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Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

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Red-throated Bee-eater

Red-throated Bee-eater
join us for a fantastic tour of The Gambia this November

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

DAY OUT - LAGUNA DULCE, RONDA, MONTEJAQUE

59 LITTLE BUSTARDS!

We picked a lovely day to make our last outing for the year, after a misty start the sun broke through and warmed us up for the rest of the day.

Myself and Tony (a local birder also from Gaucin) left the village at 8am and headed northward to towards Ronda. We stopped just passed Atajate to look for Ring Ouzel but only found Black Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush and Common Kestrel.

After making a short stop between Ronda and Campillos we finally arrived at Laguna Dulce which was covered with birds. The light was now very good so we drove to the far side of the laguna to scope the open flat fields, what a good decision it turned out to be. First we found 9 Common Cranes, then a fantastic count of 59 Little Bustards appeared in the distance. many of them were males and were practicing their display jumping which looked quite commical. In the large flat fields we also found 100+lapwings, Golden Plover 7, Calandra Lark, Meadow Pipit, Corn Buntings 50+ and a Marsh Harrier.

At the waters edge we found Black Winged stilts, Greater Flamingo, Common Teal and many black headed Gulls. We then drove around to the hide at the south side of the laguna and from there we had a good hour watching many species. Common Coot numbered over 200 whilst Black necked Grebe 15, Northern Shoveler, White headed Duck 3, Common Pochard, Red crested Pochard 1 fem; Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall and Mallard.

A nice surprise was a Purple Swamphen which flew from a distant patch of reed to a tiny clump right in front of the hide! The bird looked splendid in the afternoon sunshine (shown below).




From Campillos we drove to Canete de Real where a vulture feeding station is supposed to be situated, however, there were many Griffon Vultures and Ravens loafing about but nothing was on offer for them. I thought about staking Tony out - but he was driving!

Our last stop was the lovely limestone mountains just above Montejaque, one of my favourite places. There was a surprising amount of water behind the "dam that doesn't work" at Tabniza with many Mallards sitting on the temporary laguna. In the bushes on the slopes of mountains we found Black Redstarts, Blackcap, Blackbirds, Stonechats, Black Wheatears, Rock Bunting, Chaffinch, goldfinch and Robins.

As the light began to fade we realised that it was 4:30pm so we set off back to Gaucin well satisfied with the birds we had seen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Gambia part 3

3 WHOLE WEEKS IN THE GAMBIA - WOW!!!!! ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! WONDERFUL BIRDING, LOVELY PEOPLE, SUPERB HABITATS AND A PLETHORA OF BIRDS.


this is the third of a series of short reports from the whole 3 weeks, many photographs and film clips will be shown - watch this space don't miss any!



Tendaba Camp & the 'Creek Crawl' in the mangrove swamps was without doubt the best part of both of the tours. It provided a list of 73 species during the trip on the 21st Nov and we thought that wouldn't be beaten! Wrong!! We amassed an incredible list of 77 species on the 28th and it was high tide during this second trip!!






The Blue Breasted Kingfisher featured strongly during both trips we saw 23 on the first trip and 25 on the second. But a mouth watering list of species was also seen try these for size;



White-backed Heron, African Scop's Owl, Ayres hawk Eagle, Martial Eagle, African Fish Eagle, banded Snake Eagle, Goliath Heron, Malachite Kingfisher, Black-crowned Crane, Sacred Ibis, Woolly-necked Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill,









Kingfishers galore, waders, herons, egrets, pelicans, storks, ibis, spoonbills, eagles, hawks and vultures filled our note books, what a great couple of trips we had.




The sun set seen from the river at Tendaba was beautiful, if you look carefully you can see a Pink-backed Pelican swimming in the river.


We also saw an Otter which was very inquisitive and sat up on hind legs to watch us, the photograph was taken by Richard Headford.






























Friday, December 24, 2010

Day Tour - December 23rd - Soto Grande & Palmones

A GREAT WINTER FIND - LITTLE BITTERN AT LAGUNA TORREGUADIARO!


My last day-tour of the year began at Jimera de las Frontera where I collected Rory, a visitor from Wyoming, at 8:30am.





It was a bright morning but very windy and after 4 days of constant rain the fields, meadows and rivers were full of rain-water.


We visited Soto Grande first. Both areas of the Natural Park were flooded with large parts impassable. We found several species on and around laguna Torreguadiaro; Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard, Cetti's Warbler, Crag Martin, Chiffchaff, Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler and many gulls.


Offshore, flying over a blustery sea, there were many Gannets feeding and hundreds of gulls milled around.


At Palomones the wind got even stronger, it was difficult to hold our binnoculars still. We watched the salt marsh at low tide from the 'Promenade', and later, from the hide on the west side of the marsh.


Redshank, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey, Ringed & Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Spoonbill, Sandwich Tern, Osprey, Marsh Harrier & Griffon Vulture were all seen on or near the mudflats.


At the back of the salt marsh we could see 200+ White Storks and over 50 Grey Herons.



A short stop at Pinar del Rey added Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Blackcap and a few common woodland species. We popped into the fruit fields at San Enrique where we found Tree Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk and good numbers of Chaffinch.


Lastly we returned to Soto Grande to look for Purple Swamphen, but instead we found a superb adult male Little Bittern, It sat in the afternoon sun at the base of the reed-bed in a sheltered area. a great bird to finish off our day, Rory was very pleased as he found the bird and identified it, very good for an Amercian in Spain!

Monday, December 20, 2010

3 WEEKS IN THE GAMBIA - PART 2

3 WHOLE WEEKS IN THE GAMBIA - WOW!!!!! ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! WONDERFUL BIRDING, LOVELY PEOPLE, SUPERB HABITATS AND A PLETHORA OF BIRDS.


this is the second of a series of short reports from the whole 3 weeks, many photographs and film clips will be shown - watch this space don't miss any!




We settled into our hotel on the coast just south of Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, breakfast was taken every day on the outside terrace in a lovely morning temperature.


Daily at 8am we took our private bus to visit many local sites, on Wednesday 17th & Thursday 18th November we visited Brufut Woods, Faraba Banta, Tanjeh, Tujerng & Bijilo Forest and saw a whole host of new species.






The 'Moho' or Oriole Warbler - fantastic song but ugly looking!


Abyssian Roller

Bearded Barbet


On Friday 20th we set off very early to catch the Ferry at Banjul, what an experience that was!!! Imagine the noise, chaos, colour and confusion at Wembly just as the crowd is leaving after an international football match, well, the port at Banjul was exactly the same as we tried to load into the ferry.

