No, I'm not dead

I reckon that's what some of you may have been thinking. Nor have I been in jail or otherwise detained except for getting out for a little birding - far too little for my liking but that in large part has been the fault of my b****y knees which have been doing their 'shall we self-destruct today' act far too often, doing a lot of translation (interesting), writing an article (wich will apear in BIRDWATCH magazine in the uncertain future) and carrying out a long correspondence about Lesser Flamingos in zoos/collections which has meant that a joint project which we were planning has been shot down in flames. So where do I start? I suppose after 26 April, which was when I last posted a personal bit on birding, the rest being Dave's from Almería, so we'll go on from there.

29/09 Guadalhorce: A brief walk down in to the ponds for an hour's escape and a quick look at the big pond where there were Redshanks, Avocets, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and all 4 hirundines, with fair numbers of Sand Martins and Red-rumped Swallows. The best birds were undoubtedly the 4 Pintails.

01/10 International Birds Day of BirdLife International : This is actually more a day where one tends to see old friends, talk far too much and bird too little while the great unwashed masses with their too often uncontrolled young (I'd control 'em with a cattle prod given half a chance) 'oooo' and 'ahhh' over the ringers who show off their art when they show them such gems as the Kingfisher. The 2 Black-tailed Godwits from the other day were still there, as were the Avocets and a Common Sandpiper, whilst raptors were represented by a female Marsh Harrier and the Osprey. There was a good westerly movement of Red-rumped Swallows going on, mainly of juvenile birds it seemed. It's amazing how much these have increased in the past 30 years. There were also a few Sand Martins trickling westwards. The best bird was, for me, a rather fine male Whinchat.

02/10 Guadalhorce : Down there yet again and I've not even noted who I was with. Apart from the usual selection of Little Egrets and Grey Herons there was the additional presence of a Great White Heron/Egret (take your pick) which didn't stay around long. However, it was a good morning for waders with 12 spp, all the normal ones (stilts, plovers etc.) plus 2 Ruffs, 3 Greenshanks, 1 Curlew Sand. and 2 Little Stints and Snipe are always nice to see. It was nice to see 4 Teal, although the males are not yet back into breeding plumage. Rather more unusual was the sighting of 5-6 swifts very high up, Pallids I suspect, and there have been quite a lot of late records of these down here in Andalucía and also further north as far as Madrid.

05/10 Los Lances and La Janda : This time I know who I was with, Federico, in the hopes of a good day raptor watching. We started at Los Lances, parking by the petrol station and walking across. It's always best to be early there because of walkers on the sand, often with their dogs running loose, and the birds aren't quite so nervous.
A few Gannets were feeding out over the sea, all juveniles of this year, but we weren't really lucky with gulls, Audouin's always being nice to see but there were no rare terns. Waders were restricted to quite a lot of Sanderlings (how about that for a quantative analysis?) and plovers, mainly Kentish with one or two Ringed, spread out over the sand. What a juv. Flamingo thought it was doing there, I'm not sure.
It was windy, more so than forecast, and this pushed quite a lot of Short-toed Eagles and some Black Kites over us along the line of the beach and a single Sparrowhawk flew past fast and low crosswind, so fast that Federico missed it. The same strong wind kept the passerines down and under cover but we saw a few Yellow Wagtails and a single Northern Wheatear before pushing onwards for much needed coffee and a tostada before gong to La Janda.
La Janda was not as productive as I had hoped that it might be, but you can't win them all, even though this juv. Black Stork (R) gave us hope. and we were to see 10 more. We managed to accumulate quite a decent list of raptors by dint of going along the canal, then across and back down the centre towards Facinas before finishing off the day at Cazalla.
On La Janda we saw a female Marsh Harrier, one of very few seen that day, and a single Montagu's plus another harrier which we saw just after meeting Stephen Daly with a touring group of Swiss birders. This last was distant and I called it as a possible Pallid but eventually left it as a harrier sp.. Fortunately, just after leaving us Stephen had had much better views after also first calling it as a possible Pallid and managed to get a decent photograph which showed it to be a female Hen Harrier. It shows how difficult these can be at long range. And as an extra piece of information, at least 2 Pallid Harriers have been seen recently on La Janda and another in Doñana, plus Dick Forsman, the fount of all raptorial knowledge, says that they are increasing and expanding range westwards, so you never know .... but do try and get a photograph!

The rice had not yet been cut and so there was little in the wader line except a single Green Sandpiper. However, there are large numbers of Glossy Ibis, of which we got reasonable views as they fed in areas where the rice had been harvested, although they hadn't yet touched the length beside the canal. Evening counts at their roost have been in excess of 3.000 birds! There were lots of White Storks around and still a lot of Cattle Egrets. The central track down towards Facinas was much less fruitful than I had hoped for but at least was easily passable, a situation which will rapidly change after 3 drops of rain fall.
We finished off with an hour being wind-blasted at Cazalla and with a lot more Short-toed Eagles, a few Booteds, Black Kites and Honey Buzzards, Egyptian and Griffon Vultures and a single Sparrowhawk.

It was after this day out that things became low with a lot of computer time and looking out of the window in to the garden didn't produce much either, there being two days with single unidentifiable Phylloscopus warblers hiding in the foliage, it's been a poor autumn in the garden for warblers, and a nice Pied Flycatcher on 10/10 and single Chiffchaffs in the garden on 15 and 16/10.

13/10, río Guadalhorce: Slowly walking my aging spaniel down by the river - we're both getting slower, amongst the gulls there was a single 1W Kittiwake, a surprisingly early date and more so as there have been no Atlantic gales to blow them in. This bird was colour ringed, a red one, but distance precluded seeing if there was a code or not and although the bird flew strongly it had difficulties walking.

14/10, La Janda : I was going to meet a friend but his child had had a bad night so he hadn't been released. Therefore I bundled Luna in to the car and we went down alone. She's excellent in the car, just sleeps and never asks when we're going to arrive. There was virtually nothing that attracted interest at Los Lances beach so it was a coffee and then on to La Janda. They still haven't cut the rice along the left side of the canal, although further south and over to the east they have been busy and were busy mashing up the cut areas using this tractor with very wide wheels, creating a beautifully soggy mess on which there were masses of Cattle Egrets feeding.

Further away, there were large numbers of White Storks and Glossy Ibises but once again the blasted wind did just that. There were few raptors overall, with only Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and a single Lesser Kestrel, a few Short-toed Eagles, 2 Booted Eagles and a solitary Buzzard (ordinary common one). There were few Griffon Vultures with this exception, which sat stolidly in the middle of the track down to Facinas and refused to move, even after I drove up to it until it eventually decided to take wing.

In the passerine line, apart from more Yellow Wagtails, all of the flava race as far as males sighted were concerned, there was also a single Whinchat and a single Tree Pipit. More interesting was the presence of quite good numbers of Northern Wheatears, some of which I believe were of the leucorhoa race from Greenland and Iceland. In theory and according to the literature, these can not be separated from our European birds but some of 5-6 them - the most I have ever seen as usually I only see one or two in an autumn - were big, bulky birds, the 2 males of these I saw much better marked on the face and head, more strongly coloured and longer legged, and when I saw the two types together, but not long enough for a photograph, the difference was quite striking. Of the more normal sized type, I saw at least a dozen.

And that, O dearly and best beloved (who wrote that? Kipling?), brings me up to date.

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