Fuerteventura, 15-21 November

Añadir imagenWhen my friend Stephen Daly of Andalucian Guides asked me if I wanted to a join a few friends and himself on a trip to Fuerteventura in the second part of November it didn't take me long to think about it, consult with She who gave her blessing, and I accepted before She changed her mind, even though other priorities mean that I had to reurn to the Peninsula a day early on 21 November but it was a Sunday and well know what Sunday birding can be like. So, with apologies for posting this a week after returning but there were some 600 photos to sort and 400 e-mails awaiting attention, plus reverting to being chief dogsbody for shopping and such mundane exercises, here is the story of 6 days of R & R.

All these photos are my own, the majority with my Olympus E-450 with 70-300mm zoom (4/3 system) and some which were digiscoped by Stephen through his scope using my little Nikon, this means that if you look at Stephen's blog at http://andalucianguides.blogspot.com/ and then click on the 'never mind the finnsticks' header, you will see that he has some great photographs, mine are obviously very inferior.

It may seem odd to you (it certainly did to me) that there are no direct flights from Málaga to Fuerteventura but there aren't and the easiest way is through Madrid, although with long layovers. Thus it was on Monday 15 November that I flew to Madrid, met up with Stephen, who had flown up from Jerez, at T4 and then we transferred to T1 before flying south and the birding as well as meeting the other participants: David and Dee Griffiths and Pat and Valerie Pearson (L), all of us staying in the Hotel Elba Carlota in Caleta de Fuste, a few kms. from the airfield, indeed the approach from the south flew over the hotel but fortunately there were relatively few inbound flights per day and certainly not at intempestuous hours.

16 November : Mostly sunny with some clouds at midday. The manadatory pre-breakfast walk in front of the hotel and a few hundred metres N to the rocky area gave 3 Gannets, the only ones seen all trip, a couple of Sandwich Terns, with up to 5 or 6 of these being seen daily while on the beach and rocks there were the usually present Turnstones (normally 2), Kentish Plovers (up to 18 seen this first morning) and a single Whimbrel.

After breakfast we set off in the general direction of La Oliva, seeing the first of many Ravens (the Canary race), the omnipresent Berthelot's Pipits (L) and were surprised by the density of Southern Grey Shrikes (race koenigii), while along the way at one of the muñtiple stops some of saw a single House Sparrow, the only one of the trip that I have noted, the rest being Spanish Sparrows. Further north we turned off the road in search of whatever might come into view and saw our first Barbary Ground Squirrels, which in an odd way reminded me of Meerkats when they stood up, on the rough side of a barranco, while in the avian line there were some Linnets and Spectacled Warblers, a species which has some specal attraction for Stephen, and a short view and not too satisfactory view of what we decided was a female/imm. Black Redstart and a Chiffchaff, which we believe to be probably a Canary island Chiff.

All this was very nice and scenery, arid and rocky, made one wonder how birds manage to survive in such a barren landscape, scarcely without trees but with some stunning sights. But it was when we came to the goat farm at Barranco del Valle that we started to get in amongst the specialities. Black-bellied Sandgrouse, of which you often hear the bubbling call before seeing the birds which fly over at an incredible rate and, like fighters passing low but as soon as they touch down their dorsal camouflage, nowadays known as cryptic colouration, makes them disappear as they scuttle away from you across the stoney ground (R). The first Trumpeter Finches and the first 4 Ruddy Shelducks of the day were also seen here.

Lunch was taken at the restaurant "El Labrador" (not the dog but a worker) at Castillas del Angel near Puerto del Rosario where we ate extremely well by the simple method of picking several dishes, including the Canary speciality of papas arrugadas - wrinkled potatoes to you - and which probably resemble the first ones brought back from the Americas than those we buy nowadays.

After lunch we went further around downstream of the dry dam of the embalse de Los Molinos and had our first really good views of Fuerteventura Chat, a species recently separated from our wellknown Stonechat, as well as seeing more Ruddy Shelducks making a total of 38 for the day, hearing and seeing some more Black-bellied Sandgrouse while down in the thin trickle of the stream there was a single Common Sandpiper and a Little Ringed Plover.

