t'was on a Monday morning ..... Guadalhorce

Monday, 28 September, 0815
. After not getting out birding yesterday when the only thing of interest in the garden was a couple of Willow Warblers, I entered the Guadalhorce reserve with a gut feeling that after the rain there might just be something of interest to see, not that my gut feelings tend to prove very much as they are remarkably similar to Crohn's Disease or some affliction of that ilk. Being on my own and with nothing better to distract me, I also kept a complete list of observations, which turned out to be remarkably full by the time I staggered out at just gone 11h.. So, here goes with the best bits.

Raptors: The best was, for me was undoubtedly the most perfect flying machine that there is - a Peregrine Falcon, not one bt two, a young female which swanned around and looked as though she didn't know what she was doing (she wasn't a blonde) and a very nice adult male. An adult female Marsh Harrier that has been around for several days showed herself several times and there were a couple of pale morph Booted Eagles as well as a single Osprey and the usual handful of Kestrels. Total 5 spp. of raptors.

Waders: Eleven sp. but in very small numbers, mostly singles, like the Ruff, Redshank and Greenshank. There were very few small plovers, no Kentish at all, only 3 Ringed and a couple of Little Ringed and that was it. Leaving aside 20+ Stilts, Sanderling and Dunlin tied with 4 of each and a couple of Avocets which couldn't decide which pool to settle on. There were, of course, 2 of the mandatory Common Sandpipers.

Ducks and waterbirds: Either the White-headed were hiding or they have oulled out (there is an autumn dispersal) but I saw very few, while there were 7 Shovelers, the males just showing the first signs of new plumage after the eclipse period. Undoubtedly one of the spp. of the day was the presence of 3 Garganey. There was a single juv. Flamingo, which has been hanging around for a while, and the Spoonbill numbers had reduced to 5, while Grey Herons had definitely increased and there were 3 Cormorants.

A pot-pourri of species - sounds good, wish I knew what it meant! It is always nice to see a Southern Grey Shrike and I saw my first 3 Northern Wheatears of the autumn, although still no Whinchats. A couple of Blackcaps were knocking around near the entrance and there was a single Willow Warbler and a single Spotted Flycatcher. I didn't see a single Swallow, but there were 5 House Martins and a couple of Sand Martins flew over westwards , the rest of the spp. being rather run of the mill and and the sort of thing that one might expect.

And the total? No less than 53 spp.! Which rather surprised me, for it had been, on the face of it, a rather average morning.


23 September; (1) Embalse de Negratín (2) my own records

(1) Embalse de Negratín : Another of the welcome trip reports which Dave Elliott-Binns puts together on the trips of the Arboleas Birding Group.

Having checked the weather forecast the previous evening for Baza, it predicted clouds and a 0% chance of rain. So off we went with one other member to meet up with Brian and Mary from Chirivel at a cafe near to the reservoir. After a hearty breakfast we headed to the top of the dam. At the top of the pines and poplars behind the carpark we managed to spot about 4 Crossbills. On the grassy bank below the dam a number of Stonechats flitted around. As usual, the birdlife on the water was disappointing - 3 Great Crested Grebes and about 6 Cormorants.
We then ventured down into the valley below, hoping for better. We were rewarded with views of both Pied and Spotted Flycatcher. Gilly heard, then spotted, a Great Spotted Woodpecker. The resident Crag Martins were still enjoying the company of 100s of House Martins and 10s of Barn Swallows. We heard Cetti's Warbler in the reeds by the outflow pool and about 20 Rock Doves
were resting on the cliff.
As my school report said...."Could've done better"! But we did see 29 species and it began
drizzling as we left....never did believe the forecast!!

Dave & Gilly

(2) My own records: Like Dave's school report, mine also made similar comments and usually added '...if he tried.' However, as I have never understood the need for quadratic equations and the gulls on the playing fields were usually far more interesting, need I say more? Unlike Dave and the Arboleas group, ain't been nowhere and ain't done nuthin', except paint sheets for the book (a slow and at times frustrating task) and my birding has been reduced looking out over the garden in the coffee breaks (one every 2 hours) and an afternoon walk with my little hairy friend, usually down by the Guadalhorce.

Since last Sunday, the garden (and remember this is more or less in the centre of Torremolinos) has hosted Spotted Flycatcher (virtually daily), Pied Flycatcher (one afternoon), Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff and a daily female/juv. Common Redstart. There has also been one of the resident Red-vented Bulbuls a couple of times (these appeared about 10 years ago and are an exotic).

