Jan 2nd - 5th - Somerset Levels

Jan 7th - 20th. - Sri Lanka. £1850

Feb 16th - March 3rd Costa Rica - full

Mar 20th - 30th Morocco - 10 nights. - full

April 2nd - 9th - Andalucia migration tour. - full

April 10th - 18th - Coto Donana & Extremadura - £950 - 2 places

April 19th - 27th - Coto Donana & Extremadura - £950 - full

April 28th - 5th May. - Lesvos - full

May 6th - 13th - Portugal - £950 - 4 places

May 15th - 22nd - Northern Greece - full

May 23rd - 30th Bulgaria - £850 - 4 places

May 23rd - 30th - Andalucia birds and butterflies - £850

May 31st - June 7th. - Extremadura and Sierra de Gredos - £950

June 12th - 20th - Pyrenees and Picos de Europa - full



E-mail: bobbuckler49@hotmail.com

Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


John & Karen drove up to Gaucin from the coast and we met just outside the village at 8:40. It was a cloudless morning with a little chill in the air but there was not a stir of wind.

We drove the short distance to Estacion de Cortes and visited one of my favourite spots along the river Guadiaro. It was superb, the sun was coming up over the hills, the air was still and the light was fantastic. We found White and Grey Wagtails on the river, Spotted & Pied Flycatchers were feeding from perches on the Cork Oaks. Large flocks of Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Serins fed on seed in the dry fields and they were joined by a few Cirl Buntings.

Further along the river we found a couple of very obliging Great Spotted Woodpeckers and at the weir we watched a family party of Kingfishers, 5 of them were in view, we also watched a small flock of Rock Sparrows which frequented their usual place near the railway track. Other birds came and went, Stonechats were common, A Cetti's Warbler sang frequently and flocks of Spotless Starlings sat on the telephone wires. as we walked back to the car we added Corn Bunting, Grey Heron, Short-toed Eagle, a flock of some 12 Long-tailed Tits and Nuthatch to our sightings.

We headed up the valley making a couple of stops near Benaojan, one stop produced a bunch of Blue Rock Thrushes (4) and a terrific low flying Bonelli's Eagle (juv) that circled right above showing all its markings to us. Griffon Vultures began to appear as the air warmed. A quick coffee stop at Montejaque was followed by a walk
along a quiet track just north of the town. The terrain was rugged with scattered rocks and bushes some open farmland and huge limestone pinnacles stretched some 100 meters above us. We quickly found several Black Wheatears, we had a brief glimpse of a Rock bunting and more Blue Rock Thrushes appeared.

Our next stop was to eat our picnic lunch whilst over looking a picturesque limestone gorge. A couple of Ravens flew over and the usual Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush and Girffon Vultures were always present.

A short walk after lunch produced Black Redstart, Crag Martin and not much else. We then drove a couple of k's to visit a cork oak forest. We found Nuthatch, lots of Flycatchers and had good views of Red Deer, the Stags were calling in the distance, sounding like foghorns, rutting season is upon us.

We walked from the forest to overlook some field and hedgerows and had an unexpected find of an Ortolan Bunting, we also saw Sardinian Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Great Tit and more White Wagtails.
Our last official stop was The Cueva de Gato, the cave of the cat! Don't ask me! Anyway we were thrilled with the scenery and in the car park lots of fig trees were bearing fruit and many Blackcaps and Garden Warblers were enjoying the figs. A Chifffchaff or two fed on the insects and we devoured a couple of figs too.

The entrance to the cave is simply divine, one of the most picturesque sights in the whole of Andaulcia.

A perfect crystal-clear stream gushes out of the cave and cascades into a lovely deep pool. The water is turquoise blue in colour which comes from the limestone mineral content.
The water is also very cold but it is terrific in the hot summer months to bathe in, it was hot enough to jump in today! Pehaps if the mother-in-law was here I might have pushed her in to cool her down!

We stopped on the return journey but failed to add anything new to our day list. We went back to our house for a coffee on the terrace in the evening sunshine, very pleased with a lovely day out with fantastic weather, John picked out another Blue Rock Thrush that sat on the castle wall behind us! You can never tire of looking at the same species time and time again, can you?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26th - Sierra Crestellina

I spent 2 hours looking at Crestellina from the roadside this morning whilst Dawn went to the market in Sabinillas. It was dull and overcast, 18C with bouts of light rain. Not ideal conditions for raptor watching! My observations were as follows:

Griffon Vulture 20, many of them perched, looking miserable in the rain
Sparrowhawk 4 sightings
Common Kestrel 2
Short-toed Eagle 2,
Booted Eagle 4, both of these last two species were seen in the Genal Valley away from Crestellina
Blue Rock Thrush 2

There was no sign of the pair of Bonelli's Eagles but I did locate their eyrie for future reference!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lesvos - 2011

We are now taking bookings for our tours of Lesvos during April/May 2011.

This beautiful island is a real gem it has fantastic scenery, lovely people, terrific wildlife and a great variety of habitats.


Our tours coincide with the peak migration when thousands of birds stop off on the island on their way to north-eastern Europe and Russia.

we often record over 160 species during our stay which includes many European colourful gems such as Roller, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Golden Oriole & Masked Shrike.

Tour dates for 2011 are Saturday April 23rd - 30th and saturday April 30th - May 7th. We stay at the lovely Pasiphae Hotel situated in the heart of the island and at the hub of all bird-watching outings.

