13 March, Guadalhorce

Sunday morning and up earlyish, although not exactly with the lark, and fed up of not getting out so off to the ponds, in spite of heavy rain overnight, for a brief morning outing where I knew that I could be sure of running in to Paco Rivera at the very least and probably Patricia also, and in both I was not mistaken.

So, by 0930 I was going in over the bridge under which there was a large quantity of dirty brown water coming down the river after the rains whilst around me Barn Swallows flashed through and the Red-rumped Swallows floated overhead - a very different flight and once you know them it makes distinguishing them much easier. I had already seen the Robin which has been hanging around the area all winter as well as a Black Redstart, both of which may well be on their way north fairly soon. The Cormorant numbers seem to be falling on an almost daily basis and there were relatively few Chiffchaffs around.

Pat and Paco were at the hide by the laguna Grande so I joined them there. A flock of some 60 or so Black-winged Stilts came in and circled several times searching for somewhere to land but tyhere is little space as the rains have wiped out what incipient shoreline there was last Tuesday. There were plenty of hirundines, and whilst Barn Swallow numbers were down there had been a big increase in Sand Martins which were busily feeding. On a side note here, Paco Chiclana saw hundreds of these arriving en masse on Saturday in the Doñana area, many so tired they just sat on the tracks and roads resting.

There were 2 Marsh Harriers and we were to see a third later on but there really was not a lot to be seen, so we walked through to the shore, flushing 3 Redshanks and a Dunlin off flood water. The walk along the shore, apart from seeing a dead turtle which was swelling rapidly with decomposition and also a few stranded Portuguese man o' war jellyfish, gave little in the bird line apart from less than half a dozen Kentish Plovers.

There was little of note on open land on each side of the seawatch mirador, I had hoped for a wheatear or yellow wagtail, but nothing except for a couple of Skylarks. On the river, the río Viejo, a female Mallard with attendant male was shepherding her flotilla of 13 (yes, thirteen) very young ducklings. The photo is not good but the light was worsening all the time and rain was starting to look a good bet yet again.

On to the hide nearer the sea and I heard but didn't see a Greenshank and on the open water there, the small islet of Tuesday having being inundated, there were 3 pairs of Gadwall and a few pairs of Teal, these males full of hormonal energy and displaying, part of which involves pushing their butts up into the air, presumably to show off the rear end yellow and black pattern. Whilst the females may have been impressed they didn't do anything for an immature Grey Heron which simply sat immobile and for a while we wondered if it had died standing up until there was a small movement of its head, but it looked downright miserable. A Booted Eagle was sitting in one of the eucalyptus trees and we also saw a Kestrel and that was about that and we all felt that home was the best bet before it rained. Total: about 33 spp. but I didn't keep a good count.

On a more positive note, Pallid Swifts are starting to arrive. I saw about 30 in front of the apartment on Saturday and as I write this on Monday afternoon, I can see 3 or 4 scything through the grey skies. I hope that this weather changes p.d.q. or the swifts and all the migrant hirundines will have a hard time, just when they need to replenish fat deposits vefore continuing north.

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