The crossing was lovely, lots of gulls, terns & skuas were noted. From the Barra on the north bank we headed inland on well surfaced road. We spent all day travelling to Georgetown Island making many stops along the way to view a wide range of species in many different habitats.




Pearl-spotted Owlet


Grasshopper Buzzard



Babboon

Yellow-crowned Gonolek

Saturday 2oth was spent visiting may sites along the track to Tendaba Camp. The highlight was a visit to Jally Rice fields where we saw Painted Snipe, Black Crake, Gabar Goshawk, Pygmy Goose & African Fish Eagle.
Tendaba Camp was incredible, it sits on the bank of the river and has the most idyllic setting.

Friday, December 17, 2010

3 WEEKS IN THE GAMBIA - PART 1

3 WHOLE WEEKS IN THE GAMBIA - WOW!!!!! ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! WONDERFUL BIRDING, LOVELY PEOPLE, SUPERB HABITATS AND A PLETHORA OF BIRDS.



this is the first of a series of short reports from the whole 3 weeks, many photographs and film clips will be shown - watch this space don't miss any!

Group 1 - 16th - 23rd November



African Golden Oriole

From the moment we stepped off the plane to the hour spent in the departure lounge on the last day - it was wall to wall birds.

The group was made up of 10 UK clients, myself, our local guide Modou and Noah (with his bus- the ark) our driver.

From the airport to the hotel we spent an hour stopping every few yards to look at new species:
A walk in the wonderful gardens of the hotel produced 20+ species - we logged 45 species on day 1, with only having 3 hours of daylight that was amazing!


The next 3 days was spent discovering local sites only the coast, we looked at open creeks, rice fields, coastal forest, beaches, woodland savannah and 'sewer works'!

What did we see, well, we listed 182 species in 3 days: here are some of them:



Swallowtail Bee-eater



A collection of Egrets - Cattle, Little,Intermediate & Great


Little Bee-eater

One of the first places we visited was the Koto Creek, we stopped on the famous bridge and listed about 25 species, the most common was the Pied Kingfisher:



Incredible - a flock of Pied Kingfishers

Next we tracked along the 'Casino Track' and our final destination for that first morning was the local Sewer Farm:





Red-billed Firefinch


African Jacana

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 12th - Essex Goosanders

My first Birding excursion since my return from the GAMBIA on the 7th! details of the Gambian Tours to follow.

A walk along the river Chelmy just outside of Chelmsford in Essex produced an unexpected group of Goosanders. The birds flew off when they saw me and were hardly approachable. however I noticed that the birds flew into town!!! So I walked through the busy town centre and found a boating pool in the middle of a small park. There were an amazing 12 Goosanders there, they were much more obliging and although they stayed in the centre of the partly-iced pool I managed to digi-bin a few of them.






































Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NOVEMBER 10th - Somerset day out

Oh to be away from England now that November is here! Since we arrived last Sunday it has been windy, wet, dull and cold' why would I ever want to come back for good. Well Wednesday is the answer, what a lovely day, clear blue sky, unbroken sunshine, beautiful colours and fantastic scenery. I planned a day out with my friend Brian and we certainly picked the right day.

We met at 8:30am in the centre of Crewkerne, Somserset and drove to a site just north of Wells where we hoped to get a rare sighting of a Tree Sparrow. It was very cold as we walked the track to look for the bird but the sun was warming us up. We had great views of Bullfinch, Fieldfare, Raven and lots of common species before we had our one and only brief sighting of the sparrow, but still, that was enough.


Red-necked Grebe



Next we drove to Chew Valley lake and took a visit to the Stratford Hide where hundred of birds could be seen. The best of which were Slavonian Grebe, Pintail, Goosander, Goldeneye and a male Sparrowhawk flashing by. There was also good numbers of Teal, Wigeon, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall, Gt Crested Grebes and Common Coot. On the shore we found lapwing, Dunlin, Linnets and Meadow Pipits.


Lapwing - used to be called Green Plover - see why?


We ate our picnic lunch in the car whilst watching a party of Long-tailed Tits, we then moved on to Cheddar reservoir passing through the famous gorge on the way. The water was quite low but there was still a huge concentration of wildfowl and gulls. We picked out two Whooper Swans amongst the many Mute and we soon located our target bird the Red-necked Grebe in the distance. We walked a fair distance round the perimeter of the reservoir to get a better view and on our return we found the other 'goody' a Red-breasted Merganser.


Common Kestrel

finally we drove into the centre of the 'Levels' at Ham Wall hoping for a spectacular display from the roosting starlings. The weather was just perfect, no wind, clear sky, a lovely setting sun but alas, although the birds did come in to roost in their thousands, they simply dove for cover on arrival, no display. We also noted Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Common Snipe and of course 500,000 starlings.

A fitting end to a lovely day out in Somerset.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

NOVEMBER 4TH - GRIFFON VULTURE


A bit of excitement today as i was called by my friend Jorrian to tell me that an injured Vulture was wandering round in the grounds of a finca situated just behind the castle.

It took the two of us about 20 minutes to get there and round up the poor bird. It couldn't fly but we could not see any visible injury. Jorrian called a local bird sanctury and they collected it later in the afternoon. They said that there was nothing wrong with the bird except that it was exhausted and after a few days of recuperation it will be fine and released at a local feeding station.


The bird had rings on both legs and I am in the process of finding the details of where and when it was ringed.

Watch this space for more info.

6pm.
Just heard back from France with the following message:

This vulture was born in France in Grands Causses (Cévennes). He(it) was ringed in the nest on 25/05/2010 in Tarn Gorge, municipality "les Vignes" Département "Lozère". Region "Languedoc Roussillon". He(it) had not been observed here after his(its) flight.

SO A HAPPY ENDING TO MY STORY OF THE DAY


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NOVEMBER 3RD - GAUCIN


The weather remains glorious, clear sky, no wind, unbroken sunshine. From our top terrace this afternoon we sat in lovely afternoon temperatures reading and sipping cool drinks.




The local palm trees are laden with fruit, Blackcaps are eating the berries whilst Chiffchaffs are feeding on the insects around them. Griffon Vultures drift over now and then and Black Redstarts are becoming increasingly more common. the local Blue Rock Thrushes are in fine song.

Monday, October 25, 2010

OCTOBER 25TH - DAY TOUR - SERRANIA DE RONDA AM. - SOTO GRANDE PM

After a day off following the 7-day tour of Coto Donana & Extremadura I was back at 'work' leading a day tour locally to our home base in Gaucin.

