02/01/2012 : La Janda and a note

At least I've got a good birding start to the New Year and yesterday (02/01, yes, late again) I picked up my old friend Ron Appleby in Fuengirola at 07.40 and we were down at the bar Apolo XI at Tahivilla by 09.40, the bar San José del Valle at the turn-off for Bolonia having apparently closed and heaven knows if it will open again. Coffee taken, the birding started under cloudy skies which hardly bettered and even delivered some rain. This meant no photographs worth showing, but thanks to Stephen Daly of Andalucian Guides, I am able to show three copyrighted shots of the star bird of the day. Remember you can click on them to enlarge them. Many thanks, sunshine!

Basically, our route started coming off the N-340 and going down to the canal and spending an hour at the left-hand corner, then about another hour going alongside the canal before crossing bridge and going very slowly up and past the smelly farm, spending more time going across the top and down towards Facinas under lowering clouds before turning back and spending time on the stretch of land to the west of the smelly farm, this an area where harriers of greater interest than Marsh have been seen. From there, we went out towards the N-340, stopping and spending a good half hour looking over the soggy, if not water ridden, ploughed up and undrained rice fields and from there, after about 15.45, it was homewards for two very satisfied birders.

This going to be a short entry as firstly most of our birding was directed at raptors, basically harriers, and we werejust about overwhelmed by Marsh Harriers, of which I gave up counting when we got to 15 but this total was mostly female and 1st winter birds but there was also a 2nd year male and very nice adult male. All these ocurred all the length of the route with more on the lowr land over the rice fields.We also saw no less than 7 Hen Harriers, 4 of these being beautiful males, all along the route.

The star bird was, as you have probably guessed, was a Pallid Harrier. In fact, Ron thought that he had spotted a female no sooner had we started down to the canal but I didn't get a bead on it and it qasn't until the afternoon that we saw it twice, getting very good views of it and leaving no doubt as to a correct identification. The photos are of the same female that we saw as it has been hanging around for ages. We also saw 3 Buzzards, one a very black bird; 2 enchanting and probably one of the most attractive raptors there is - Black-shouldered Kites; Kestrels of course and, surprise, surprise, a single Black Kite! The zero wind early combined with the low cloud and then rain meant a lack of thermals and so we saw, believe it or not, no vultures nor any of the eagles, a pity as Ron wanted to see Spanish Imperial so we'll just have to go down again some time - oh dear me, I shall just have to force myself!

As to other birds, the last section of rice paddies was full of many tens of Snipe, along with a few Black-necked Stilts, at least 5 very noisey Greenshanks every time a Marsh Harrier went near them and, nice to see as 20 years ago there used to be flocks in the area, 3 Golden Plover but a good number of Lapwings and at least 3 Green Sandpipers and a few more Ringed Plovers. There were Mallards, of course, plus a few Teal and Shovelers. We saw 7, possibly as many as 9, Spoonbills but only 1 Glossy Ibis; lots of Skylarks but surprisingly few Calandra Larks. There were one or two Linnets and similarly low numbers of Reed Buntings, but hordes of Corn Buntings. 2 Ravens seen messing around in the same area as we were watching the Black Kite, a couple of Purple Boghens clambering around in the reeds along the canal. A single Magpie hung around briefly to the east of the smelly farm, an area that they have slowly colonised in the past couple of years and a Mistle Thrush flew across in the same area.
A great day, I don't know how many spp. as I didn't note all the passerines but somewhere around 40, but what quality!

NOTE: Down by the side of the río Guadalhorce this afternoon (03/01) and looking out to sea, a flock of about 30 Common Scoters, most unusual to see so many in recent years.

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