05/01/2013 : La Janda

A brief and late note on Saturday's visit down to La Janda with my old friend Ron Appleby who is out for the winter. As usual, an early start and we were going down the track towards the drainage canal under clear blue skies and with virtually zero wind before 10.00h. - a beautifully tranquil morning with excellent visibility to follow the usual route, along side the canal, over the bridge, over the top by the not very smelly farm and thence down to the central track which runs from south iof Benalup through to near Facinas.
It's a pity that the farmers who use the tracks and road don't use some of their EU funded agricultural profits to better the surface. One must suppose it's cheaper to buy a new 4WD every few years instead of putting money into improving it. However, those regular users (and I am not one) who do not have such funding must see their more normal vehicles put through regular testing more suitable to the manufacturer's testing grounds!
Kestrel imm.
When one goes to La Janda the thoughts automatically turn to raptors, but there is lot else to see. In the winter months there is an awful lot else to see, both on the pasture land and on the rice paddies, now bereft of their crop and in the process of being gradually ripped apart to be ready for next season. There are large flocks of finches - Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Linnets and Chaffinches (we saw some beautiful males of both the latter species), the Corn Buntings, flocks of Lapwings so spread out that making some sort of census of their numbers would be a well nigh impossible task. We also saw a flock of some 25 Golden Plovers, possibly disturbed by a bird of prey but which returned later, but Lapwings and these apart, we saw little with only 2 Green Sandpipers and not a single Snipe, although another birder we met reported seeing a Greenshank.
There were Moorhens and on the stream which runs out from the embalse de Celemín, we saw4 Purple Boghens, but surprisingly there were none along the drainage canal. There were very few White Storks on the paddies and similarly few Little and Cattle Egrets. However, on the way back towards the N-340 we saw 3 large flocks of White Storks numbering somewhere between 750 and 1.000 birds in total and which had probably come across from Morocco. Amazingly we saw only 5 Cranes, although there are reputed to be some 2.000 in the area, and we did hear several distant calls.
Marsh Harrier, adult female
We did see both Common (henceforth to be known as Spotty) and Spotless Starlings. How many bother to check out for the northern species which comes down here in large numbers.
As for raptors, we saw relatively few, the majority probably being the Kestrels, even though I did not specifically count them and followed closely by 8 Common Buzzards and Marsh Harriers with only 7 noted, although it's quite possible that I missed putting down one or two, but I didn't forget to note down the female Hen Harrier or the 2 distant Peregrines. The dream raptor down on La Janda is the superb little Black-winged (I still think black-shouldered is better) Kite, of which we saw 4 but not one close enough to photograph well. Only a couple of distant Griffon Vultures deigned to put in an appearance to make a total.
The stretch of road to the east of the smelly farm is always worth a stop and it was along there, raptors apart, that we saw 3 Magpies, the most that I have ever seen there, and while scanning along there we found the pair of Southern Grey Shrikes (forget them being called Iberian Shrikes, or similar, as one new field guide has denominated them) and a distant odd-looking stone turned out to be a Little Owl taking in the beautiful winter sunshine, a new species down here for Ron.
Not a vastly earthshaking day ornithologically but satisfying.

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