16/02 : LA JANDA

After one of those weeks when non-planned events take place and shoot down everything that you had planned, when the peak of the non-planned events was when the neighbour above me set fire to her kitchen Friday (moral : keep an eye when heating olive oil in a pan) although fortunately her son arrived before I did after trying to wrestle an extinguisher from the wall (have you any idea how much powder those powder extinguishers eject? - it's enormous) and the whole staircase was covered was covered in sooty dust and the place full of toxic fumes, and as for her kitchen. It looked as though it had suffered a major airstrike. The firemen were great and fast (yes, we have an efficient fire brigade in Torremolinos) and arrived at least 15 minutes before the ambulance which is a quarter of the distance away, and the local police were first there and then stood around looking gormless, which is about normal. You try concentrating on some rather nasty translation after that little lot!
So, yesterday (Saturday) I woke early, decided to hie myself off for a while on La Janda to try and recover a semblance of mental normality and was going down the track to the canal by 09.30 with low, grey skies but no wind. The first thing of interest after the ubiquitous Stonechat welcome was a Water Pipit on some dampish ground in a rice paddy along with a few Meadow Pipits. A scan of a party of starlings on the wires revealed the Spotless (expected) and also a couple of normal northern Spotty Starlings sitting in with them. Looking along one of the channels revealed the Little Egret shown here, obviously suffering the effects of a rather depressing grey morning. A few Barn Swallows swooped around in the distance and in the distance I could hear some Cranes and a Greenshank called but never showed. Skylarks bubbled overhead although it was to be some time before I picked up a few Calandra Larks. The Cranes are moving north with birds having come in from Morocco this past week, stayed around a short time to feed up and then moved onwards.
Usually the first corner when the track bear left to run alongside the drainage canal is productive but not that morning so very slowly, with lots of stops. A total of 4 Purple Boghens and plenty of White Wagtails whilst the Zitting Cisticolas weren't going to let a grey day spoil their fun. Then I came to a couple of paddies which were still flooded on the left side of the track (well worth a look if you're down that way) and there were hordes of Snipe - I counted up to 80 of them before giving up, plus there was a single Spotted Redshank and no less than 13 Green Sandpipers. Then came the first of four Black-winged Kites to be seen, gorgeous things.
Then it was onwards and over, now with the sun shining, and past the smelly farm to stop, look and scan in that area. Red-legged Partridges were aplenty and were in full cry from any vantage point. There were Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the dehesa type woodland plus a couple of Buzzards and the usual Kestrels. One the way back along the same stretch I metaphorically ran into Stephen Daly with a party and as many eyes make light work (or something like that) the first Black Kite of the day was seen (I saw 5 more on the way home, near the AP-7 toll station at Calahonda), plus a Hen Harrier (which I missed as I was looking the other way as usual) and a Sparrowhawk. A party of ca.10 Woodlarks literally dropped in and promptly became virtually invisible as they grubbed around on the ground. Then a single high-flying Black Stork wended its way north. By which time it was homewards for me and I picked up the only Marsh Harrier of the day and another Black-winged Kite. But when I got home and over a coffee started adding up all the species I had seen myself (and not counting the unseen Hen Harrier), I came up with a grand total of 50 - which was a lot more than I had bargained for. A very satisfying day.

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