For full details of the tour visit http://www.wingspanbirdtours.com/sevendaytour-lesvos.asp

Our prices are very competitive,we charge £850 + flights of around £150 - £180 you will fly on the same aeroplanes, stay in the same hotel. eat the same food and travel in the same type of mini-buses as many of our competitors, yet you will pay up £500 less!!!

For past trip reports click here http://www.wingspanbirdtours.com/trip-reports.asp

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Thick dark clouds,showers of rain, poor light, they all tried to ruin our day but failed miserably.

George & Viviane are staying with us in one of our apartments and booked a day tour with me, they wanted to watch raptor migration at the coast but the weather put a stop to that, however we had a great day, enjoying every minute between the showers.

We started at Gaucin and drove along the A405 towards Jimena, a couple of stops in quiet country tracks produced a variety of species and as George & Viv are new to bird-watching we concentrated on the common species. Spotless Starlings, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Sardinian Warbler & Common Kestrel were our first birds.

At Jimena we added Little Owl, Zitting Cisticola, Red-rumped Swallow and lots more Corn Buntings. It began to rain so we moved down to the coast, we stopped to admire the White stork colony around Castellar and then visited the salt marshes of Palmones. In brighter weather (although we could hardly see the usually very visible Gibraltar)we watched a good number of birds in this excellent river estuary. The tide was low and about to turn so there were many birds on the muddy banks. Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Redshank, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Avocet, Kentish Plover, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank were slowly picked out in turn for my clients. The bigger, easier birds to identify were Spoonbill, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier and to the delight of my two companions, 3 Ospreys were perched on various posts in the marsh.

The large sandbank near the beach held good numbers of terns and gulls, Sandwich (50+), Little & Common Terns were joined by Black-headed, Mediterranean, Lesser black-backed and yellow-legged Gulls.

We drove round to the Algeciras side of the marsh and decided to take our picnic lunch in the raised hide. We spent a lovely hour in failing light and watched Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Grey Heron (46), White Stork (8) and we were closer to the Ospreys which did fly around but never tried to catch a fish. On the way back to the car we found Common Whitethroat and a few House Martins, it began to rain!

We set off to the east as the rain came in from the west and after 15 minutes we arrived at a dry San Enrique. We stopped at my Tree Sparrow site and quickly found them. The small sewer works nearby attracted many insects and likewise many birds. We had good views of Pied & spotted Flycatchers and Chiffchaff. A fig tree laden with fruit attracted both Blackcaps and Garden Warblers both of which were devouring ripe figs. The sky suddenly got lighter and the air warmed up this encouraged a number of Booted eagles to take to the air. They were joined by Honey Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. We found two Booted Eagles perched in a dead tree but the rain came back and forced us to move on.

A short drive into Soto Grande found us at the beach nature reserve where we logged Northern Gannet, Common Coot, Moorhen and a juvenile Night Heron. Then it started to rain... again. Now we headed back to the west and drove through the rain to arrive at the pine woods at Pinar del Rey. In relatively dry conditions we walked the woods and found very little, Jay, Great spotted Woodpecker, & Great Tit, but the highlight has to a swarm of Booted Eagles above the wood, they were joined by a single Black kite.

We set off for home but made one last stop at Sierra Crestellina near Casares where enjoyed our best sighting of the day. A fair number of Griffon Vultures drifted in and out of the cloud. We watched Crested Lark, Cirl Buntings, a Woodchat Shrike and several Stonechats before the cloud cleared from the mountain summit. Then a large group of vultures took to the air and circled above us, then we noticed two smaller birds in amongst them, they were adult Bonelli's Eagles! We spent 30 minutes watching them as they drifted, perched, dived bombed and harassed the vultures. A great bird to end the day with and I'm not sure that my clients fully understood my great excitement at seeing the eagles!

Despite the rain and poor light conditions we found just under 70 species!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21st - mid-afternon 2-3pm

An hour spent on my top terrace produced the following:

Booted Eagle 19
Short-toed Eagle 2
Honey Buzzard 6
Griffon Vulture 8

I haven't seen or heard a Bee-eater for the last week, so alas, it looks as though they have all gone, bring on the spring!

360 view from my terrace is shown in the video below video made today at 2pm

Sunday, September 19, 2010

SEPTEMBER 19TH - DAY TOUR - Rio Guadiaro Valley

Graham & Eric were my clients for today, they are spending a birding holiday on the coast at Tarifa for the RAPTOR migration. They booked a day with me so that I could show them woodland and montane species.

We met at 8am near San Roque and quickly logged White Stork and Little Owl, the storks were standing on nests and pylons waiting for the daylight to start their day and the owl sat on a pole calling to its mate and getting ready for bed.

We drove the short distance to Pinar del Rey, a large area of Stone Pine with some Eucalyptus and Plane trees. We found several good species but found it difficult to obtain great views as they spent most of their time in the canopy. Firecrest & Crested Tit were two such species but Spotted Flycatcher, Jay, Blackcap, Chiffchaff & Blue Tit were a little more obliging. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called several times but didn't appear and a couple of Ravens flew over the woods as we were returning to the car.

Moving inland the dull clouds began to disperse and the light improved dramatically we stopped just outside of the village of Jimena de la Frontera where we added Zitting Cisticola, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard & Corn Bunting.