It was quite cloudy to start with and quite chilly but by lunch time is was hot with a clear sky. David & Olga & I set off at 9am after breakfast at our home in Gaucin, we drove directly northward towards Ronda. We picked up Rock Sparrow, Griffon Vulture, Sparrowhawk & Blue Rock Thrush before we stopped at a roadside pull-in just north of Atajate. We walked along a walled section of the road which overlooked a valley of scrub and rugged-rocky outcrops. There were many birds flitting around which included; Black Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Blue Rock Thrush, Red-legged Partridge, Ring Ouzel, Rock Sparrow & Red-billed Chough.

Next we stopped at the Dolmen's Encinas de la Borrachas where a track leads across a large open valley. the whole area is strewn with rocks, scrub, a couple of man-made pools. The whole area was full of birds, large flocks of Linnets, Goldfinches and Corn Buntings were joined by Meadow Pipits and Stonechats.

Further down the track we watched Thekla Larks, a Little Owl and we heard a Woodlark singing in the midday sunshine. Scanning the high limestone ridge we found Peregrine Falcon, Griffon Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush & Black Wheatear.

We spent the next two hours walking the streets of Ronda doing the tourist bit (finding Red-billed Chough, Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin and Common Kestrel). By 2 pm we were back in Gaucin enjoying a tapas lunch.

For the afternoon I took Pam out, she is also staying with us at Gaucin and wanted to visit a couple of coastal sites. We stopped at Sierra Crestellina on the way down to the coast. Up to 40 Griffon Vultures were in the sky as were Crag martins, Kestrels and small flocks of Goldfinch & Corn Buntings. We failed to find Bonelli's Eagle or Cirl Bunting both of which were on our target list.



At the coat we spent a couple of hours walking around the reserve at Torreguadiaro. It was a lovely time, many Crag martins and Barn swallows were hunting insects over the water as Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Little Egret. Mallard and a single Teal messed about in the water. Two good sightings were of a Purple Swamphen and a Little Bittern, it will be interesting to see if the bittern decides to spend the winter here?



Walking around the boardwalk to the beach we found Stonechat, Crested Lark, Chiffchaff, Spotless Starling and a flock of Monk Parakeets flew over us whilst we were watching Northern Gannets and Balearic Shearwaters just offshore.

On the return journey we stopped to scan a gull flock on the beach which contained 500+ birds, mainly Yellow-legged but also Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls. Another stop at Crestellina on the way up to Gaucin gave us a very brief view of Bonelli's Eagle but it disappeared over the ridge and failed to return. It was now 7pm, the sun was still warm and bright but we had to get back to join the others for dinner.

THIS DAY TOUR CONCLUDED THE 'WINGSPAN' 2010 SEASON IN SPAIN (UNLESS NEW WORK COMES IN OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS). WE ARE TRAVELING BACK TO THE UK ON 6TH NOVEMBER IN PREPARATION FOR THE TWO TOURS TO THE GAMBIA COMMENCING ON 16TH NOVEMBER.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

OCTOBER 23RD – DAY 8 - COTO DONANA & EXTREMADURA TOUR

Santa Clemente to Gaucin with stops at Rio Ruesa, Vegas Altas & Alenge Castle in Extremadura and Montejaque in Andalucia.

It was 9 am as we left our charming guest house in Sante Clemente it was colder than normal and a thick cloud base was covering half of the sky. We headed south through Zorita and stopped near the rice fields at Madrigalejo. This was a repeat of two days ago as we were trying to get better views of Penduline Tit. We failed to see our target bird but had plenty of others, Long-tailed Tit, Cetti's Warbler, Kingfisher Common Crane, White Stork, Chiffchaff, Common Waxbill and Red Avadavat we all seen well and we had the added bonus of seeing an Otter very close below us.



A brief stop at an old bridge near Vegas Altas produce Water Rail (2), Hoopoe (2), more Common Cranes and huge flocks of Spanish Sparrows. Our stop we ended abruptly when a Rice harvester came along the along bridge and demanded By its shear size) that everything got out of its way or it would push us over the edge!

We popped into the beautiful town of Merida to buy our lunch and then headed for the huge reservoir at Alenge and its castle ruins. We ate our lunch near the dam and watched Crag Martins, Grey Heron, Gt Crested Grebe, Jackdaws, Red Kite, Hen harrier (flew high over us) and then we a magnificent pair of Bonelli’s Eagle drifted over the hill side behind us. Another bonus was a sighting of Rock Bunting which had eluded us throughout the tour. We drove around to the other side of the rocky outcrop to see if we could relocate the eagles. We never found them but we added Griffin Vulture, Common Kestrel, House Martin & Willow Warbler to the day list.

After a 3 hour drive we passed Sevilla and set off for Ronda, just before the toewn we turned off the main road and took the scenic route back to Gaucin. We stopped at a picturesque spot not far from Montejaque where we looked for Cirl Bunting and found only finches, Chaffinch, greenfinch, Goldfinch and Serin. We made it to Gaucin by 5pm and relaxed before enjoying a delicious dinner washed down with a glass of local wine!

Friday, October 22, 2010

OCTOBER 22ND – DAY 7 COTO & EXTREMADURA TOUR

Santa Marta de Magasca (open plains) – Rio Almonte – Casares Plains – Embalse de Talavan – Rio Almonte

We got the usual bright and chilly start to the day but it did cloud over and the temperature was decidedly cooler. We set off towards Casares from Trujillo and stopped along the road to Santa Marta de Magasca where open grass fields stretched as far as the eye could see. Soon we located a group of Great Bustards that steadily walked away from us and on a distant ridge we could see a large party of sandgrouse. In the excellent morning light we could see that they were all Pin-tailed Sandgrouse 66 of them!


Our journey throughout the rest of the morning was across a bumpy track that took us across the plains of Casares, what a joy that was. We stopped many times to scan the fields where thousands of larks appeared, the most abundant was the Calandra Lark but we saw many Crested, Sky and Thekla Larks. They were joined by thousands of Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipits, Japwings and we also saw many Hoopoes, Northern Wheatear, Red Kites and the odd Hen Harrier. Ravens and Jackdaws flew over occasionally and Spotless Starlings appeared in their hundreds, Towards the end of the bumpy track we found a party of Black-bellied Sandgrouse, some 25 flew across a ploughed field and was lost to sight, two landed within scoping distance and provided our best sighting. A Hen Harrier then flew across the field. scattering the larks, it attempted to catch one or two of them without success.

