Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Guadalhorce, Malaga and Lagua Dulce Area

Sanderling Calidris alba

 Monday 14 December

Still dark when I left for a day's birding now that travel restrictions have been lifted within Malaga province.  Approaching Malaga city a large traffic hold-up, so rather than 8.20 it was 8.45 by the time I reached the entrance to the Guadalhorce reserve and greeted by Monk Parakeet, Collared Dove and White Wagtail.  Moving along the embankment to the footbridge at least a dozen Cormorants on the western arm of the river either resting or fishing.  From the bridge itself I watched both a Heron and Little Egret slip under and head a little upstream whilst the few resident Rock Doves were happy to roost under the motorway bridge.  A couple of Coot paddled into sight and as I set off for the avenue and the eastern arm of the river I watched a Marsh Harrier make a slow quartering flight on the far side.  Above me a few wandering Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Entering the Laguna Casillas hide I was pleasantly surprised to find birding friends Lindsay Pheasant and Mike Kinchington, who had already seen many Robins and Black Restarts on their walk from the road. Out on the lake in front though not a single duck; a lone Little Grebe and a few Coots whilst above we had the feeding Crag Martins and all around us in the vegetation numerous Chiffchaffs.  A Blackbird was seen in the trees to the right and then a Booted Eagle came to rest on the old tree on the far right side of the water.

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus

Moving to the Wader hide it was obvious how much water had accumulated with very little foraging area at the sides of the water.  Half-a-dozen Black-winged Stilts and a couple of Black-tailed Godwits watched over by a single juvenile Flamingo seemed to complete the bird life until we found the half-dozen Little Grebe at the back of the water.  Lovely to find a distant male Kestrel then a female came to the tree on the nearby island to feed on the mouse it had just caught.  Finally, having noted a couple of Moorhen at the very back of the water and before leaving to walk to the beach, a scan of the bare background trees not only revealed many Spotless Starlings and roosting Cormorants but also a lone Buzzard.

A long, productive walk down to the Sea Watch where to our right the Rio Viejo was very full and no wading opportunities so relatively quiet.  A few more Black-winged Stilts and a single Flamingo plus a trio of well-concealed Herons in the back channel.  In the shrubs to my right a couple of Sardinian Warblers and the first of a few Stonechats for the morning.  To the left a Black Redstart and then, on reaching the more open space, both Crested Larks and Meadow Pipits Zitting Cisticola to the left and another pair, or the same, Kestrels hovering above us.  A number of both Goldfinches and Greenfinch, not to mention Serins, were also seen.  Meanwhile, flying up and down the eastern arm itself a pair of Sandwich Terns looking for a little light refreshment.

Once at the Sea Watch a mainly open sea and the with the sun very much in our faces.  Just the one small raft of gulls slightly right of the front and mainly Lesser Black-backs till we found a pair each of both Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls.  But there was a single resting "blob" to the left of the gulls and further out which, unfortunately, fell in the sun-soaked area of water.  With both Mike and I scoping hard and waiting for a lull in the reflection we found the bird moving slowly left and were able to identify a Black-necked Grebe.  But then I saw the "blob" was still in situ, we had found a second individual.  It took a while but eventually the bird looked up during a clear spell and we had found our Common Scoter.  Checking the beach itself we had a dozen Sanderling feeding to our left and on the western side  a distant group of Ringed Plovers.

Sanderling Calidris alba

The only addition on the return walk, albeit many more Serins, Greenfinch, Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails and Stonechats (and the two Kestrels), was the arrival of six Mallards on the Casillas water, our very first ducks of the day. Lesley found the Robin as we approached the Laguna Escondida and then, at last, the ducks.  Mainly Shoveler but also a single Pochard before we confirmed the identity of a pair of sleeping Teal. Then up popped the only White-headed Duck.  More Coots and Moorhen and lots of activity below the hide from the feeding Chiffchaffs and White Wagtails.

