27 January : La Janda

This was held back in order that I could put Dave’s contribution in first. Once more my old friend Ron is wintering down here and after waiting for the stars to come in to the correct alignment (try reading Caesar’s Gallic Wars in latin and you will come across the phrase ‘et siderae in su cursu erant’ or something similar). Anyway, they were so off we hied for la Janda.  After first trying to go north along the track from Facinas and grounding out, common sense set in and we turned back and to go in by the normal route, going in the canal by which time the early morning fog had burnt off.

At this point I should warn that there are no pretty photos as (a) the birds were too distant or (b) I was too slow or (c) a combination of both. Mind you, we did have plenty to look at with some stunning views of Snipe (agachadiza común) on the still sodden rice paddies and we put up a couple of Green Sandpipers (andarríos grandes). In the same paddies there were egrets and included 2 Great Whites (garceta grande) and quite a lot of Grey Herons (garza real).

There were decent numbers of passerines although nothing strikingly out of the way. I had the the feeling that whilst we were were seeing plenty of Crested Larks (cogujada común), there were relatively few Calandra Larks (calandría). There were some good sized flocks of Woodpigeons (paloma torcaz) but a light aircraft spraying and buzzing around didn’t help the presence of them or of many raptors, although in that respect we were to do very well in two brief bursts.

There were suprisingly few Cranes (grullas) which makes one think that the very mild weather might have made them pull out very early. This overly fine weather might also have something to do with the relative lack of Marsh Harriers (aguilucho lagunero) and we saw only one superb male Hen Harrier (aguilucho pálido). On the other hand there were plenty of Commmon Buzzards (busardo común) and I rather lost count after reaching a dozen but some of the later ones were almost certainly resightings.

Going along by the drainage canal we ran into a group of four young Spanish birders (anything under 50 is young to Ron and I but these were around the 20 year mark). It was when we caught up with them for the second time that they were watching two 1st winter Imperial Eagles (águila imperial) on the deck and which I failed to pick up as a pair of Common Buzzards (busardo común) got up in the same area. However, ample compensation in the form of a fly-by Imperial at some 250m range which Ron and I reckoned was a third year bird. Later the major surprise was a group of four (4) Bonelli’s Eagles (águila perdicera) circling in a weak thermal, these being three 1st winter birds and the fourth a subadult. This last and a 1st winter we were  to see again later.

We did not see the large eagle which most are identifying as a Lesser Spotted (águila moteada) and which some Brit birders with whom we spoke later had seen. However, the current wisdom is that it is in fact a first generation hybrid Lesser Spotted x Spotted (águila pomerana) as it shows characteristics of both spp. and the two are sufficiently close genetically to interbreed in Eastern Europe and are, unlike most hybrids, fertile. This means that when adult they may breed with pure Spotted or Lesser Spotted (breeding back), or with another hybrid. 
Confusing, ain’t it? So’s the identification. Thank god there's no problem with the 3 Barn Swallows (golondrina común) that we saw!

At which point I think it’s best to go birding, so I’m off to Doñana with Ron next week for three days solid birding. You may even hear about in the fullness of time and there might even be some prettty pics to enliven the text!

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