From there it was back to the coast at Cala de Fustes to look for waders amongst the rocks where apart from those seen in the morning there was also a Grey Heron, ca.40 Ringed Plovers, 5-7 Sandwich Terns moving back and forth which made counting difficult, a single juv. Gannet way out at sea ploughing its way north and a single 1st winter Black-headed Gull.

17 November Cloudy am with sun all pm. The pre-breakfast walk gave us the maximum Whimbrel count of 4 birds and also a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits.

Thus fortified for the morning, or at least until coffee time, we drove around the Blanca and El Cortijo area, seeing more Southern Grey Shrikes, Ravens and the Spectacled Warblers which have Stephen besotted/bewitched, I'm not sure which! and the ever-present Berthelot's Pipits, their Spanish name of Bisbita Caminero - loosely translated as the 'running pipit' - is most appropriate as they never stop moving, so getting a satisfactory photograph or two is quite an achievement. They were named after Sabin Berthelot, a French naturalist, born in Marseilles in 1794 and later French consul in Sta. Cruz de Tenerife where he died in 1880 - how about that for a bit of useless historical information with which to astound your friends?

Going out back towards the Antigua road junction, we saw 6 Common Buzzards as well as two military helicopters doing something so it was back towards the coast on the FV-2, heading south.

It was shortly after this, when we turned down the track by the goast farm at Antigua where not only was there a flock of Trumpeter Finches but also 3 highly cooperative and photogenic Cream-coloured Coursers (R), one of the major objectives of the trip and the only ones of the trip in spite of searching.

Lunch was taken at the restaurant "La Marisma" in Gran Tarajal and thence across to the F-617 road between Costa Calma and Pared on the rocky dunes in search of the second real rarity of the trip, going down towards Morro del Jable in search of Houbara Bustards.

This species
inhabits a huge area of sandy scrub and in a well signposted sensitive area, not that the signs appear to make much difference as as there are tracks of trailbikes and quads everywhere, once more testifying to the illiteracy of those who use the countryside and laying bare the apparent lack of policing by the environmental authorities of the island and Canaries in general.

We stopped, we scoured the countryside through binoculars and telescopes, Stephen and the others decided to go on along the track whilst one idiot decided to walk as he thought, wrongly as it turned out, that he might see something which might be missed from a vehicle. As I breasted the rise and caught sight of the crew-bus, I was treated to the spectacle of Stephen and Pat hurtling down the hillside, followed rather more sedately by David, whilst Val and Dee sensibly remained up by the van and watched from a distance. As Stephen stopped every now and again to raise his telephoto lens and by dint of following the angle that he was pointing, I too saw the 2 Houbaras just in time, one pitching down just as I picked them up and the other not far away. And they simply disappeared, melted away, gone, the black and white flashing of the wings gave way to the disruptive plumage of the upperparts. But we had seen them. The second big one had fallen, and there was still plenty of good birding to come. Oh yes, and there was a single Trumpeter Finch too.

18 November
Poor weather with rain showers most of the day. After the mandatory morning walk under lowering skies along the shore before breakfast when we saw absolutely nothing new, it was off in the general direction of La Oliva. This site showed us a few rather elusive Laughing Doves, many Spanish Sparrows, a single Sardinian Warbler, more of Stephen's favourite Spectacled Warblers and Southern Grey Shrike, Common Ravens of the Canary Island race canariensis).

By then the weather was deteriorating and we checked the Correlejo area for birds until the consensus was that lunch should be taken, this in La Oliva at the bar-restaurant El Horno where the general consensus was that the pizzas were some of the best ever eaten, a place which we recommend for the hungry.

Barbary Falcon on pylon Los Alares and 2 adult Egyptian Vultures on the cliffs of the barranco behind the salinas del Carmen, it being well posted so that the ignorant could not mistake the importance of the site for this rare CanaryIslands species.