Mainly Spotless Starlings Sturnus unicolor but also a few Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris

So finally on the main hide overlooking the Laguna Grande.  Again, lots of water covering the low-lying islands but the scrape in front of the hide held both a Black-winged Stilt and a Greenshank.  To the far right a group of Shelduck with the Back-winged Stilts and then a single Redshank.  To the immediate left the bulk of the resting Cormorants, at least forty if not more, and a few well-hidden Heron.  The far island held not only Cormorants but a hidden Spoonbill and another Flamingo.  The dead trees seemed to be alive with starlings, mainly of the Spotless variety but also a good number of Common Starlings.  A Common Sandpiper put in a very brief appearance to the far side and then appeared much closer on our left.

Behind the Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo a juvenile Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus and a Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia but also note the dozen Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis at the top

But at the back of the water and slightly more to our left than usual we found the resting Osprey in a smaller, well-leafed tree rather in the one of the taller, bare trees.  This probably explained why the raft of a dozen Black-necked Grebes remained in a very tight group on the water below.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus

With just over 50 species recorded and still not quite 1pm, rather than head back to Mezquitialla I decided to take advantage of the (then) good weather and drive over to Laguna Dulce near Campillos to see if the Cranes were still about, plus what might be found on the water itself.

Arriving at Laguna Dulce at 2pm the weather had taken a turn for the worse with increasing wind and cloud and the threat of some light rain.  The dull weather made most of the birds on water, nearly all on the far side, look decidedly dark silhouettes meaning scoping was to become essential.  However, lots of activity in the small trees in front with a large flock of Linnets and even, a first for this month, Chaffinch.

Mainly Coots on the water and it seemed that Red-crested Pochard was the commonest duck species. However, as I scanned the water I was able to add lots of Shoveler, Common Pochard, Mallard and a good number of White-headed DucksGulls seemed to be a mixture of Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed.

In addition we had a number of Flamingo on the far side and well off to the left a single White Stork. Not just Little but also a Great Crested Grebe recorded.  Meanwhile the shore in front of me continue to provide a number of small birds including White Wagtail, Chiffchaff and Serin

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

Off round to the track behind the water encountering House Sparrow and Crested Larks a I entered but ere long I had to turn round owing to the extremely muddied state of the track.  Looking at the end of the water nearest to me I could see the White Stork and Flamingos along with Black-winged Stilts and Moorhen.  Off in the very distance on the opposite side I could just make out as many as about forty foraging Cranes.

Distant Cranes Grus grus

What to do?  Having come this far I thought I might just as well  go along the back road to Fuente de Piedra on the off chance that more Cranes might be found; they were not.  I did, however, comes across another Kestrel and Buzzard and there were Spotless Starlings at the junction farm.  Stonechats and Goldfinches along with more Crested Larks as I made my way to the Mirador de la Cantarranas but, strangely, no water on the near side so no birds.  Just a Black Redstart as I departed and upon arriving at the Fuente de Piedra centre a Corn Bunting on the high wires and a sitting Hoopoe just inside the entrance.   Just a little damp area on the normally flooded field to the left which held a trio of Mallards.

Female Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Another big surprise as I entered the car park to find Derek Etherton's car and, shortly, met him along with Barabra and our other birding friends, Jerry and Barbara Laycock.  Very little to see although I did take the trouble to find the Gadwall on the rear Laguenta before taking Derek's advice and map reference to see if I, too, could find the exciting birds that they had just found on their way to Fuente.  Twenty minutes later I was in the "middle of nowhere" on a track leading back to Campillos where I searched the very green field to find first about 40 of the hundred plus Lapwings the others had found and at least two of the three female Little Bustards.  However, I was unable to locate Derek's two Dotterel.  That is a bird that will now have to wait for another day.  

All done and completely "birded out" as I set off for home arriving a few minutes before 6 o'clock.  But it had been a lovely day and almost seventy species in total observed.  So where next in these liberated days?


Birds seen:

Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Common Scoter, White-headed Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Little Bustard, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Raven, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

Greenshank Tringa nebularia


A quartet of the Shelduck Tadorna tadorna


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