The walks down by the river have produced little: Grey Herons, Little Egrets, a few House Martins, a dozen or so Red-rumped Swallows both yesterday and this afternoon - they are the most delightful things to watch- plus Barn Swallows. Regrettably plans to join the Axarquía folks tomorrow have had to be abandoned and it looks like birding might be limited for the next few days or more.

Good birding!


18 September, Guadalhorce plus other bits

Friday is usually the day when I am 'invited' to leave the apartment as the cleaner (she asks nicely) comes in and in addition I had promised to take the wife up to the vet, so it was a late start and just on 10h when I staggered in over the bridge, wondering as I did so if I shouldn't have brought something warmer with me although the sight of a couple of Little Terns fishing up river cheered me up slightly. As there was nary a soul in sight (unless mad cyclists and runners have souls), I did a Bob and decided to log all the spp. I might see. And worse, as the place had that sort of 'dead' feel that birders know only too well, I had a feeling that it wouldn't be a large one. Howsomever, nothing venture, noting gain (like Bob, I too am a G & S fan).....

There were all the usual ducks for this time of year: White-headed Duck, Mallard and Pochard and now't else, although the waterbird line did turn up the usual Coots and a fair number of Little Grebes, it must have been a good breeding season for them, and many were stillmaking their looney-bin calls (sorry, politically incorrect, will you accept noises from the home of the mentally infirm?).

Raptors were few and far between: 2 Marsh Harriers, a female and a juv., a single Booted Eagle, 3 Lesser Kestrels and an assortment of Common Kestrels.

It wasn't much good for waders either, what a dismal autumn this has been so far. A single each of Avocet (ha-ha, Bob!), Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit, while Bar-tailed Godwits reached the dizzy total of 2 birds, as did a couple of Greenshanks which seemed to be intent on beating the merry hell out of each other- they obviously hadn't realised that the breeding season was over but the technical reason is more likely gonadal regression, which is something I will be quite willing to explain on receipt of a 500€ bank note. There must have been well over 50 Stilts, plus much fewer Little and Kentish Plovers and not a single Ringed (which some are now calling Great Ringed). 4 Sanderlings on the old river still hadn't remembered that in the winter they are supposed to be on the shore and there were also 4 Common Sandpipers.

Interestingly, there was the first Cormorant of the winter (or to be accurate, the first that I have seen), lots of Little Egrets and a fair sprinkling of Grey Herons, as well as a nice little group of 8 Spoonbills, none of which were ringed. Have you ever noticed how often Spoonbills appear to be fast asleep when you look, and then you see one or two beady black eyes watching you?

And apart from all that lot, 4 Little Terns - they are so lovely to watch, several Sandwich Terns and a single, moulting Whiskered Tern. There were very few hirundines - I saw 2 Swallows only and a handful of House Martins, plus 2 Common Swifts which aren't hirundines but never mind, let's not get picky, shall we?

Total: about 43 spp. if I remembered to write everything down.

Seen from home this week, on 15 Sept (Tuesday, I think) a solitary Honey Buzzard which must have flown across the bay,cutting the corner, and in the later afternoon a single Common Swift. Late this afternon, after writing the main blog, a female/juv. Common Redstart in the garden.

And to finish, the most unusual shot of all, one from a large series from Clara Coen who lives beside Lake Michigan, of a Peregrine having a bath in the lake. It was not thought to be singing, "I do like to be beside the seaside...." Thanks, Clara!
So, as a long defunct comedian once said, 'That's your lot!'


17 September, Arboleas Birding Group, Cabo de Gata

Another most welcome report of the doings of the Almería people. The photos are, of course, Dave's.

His note about seeing Sanderlings reminds me that I received a heads-up about colour ringed Sanderlings from a project organised by the Dutch but involving birds from such cold places as Greenland. So, if you happen to see one bearing colour rings,please do take note as to what colours, in what order,on each leg and let me know. I shall get in touch with the Dutch and let the oberver know the history of his bird. The same goes for any colour ringed bird, remember the history of the Spoonbill I saw recently at the Guadalhorce.

