14/08 : laguna Dulce & Fuente de Piedra

Awoken early and unable to sleep again, I was out of the Paterson menagerie (or should it be ménage?) by 07.25 and at the laguna Dulce (Campillos) by 08.20 - the new toll motorway from Torremolinos direct to the top of Las Pedrizas is a boon. It was a beautiful morning, pleasantly cool, around 22ºC I would think, with not a breath of wind and - and here is the surprise - there is still water in the laguna Dulce which is prone to dry out faster than you can say 'drought', yet Fuente de Piedra is as dry as a bone.
A flock of some 330+ White Storks had over-nighted - apparently there have been other flocks seen there and at Fuente in the last week - and were spread out along the margins and amongst the Flamingos, some feeding and others resting, whilst a few Little Ringed Plovers, 4 Curlew Sandpipers and 3 each of Common Sandpipers, Redshanks. Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits were pottering around the edges as well as a single Green Sandpiper.
Out on the water there were plenty of moulting Mallards and a suprisingly high total of 129 White-headed Ducks. There are still some Black-necked Grebes, although numbers have fallen markedly, and although there were still plenty of Coots, many showing bleached white primaries and coverts, very odd-looking, not a single chick appears appears to have been produced there, and that is official from one of the biologists. Similarly, there appears to have been a very poor season for the Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers both at the laguna Dulce and Fuente de Piedra.
This Grey Heron, shown here on final approach, totally ignored the many Common Swifts that were feeding over the water (I saw only one Pallid) and Swallows, several hundred of which were resting in the reeds beds, but there was only 1 Sand Martin. The only passerines that stood out were a single juv. Woodchat Shrike and this Reed Warbler.
From there it was on to Fuente de Piedra to (a) see my biologist friends there and (b) have a coffee (it is pretty good) from the machine in the centre. There was a trickle of Black Kites moving westwards to be seen on the way, with birds on the ground feeding and in the air, probably between 30 and 40 but one needs to keep an eye on that road. There is some fresh water filtering into the laguna way over on the left from the information centre and down below the mirador, not much but enough to keep a couple of hundred Flamingos happy (no Lessers to be seen although a colour ringed bird which probably one from a Belgian reserve which has been knocking around Spain for the past year or so has been seen) and some small plovers and a couple of Dunlin, plus a single Black Stork, with up to 4 of these having been seen in this past week.
So, I shall now pack and am off to the UK where I shall be this time tomorrow, and the metcast. is absolutely blankety-blank vile. It would be, I'm going!


12/08 : Guadalhorce

Never let it be said the we Patersons are lacking in intent of purspose (which in others would be called downright stupidity). The met. authorities forecast an extreme temperature warning for today that we're either on red or orange status and that old (me? old?) should take extra care, lots of liquid (no problem there), but I have been missing going down to the Guadalhorce, in spite of the reports not being overly encouraging. If I didn't get out, I'd have gone bananas.
Thus, by 07.45 I was going in over the bridge with the basic plan being to get back out by 10.3q0 before the heat really started to bite. It was actually quite pleasant, about 25ºC I should think, with a pleasant little breeze blowing down the valley. The first stop was the eastern arm to take in the laguna de la Casilla where I ran into Antonio Miguel Pérez and Paco Rivera where we saw a very early pair of Teal and later I saw 5 more buzzing away upstream. There was very little except a shy Reed Warbler and a Woodchat Shrike, of which we were to see at least 2 more later and Miguel Angel found a Whitethroat. There were a few Pochard sitting around waiting to win the lottery, some Coot (of course) and a single Moorhen but not a single White-headed Duck.
On to the second hide was slightly more fruitful, in spite of an enormous lack of water both there and along the lower reaches of the río Viejo, but at least there were some waders, the vast majority in penny numbers, except for very good numbers of Ringed Plovers of which I guesstimated some 80+. a few Little Ringed and next to no Kentish. Of this last species, there are now two information boards which show the rise in breeding numbers over the past few years, but I greatly fear that this year the numbers have been few. The overall wader total, now including the laguna Grande, made some 6 Dunlins, 3 Redshanks, 4 Curlew Sands., 5 Common Sands., a couple of Sanderling - one still in breeding plumage, the other in winter, a single Black-tailed Godwit was at the far end of the río Viejo and a nice male Ruff still showing the remains of its breeding plumage dropped in. There was also a single Grey Plover, still resplendent in breeding plumage, at the laguna Grande, regrettably the photo here was taken against the light and is not of the greatest by a long way. And, naturally, the Black-winged Stilts, which makes a total of 12 species if I have added up correctly.

