24/09 : Guadalhorce and an odd bod

This was going to be written last evening but at that time there was a missing link which will be explained in the fullness of this blog. Federico and I went down around 09.00 and had a gentle and quite fruitful amble around for te next three or hours or so. It was quite notable that in view of the clouds and even a slight shower of rain the previous afternoon there was a remarkable dearth of small migrant passerines but their absence was more than made up for by the presence of this 'odd bod', which seems a suitable place to start, a puzzle.

The 'odd bod' :
At this point you should study the photo on the right here and try and decide what it is (guides may be used) and write down the answer. The real answer is at the end of this blog. I should add at this point that neither of had a clue, and even after accessing guides later one we still weren't decided and I had to recur to the real raptor experts, Javier Elorriaga and Dick Forsman.

This large - certainly bigger than a Booted Eagle - and quite spectacularly marked raptor was seen first in the euclayptus and then in the tamarisks behind the río Viejo as seen from the second hide (photo by Federico) but regrettably we never saw the underwing. The eye was dark, by the way.

Now on to the rest of the birding. There aoppears to have been sone slight increase in White-headed Ducks, Pochards and certainly of Teal, of which there were no less than 12 on the río Viejo, whilst there was a female Pintail on the laguna Escondida. The río Viejo, both the wader pool area in front of the second hide and further down, provided most waders, notably a large number of very quiet, resting Little Ringed with a few Ringed scattered in amongst tem, but they really had to be looked for, as did the 3 Curlew Sandpipers and 2 Little Stints and a single Sanderling. There are few Stilts now, which I suppose is something to be thankful for! On the wader pool there was also a single Black-tailed Godwit and it or another on the laguna Grande, it's very difficult to be certain if there were 2 birds or not, plus a couple of Dunlin and a single Common Sandpiper. There were certainly at least 4 Redshanks and 3 Greenshanks scattered between the two areas and probably a total of 4 Avocets. A total of 11 waders isn't bad but should be better and points up the lack of management work

Both Grey Herons and Cormorants - we saw only one of the latter - appear to be slow on the autumnal increase and we also saw a single Purple Heron. Apart from the 'odd bod' raptor, there was a single Osprey and no less than 3 Marsh Harriers, 1 female, 1 2CY male and an adult male, which was very smart.

Which brings us to the 'odd bod'. Any ideas? All I could think of was an extremely pale Common Buzzard, of which I have seen one or two in my birding career and I could be sure of ruling out a pale Rough-legged Buzzard as they are what the twitchers would class as a 'mega'. Federico thought it might be a pale Long-legged Buzzard which would also have been a pretty rare bird here in Málaga. So, time to consult the experts in the form of Javi Elorriaga of Migres in the Strait and who sees more rare raptors in a year than I have in a life time. and, naturally, the guru of bird of prey identification- Dick Forsman who is the person to consult, apart from being a thoroughly nice person as well.

So off went the two photographs that Federico had digiscoped and this morning I had the replies, identical as to identification, and I shall quote Dick's as he gives the reasons:
This is a juv Honey Buzzard of the white morph. Diagnostic characters are:
- dark "sunglasses" around the eye
- largely yellow bill with just a tiny black tip
- prominent white scaling to upperparts.

Javi (who probably has seen more Honey Buzzards this than any 10 of us put together over a life time) added that he has seenoccasional birds as pale this. So there, problem solved.
Now, tell the truth: How many of you got it right?
This birding is just one big learning curve which seems to get steeper and steeper with experience! Or is the memory failing? By the by, Dick is bringing out a new raptir identification book soon which will make a nice Yuletide present if you believe in that sort of thing, personally I'll just go and buy it for myself!

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