14/04 : P.N. Guadalhorce

I was going to write this yesterday, Sunday, but yesterday turned out to be one of the most bio-disagreable days I have experienced in many a day and writing two consecutive words that made sense was totally impossible. But today, having accompanied the alpha female of the household to the hospital and discovering that an appointment for '09.15 (apróx.)' meant 12.10, and therefore having spent the morning sitting and reading with an occasional word of encouragement to said alpha female, I feel better.

Which brings me to a plea for help/advice before gettting to the birding. Can anyone out there explain (preferably with a remedy and in words of one syllable) why I was unable to download the photos from the camara through the normal cable from camera to USB slot? It's as though the laptop has decided not to read the stuff from the camara. I managed it eventually by using the touch pad and a different USB slot (but the mouse doesn't use the alternative slot) but any useful suggestions to my private mail (andy.birds (at) gmail.com) would be very much appreciated. And now to the birds.... at least I know a bit about them!

It was a grey morning with a forecast for showers when I met Bob Buckler and a lady client of his from New England (as opposed to Olde England from which Bob and myself hail) and we went into the Guadalhorce reserve across the sand bar and walked along the beach, enjoying the brisk breeze (it was cold!). A pair of Grey Plovers took off and set off for the north, having made themselves heard with that lovely wailing call that speaks of wide and wild open estuaries and let us see their black axillaries before they disappeared from view. I was to later hear another way out over the sea but failed to locaste it.
There were a few Kentish Plovers and 2 Sanderlings with a single Ringed Plover and then we found a small flock of 6 Whimbrels on the beach which then rose to 7 and then built to a total of 11, a big number by our standards. But that number was easily eclipsed when a flock of around 37-38 came in off the sea. I have never seen so many at once, and less so at the Guadalhorce where we are usually limted to 1 or 2 birds, and very occasionally 3. These settled on the lower reaches of the río Viejo and gave us good views until they decided that it was better to be off on their long haul north. Before that we had seen a couple of Gannets way out over the sea, and once we got to the tamarisks by the río Viejo we turned up a Woodchat Shrike, the first of about 5 or 6 in total.
I have already mentioned three spp. of waders but there were others, including the inevitable Stilts, a pair of Avocets, one or two Dunlins - including one already in full summer plumage, 5 or 6 Curlew Sandpipers - one of which was developing its chestnut colouring, 2 Common Sandpipers and a single Wood Sandpiper, another 2 or 3 Ringed Plovers and more Kentish Plovers, as well as a Little Ringed Plover and 4 or 5 noisy Redshanks. So if my maths is correct (which is unlikely) there were 12 species of waders present.
We didn't do too badly for ducks either, especially considering that the water levels are appallingly low, but there appear to be fewer White-headed Ducks, Gadwalls and Pochards than normal although they may have been hiding from the unpleasant wind, there was also a single male Shoveler hiding away and a single Cormorant which hadn't left. It was nice to see a couple of Spoonbills in breeding plumage and there was also a single adult Glossy Ibis and I saw only 1 Grey Heron. The presence of the Glossy Ibis and the 3 I saw a couple of weeks since at the laguna Dulce is of some interest as it looks like there is going to be a major breeding failure in Doñana as the marshes there are drying out rapidly, not that it'll hurt them as the population has exploded in recent years, but it will mean that they will set out to explore for new feeding areas.
There was constant movement of swifts all morning, with at peak moments up to an estimated 2.000 or so birds in views, the majority of them Common with a few Pallids and we saw one Alpine flash through. There were also good numbers of Barn Swallows, the House Martins which are resident one I would think, and one or two Sand Martins. One or two Reed Warblers and Nightingales had obviously decided that singing against the wind was in the same category as throwing snowballs at the moon and we didn't see/hear a single Bee-eater but that same wind didn't deter the pair of Black-headed Weavers at the laguna Escondida from flitting across and back nor prevent the Purple Boghen swimming across in full view instead of having a good skulk.
A remarkably good morning with a count (as always inaccurate) of around 45 spp. which is quite surprising given the unpleasant conditions.

The Cream-coloured Courser that turned up on the scrubby sandy area by the beaxh at Tarifa last Friday is still there, very approachable although I would rather people watched and photographed from a distance and today I heard of a low mentality human who let his dogs loose, one a pointer which promptly tracked down the bird and flushed it. Remember what Clint Eastwood famously said (more or less), 'A 357 magnum can really ruin your day'. I'd ruin more than a few days. Like the Mikado, I have a little list. (Actually not quite so little!)

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