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Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

Feb 12th -27th - Costa Rica - full

Mar 20th - 30th Morocco - 10 nights. - £1190

April 5th - 12th - Andalucia migration tour. - £750 - 2 places

April 16th - 24th - Coto Donana & Extremadura - £950 - 2 places

April 29th - 6th May. - Lesvos - £875

May 8th - 15th - Portugal - full


May 13th - 21st Bulgaria - £850

May 23rd - 30th - Andalucia birds and butterflies - £750

May 31st - June 8th. - Extremadura and Sierra de Gredos - £950

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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Somerset Levels Tour 1 - Jan 29th 2011

A very cold start to my 3 tours of the 'levels' with temperatures around freezing all day. My first group arrived in Yeovil, Somerset by train on time at 10:38am. We drove straight to our hotel in Meare, we noted Common Kestrel, Rook, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Fieldfare, Redwing, Lapwing and Wood Pigeon en route.

We checked in, and were back out in field by12 noon.

Our first venue was Westhay Moor, an area where peat extraction was still going on whilst the disused areas were managed for wildlife. A patch-work of large areas of open water and vast reed-beds were dissected by very straight tracks called droves.

We parked along one such drove and walk 1km to a large pool called 7 acre lake where we found several interesting duck species and our target bird the Goosander . Many Mute Swans fed in the shallow pools alongside, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Mallard. Passerines were scarce, a couple of Blue Tits, a single Goldcrest and a Song Thrush were recorded.

Next we drove to the car park and at Ham Wall RSPB Resreve which was quite crowded. Our walk along the 'drain' eastward to Meare Heath and Noah's Lake was very cold we suffered with a stiff breeze from the north. Nothing new was added to our list until we looked over the lake where we found Great Crested Grebe and a Goldeneye. From the raised-hide we found 9 Bewick Swans, a Pintail, lots of Cormorants, more Goldeneye and many Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Common Pochard and Mute swans.

The woodland along track near the hide provided the best birding so far with excellent views of a very obliging Goldcrest then a flock of Lesser Redpolls were found together with Siskin, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Treecreeper, Blue Tit and a couple of lovely Redwings.

Our last birding venue was at Ham Wall nature reserve and along with about 200 other people, who had braved the cold, we stood to watch the Starling Roost hoping for a spectacular display. Whist waiting we watched a GReat White Egret in the nearby pool, we also saw Chaffinch, Robin, Little Egret, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and a fly over Reed Bunting.

The Starlings arrived in huge numbers but decided to roost elsewhere so we were disappointed by not seeing a display, we vowed to try again tomorrow. It was now getting dark so we set off for the short trip to the hotel.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

DAY TOUR - JAN 25TH 2011. SOTO GRANDE & PALMONES

Cloudy, wet, dull, cold & windy.......no I'm not talking about the UK. The weather in Spain has been pretty bad over the last few days and has curtailed many a day's birding.

However, Roger and his wife of Polish descent, Taysha, booked me for a day's birding and were not put off by the weather forecast. We met on the coast at Sabinillas and after a short detour to Estapona we stopped at the Casares Beach.


Roger and Taysha in the hide at Palmones

The rain had eased a little but it was still wet and cold. Our first birds were Spotless Starlings quickly followed by a Black Redstart, we then turned our attention to the sea and watched several Northern Gannets fishing and had views of Sandwich Tern, Cormorant, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A walk along the raised footpath above the beach produced Sanderling, Common Sandpiper, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch, Robin, Blackbird and House Sparrow.

Next we made a futile effort to walk around the nature Reserve at Torreguadiaro, we lasted about 5 minutes seeing only a Grey Heron and a Common Coot before being driven off by the rain. We then spent 30 minutes watching from the car at San Enrique. There we saw Cattle and Little Egrets, lots of Meadow Pipits, Crested Lark, White Wagtails and more Sparrows.

By driving inland to Pinar del Rey pinewoods we thought we could avoid the brunt of the weather.....wrong it was just as bad there. We never got out of the car but we saw lots of White Storks on their nests, a Stonechat on the fence and some Paper White Narcissi in a filed.

By the time we reached the salt marsh at Palmones it had stopped raining but it was still cold and windy. From the Algeciras side of the marsh we stood in the hide sheltered somewhat from the wind. We saw hundreds of White Storks, dozens of Grey Herons and a good selection of waders which included Redshank, Greenshank, Black Winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling. There was also Eurasian Spoonbills (5), Marsh Harrier, Common Kestrel and we saw a Sparrowhawk on the way back to the car.