As we moved further up the valley we stopped at the river side near Estacion de Cortes, a long walk produced a short list which included 3 Wagtails, Grey, White & Yellow, Cetti's Warbler, Kingfisher, Firecrest, Sardinian Warbler, Pallid Swift, Red-rumped Swallow and a Pied Flycatcher.

Passing through Benaojan we stopped on the road side to watch Blue Rock Thrush, Booted Eagle and a brief glimpse of a Black Wheatear. On a track just above Monejaque we watched a couple of fairly close Black Wheatears and spent some time tracking down a few other passerines such as Common Redstart, Willow Warbler and a short glimpse of a Subalpine Warbler.

During our lunch stop we were entertained by 3 Blue Rock Thrushes chasing one-another all over the place, we heard a fourth singing in the gorge. A couple of Crag martins flew around us and we tracked down a couple of Black Redstarts.

Our last venue of the outward journey found us in a cork oak woodland at the head of the valley, we stayed for an hour or so in quite hot sunshine. We logged Short-toed Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Dartford Warbler and a few other common species.

We drove our way back to San Roque stopping once or twice to look at raptors and we added our last species of the day No. 62 a Cirl Bunting near Castellar

Saturday, September 18, 2010

SEPTEMBER 18TH - DAY TOUR Laguna Medina, Bonanza, Trebujena

What a superb day's birding we had today, the mother-in-law had gone and I was relaxed and refreshed! We totaled 106 species and in the process added some great sightings, we visited some great venues and have memories that we will treasure for a long time.

I collected Richard, Kieran, Darren & Craig from Duquesa at 7:30am, they are staying in our holiday apartment for 3 nights. We had a quick cup of coffee and whilst on the terrace drinking it we notched our first bird, in fact two of them, Blue Rock Thrushes (shown below)! A Great start.

We drove towards Jerez and made a quick stop at San Enrique so that I could show the lads my Tree Sparrow site. The birds turned up on cue and so did an Osprey we also saw Blackcap, Chiffchaff & Common Kestrel.

Making our way to Laguna Medina we stopped several times to watch several species, mainly birds of prey, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle. We also saw a flock of 14 Ravens, many Jackdaws and loads of Red-legged Partridges.

At the laguna Medina we got into the duck flock of some 2-3000 birds!! Mainly Common Coot but also Shoveler, Common & Red-Crested Pochard, White-headed Duck, Gadwall, there were 3 Grebe species, Black-necked, Little & Great Crested, Black-winged Stilt, lots of Little & Cattle Egrets, Squacco herons, Night Herons and a couple of Black Terns were milling about. A Marsh Harrier hunted in the distance and Booted Eagles circled above us. Along the walk to the hide we found several passerines, Common Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Chiffchaff & in the field behind the reserve we found a flock of some 15 Stone Curlews, Crested Lark, Black-eared Wheatear & more Partridges.

Driving towards Sanlucar we stopped at the municipal dump, not to savour the smell but to watch hundreds of White Storks, Gulls & Jackdaws feeding in the muck or roosting on the roof of the shorting shed!

Next stop was on the bank of the mighty Rio Guadalquiver just outside of Sanlucar. We notched a Peregrine, lots of Booted Eagles, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit & Audouin's Gull. The next venue was the best of the day, the Salt Pans at Bonanza, they were packed with birds of many species.

What a great time we had at the pans, we ate our lunch whilst digesting the shear numbers of birds. One pan alone held 400 Avocet with 300 Black-tailed Godwits!

There were hundred of Black-winged Stilts, Dunlin, Sanderling, Little Stint, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper....the wader list goes on we logged 22 species of waders throughout the day.

Other good birds included Osprey, Red Kite, Peregrine, Black Stork, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Slender-billed Gull, Caspian Tern (3), a couple of thousand Greater Flamingos, phew I need a rest........

We dragged ourselves away from the terrific salt pans and visited the small laguna Tarelo just outside of the woods at Algaida. We clocked a couple of new species for the day; Purple Swamphen and a small flock of Common Waxbills! What a nice surprise these little beauties were. we also found a very large Chameleon, the biggest one I have ever seen and a beautiful beast at that. We also saw more White-headed Ducks, several more Night Herons, lots of Shoveler and Pochards.

Driving through the pine woods at Algaida we stopped a few times to look for Azure-winged Magpie but we were driven back by ferocious mosquitos! we found a few flycatchers including Pied but not much else.

Our last stop was also very interesting as we searched the marshes and open lagunas of Trebujena. The star bird here was Marbled Duck, found after quite a search but we saw 9 of them in the end and very well. But most impressive was the number of greenshank (30), black-winged Stilt (300), Mallard (53) and a single Garganey (male in eclipse). Several Yellow Wagtails flitted about and a lone Whinchat was found on a fence wire.

It was now getting late afternoon and ahead of us was a long drive back so we set off via the ice-cream shop.

We added Griffon Vulture on the way home and that ended our fantastic day tour, we arrived home at 7pm well satisfied with our day's birding and fantastic tally.

Friday, September 17, 2010

September 17th - Guadalhorce nature Reserve.

The mother-in-law has gone, long live the mother-in-law! I dropped her off at Malaga Airport this morning at 10:15am, bless. As soon as she has got out of the car I was on way to the Guadalhorce reserve just 5 minutes from the airport.

