Located just outside Malaga, the mouth of the Rio Guadalhorce may at first seem an unlikely site for birdwatching. However, the complex of ponds and scrubland that sits between the two arms of the river – widened and engineered to avoid flooding upstream – is a key stretch of wetland habitat within Andalucia, and with over 280 species recorded a visit was long overdue.
The day proved to be hugely enjoyable, and we put over forty species on the list in just a few hours. Information boards mapping the paths and the location of the hides made exploring the reserve pretty straightforward, and the birdwatching proved to be terrific almost as soon as we arrived…
The first hide we stopped at gave us fantastic views of Little Grebes and White-headed Ducks, and a spectacular fly-over from a pale-form Booted Eagle, my first of the new season.
Barn Swallows and House Martins swirled overhead, and a good range of everyday species quickly got the day-list off to a great start. Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows and Crested Larks all showed well of course, as did Blackbirds, Robins, Stonechat and Black Redstarts.
Good numbers of Fan-tailed and Cetti’s Warblers called throughout the day, and Sardinian Warblers and Chiffchaff put the warbler count at four species for the trip. We picked up Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Serin, Great Tits and Blue Tits on the walks between the hides, along with fly-overs from Grey Herons and Kestrels.
The hide on the largest pool proved to be highly productive. Wildfowl species included Mallard, Pochard, Teal and Shoveler. Coot and Moorhen were both plentiful…
…and in the distance we soon identified a winter plumage Black-necked Grebe – my first in Spain.
White Wagtails were to be expected, but a Yellow Wagtail – either Motacilla flava (Central Europe) or Motacilla iberiae (Spain and NW Africa) – was a wonderful addition to the day. Cormorants, Black-headed Gulls and a Yellow-legged Gull kept the day-list going…
…while a Little Egret hunting in the shallows.
Wader species included Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers and Redshank, and elegant Black-winged Stilts.
A Hoopoe ignored us completely and foraged happily on the path as we walked out towards the shoreline…
where we watched flights of Cormorants leaving the reserve to go fishing out at sea.
All in all a wonderful trip, and we’ll take a closer look at some of the species we encountered over the next few days. Feral pigeons – yes, they do count! – and an unidentified parakeet put the day-list at 44, and moments before we finally got in the car we found this Greenfinch which put the final count for the day at 45.
It was wonderful to see what this remarkable reserve has to offer, and it will be great to get back there later this spring. Many thanks to our birdwatching friend Marianne for doing the driving!
There are many more birding destinations that we will be visiting over the coming weeks – if you would like more information on how to join us, details about our birdwatching trips and holidays are just a click away. Southern Spain has some truly remarkable birding to enjoy…for all our latest news, please keep reading our posts and trip reports!