14 - 16 January : Guadalhorce (2x) and La Janda

(Tuesday evening) Apologies for the delay in getting this out but unforeseen (and undesired) circumstances like the computer refusing to take electricity on board have not helped at all. This is the brief story of three days fairly heavy birding, these two at the Guadalhorce (where else? I hear you say), the middle day down on La Janda and as far up as the embalse de Barbate.

Friday, 14 January : Down to the Guadalhorce by 09.00, far too early, so down to the mouth of the river just in time to see one of the Short-eared Owls flying along the far shore, perch briefly and then disappear, a very nice way to start the day except that I had left the camera in the car. I met with Federico Vallés and by chance meeting up with Paco Villalobos and Blas López, this at just before 09.30. Exactly how many spp. we saw, I'm not sure, somewhere in excess of the 39 I noted during the course of the morning. So, here are the better parts.

We found 6+ Skylarks (testimonial photo L) and the previous day Federico and Antonio Miguel had seen 6 Reed Buntings along on the right near the seawatch mirador the previous day and 2 still remained (Federico's photo R).

Down at the mirador itself things looked promising on the sea as there were hordes of gulls and apart from a single Great Crested Grebe which was associating at times with a flock of 13 female/imm. Common Scoters. Every time the gulls flushed, the typical sort of mass dread that one associated with skuas, we searched for a skua - there has been a marked lack of Arctic Skuas this winter - until eventually a dark morph Pomarine Skua was located moving west and it later flew back east, scaring the living daylights out of all the gulls each time but without doing anything positive. It was, I think, an immature bird and a different one to the Pom. I saw on 8 January as this bird had much less white in the primary wing flashes.

The water levels are still far too high and we saw one Kentish Plover on the beach and a Black-winged Stilt at the laguna grande. There were ducks, of course, and White-headeds have increased notably to somewhere over the 17 I counted, some of the males obviously feeling frisky! Shovelers were present, Mallards (naturally!) and 4 Gadwalls. Raptors were represented by the Osprey, Booted Eagle and Kestrels (why do they always perch with their back towards you?).

Nothing else really of note, but a very pleasant morning's birding.

Saturday, 15 January, La Janda to embalse de Barbate
With the report of the 1W Pallid Harrier found on La Janda and superbly photographed by Stephen Daly on Thursday ringing inside out skulls - see http://andalucianguides.blogspot.com , Bob Wright and I set off at 07.10 and were down on the canal corner of La Janda by 09.00 to the sight and sound of distant Cranes. In fact, we were due to meet Stephen at 10 in Benalup/Casas Viejas but with time in hand the detour was worth it.
Now, I must admit that I didn't keep a check list of everything we saw as basically I was interested in the raptors, although Bob did and if anyone wishes to consult it, they should look at his place, but he made it a round 50 spp., which ain't bad! From the raptors point of view, we saw Griffon Vultures, Imperial Eagles, Bonelli's Eagles, Booted Eagle, several Marsh Harriers, 4 Hen Harriers (including 2 males), several Common Buzzards, a single Sparrowhawk doing a passable imitation of an Exocet missile, half the Kestrels in the universe, a Short-eared Owl that played hard to see in amongst the foliage of a tree and proved damned nearly impossible to photograph and, for me, the stars of the day- Black-shouldered Kites.
To watch a pair of Black-shouldered Kites trying to dislodge a pair of Common Buzzards from a tree the kites fancied gave us a fantastic display of flying. The photographic chances were not many until on the final lap out to the N-340 when Bob and I saw one which flew close to the car, perched, hovered and generally showed off, as I think the following shots show.

A lovely little raptor, I think you'll agree!
So, apart from that, the other species which stand out are the flocks of Little Ringed Plovers on the sodden and unploughed rice paddies, along with lots of Lapwings, a few Snipe and a single Green Sandpiper. There was a single Southern Grey Shrike and my first House Martin of the year.
A great day's birding and I dropped Bob off for his drive back home 11 hours after picking him up. And, of course, our grateful thanks to Stephen for giving us great day in his neck of the woods.
Sunday, 16 January, Guadalhorce: I must be a sucker for punishment, although I admit that I didn't get in to the reserve until 10.30 and didn't stay much beyond 12.45. The most abundant species was, without doubt, homo not very sapiens in all its glory and variety- cyclists who go far too fast and one day there will be an accident, loud uncouth humans and their children and not many birds. And if I was a bird I too would have gone somewhere quieter. There were still 12 Common Scoters on the sea, unmolested by the human presence, and a single Gannet flogged its way westwards. On the laguna grande there was the usual selection of ducks as usual, but with only a single male Teal and the White-headed Ducks and Pochards. I saw the first Cormorants showing signs of breeding plumage with one or two adults showing the white flank patch but nothing of white on the head.

So, home and that's when things started to go pear-shaped with this computer and its power supply, my new mobile had gone off line on Friday and the car had blown a rear brake light. What a great way to start the new week but ameliorated this afternoon (Tuesday) when the first flock of migrant Mediterranean Gulls flew west on a dull noon and later this afternoon while walking the dog, a Peregrine flew through a flock of Yellow-legged Gulls and showed them total disdain, which at least was a half way decent way to end the day before starting to put all this together. Hope you've enjoyed the efforts as much as I enjoyed the birding!

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