19 November : A cloudy start then some sun pm. We made an early start at 07.oo, past the Salinas del Carmen and through to the barranco where a pair of Egyptian Vultures breed with 2 birds obligingly on the nest site (R). Visitors are, as can be seen from the photograph (above L), requested to keep their distance and not even pass during the breeding season, given the sensitivity of the birds to disturbance.

From there we went on to Los Alares, where we had good views of Common Buzzard perched and later in flight (L above), more Spectacled Warblers - the whole place was crawling with them - and Berthelot's Pipit. The late morning coffee stop at Antigua was enlivened by seeing the only Blue Tit of the trip (R above), a bird of North African race ultramarinus with wing-bar, this lacking in the Canary race teneriffae. (Stephen's photograph).

Lunch was taken at a small roadside bar-restaurant but when a Barbary Falcon flew over we all piled out of the door, probably looking like something out of a Marx Brothers film and certainly to the surprise of a the few locals, one of which would have made a good stand-in for a lighthouse siren in fog.

Going in south of the dam at Los Molinos to see if there was anything on the thin thread of standing water we first had an adult Egyptian Vulture fly over in front of us and down in the barranco on the stream we had quite decent views of 6 Ruddy Shelducks, although I later heard from Tony Clarke that they had seen 80 in the same area later in the afternoon, leaving us to think that the birds must disperse into the rocky plains and come in late to drink, as too the Black-bellied Sandgrouse which we also heard must do. This is a good area for Fuerteventura Chats and we were not to be disappointed. A juv. Little Ringed Plover was rooting around in the sides of the stream.
20 November : Clouds and sun. An early morning visit to the Salinas del Carmen at 0700 hrs gave a single Redshank, 2 Little Egrets, 1 Eurasian Spoonbill (juv), Sanderling and the solitary Black-winged Stilt. From there we took the FV617- road between Costa Calma and Pared nefore peeling off on the track over the rocky dunes to search for elusive Houbara Bustards (below R) and hopefully gain better views than the previous day. And we had luck.

First we found recent foot prints by the tracks, so recent that sand was still trickling in and the central toe nail had marked the sand so the birds had be close, so it was down to searching with telescopes. These took some finding but eventualy we located a pair feeding tranquilly, albeit at some distance, and had the pleasure of watching them for well over an hour as they slowly moved away. Heaven knows how many photographs were aken, the best method being the digiscoping with a small cameras, as in the attached, as they kept low most of the time and once one lost sight of one, it was more than difficult to find it again.

In the same area we also saw 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouse in flight (twice), yet another Southern Grey Shrike, more Common Ravens, Trumpeter Finch, Berthelot's Pipits, Lesser Short-toed Larks, Common Buzzard and a Kestrel. Lunch was again taken at Restaurant El Labrador.

21 November : Overcast all day. (These are Stephen's notes for the day as I was travelling, including a reading complete paperback inTerminal 4 at Barajas airfield, Madrid.)

Early morning after dropping me off at the airfield, Stephen saw Ruddy Shelduck (11) on the Salinas de Antigua Golf course (opposite hotel), together with 2 Common Sandpipers, Whimbrel, Fuertevnetura Chat, Black Redstart, Hoopoe and Southern Grey Shrike. After breakfast the group took the La Oliva to Tindaya track (very quiet) and tried for Houbara Bustards again but with no joy! Lunch was taken at El Cotillo on the coast at a lovely restaurant called 'Azzurro' (correct spelling) with great views, tapas & fresh fish.

After lunch they went took tracks through the dunes near El Cotillo, seing Lesser Short-toed Larks and 1 sub-adult Barbary Falcon hunting them! What a way to finish the trip!

22 November : Stephen managed to have a brief view of 2 Plain Swifts over the hotel before he too left for home.

Mammals and insects We saw very few lizards and then only at one site and which were not identified. I managed some photographs of a red darter dragonfly and we were all enchanted by the Barbary Ground Squirrels, some of which were exceedingly tame, even the one that was tryng to eat Stephen!

A full annotated trip list will be available by about 10 December for those who want one.


