04 August : a morning on La Janda

In view of the the aount of stuff piling up and today being a busy one before shoving off to see friends and the briefing for ringing the flamingos tomorrow, this will be short. Basically I was up early well before dawn on Thursday morn and met Stephen Daly of Andalucian Guides at the Apolo XI (I think) bar at Tahivilla at 09.00. Fortunately there was no problem at Houston and a coffee went down a treat - it usually does at any time between getting up and about 20.00h!
Stephen is like that well known beer that reaches parts that other beers don't and has access to parts of estates on La Janda which are closed off to normal beings, so t'was in there we went, wandering around the rice fields as well as going across to past the granja olorosa (you call what you want, I know what I like!) on the way towards Benalup before coming back part way down the central track towards Facinas before branching off in to the rice paddies again.

Birding was not heavy and we were not inundated with spp. or numbers, nothing like one day last week which saw around 5.000 White Storks and 15.000 Black Kites. Of course, we saw both and we also saw a few Short-toed Eagles - have you ever noticed the predilection these have for electricity pylons? Beats flying around, hovering and looking for reptiles any day! We saw very few Montagu's Harriers and Stephen tells me that most of the eggs/chicks from the southern end have been predated, which makes me think in terms of foxes or genets. Nearly forgot the Hobby which flew over the car near the mirador del Estrecho on the way.

Along the track between the bridge over the canal and going towards the granja olorosa, there are still plenty of Cattle Egrets and, rather nicer, the bundle of European Turtle Doves, proper ones,not those mentally retarded ones that wander around in roads waiting to be run over.
Along the banking by the rice paddies there were a lot, and I mean a lot, of Green Sandpipers - along one stretch alone we reckoned there must have been between 40 and 50 of them, not that they stay still long enough to get a decent view, much less a photo, as there's that sharp little call and a white butt moving away at high speed over the lush green rice. There were some Black-winged Stilts, including these 2 chicks of a family of 4 marching away at high speed, and also a few Little Ringed Plovers, this youngster being extremely obliging. The last species, seen just on the way out was a pair of Short-toed Larks, which are always nice to see.

So, that was a pleasant morning's birding in extremely pleasant company, as always. But all is not finished, and now for the gem of the day.

Up at the north end of La Janda there were two crop sprayers, both piloted by mates of Biggles (if you don't get that reference, I'm not explaining it but look up Capt. W.E. Johns on Google) busily spraying the crops against some vile bug, although I'm not sure that vile bugs might not be a better bet than whatever muck is being sprayed on.
But better still was the sight of three workers, suitably attired in plastic chemical and biological warfare suits, along with face masks and each carrying a different coloured umbrella. We wondered for one moment if we had come upon a modern, avant-garde version of rehearsals for The Mikado with three peculiar little maids from school, but no, they were the markers for each spray flight.

And apropos of absolutely nothing, for those who like to know these things (there's got to be one of you out there), it was a century ago this week that Mr. W.S. Gilbert, the brilliantly cynical and sarcastic librettist of the Savoy Operas died. If you want a laugh, read his letters to The Times on drivers speeding! So, 'a wandering birder I, a thing of shreds and patches ....'

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