At the large bridge over the Rio Almonte we found Black Wheatear (3), Crag Martin (5), Rock Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush, Serin, Common Sandpiper (3) & Grey Wagtail, this tall brdige and surrounding rocky, steep-sided banks of the Rio Almonte is always a nice place to visit.

The Emblase Talavan still held a little water which was being appreciated by a number of wader species, we found Common Snipe, Black-winged Stilt, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Common & Green Sandpipers. A few ducks were also there, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Pintail, Egyptian Geese? (don’t know why they were there), Great Crested & Little Grebes all on the water. We also noted Cormorant, Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron & Little Egret. Just beyond the shoreline in the grass and scrub there were Meadow Pipits, White Wagtail, Spanish Sparrow, Cetti’s Warbler & Zitting Cisticola.

As we left the embalse we stopped along the roadside to watch a very large eagle that was circling over a nearby field, it turned out to be an adult Golden Eagle!!! We still hadn’t located a Spanish Imperial Eagle on this trip but now we had seen 2 Golden Eagles. This one flew across the road and perched on a pylon, wow! Just as I focused the scope on it, it did the usual trick of flying off and soaring so high that it disappeared from sight – why do they do that?

The return journey was littered with stops the most significant was at the Rio Almonte between Torrejon and Trujillo where we found Southern Grey Shrike, Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Serin, White Wagtail & Common Buzzard.

Well that wrapped up our final day in Extremadura, a slight diappointment fo me as we failed to locate Spanish Imperial Eagle and we missed White-rumped Swift by 1/2 hour! However we had some great sightings and the most glorious weather.We returned to our lovely guest house in Sante Clemente ans settled down to a glass of wine and a tasty dinner.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

OCTOBER 21ST – DAY 6 COTO DONANA & EXTREMADURA

Torrejon el Rubio – Monfrague National Park - Rio Almonte

Unabated sunshine after a chilly start with temperatures reaching 80F! We set off at 8:30am heading north through Trujillo and onto Torrejon el Rubio. A short detour was made to try and see Spanish Imperial Eagle at their nest site just outside of the town. We failed to see the eagle but enjoyed a nice hour watching such species as: Rock Sparrow, Thekla Lark, a surprising Woodchat Shrike, Serin, Mistle Thrush and Griffon Vultures.



Monfrague park was our all-day venue and we arrived about 10;30am at the Castillo de Monfrague, it was still a bit chilly with a cold breeze at the top. There were many Hawfinches flying around and we had great views of them. Many Girffon and Black Vultures littered the sky and at one stage a Peregrine joined them. Red-billed Chough made brief appearances and Black Redstart, Blue-rock Thrush, Red-legged Partridge and Crag Martin all added to our enjoyment.

Woodlark


At Pena Falcon a little further on into the park we saw more of the same but a little closer. We then drove into Villareal where we sat and ate our picnic (with about 1,000 school children – noisy beggers!). driving round to the dam we stopped to watch a singing Woodlark which had positioned itself just above the road and sang beautifully to all that passed beneath it. Just above the dam we parked in a mirador (view-point) and after throwing out stale bread we watched many Azure-winged magpies. A walk into the pine woods produced Jay, Crested Tit, Gt. Spotted Woodpecker, Cirl Bunting, Hawfinch and lots of vultures.

The rocky outcrop at Gitana was covered with Griffon Vultures they all took to the air on occasion and were joined by Black Vultures, magnificent sight. We added Rock Bunting, Long-tailed Tit, Little Egret, Cormorant and Two-tailed pasha (butterfly) to our list. After an hour or so of searching for eagles and eagle owl we decided to walk the cork woodlands just along the road. It was very hot but the shade of the trees helped somewhat. We found Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush, Raven overhead and Nuthatch in the trees before we left.

On the return journey we stopped at the bridge over the Rio Almonte where we watched Crag Martins, White Wagtails, Lapwing, Whinchat, Southern Grey Shrike and several Meadow Pipits. We added Common Crane to our day list as we approached Trujillo which finalised our days sightings.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

OCTOBER 20TH – DAY 5 COTO DONANA & EXTREMADURA TOUR

Santa Clemente (local lanes) – Belen Plains – Madrigalejo rice fields – Rio Pizzaro

The high pressure continues with another glorious, cloudless hot day! We set off for a walk just after breakfast at 8:30am, taking the lane near Finca Santa Marta. The bushes were full of Blackcaps, we counted 50 in just a small section! Other migrants in number were Song thrush, Robin and White Wagtail. Some local specialities were also found with Hawfinch, Rock Sparrow and Hoopoe taking the biscuit.




We drove the short distance to Belen where vast tracts of open grassland cover a seriously big area. We found Thekla, Calandra, Crested & Skylarks and more Hoopoes (3) two of which were singing!! It took a while but we located, first a single Great Bustard (flying passed) and then party of some 28 Little Bustard, they were very well camouflaged on the ground but easily seen in flight. Other birds of interest were Red Kite (10), Raven (2), Little Owl (2), dozens of Lapwings and good numbers of Griffon Vultures with a couple of Black Vultures.

We then drove into Trujillo to pick up our supplies for lunch and made our way to a disused bridge just outside of the town. We watched Kingfisher, several Chiffchaff, Serin and Green Sandpipers on the river Magasca during lunch.

Finally we decided to spend the rest of the day at the rice fields just outside Madrigalejo and what a lovely time we had there. As soon as we got out of the car we found good numbers of European Tree Frogs, these bright green little gems stood out a mile as they slept on the stems of sedges.


Common Waxbill

Lastly we visited a bridge over the Rio Piszzaro just a couple of kilometres north of Madrigalejo where the clear water drifts slowly through masses of reeds, sedges and reed-mace. This a known haunt for Penduline Tit. It took us an hour to get a nice male and in the meantime we found a lot more Waxbills and Avadavats, a Southern Grey Shrike, Cetti’s Warbler, over 40 Azure-winged Magpies, Common Buzzard, more Cranes, Blackcap, Kingfisher and several other species. We stayed 2 hours and thoroughly enjoyed a sunny afternoon bird-watching in a superb area.

OCTOBER 19th – DAY 4 COTO DONANA & EXTREMADURA TOUR

Matalascanas – Acebuche – El Rocio – EXTREMADURA – Presa Sierra Brava – Zorita

Today was our transfer day so our birding was interrupted by a 4 hour drive from Coto Donana to Extremadura. It was another super day, all day sunshine and great temperatures throughout apart from a chilly start.

