Monday at the Guadalhorce

Ok, yes, I know, late again, but you also know the old saying 'better late than....' except when it's a rarity, of course, which is when you get either, 'You should have been here 5 minutes ago' or 'If only you'd stayed on 5 minutes more!'.

Which takes me crudely to this last Monday morning, 7 December, when Federico and myself had a rather pleasant morning at the ponds along with Antonio Tamayo who was there in his rôle of warden and who also showed us some superb shots of a Barn Owl, taken in the reserve from the Suzuki, at night with only a big flashlight and car headlights as illumination. However, I digress.

On the face of it, if I hadn't made a full list and you had asked me if it had been a good morning I would probably have said 'pretty average', but as the total species seen between us was about 53 spp. (this assumes that I put down everything) and there were some quite good ones, well, it was actually a rather good morning and at least the weather was fine (turned out nice again!)

There were few waders akthough of 11 spp., with solitary specimens only of Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Avocet, Oystercatcher, Snipe and Common Sandpiper, for example, with 2 Turnstones, 3 Greenshanks (lovely things) and only double figures for Sanderling (not counted) and Dunlin (21).

We spent a pleasant time watching the sea. There were quite a few Gannets around, with one or two nice adults close in. Antonio saw the only Balearic Shearwater but we all saw the indecisive Great Skua (a.k.a. Bonxie to use the old Shetland name) which sat on the sea, flew west, flew back east and in which we lost interest. There were at least 14 Common Scoter in three groups, all females or young birds, and it was with one of the small groups that we saw the single Razorbill. There also several Black-necked Grebes on the sea, this being equally at home on salt as on fresh water.

Whilst seawatching we counted 6 Grey Herons moving into the reserve area from across the bay. Two of them were being given a particularly hard time by a single adult Yellow-legged Gull (the same bird each time?)and the evasive action such big birds can take is amazing. However, these evasive manouevres were insufficient for the last bird which was eventally splashed into the drink by the gull . Fortunately for the heron, this was within a few metres of the beach and it managed to get airborne and make land where it rested to regain its breath.

Rather more unusual was the presence of 3 Shovelers on the sea, pretending to be sea ducks. All the male ducks have moulted out of the eclipse plumage now and their plumage is stunning at times, and thr sheen on the heads of Mallard has to be seen to be believed. Indeed, just an or so since figuratively I ran into Patricia and she told me that on Sunday they had seen a flock of Teal and the males were in wonderful plumage. On the other hand, the number of White-headed Ducks has plummeted and we saw only one male on the laguna Escondida.

Raptors there were in small numbers, the usual Osprey, the pair of Peregrines could be picked out on the tall chimney to the east but hardly offered stunning views, there were at least 2 Booted Eagles, one being the marked bird back for its third winter, and also a single female Marsh Harrier. As usual there were plenty of Kestrels.

The rest of the birding was reasonably normal. There was a single male Bluethroat seen which showed very briefly, so much so that I missed it. These are not at all common this winter, unlike two winters since. Chiffchaffs there were a-plenty. The final goody of the day was when Federico and I were crossing the bridge on the way out. Looking upstream to see if we could see any Spoonbills amongst the Little Egrets -we didn't - we did pick up a single Great White Heron (they used to be called egrets when I were a lad!), this always a god bird to see down at the ponds.

Not bad at all when one stops to consider.

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