Lesser Flamingo and Hobby, Guadalhorce

Just a brief entry before attacking the blog on my trip to Fuerteventura last week (a huge dose of R & R). This week back to the grind at home but at least a nearly daily walk along the west bank of the Guadalhorce with my little blonde friend (the dog). Normally, this walk usually provides little except distant views of the Osprey, the occasional Marsh Harrier and/or Booted Eagle floating around over the reserve, multiple Cormorants, and down at the mouth, the occasional Common Sandpiper and, of course, a myriad of gulls, mostly Black-headed, some Mediterranean, Lesser Black-backed and the inevitable Yellow-legged, while along the banks there are Little Egrets and Grey Herons fishing. But sometimes one is rewarded, and this week it was not once but twice.

On Wednesay (24/11) I had loaded dog and self into the car. I had my binoculars of course as going out without them is like going out nude but had just left home when I realised that I hadn't taken the small but potent camera (an Olympus 590 with 26x optical zoom and 12 mbs), but as I hardly ever photograph anything I thought 'what the hell' and went on. And I was to regret it as if I had turned and gone back for it I would have obtained some stunning shots.

Down at the very mouth of the river and gazing out to sea in search of skuas and shearwaters and seeing neither, I picked up a flock of Greater Flamingos heading in from the SE, roughly from the Melilla direction rather than coasting along from Almeria direction. There were around 65 birds, 9 juvs. of the year and a smaller one, about two-thirds the size of its brethren, and a brighter reddish orange and as it got nearer while they circled for over 2o minutes I could easily see the black bill- a Lesser Flamingo without any shadow of doubt. They were stunning as they described huge, indecisive circles in the sunshine, magnificent against the lowering dark skies over the sierra and which also blocked them finding their way upstream, so eventually they set off SW in the direction of the Strait, having broken up into two flocks, leaving me cursing my stupidity in leaving the camera behind. Nevertheless, a jolly good bird to see.

Needless to say, yesterday, Thursday (25/11), I had the camera with me. Again the same routine and amongst the gulls on the beach a drop-dead gorgeous adult Audouin's Gull standing aloof from the rabble. Too far to photograph but always nice to see. But the bird of the afternoon was simply moving too fast to get the camera lit up and photographed as a rather late adult Hobby shot through at high speed on full afterburner, perhaps it knew what weather we were going to suffer today.

Two good birds on consecutive days but needless to say, we have not been out today, as the dog is a real wimp when it comes to rain, she does not like it!


19 & 24 November, Cabo de Gata,

Whilst I have been away enjoying the birding in Fuerteventura, which I hope to have blogged and posted by this coming Saturday or Sunday (there were over 600 photographs taken and which needed sorting and c.400 e-mails awaiting me on return), Dave, Gilly and the Arboleas Group have been down twice to Cabo de Gata. So, with my excuses made, herewith the daring and deeds of the Arboleas Group thanks to Dave's tireless fingers.

19 November
We arrived at the first hide before the sun had risen at about 7.15am. Gilly decided to snooze for a bit in the car before joining me. Birding got off to a good start as first into view through the gloom were a pair of L
apwings. I quickly spotted 6 Little Egrets. The water level was still very high so little waders were few and far between. I did manage to see a Grey Plover, Dunlin and Kentish Plover. There was also some Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers and a Water Pipit.
Gilly now having surfaced and been revived with Thermos coffee, we drove over to the pool on the other side of the road. Here we saw 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a Little Stint.
Next up was the beach. Numerous fishing boats on the horizon meant that there was only a few passing Audouin's and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. On the walk over to the second hide there were of course an ample supply of Stonechats, a few Greenfinches and a couple of Corn Buntings. To the north I picked out 7 Eurasian Curlews feeding on the savannah. It was nice to have good views of Dartford Warbler amongst the Sardinians. A small flock of Teal were on the water and Gilly counted 165 Greater Flamingos.
On the approach to the public hide we disturbed a group of 12 more Curlews feeding. Avocet and Black-winged Stilt were added to the list. On the causeway to the right I counted 5 Sandwich Terns at rest. Shelduck were numerous with 45 seen during the day.
After a cup of coffee we ventured round the rear of the reserve. The first two salinas were now virtually dried up so very little bird life was to be seen. There was a large flock of Spotless Starlings feeding by the power lines. We spotted at least two Northern Starlings amongst them. Winter must be upon us! After notching up 43 specieswe headed home for lunch & a well deserved siesta.

