21 November, a quickie to the Guadalhorce

Late last evening I received a may-day call from a good friend, Sandra, who works with Imperial and Bonelli's Eagles but who had volunteered to lead a scout group plus assorted parents and such-like around the Guadalhorce this morning. So, in spite of being full of cold (or some such) I ventured forth and met her, albeit for a limited time, and the assortment of young humans (well, some were a bit distant from my idea of one) and off we set.

One sees very little as immature Spanish children are unaware of the meaning of and the need to keep quiet in the countryside. Consequently there was little serious birding as everything hid when it saw/heard the band, and also there was obviously little to see. Cormorant numbers have increased considerably, there must have been over 150 perched in the dead euclayptus trees, and ousted the osprey from its perch, we didn't see it all morning. The only other raptors were a good 8 or 9 Kestrels and 2 immature Marsh Harriers.

We only managed the eastern bank down to the seawatch mirador, all that in over 2 hours, before I had to head homewards, not having the time to take in the lagunas escondida or grande. So, what little else did we see? A few Pochard, not a single White-headed Duck, a few Mallard and that was the waterfowl except for a most welcome trio of Shelduck on the río viejo, my first of the year I believe without checking. Waders were scarcer than snow in the Sahara in summer with one Oystercatcher and 2 Ringed Plovers. Pathetic.

Most passerines vanished rapidly, and who can blame them? But the Southern Grey Shrike that appears to have set up its winter territory in the general area just inland from the mirador showed well through the 'scope until it realised just how many immature bipeds there were, after which it too vanished. I saw a brief Meadow Pipit and that was it.

There was movement on the sea off the mirador. A single Razorbill was feeding quite close in, there are plenty around this autumn so far, much more than these past two winters, especially last winter when I saw none! Sandra said that she saw several flying eastwards further out. There have been Balearic Shearwaters around all week and this morning was no exception with several buzzing around after a small pod of dolphin sp. (we needed David Jefferson to identify them) but again, I think that they were same ones I have seen twice from home this week, with 2 big males which jump splendidly, and at least 2 females with youngsters which stick very close to Mum and when she rolls it is possible to see them rolling exactly alongside her, like a little shadow. There were a bundle of Lesser Black-backed Gulls sitting on the sea and several Gannets flying around, including some splendid adults. After which it was time for me to head for home and arrange to meet Sandra sometime without the accompaniment. But the best was yet to come.

Those who go into the Guadalhorce now go up the ramp by the school (it is impossible to go across the sand bar as it is virtually inexistent and there is an outflow) and, looking across the river, there is the remains of a very dead eucalyptus. As I approached that area from the bridge, I heard a sort of chirruping noise followed by sharpish whistle, this repeated three or four times. I hadn't a clue as to what species of bird it was, as I had never heard anything like it before, but started looking, without the binoculars, as I had a pretty good idea that it came from the general region of the dead eucalyptus, which was when I saw a movement on a low branch that protruded from the water. The shape was definitely was mammalian and then the whistles and the image clicked (thanks to BBC documentaries) and I realised that I was looking at an otter. I got the binocs. up in record time and had about 5 seconds of decent look at it before it slid into the water, leaving a few ripples, some stirred up mud and a line of bubbles. LOVELY!!

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