Anticipation was high this morning as 4 members of the group headed for Cabo de Gata. The weather was sunny with a few clouds, but there was a strong wind from the west. We were hoping that any migrants would be held in abeyance on the coast waiting for a more northerly wind to assist them on their way to Africa or an easterly to push them towards the Straits of Gibraltar.
Our hearts dropped when we arrived at the first hide. The water level had dropped so we were over 300m from its edge. In the distance we, of course, could see the Greater Flamingo. (Gilly's total for the day was 346). Numerous Avocets were identified, but other waders needed closer examination. A Southern Grey Shrike and a Subalpine Warbler were seen in the scrubland. Checking the sea from the beach didn't produce anything, so we walked to the next hide. 23 Grey Herons were in a group. Black-tailed Godwits were numerous. Ringed and Kentish Plovers were in good numbers and singles of Curlew, Grey Plover and Oystercatcher were seen. A few Little Terns were still here as were a small number of Sandwich Terns. A female Marsh Harrier put all to flight apart from the Flamingoes. A flight of 6 or so Yellow Wagtails were on the scrubland as well as a juvenile Woodchat Shrike and a Corn Bunting. We had the same lack of water outside the public hide, but there was water to the right. A Whimbrel was wandering along the waters edge and a female Black-eared Wheatear was on the scrub near Thekla Larks. Around the back of the reserve a 200+ flock of Audouin's were resting. Lots of waders seen. A single Turnstone was spotted as were numerous Sanderling, Green and Redshank. Shoveler Ducks had arrived in force in their eclipse form. The female Marsh Harrier was joined by a male. Melodious and Spectacled Warbler were noted and a low flying Sparrowhawk was spotted.

On the way to lunch, close to the visitor centre entrance we stopped to check out two birds of prey which turned out to be Honey Buzzards, but even more surprising was a flock of over 60 Turtle Doves hanging around in the tall Aloe Vera type plants.
A very satisfactory 50 species for the day.

PS: Yes, John, I should have written Red-necked Nightjars but you are correct in surmising I had been thinking about the divers as it was the sheet that I was working on at that moment!


11 September, Guadalhorce (and elsewhere)

A visit to the Guadalhorce ponds this morning in the company of Bob Wright, who for reasons beyond his control was up far too early and arrived there whilst it was still virtually far from daylight! However, being such an early bird didn't get him the worm but three Red-throated Nightjars and to add to this record I have just learnt that Antonio Miguel Pérez (the warden) saw three there only a couple of days since. Bob has detailed the rest in his blog http://birdingaxarquia.blogspot.com/- (copy and paste) so I shall not repeat, but I see that he has missed the female Common Redstart and the Melodious Warbler.

Federico was in the Strait to day with Antonio Miguel, Patricia and others and apart from the rain (you, know that stuff that sometimes falls from heaven upon the place/humans beneath) where they had a tremendously good day's birding with lots of Short-toed Eagles, Honey Buzzards and so on. Teo has also told me that today he saw an Eleonora's Falcon over Coín (Malaga), a species which he is a specialist in finding and takes tremendous photos of them too.


9 September, , Los Filabres; ARBOLEAS BIRDING GROUP

Nice as ever to have news from w¡th eastern end of Andalucía in the form of the doings and sightings of the Arboleas Birding Group on thei rvisit to Los Filabres courtesy of Dave (although I must say it seems damned unfair leaving Gilly to the cleaning and all that household stuff). The photo of the juv. Rock Thrush is his and by coicidence Bob Wright saw one near his home up near La Vinuela in the Axarquía. They must be moving out so keep eyes peeled.

After an enforced break due to the hot weather, visitors, a new pozo (well) and a power surge at home that took out the TV, digibox, internet and telephone system I was looking forward to a pleasant days birding up in the Sierra de Los Filabres. Myself and two other members (Gilly committed to cleaning and washing!) ascended from Tijola towards the hills behind.

We stopped at the valley by the bridge, where water was still flowing. We heard
Cetti's Warbler and a Whitethroat was spotted. We carried on upwards to the road above. As we approached the layby I spotted a large brown raptor to the right. After a rapid egress from the truck, we got a good view of a Golden Eagle. A Green Woodpecker was heard, but two Turtle Doves were seen. We proceeded further down the road and stopped next to some birds on the wire. We were very pleasantly surprised to see three Rock Thrushes, lots of Bee-eaters, a juvenile Woodchat Shrike and a Black-eared Wheatear.

Further along the power line, where it ran above a water
deposit, we saw a 60+ flock of Rock Sparrows waiting to drink, as was a Blue Rock Thrush. Having passed the Bacares turn we ascended again towards the mine. On the way we began to follow a very slender winged, slim, fast falcon. Dark above, pale/white below. It just had to be a Hobby. Well pleased! Very little at the mine. The observatory plateau must be a feeding station for migrating Apus and Hirundines. The skies above the pines were full of Pallid Swifts, House Martins, Red-rumped and Barn Swallows. A very good day. 32 count. Great to be back in the groove.


5-6 September, La Janda and Guadalhorce

This is a double entry, for 5 September down in Cádiz province and for 6 September at the Guadalhorce, although as Federico commented this morning, if we hadn't been meeting on the latter date, perhaps he (and myself) would have gone rather later. A 2 hour siesta this afternoon has more or less put me to rights!

