20 January : Adrian's patch.

Dave, after spending many, many hours freezing my butt off whilst seawatching on the east coast of England, I can assure you that there is NO winter version of mad dogs and Englishmen which is polite.
These next two days I am spending time at an IUCN Spain conference in Málaga where I hope to nail one or two ignorant bloody local politicians to the wall for their plans about the Guadalhorce and their hypocrisy in being at a conservation conference. I hope to enjoy myself but the next entry may be from Alhaurìn jail.
By the way, received wisdom about the oddly plumaged Black Redstart at Fuente de Piedra is that it is in fact not an eastern race but a hybrid with Common Redstart, which is probably even rarer! I shall be putting up a few comparative photos on Sunday if I survive the politicians.  With regard to your comment about the numbers of Black Redstarts, we've been knee-deep in them here, the best winter fior them in 34 years. With regard to your comment about male:female ratios, don't forget that there are all the juveniles/1st winter birds which resemble the females, which must be taken into account too. Thus you may well end up with a ratio male:female/1st winter ratio of 1: 4 or 5, hence the apparent imbalance.
Nice photo of the Crag Martin, Dave!! Incidentally, I saw a Siskin this morning and there have been 3 Brent Geese seen this week doing  a tour of Málaga province, having been seen at Fuente de Piedra, the following day in front of the Guadalhorce and the day after along the beach.
Don't worry about age catching up with you , Dave. It's when it doesn't that you should worry, and you should know as you've been too close for comfort to that stage.

I was trying to think of the winter equivalent of the " Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" as Gilly, Carolyn and I headed towards our meeting place, a cafe just off the A91 motorway, junction 6, between Puerto Lumbreras and Velez Rubio. Yes, it was cold, but the sun was out and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. The Sierra de Maria had a light covering of snow. Are we fair weather birders? No! We enjoyed a warming cup of hairs on chest coffee before Adrian guided us round his local patch. There were 14 group members, so we tried to use as few vehicles as possible as birding from a convoy is not ideal. We did however manage to see some good birds as we followed Adrian's lead through some stunning countryside. 
Best birds, spotted by a sharp eyed Carolyn, was a pair of distant Golden Eagles. I used to have 20/20 vision, but age has caught up with me. Very envious. Also seen was a Green Woodpecker by Adrian, and Great Tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Magpie, White Wagtail, a small flock of Meadow Pipits and the first of many Black Redstarts. There seem to be far more females than males. Is it similar in the birth percentages? Our first stop was by a farmhouse ruin. Here, apart from more Black Redstarts, we had great views of a inquisitive male Blue Rock Thrush. We also saw a small gathering of Crested Larks, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers and Chaffinches. Moving on we next stopped overlooking a patch of low scrubland. No birds low down but eagle eyed Carolyn spotted a Kestrel. Checking out the distant "Grandmother's molar" mountain towards Los Velez I saw what were obviously Griffon Vultures circling round their colony base. We added Stonechat and Goldfinch before checking out the rambla just prior to  the town of La Parroquia. A Little Egret didn't appreciate the interference and flew off. There was water there but not flowing. It did however attract White Wagtails and a solitary Grey Wagtail. A pair of Linnet displayed well.
We then headed up to the dam at the Embalse de Puentes. Boy, was there a bitterly cold wind blowing up there. There were lots of Crag Martins flying around. I think I managed a good shot of one from above by hanging over the railings as they took insects off the sunnier side of the dam. On the slightly choppy water there were only Cormorants and a Great Crested Grebe. The reeds at the far end produced a Grey Heron, a Yellow-legged Gull and a quartering Marsh Harrier. The resident Rock Doves were still here. Also seen was a closer Griffon Vulture and a pair of Jackdaws. We then headed down into the shelter of the pine forest for a picnic lunch. Colin was first to spot a Robin.
With no more birds forthcoming we each made our way back. Brian and Mary saw a Southern Grey Shrike and a Black Wheatear whilst we added Carrion Crow and Mistle Thrush to the list.
We ended on 36 species which wasn't bad at all considering the low temperatures. Thank you again to Adrian for showing us around.

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