27 December, Guadalhorce

At last I got out birding after a few days when, apart from a 2 day break to and from Madrid, it seems to have done nothing but rain, often torrentially, which precluded going birding - rain makes your hair curly according to the natives when I worked in the Bahamas, as they should know as it it always seemed the same. Howsomever, back to more important things.

Having gone up to Madrid in the impressive AVE, daughter and father drove back from Madrid in her car on 23 December - and just in case you think it was paternalism altruism, it wasn't, that way she wouldn't want my car over the holidays - I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to do a 550km transect for birds of prey as at times I have done quite well. The only trouble was that the opportunity was there and the birds weren't. In the 250kms between Madrid and Despeñaperros there was 1 (right, one) bird of prey, a ring-tailed Hen Harrier. Going through Despeñaperros, apart from a Southern Grey Shrike which tried to kill itself by flying at low level between the truck in front and myself and the usual set of welcoming Azure-winged Magpies, not a lot else apart from starlings sp. and 2 Kestrels when heading towards Málaga from Granada, which was when the rains started - I've seen more in my garden. So, no birding Christmas morning, instead I listened to a replay of the old Bill Cosby monologue of Noah and Ark - good stuff. I recommend it, it's on youtube.

So, when I awoke to blue skies (a lie, it was still dark but there was no rain splattering against the window and the predawn looked clear, as had last night's metcast), to get out seemed logical after it appears that the Torremolinos-Málaga area has received approximately 300 litres of water per sq. metre. Fuente de Piedra should be good now.

I was in at the ponds by just gone 0930 and wandered around for the next 3 hours, seeing some friends and doing some birding, not that there was a vast amount to see. The rain has raised the water levels so there is no space for waders, just a solitary Greenshank and a pair of Black-winged Silts trying to fool everyone that they were emulating phalaropes by swimming. There were 3 Spoonbills, strategically placed so that I couldn't see all its colour rings (avian cooperation is nil at times). Even ducks appear to have reduced in numbers with few Shoveler and Mallard, not a single White-headed but a lot of Teal, I think the most that I have ever seen there, I counted at least 54 with the males stunning in fresh plumage and try though I might, I couldn't find the American species, the Green-winged.

Raptors included a few Kestrels, not so many as other times recently, a couple each of juv. Marsh Harriers and pale phase Booted Eagles, an Common Buzzard and, of course, the splendid Osprey that is over-wintering.

So, as I can't see me getting down to the ponds again in 2009, thus endeth another year. To all you daring people who read this drivel, a happy new year and good birding - I think I said this before but it will still bear repetition of you're a birder!

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