5 September: An early start, one of those which makes one doubt one's sanity picking up Federico at just on 06h but we were down on Los Lances beach before 08h, just as the sun was rising. There was not a breath of wind as we walked to the hide (enter nearly opposite the petrol station) but we were not to be overly blessed with birds there. There was a small but distant flock of Audouin's Gulls with a few Yellow-legged and a couple of Lesser Black-backs in with them. A couple of Sandwich Terns sat on separate buoys and in the seabird line, that was the lot. On the sand and around the water's edges there were a few Ringed and Kentish Plovers and only 3 Dunlin and a single Redshank to offer variety, very poor in an area where one expects rather more. The same occurred in the passserine line, a couple of Crested Larks and 4 Short-toed, plus a pair of juv. Yellow Wagtails. A single Common Swift flew over and there were Barn Swallows and some House Martins, plus the occasional Sand Martin, moving S all day. Not a bird of prey in sight untila single Sparrowhawk flew over.

So, it was on to stop number two, the cave up at Bolonia with the hope that we might just catch a sight of either of the small white-rumped swifts species, but luck was not with us. Neither were the birds with only one Griffon Vulture on the rock face, a couple of female/juv. Blue Rock Thrushes, 2 more Sparrowhawks, a Booted Eagle and a Spotted Flycatcher and sounds of high-flying, invisible Bee-eaters and that was it with the Black-eared Wheatear obligingly perched to have its mugshot taken. Next stop coffee, and then on to La Janda.

I like La Janda, even though it often apears to defraud, but neither does it have the masses of birders with which the watch points like Algorrobo are packed. Today it was so-so, although Federico was happy and it is true that we saw somebirds, but not a huge variety. Perhas the most interesting was the large numbers of Montagu's Harriers, both young and females, with not a single male seen apart from a 2CY bird. By the time that we got there there were the first stirrings of a wind that was to strengthen and only the accompanying photo came out half way reasonable.

Continuing in the raptor line, it was early on that I picked up a largish falcon, long-winged and long-tailed, moving low and fast southwards against the wind and never managed to get the scope on to it. At the time I put it down as a possible Eleonora's and finally, this mid day, confirmed it as such by reference to Dick Forsman's raptor guide. For the rest, we saw only one juv. Marsh Harrier but ran in to a broad front of 70+ Lesser Kestrels, many juvs., hanging on the wind and feeding on insects over the cotton fields. Later a few Griffon Vultures and a 2CY Egyptian, plus a handful of Black Kites. We got good views of a Melodious Warbler and Federico was happy with 3 Glossy Ibises well seen and brief views of a rapidly disapearing Green Sandpiper.

Sum total for the day: about 44 species, but only 10 of these raptors, which is only average.

6 September, Guadalhorce: Not so early today, thank heavens! And even better, it was overcast and relatively cool, although the humidity was high when we met at 0830. I don't know what is happening with the waders this year but there are few species and numbers are very low, even though conditions appear to be quite good with sufficient mud available for feeding. A juv. Nightheron flewpast us as we went in to the reserve and after that it was a gentle wander around, especially alert to any migrants as I hoped that the overcast might have forced some migrant birds down. In that area, there was a female Common Redstart and a female Spectacled Warbler, neither of which were inclined to show themselves well and there may have been more as everything just dived as deep into the nearest cover as it possibly could, although the Spotted Flycatcher was slightly more obliging

In the wader lne, the same Knot as last week was still present and feeding close but while last week it was silhouetted against the light, this morning there was hardly sufficient. As for the rest,much the same as last week. A solitary Dunlin wandering in circles, a couple of Redshanks and a single Greenshank, the usual trio of small plovers and a few Stilts, a couple of Common Sandpipers and the Black-tailed Godwit.

Rather more surprising was the presence in the laguna escondida of a female White-headed Duck with 3 chicks which looked to be 7-10 days old, while another female had 2 which must have been somewhere between 2 and 3 weeks - late breeding by any standards! And as a side note, yesterday a Dutch birder told me that he had estimated ca.200 White-headed Ducks on the laguna de Medina, near Jerez de la Frontera. There had also been a notable increase in Pochards and more Grey Herons.

We were annoyed by the presence of one of the fire-fighting aircraft, the hydro-planes, low and lumbering, whose pilots do the most fantastic and dangerous job and who I greatly admire, but this particular machine spent the better part of 20 long minutes circling more or less overhead after taking off and going right over the laguna grande at low level and frightening the living daylights out of the gulls and anything else, including 2 Spoonbills.