The weather has turned, autumn is here. we had an electrifying thunderstorm at 4am in Gaucin and it had followed me to Malaga, I could see the clouds gathering in the hills. I parked up and set off into the park via the beach. I love this place there is always a good number of species to see in a variety of habitats.
My first birds as usual were the noisy Monk Parakeets small groups flew here there and everywhere. Little Egret, Common Kestrel, Melodious Warbler, Hoopoe, Northern Wheatear, Crested Lark, Marsh Harrier were all seen on the way to the first hide at Laguna Grande. From the hide there were surprisingly few species, Knot, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Chiffchaff, Zitting Cisticola, Short-toed Eagle & a Peregrine.
A short walk to the next hide, which overlooks Laguna Escondida, got me a soaking, big thunder-spots slapped my face driven at me by a strong wind. By the time I reached the hide the rain had stopped, Murphy's Law I think. From the shelter of the hide I logged Gadwall, Pochard, White-headed Duck, Shoveler, Little Grebe and a glimpse of a Black-headed Weaver, these escaped birds originate from Sub-Sahara Africa and are now breeding here.
The third hide didn't produce much except a meeting with Roger who accompanied me for the rest of the walk. Four eyes are better than two, we added Black-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe, Spoonbill (3), Redshank, Common Teal, another Kingfisher, Kentish and Ringed Plover. The storm seemed to be passing to the north and we had spectacular views of the lightening striking various parts of Malaga (see attached movie).
We walked to the beach-stand for sea-watching and found Mediterranean Gull, Northern Gannet, Balearic Shearwater and a small pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. To complete my circular walk we set off along the beach and turned north back to the first hide. The rain began to come down again, a Whimbrel flew over us and landed in the marsh and we legged it fast to the hide.
A pleasant hour was spent watching the various waders feeding, we added Yellow Wagtail and watched several Honey Buzzards drift down the coastline before we had an aerial display of a Peregrine dive bombing the local Marsh Harrier! The rain stopped and I set off back to the car whilst Roger went to look from another hide.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tree Sparrow - Andalucia - Spain

September 16th - San Enrique & Soto Grande

I took my wife, Dawn and The-mother-in-law to a garden centre in San Enrique which happen to be next door to a good birding place where last week I saw a small flock of Tree Sparrows. It was a dull morning, an overcast sky and there was a light shower of rain. After dropping off my fare I shot round to the woods at San Enrique and within minutes I was digi-filming the Sparrows, result. I also saw several Chiffchaff, a Common Redstart (fem), Spotted Flycatcher, Booted Eagle (5).

We then all drove to our apartment on the coast at Manilva and ate our lunch whilst waiting for a group of 4 birders who were due to arrive at 2pm for a four-day self-guided visit.

They duly arrived and within minutes we were all back in the cars heading for their first birding excursion. I had a 'pass-out' for a couple hours in order to get the lads started on their birding quest. We drove the short distance to Laguna Camelias at Torreguadiaro and took the boardwalk to the beach area.

What a great choice of venue because within minutes we had logged: Monk Parakeet, Zitting Cisticola, Whinchat (2), Little Bittern (2), Red-rumped Swallow (20+), Crested Lark, Melodious Warbler and our star bird a Spectacled Warbler. In the distant sky we logged Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and several flocks of Spotless Starling.

I guided the guys to their next destination, the natural park at Soto Grande, but sadly I had to leave them to it and set off for home with the mother-in-law in tow!

September 15th - Rio Genal

We took a picnic (with the mother-in-law) to sit by the river for a couple of hours at 6pm. The evening sunlight was wonderful, the temperature had dropped to the lower 20's and the air was perfectly still. Bird activity increased around 7pm with Chiffchaff (10), Willow Warbler (2), Spotted Flycatcher (1) being the main migrants whilst many Blue Tits, Goldfinches, Serins, Greenfinches were the main resident sightings coming to bathe.

The two local Cetti's Warblers were very vocal answering each others calls. At around 7pm the nearest one has a habit of flying across the river to feed just a few feet from where we sit. It spends about 15-20 minutes feeding in the undergrowth then it jumps up onto a branch, issues a loud song and then flies back across the river. I filmed it last time on the ground but I am aiming to get it singing on film, watch this space.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spanish Imperial Eagle - a piece of good news!

This article was taken from a local newspaper:

"Officials from the Andalucia Environment Department have announced that this year they have saved 15 chicks born to the endangered Spanish Imperial Eagle. This is a record number and is a sign that this unique programme in Spain to protect the highly endangered species is bearing fruit.

A Common Buzzard gives a juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle some grief near La Janda recently - photo by Martin Murray

The chicks were rescued from situations where they were suffering an extreme risk of death from illness, falling from the nest or the natural phenomenon known as “Cainism” whereby one of the chicks is eliminated so that the stronger may survive.

One of the first chicks to be rescued this year was from an egg that was abandoned in its nest by its parents because of a lack of food. It was successfully hatched in an incubator.

The rescued chicks are taken to San Jerónimo centre in Sevilla where three are undergoing a programme of recuperation and development. The other 12 have been taken to La Janda area of Cádiz where since 2002 the Environment Department has undertaken a programme of reintroduction into the wild. The scheme has led this year to the first pair of Imperial eagles breeding in La Janda.

Since the programme started in 2002 there are now 96 saved Imperial eagles at large. Apart from La Janda they have also been taken to Doñana to reinforce the population there."

Egyptian Vulture - now extinct in Andalucia?

