The Rio Velez still has not broken through to the sea. The river mouth has been blocked by a sand bar for over a year now and unless we get a lot of rain in the next month or two, which is unlikely, it will stay closed off for another year. This is bad news as it needs flushing out and opening up to clean water and fresh marine life to enter from the sea. Then maybe waders and other birds might return. I'm not holding my breath.
I did spend a happy hour watching a solitary Sandwich Tern fishing in the pool behind the beach, catching an occasional fish. The shot above is a mystery though. I snapped this dive through some tall grasses, but the photo clearly shows the bird to be in front of some of the grass. What? I really don't understand it. The tall reeds look very close and the bird quite distant, but there it is, bird in front of reeds! No photoshop trickery here, I don't know how it happened. Possibly the long lens magnifies the tall grass which is further away than it appears, but that's not how I remember it.
I decided it was time to capture an image or two of Black headed Gulls. They were swimming on the sea quite close to the shore and it's not really one of those birds that one normally photographs, too common so they get overlooked. Well here it is for the record.
Another common species but he's quite a handsome male Black Redstart, so I'll put his picture on too.
Since returning from Ecuador the incentive to get out & see the same old birds here in Spain has not been great. For one thing our drought combined with mild temperatures in Northern Europe has kept birds away from Andalucia. Mild weather up North combined with lack of water, insects and food here in general provides no incentive for birds to come. All this added to the steady dismal reduction in overall bird numbers due to habitat destruction, increasing use of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture, "hunting", pollution etc etc means birding is becoming a pastime of diminishing rewards. Also most birds of any interest are trapped by the dreaded ringers & inflicted with bling, (fat lot of good that does!) so birding is not what it used to be. ABS field trips these days involve rather more bird watchers than birds, not to my taste anyway but I'll keep trying.
The Charca de Suarez at least has water from the Rio Guadalfeo flowing down from the Sierra Nevada so it does not dry up. It has been quiet there but a recent highlight was this roosting Bonellis Eagle.
The surviving offspring from the imported Red Knobbed Coots continues to thrive and is looking very much like it's ready to breed, those red knobs are very prominent now. The question is will it find a mate? Perhaps it will have to go elsewhere but we will wait and see.
I usually get to see the resident Water Rail on the new pond but always at a distance so no good photos to show. Here's a nice shot of a LittleGrebe instead, not very exciting but better than nothing.
On the home front the first House Martin arrived back at the nests on 28th January! That's a record and is further evidence of the unseasonably warm weather we have experienced this year. Unnatural and probably down to the El Nino effect, with a little help from Global Warming thrown in. By Feb. 3rd we had four or five birds in residence.
A trip up to the picnic site at Alcaucin on Tuesday proved quite fruitful. It was a beautiful springlike day with bright sunshine and warm temperatures and the birds obviously thought it was Spring, there was much nesting type behaviour going on. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were out in the open and as always are a great sight as they chip away at the bark looking for grubs.
We also heard the hysterical laughing cry of a Green Woodpecker but unfortunately never caught sight of it. However the Greater Spotteds gave us great views.
I managed to capture a quick shot of this female Blackcap who came down to drink from the acequia, she has rather strange head markings with a grey patch at the back which I have never seen before.
As usual up here Crossbills were the most numerous and conspicuous residents. This attractive orange male however I shot at the second picnic site after we traversed the mountain track in the car.
It was nice to see a few Coal Tits foraging amongst the pine branches, I haven't seen one of these for some time now.
Bird of the day though probably goes to the delightful Firecrest. This is one of a couple I picked out in the branches overhead. They are so tiny and are constantly moving so are very difficult to photograph. This was the best of a few bad attempts but at least it is recognizable even if I didn't quite manage to catch the fiery red head stripe.
We spotted various other species including Mistle Thrush, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tits,Rock Bunting, Nuthatch and Short-toed Treecreeper, Kestrel, Sparrow Hawk, Goldfinch and Serin plus what I think was a Siskin or two but I can't be certain about that. Stopping off briefly at the railway track in Ventas de Zafarraya we picked up this nice Black Wheatear, plus various others including Red Billed Chough, Stonechat, Crag Martin, Rock Sparrow and Linnet. We didn't spot a single lark however in the fields around Zafarraya which is strange.
On Friday 5th I walked around the Rio Velez. This place is a sad relection of its former glory. The River has largely dried up and has not broken through the sand bar to the sea for over a year now. With no flow what little water there is has become stale and lifeless so apart from a few Moorhens and Coots, a mallrd ot two and an occasional Egret there is nothing to see. Not a single wader was evident today, not one. There was a couple of Bluethroats frequenting a recently dug ditch alongside the main path, I saw them but did not manage to get a clear shot at them as they were very skittish. In the end I just decided to snap a few of the common species just to amuse myself, and here are some of them for the record.. I quite like the Serin below as the colours are set off nicely by the plain pale green bokeh.
Sardinian Warblers are quite photogenic and I like to capture that distinctive red ringed eye, this one is quite nice.
The Black Redstart below was in good light and the grey background enhances the image.
This is not a great shot of a greenfinch but it's here as I was pleased to see some today. They have been in very serious decline in the UK due to trichomonosis, a parasitical disease that spreads rapidly through infected food. It is therefore essential to clean and disinfect garden feeders regularly to keep this killer disease at bay. Spain is not know for garden feeders so hopefully the Greenfinch population here will be spared from such an unpleasant death.
I even photographed a White Wagtail today, getting desperate but then we do tend to ignore the common birds and in fact I really don't have a decent shot of this very common but quite charming species, so here it is.
Finally a quick walk around the Guadalhorce on 12th Feb. and at first it seemed that very little was about, unless you like Cormorants that is. However a closer look along the beach showed a few Kentish Plovers wandering around, wondering perhaps what happened to the fence that used to protect their breeding area. In the ponds and scrub behind the beach we did pick up Greenshank, Redshank, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Black Winged Stilt, White Headed Duck, Pochard, Shoveler, Marsh Harrier and a few common songbirds, including a nice pair of Sardinian Warblers.
Retired seafarer living in Frigiliana, a white village in Malaga Province in southern Spain. Married to Elena. Keen bird and wildlife watchers.
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