21-27 March, an uneventful week

This is nearly a full week's blog, between 21 and 27 March. Really, it started on 21 March, allegedly the first day of spring but blowing a gale. However, at least there have been one or two things of interest. On Tuesday, a rough day with lowering grey skies which promised rain and force 7 easterlies which were enough to peel your eyelids back against your forehead but the only day available before they went back to Blighty, I took Ron and Ian down to the rubbish tip at Los Barrios, inland from Algeciras, meeting up with Stephen Daly, David Cuenca and Dario (whoever, I can't remember his surname!).

Now, rubbish tips hardly rank amongst the most romantic of places but there have been large numbers of White (or mucky grey-brown) Storks there and also Griffon Vultures, as well as a Rüppell's Vulture and an immature Black/Monk/Cinereous Vulture (I do wish they'd sort out what they are going to call it) in this past week. Getting in around the edge of the perimeter fence is NOT a good idea for rocky knees and mine are still complaining bitterly. Yes, we saw a few Griffon Vultures, Black Kites and White Storks and very large numbers of gulls but to be honest I was more concerned about not going base over apex down the slope in the mud.

From there, Ian, Ron and myself went through to Benalup and then south to La Janda, going over the top by the smelly farm where we stopped briefly.

There were were more Black Kites, Griffon Vultures, a single male Hen Harrier, a Booted Eagle and both Common and Lesser Kestrels. From there we drove south along the side of the canal, clocking up a Purple Boghen in the process and more White Storks in need of the persil treatment, the one shown here being one of the cleaner specimens.

We took a quick look up at the swift cave at Bolonia, just to show Ian the place, and stopped to check the cave where the Egyptian Vultures breed, Stephen having seen them copulating the previous week, only to find a Peregrine sheltering from the elements in the mouth of the cave, and I don't blame it either! There were 2 Griffon Vultures on the cliff face but that was the lot and with the first spots of rain it seemed a good idea to set off for the two hour run, carefully trying to keep to 110 km/h which the Spanish government has imposed in its all-seeing wisdom with the aim of reducing fuel consumption because of the goings-on in Libya, which produces less than 2% of the world's production in any case.

At home, and with the knees definitely unhappy, I have not done much although I do at least have the Red-vented Bulbuls back in the area and there have been a pair on a couple of occasions. However, morning of 26/03, a signal date for me, I decided to have a quick run up to Fuente de Piedra and the laguna Dulce, there and back in less than 4 hours, basically with the aim of trying to find the Lesser Flamingos. In that quarter there was no joy and there were much fewer waders than ten days or so since with only a couple of Redshanks, some Avocets and the usual Stilts, although Gull-billed Tern numbers have gone up rather.

So it was on to the laguna Dulce at Campillos to find the Andalusian Bird Society outing with the august presence of Bob Wright and Bob Hibbitt on a brief trip. Indeed, Bob H. found a Little Bustard over on the far side of the laguna. There were plenty of hirundines, many of the Barn Swallows resting and preening between feeding flights and on the water at least one pair of Black-necked Grebes and certainly 2 pairs of Great Crested Grebes, both of these species delightful in their breeding finery. After which quick look it was time to run for home and take the family out for lunch and enjoy a very good gazpacho indeed, my first of the year.

Sunday, 27/03. As the knees are still playing merry hell and I had plenty to do, I decided not to go down to the ponds. It gets worse and worse on a Sunday what with families, arrogant cyclists who are likely to run over you and generally more and more like Picadilly Circus/Times Square at peak time At least I got my reward in the form of some 25-30 Bee-eaters in two parties - my first of the year - flying eastwards over the house.

'Sun comes up, sun goes down, Life gets tedious, don't?'

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