic bird of Andalucia to this site.  For fifteen minutes or more we watched as many as four Booted eagles above and one even graced us with its attendance above the laguna, very considerate.

Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis surrounded by White-headed Ducks Oxyura leucocephala
A wonderful day in excellent company and we manage to find at least 50 species; hopefully, great memories for our American guests to take back to the States.  And having returned Jon and company to their hotel in Torremolinos, as I drove back home crossing the Guadalhorce next to the reserve there were  half-dozen of the local Jackdaws on the bridge.

A bit of everything! can you spot four species?

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Penduline Tit, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.

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