15 April: a spring morning at the Guadalhorce and PS

Only a day late, getting better! I met Bob Wright at 0915 on the dot and off we trotted (well, he trotted, I staggered), and no sooner up the ramp than the first good bird of the day, our first European Turtle Dove of the year sitting on a bare branch especially for us to admire it. What a nice change instad of seeing those damned Collared Doves! There were Nightingales singing and a Red-rumped Swallow floated across in front of us as we crossed the bridge, straight across and along, past the canes on each side of the path where there were at least 2 Reed Warblers singing, to the eastern path and down towards the seawatch mirador. A stop at the first hide en route and there wasn't a lot to be seen: Gadwall all nicely paired up, Pochards, hormonally loaded White-headed Ducks whilst overhead we could hear Bee-eaters but saw very few, whilst Common Swifts and hirundines (but no Sand Martins at all) and a Cetti's Warbler called without managing to show itself.

Down to the second hide and at last there was some mud and mud = waders, so there were some waders too. The first bird to catch the eye was a very smart Ruddy Shelduck but as it wore a metal ring, forget that as a genuine record. There were 4 Grey Herons in the area, all immatures and all looking pretty fed-up with life, and some Little Egrets also, whilst over in the distant eucalyptus there are now only 5 Cormorants left. But on the two muddy islets which are now showing and around the left margin we had, of course, the hystericals (you know what I mean) as well as a Redshank (we saw at least 4 during the morning) and a Wood Sandpiper, plus 2 Curlew Sandpipers, a couple of Little Ringed Plovers which were not taking kindly to the presence of the Stilts, and a solitary Dunlin.

Further on down, towards the sea, on the lower part of the río Viejo there were 3 Slender-billed Gulls which took fright when they saw Bob and a similar number of Black-headed Gulls and a Whiskered Tern which were obviously made of sterner stuff. From there we walked along the shore to later enter in at the entry point up towards the laguna Grande, seeing a few Kentish Plovers (Estebán reckons they have 8 nests, a huge drop from 25 or so of last year) and a couple of Sanderlings.

Back at the laguna Grande hide, there really wasn't too much to see apart from a quick glimpse of a Common Sandpiper but we kept on notching up the species. But what was probably the best was yet to come after a quick look at the very unstimulating turtles in the laguna Escondida - watching them is like watching paint dry - when we saw not one but 2 Whinchats. The male, through telescope, was a little beauty but the female vanished rapidly and kept her head down. I spent some time trying to get a halfway decent shot of the male but this is the best I could manage because of shrubs and grasses in the way and it doesn't do him justice, but at least you can see it's not a budgie.

Finally, at the end of the morning and back at the cars by the church, a count-up revealed no less than 54 spp. - not at all bad.

PS: This female Redstart (left), another first for the year, was in my garden in the afternoon.

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