The three amigos (Kev, Mick T and Mick P) have returned from Spain and are now adjusting to the cold of the UK. We set off on the Friday 9 October and were met by Richard Banham at Malaga airport and driven to our accommodation in Sabinillas. Having stayed in various types of accommodation on many ringing expeditions, from tents on remote Scottish islands, Barns on the Wash and a Kibbutz in Israel I wondered what we would find the apartment to be like. As we entered the door and met Richard's wife Thelma, any trepidation disappeared, compared to all other ringing trip accommodation experienced before we were going to be living in the lap of luxury this week. We just had time after settling in to nip across the road to the nearest bar to grab a meal and a drink (or two).
Saturday 10th - In the morning we were up early (but not too early as dawn was 0745) and out setting nets on a local hill top in low, very thorny, scrub. We spent the morning here and caught about 100 birds. We then had a small break before setting and furling nets around the Rio (river) Guadiaro estuary ready for the next morning. The habitat was reed, scrub and tamarisk. Strange experience this as we walked along a Mediterranean beach amongst the sun bathers - we were wearing wellies and loaded down with poles, nets etc. Mick T had a paddle in the sea in his wellies just to say he had been in the Med, this was the closest we got him to a swim all week. Jose-Luis and Carmen (apologies if I have misspelt your names) who regularly help Richard out on ringing sessions joined us for the evening and again the next morning. We also set a couple of nets for a Yellow Wagtail roost but it failed to materialise and we caught just two wagtails plus a couple of other birds, we did however have great views of a Purple Gallinule.
Sunday 11th - Out on the beach before dawn, nets opened and more nets erected. Jose-Luis and Carmen set the enormous Purple Gallinule trap that had a remote trigger. Over 100 birds caught and another strange experience as I checked the nets in the tamarisk on the beach, between two of the nets were a pair of naturists! Unfortunately no gallinules were tempted into the trap. After leaving this site we headed inland for an Orange grove to set ready for the next morning. On returning to the apartment Mick P and I tried out one of the two swimming pools, which we had to ourselves, Mick T watched from a distance.
Monday 12th - Nets opened in the Orange grove before dawn. In the half light a large silent bird approached and flew just over our heads, it was an Eagle Owl, amazing. Catching was slower today but it gave us chance to watch the birds of prey passing overhead towards Gibraltar, mainly Griffon Vultures and Booted Eagles. We took the nets down after lunch and went on to an Avocado grove to set ready for the next morning.
Tuesday 13th - Nets opened again before dawn but catching was slow and we retired early to visit the next site. This was at the confluence of the Rio Guadiaro and one of it's tributaries, it is a popular site for the locals to visit at weekends but is quiet in the week. There was only a small amount of water flowing despite the banks being as far apart as the Trent banks and car could drive through it. However, a few weeks earlier there had been even less as there had been some thunderstorms a week or so before we arrived. It was a memorable site both for the natural habitat and also for the amount of dumped rubbish. We set out guys ready for the next morning but it was not safe to leave furled nets. We even found and removed some articles left by illegal bird trappers, unfortunately this activity is still common in Spain.
Wednesday 14th - Down to the river before dawn, nets set and opened and the birds started to pour in despite a stiff breeze blowing. We finished after lunch having caught over 100 birds including BTO and Dutch ringed Blackcaps in the same net round, we took down intending to return tomorrow. Mick P and I decided the pool was too tame so headed for the sea and some large breakers that were hitting the beach with the onshore wind behind them. Mick T headed for the bar and had cold beers ready for our return. Hard work this Spanish ringing!Thursday 15th - Down to the river again, plans to catch the Snipe and Green Sand looked promising as the wind had dropped. Slow start and no waders in the half light but things picked up and we caught a Snipe in full sun - but not in the expected net. Still, Mick P was happy and so was Richard, it was the first Snipe he had caught in the 15 years he has been ringing in Spain. We again ended with over 100 birds including another BTO ringed Blackcap. We finished the day with a dip in the pool (not Mick T of course) and a great meal at a local restaurant with Richard and Thelma.
Friday 16th - At our request we went back to the hill top we did last Saturday, slightly breezy but the first clouds of the week helped early on, unfortunately these were soon replaced with full sun. We could not stay the full course because of our return flight, but in 3 net rounds with 9 nets we caught over 100 birds.