A trip up to the Loja area to see Mick Richardson in a quest to find those elusive Black Bellied Sandgrouse was interesting to say the least. I picked Bob Wright up on the way and although we did spot a few nice birds as you can see, we dipped yet again on the Sandgrouse. It is becoming one of my nemesis birds.
There was no shortage of Tawny Pipits and Northern Wheatear in this dry but cultivated landscape. Mick's resident Little Owls were in situ in some old farm buildings but ongoing agricultural ground preparation meant we could not get as close as he usually does.
Bob had been particularly keen to see a Whinchat for his monthly list and when we spotted one I moved through the dry scrub in four wheel drive trying to get a closer look. Alas in the process a piece of twig from a bush we scraped past broke off, shot in through the open window past Elena on that side, and struck Bob in the eye. I think I realised quite quickly that it was quite serious and we got him to a medical centre. The final upshot is that Bob will need a new lens in that eye as it seems to have caused a cataract. Good luck Bob.
One thing worthy of note here is that on the way back Mick spotted some Desert Orange Tip butterflies. This is a new species for me. It is always found in the vicinity of wild caper plants and although we didn't get any photos this time Mick did get some excellent shots when he returned later, they can be seen on his blog Loja Wildlife. I will try again next year.
The next day I had a look at what the Charca de Suarez had to offer and managed a few nice shots of a pair of Common Snipe. I found it interesting that a solitary Dunlin was shadowing them closely. I have noticed that this bird does not like to be alone, they will seek the company of other waders, such as Sanderling or Curlew sandpiper if there are none of their own about.
A few days later Bob & I met Mick again at Zapata, a delightful spot on the Rio Guadalhorce upstream from the estuary. Mick had spotted a Grasshopper Warbler just before we arrived but unfortunately for me it didn't re-appear, it would have been a lifer. We were amused by several waders including a very nice pair of Greenshank, and some Little Ringed Plovers. Kingfishers were flying back and forth across the river, an osprey was observed heading for the estuary and it was a pleasant place to spend a couple of hours.
Good birding was becoming increasingly difficult locally as the landscape has become so dried up in the plolonged drought. Very little rain now for a few years and it has been a long hot Summer with no end in sight. I trip up to Alcaucin picnic area produced just one poor shot of a Nuthatch although we did see Firecrest, Crossbill and Long Tailed Tit, all too fleeting for photography. I look forward to going a bit farther afield in the quest to see more and better birds.