Egyptian vultures extinct

By Nicola Cowell

MALAGA’S last breeding pair of rare Egyptian vultures have been found dead, making the species extinct in the province.

The pair of Alimoche Vultures were found by the Guadalteba reservoir by environmental officers who had been monitoring the critically-endangered species for the last 12 years.

Andalucia’s Association for the Defence of Nature is now looking into the cause of death of the birds, who have already disappeared from various other parts of Spain, including the Canary Islands.

Spokesman Consuelo Atencia said: “We are still waiting to find out the exact cause of death, but we believe the vultures may have been poisoned with chunks of meat containing pesticides.

“If the results show that the birds were poisoned, we will act accordingly.”

It is believed that the installation of a new wind farm and new laws on animal waste may also have made it more difficult for the scavenging birds to find food.

“As well as the risk of them flying into the windmills, farmers are no longer allowed to leave animal waste or carcasses out for them, ” said Atencia. “They must incinerate them instead.”

He continued: “This is in an area where there used to be lots of farms where vultures could feed on animal remains, but now they are going hungry.”

Green group Ecologistas en Action is now calling for a temporary ban on hunting in the area until the cause of death is discovered.

Nine pairs of Alimoche have died in the province since 1998 and Europe’s smallest vulture is dying out at an alarming rate.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wingspan Bird Tours - down by the river, Cetti's Warbler, Pied & Spotted Flycatcher

September 14th - Rio Genal

Just a short, early evening, visit to the river below Gaucin produced a good mix of resident and migrant birds. You could be excused for mistaking this for an English list and it seemed just like any English babbling brook except for the good weather and a Griffon Vulture passing overhead.

Pied Flycatcher, Reed Warbler, Common Redstart, Blackcap, Robin, Long-tailed Tit (4), Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Serin, Cetti's Warbler, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Great spotted Woodpecker & Blackbird.

Also my first pictures of Orthetrum chrysostigma (Epaulet Skimmer) as one settle close by.

Wingspan bird Tours - Spotted Flycatcher

Monday, September 13, 2010

SEPTEMBER 13TH - DAY TOUR - Soto grande - San Enrique - Palmones

my clients today, Susie & Richard, were staying near Estapona so I set off at 7am to meet them at 8am outside their apartment complex. We then drove south west towards Algeciras and made a brief stop at the beach near Casares, from the beach in bad light we logged a few gulls and thats all! In early August, a first for Spain, (Red-footed Booby) passed this very spot!!!

Next we stopped at laguna Camelias in Torreguadiaro, a small body of water, edged by giant reeds with areas of open (dry) marsh adjacent to the beach. The light had improved as the cloud cover began to disperse. Our first five minutes were the best as we quickly found Little Egret, Little Grebe, Purple Swamphen, Moorhen and a Cetti's Warbler called several times. We walked around the laguna using the boardwalk, a gull roost on the beach held a few Lesser Black-backed with the hundreds of Yellow-legged Gulls. We had good views of Spotless Starling, a couple of Whimbrel and a Monk Parakeet before we left the area of the beach to view some open farmland. We spent half an hour seaching the hedegrows and pasture and was rewarded with just four Cattle Egrets!

A short drive found us at San Enrique. on a track near a woodland next to the Guadiaro river. we could see over some citrus orchards and a grass meadow. We found a single Spotted Flycatcher along a fence line and then surprisingly we found a small flock of Tree Sparrows (8) and to the delight of my companions we found a Booted Eagle perched nearby in a dead tree. A walk through the wood produced very little but we enjoyed a hour at the riverside where Little Egrets, Ringed Plover, White Wagtail, Cetti's Warbler, Kingfisher constant trickle of Booted Eagles drifted over.

Our lunch stop was in the 'stone pine' woods near San Roque, the wind had picked up so the shelter of the woods was most welcomed. During our picnic we watched Spotted & Pied Flycatcher and several Chaffinches. A stroll afterwards produced Jay, Short-toed Treecreeper,
Crested Tit and more flycatchers.

For the rest of the afternoon we visited the lovely salt marsh at Palmones, this area has produced good numbers of waders, gulls and terns in the last few weeks and today was no exception. We started on the west bank of the river by walking along the new promenade on the edge of the town. Knot, Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Redshank, Sanderling, Whimbrel & Little Egret were our first sightings. Then we scanned further afield and found an Osprey, Sandwich Tern (60+), Little Tern (2), Common Tern (1), Mediterranean Gull (2), Kentish Plover, Dunlin and to our great delight a party of Greater Flamingo's circled low overhead, they spent 20 minutes making several attempts to land and finally alighted on the laguna near the beach.

Our last stop was on the far side of the marsh, we drove around to Algeciras and parked next to the nature park that is always closed! We found our way to the hide and spent a couple of hours in bright afternoon sunshine, the clouds cleared and the light was terrific. From our raised position we had super views of the marsh and quickly added several new species to our list. The Osprey was much closer now but refused to leave its perch! Oystercatcher (5) was a good find, a single Avocet was a bonus, but we also saw Black-winged stilt, Grey Plover several more Whimbrels, Greenshanks, Redshanks, Plovers & Egrets.

Booted Eagles were constantly flying over and huge flock of White Storks (150+) circled on the thermals, but our last sighting was of a perched Kingfisher which seemed to shine with beauty in the late afternoon sunlight and was a fitting end to our day out.

