Wednesday 12 February 2020

Guadalhorce, Malaga

Tuesday 11 February

There may only have been the three of us for the monthly Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Guadalhorce in Malaga but what we lacked i numbers we more then made up for in the selection of birds seen during the morning, eventually reaching a total of just on 60 species including some excellent sightings from the Sea watch.  And what good company in Mike Kinchington from Marbella and visiting UK birder Dave Kemp from Birmingham.

A number of Collared Doves about as we set off from the track opposite the football field and no shortage of both near and distant Cormorants including  lovey trio in full breeding plumage resting on the nearby river. A first heron of the day along with a lovely male Black Redstart on the opposite bank and, of course, many foraging Chiffchaff.  A handsome male Serin was a pleasure to observe.  Crossing the footbridge the resident Rock Doves were resting below the motorway bridge and a pair of Mallards leisurely made their way across the river.  Above us a pair of Red-rumped Swallows and an occasional House Martin as we made our way to the Laguna Casillas noting a pair of Stonechats , House Sparrows, Goldfinches and a pair of Sardinian Warbler on the way.

Arriving at the pool it seemed quieter than previous and took some time to find a Little Grebe.  However, there were a dozen Pochard and a couple of Mallard as well as about a dozen Coot.  On the opposite bank we were entertained by the activities of a couple of Black Redstarts and many Chiffchaff feeding below us at the water's edge. To the far right a pair of Yellow-legged Gulls which remained in place for an hour or more and then the arrival of a Kestrel complete with breakfast, it looked very much like a Goldfinch,to use the "Booted Eagle tree" as its dining room and a pair of Gadwall paddled out from behind the grasses on the far side.  Just when all seemed relaxed  the arrival of the screaming, marauding Monk Parakeets but at least they were followed by the sighting of the first Crag Martins of the morning.

Greenshank Archibebe Claro Tringa nebularia
At first sight the Wader Pool looked completely deserted with not a single Black-winged Stilt in site.  Closer scrutiny found a handful of Teal under the overhanging tree away to the far right and then a single Little Grebe.  A Buzzard landed in one of the distant dead trees and we also found a number of Spotless Starlings.

Walking towards the Sea Watch with Cetti's Warblers calling loudly below, we found a few Greenfinches and Linnets and Mike and Dave counted at least three Zitting Cisticola. On the river itself, which was at a very high level and covering all the small islands, a group of twenty-two Black-winged Stilts were found on the far side along with a single Greenshank.  The short arm towards the centre also held a trio of Black-winged Stilts and a second Greenshank.  The meadow land to the left produced a couple of Meadow Pipits along with Crested Lark and a handful of White Wagtails and as we continued towards the sea a small flock of Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew over.

From the Sea Watch the sea looked perfectly calm with not a bird in sight - at first.  Use of the scope produced a small raft of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a trio o diving gannets.  Dave was first to pick up both the couple of Sandwich Terns and Spoonbill to our left as they approached and flew by and then one of the more experienced wardens who happened also to be present with his scope pointed out where the Osprey had landed on the old pier block to our right and even a couple of distant Common Scoters.  Using my own scope I managed to count a minimum of fifteen Scoters on the water.  No sooner had we seen the single Great Skua pass from left to right than the warden also found and drew our attention to the Balearic Shearwater moving westwards.  (Good job he had a more powerful scope than I!) A Little Egret landed on the rocks to our left and as we set out on our return walk a couple of Barn Swallows put in an appearance.  Far from being a wasted journey, the Sea watch on this occasion proved to be the star hide of the morning.

The walk back to the above hides produced good views of a soaring light morph Booted Eagle and, on reaching the Wader Hide a second, dark morph, Booted Eagle.  We also had a wandering Hoopoe on the meadow, a number of Sardinian Warblers, Goldfinches and Linnets and once back in the hide added a Common Sandpiper. A Great Tit was found on the opposite bank by Mike and then on round to the Laguna Escondida passing a number of Blackbirds and Sardinian Warblers on the way.

The large number of parked Junta cars outside the Laguna Escondida proved that there was no point in spending any time here as water sampling and testing was being undertaken.  However, we were in time to find a few Pochards and five White-headed Ducks at the back of the water.

Shelduck Tarro Blanco Tadorna tadorna but note the Black-necked Grebe  Podiceps nigricollis in the foregound
Our final hour was spent at the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande and adding to our list of sightings for the morning.  Cormorant numbers totaled over forty and included three Spoonbills sharing their favourite resting island to the left.  Plenty of Collared Doves and Spotless Starlings as we started our scrutiny of the water.  At the centre back at least fifteen Shelduck and probably twice that number of Shoveler. A single Cattle Egret flew away from the pool to our left.  I found a party of six Black-necked Grebes and a further individual away to the right.  (Unbeknown to me at the time, one of the raft of six was actually a visiting Slavonian Grebe.)  We also discovered where all the Black-winged Stilts were this morning by counting a further thirty.  Immediately in front of the hide were a pair of Black-tailed Godwits and a single Sanderling that was later joined by a Common Sandpiper.  A Redshank was found "hiding" among a party of Black-winged Stilts in the long grass at the back of the scrape in front of the hide.

Black-tailed Godwit Aguja Colinegra Limosa limosa
Distant record shot of Osprey Pandion haliaetus

As a Moorhen wandered out to my left a visit to the large pole on the far bank produced the resting Osprey at the top.  No sooner had we seen a passing Booted Eagle over the water than we eventually recorded a Marsh Harrier as a female quartered low over the vegetation on the extreme right.  A Greenshank arrived below us to the left and a large flock of Black-headed Gulls arrived to take rest on the water and, at about this time, Mike and I decided it was time to make our way home after a wonderful morning's birding - and more to come at the end of the week when we each drive down to the Odiel in Huelva.

Birds seen:
Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Common Scoter, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Balearic Shearwater, Gannet, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Great Skua, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Golfinch, Linnet.

Redshank Archibebe Comun Tringa totanus

Redshank with Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Redshank with Black-winged Stilts Ciguenuela Comun Himantopus himantous

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

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