We left our hotel in Matalascanas and made the 5km trip to Acebuche visitor’s centre where we spent an hour or so watching the antics of the Azure-winged magpies in the car park! A visit to some of the hides was rewarded with some fantastic views of Kingfisher, Common Snipe and a very obliging Water Rail. In the middle distance across the pools and reed-beds we watched Red Kites, Green Sandpiper, Southern Grey Shrike, Common Buzzard & Little Egret.

At El Rocio the ‘new’ visitor centre and watch point is still not open after nearly 2 yrs of completion! So we watched from the fence which did not afford much of a view. Distant birds included Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, Greater Flamingo and lots of the common ducks. We left for Extremadura at 12:15pm.

Our jouney was uneventful except for seeing many Red Kites and a ‘kettle’ of White Storks with Griffon and Black Vultures. We stopped at the dam and reservoir just south of Zorita where we were astounded at the sight of so many ducks. There must have been between 6-8,000!! These were mainly Mallard and Shoveler but there were also Great crested Grebe (100+) & Greylag Geese. From the dam we looked down to see Squacco Heron, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Hoopoe, Jackdaw (55) and our first Great Bustard. Another stop in the open fields near Zorita produced many Lapwing, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark & Peregrine Falcon.

It was now getting on for 6pm so we made the last leg of journey northward to Santa Clemente where we are staying for 4 nights, in the garden we found Song Thrush, Blackcap and Robin before retiring for the day.

OCTOBER 18TH – DAY 3 COTO DONANA & EXTREMADURA TOUR

Matalascanas cliffs (sea-watch), Huelva – Laguna Primera de los Palos – Marismas de O’Diel – El Portil – La Rompido (Rio Piedras)


It was a chilly start to another perfect-weather day, clear blue sky, wall to wall sunshine and barely a breeze. We wore fleeces as we watched out to sea from the cliffs just west of the hotel and it took sometime before things got moving. Lesser-black Gulls lined the beach and were joined by a single Audouin’s Gull and over the next 30 minutes we logged Wheatear, black Redstart, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff around the beach area and on or over the sea we saw: Northern Gannet, Common Scoter, Sandwich Tern, Greylag Goose (9), Common Shelduck (18), Great Skua, Great White Egret (2), Mediterranean Gull and Sanderling.

Journey birds en-route to Huelva included Azure-winged Magpie and Hoopoe. At the Laguna de los Palos we found many duck species but not the expected Red-knobbed Coot!

The Marismas de O’Diel was packed with thousands of birds, the tide was just rising so plenty of movement was noted. We visited the Laguna at Calatilla and the adjacent saltpans which provided us with a good variety of waders, gulls and ducks.

Large numbers of waders included: Redshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Little Stint, Sanderling, Common Snipe, Bar & Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Whimbrel, & Common Sandpiper. There were also Greater Flamingo’s, Spoonbill, White Stork, Little Egret, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Wigeon, Common Pochard, Teal, Gt. Crested Grebe, Little Grebe & Black-necked Grebe (43).

Passerines included Northern Wheatear, Cetti’s Warbler, Blackcap, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff & Common Redstart.

We spent a little time sea-watching down by the lighthouse and found a couple more Great Skua, Common Scoter (13), Greylag Geese (7) and lots of Gannets. A Hen Harrier flew in off the sea just as we were leaving. On the return journey to the main road we stopped to watch an Osprey eat a fish and had several sightings of Marsh Harriers.

After picking up supplies for lunch we stopped at the Laguna at El Portil, much of the same was noted on the water but we did find 6 Chameleons in the tamarisk! We ate our lunch in the shade of the Umbrella Pines and watched Blackcap, Firecrest, Robin, Black Redstart, Willow Warbler & Chiffchaff.

Our last venue for the day was the salt marsh at La Rompido on the east bank of the Rio Piedras. The tide was high and just about to turn so we concentrated on the heath where we had excellent sightings of Dartford Warbler, Whinchat, Bluethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Common Redstart and several Song Thrushes.

As the tide receded more and more waders came to feed, we added Kentish Plover to the list and found our target bird of the river, Caspian Tern!

A brief stop at Laguna de los Palos on our way back to the hotel produced two trip ticks with a fly-over Booted Eagle (and another Osprey which put up all the gulls) and Purple Swamphen which performed admirably in the reeds.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

October 17th – DAY 2 COTO DONANA & EXTREMADURA TOUR

Coto Donana -El Rocio- Corredoe de Verde- Dehesa Abajo – Jose Valverde Centre

Another glorious day, bright clear sky, all day sunshine, no wind, just perfect! We set off at 8:30 from our hotel in Matalascanas stopping briefly to scan the beach for gulls, we had seen Audouin’s Gull from our rooms but couldn't relocate it. Sanderling were doing their stuff by chasing the waves out to sea and then running away from them when they broke on the shore. Several very dark and nasty-looking Lesser Black-backed Gulls looked on, not amused.

We drove the short distance to El Rocio where we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise over the Laguna. The mist rose steadily from the water as a yellow light, back lit all the horses and birds on the Laguna, photographs could not do the scene or the colours any justice.

At the Corredor de Verde we made many stops to search for various species but there was a lot of hunting and shooting going on and a bike race sped passed us several times. We logged Hoopoe, Night Heron, Red Kite, hundreds of finches and Corn Buntings, Cattle Egrets, Tree Sparrows, Common Buzzard, Gt. Spotted Woodpecker and on a Laguna we found Eurasian Teal, Northern Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall, Pochard and many Common Coots.

The Laguna at Dehesa de Abajo held many birds but, as usual, they were very far away. Some close up species included a single Squacco Heron, over 20 Night Heron, Black-winged Stilt and a couple of Kingfishers. After some disturbance at the far back many birds flew over us which included Eurasian Spoonbill, White Stork, Avocets, Marsh Harrier and Jackdaws. In the scrub we found Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff & Willow Warbler. We took lunch alongside a reed-bed where we found Common Waxbill, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Stonechats and thousands of dragonflies.

We noticed that the rice harvest was well underway and we didn’t have to drive far to find a tractor ploughing the rice fields after a harvest. The fields were jam packed with birds, in one field alone we counted 500 Glossy Ibis, 200 Little Egrets, 250 cattle Egrets and over 1,000 Black-headed Gulls. There were also Yellow Wagtail, Green Sandpiper, Lapwing, White Stork and Grey Herons, what a spectacle (see the film clip below).

We finally made our way towards the Valverde visitor’s centre, the tracks across the marshes were in excellent condition and we made good headway. Many stops produced lots of Marsh Harriers, Red Kites, Spoonbills, Black Stork, Common Shelduck (4) was a good find, many Northern Wheatears, Common Redstarts and Black Redstarts, White Wagtails & Corn Buntings.