My bird of the day wasTree Sparrow, the little beauties, I hadn't seen one since my last visit to Donana!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

SEPTEMBER 12TH - DAY TOUR - Gaucin- Jimena - Palmones

A bright and breezy morning, the temperature is now dropping to a nice level, 20C this morning. I collected Deborah & Ian at 8am from the edge of Gaucin and took them onto the A405 towards the coast.

The light improved but the sun was still behind the hills as we stopped along a track some 10km out of the village. We parked in an open valley with gentle slopes on either side of the road, grass and scrub to our right and dense scrub to our left. It took a while for the birds to start showing but when they did we had a great time. Turtle Dove was our first sighting quickly followed by Short-toed Eagle, Stonechat & Woodchat Shrike (juv). A small party of Cirl Buntings fed in the grass near a feeding trough and we had good views of Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redstart (male), Sardinian Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow and Lesser Kestrels (4). A large flock of Bee-eaters flew over just before we left.

Deborah & Ian just before lunch

Our next stop was in the valley just before Jimena, we parked along a track that overlooked vast stretches of grassland holding cattle and horse, in the distance we could see a high wooded ridge and the town of Jimena. A sitting Zitting Cisticola posed for our cameras but our main interest was in the sky where in just 30mins we logged: Griffon Vulture (45), Honey Buzzard (9), Common Buzzard (2), Sparrowhawk (1), Short-toed Eagle (6), Booted Eagle (4), Black Kite (13).

We walked the track to give our necks a rest and found another Woodchat Shrike (juv), Pied Flycatcher, Spotless Starlings and many Stonechats.

Another stop just outside of Estacion de Jimena, produced many Corn Buntings and lots of the raptors listed above. We spent some quality time watching a group of 12 Lesser Kestrels whilst they fed, perched and hovered just across the road from us.
A poor picture of a Zitting Cisticola

A brief stop at a small 'embalse' (man made reservoir), produced a flock of Cattle Egrets and not much else. Our lunch was taken in the pine woods at Pinar del Rey where we enjoyed a picnic whilst watching a Crested Tit. A woodland walk then ensued which gave us Jay, Short-toed Treecreeper, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinch & another Crested Tit.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the very windy salt marshes of Palmones. a decent variety of waders were joined by gulls, herons, egrets and storks. The star bird was Osprey, 2 were present, one of which made a single attempt at catching a fish but gave up due the wind. Amongst the waders noteworthy sightings were Oystercatcher (3), Whimbrel (3), Redshank (22), Knot (5), Sanderling (18), we didn't count the Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Greenshank or Black-winged Stilts.
A good flock of some 50 Sandwich Terns were only slightly outnumbered by White Stork (54).
Many Booted Eagles drifted over, it appeared that the wind was driving them back inland from Gibraltar and our final sighting was a Sparrowhawk which flashed across the marsh putting up all the wader.

A pair of Knots at Palomones

September 11th - Gaucin Rio Genal

An afternoon visit to the river in the Genal valley on a lovely sunny afternoon gave me plenty to look at in the way of migrants. Common Redstart, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Pied & Spotted Flycatcher all put in an appearance.

Some local birds also made it onto the list: Sardinian & Cetti's Warbler, Serin, Red-rumped Swallow and Griffon Vulture.

Spotted Flycatcher

A few nice Dragonflies were on show too: Zygonyx torridus, Trithemis annulata, Crocothemis erythraea & Onychogomphus forcipatus

Zygonyx torridus

Onychogomphus forcipatus

Friday, September 10, 2010

September 9th - DAY TOUR - Brazo de Este

A fantastic day was had in glorious sunshine and light winds, the temperature did reach 32C at times so we sought shade for lunch.

Martin & Louise came out with me for their second day and had decided they wanted to search inland for ducks, herons, egrets and storks, with the Purple Heron their main target species. We met just south of Espera at 8am and drove the short distance to the trio of Lagunas found just outside the town.

Six of the (15) Ferruginous Ducks (Aythya nyroca) at Laguna Salada,
and White-headed Ducks (Oxyura leucocephala) top right

All of the lagunas still held plenty of water and were covered with ducks, coots and grebes. A great find was 4 Ferruginous Ducks on the first laguna and later was followed by another find of 11 more, I have never seen so many in one place in Spain! They were joined by White-headed Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall and Mallard. there was also Great-crested, Little and Black-necked Grebes. We also saw many Bee-eaters flying over, Black Kites, Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Booted Eagle and Short-toed Eagle, but the best prize of all was a juvenile Bonelli's Eagle which was mobbed by a couple of Marsh Harriers and a Common Kestrel.

At the smaller laguna we found Purple Swamphen, large flocks of Spanish Sparrows and many of the same ducks. During our return walk to the car we put up a Purple Heron which flew off into the reeds at the far side of the laguna.

After a refreshing cold drink we made our way to the lagunas de Lebrija and one the way we stopped to look at a freshly killed Red-necked Nightjar, what a beautiful bird in the hand and such a pity it had been killed on the track.

At the Lebrija lagunas we found even more Ferruginous Ducks (3), lots of Marsh Harriers and a Montagu's Harriers. In the sky above the first laguna Griffon Vultures circled above us and the sky was dotted with Black Kites, Booted Eagles and another large eagle was seen briefly as it was mobbed by a Marsh Harrier, the eagle perched out of site and never re-appeared, how frustrating because it was possibly a Golden Eagle.

