06/12 : La Janda

The intention was to have gone down to La Janda last week but physical circumstances intervened, something which is happening too often. So, yesterday morning when I awoke at 05.15 and all parts of the Paterson anatomy seemed to be in the nearest that they can get to fine fettle, the niggle that I hadn't been down there came on. I was on the road before 07.00 and having coffee and a tostada before 09.00 in Tahivilla. And while the morning was clear wheh I left here, it was fairly thick mist at Tahivilla. However, nothing venture, nothing gain (another G &S quote for the cognoscenti), I pressed on to the canal turn and sat and waited.

It was actually rather interesting as the mist slowly started to lift after about 45 minutes and all around I could hear the calls of Cranes - make a good title for a book - 'Cranes in the Mist', perhaps I should patent it? Even by then I had seen a Marsh Harrier, the first of many, a Purple Boghen that wandered across the mud as the canal has been drained. There were Little Egrets and a few White Storks too, plus a Zitting Cisticola and one or two Chiffs. I phoned Stpehn Daly to see if there was anything around, always assuming that the clag would lift as a nebulous sun tried to break through, and he informed that he was on his way down with his elder daughter who is a budding photographer, so therefore I awaited their arrival.

In fact, by the time they arived the mist was starting to burn off and we could see birds. Cranes way over on the right, plenty of 'em, and in the rice fields on the left, now barren and apparently harrowed over, there were lots of Snipe and some Lapwings on both sides. It wasn't until we got nearer to the bridge end of the canal that things started to warm up in a big way, and I must admit I can't remember the order of things. No doubt Stephen will tell me if I'm wrong. First there was a nice male Reed Bunting, in fact there are reports of these coming in from many areas in larger than normal numbers. Virtually at the same time there was a pair of Penduline Tits, elusive little beggars at the best of times. an area with Boghens all over the place, flying, walking and climbing through the reeds. The rice paddies were full of Cattle Egrets, a few Grey Herons playing at being the Hunchback of Notre Dame and a single Great White Egret. Plus, note that today (Wednesday) Stephen found a Bittern sitting in the middle of a paddy!

Then further down a group of 5 Marsh Harriers, yes, five, were flying in erratic circles around a bush and we were pretty sure that there was an owl there, me going for an errant Long-eared and Stephen kept his canny Scots mouth shut. An owl there was, sitting right in the back of the bush, a jolly big one too with wonderful horizontal ear tufts, not vertical,and one baleful orange eye peering round the trunk. An Eagle Owl is a BIG bird, both perched and in flight.

And that, in very rapid succession, was followed by a harrier, a nice and very slender harrier with a bright chestnut body and notable neck and face markings which came through far too rapidly but which made us vacate the cars hurriedly - a juvenile Pallid Harrier, the same one that seems to have been around for several weeks now. Will it and the male which was also seen last week stay and over-winter?

It's at about this point that I've got a bit mixed on the chronology as we also found a very big female Peregrine, almost certainly of one of the northern races, which Stephen initially thought it might be a Lanner, sitting on one of the irrigation booms. I was later to see her hunting and she really was a big girl! Further over a large lump sitting showed itself as a Buzzard (Common) but Javi Elorriaga saw a Long-legged Buzzard and a Rüppell's Vulture leave Spain and cross towards Afric's shores the same day.

We found a distant female Hen Harrier and I was later fortunate to see a male, and there were yet more Marsh Harriers and, of course, the inevitable Kestrels. This was at the same time that we found two distant immature Spanish Imperial Eagles, plus a third bird which may well have been the juv. Golden Eagle I saw further on after Stephen had left.

In the small bird line, there were plenty of Skylarks and Corn Buntings, plus a few Short-toed Larks which should have left our shores by now but which have not read what they are supposed to do and when to migrate.

As noted, Stephen and Lucia had left me earlier and on their way back to the main road, the N-340, saw a pair of Black-shouldered Kites and a pair of Black Storks. So, if you've nothing to do or simply want to escape on, say Christmas Day or start the New Year off with an ornithological bang, you couldn't do much better than have a day down there!

The Red-throated Diver (R) which is a real rarity down here and at least one Razorbill are still frequenting Fuengirola harbour although the former is a bit erratic in appearance. There is a Short-eared Owl down at the Guadalhorce, be there in late afternoon for the chance of a view.

I am off to England for three days to upset my sister and deliver a selection of cover illustrations for the waterproof pelagic seabird book. Will I survive a UK winter? I've not been back there in te winter in 31 years! Do you blame me?

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