Walked around the Charca de Suarez on Sunday morning hoping to see the Spotted Crake that had been seen there recently. Met Ann Jefferson who thought it had probably gone because all the development work ongoing there during the week would have disturbed it. However she showed us a roosting Booted Eagle that certainly made up for it.
This was even better than the female Marsh Harrier we had been lucky enough to encounter on the way to the Reserve in the marshes close by.
In another stroke of luck a Water Rail swam across in front of the new Wader Pool hide just as I walked in, I managed to grab a couple of shots before I had a chance to even sit down. Fortuitously as it happens because it was not seen again during that morning.
So even though the Spotted Crake was not there to be spotted, I was quite content with some photographs of other birds which more than made up for it.
There were plenty of White Storks on the rice fields along with Lapwings, Common & Green Sandpiper, a simply enormous flock of Flamingos that numbered in the hundreds, possibly even a thousand birds that settled on a bank separating two cut rice paddies. Interestingly they did not appear to enter the water so I don't know how they manage to feed here.
We spotted a pair of Black Storks so drove up s side track between the rice field to get a better view. The Storks did not seem to mind our presence at all, in fact the big old adult male seemed to have a good laugh at our arrival and I got some good shots of him chortling away happily.
Now the Black Stork is reputed to be a shy and wary species. Well not these two. I think if I had waded out into the mud I might even have got to stroke this one, he seemed quite friendly and put on a good show for us. They feed on insects and amphibians and I suspect they might have been finding some of the crayfish that abound in the rice paddies. Locals place baited keepnets around the edges and we could see they were getting a good catch of some sizeable crayfish that I imagine are quite a valuable commodity as the Spanish love their shellfish.
Overall it had been a good few days birding in good company. The Costa Luz Apartments in Ayamonte were outstanding and excellent value and the full-board arrangement with breakfast or packed lunches and evening meals were outstanding. The manager of the Costa Esuri Golf Course was extremely welcoming and even provided us with golf buggies to run down to his pond by the seventeenth green where about twenty seven bird species were observed in the evenings including Caspian Tern, Spoonbill, Collared Pratincole and all manner of water species.
Today we were at the Odiel Marshes where we were dismayed to find major industrial works taking place. Huge trucks thundered up and down the narrow road at high speed, one every minute or so. The Southern end of the spit was blocked to the public and a long stretch of the approach road designated as no stopping. Presumably the trucks were continuing to dump dredging spoil on the Pratincole and Little Tern colonies, unbridled habitat destruction on an industrial scale.
We made the best of a bad situation though and collectively managed to build up a good selection of species. There are always Flamingos here, not in great numbers such as at Fuente de Piedra, but always some scattered about in the salt pans where presumably the depth suits them.
Spoonbills too are a certainty here, it is perhaps the best site in Spain to see this exotic species, like flamingos I think they are most elegant in flight with neck extended forward in a graceful curve.
Another handsome smaller bird, the Northern Wheatear is highly photogenic and this one strikes an imposing figure on a fencepost in matching colours.
The Willow Warbler is quite a common passage migrant at this time of year but I think it makes a nice image as it moves around on tall plant stems picking out seed and insect food. I spotted this one through the portals in a hide behind the Visitor's Centre which allowed some close-up shots of a very active little bird finding good pickings on the plant seed heads.
Another good sequence of photographs involves this Great Egret which had found a ready supply of fish in the shallows out of the current and turbulence of the main river. It was fun watching the bird jumping about following the fish and making strikes, often successfully as can be seen from the photo below.
Great Egrets normally have yellow/orange bills except in breeding birds when the bills change to black. It was encouraging to see this is a breeding adult and in fact it has been a good period for Great Egrets, one of the few species that appears to be on the increase in Andalucia.
I should not ignore the other waders of course, I mean they are real birds, unlike common seagulls, sparrows and collared doves (joke, honest). One of Elena's favourites is the Oystercatcher, a bright-eyed and conspicuous chappie in red, black and white.
One of my favourite waders is the Grey Plover. Not one of the common species it is a real beauty in its full summer plumage. This one unfortunately is in a transitional phase and is not so stunning. nevertheless it is a pleasure to see them at any time.
Curlews are a favourite wader amongst birders, both for the elegant and distinctive size and shape, particularly that long downcurving bill, and for their haunting call which is a familiar sound to anyone who has walked the misty estuaries and coastal marshes of North Norfolk for example. Young curlews that have not yet developed the very long bill can easily be mistaken for a Whimbrel, a similar species but slightly smaller with a shorter bill.
The Caspian Tern below was seen in the evening flying over the pond at the Golf Course at Costa Asuri, Ayamonte. It was quite close but once again the camera settings were wrong for a bird in flight & I didn't have time to change them, so the shot is not great.
A total of well in excess of thirty species was seen at this amazing Golf Course water. The Club Manager seemed keen to showcase it and at Bob's suggestion he is considering building a hide as an added attraction to the complex. Sounds like a good idea..
Having had family visitors from Denmark for a week we left home at 5 am on Tuesday morning to catch up with a large ABS group who had met the previous day at Isla Mayor and continued on to Ayamonte on the Portuguese border. We caught up with them at 10 am heading out for Castro Marim across the Rio Guadiana which is the border with Portugal.
In the scrub at the entrance to the Reserve we had good views of a delightful Dartford Warbler and were noting many other small birds when a raptor flew over and veered off as he saw all the binoculars pointing his way. Was it just a Buzzard? it reminded me more of a Long-Legged Buzzard I had seen on a previous trip. I fired of a couple of snapshots but will await the verdict of others more knowledgeable than me to decide.
I won't list all the small birds noted in the scrub, preferring to leave that to our leader Bob Wright, but moving on to the marsh pools we did find a selection of waders including numerous Redshank.
Kentish Plover featured quite prominently, one sometimes has to look closely to distinguish them from the more common Ringed Plover.
There were lots of Black Tailed Godwits, a very handsome wader in my opinion and always a pleasure to see.
By far the most numerous wader however was the ubiquitous Dunlin, and there were many. I was very pleased to get the following shot as it shows and contrasts a Little Stint amongst its larger Dunlin cousins. I have always had difficulty picking out Little Stints in isolation so it is useful to see just how much smaller it is and how the bill is much more delicate than the Dunlin's.
While sitting in the car eating a sandwich lunch near the Visitor's Centre we were entertained by a Pied Flycatcher making forays from the closest tree, so I took the opportunity to take a few photos. A nice way to pass a lunchtime break.
After lunch we continued birding around the marshes but the only other bird worth showing was a Turnstone, one of a couple that I had to wade through some heavy mud to get close to. In doing so I probably scared off all the other birds that the telescope brigade were watching, but I need to get close, it's the hunter in me.
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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