The laguna Grande was solid with gulls, a 3 or 4 adult Lesser Black-backed, a few more Yellow-legged, lots of Black-headed and a guesstimated 80+ Mediterranean, all bar one that I saw and aged being adults in various stages of head moult and one 1st summer-moulting to 2nd winter bird. The only terns were an adult Whiskered Tern and a 2nd summer Sandwich, whilst over the sea, at a distance made more difficult by heat haze, there were some Balearic Shearwaters moving Strait-wards.
By that time the mercury was rising to uncomfortably high levels and according to Antonio Miguel's watch, which is one of those which tells you the tide times on Mars plus your blood pressure, it was 35.5ºC at 10.15. Discretion is better than valour, cowards live longer, and we made our way, being rewarded with a brief fly-by sighting of a juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo to make a total of around 33 species, not many, but small passerines were conspicuous by their absence..


Bird Fairs - Tarifa, Almería, Rutland and book advertising

First, in the blog where I posted basic details of the two almost conflicting bird fairs - Tarifa and Almería - in the first half of September and asked for comments was not done with any ill-intentions. Indeed, if you go back to the comments on that particular blog you will find one supportive comment. I shall comment that I still know nothing official about the siting of the Tarifa Bird Fair, which is leaving it late by my standards, and it seems ill-advised to have it run for a week. The organisers of both should note that I will not be attending either of them as I hope I shall be away on the ocean blue to the north of Lanzarote.
I shall be in the UK this time next week and on the Friday morning, 17 August, with be talking about pelagic seabirds at the Rutland Bird Fair, lecture marquee 1 at 10.00 and later in the morning and signing copies of the book at the Wildsounds stand in marquee 3.
The photo on the right, courtesy of Dominic Mitchell, editor of the birding magazine Birdwatch, shows the treatment they gave the review copy by putting in the sink in the office and running water on it to test its impermeability.

If you happen to be there and are feeling brave, do drop by and say hello, but don't buy the book unless you intend to go to sea and do your own chumming!

31/07 : Los Lances & La Janda

Yes, I know, later than ever in putting in a report but in self-defence, the past week or so has not been easy and I feel that I spent so much time (and money) at the vets (for the dog, not me and she is improving) that I should have shares in in his practice, and the shares bit could also apply to the makers of Paracetamol. However, as I'm sure many of you have read Bob's report (always out on time, sometimes before he even gets home), this very late affair will be be very much reduced.
We started at Los Lances and apart from a solitary Sandwich Tern and a single plumage 2 type Gannet, there were plenty of Cory's Shearwaters feeding just offshore. Nothing outstanding in the wadre line with plenty of Sanderlings and still smart Dunlins, as well as Kentish Plovers. Not a single Short-toed Lark to be seen though and only one White Wagtail.
After a quick breakfast it was on to La Janda, entering by the track opposite the left turn for Zahara and Barbate, going along beside the drainage canal, across the bridge and across, along past the smelly farm and then along the easily passable track that leads from Benlup down to Facinas, at least it's passable in my Ford as I've got a couple of cms. more than other cars.  It goes without saying that we made a lot of stops.
The rice paddies and canal turned up a couple of Purple Herons and singletons of  Green and Wood Sandpipers and Bob spotted a couple of Spoonbills whilst I was spotting holes in the track. Once across the bridge and along the stretch towards the sluice gates, there were hordes of Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibises (some 6 pairs have bred) and a couple of Squacco Herons, which have also bred. Surprisingly, Turtle Doves continue to manage to breed there amongst the rabble. Along there we also saw a very elegant female Marsh Harrier.
Going across the top beyond the farm we heard but did not see a Magpie. Down the track towards Facinas over the paddies we ran into an area in which there must have been ca.20 of those most unwader-like and extremely elegant waders, Collared Pratincoles.
But it was really for the migration that we had gone down for the day. We saw a minimum of 500 Black Kites, some of which were in moult.

White Storks were abundant with one flock that we guesstimated at between somewhere going on towards the 1.000 mark) and also saw 2 Short-toed Eagles, some 4 more Marsh Harriers and 2 Montagu's Harriers, both thought to be juveniles but on of Bob's photos it is possible to see the primary wing feather moult, thus making it a 1st summer female. What I would like to know is, why do I always get photos of the sterns of these delicate harriers as thet disappear rapidly stage left? Whilst on the subject of birds of prey, we also saw a single Black-shouldered Kite and, as they are also predatory, quite a lot of Woodchat Shrikes, many of them immatures.