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WEATHER: very humid, very hot, we had some relief from a light breeze, 32C for most of the day.

Well, that was the most bizarre and unusual start to any my trips during the last 30 years, I can’t tell you how strange our experience was this morning, it was totally off the charts. We all met at 7am for breakfast at our hotel on the outskirts of Malaga before we loaded onto the minibus for the short drive to the natural park at the mouth of the River Guadalhorce. We parked the bus near the entrance, as soon as we disembarked we saw a Hoopoe fly up onto a chimney, then a Collared Dove landed on a lamppost followed by a Spotted Flycatcher which perched on a TV aerial.

Joe then decided to sit this visit out and plonked himself on a bench next to the bus, whilst the rest of us walked up the ramp onto the approach track to the reserve. We saw several police officers at the base of the ramp and some more further along on the bridge, you have to cross the bridge to get onto the reserve. We noted Sardinian Warbler, House Sparrow, Barn Swallow, Common Nightingale (seen only by me), Little Egret, Yellow-legged Gull and a few Monk Parakeets as we made our way towards the bridge.

As we got nearer we could see what all the fuss was about, a human dead body was hanging from a rope beneath the bridge!!! Now in the UK the whole area would have been shut down and certainly no access across the bridge would have been allowed, but we were able to walk across the bridge right above the hanging man and we had cameras, telescopes and binoculars, it was totally bizarre. Joggers, cyclists, mothers with pushchairs were all walking past as though nothing had occurred!

a view of Laguna Grande from the hide

Once across the bridge we had a short discussion about what we had just witnessed, nobody seem that concerned or was too upset to continue, so we continued our walk! Our next sighting was alive, it was a Serin, in fact we found at least a dozen of them feeding on seeds in the dry thistles. We also had good views of Willow Warbler and a pair of Zitting Cisticolas.

By the time we reached the hide overlooking Laguna Grande it had warmed up quite a lot, we were glad of the shelter offered by the hide. We then spent about 1 ½ hours sitting watching the birdlife in the laguna and the surrounding bushes. It was fantastic birding, dozens of species were out there, all of them in low numbers but a good variety was on show and many birds were arriving and some were leaving. We saw Grey Wagtail fly over us just as we got to the hide and Cindy saw a Yellow Wagtail in flight once we had sat down.

Curlew Sandpiper

Waders on show, included: Redshank, Greenshank, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Dunlin, Sanderling, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers . There was also Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Grey Heron, Little Egrets, Common Coot, Northern Shoveler, Great Cormorant, Black-headed Gull and a flock of 30+ Glossy Ibis dropped in.

Glossy Ibis with Black-winged Stilts- in very poor light

Spotless Starlings came and bathed from time to time, we found three Common Kestrels perched in the distance and a star bird was a Black Stork. We watched the Stork circle above us and drift off to the south where it joined three Black Kites, they all went really high and out of sight. Barn Swallows and House Martins were ever-present and small numbers of swifts dashed about but the light was so wrong we could not tell if they were Pallid or Common Swifts.

Kentish Plover

Finally we exhausted the bird count at Laguna Grande and we walked around to the smaller Laguna Escondida. Common Kingfishers dashed about over the water, we added White-headed Duck, Mallard, more Northern Shovelers, Moorhen, Little Grebes and a few Night Herons had flown over us as we walked along the track. We added more Willow Warblers a Blackcap and as we got to the hide overlooking the Laguna La Casilla we saw a Little Tern. Another pair of Kingfishers appeared and much higher up we added a Sandwich Tern.

a view from the hide at Laguna la Casilla

We followed the route of the Rio Viejo right down to the Observatorio Espigon de Levaante which overlooks the sea. We made some interesting observations along the way. First Cindy spotted a Wryneck, she called it out but the rest of us was busy watching a Wood Sandpiper. I then found a Common Redstart whilst searching for the Wryneck (which never reappeared) and then Cindy found a Whimbrel. We also added Little Stint, a Temminck’s Stint had been seen in this area but the light was not in our favour, there were other ‘Stints’ in the distant, too far away to call a Temminck’s.

Little Stint

Hundreds of Gulls loafed around in the area of the Rio Vieja, mostly Yellow-legged but also Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed and a few dozen Mediterranean Gulls. We walked along the beach (through the nudist beach) where many nudist (fat elderly men) stood and posed for us, yuk!!

We ended back at the hide overlooking Laguna Grande where we enjoyed once more many species. This time we had much better views of Kentish Plover and Little Stint, but we were all tired and hungry, so we called a break for lunch. It was 1:30pm by the time we got back to the bus and thankfully ther hanging body had been taken down from below the bridge.

We had a nice lunch at a local tapas bar and then returned to the hotel at 2:30pm. We had a 2 hour siesta after which  just three of us went out again for a second visit to the Desembocadura. This time we visited the eastern side where the river had virtually dried up! It was still 32C but a nice breeze had picked up.

Eurasian Spoonbill, Grey Heron, Black-winged Stilts and a Little Egret in flight

Over the next two hours we saw very little and only three new species for the list. It took us a while to track down an elusive warbler which turned out to be a juvenile Common Whitethroat. We also added a distant Woodchat Shrike and had great views of a Red-rumped Swallow.

At 6:30pm we returned to the hotel and called it a day. The bird-log revealed that we had seen 64 species and heard a Cetti’s Warbler, a good day’s birding in difficult light and heat. Very few wild plants were in flowers, I saw no butterflies and only two species of dragonfly. A few Rabbits were seen later on and a couple of European Pond Terrapins sat in the lagunas.