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.

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