double edition, 21 and 22 January

Sounds like a bargain on the market, doesn't it? Actually, this is the blog for 21 January at the Guadalhorce with Bob Wright and members of the Axarquía Bird Group but all the time that was supposed go into that went into the previous blog on the odd Peregrine Falcon that we thought was a Lanner Falcon (if you really want to learn / be bored out fo your mind, read that!) and for yesterday, 22 January, when Bob Hibbett and I went up to Fuente de Piedra. So, here goes (although Bob has written most of it in his Axarquía blog).

21 January, Guadalhorce: A coolish start and later warm. As we went in, upstream there were 4 Spoonbills, none of them ringed. The colour ringed one that Bob saw last week and mentioned in his blog came from Terschelling (the second of the Friesian islands, Holland) and I recorded it last autumn. Where it has been since the two sightings is a mystery.

Most of the effort yesterday- several hours' worth - went into the odd falcon which has been previously reported and photographed and which was thought to be a Lanner - I have never seen a less peregrine-like Peregrine! But, as those who are strong will have read, it has turned out to be a calidus race Peregrine which may have wandered down from Siberia. Other raptors included Kestrels (of course), at least one Marsh Harrier, three or four Booted Eagles, the Osprey and a Common Buzzard - 6 species of birds of prey, which isn't bad.

The result of the preoccupation with the supposed lanner that wasn't meant that I forgot to keep a day list, but, as the accompanying photo shows, Bob didn't and here is the evidence of his ornithological prowess!

There is far too much water and no shore at all for waders to wade along, There was a suprising lack of ducks also, possibly because there is so much water all over Andalucía that they're spoilt for choice! The best was undoubtedly a very smart male Wigeon but the male Teal are also very bonny and were showing well at the laguna grande.

Only one Zitting Cisticola / Fan-tailed Warbler was seen, which is one more than last time I was there. I rather fear that the little chaps may have been badly hit by the prolonged heavy rain, just as they were a couple of winters since when it was very cold for a long time. Fortunately, they seem to be highly fecund and no doubt the population will bounce back rapidly. We also saw a single male Dartford Warbler down towards the seawatch mirador and a Hoopoe was also seen (I missed that).

We had a look at the sea but the only thing in evidence apart from the inevitable gulls, which also included a 1W Mediterranean, there were at least 8 Black-necked Grebes.


22 January, Fuente de Piedra: When Bob Hibbett and I left Torremolinos it promised a lovely sunny morning, until we crested the top of El Romeral, the road that takes one down towards Antquera and whole of the Vega de Antequera should be spread out in front of you. Except that it wasn't as it was blanketed in a thick fog, and I do mean thick. So thick that on the A-92 heading westwards with a visbility of less than 30m at a speedy 70 km/h (other idiots were holding to their 120 km/h, presumably their faith in a divine being greater than mine), we headed first for the Laguna Dulce at Campillos. First surprise, there was water in it - lots of water as far as we could see through the mist, which wasn't very far, in which a few male Shovelers were showing that their hormones weren't going to be deterred by weather conditions. Another visit soon with better conditions could repay the attention.

So, giving up there we headed first for a coffee at the camp site at Fuente and wondered what we would find at the laguna, always assuming that the fog would burn off. The answer is dead simple - we found FOG, thick FOG. So we had a look at the new information centre, now open and very plush it is too.They even have a web cam which showed .... fog! The huge picture window where there used to be the terrace would give a fabulous view if there wasn't ... well you know what!

Water there is in vast quantity, I haven't seen so much since 1998-99. The fields around are flooded and if only the waders find it on return migration it will be fabulous at the new flashes by the wooden walkway. As it was, there was next to nothing. We had very brief views of the same Bluethroat seen on other trips, a few Shovelers, some Lapwings and also some Stone-curlews, a few Black-winged Stilts that were only half-heartedly preparing for their breeding hysterics and a single Snipe. It was here too that we saw the bird of the day, the first House Martin of the year (Bob saw 2 but one vanished in the mist!).

By noon the fog was beginning to burn off so we went along to Cantarranas and by then the sun was starting to break through. We saw a few Cranes, 6 or 8 I think in total which included a family party of Mama and Dad and 2 off-sprung. As Bob said, hearing them 'talking' to each other is one of the most delightful, really wild, sounds that there is in nature, alongside that of divers calling to each other on a lonely loch I think. Also from Cantarranas we saw a superb fox with a really splendid brush (no, it wasn't Basil).

We made a final stop at the western end of the laguna where we could really appreciate how much water and how deep it is. The Greater Flamingos were concentrated in the shallower water, and even then some were up to their bellies, and there wasn't a single Lesser in sight. As Bob rightly said, the water is just too deep for them, so my prognosis is that there will be (a) few records this spring and (b) an attempt at breeding looks rather improbable.

So, as there are no photos from yesterday and as you know that I like dogs, as do some of your good selves, I thought that some may like to see a couple of shots of my sister's young retriever puppy, Holly, who was her Christmas present to herself and is an absolute little enchantress (the puppy, not my sister).

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