After a warming cup of coffee in Palmones we walked along the promenade to look at the sand spit and muddy shoreline of the river. We added Ruddy Turnstone, Kentish Plover, Avocet, Whimbrel, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit to the wader list and we extended the gull list with an oiled Mediteranean Gull, a Little Gull, a single Audouin's Gull and 4 Slender Billed Gulls, what a great little tally!

Audouin's Gull from the promenade at Palmones

The expected Osprey failed to show but we had better views of the Spoonbills and of the Marsh Harrier.

A last attempt at bird-watching was made at Soto Grande where we added a couple of Balearic Shearwaters, an Arctic Skua and a Purple Swamphen to the list. We also stopped at the bridge over the Guadiaro to watch Crag Martins and also added House Martin, this was our last sighting as it getting dull and the rain started again. One final coffee was taken in Torreguadiaro before we drove home.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day Trips - Friday Jan 14th - La Janda & Palmones

Tony, Paul and I, all from the village set off for another excursion to La Janda after we had such a good day on Wednesday 12th.



Eurasian Spoonbills feeding in the salt marsh at Palmones



Tony (Left) and Paul scanning the rice fields at La Janda


The weather was its usual fantastic self, bright blue sky, wall to wall sunshine and a lovely temperature. We parked at the top of the entrance track and scanned the flooded rice fields with our telescopes. A lone Eurasian Spoonbill stood to our right and was surrounded by Lapwings, Green Sandpipers (15), Little Egrets and a couple of White Storks. Passerines included Linnets, Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipits, Stonechats and a small flock of Reed Buntings.


As we ventured further down the track we found a Common Buzzard (sitting on a John Deere tractor), Common Kestrel, Marsh Harrier and many Common Cranes flying too and fro across the distant fields.


Common Buzzard




We drove down to the central track and parked at the ramp where we spent an hour so just enjoy the sheer number of birds and of course the warm sunshine. We spent and extra half an hour here because Tony had left the car lights on and flattened the battery!!! After some pushing and shoving the car wouldn't start so we had to wait until someone drove passed so that we could use jumps leads to get the car started, however, we were birding and in good sunshine so hey ho! no problem and a guy came along after 30 minutes.



The Central Track - it is a raised track and offer great views across La Janda


Common Crane











Paul found the first of his 3 lifers, Calandra Lark, from our vantage point on the central track.


We scanned a large area of low lying land, this comprised of grazing grassland, arable, rice fields and all were surrounded by dykes and ditches holding reeds and rushes.








We found not one but three! Spanish imperial Eagles, all juveniles, one of which caught some prey and then sat on a large post to eat it. The other two were further away but all gave us good views throughout the day. We also added Hen Harrier (2 females and a male), Golden Plover, Skylarks, Zitting Cisticola, Spanish Sparrow, Water Pipit and a group of six Purple Swamphens.










Reed Bunting




Purple Swamphen


We spent the rest of the time driving along the central track where we found lots more of everything and added Black Stork, Great White Egret and Common Sandpiper to the day list.


We then turned onto a new, unexplored track that circled the grazing fields to the north of la Janda and after 15km we ended back at Facinas. Along this track we saw another 2 Spanish Imperial Eagles (probably of the 3 seen earlier), lots of Common Buzzards (12), a Southern Grey Shrike, Ravens, Lesser kestrel and many Corn Bunting Buntings.

We left the area and decided to pop into Palmones on the way back to Gaucin. It was a good choice as we saw many bird there. The glorious late afternoon sun warmed our backs as we scoped the Marshes where we found Osprey (2), Spoonbill (6), Redshank, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Whimbrel, Curlew (2), Sanderling, Dunlin, Sandwich Tern, L B B Gull, Yellow Legged Gull and Black headed Gull. There were also many Grey Herons, White Storks, Cormorants and Little Egrets, a lovely end to another superb day.



Gibraltar seen from the promenade at Palomones






Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day Trips - Wed. Jan 12th - Ojen Valley & La Janda

What a fabulous day, glorious weather, lots of birds and fantastic scenery. Tony, Glyn and I set off from Gaucin at the late hour of 9am (not my choice), we headed down to Jimena and on to San Roque before turning west and heading across to Los Barrios. From there we took the track that winds its way through the Ojen Valley to Facinas.

