8 March, Guadalhorce

It was not a brilliant morning by any standard when I staggered out of my pit, rather the reverse with lowering grey skies which threatened rain at any moment, a nice strong easterly which meant that the best support for a tripod would be an armoured personnel carrier (something not in my parking lot) and so the scope was left at home. In fact, if I hadn't been meeting Ron and Ian then I rather think that I might have had doubts about going. And if I hadn't then I would have definitely dipped (as the twitchers say).

I went in rather late, about 09.50 and as Ron and Ian were way later than planned, I went first to the laguna grande while the clouds over the Sierra de Mijas looked heavier and more threatening every minute. In fact, the lousy weather had slowed up hirundine migration and in total early on, before the weather cleared somewhat, there were many tens, perhaps even low hundreds, of Barn Swallows over the water and resting in the trees. There were some few tens of Sand Martins, House Martins which may well have come from the Guadalmar urbanisation and it looks like our Red-rumped Swallows are back and in residence (something Stephen Daly commented about this evening in his Barbate area).

From there it was back and round to the laguna Escondida which had nothing but a bunch of miserable sleeping White-headed Ducks, the rubbish weather having managed to dampen the hormones of the males for the first time in weeks. From there it was onwards and just before the little mound that comprises the high puint of the reserve I had what was probably the best bird of the day, an absolutely stunning male Northern Wheatear which pitched down about 10m in front of me, allowed me a 10 second look through the binocuolars and was off again. This was my first of the year and later I was to find a female down towards the seawatch mirador and which Ron and Ian managed to see also.

But I run ahead of myself as before then I had good views of a Woodchat Shrike, my second of the year and on a rather more normal date than the first), and a brief view of an immature Marsh Harrier. At the first hide along the eastern bank there was nothing on the water except a few Pochard but the prospects were better at the second at the top end of the río Viejo. At last there is a little bit of mud and the island in the centre has started to reappear and with it the waders. It is almost a novelty to see Redshank (1), Greenshank (3 but only 1 which is half hidden in the photo), Black-winged Stilt (2) and a pair of Little Ringed Plovers (2) plus a pair of Teal and the Shelduck which has been there for at least two weeks. There must have been some 20 Teal still, although the numbers of Cormorants have fallen notably. One of these had got itself hung up in on of the eucalyptus thanks to a fisherman of uncertain parentage who had left his line and the bird had become entangled. Fortnately, news had got to Antonio Tamayo, one of the wardens and a good birder and friend, who climbed the tree as far as he could and cut the branch. As it fell, the line broke and the bird flew off to the lake and started to bathe.

By now Ron and Ian had caught up with me and we trundled down the beach, basically because I was wanting to see what the group of workers were doing. They were gathering up the canes which had been carried down the river and then washed up by the tides and buring them, this I hope as a prior effort to restaking and wiring the nesting area of the Kentish Plovers, of which we did not see one. As two years ago there were 50 plus nests, last year half that number and nobody appears to have seen more than 12-13 birds this spring so far, the outlook is bleak. The problem is that there is too much vegetable growth and scattered canes in the area, all of which give cover to rodents and snakes which consume eggs and chicks and conditions are therefore unsuitable for these most attractive little plovers. At least resurrection of the fence will keep out the illiterate and those gentlemen(?) who feel the necessity to display themselves in all their glory(?),

The three of us walked along the beach and then in along the track to approach the laguna Grande from the sea side only to find the hide full of extremely noisey teenagers, a monitor who whose presence was about as useful as a wet paper bag and seemed to know little about what he was showing them - trait I have seen more than once there. The teacher with them fell in to the same category as the monitor when it came to controlling the unacceptable noise levels but as teachers nowadays have little or no power over the students, I can't really blame him too much, although a lady colleague who showed up with her group did rather better. However, a few choice words directed forcibly to the little dears brought immediate peace and quiet to the situation and we were able to watch in relative peace and quiet and I was able and happy to explain things to the one or two students who were interested.

So, time to go home and see what had happened in the family bosom - the dog was alright at least! And with 45 species noted down too!

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