7 January 2014 : La Janda

The first trip of the year down to La Janda in the company of my old friend Ron, a snowbird from Scarborough (N. Yorkshire). There was quite a lot of mist on La Janda when we arrived but I was confident that it would burn off in the short time it would take us to get to the Barca de Vejer, see if the Bald Ibises were back on the nests, albeit early in the season (they weren't) and so back to La Janda. We entered at the north end for once and albeit by total chance and the only time that I have gone in that way, it turned out to be a very fortunate decision.
The plan was to go south towards the canal turn where we would normally come in and then back north with the sun at our backs and thence across to the top to the central track. First bird, shortly after going in, was a big female Peregrine which showed no signs being one of the calidus type nor of wanting to hang around. At the canal bridge, whilst stopping to see if there were any waders except one or two Green Sandpipers and a similar number of Snipe on some open water, we spotted a large lump on one of the distant electricity pylons. While lots of such large lumps are Buzzards of which we saw 8 during the day, this was a very un-buzzard-like lump and this lump turned out to be a 1st winter Spanish Imperial Eagle which allowed inspection through the telescopes before it finally pushed off, leaving a very happy Ron as it was the first that he had ever seen. Like me, although travelled, he is not a twitcher.
On the way down against the light to the canal turn we had brief views of a Squacco Heron, a not common wintering species, plus quite a lot of Grey Herons sitting around looking most unhappy with the state of the universe, not that I can blame them.
We did have good views of 3 of those most elegant little kites, the Black-shouldered, a species which is a delight to see but is often very shy and allows little approach. There were at least 11 Marsh Harriers, including a rather nice adult male and two or three adult females. It is perhaps worth adding at this point that some adult females, the older ones, often show white rather than a pale cream on the forewing and while these may be reminscent of an adult Imperial Eagle, there are other factors including tail colouration and flight silhouette and general jizz. There is a quite well known failing in birders, more so in the less experienced, that when there are two species which share certain similarities, it is always the rarer (and therefore more desirable) which is identified. Not, I hasten to point out, is there meant to be anything derogatory or meant to be construed as such in these remarks, but it is a fact.
We were also fortunate enough to see 3 Hen Harriers, 2 splendid males which can't be confused with anything else (Pallid males are veary different) and a juv/female bird (we couldn't see the body well enough, just a large white rump but size and jizz ruled out Pallid. There were plenty of Kestrels, which we didn't bother to count, plus one which was been given a real working over by a pair of the very numerous Jackdaws. Down the central track we saw 4 Griffon Vultures but that was the lot
Going along by the canal on the way back north, which, by the way, has been drained and is showing a lot of mud, we saw no waders (rather surprising) but 5 Purple Boghens. We also saw both species of Starling and both Spanish Sparrow (males) and House Sparrows. There were a few Skylarks and the occasional flocks of finches, including Goldfinches and Linnets, plus a few Chaffinches, plus a single Song Thrush, but not the numbers that I have seen other winters. Perhaps if the weather was to change further north and a cold spell set in, then we might see a lot more.
There were a few White Storks, but few for the time of year although apparently there are hordes of them getting dirty at the Los Barrios rubbish tip. There were lots of Cranes and there was so much movement that it was impossible to estimate numbers but we think that there would quite easily have been in excess of 1.500 birds and even over the 2.000 mark. However, the sight and sound of these gorgeous birds does make a wonderful background to La Janda, which was at its best in the winter sunshine which got remarkably warm.
So, a daily total of exactly 40 species, of which 7 were birds of prey. Not bad.