There was still some water in the large Laguna situated 500 meters north of the centre and this was covered with birds. The highlights of which were:- Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, black-winged Stilts, Spoonbills (an impressive 106), Great White Egrets (3), hundreds of Shoveler, Teal, Cormorants, White Storks, Black Stork (2), Purple Heron (1) and Great Crested & Little Grebes.

After a coffee at the centre, where we watched a Wild Boar, we searched the track that led to El Rocio but only driving as far as the ‘Green Gate’, we found good numbers of Goldfinches, Wheatears, Linnets, Corn Buntings, Serins, White Wagtails and we had distant views of Calandra Larks.

On the return journey we clocked up 10 different species of raptor! Staring with Black-winged Kite, we quickly added Lesser Kestrel, Marsh & Hen Harriers, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Short-toed Eagle, Red Kite, Griffon Vulture and the icing on the cake was a superb 1st year Golden Eagle. It circling from just above the marsh to about 1,00ft along with 9 Marsh harriers and 1 Hen harrier, what a great sight and in excellent light.

Our homeward journey was brightened up with talk of the 'Golden bird' of the day.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

OCTOBER 16TH - DAY 1 COTO DONANA & EXTREMADURA TOUR


Our first day proper of our 7 day tour of Coto Donana & Extremadura! We set off from Gaucin at 9am and headed north west through the Libar valley towards Ronda and Sevilla. We stopped several times to look for montane species and soon we were rewarded. Blue Rock Thrush, Griffon Vultures, Black Redstart, Crag Martin, Red-billed Chough & Spanish Ibex, were all seen in the valley just above Benaojan. There was also a steady stream of Meadow Pipits passing overhead.

Thekla Larks - near Montejaque

We stopped next along a track just passed Montejaque, this is one of my favourite walks having the most beautiful scenery. We watched several Black Wheatears, lots of Griffon Vultures, Thekla Larks, Willow Warblers, many Chiffchaff, brief views of Cirl Bunting and another Sparrowhawk. We stopped to talk to a hunter as he returned from his morning's killing spree, he had 3 dead Quail hanging from his belt and was very proud to tell us where he shot them!!

We still had a long journey ahead of us so we set off in earnest for Sevilla only stopping for a picnic just before entering the city boundary. Some 30 minutes later we were passed sevilla and back into countryside on the outskirts of Donana. we turned off the autovia and stopped at a pine forest near Hinojos. Birding was hard but we managed to see Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Blackcap, Azure-winged Magpie, Raven and a Chiffchaff.

El rocio was our next stop, with the sun behind us the light was terrific to scan the Laguna Madra de la Marismas. Despite the birds being quite far off, due to the water level being a little on the side, we still managed a good list. A few hundred Greylag Geese were joined by hundreds of Shoveler, dozens of Greater Flamingos, little & Cattle Egrets, Pintail, Wigeon, mallard, Coot, Lapwing, Ruff, Ringed & Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper & Black-winged Stilt. We walked south along the fence and looked from the old bridge where we added Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Common Snipe, Avocet, Zitting Cisticola & Kingfisher. As we returned to the car park we saw 37 Griffon Vultures climbing the late-afternoon thermals, a Pied Flycatcher and several Stonechats.

The drive to our final destination, Matalascanas, was along a fast straight road but we saw more Azure-winged Magpies, Common Buzzard, Black-billed magpie, Corn Bunting and a possible Southern Grey Shrike.

OCTOBER 15TH - GAUCIN & RIO GUADIARO AT EL COLMENAR

The group spent the day in and around Gaucin today, a rest day before our epic journey to Coto Donana & Extremadura.

At 9am a walk to the cemetery and the adjacent parkland was both refreshing and enjoyable. The sun was up in a clear sky and the first bird sighting was a singing Blue Rock Thrush which was located as it sat on the castle ramparts above us in full song. We then found a few migrants, Pied Flycatcher, Black Redstart, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff & Robin. A couple of Chough called from the crags behind the castle as we walked up the steps, we eventually saw them fly off from below us.

After lunch we drove down to Rio Guadiaro at El Colmenar where we spent a lovely couple of hours strolling along the river in the afternoon sunshine. Our best birds were a single Hawfinch (fem) sitting in a dead tree, a scope view of a very distant Hobby which was hawking insect on the wing and a Raven. Along the river we saw the usual White & Grey Wagtails, plenty of Chiffchaffs, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Serin and lots of Robins. We finshed early so that we could pack ready for our trip to Donana.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

OCTOBER 14TH - GUADALHORCE & SIERRA CRESTELLINA


I collected David, Olga & Pam from Malaga airport at 1pm (the last time I went to the airport it was in jubilation as I dropped the mother-in-law off), the weather was fantastic, clear blue sky, very warm and a nice breeze, perfect.
We drove the short distance to Guadalmar where we stopped to assemble scopes and prepare our bins and cameras. Pam walk 20 meters ad found a Hoopoe, great start. We then walked up onto the raised bank on the west side of the Guadalhorce natural park. from our vantage point we sat and ate our picnic lunch whilst logging many species. Monk Parakeets were collecting twigs for their massive nests, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinain Warbler, Serin, Common & Spotless Starlings, Greenfinch, Northern Wheatear & Cormorant were some of the first birds we saw.

As we walked down to the beach we added quite a few species, there were many gulls bathing in the channel, they were mainly Black-headed but also yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed. We also noted two Black Terns that were constantly dipping into the water to bathe. On the shoreline we watched Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Crested Lark and a couple of Yellow Wagtails flew over.

Our walk along the beach to the first hide gave us good views of Northern Gannet, Mediterranean Gull, Marsh Harrier, sparrowhawk and Kestrel. From the hide which overlooked the laguna mejor, we didn't add many new species but what was there was excellent! A Temminck's Stint fed on a small island, lots of Little Grebes loafed around and small flock of Wigeon (my first for the winter) swan in the distance. We had better close views of Marsh Harrier, an Osprey was perched in the middle distance and Kingfishers flew by several times.

From the next hide we found several ducks which included our target species the White-headed Duck, great to have that one on the list. We also saw Shoveler, Teal, Common Pochard and lots more Little Grebes. On the way back to the car we added Spotted Flycatcher, a very distant Booted Eagle and plenty more finches and parakeets.

