Having read about four Ospreys and plenty more being seen at the Guadalhorce recently we decided to have a look around for ourselves this morning. I had just about given up on this location which in my opinion has been in serious decline for some time now. Nothing I saw today made me change my mind. Yes there was a pair of Ospreys, also a pair of Booted Eagles. The main hide showed a few waders and one nice surprise, a solitary juvenile and blinged Slender Billed Gull . But compared with a few years ago the place was virtually empty.
Five years ago the "Old River" Hide would have been teeming with a great variety of Waders at this time of year. Today would you believe there was not one single bird present, Nothing! It must have something to do with the water quality. We did see a man taking water samples around the Reserve today which reinforces my view that something is seriously wrong here. The beach was deserted except for one naked man and a solitary Wheatear, at least I got a shot of the more interesting of the two.
There was a small party of Flamingos, the usual Black Winged Stilts, Ringed and Kentish Plovers and a few Redshank, not much for a site of such former glory. Mallard, Pochard and a few White headed Duck were all the wildfowl present, none in any real numbers. Small birds were conspicious by their absence, a few Sparrows, Stonechats, Serins and Goldfinches. A single Spotted Flycatcher, one Kingfisher, Monk Parakeets squawking loudly, a Zit and a Sardy or two, but no signs of any other warblers or passage migrants, very dull.
I will not post dull record shots of Osprey or Booted Eagles at long range, preferring another shot of the friendly Wheatear, and a couple of Black Winged Stilts looking quite attractive standing on dry ground. Two of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing day. I remember what this place used to be like.
Apart from seeing some large raptors passing overhead on their way to Africa, the expected influx of migratory species has been late. A few Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff or two but little else. Our House Martins are still with us and I am still hearing Bee-eaters, but no new birds. So in the absence of anything more exciting to see I resorted to photographing Cattle Egrets "Jumping Sheep" as the rodeo riding became a bit extreme.
We had a walk round the Rio Velez on Thursday 24th with the Axarquia Group but the river is so overgrown it is difficult to see anything in all that cover. Some people did spot a Common Redstart, there were brief sightings of raptors including Booted Eagle and Sparrowhawk, David Jefferson and I saw something put up a host of seagulls which we think was a Peregrine Falcon, but we can't be sure. Common Waxbill was seen, Squacco and Green Sandpiper but no sign of the reported Spotted Crake.
Then on Sunday 27th Sept. things started picking up. We joined Bob on a visit to the Charca where we were confronted by Kingfishers perching nicely on the sticks in front of the new hide. I was amazed to see them actually hovering over the marshy water to the left of the hide. As I was watching this another hovering bird caught my eye, a Black Shouldered Kite! Probably the same bird we had spotted a couple of weeks ago and we did see it around during the morning, at times in company with a pair of Kestrels, always at a distance but clearly identifiable. I had no idea that either of these species could hover, the kingfishers in quite sustained bursts too.
Reed Warblers and Red Avadavats were showing well. Greenshank, Black Winged Stilt, Flamingo, wagtails, Egrets, Herons and a pair of Snipe on a grassy islet were all visible along with other common species. Our next photo opportunity however came from the Laguna del Trebol hide when a young Purple Swamphen traversed the pond right in front of us.
Other birds of note seen in the Reserve were a trio of Night Herons on the main lagoon, two of them youngsters. A Little Bittern, more Snipe, a late Spotted Flycatcher but interestingly no Chiffchaffs, I expect they will arrive en-masse soon. As we were leaving the BS Kite gave us another flypast so we elected to go through Turtle Dove Alley on the way home in the hope of seeing it over there. As it happens we did see a rather nice Whinchat standing tall in the long grass, and instead of the Kite a superb Montagu's Harrier took off from the fields ahead, I had just enough time to grab a quick record shot.
All in all it had been a good morning with over 40 species recorded. I could post more record shots of Snipe, or Night Heron, or Avadavat, but I prefer to sign off with another good shot of the Kingfisher that gave us such spectacular views from the start. Then home to lunch shared with Bob & Jenny to discuss the day and forthcoming events.
We left home quite early for a migration watch at Tarifa. To be honest it was more about giving Elena driving practice as I have never really taken to watching tiny specks in the sky. Some people tick off the species they identify, others count the numbers and for some it is an interesting spectacle. I just get bored. Birding to me is hunting with a camera, I like to get in close and capture the light in their eyes with my lens. This is why I don't use a scope, if it's that far away I'm not really bothered.
Sure enough there were plenty of specks in the sky. Honey Buzzards, Common Buzzards, Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, a few Griffons, Black Kites, a solitary Imperial Eagle, a Peregrine, White Storks and probably others, all high in the sky and great if you like compiling lists, not good for the photographer, so I contented myself by snapping a very large praying Mantis in the surrounding scrub.
We moved on to La Janda and were very disappointed. Very few birds to be seen. The most interesting being a few ring-tailed harriers and I almost captured a good shot of what I think is a young Montagu's Harrier, more likely than Hen Harrier on the basis of the underside colouring and the very long wings. As usual though the view is of a bird departing rapidly.
There were of course the usual small birds around, Zitting Cisticolas, Crested larks, Corn Buntings etc and in light of the lack of anything else to shoot I resorted to capturing images of Stonechats, always an easy bird to photograph, they are not too skittish and pose nicely out in the open.
September brings a welcome intensity in avian activity. Passage migrants start to appear and summer residents become restless in preparing to depart. Bee-eaters have been flocking in our area, feeding up and gathering in collective strength for the long journey ahead, their numbers boosted by an influx from the North and East. We see and hear then daily and they have taken to perching in the valley below our terrace, pausing to rest between hunting forays.
Raptors have been moving overhead towards the crossing points to Africa around Tarifa and Gibraltar. Honey Buzzards are in large numbers, I am always surprised by how many there are, where do they all come from? Not the UK or Spain that's for sure. They are one of the most numerous of the large migrants seen streaming across the Straights. In company with the Honey Buzzards was this magnificent adult Bonelli's Eagle which at first I assumed was another Honey Buzzard until a friend Kevin Wade pointed out the difference. Thanks Kevin.
Another raptor that spends its summer holidays in Spain is the Short Toed Eagle, we see them a lot searching for snakes in the countryside around our house. At this time of year they are slowly heading back towards Africa, usually in pairs. The one below was one of a pair that hung around for a few days.
I noticed there were some Reed Warblers about. I would expect most of them to be gone before too long but I do believe a few remain here over winter as we were seeing them here all year, even in December/January. The bird below is definitely Reed but given the size of that bill it could even be a Great Reed Warbler, hard to say.
Compare the bird above with the one below. can they be the same species? I think not but if the lower one is not a Reed Warbler then what is it? I really don't know.
But what about this one below? I really don't know for sure but it looks more like a young Western Orphean Warbler than anything else in the Field Guide.
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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