29 June, La Janda

I knew that there was something wrong about today when I awoke at 06.00 and nothing was hurting. That meant (putting it in Victorian style) That Something Ought To Be Done. Which meant going down to La Janda, in spite of knowing that it would be (a) warm and (b) there probably wouldn't be a lot to see as we are in the dead period. And I was right on both counts but I have a couple of interesting points to raise and comments would be welcome.

So, having loaded Luna in the car along with water for her, camera, 'scope and all the usual paraphernalia, we were down at Bolonia with the forlorn hope of seeing both the rare swifts. And did I? Did I hell. Yes,I saw an adult Egyptian Vulture also Griffons and a Blue Rock Thrush and the usual Stonechats. So after half an hour it was on for a quick coffee and on to La Janda.

Currently it looks more like some part of China with the rice paddies and all one needs is lots of little people in funny hats to complete the picture. There are plenty of Stilts and I saw a couple of Green Sandpipers - 1st summer non-breeders or failed adult breeders? - and a single Pratincole but no other waders. A few White Storks were stalking around (joke) and there were a few, not more than half a dozen, Glossy Ibises, both adults and young birds and a couple of Purple Boghens flashing their white butts amongst the greenery. Along the canal there was still one Great Reed Warbler giving full voice in what is also laughingly known as song in its case and also at least 3 Reed Warblers also singing away happily. On the other hand, a single adult Nightheron (Black-crowned if you want be picky) refused to be photographed but showed well in flight but unfortunately trying to photograph on at 30 km/h. has little to recommend it.

But the place was wall to wall - or paddy to paddy if you prefer that - with Cattle Egrets. It didn't matter where you looked, the damned things were everywhere, flying, walking, standing looking daft as only a Cattle Egret can. I have never seen so many in many life and I can't be accused of exaggerating if I claim there were thousands of them around the paddies, and if you think that's overstating the case, then will you accept tens of hundreds? And I found out the reason once I had crossed the bridge at the north end of the canal.

Those who know the area will know that whilst the track is awful (and it hasn't got any better) there is a very productive line of trees on the left side. For some reason that has been taken over by Cattle Egrets and there are nests, more or less densely packed, along a good 600m long strip. And there are Cattle Egrets everywhere along there with adults still in breeding plumage, such as George on the right here. One or two birds are still incubating and there are some quite young birds still in down, with many others which are on the verge of flight. At one point further on, I saw about 500 or so in the tops of the flowering sunflowers. Will they eat unripe, budding sunflower seeds or were they looking for insect life? I don't know.

I feared that the egrets would have driven out the European Turtle Doves as that stretch has always harboured large numbersof this delicate dove and there are undoubtedly less, but there were still quite a few around. It really was very pleasant to stand and listen to their soft cooing, reminding me of areas of East Yorkshire where they were quite common when I were a lad (Yorkshire expression), long before those blasted Collared Doves made their appearance and I remember too seeing my first Collared Dovers, then a major rarity, around 1957 or so. They've even made to the USA and they aren't going to know what's hit them!

The other intersting thing to day was something I saw a year or so ago with Federico, the presence of Black Kites in heavy moult, and I do mean heavy! Without looking back through notebooks, I believe that we saw somewhere around 20, today I saw over 35. Some of them, such as the bird shown here, were in a pretty pathetic state of moult and I presume that these are first summer birds (i.e., birds born last year) undertaking their first full wing moult. One must presume that the birds sitting together are practising to be Christmas decorations. Along this stretch a single Melodious Warbler turned upin the oly bsh in sight before reaching the smelly farm.

By the by, Stephen Daly (bless the little chap) takes issue with me calling it the smelly farm and gives its real name in his blog. I don't care what it real name is in Spanish, Daly, but if you so desire I shall rename it La Granja Olorosa (remember that, dear readers). Past there on the way to Benalup, there was a single Booted Eagle, some very distant Griffon Vultures and 3 Short-toed Eagles, 2 with dark heads and this much lighter headed bird, probably an immature according to recent correspondence in the Spanish avesforum.

By the by, the guru/god of bird of prey identification, Dick Forsman, who is also a thoroughly nice chap to boot, is on the point of bringing out a new guide to raptor identification. I know what I'm going to buy myself for Christmas! Who wants socks and handkerchieves for the 27th time?

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