1 April : Guadalhorce

Yes, I know 1 April is All Fools' Day and it felt like it with the bitter, force 5 pushing 6, wind from the west at 09.00 when Federico and I ventured in to the reserve. However, nothing venture, nothing gain, so we pushed on, first down the eastern arm. The first changes that struck us were that (a) the water levels have gone down a bit on the ponds, followed rapidly by (b) the quantity of sex-mad Gadwalls with males pursuing females all over the shop (have they been infected by Mallards which are known sexual maniacs?); (c) the notable increase in White-headed Ducks, mostly males (is it too much to hope that females are incubating?) and (d) the imbalanced quantity of 17 male Pochards and only 4 females on the old arm of the river (same thought as for White-headed Duck females applies here).

The female Ruddy Shelduck is still around and another different bird has also been reported, but Samuel has informed me that apparently all the ducks in the Málaga parks are ringed and have been pinioned (a simple process which removes the outer part of the tip of one wing so that the primaries don't grow and the birds can't fly, except in circles). So where this has come from is anybody's guess, but I wouldn't place bets on it being a genuine wild bird, they are too common in collections.

Walking on down to just before the seawatch mirador, we met Ángel who had seen a single Pratincole (we saw him again later and he'd seen 2 more, it's amazing how one can go off people) while he pointed out a female Northern Wheatear to us on the left side of the track. It was while we were watching this bird, plus the odd Yellow Wagtail, something even odder flew the field of vision of my scope and settled, which turned out to be Wryneck, which stayed around just long enough for Federico and Ángel to see it also. The Yellow Wagtails, only 5 or 6 of them on the right side of the track, were all males of the Blue-headed flava and the British Yellow flavissima races, and very bonny they all were. Also in that area there were 3 Woodchat Shrikes.

Waders were represented by a few Little Ringed Plovers, a single Sanderling along the shore and 3 Common Redshanks (another friend we met later said he'd seen a Spotted Redshank but it didn't sound right to me) and, of course, there was everyone's favourite hysterical wader, the Black-winged Stilt.

There was a nice collection of hirundines, with all 5 species being seen: Barn Swallows, at least 4 Red-rumped, a single Crag Martin, House Martins and at least 10 Sand Martins, these last being easy to overlook as they are such unassuming little chaps.

Ted Lord tells me that another Dotterel was seen down by the beach on 30/03 by a friend and himself, the second this year.

So, as that well-known philospopher Bugs Bunny would say, 'That's all, folks!'

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