We logged lots of White Storks on their nests along the way, also several Common Buzzard, large flocks of Spotless Starlings and a small group of Lesser kestrels at Castellar.

In the valley there were many Griffon Vultures circling the cliff faces close to their nests which have eggs at this time of the year! We did a distant pair of Bonelli's Eagles during one stop and several Common Kestrels. Many butterflies were on the wing in the spring sunshine, Painted Lady, Brimstone, Clouded Yellow, Red Admiral, Large White, Speckled Wood, Holly Blue and Small Whites.


Speckled Wood


We saw many large flocks of finches, Greenfinch, Goldfinch & Chaffinch, Linnet and Serin were all noted. But it was not until we reached La Janda that the fun started. We stopped at the first bend after the sloping approach road, from there we saw many Common Cranes, White Storks, Little Egrets, a couple of Great White Egrets, Cattle Egrets, large flocks of Lapwings, Golden Plover, Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipits, Calandra Larks and Linnets.


The entrance track to La Janda

Over the next couple of hours we ventured along the central track and then turned towards Benalup. We had a great time watching lots of raptors either perched on pylons, quartering the fields or soaring on thermals. The best was a juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle which showed very well in the afternoon sunlight, but we also saw many Marsh Harriers, Bonelli's Eagle (3), Red Kite, Common Buzzard and a Common Kestrel.

As we returned to the entrance we stopped again to watch more species, Common Pheasant, Moorhen, Green Sandpiper, a superb Black Stork, many Grey herons and a lot more Common Cranes. It is a good year for Cranes with a recent count totalling nearly 2000 birds, the average is about 15oo per winter. We finished off with a sighting of a Black Shouldered Kite, a great bird to finish with.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wingspan in Gaucin - Jan 7th - 10th 2011

Friday 7th was a complete wash out! Paul called round at 8am and we set off for the top of the Sierra Bermeja, it was dull and cloudy and it looked likely to rain. At the top of the mountain the cloud shrouded the peaks and it began to drizzle. We parked up and walk 2km to the summit in thick cloud, as we reached the top the rain began. We got soaked and never saw a bird!!

At the coast it looked a little better so we drove down to Estapona and along the coast to Casares, the rain was worse there, so we gave up and headed for home.

Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th - both days were cloudy, cold with outbreaks of rain so no walking!

Monday 10th - hooray! the good weather has returned, a bright sunny day with uninterrupted sunshine and a nice temperature. An afternoon walk down the Camino Gibraltar produced all the usual suspects, with many of the Blackcaps in song.

I photographed a Speckled Wood butterfly (the only species I saw) and a couple of plants. The only raptor I saw was a Common Kestrel..

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wingspan in Gaucin - Jan 5th & 6th 2011

Wednesday 5th January

Well what a difference a day makes! The lovely weather of the last few days was broken yesterday by a dull overcast sky, a chilly breeze and the odd shower.

I walked the usual tracks form the north of the village round to Camino Gibraltar and despite the dull overcast conditions there was still the odd bird song coming from Blackcaps, Sardinian Warblers and a Blue Rock Thrush. It was too dull for photographing birds but I did manage to find a couple of new flowers, however, I didn't see a single butterfly!


Lesser Periwinkle - Vinca minor



Black Nightshade - Solanum nigrum

Thursday 6th January

Today was back to normal, dry sunny and warm, birds were back in full song and several butterflies were on the wing. We walked around the lower track as yesterday and found many Speckled Wood butterflies, a couple of Large Whites and a Red Admiral.

Raptors were out in force with 10+ Griffon Vultures, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk on the wing. Song Thrush, Robin, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler and Stoenchat were all in song. We also noted Siskin, Serin, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and lots of Black Redstarts.

A few flowering plants were found, including two of which I cannot name yet , perhaps you can tell me.



Lesser Celandine - Ranunculus ficaria



Unknown at the moment

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

THE GAMBIA PART 4 - BUTTERFLIES

During two tours over 3 weeks in Nov and dec 2010 we logged 32 species of butterflies and during that time I filmed several of them.

Shown below is a series of photographs and a 9 minute film of a few of them.

