1 April, All Fools' Day at the Guadalhorce

Doesn't sound promising as a title, does it? However, with Federico as company and later meeting yet again with Antonio Tamayo and briefly running into Hannu, things were bound to be better than the title might suggest.

There was, of course, the usual selection of hirundines with the Red-rumped Swallows very conspicuous by the bridge - I really must go down and spend some trying to photograph them, they are splendid birds. More Nightingales have come in, as evidenced by their songs, although we didn't see one, which is about normal. There was much the same as other days this past seven days, incuding 4 Teal still and a whole slew of White-headed Ducks, amongst which we found this very dark-headed bird which we believe to be a 1st summer male.

There are goodly numbers of Gadwalls this year and although at a first glance they don't appear overly inspiring, a good look at a male will reveal very finely marked plumaged, these lines known a vermiculations. (How educational this all is!)

Indeed, it was a morning to be examining birds and I saw this Stilt my heart jumped slightly as thoughts immediately turned to it being an American Black-necked Stilt because of the quantity of the black on the hind neck, and when I showed the first photos to Antonio his face was a picture as the same thought that it might be one hit him, which would have made it a huge rarity. As is some 40 years since I last saw an Black-necked Stilt, I couldn't remember all the field characteristics but as it was so unlikely, plus the extensive black didn't continue onto the mantle but was separated by a white strip made it much less likely. However, I reproduce three photos of here with the bird in the company of more normally plumaged stilts, although another has a lesser amount on the rear neck. So, just in case anyone else gets the same ideas, don't panic.

Apart from the Stilts, there were some other waders too : A brief view the rear end of a Greenshank as it vanished, never to be seen or heard again, a very nice and much more obliging Wood Sandpiper, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, these latter getting tuned up to breeding condition, and a single Common Sandpiper. (Patricia tells me she saw Snipe the previous afternoon.) Walking down to the seawatch mirador there were the two Flamingos still on the río Viejo, the ringed bird having been marked as a chick in the Camargue in 2004. On the far side of the river we could hear at least 2 Reed Warblers singing. We were hoping to see the 3 Pratincoles that had been seen the previous afternoon (Antonio and Patricia) but no joy, although Hannu rang me later to say that he had seen one some 10 minutes after we had met - AAAAGH!

There was a big movement of Bee-eaters going on with flocks passing high overhead all morning, most heard rather than seen, but as regards numbers we must be talking in terms of the high hundreds or even low thousands of birds from the virtually continual calling. In the rising heat, the migrants also included at least 4 Short-toed Larks and in total some 3 female Black-eared Wheatears and a female Northern Wheatear.

After finding 6 Common Scoters on the sea, 2 of these males, and a distant Sandwich Tern, as we trudged along the beach (I certainly trudged!) we picked up a nice Woodchat Shrike and - surprise, surprise - the Ring-billed Gull flew towards and past us, enabling brief but conclusive glimpses. From there it was back up by the laguna Grande where there must have been at least 2 Cormorants left. And that really sums up the morning as more than 4 hours had gone by since Federico and I had entered. But thee is a sting in the tail, as later Antonio texted me to say that he had seen 3 Slender-billed Gulls and an immature Whitethroat.

Nearly forgot the Fool of the day, a Superb Starling Lamprotornis superbus which flew in front of us as we walked up the rack from the beach to the laguna Grande. There is at least one pair of these in the rounds of the Parador de Golf which is less than 10minutes flying time away, and I bet it flew better than the huge and hugely underpowered Antonov Design Bureau prototype which staggered out of Málaga airfield in a fairly vain attempt to gain height and was last seen disappearing in the general direction of Algeria. Everybody down!

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