1 January 2010 - Happy New Year (I hope!)

Happy New Year to all readers, reluctant and/or hung over or even avidly hanging on the pearls of wisdom that spout forth about birding (and if you believe that, you'll believe anything). Actually, I am nearly conscience stricken, or I would be if I knew what it meant, as last evening I said to Bob that as the metcast for this morning was rubbish it wasn't worth him driving down to the ponds and I hadn't any intention of going either, at which point I hadn't and I had more or less said the same to Patricia also.

First short break- there will be more - as I am watching that incredibly cultural cinematographic masterpiece 'The life of Brian' (in Spanish but it's still as funny and the dubbing is jolly good).

So, when it dawned relatively fine when I staggered out of the pit at around 08h, fed the dog, anointed her wounds from the surgery of the other day and had partaken of the first coffee of the day, it was still fine and didn't look like doing a downpour, I decided to renege on my words and go forth, especially as I hadn't gone forth on Christmas morning. So by 0930 I was parking when Patricia drove in behind me and we ventured in, Pat fashionably clad in a fetching pair of colour striped wellies. Not that we saw a lot as there has been so much water that there is no shore space for waders or foraging Bluethroats and even the duck population seems limited (either that or I have been unlucky yet again). In fact, the only waders we saw were 3 Black-winged Stilts on the way out. But I am jumping ahead and we're out before we're even in.

Three Spoonbills were way up river, along with a few Coots and Grey Heron. The most numerous ducks are still the Teal, immaculate still, and we saw those and very little else as we made our way to río viejo, along with some drops of rain which fortunately came to naught. The euclayptus trees, whcih look deader each visit with the after effects of massive doses of Cormorant droppings, housed, apart fom the aforesaid Cormorants, a Buzzard and a Booted Eagle. It is difficult to estimate how many Booteds there were, probably not more than 3 or 4, and they were definitely outnumbered by the Kestrels of which there must have been at least half a dozen. On the way out there was beautifully close adult female Marsh Harrier.

On the laguna escondida where we were joined by Gonzalo Lage. There was not too much either and the most interesting was a Cormorant that was engaged in a wrestling match with a rather large eel which the former was slowly winning but of which we did not see the end as they moved out of sight. My money was on the Cormorant. There too were a few Pochard and a single female White-headed Duck. There was no sign whatsoever of the 3, perhaps 4, Purple Boghens that Patricia had seen yesterday.

Thence to the final stop, the laguna grande which was also filled to the brim. More Teal, some 28 or so of them and a dozen of so Shovelers, a rather nice Black-necked Grebe - have you ever noticed how big their sterns look with all the feathers fluffed out? A single Kingfisher zipped across from left to right in front of the hide, one of those views that if you blink you've missed it! The male White-headed Duck shown here was there too and I think this bird had the longest tail that I have ever seen.It is easy to see why this small group of ducks is often called the 'stiff-tails'. Note too that the bill is black in winter, not that stupid blue of the breeding season.

And that just about brought us to the end of the morning, although there was still the best bird to see, a solitary Great White Egret/Heron (choose name according to age or guide used) which flew upstream. A total of about 35 spp. for the morning, not a lot but at least we were out in the fresh air.

And a final comment. The state of the blinds which are supposed to prevent the birds from seeing humans as we go to the hides is downright poor after the winds and rain. They have been like that for at least a week now. Anyone like to bet how long they will remain like that?

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