17/11: Guadalhorce

I hadn't been out for a while, pressure of work (all this about retirement and easing up is rubbish, I seem to accumulate more and more birding stuff) which has repercussions on getting out to see the things. However, what will be hasn't been and yesterday I had planned to go out early with Federico but he called off as he had a heavy cold, so it was either call it off, go out later than planned and a my own pace or not go at all. Naturally, I chose the second and it turned out to be quite a fruitful morning with around 47 spp. seen, including some quite interesting onesalthough the majority were the usual regulars.
Things augured well before I had even crossed the bridge as two Booted Eagles - a dark morph adult and an immature intermediate morph - flew across and landed in the eucalyptus trees, but as usual, in unphotographable positions. Isn't it always the way? Later on I was to see a pale morph bird too, plus a nice little bust-up between 3 male Kestrels, with what must have been the resident male coming in at warp speed like a air-to-air missile to oust the two intruders and screaming its head off as it did so. The following bust-up was short but exciting to watch. Later I saw a single juv. Marsh Harrier but it flew off in the opposite direction.

There were Chiffchaffs feeding everywhere and I also saw and heard two Song Thrushes. At the second hide, in front of the wader pool where there was the first of the dozen or more juvenile Flamingos that were scattered around, some feeding and others, like the bird in the photograph, sleeping peacefully. I ran into Antonio Miguel, the first time I've seen him in ages since the sages(?) of Medio Ambiente didnt renew his contract and the lack of control without his presence is painfully obvious. We naturally caught up to date and after we had parted, me towards the seawatch mirador, he back inland, he rang me to say that there was a Griffon Vulture over the Martin Carpena sports centre. By the by, the name of the sports centre commemorates a local politician murdered in front of his wife and children by an assassin from ETA.

The sea was totally calm and spotted heavily by up to 2.000 gulls, mainly Lesser Black-backs and Black-headed with a few Yellow-legged. By dint ofcareful searching with the 'scope, I found 3 Black-necked Grebes, there were also 5-6 on the laguna Grande, and also 2 female/imm. Common Scoters, my first of the winter. But nary a tern in sight, there has been a huge lack of Common and Sandwich Terns this autumn and there should always be 2 or 3 wintering birds in the area at this date.
Water levels are much higher after the rains and there is consequently less shoreline and islets on the laguna Grande and along the río Viejo and in the wader pool in front of the second hide. All this meant that there was virtually nothing in the waderline, all dozne or so birds being cncentrated in the lower part of the río Viejo as it goes to towards the blind end near the sea. There were half a dozen or so Black-winged Stilts and with them a group of 3 Greenshanks, while on the nearer bank a solitary Ringed Plover. And that was it along that stretch, which was frankly pathetically poor. Later there was some compensation with the presence of a very photographable Snipe in front of the hide at the laguna Grande.
There was the inevitable decoration of Cormorants like morbid Christmas ornaments on the dead / dieing eucalyptus trees but no Osprey and no Black-winged Kite which has been seen on and off over the past fortnight in the same area.
Recently a Merlin has been seen - it shot through at high speed - but Antonio Miguel and I gave little credence to a report of Hobby seen that morning by an English birder. The date is very late as they migrate during Seotember and neither of us have heard of many later ones. There are also, and this is a reliable report, up to 3 Short-eared Owls present. The best time to see these is in the hour before sunset and if we get a nice, clear sky afternoon, I shall go down and try and photograph them.

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