18 June: two for the price of one

Sounds like the sales, doesn't? Either that or some barrow boy in a street market. But no, it simply refers that at last not only have I managed to get out birding this week but two consecutive days in a row, yesterday, Thursday 17 June, and today, Friday, 18 June. And very pleasant it was too!

17 June, Guadalhorce : A fairly lateish start given the way the mercury is starting to rise up its capillary, around 10.00, with Ann and David from Nerja. A very pleasant morning's birding, but with some rather disturbing aspects, although how much is due to the vast quantities of water that we had earlier in the year or other causes remains to be seen. I have my own ideas but shall not air them all here.

There was a very nice female Pochard with her ducklings (I like the word ducklets too) and as the photo shows, she was very wary of this thing poking a camera lens at her from the hide. There were also several White-headed Ducks on several of the ponds,

There was a single Ringed Plover (I see that some publications are calling it the Greater Ringed Plover but they can what they like with that idea), but most notable and disturbing was the virtual absence of small plovers, Little Ringed and Kentish, and the total absence of any plover chicks (I looked and didn't see one) , while there are lots of Stilt chicks of all ages, the adults of these being extremely aggressive- they gave merry hell to a single Redshank which was literally harried from one pair to the next and probably shoved off, I know I would have done. I strongly suspect that this, allied with the lack of shore along which the plover chicks can disperse, is a major factor- they and the adults have been harried so much that they just haven't had a chance against thei bigger stilts. Plus the area just to the right of the seawatch mirador , which supposedly is for Kentish Plovers, is covered in too much vegetation and bits of wood and detritus from the winter storms which provides cover for predators such as rats, snakes and possibly even the ocellated lizards of which there are a few. Kentish Plovers like little cover and lots of uneven sand. I have spoken about this today (Friday) with a member of the administration, plus other things to do with the Guadalhorce.

But to go on to more pleasant things, the bird of the day was, without doubt, a Great Spotted Cuckoo which sat in tree and rested and preened, allowing us to admire it at leisure. Thera re interesting in that they arrive vey early,as early as December, and return southwards early, just asthe normal Cuckoo does, having played at parasitising the nests that they like.
At the laguna Escondida we watched the male Black-headed Weaver stripping green reed heads and actually managed to locate the round suspended nest he was so busily building. On the other hand, he didn't allow even a half-way decent photograph, unlike the male White-headed Duck shown here which decided to suddenly wake up and show-off, certainly making it easy to understand why these belong to the so-called'stiff-tailed' group of ducks (the infamous Ruddy Duck is another).

And finally, on the laguna Grande, a couple of Slender-billed Gulls to round off the morning and off a decent comparison with Black-headed Gulls present. I didn't make a species list, but there wasn't a vast number of species.

18 June, Fuente de Piedra
I had been intending to go tomorrow, but when Federico rang to say that he was coming down from Córdoba, the chance for us to meet up was too great to miss and we had a very pleasant morning's birding. At the same time, and this has implications for the Guadalhorce, I was able to meet my old friend Manolo Rendón, big chief of Fuente de Piedra and thoroughly nice chap, and Federico and I were able to express some of our worries about the Guadalhorce, so be patient and there will be news later after the flamingo ringing has taken place. But things will happen.

On the way up the A-92, near Humilladero, a female Montagu's Harrier flew across the road in front of me, auguring well (I hoped).

Of course, there were Flamingos everywhere and lots of Avocets too. We read the rings of 4 flamingos of which 3 were from the Camargue, France, ringed respectively in 1993 - this is the digiscoped photo taken by Federico of the ring coded yellow BPAT (read upwards and yes,I know it's faded and dirtybut it was yellow), also birds ringed in1995 and 2004, and the other a native of Fuente de Piedra. Both birds on the left are ringed.

I was rather surprised by the apparent lack of Gull-billed Terns, although we saw a few there were not the numbers I would normally expect but they may well have been feeding elsewhere. There was a single Redshank, this one not suffering the attentions of the Stilts, while most of the Avocets were asleep on the sandy spit, while round at the laguneta del Pueblo, the lake behind the centre, a female Red-crested Pochard flew in to a very fast landing, stayed 30 seconds and vanished again and an early/late/non-breeding (take your pick) Green Sandpiper was present. A Lapwing was not a species I really expected to see there, although they have bred nearby at the laguna Dulce at Campillos in past years. And finally, on the way out, a pair of Pratincoles flew across in front of me.

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