24 November
The light rain woke me up at 4.30 in the morning and it was still drizzling at around 7am. Brian and Mary quite sensibly decide it was a long way to come with the chance the trip might be called off. It was therefore only Chris, Gilly and I who headed south to Cabo de Gata. It was sod's law that we travelled through bright sunshine, but as we approached the Cabo it became overcast, but luckily no precipitation.
By the time we'd reached the first hide we'd already logged a few birds including Cattle Egret, Hoopoe and Black Redstart. The water level was still very high with only the larger birds hanging around. A flock of 90 Slender-billed Gulls was on the rocky causeway. Little Egrets and Black-winged Stiltx were feeding where they could stand up.
A single Black-tailed Godwit flew over us towards the pool on the opposite side of the road so we followed it over there. Sure enough it had landed near to a pair of Dunlin and a Little Stint and there were also 6 Teal. We were very surprised to see 3 very late Barn Swallows feeding over the pool with some Crag Martin.
Checking out over the calm sea we saw nothing of interest, so we headed for the second hide. Gilly did her Greater Flamingo count, registering 211. 3 Grey Plovers, a Greenshank and a Ringed Plover were spotted, but the stars were a pair of Pintail. A Water Pipit gave us good views in the water filled dyke to our right.
Just as we were about to park up at the public hide an Air Sea Rescue helicopter flew over. It put up 14 Eurasian Curlews from the savannah all of which would've otherwise gone unobserved of which 12 returned to where they were feeding, but 2 landed on a sandy spit on the salina. Also seen from the hide were 8 Black-necked Grebes, Kentish Plovers, Redshanks, Sanderling and numerous Avocets.
The harvesting of the salt round the rear of the reserve has created a saline desert so very few water birds were seen with the exception of 39 Shelduck on one of the few expanses of water left. On the steppes to the left the only thing of note was a large flock of what were probably Meadow Pipits was seen....apart from the boringly numerous Stonechats!! We ended up with 45 species for the day.


13 November, Laguna Dulce (Campillos ) & Fuente de Piedra

This is a short blog about a super morning's birding in bright sunshine and zero wind, along with the always pleasant company of Federico. The first stop was the laguna Dulce just outside Campillos which remains full of waterbirds, all except the one which I really wanted to see - Ferruginous Duck. As we stopped a party of 7 Red-legged Partridges scurried along the lake side but I have a nasty feeling that there won't be that many of the family around as I write because the hunters were out with dogs, which in turn meant that there wasn't a sign of Little Bustards. A solitary juv. Marsh Harrier floated over the laguna but didn't disturb a single duck.

There were 3 spp. of grebes, and although I didn't carry out even a rough count I had the distinct impression that the numbers of Black-necked had increased since my previous visit while Great Crested remained about the same and there were very few Little Grebes. Ducks there were a-plenty, from Mallard, plenty of Pochards - a couple of hundred at a guesstimate but fewer Red-crested Pochards, less than 10 certainly. A quick count of White-headed Ducks gave a minimum of 92 birds, which isn't at all bad. There were a few Teal way over on the far side and a few Gadwall mixed in with the Pochards. A solitary Snipe gave quite decent views more or less 40 m in front of the hide and there were plenty of Chiffchaffs feeding in the reeds and tamarisks.

From there it was a short run to Fuente de Piedra.taking the road round the back towards Sierra de Yeguas. On the way we flushed a Southern Grey Shrike, a nice bird to see at any time. Once stopped on the top overlooking the laguna from the western end we were amazed at the total lack of Flamingos, I don't think we saw more than a dozen all morning and those were juvenile birds. There was some compensation in the form of several groups of Cranes, around 70 in all, as well as a solitary White Stork. Later we were to be treated to close views of a family party of mum, dad and the 2 youngsters (left). At the same end there were good numbers of Shovelers and 6 Shelduck, a rather erratic winter visitor at Fuente de Piedra.

