11 April: Guadalhorce

Yes,I know, 'late again', I can hear you saying it. But better late than never which was how I felt when I eventually entered the Guadalhorce at about 9.15 on a Sunday morning, a good 30 minutes later than planned but that's the way things go. It was overcast and definitely cool but insufficient to dampen a singing Nightingale as I crossed the bridge, a sure sign that spring is here. In fact, it was a morning of singing birds and during the walk around I estimated at least 5 singing Sedge Warblers and probably about the same number of Fan-tailed Warblers (a.k.a. Zitting Cisticolas), which was a nice surprise after the long,wet winter which I had feared would decimate their population, and, of course, plenty of Cetti's Warblers in full cry.

First stop was the big lake - the laguna Grande - where there were plenty of hirundines hawking, mostly Swallows but with reasonable numbers of Sand Martins and, of course, some House Martins and a single Red-rumped Swallow, many of them resting on branches on the lee side of the bushes out of the easterly wind.

From the hide I was immediately rewarded with a super shot of the semi-resident female Ruddy Shelduck and I promise that I will put no more photos of her in this blog, but this is, I think, the best by some distance, probably about the same distance from which one can hear her raucous call for a mate. The White-headed Duck males must have their hormones functioning at 100% as they were being very aggressive amongst themselves, one actually trying to drown another, whilst the females feigned the usual indifference, one of these being a very dark-faced bird. On the far side of the lake there was a nice group of Little Egrets too. I heard a distant Greenshank but never saw it in all the morning, a pity as they are a very classy wader.

From there it was round the laguna Escondida and there was little there so it was onwards, as I had every intention of being home before noon (failed again!). The first thing to distract me was a nice Woodchat Shrike, closely followed by my first Pied Flycatcher of the year, a very smart little male - it has also transpired that the first ones were seen in several other parts of Spain yesterday. Then, even before I got to the corner, I was distracted again, first by a male Peregrine which shot off on full after-burner, climbing and cutting across the course of a pair of panicked Garganey. What the end result was, I know not, as the ducks dived out of sight as the killer was closing in.

The numbers of Grey Herons had fallen notably as had the numbers of Cormorants. I had no luck seeing Purple Herons although another birder told me that 15 had been seen together during the week. Round at the second hide along the eastern side of the reserve I came across the Spoonbills, amongst them the colour ringed bird which Manolo Moreno had photographed earlier in the week. This is an interesting bird as it was ringed on the Dutch island of Terschelling on 13 June 2009 and since then has been seen down here on five occasions since the first sighting on 25 October by myself, other observers being Bob Wright, Huberto García and Manolo, then yesterday again by myself. I also did my 'be nice and educate the public' act (that's it for the year) for some interested ladies from a walking (senderismo) group from Alahurín who were most interested in the story of the ringed Spoonbill and they all examined it through the telescope. The big question now is: What will it do? Stay around? Move north? This is the great advantage of colour marking (by the way, there are rings on both legs although it was standing only on one yesterday). In the same area there was a single Little Ringed Plover and a single Curlew Sandpiper, another first for the year.

A party of migrant Stilts were resting there too - the resident ones are already paired up and holding territories - one of them having only half of one leg and the one with the white ring that has been around for at least two seasons has also been seen.

And then came what was undoubtedly the bird of the day (it's a bit like 'Match of the Day' on the idiot box but better and certainly briefer) in the form of a large shape moving at quite a speed along the line of the eucalyptus where the Cormorants roost. Not a Buzzard and Marsh Harriers never move that fast, and then it did a sudden flare out, showed beautifully rounded wings and barred tail as it glued itself to a branch, glared around for just sufficient time for me to get the scope on it and there it was - a really big female Goshawk, what both Mike and myself would class as 'a buxom wench', my first for the Guadalhorce and probably one of very few records for there, and it was off again so darned quickly I lost sight of it and never saw it again. At least there was something to make up for the lack of Yellow Wagtails and Pratincoles.

So home and the rest of the day came and went with a nice little male Serin in the garden. They really are very smart little fellows as can be seen. There are hordes of Common Swifts around and down below me I have seen several screaming parties dodging amongst the buildings.

And this afternoon I learnt that Kirri (his real name is Francisco) from Vélez-Málaga saw three flocks of Whimbrels totalling some 350 birds yesterday afternoon off La Caleta de Vélez.

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