10 July, Guadalhorce

When Federico rang me a couple of nights since to say that he was coming down from Córdoba on the following day and did I fancy going down for a brieflook at the ponds this morning, Friday, it didn't take too much thought on my part - which was just as well as I wasn't capable of much after a day when little had gone right with the illustrations. A change, thought I, will do me good, clear the mind(?) or whatever.

So, at 0830 this morning, in we toddled with a temperature that was quite agreable and the expectation of seeing very little, in which we were not disappointed. From the bridge we could see a couple of Spoonbills way up river and a couple of Grey Herons. There were the usual House Martins and the Red-rumped Swallows which have their nest right under the bridge and which give fantastic views if one is sufficiently patient.

From the bridge there was considerable commotion in the water by the bank where there was a lot of rather large fish where for each leading one there seemed to be 2 to 4 others, smaller, following. We rather think that they were mating, the females spawning and each of the males eager to perpetuate his genes. As to which species, at this moment I haven't got a clue, but the females weren't small, easily over 40 cms long in the case of the biggest. The rather pathetic photo on the left gives some idea of the turbulence. Whatever they were, they were still at it when we came out about 1115 and at that time a single Florida Turtle slowly swam across.

So, on to the eastern arm and the laguna de la Casilla and there was not a lot to be seen from the first hide and even less at the second as there the water levels are virtually nil, a few Stilts and LRPs and Kentish Plovers and that was it. Further down there were more Kentish Plovers, including some very young birds which couldn't have been more than 3 days old.
There was a good sized flock of gulls, mostly Audouin's (very smart) with some adult Mediterranean Gulls still in breeding plumage (even smarter) and a scattering of Yellow-legged and Black-headed. By then the temperature was rising and heat shimmer was making life difficult, not just for taking photos, but also for reading the rings on the Audouin's, in spite of which we managed to read five, so we started to wend our way back.

It was a slow wend, as we stopped on several occasions to admire the numerous Bee-eaters, the young had obviously fledged and large numbers (a good quantitative analysis) were flying and sitting around. At the laguna Escondida we sat in the hide to watch while the sun super-heated our backs. No Purple Boghen to be seen and the rest was all pretty normal but we laughed at a female (we presume) Little Grebe (formerly known as a Dabchick to those of us who are old enough to remember) with two small chicks. Every time Mum dived there was panic, the chicks totally confused looking left and right, until she appeared, often several metres away, whereupon said chicks would scoot rapidly to her. You could almost here them shouting, 'Mum, mum, where have you been?'. As Federico and I agreed, often the simplest of things with the common species can give as much pleasure as something rare.

The final stop was the laguna Grande where there was also a lot of nothing, apart from 100+ Audouin's Gulls, a Grey Heron (the third of the morning) and a few Stilts and LRPs. So, as the sun was now warming us we decided to call it a morning and stopped briefly to take a look at the Red-rumped Swallows' nest right under the centre of the bridge, an incredible construction and in an unassailable position.

And so, end of morning and the next time we shall meet autumn migration will be in full swing and hopefully the temperatures will be lessening slightly.

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