Friday, 1 April 2016

Ronda to Motril

I left Ronda with the temperature at 3 degrees and arrived at the Charca de Suarez reserve near Motril at 24 degrees and a howling gale. On the way I stopped a couple of times in the mountains at Sierra de les Nieves for Southern Grey Shrike and a beautiful black-throated form of the hispanica race of Black-eared Wheatear, I had more Thekla Larks at the same spot.
Southern Grey Shrike

Black-eared Wheatear - dark throated form of Spanish race
Arriving at Charca de Suarez at mid-day I found the reserve closed, with some help from the local camping site I established that it opened at 17:30 for guided tours, it's otherwise closed on week days during March to May. Undeterred I decided to visit the Las Norias pools, which were about 70Km to the north. I could barely stand up with the wind and pulled on to some rough ground when I arrived only to find my parking spot was shared with a pair of Little Stint, Little Ringed Plover and a dozen Meadow Pipit. It looked like a wet area on the dried ground had dried up recently.
Little Stints - still in mainly winter plumage

The pools themselves didn't add much; a dozen Great-crested Grebe, several Red-crested Pochard and Shoveler and a few Black-headed Gulls - still no 'marsh' terns in sight.
I retuned to Charco  de Suarez. My primary reason for visiting this small reserve was to see Crested Coot, I had not found them at Huelva or La Rocio so this was my last chance. I was fairly confident of at least seeing them. In 2012 300 birds were released at various locations in Andalusia to support a dwindling population, 2 pairs were released at Charco and they had faired reasonably well raising young in the subsequent years.

Arriving at 17:30 I was joined by an enthusiastic Spaniard from the Basque country to the north a dutch pair, a couple from the UK and a mixed German/British pair. Only the UK couple appeared to be specifically interested in birds. Our guide was a local council official but fortunately, after a few minutes of background information on the reserve, we were released to explore as we pleased until 19:00. I dashed off for the hide which I thought had the best chance of Crested Coot, saw they could be seen closer from another hide and dashed round there. The other visitors were looking a bit bemused as they started there leisurely exploration of the reserve.
Never the less my luck was in. I saw three birds sporting fine neck collars indicating they were part of the release programme, another bird that did not which was presumably an off spring of the collared birds and two fluffy youngsters from this years brood. Can I count the un-collared bird as wild? Not too fussed, they gave great views and looked in fine condition.
Crested Coot

Whilst watching one bird I saw a Night Heron catch a large frog which it took about 10 minutes to finally swallow. 
Night Heron with frog

Nearby a Purple Gallinule was preening on the edge of the reeds and as it neared 19:00 several parties of Purple Heron, totalling about 30 birds dropped in to the reedbed, what a great little reserve this is. 
Purple Gallinule
Purple Heron - amazing markings!
If it had been open the following morning I would have been tempted to stay, since it wasn't I will be making a long drive up to the River Ebro delta south of Barcelona - home to around 70% of the World's Audouin's Gulls!

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