African Tiger

Tiny Orange-tip



Narrow-banded Green swallowtail


White Lady Swallowtail (taken Nov 2009)





Golden Pansy




Cream-Bordered Charaxes



Clouded Flat



Elegant Acraea



Soldier Pansy (photo by Sandra Woodruff)



African Caper White

There was also a massive migration of Caper Whites, African Caper whites and African Emigrants. These three species were seen in their tens-of-thousands everyday. During the evening you could stand on the beach and watch an unbeleiveable number of Caper Whites flying north over the sea, it was spectacular.



















Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wingspan in Gaucin - jan 4th 2011

Yet another glorious day with a good temperature, it felt like a day in May in the UK. Dawn and I walked the circuitous route below the village, starting at the northern side below the castle and ending at the southern side on the Camino Gibraltar.


Several butterflies were on the wing, we found 3 Large tortoiseshells, Painted Ladies, Speckled Wood, Wall Brown and Small Whites. Dawn took a nice picture of the Tortoiseshell and then gloated all afternoon because she was quicker and better than me! Huh!! I don't think so!!!


Anyway, decide for yourself, the lower picture is Dawn's from today and the upper one is mine from last year.



Large Tortoiseshell - March 2010 - Bob


Large Tortoiseshell - Jan 2011 - Dawn


A few more flowers were found on the southern slopes as we walked down the track:

Fedia cornucopiae (related to valerian)

Eruca sativa

Oh and yes we did see a lot of birds but nothing new for the year list and there wasn't a sign of the Bonelli's Eagle that I saw yesterday.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Wingspan in Gaucin - Jan 3rd 2011

Another superb sunny day, high wispy clouds bright sunshine and a lovely temperature of around 16C. I walked the camino Gibraltar from 1pm until 4. the best of the bird sightings was a Bonelli's Eagle displaying over and behind the castle. It made several very steep, stooping dives over the forest before flapping away, lovely.

Spring was most definitely in the air, Blackcaps, Starlings and even a Goldfinch were in song! Butterflies on the wing were Small Whites and a Painted Lady. I added Great Spotted Woodpecker to the sightings on the way back up the hill. There were the usual crowd of Black Redstarts, Blackcaps, White Wags, Sardinian warblers and Siskins but I notice a distinct drop in numbers of Song Thrush and Chiffchaff this winter.

The flowers looked brilliant in the afternoon sunlight:

Broad-leaved Iris Iris planifolia


Paper-white Narcissus Narcissus papyraceus


Bermuda Buttercup - Oxalis pes-caprea

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wingspan in Gaucin - Jan 2nd 2011

It was like a beautiful spring morning, lots of sunshine, a nice temperature and plenty of wildife to look at. We took the Camino Gibraltar out of the village and went 2km downhill to meet Alice and Jim at their home in the campo (countryside). There were many Black Redstarts on view as well as Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Goldfinches and Serins. With our two companions we set off for a longer walk down to the Santa Nino chapel. The hedgerows and fields were awash with Bermuda Buttercup, Narcissi, Periwinkle and Celandine. We added 3 more butterflies to the 2011 list; Wall Brown, Clouded yellow and Small White. During the next two hours we saw Kestrel, Griffon Vulture, Song Thrush, Blue and Great Tit, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail and many more Black Redstarts.

After leaving our two friend back at their finca we started back up the hill to the village. Along this stretch we added Eurasian Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper and a small flock of Siskins - always a nice sight, see the video and pictures below.





Saturday, January 1, 2011

NEW YEAR - NEW LIST FOR 2011

The first day of 2011 was a bright and sunny one, at least until lunchtime, which was when we (Dawn and I) ventured outside, we didn't wake up until 10:30am after a late night.

We walked through the village to the Manilva road, turned left down the steep track to the Camino Gibraltar and then back up to the village via the Sewage Works.

Birds on show included many White Wagtails, Black Redstarts, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. We also saw Robins, Spotless Starlings, Grey Wagtail and a Griffon Vulture. A couple of Blackcaps gave us short renditions of their flutey song.

Two species of butterfly were noted; Red Admiral and Painted Lady, the meadows, hedgerows, olive groves and verges were brightened up by the yellow flowers of the Bernuda Buttercup, the blue of the Periwinkle and the white flower heads of Narcissi.

Later in the afternoon a Blue Rock Thrush sang from the hillside behind our house and a couple of Serins sat in a bush across the way.

All in all a lovely start to a new year in Gaucin.