12/08 : Guadalhorce

Never let it be said the we Patersons are lacking in intent of purspose (which in others would be called downright stupidity). The met. authorities forecast an extreme temperature warning for today that we're either on red or orange status and that old (me? old?) should take extra care, lots of liquid (no problem there), but I have been missing going down to the Guadalhorce, in spite of the reports not being overly encouraging. If I didn't get out, I'd have gone bananas.
Thus, by 07.45 I was going in over the bridge with the basic plan being to get back out by 10.3q0 before the heat really started to bite. It was actually quite pleasant, about 25ºC I should think, with a pleasant little breeze blowing down the valley. The first stop was the eastern arm to take in the laguna de la Casilla where I ran into Antonio Miguel Pérez and Paco Rivera where we saw a very early pair of Teal and later I saw 5 more buzzing away upstream. There was very little except a shy Reed Warbler and a Woodchat Shrike, of which we were to see at least 2 more later and Miguel Angel found a Whitethroat. There were a few Pochard sitting around waiting to win the lottery, some Coot (of course) and a single Moorhen but not a single White-headed Duck.
On to the second hide was slightly more fruitful, in spite of an enormous lack of water both there and along the lower reaches of the río Viejo, but at least there were some waders, the vast majority in penny numbers, except for very good numbers of Ringed Plovers of which I guesstimated some 80+. a few Little Ringed and next to no Kentish. Of this last species, there are now two information boards which show the rise in breeding numbers over the past few years, but I greatly fear that this year the numbers have been few. The overall wader total, now including the laguna Grande, made some 6 Dunlins, 3 Redshanks, 4 Curlew Sands., 5 Common Sands., a couple of Sanderling - one still in breeding plumage, the other in winter, a single Black-tailed Godwit was at the far end of the río Viejo and a nice male Ruff still showing the remains of its breeding plumage dropped in. There was also a single Grey Plover, still resplendent in breeding plumage, at the laguna Grande, regrettably the photo here was taken against the light and is not of the greatest by a long way. And, naturally, the Black-winged Stilts, which makes a total of 12 species if I have added up correctly.

The laguna Grande was solid with gulls, a 3 or 4 adult Lesser Black-backed, a few more Yellow-legged, lots of Black-headed and a guesstimated 80+ Mediterranean, all bar one that I saw and aged being adults in various stages of head moult and one 1st summer-moulting to 2nd winter bird. The only terns were an adult Whiskered Tern and a 2nd summer Sandwich, whilst over the sea, at a distance made more difficult by heat haze, there were some Balearic Shearwaters moving Strait-wards.
By that time the mercury was rising to uncomfortably high levels and according to Antonio Miguel's watch, which is one of those which tells you the tide times on Mars plus your blood pressure, it was 35.5ºC at 10.15. Discretion is better than valour, cowards live longer, and we made our way, being rewarded with a brief fly-by sighting of a juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo to make a total of around 33 species, not many, but small passerines were conspicuous by their absence..

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