We drove for an hour and in the mountains, on the way up to Gaucin, we stopped at Sierra Crestellina where we searched for and failed to find Bonelli's Eagle. however we did have great views of 'stag' Spanish Ibex, many Griffon Vultures were drifting about and a good number of Crag Martins fed on the wing near the rock face.

We arrived in Gaucin at 6:30pm with just enough time to wash-up for our chicken roast dinner, lovely jubbly!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

OCTOBER 13TH - DAY TOUR - GAUCIN-CASARES BEACH-SOTO GRANDE-SAN ENRIQUE-PALMONES-PINAR DEL REY-SIERRA CRESTELLINA


Rob from the USA is staying with us for a couple of nights and joined me on this superb day out. We also collected Caroline & Paul from Estapona, they are from the UK on a two week holiday. The sky was clear dark-blue and the sunrise was very colourful as we set off from Gaucin down the mountain to the coast. After collecting Caroline & Paul we stopped at the beach area near Casares, the light was improving as the sun rose higher, many Gannets fished off-shore as did a few Sandwich Terns. We noted hundreds of gulls following a trawler and we had both Common & Spotless Starlings side by side in the scope. Along the shoreline we found Turnstone, Common Sandpiper a fly-by Grey Wagtail. Further along, the track climbed high and we overlooked a rocky shoreline where several Northern Wheatear sat in the morning sunlight, other sightings included a Whinchat, Serin, a flock of Linnets, Sardinian Warbler, a Willow Warbler and a lovely Common Redstart. Best of all, alone Audouin's Gull sat on a nearby rock. Not a bad start at all.

At Soto Grande we walked along the boardwalk around the laguna Camelias, our first birds were Crag Martins flying over the water with Barn swallows and House Martins. In and around the pool we saw Coots, Moorhens, Purple Swamphen, Little Egrets and a Kingfisher. A Cetti's Warbler called many times but didn't come out to play! Near the beach we saw lots more Northern Wheatears, Whinchats and a couple of Crested Larks. In the tamerisk bushes we watched a small flock of Goldfinches and Spotted Flycatchers fed from the branches, two more Common Redstarts put in an appearance as did a small flock of Spanish Sparrows. We walked inland form the beach and looked over some farmland where Cattle Egrets sat on sheep and a Zitting Cisticloa put in a very brief appearance.

We ate our lunch at the woodland of San Enrique and waited a while before any birds showed up. Eagles were the birds of the hour as we had great views of both Booted and Short-toed varieties.
Then the flock of Tree Sparrows turned up just before our walk to the river. At the river we saw Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail and lots of jumping fish!

Palmones was our afternoon venue, the tide was low and rising and many birds fed on the mudflats on either side of the river. A great selection of waders were on view as well as Spoonbill, Little Egret, White Stork, Grey Heron, Osprey, Short-toed Eagle, Cormorant and Mallard.
The waders included, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Kentish plover, Little -ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Sanderling and Turnstone. Amongst the 60 Sandwich Terns were Black-headed, Mediterranean, yellow-legged & Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A steady stream of Griffon Vultures drifted overhead and we saw a White Stork soaring on the thermals.

Leaving the coast we drove inland to the pine woods at San Roque, we passed many Storks on their nest and on pylons. At the woods we started well with sightings of Firecrest, Blackcap, Blue & Great Tit & Chaffinch. Further walking produced Short-toed Treecreeper, Jay and a calling Common Buzzard.

We drove back to Estapona to drop Caroline & Paul off before stopping at Sierra crestellina to watch for raptors. We watched many Griffon Vultures drifting along the ridge before we found our target birds which were perched high up in a tree. we also found a Rock Sparrow, a great little bird to finish off the day. Rob & I then drove back up the hill to Gaucin where we enjoyed a fabulous chicken tajine made by Dawn and served with TLC!
Wheatears waiting to migrate or just sitting on the fence?

Monday, October 11, 2010

October 11th 2010

A brief update on the last few days. We spent a weekend away from birding at Granada and Cordoba as we celebrated our weddding anniversary and Dawn's birthday, both on the same day! Clever, most men would say, cunning most women would say! Neither I would say as it cost me twice as much as having two separate events!

Anyway, apart from a fantastic weekend of sight seeing and miles of walking up and down steps to Alcazars, Alcazabas, Palaces, Catedrals, Mesquitas and Jardins we saw some birds! An interesting couple of observations were a calling Scop's Owl in the centre of Cordoba and a fantastic Egret roost on the Rio Guadalquiver. We also saw over 2000 ducks, grebes, coots and others on the laguna Dulce at Campillos on the way home.

back to birding tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

OCTOBER 6TH - DAY TOUR - GAUCIN-CORTES-MONTEJAQUE-BENAOJAN

Another glorious day, perfect weather conditions for bird-watching, clear blue sky, no wind and great light. Chris and Dierdre, aka 'Didge' ,were with me for their second day, we decided to set off inland and look for mountainous species after first visiting the river Guadiaro at Estacion de Cortes.

We had a very pleasant walk along the river bank picking out White & Grey Wagtails, Gt. Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotted & Pied Flycatchers, Blackcap and a Common Redstart. We also saw both Common & Spotless Starlings feeding together and my first Song Thrush of the autumn. the Goldfinch flocks have increased further with up to 100 birds in a single flock. Serin, Cirl Bunting, Chaffinch, Greenfinch & many Stonechats added to our enjoyment. Higher up in the trees we found a couple of roosting Grey Herons and in the sky several Griffon Vultures circled above us and a Sparrowhawk flashed across our view, scattering the finches and causing general panic everywhere.




Black Wheatear - male above, female right
We stopped next just before Benaojan and from a high pass we scanned the mountainside. A couple of Blue Rock Thrushes appeared nearby and more vultures drifted along the mountain
tops. On a track just above Montejaque we spent a couple of hours enjoying some great bird-watching. Good close views of Black Wheatear (5) was followed by both Pied & Spotted Flycatchers, Common Redstart, Sardinain Warbler, Rock & Cirl Buntings. We ate our lunch after watching another Sparrowhawk chasing everything in sight, then a Bonelli's Eagle (juv) drifted over us, quite high up but the light was good enough for all of us to have good views.



We then drove round to the 'dam' at Tabniza where we found another Common Redstart in the bushes, a flock of Linnets, more Blue Rock Thrushes, Black Redstart (3), Crag Martin and yes, more Griffon Vultures. Our walk in the cork oak forest only produced Nuthatch, Blue Tit & Chaffinch, but we did find a couple of Red Deer. There were several butterflies on the wing which included, Swallowtail, Cardinal, Cleopatra, large & Small White, Long-tailed Blue, Saffron Skipper, Wall Brown, Meadow Brown and a Grayling sp.

