It’s the first week of September, and we headed off to the Rio Guadalhorce reserve near Malaga today, to check up on this year’s seasonal arrivals as another autumn migration starts to unfold.
In a region with almost no wetlands, this patchwork of pools, reedbeds and low scrub was certainly productive last spring, but with water levels looking low and Booted Eagles patrolling ominously overhead, the reserve still had a really hot, hazy, end-of-summer feel to it.
The walk in brought us a handful of everyday species to start us off. Blackbirds and Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows and Goldfinches, and Crested Larks bursting from cover along the paths. Collared Doves and Feral Pigeons were soon on the list, together with Monk Parakeets and a Hoopoe – giving the day a slightly more exotic flavour! – and we settled down at the first hide.
Fan-tailed Warblers, Sardinian and Cetti’s Warblers we picked up largely from their calls. House Martins, Barn Swallows and Red-rumped Swallows still swirled over the open water and reedbeds, and it was nice to pick up an Iberian Yellow Wagtail. Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebes all showed well…
and a handful of Pochard and Mallard were joined by good numbers of White-headed Ducks…
…including this year’s dark-headed variant, first-summer males.
We saw just a glimpse of a chestnut chest, and then a flash of blue as it flew low across the water, but we finally picked up a Kingfisher here today – my first in Spain – which was a nice tick before heading off to the other lake-side hides.
Too early for the passage waders today, but the reserve’s breeding species all showed well. We got ID for Little Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plovers and Common Sandpipers all at a distance, but the beautiful Black-winged Stilts were, as ever ,rather more obliging.
A Kestrel and a Cormorant passed over but nothing troubled the roosting birds while we were there, and Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-Legged and Black-headed Gulls sun-bathed along the shore.
Grey Herons and Little Egrets stalked their prey in the shallows…
…and just before we left, we had a nice encounter with a passage Willow Warbler, the first of the season.
Note the yellow caste to the bird in general, and the paler, brown legs in the shots we have for you here…
…but Chiffchaff overwinter here too, and I can’t help feeling the legs – and particularly the feet – on this individual are a rather darker, charcoal grey. A tough call, this one.
We picked up 37 species in all today, and enjoyed a few hours birding only a short drive from the city centre of Malaga. If you’d like more information on how to join us on our birdwatching tours click here…southern Spain is a truly remarkable place to explore!