09 September : Guadalhorce

Yes, late again, unlike good old Bob who gets his out before lunch but I mislaid my notebook and have only just found it, plus downloading and checking out photos (not a good crop, too much heat shimmer, I think) and yesterday morning watching England beat Argentina (World Cup Rugby) by the skin of their combined teeth. But today's the day, so here goes!

I had arranged to meet Bob and Federico down by the church at 09.00 but Federico, ever the early worm, was there long before and already in the reserve as his phone call affirmed as I parked. Bob was on time too, so in we toddled, soon meeting up with Bob, then a Dutch birder Albert Vrielink and Stephen and Elena from Bob's Axarquía group.

It really was a very good morning's birding, with plenty to occupy us, with the weakest link being that of the lack of raptors, seeing only a couple of Kestrels and a Marsh Harrier.

The best of the morning was undoubtedly the variety of waders, mostly seen from the second hide overlooking what is usually called the wader pool on the old course of the río Viejo. I can't say that I saw the Ruff that Bob claims , but that apart I reckon we saw some 14 species, which isn't bad by any standards although they were hardly in great numbers. There were, of course, the usual Stilts and Little Ringed Plovers, plus an increase in Ringed Plovers (or if you prefer it, Great Ringed) and a few Kentish Plovers too, but their numbers have declined drastically. As for the rest, as always it was nice to see the three species of 'shanks, Red, Spotted and Green, as well as Avocets, 2 - possibly 3 -Black-tailed Godwits, 5 or 6 Curlew Sandpipers, a couple Knots and Dunlin and a single Wood Sandpiper. The surprise bird was not its presence, Whimbrel are not unusual, but this one was walking along the path between the sea and the laguna grande and there were a few jokes about it perhaps being a Slender-billed. (Don't panic, Dave, no way that it was!). Here too we saw a juv. Black-necked Grebe with its wonderfully ruby red eye (click on the photo and you'll see what I mean). The area around the wader pond proved to be singularly fruitful as apapart from a single Wryneck, not well seen but sufficiently so to clinch its identification was a a nice bird to see, as was the Great Reed Warbler and the smaller cousin, the Common Reed Warbler, as well as a juvenile Yellow Wagtail.Here too we saw a juv. Little Bittern which showed quite well, as they too have this distressing tendency to dive into the deepest and thickest reedbed there is.

Walking along the beach between the seawatch mirador and the entry to the laguna Grande was pretty sterile apart from not particularly brilliant views of 3 wheatears, the first certainly a male Northern Wheatear, the other 2 too distant for a positive specific identification.

There were more waders at the laguna Grande, apart from another Avocet and a distant Black-tailed Godwit, the pair of Knot were still present and a single Common Sandpiper waggled its butt as it looked for insects whilst an Avocet poked around.

Hirundines were quite well represented with mostly Barn Swallows and House Martins, plus the occasional Sand Martin. Common Swifts and few Pallids were also around. Ducks were few, with White-headeds having started their usual post-breeding dispersal and there were a few Mallards and Pochards.

Obviously this is not the whole list but we also had a selection of gulls, including fleeting limpses of a 1st summer Little Gull by myself just before everything was put up by the Marsh Harrier., there also being a handful of Mediterranean Gulls and only one Audouin's, a few Yellow-leggeds and Lesser Black-backeds amidst a mass of Black-headeds. On the way out, Albert and myself saw a nice Melodious Warbler to make (e. & o.e.) a morning list of some 54 spp, rather less than that of Bob but then I forget to put things down. All I care about is that it was a jolly good morning's birding in very pleasant company, so what more could one wish for?

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