25 December: Christmas Day on La Janda

Ok, it may seem weird to some who revel in the joys unwrapping presents from Aunt Ethel and wondering what the hell it is and if you dare throw it out but you can bet that she might ask about it next time she foists herself on you. 
Or perhaps you are one of those who have what might be loosely termed as 'a swinging head and bad feelings' (Bahamian saying) after too much last night, or on the other hand you may be feeling as stuffed as the turkey you got outside at lunch today. 
I on the other hand, being a virtuous birder, went birding. And as the metcast was good, I went all the way down to La Janda, leavibg at 07.30 (no swinging head and bad feelings here).
First bad news. The bar where I normally have a coffee at Tahivilla was closed, which ruined my morning. Second bad news, La Janda was swathed in mist at 09.00 but it looked like burning off and clearing and indeed it did, turning into a beautifully sunny day with not a breath of wind. 
So, to the birds. Cranes heard in the mist and only 2 seen. A Green Sandpiper seen at close range (it would have been invisible at anything over 50m). Lapwings seen and pee-witting querlously in the mist, obviously the sat/nav had got lost. Ghostly Grey Herons sitting miserably (they always look miserable) in the unploughed and very muddy rice paddies, while both Little and Cattle Egrets wandered around vacantly, especially the latter which I suspect are mentally retarded. There were still considerable numbers of White Storks and a nice little flock of ca. 20 Glossy Ibises, of which one is shown. A late Squacco Heron flew along the canal, its persil-white wings contrasting well with the brown back. A single 1st year Cormorant on the bank seemed as surprised to see me as I was it.
There were plenty of White Wagtails and lots of Linnets and Goldfinches, plenty of Chiffchaffs too as there have been all autumn, but very few Meadow Pipits, plus I later learnt that I had missed a Richard's Pipit, of which several have turned up in the SW in recent days. Calandra and Skylarks bubbled overhead but were not particularly showy. A couple of nice coveys of Red-legged Partridges showed that not all fall prey to the hunters but a Pheasant which saw me beat a hasty retreat.
But it was raptors that I was after. In fact, the very first bird of prey that I saw was one that normally eludes me - Merlin. It did its best not to be seen by going along a fence at low level at about mach 0.95 but I saw it! Normally the track along the canal is swarming with Kestrels, today not one although I saw several later but numbers were definitely down. Marsh Harriers were the most abundant bigger raptor and even then the place was hardly crawling with them, and that includes going all the way to the Facinas track and around 3 kms down it. I have noted 5 birds, including a female with a lot of white in the forewing and this superb juvenile Marsh Harrier. I know the photo doesn't do it justice but if you use the imagination once the hangover has gone and try and imagine it like a sort of human photoshop without all those damned twigs, then you'll get an idea of how stunning the head pattern was. Those apart, there was a single juvenile harrier which did not give good views but a fairly stringly marked facial pattern and well marked pale collar, plus a wider wing base make me think of the very strong possibility of it being a juvenile Pallid Harrier rather than a Hen.
I have noted down 5 Common Buzzards, two of them, very black birds which I have seen in the area before, were having a real ding-dong but why the Kestrel tried to intervene I have not the slightest idea. A distant Short-eared Owl flew off high in the direction of Conil, so what it thought that it was doing is another mystery.  A single pale phase Booted Eagle sat in a tree. And finally, notably large numbers of Ravens, including a flock (yes, a flock) of around 10 birds plus another 2 further over. 
So that was my Christmas Day. I do hope that you enjoyed yours and will try and do the same again next year. So, as this may well be my last blog for this year (I'm going to try to get down to La Janda New Year's Day of the metcast is alright), let's all try and have a happy and healthy New Year with lots of good birding, always provided that the jihadists and politicians will let us. I reckon that they are about on a par with each other.

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