We took a late afternoon coffee at Venta 'La Vega' whilst sitting outside on the terrace in lovely sunshine, we notched over 50 vultures and 2 Alpine Swifts were zooming around with the Swallows and Martins.






On the return trip to Gaucin we stopped a couple of times but didn't add any new species to our day's total. We arrived back home at 6pm having enjoyed a lovely day out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

OCTOBER 5TH - DAY TOUR - GAUCIN-SOTOGRANDE-PALMONES-PINAR DEL REY-SIERRA CRESTELLINA


I collected Chris and Dierdre from the local train station and brought them back for breakfast. We then set off for a day identical to the one I took yesterday with John & Betty and despite Chris being a 'Spurs' fan we got on okay!
What a difference a day makes! The bird sightings were very different despite the weather being almost identical, we had beautiful sunshine all day with very little wind, just a nice cooling breeze.

At Crestellina we saw several Griffon Vultures, Stonechats and Goldfinches, at the top of the mountain we had a sighting of a superb male Spanish Ibex. Then we drove to the Laguna Camelias at Torreguadiaro where we spent a lovely hour or so walking around the pool. from the boardwalk we had good views of Little Egret, Little Bittern (2), Water Rail, Coot Moorhen, little Grebe (11), Kingfisher and both Spotless and Common Starlings together! Along the beach we found Northern Wheatear (4), Whinchat (1) and a single Chiffchaff. A small flock of Monk parakeets flew over and we had reasonable views of several gannets at sea.

We stopped at San Enrique to watch the Tree Sparrows and we were entertained by the Blackcaps and garden Warblers feeding on the figs. A couple of Common Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk and a low flying Osprey were the highlights. We walked to the river and found another Kingfisher, a Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Little Egret and a couple of Grey Herons. In the woods a jay flew across our path and both Cetti's warbler and Blackcap were in fine song!Before we left we scanned the sky for migrating raptors which were prevalent yesterday but non-existent today!

At Palmones we drove into town and parked at the rivermouth to view the sand bar, the tide was extremely high and not much sand was visible. We logged Sandwich Tern
(56), Common Tern (5), Oystercatcher (9), Bar-tailed godwit (7), Knot (1), Med gull (12), Black Headed Gull and a single Ringed Plover.

From the Municipal Park on the other side of the salt marsh we sat in lovely afternoon sunshine and enjoyed watching one of 3 Ospreys trying to catch a fish, (it gave up after 10 attempts)! We also saw Spoonbill (5), Grey Heron (44), Redshank, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Marsh harrier (2), Cormorant (13 and over 30 Cattle Egrets. There was no sign of the 99 White Storks present yesterday and still no raptors in the sky.

We visited the pine woods at San Roque but it was a waste of time as we only found Jay, Cirl Bunting and Chaffinches. Our last stop was at Crestellina, we spent 1/2 hour
looking for Bonelli's Eagles but failed miserably, but we did enjoy watching the vultures as they enjoyed sailing on the last thermals of the day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

OCTOBER 4TH - DAY TOUR - GAUCIN-SOTOGRANDE-PALMONES-SIERRA CRESTELLINA


After a very cloudy and blustery Sunday and torrential overnight rain we awoke to a relatively calm, bright day. John & Betty (shown posing at Palmones with Gibraltar in the background) are staying with us here in Gaucin and joined me for their second day out.

We set off at 9am and headed down the Genal Valley stopping at Sierra Crestellina for a quick look. We notched Raven and Stonechat on the way down and then watched many Griffon Vultures, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, many Goldfinches and a few Serins. Next we drove down to the coast to visit Laguna Camelias at Torreguadiaro near Soto Grande. A good number of Gannets were fishing just off-shore and provided some entertainment as they dove for fish. On the laguna we found Little Egret, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Mallard and Coot. We walked the boardwalk to the beach and found several Whinchats but not much else.


A quick look over the farmland on the landward side of the laguna produced Cattle Egrets and sheep! We could have gone to Somerset for those!!

The next birding stop was a short distance away at San Enrique, a regular stop off for me because of the Tree Sparrow flock found there. We spent a lovely hour there, the sky cleared the sun warmed us up and birds came thick and fast. As soon as we got out of the car 17 Black Storks flew over, wow! They were joined by 2 Booted Eagles, then a couple of Short-toed Eagles flew very low right over us, wow again! We counted Sparrowhawk (4), Common Kestrel (2), Tree Sparrow (25), Whinchat (1), Sardinian Warbler (2) and a Cetti's Warbler sang from the scrub near the river. We ate our picnic lunch whilst watching lots more Eagles (Short-toed and Booted), a Common Buzzard circling in the distance was the last sighting there.

Palmones salt marsh and estuary was next on the list. We drove to the far side (Algeciras), first, to watch the marsh from the elevated position of the Municple Park. As we entered the park we disturbed a Kingfisher we also saw Common & Green Sandpipers.


The view from the hide was tremendous and on the marsh the usual 3 Ospreys were quickly found, along with a Marsh Harrier. most other birds were roosting as the tide was very high, we found Cormorant (2), White Stork (98), Grey Heron (56), Spoonbill (11), Redshank (21), Whimbrel (5), Curlew (1), Oystercatcher (9). In the distance at the river mouth we could see dozens of birds, mainly gulls and terns with some waders. A couple of Little Terns were feeding in the nearest channel and several Common Terns flew over.



We decided to get a closer view of the sand bar by driving to the beach on the same side of the marsh. From our vantage point on the sand dunes we had a much better view. There were Sandwich Tern (68), Little Tern (4), Common Tern (9), Mediterranean Gull (5) but undoubtedly the best sighting was the LESSER CRESTED TERN. This first year bird sat amongst the other terns but was very flighty and soon disappeared, unfortunately the only photograph I took was very blurred so I have included a picture taken a couple of years ago.



We quickly drove to the Palmones side of the river to get a closer look but never relocated the bird. We did however get good views of a number of waders, gulls and terns. Bar-tailed Godwit (7), Ringed Plover (50+), Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Knot, Kentish Plover, Curlew, Whimbrel and Oystercatcher, a great selection but no L-C-Tern.


On the way back to Gaucin we stopped at Sierra Crestellina for a second look for the elusive Bonelli's Eagle and right on cue both of the adults put on a lovely flying display with the assumed male taking a steep dive and hitting a Griffon Vulture that ventured a little too close to the nest site. A great finish to our day-out and what a great time we had in superb weather.