Friday, 17 May 2019

Guadalhorce & Zapata

Thursday 16 May

Up and away on a bright, clear, warm and sunny morning to Malaga Cruise Port to collect visiting American birder Wade and Carol who had just arrived on the Emerald Princess.  So a very pleasant day's birding at the Guadalhorce followed by an hour at Zapata before it was time to get my guests back to their cruise ship for the final leg to Barcelona before heading straight home to Florida.

Over four hours at the Guadalhorce where we managed to find some good birds having been welcomed by Blackbird and House Martins and especially Collared Doves along with the usual regulars.  As we approached the footbridge we had our first sighting of Red-rumped Swallow and numerous Common Swifts in the air above.  On both sides of the track we could hear many Reed Warblers and coming off the bridge a male Sardinian Warbler.  A Little Egret put in a brief appearance slightly upstream but soon disappeared into the vegetation. So, with Lesser Black-backed Gulls moving overhead, onto the first hide.

Laguna Casillas was not overcrowded with birds but at least nine nests with sitting birds found so Black-winged Stilts are in full swing this breeding season as are the Coots.  Indeed, some Stilts have already led their newly-hatched chicks down to the water's edge on the Laguna Grande.  A pair of Mallard and about ten Common Pochard were also seen.  Then, partly hidden by reed cover, another seven Little Egret.  Now we had regular fly-pasts of Barn Swallow, House Martin and Common Swift.

Little Egrets Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta
Picking up both Serin and marauding Monk Parakeet we made our way to the Wader Pool.  Immediately we found more Black-winged Stilts and two pairs of Kentish Plover.  But there were more Ringed Plovers and at the back of the water three Redshank and a single Greenshank.

In addition, we were able to see three Herons resting in the bare trees to the back of the water and a Green Sandpiper at the far end of the laguna.  This was where we picked up the Black-tailed Godwit coming into breeding plumage that very kindly made its way to the front so that we could have a better view from the hide!

Black-tailed Godwit Aguja Colinegra Limosa limosa
The Rio Viejo (Old River) seem to be alive with small bird as you immediately became aware of the little shapes running about at the water's edge.  Not so much the Black-winged Stilts but the good numbers of both Kentish and Ringed Plover.  The the sight of a Grey Plover.  Whilst we had a handful of Sanderling on the near beach on the far side we found three Dunlin.  A Kestrel flew over us and we than managed to find a single Little Stint.  A brief visit to the Sea Watch produced nothing extra, other than my visitors' ship was still in port, and no shortage of naked bathers making the most of the strong sunshine and warm weather.

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus (above) and Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (below)

Returning by the same route we then made our way to the Laguna Escondida. picking up a couple of Crested Larks on the way.  A couple of Little Grebe immediately in front of the hide and a single Coot.  Where were all the birds?  But a little patience and gradually some activity at the far end as first a pair of Gadwall cam out of the reeds followed by a Moorhen.  A brief appearance by a male White-headed Duck but eventually as many as three in sight.

Most of the dozen Flamingo Flamenco Comun Phoenicopterus roseus on the Laguna Grande
Finally, on to the Laguna Grande where we managed to find some lovely sightings.  Eventually a total of 23 Sandwich Terns following the initial sighting of a single Little Tern.  In the centre of the water a round dozen Flamingos and many Black-headed along with two Slender-billed Gulls.  In addition to the Kentish and Ringed Plovers on the scrape below us we had a rather lovely Turnstone.

Turnstone Vuelvepiedras Comun Arenaria interpres
On the nearby island both Black-winged Stilt and Avocet were siting on eggs but also four Stilt chicks foraging around the edges.  The Black-winged Stilts at this time of the year are very aggressive in protecting their nesting sites so they were forever disturbing the smaller waders nearby.  Finally, as we made our way back to the car we found the Nightingales.

Avocet Avoceta Comun Recurvirostra avosetta
Following a coffee stop we made our way past the airport to spend our last hour upstream on the Guadalhorce at ZapataHouse Sparrows and Spotless Starlings as we approached the river and many Barn Swallows feeding low over the track and neighbouring fields.  Mainly House Martins and Barn Swallows feeding over the water and to our left a Moorhen.

A short walk up stream to the small weir soon produced a couple of Little Ringed Plover a pair of blue-headed Yellow Wagtails of the Iberian sub-species.

Little Ringed Plover Chorlitejo Chico Charadrius dubius

A high Short-toed Eagle was spotted by Carol and then it was back to the birds feeding near the weir including Green Sandpiper and Greenshank along with a couple of Redshank and a pair of Black-winged Stilts.

Greenshank Archibebe Claro Tringa nebularia

A Jackdaw flew over the trees on the opposite bank and hen the arrival of another Little Egret.  More Collared Doves about as we made our way to the reed bed and spent some time parked at the top watching the activity below as (mainly) House Sparrows and Goldfinches came to bathe and drink.  But also seen were Spotless Starling, Serin, Crested Larks and, finally, a lone Greenfinch.

Then it was back to the port with ten minutes to spare and a list of well over fifty species for Carol and Wade,

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Flamingo, Short-toed Eagle, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Green sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Common Swift, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Blue-headed Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

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