From there it was round to the information centre and mirador, stopping to look at the field where there is the tower and whch usually harbours a wintering flock of Stone Curlew and we weren't to be dispappointed. Not that there were many, there weren't, around 22 or so. The difficulty is finding the first one, after which it becomes much easier to spot the rest and slowly the total rises until you are more or less satisfied that you've seen them all. It was here too that this nice little Stonechat showed itself.

From the mirador a look out over the lake showed a huge concentration of ducks over to the right and scoping showed them to be all Shovelers, so what with thosse and the ones at the other end there were easily more than 500 in the laguna (below).
Nearer the mirador there one or two Black-winged Stilts, a couple of Little Ringed Plovers and two small waders which took flight but fortunately Federico had marked them down and we were able to scope them and finish the morning with a 2 Little Stints.

NOTE that there won't be anything more until at least 22 November after the trip to Fuerteventura.


10 November, Cabo de Gata

Hooray, Dave and Gilly are back so there is news from Cabo de Gata. Thanks, Dave, and welcome back! I'll bet you're both still thawing out.

After 5 weeks in the UK I was very happy to be back birding in Spain. Gilly had charity work commitments so Chris and I headed down to Cabo de Gata, hoping that the high winds had subsided. After a coffee stop in Pujaire we made our way to the first hide. We were astounded to see that the water level was exceedingly high. Yes, there were Greater Flamingoes, but no sign of the usual huge numbers of Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit or Black-winged Stilt. Neither were there any small waders to be seen. We did see a Little Egret and a single distant Audouin's Gull. I then noticed a wader on the causeway - a Greenshank. Huddled next to it was a Grey Plover and a Golden Plover. Some Sardinian Warblers made an appearance as did the first of many Stonechats. Our intention was to saunter over the road to where we suspected the shallow pool was, only to be beaten there by a van. Its arrival did put a couple of Snipe and a Redshank to the wing. On the power lines was, according to my new Collins Bird Guide, an Iberian Grey Shrike.
A check out to sea revealed about 10 Gannets of various ages, but nothing else. The walk to the 2nd hide produced a pair of Corn Buntings. Again the bird life was few and far between. Some Mallards, Shelducks, a flight of Avocets, a feeding flotilla of Slender-billed Gulls and a single flying Turnstone.
Moving on to the public hide, things improved slightly. 3 Eurasian Curlew were a godsend as I didn't relish the thought of submitting a totally blank survey form to the Slender Billed Curlew Search team! We saw a small number of Shoveler, a Cormorant, a few more Avocets, some Black-winged Stilts and (birds of the day) a raft of 23 Black-necked Grebes.
As we drove round to the back of the reserve we we gutted to see that the first salina, where the majority of gulls rest, had been drained. But as this area is a working salt producing plant, none of the reserve would exist today without the past workings. The second salina was in the process of having its water removed. There were lots of shallow waterfilled trenches. These were feeding troughs for loads of Dunlin, Kentish Plover, Little Stint and Sanderling.
An average day by Cabo standard. 39 species and, sorry, no photo opportunities. Glad to be back though!

I must say that I don't really go on the new English name of Iberian Grey Shrike for Southern Grey Shrike, especially as I am not sure if they have been separated (at least officially) from the North African races of algeriensis and elegans, not to mention koenigi of the Canary Islands, in which case it's a bit regionalistic and jumping the gun. I see from my copy of the new Collins guide that they claim genetic didfferences, but I do know that some claims for other spp. have been based on comparative mtDNA differences of considerably less than 2% - a generally accepted divergence figure for speciation.

The same criticism can be applied to the Mediterranean race of Cory's Shearwater which some want to call Scopoli's and with which others (of which Hadoram Shirihai, Bill Bourne and myself are three) and where the genetic divergence Is only around 0.5% and which the Collins retains as a subspecies but does give the name Scopoli's. It is, in fact, the nominal race and used to be known as Mediterranean Shearwater (which is before my time even!) and Atlantic race is borealis.


