03 November : Guadalhorce

November, cool winds in the early morning at about 08.30, lowish temperatures sufficient to warrant a light sweater, right? Wrong, not yet. Shirt sleeves and probably in the 27º-28º range when I came out around 11. When will this summer change? It's put back many arrivals. I saw my first Black Redstart around the paartments yesterday, 02 November, when I normally expect to see them around 20 October, although the first Crag Martins did arrive down on 22 of last month. Apparently plenty of Robins in the hills but they've not come down to the coast and so far not one in the garden, very few Chiffs too. Any how, to this morning's birding.... By the by, there are no photos, so if you don't feel like reading and only like pretty (?) pictures, turn off now.
So, I met Paco Rivera down by the laguna Grande where there was quite a lot of very little which included satanic black Cormorants decorating the dead eucalyptus,a few brass-off looking Grey Herons and some miserable Coots. Things were enlivened briefly by a an immature Marsh Harrier and a dark phase Booted Eagle showed for 10 seconds and both vanished, never to be seen again while one or two Chiffchaffs bounced around in the tamarisks. A Cattle Egret was surveying the universe from the back of one of the horses that have been grazing down the vegetation. The best there was probably a smart pair of Gadwalls.
From there it was round to the laguna Escondida - 'escondida' means hidden and everthing was, and that which wasn't was way down at the far end sonwards we trudged down to the east bank. First hide not a lot, one or two more Chiffs but nothing exciting at all unless you can worked up about Crag Martins swooping back and forth in the warm wind (yes, you read right, warm wind) and the odd Grey Heron chugging inland against the wind.
The second hide, which overlooks the so-called wader pool, proved slightly more productive with around 15 Teal, nice little ducks but there were very few waders: one each of Green and Common Sandpiper and 2 or 3 Snipe which eventually showed very well. There were few Little Egrets and a single adult Spoonbill sweeping its way through the mud while the Kingfisher made a brief appearance.
On down to the old river, the río Viejo. and there was equally little there except for 3 1st year Flamingos and we went all the way down to the seawatch mirador. We had seen Gannets from a distance and we were to see a few adults, 2nd plumage types and 1st plumage birds. There were plenty of gulls around as usual and not doing much until a dark phase Arctic Skua appeared and that moved them! There wasn't a single shearwater to be seen, although it's getting to the tail end of the season for Cory's as they are exiting the Strait for Brazilian waters. There were at least 2 Sandwich Terns, another species which has been scarce this year.
From there Paco and I wended our way out and we were on the point of nearing the cars when we had fleeting views of Red-rumped Swallow and House Martin. The first is, I think, rather late. However, there are reports in one of the Spanish bird forums of Barn Swallows and even Pallid Swifts as far north as Madrid!
I suspect that when this weather does change it will do so with an unsuspected violence and that we shall go from shirt sleeves to thick sweaters and waterproofs in a very short period of hours. However, time will tell. Good birding to you all.


01 November : Fuente de Piedra

Life has been a trifle fraught this week so when I awoke early this morning and all was tranquil and the sky clear, I thought, "Fuente de Piedra, here I come."
The reasoning was that as it was 1 November and All Saints Day (Todos los santos) when all the good little Spaniards would be at the cemeteries, laying bouquets of flowers for which they will have been well and truly ripped off, removing the dried and withered remains of last year's offering to Tío Paco or Tía María, cleaning up the headstone or whatever and then, after feeling all good and pious, shove off home and feed their faces, feeling all saintly for having done their filial (or whatever relationship) duties..
Wrong! They all went to Fuente de Piedra. Admittedly I was late arriving, just after 10, but they - the great unwashed - were there in their masses, along with yawling, uncontrolled brats, young and old on bicycles, mostly clad in their latest spandex cycling gear (and I thought that there was a recession) and even with their radio on in the case of one pair of unspeakable cyclists whilst another group felt that communication was best carried out by bawling.
By the time I had spent an hour there I was totally off the vast majority of the human race from which birders are generally exempt and included an ethical photographer from Córdoba who was gobsmacked by number of Stone Curlews (50+) in the ploughed field on the right and a couple from Otley (which isn't in Spain but West Yorkshire) and I didn't ask them what they thought.
Said photographer from Córdoba and myself tried to photograph the Stone Curlews but heat haze - yes, strong heat haze on 1 November! - made photography when the Stone Curlews were on the deck impossible and then the brightly coloured mob of pseudo humans going along the path to the Vicaria hide pushed them all off and the photograph here of 3 of them is the sole testimony of their by then distant presence.
By now I was wondering if a Gatling gun would be more effective than a Barratt .50 sniper rifle and a lot of ammo. I really was totally off the human race at that point.
There was nothing at the pond at the back, a lot of Shovelers on the lake, a Black Redstart and few Skylarks flew over, plus a few Crested Larks and Greenfinches. Oh yes, and a single Black-winged Stilt. The birder from Otley told me that he had seen ca.50 Cranes, the most seen so far, the afternoon of 31 October down towards Cantarranas.
Perhaps I could become the birding version of Billy  Connolly? After this morning I would not find it at all difficult.