The largest of the lagunas, Cigarrera, produced our first Greater Flamingos, four were present and three of those had damaged wings, maybe just a coincidence that the Spanish hunting season had just begun!!! we took lunch there and photographed some interesting Dragonflies before moving up to the Brazo de Este via Las Cabezas. along the way we encountered six Griffon Vultures settled in a field not far from the roadside, we also stopped at a roadside laguna called Pilon which held more Flamingos (undamaged), Black-necked Grebes, White-headed Duck and Red-crested Pochard.

Bonelli's Eagle (Aquila fasciata) at Espera - photo by Martin Murray

At the paraje natural of Braza de Este we spent 2-3 hours enjoying some fantastic bird watching. Small flocks of many species were in sky all the time, we notched two more Purple Herons, a couple of Squacco Herons, lots of Night Herons & Grey Herons. Cattle & Little Egrets appeared in their hundreds and smaller numbers of Glossy Ibis & Spoonbill were dotted about in the marshes which were patrolled by several Marsh Harriers.

Passerines included, Pied Flycatcher, Northern Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola and a couple of exotic species, Yellow-crowned Bishop and good numbers of Black-headed Weavers which were breeding in a hedgerow, we counted 25 nests and saw some beautiful birds. A pair of kingfishers seemed annoyed by all the noise and colour as they tried to catch fish just below the colony.

Waders in the rice paddies and marshes included, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ringed & Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt & Redshank.

All in all a great day out, a little hot at times, but some great species were seen, we notched 82 species with some great birds on the list.

Black-headed Weaver (Ploceus melanocephalus)- Brazo de Este

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September 7th 2010 - DAY TOUR - Tarifa - La Janda

I met Martin & Louise at a roadside venta not far from Tarifa at 8am. The sky was thick with cloud and it was a bit chilly, such a contrast to recent days. In the car park we logged our first sightings: Montagu's harrier (3) & Egyptian Vulture (1) a great start as both of these birds were on the wish list of my clients!

We took a walk along a track at the back of the venta and found several Zitting Cisticola, Crested Larks, Griffon Vultures, Sardinian Warblers & a Woodchat Shrike. We then drove the short distance to Bolonia and the Sierra de Plata just above the village. We had a fantastic few minutes on arrival as a juvenile Bonelli's Eagle began circling just above us, it was then mobbed by a Honey Buzzard the two birds actually made contact in their aerial tussle, what a show. A couple of Griffon Vultures sat perched on the rock face and eventually made a move providing more photographic opportunities for us.

Montagu's Harrier & Bonelli's Eagle - photos by Martin Murray

A trip to a vulture feeding station was thwarted by a series of camping vans in the vicinity so we
drove across to Los Lances beach. The wind was very strong there but we managed to log a few species that were settled on the sand and brackish pools in front of the hide. Over 40 sandwich Terns were joined by Common Tern (2), Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin & Yellow-legged Gulls.

The wind drove us off up into the hills above Tarifa where we attempted to watch the raptor migration passage. It was obvious that the few birds in the sky were going nowhere as the strong southwesterly wind was forcing them back onto the land if they attempted to cross the sea.
We ended up in sheltered valley just north of Tarifa where hundreds of migrant raptors were milling about. The light wasn't too good but we managed photographs of Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Bee-eaters & Sparrowhawk.

We ate a typical English picnic lunch........sitting in the car as the rain pelted down on the roof!! The sky looked clear in the south west so we moved back to the south to visit La Janda which proved to be a good move as the weather and the birding improved greatly. The wind died down and the sun came out and the birds began to show well. We spent 2-3 hours watching a good variety of species which began with a flock of Short-toed Larks, then Corn Buntings, White Storks, Glossy Ibis, Cattle & Little Egrets, Marsh & Montagu's Harriers.

The harriers were terrific they provided immense entertainment and there were so many of them including 2 melanistic Montagu's. But better was to come, as we drove the central track of the rice paddies an Opsrey flew off a pylon and hovered just above the car, it then dived vertical into the channel next to us and caught a large Carp. It then flew off - collided into the power lines and dropped the fish!!
We spent a lot time in the bright sunshine watching the harriers but also noting Green Sandpiper, many Turtle Doves, Lesser Kestrels, Griffon Vultures, flocks of Spanish Sparrows, Goldfinches Lots of Grey Herons.

We ended the tour by driving back through La Janda via the central track watching many of the species we noted on the way in.
Osprey - photo taken by Martin Murray

Monday, September 6, 2010

September 6th - Gaucin

Not much about today - migrants over the village were almost non-exsistent. From 3:15pm - 3:45pm I watched from my top terrace and saw the following:

Honey Buzzard 21

Marsh Harrier 1

Red Kite 2 ( a top bird for this area and my first sighting from Gaucin)

Booted Eagle 2

Griffon Vulture 4

Common Swift 2

Barn swallow 1

To see a bad clip of Honey Buzzards click on the movie link.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

September 4th 2010 - late afternoon

An hour spent on my top terrace overlooking the village of Gaucin from the eastern side at 17: - 18:00 produced the following sightings:

Bee-eater 109 (two flocks of 42 + 67 respectively) also another 92 at 8:30am
Honey Buzzard 125
Common Buzzard 4
Booted Eagle 4
Griffon Vulture 6
Egyptian Vulture 1 (adult)
Black Kite 1
Marsh Harrier 1 (adult fem)
Short-toed Eagle 1
Common Swift 2

September 3rd 2010 - DAY TOUR - Gaucin - Jimena - Palmones

I collected Simon and Karen from their rented finca just outside Gaucin at 9am. The weather was bright and beautiful with a temperature of 22c. we took the Algeciras road towards the coast and hardly got out of the village before we stopped to admire short-toed Eagle as it drifted down the Genal Valley to our left.

