not enough birding...

I don't know where the time has gone since the last entry on 12 February - well, a bit of lie really as it's been frittered away on bits and pieces, often related with birding like checking the translation of a paper on Cory's Shearwaters being caught on the hooks of long-liners and translating the new English leaflet for Fuente de Piedra. Then for some reason the left knee once more tried to do its self-destructing act which loused up the next 4 or 5 days until it regained some semblance of normality. That didn't stop me looking out off the terrace and taking very slow, very gentle walks down by the river with Luna and not seeing much and I have also spent a lot of time planning the trip to Cape Hatteras en the second half of May, plus shopping and all that sort of necessary rubbish. Time just went. So, here we go .....

Friday 18 February was a trip up to Fuente de Piedra about the translation and to bend a few ears on the state of the Guadalhorce, especially the state of the wire fence after the winter storms and will protect the breeding sites of the Kentish Plovers with about the same efficacy as a wet paper bag in its current state, plus have a good bitch about the cyclists, loose dogs and generally be a miserable old git. This may or may not have results but I have taken unilateral action (remember my promise of last year?) and all we can do is wait and see if anything positive happens. However, even before starting all the griping there was my first Red-rumped Swallow of the year sitting on a fence by the centre. They are also back at the Guadalhorce bridge area for those who enjoy these splendid swallows.

That same Friday afternoon, now home and scanning the skies for swifts, a smashing male Black Redstart flew into the garden and flipped into a tree just below and which gave me just enough time to grab the little Olympus before it was off again. Then for some reason the left knee once more tried to do its self-destructing act which loused up the next 4 or 5 days until it regained some semblance of normality. That didn't stop me looking out off the terrace and taking very gentle walks down by the river with Luna and not seeing much, although a famished Hoopoe in the garden early on 20/02 and which fed with gusto made me think it was a recently arrived bird. Then on 24/02, whilst watching the Serins - the males are splendidly coloured at this time of year, don't ignore common species - something dropped through the line of sight and turned out to be a Woodchat Shrike, a very early bird, which sat in one of the trees for a minute, swooped dwon on something in the grass, glogged it down and was off.

By the evening of 24/02 I reckoned that the knee should be able to take a slow walk around the Guadalhorce the following day, along with Ron and Federico and by 0920 we were crossing the brdige while 2 Red-rumped Swallows and a goodly contingent of Barn Swallows and some House Martins were there too, but no Sand Martins although Ron had seen some up the río Fuengirola during the week.

25/02: It was a lovely morning and we were soon joined by Hannu who is down from Finland for a year's birding sabbatical. The roite was rather different to that taken normally, as I wanted to see what Paco Rivera's volunteer cleaning group had managed to get done the previous Saturday - and to them my thanks. So, first to the laguna Escondida (hidden lake) and most birds there had lived up to the name of the place. From there on to the laguna Grande where there are still hordes of Cormorants and a goodly selection of all the normal wildfowl but there the prize must go to 2 female Reed Buntings which showed well on the reed heads that grow on the little island in front of the hide and a solitary Black-winged Stilt and a Common Sandpiper showed that all is not yet lost for waders and the water levels are falling, albeit slowly.

From there we went down to the beach and walked along it towards the seawatch mirador. There were the usual masses of gulls, mostly Lesser Black-backs and Black-headed with a few Mediterranean and Yellow-legged sitting around on the sea. The 12 Common Scoters are still there but it looks like 2 of them are immature males as Ron said that he had seen them showing distinct signs of black on the head last Tuesday.

We did put up around 12 Kentish Plovers but unless there is urgent work in resurrecting the fence they are going to have a bad time. Two years ago there were some 5o pairs, last year it had fallen by 50% and if nothing is done the number will be halved yet again. And this in the site which is the provincial stronghold for this lovely little plover. However, there is a faint glimmer of hope as Estebán, he of the Land Rover truck that visitors may have seen, assures me that there are plans to replace the fence within the next two weeks in order to keepout ehibitionists and other peculiar people (ie. non birders), and that after I was told just over 10 days since that there was no cash to do so - time will tell. If it does happen I should like to think that my bitching has had some effect and shall be delighted to report it here, and if not then I shall also report it but without any delight whatsoever and a fair dose of what the Spanish call mala leche- and there's plenty available. There were at least 4 Turnstones in area of the rocks around the mirador and some 12 Sanderlings.

From the mirador we went inland, finding 5 Skylarks in the process, the most I've seen all winter I think. From the second hide (that nearer the sea) there was actually some mud in sight, not a lot but it's a start! I saw my first Redshank of the year at the ponds and a couple of Snipe were feeding there too, plus 2 more Common Sandpipers. A single Spoonbill was doing what Spoonbills do best - sleeping (a bit like my children now I come to think of it, and there was me thinking that they had been cloned from dormice) and a solitary Shelduck which spent most of its time showing us its tail end in the air as it fed in the deep water. The Little Egrets are coming into breeding plumage and the photo shows the beautiful plumaes which once made it and and its American cousin, the Snowy Egret targets for the pluames trade for fashionable hats for the ladies of high society, which in turn led to the formation of the National Audubon Society (there now, doesn't that bit of history impress you?).

The ducks were much as expected, except no Garganey after that first pair a couple of weeks since. I was rather surprised at the numbers of female still Teal around yet only a couple of males, only a couple of pairs of Gadwall and the White-headed Ducks, the males going barmy over the few females in view. The raptors included several Marsh Harriers, one a 2nd year male, the Kestrels and no moring would be complete without the Osprey which showed itself beautifully.

We ran (figuratively) into a Welsh birder, whose name I have forgotten and for which my apologies, who had seen both Subalpine Warbler and Wryneck - both of which we missed, but in spite of that and withno really rare/unusal spp. we finished the morning with a count of exactly 50 spp, which with his would have made 52.

Later in the afternoon I walked Luna down by the river and saw a pair of adult Audouin's Gulls - always nice to see, three or four loose flocks of Mediterranean Gulls of all ages heading eastwards while further out to sea two groups (5 and 3 birds respecively) of adult Gannets were ploughing their way west to the Strait if Gibraltar and thence northwards.

Stephen Daly told me that over the weekend he had heard a Nightingale singing near his garden in Barbate and yesterday (Sunday 27/02) over 15.000 Black Kites were logged coming in from Africa (in avesforum) and Birgit had rung me from near to Dos Hermanas (Sevilla) to tell me of a flock of about 100 of the same flying alongside her car!

It's all happening folks! Spring is well on the way.

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