5 November, Guadalhorce

As I had no C4, Semtex or any homemade explosive of any sort with which to blow all politicians of all the political spectrum to kingdom come (today is Guy Fawkes day, remember), I went birding instead, but first a quick bit about other birding bits this past week.

This last week, on 28 October, a somewhat late Willow Warbler in the garden and at the same time the first Chiffchaffs. On 3 November, I took the dog and binoculars down to the beach in front of the Parador de Golf (west Málaga) to have a look in there and also see if there was anything along the new overflow canal which still has plenty of water in it. In fact, we had hardly had time to stagger (me) and jump (the dog) out of the car and I heard the sweet chui-chui call of a Greenshank (well, it's sweet to my ears as they really are my favourite wader). Then, scanning across to the far side there were 3 little brown pipit-like things skipping amongst the rocks and to have 3 Water Pipits together made my morning, in spite of the fact we saw naught else.

Further upstream of the Guadalhorce near the Peñón de Zapata, Samuel Peregrina caught a brief glimpse of what he reckoned was a Corncrake, which wouldn't surprise me in the least and Samu knows which way is up. Last evening, Stephen Daly told me that La Janda was knee-deep in White Wagtails. At Brazo del este there are apparently larger than normal numbers of Squacco Herons remaining in the rice paddies which have now been harvested, according to Paco Chiclana although personally I think that (a) the weather is still benign and (b) there are still plenty of crayfish for them to eat. Which brings me to this morning.

5 November I met Federico at 09.00 on the dot and off we wentured. It was sunny but definitely on the cool side at that hour, although by later in the morning things had changed it was frankly warm. Just about the first bird we saw, before even crossing the bridge, was the Osprey carrying its breakfast, which at least augured well. It's quite noticeable that neither Grey Herons nor Cormorants have yet entered in any numbers, although there was a slight movement of Grey Herons coming in high from the east, the sort of movement that it's easy to miss as I don't think I saw more than six or seven, but they were high and obviously birds with a mission.

The first stop was along the eastern bank but as they have been clearing scrub, particularly tamarisk, all long the course of the old river there were few birds to be seen and only 4 Black-winged Stilts and later a pair of Greenshanks, but no small plovers, Dunlin or even Common Sandpiper. I heard and then we saw the first 2 Skylarks of the autumn, always nice. We walked along to the seawatch point and saw little except a rather dark juv. Gannet and a brief view of a Great Crested Grebe which dived and as far as we know is using a schnorkel system as we never saw it again,in spit of looking.

The Osprey sat eating its breakfast and a juvenile Marsh Harrier hung around and later we saw an adult female, the same rather dark bird that has been around for a while and it was around the same time that we saw the first Booted Eagle of the day, a dark morph bird although later there were at least 2 pale morph birds around. It was along here to that we ran first into Manolo Moreno, who is a photograoher first and birder second, and within minutes into Mick Richardson from Loja with a friend of his. Like us, Mick had seen little so we wended our way round to the laguna Escondida.

On the way we got sidetracked by stopping off to see Javier Fregenal, who had been ringing since early morning as the Guadalhorce reserve is now a constant effort ringing station run by the ringers of SEO-Málaga. He had been and was extremely busy, with hordes of Chiffs virtually lining up to be ringed (R) and with a few Blackcaps, Robins (L) and a single 1st winter male Bluethroat.
Everything in the duck line which wasn't anywhere else was there on the Escondida, with a few Gadwall, Mallard, a female and 2 juv. White-headed Ducks and surprising number of Teal, first heard as they chirped to each other and then the whole lot, at least 30 of them, the most of the males coming into full breeding plumage, swam out into the open. On the usual tuft of grass and reeds a pile of turtles took in the ultra violet.
From there is was round to the laguna Grande to run intoMick and his friend again who had come round along the beach, but they, like us had seen little. So, after feasting our eyes on a solitary Flamingo (big deal) it was time to be off with a rather meagre total of 37 spp. for our efforts.