Simon & Karen getting into the waders at Palmones Salt Marsh

A few kilometers along the way we turned off along a side road so that we could look at some Bee-eaters that were perched on the power lines. Not looking their best at this time of the year but nevertheless still very impressive and admired by my two guests. During the next 30 minutes they wewre stunned by the quantity of birds and the variety of species. We almost had to dive for cover as another Short-toed Eagle drifted just above heads, what afantastic view, Karen had left her camera in the car! We logged several Turtle Doves, also on the power lines as well as Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Booted Eagle, Griffon Vulture & several common species.

Our next stop was just outside of Jimena, we ventured onto a track that overlooked vast open meadows and gave us a great view of the surrounding fileds as wellas the wooded hillside of the Alcornacales National Park. Simon was particularly interested in seeing raptors and he was not disappointed. we counted 75 Griffon Vultures as they rose from the ground just over a nearby rise, 22 Ravens also came up. Then we notched an adult Egyptian Vulture, Common Kestrel & several Booted Eagles. Passerines seen along the track included: Zitting Cisticola, Woodchat Shrike, Corn Bunting, Stonechat, Serin, Black-eared Wheatear & 3 Tawny Pipits. Several Bee-eaters perched on the track side fence and gave splendid poses for Karen's camera.

Driving up to the castle at Castellar on a very narrow road was a bit scary for my passengers but it was worth it. We had good close views of Griffon Vultures & Crag Martins and enjoyed the wonderful cobbled streets and quaint cottages inside the castle grounds.

For lunch we stopped at a picnic site in a pine woodland where we logged several migrants, mostly Spotted & Pied Flycatchers and we also found acouple of the locals, Crested Tit & Short-toed Treecreeper.
Back on the road we finshed on the coast at Palmones, there we had a scenic view of Algeciras bay and Gibraltar. Along the muddy baks of the river Palomones we found many Cattle Egrets, Grey Herons, Little Egrets and a few Yellow-legged Gulls. Waders present include 12 Knot, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Whimbrel, Redshank, Greenshank, Sanderling, Dunlin, & Turnstone.

On the way back to Gaucin we stopped to admire the many White Stork nests around Estacion San Roque, we were lucky enough to find one two birds still attending their nest which made Karen happy as she got her best photograph of the day!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

SEPTEMBER 1st 2010 - DAY TOUR - Guadalhorce nature reserve

Our first day-trip of the Autumn season went off with a flying start. I collected Paul in Gaucin and met Dexter at our first venue, the Desembocadura (river mouth) del Guadalhorce nature reserve at Guadalmar near Malaga.

Dexter - enjoying his day out in Andalucia

This superb reserve has the distinction of recording more species than any other Spanish site and consists of a number of fresh water lagoons overlooked by hides. There is also scrub, reed-beds, beach areas, open grassland and the river itself which splits into two arms a couple of kilometers inland.

A Spanish rarity - yes, it is a full hide

We arrived at 8am under thick cloud and a warm temperature with light winds. Our first walk led us down to the beach on the western side of the reserve, we passed a regular haunt and nesting site of Monk Parakeets, several of those noisy birds were flying around us. Another loud call came from a bunch of Little Terns as they fed in the shallows near the mouth of the river. We logged Crested Lark, Common Sandpiper, Little Egret, Woodchat Shrike and a mixed flock of both Black-headed and Mediterranean, the gulls fed quite close and gave us the opportunity to observe the difference between species and ages. A good start got better as we scanned the sea and found many Cory's and one or two balearic Shearwaters.

Over the next four hours we visited all the hides and spent a very enjoyable time watching many species.

A first year Audouin's Gull created some excitement as did several White-headed Ducks, but it was the waders on show that took most of our attention. There were Little, Ringed & Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt & Little Stint. A small flock of Spoonbills stood motionless and we had sightings of at least three different Kingfishers.
Avocets on one of the four lagoons

Birds of prey were few and far between, a couple of Common Kestrels, a single Marsh Harrier and a single Booted Eagle were all we saw. Our last venture was along the beach where we had good close views of a couple of Whimbrels, then a flock of small waders flew over and we noted Dunlin, Sanderling and two Turnstones.

The sky cleared and bright sunshine warmed us up, as if we needed it! Eating our lunch on a bench overlooking the reserve was a delight, birds sunshine and sandwiches, what more could you ask for?

The afternoon was spent with a visit to the superb woodland in the Montes de Malaga natural park. Despite the time of day and the heat we were surprised by the number of birds that were active. Several great Spotted Woodpeckers could be seen and heard (even drumming on several occasions). migrants were also in good numbers, blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Common Redstarts, Pied & Spotted Flycatchers all put in an appearance. Large flocks of chaffinches and Goldfinches were joined by Blue, Great and Coal Tits. One surprise was a juvenile Blue Rock Thrush seen on the roof of the Ecomuseo at the end of our walk.

Our tally was 83 species for the day, a total hard to beat, unless you drive like a maniac and twitch like a fisherman holding an Electric eel!