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FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT PARTICIPATED IN A WINGSPAN TOUR DURING 2016, THANK YOU FOR YOUR CUSTOM & YOUR COMPANY AND WE WISH YOU HEALTH AND HAPPINESS FOR 2017.

THE PROGRAMME FOR SPRING 2017 IS NOW ON MY

WEBSITE BUT HERE IS A PREVIEW



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

June 12th - 20th - Pyrenees and Picos de Europa - £1050


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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Friday, April 29, 2011

LESVOS 2011 - DAY 7 - APRIL 29TH

SKALA ERESOS -IPSILOU MONASTERY - LARDIA VALLEY - NAPI VALLEY - SALT PANS


This was a mish-mash of a day, we had seen most of the species Lesvos had to offer and we just need to find about 5 more. We changed our minds several times on which direction to go as recent sighting reports came in during breakfast. Finally we decided to head out west we left the hotel at 8:30am and headed for Skala Eresos.

The weather was a vast improvement on the previous two days and it became quite sunny and warm in the afternoon. Once we arrived we walked along the river and soon found many species, Night Herons were one of the first as we disturbed them from their roost! We also saw a male Little Bittern, lots of Sedge and Reed Warblers, Blackcap, Tree Pipit, Olivaceous Warbler, Wood Warbler, Little Crake and Great Reed Warbler. Our main target took some finding but showed well once we located them. The Penduline Tit is a very rare breeder on lesvos and we found a pair building a nest, what a task that is, the intricately woven nest is attached to twigs and hangs by thick threads over the water. The birds performed well whilst we were there.
PENDULINE TIT

We then drove through the beautiful valley that connects Eresos with Andissa at the crossroads we turned towards Sigri and stopped at the Ipsilou Monastery where we ate our picnic lunch in the clouds. Ipsilou Monastery is a working monestery that sits on the top of steep sided pinnacle of a mountain, the views from the top are fantastic. Once we had finished our lunch we began the descent, I drove whilst the rest of the group walked.

During the walk we found several interesting species including our first Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, in the woodland that covers the slopes of the pinnacle we also found Pied Flycatcher, Cinereous Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Wood Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Hoopoe.

We stopped at the 'Eresos' cross-roads to have quick look in a copse of oaks trees, there we saw Masked Shrike, Isabelline Wheatear, Woodlark and more of the same warblers.







TEMMINCK'S STINT

A diversion was made on the way home to Gavathas where a small patch of road-side grass holds a good number of the endemic Ophrys Lesbis - we saw about 15 spikes of this lovely flower. A short visit to the beach area at Gavathas didn't produced the hoped for Bee-eatears, Shrikes or Rollers, we found a bunch of Jackdaws and that was it.

We passed through the Lardia Valley en-route during our return journey to Kalloni so we stopped there hoping for views of the recently discovered breeding Eastern Bonelli's Warbler but we found no activity at the nest site.

Olive Tree Warbler ws our last target species of the tour, a couple had be reported singing at the head of the Napi Valley so this was our next destination. In lovely afternoon sunshine we searched for this elusive bird without success but we did find a nesting pair of Sombre Tits and also a nesting pair of Eastern Orphean Warblers. Other species seen were Woodchat Shrike, Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Hoopoe and Lesser Whitethroat.



RUFF


The last couple of hours was spent at the Kalloni Saltpans, many birds had moved on but there is always a good variety to see at this time of year and many of them can be watched at close quarters. Temminck's Stint, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Common Sandpiper, Little, Common, Whiskered and White-winged Terns were all seen well. Whilst in the flooded fields at the back of the pans we saw both Ruddy and Common Shelduck, Great Egret, Glossy Ibis, Purple Heron, Red-throated Pipit and Short-toed Lark.

This was our last birding of the tour because we had to leave very early in the monring in order to catch an early flight to Athens.






Thursday, April 28, 2011

LESVOS 2011 - DAY 6 - APRIL 28TH

KALLONI SALT PANS - LARDIA VALLEY - SIGRI FIELDS - FANEROMENI FORDS - METOCHI LAKE - SALT PANS - BOTH TSIKNIAS AND CHRISTOU RIVER MOUTHS.

Another wet and cold day - is this Greece???? And yet we saw 116 SPECIES

We set out at 6:15am for a quick visit to the 'pumping station' at the pans to try to find a Rufous Bush Robin without success. However we did see 2 barn Owls on the way and Olivaceous Warbler, Great Reed warbler, hundreds of Spanish Sparrows, Black Stork, Long-legged Buzzard and plenty of waders, egrets and terns whilst we were out.

By 8:30 we had finished breakfast and the group were found in th hotel grounds looking for a Barred Warbler that had been seen earlier, we couldn't it but we did see Ortolan Bunting, Blackcap, Olivaceous Warbler, Common Nightingale, Long-eared owl, Spanish Sparrow and Cetti's Warbler, all seen in the rain!!




SPAINSH SPARROW

We then set off for our second visit to the far west of the island at Sigri. It was raining for most of the way. We stopped in the Lardia Valley which is a deep, steep sided gorge. We watched Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheaters, Crag Martins and several Ravens.

At the Eresos cross-roads we spent some time looking for Isabelline Wheatear and whilst doing so we found Cretszchmar's Bunting, Cinereous Bunting, Golden Oriole, Barred Warbler, Woodlark and Black-eared Wheatear. We drove a short distance and parked again for another search, this time we were lucky and found a superb male Isabelline Wheatear which sang and displayed just 10 meters from the bus.

The drive up passed the Ipsilou Monastery was through cloud and rain but at Sigri it was dry and threatened to brighten up!! There were many Common and Lesser Whitethroats to see, more Golden Orioles, Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed Eagle and a field full of Yellow Wagtails.

The Ploughed Field - part 11.

We stopped to view the famous ploughed field where a couple days ago we found hundreds of birds in this small area. This time there were far fewer birds but we added several new species to our 'ploughed field' list. We saw Stone Curlew, Little Ringed Plover (4), Collared Pratincole (6), Red-footed Falcon (1), Turtle Dove (8)and the usual wheatears and whinchats.

At Faneromeni Lower Ford we saw Little Bittern, Little Crake, Green, Wood and Common Sandpiper, Chichaff, Great Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, a very showy Cetti's Warbler, Spotted and Collared Flycatcher and a Squacco Heron. We took a short walk along a nearby track and added Lesser Whitethroat, Orphean Warbler and Blackcap.

At 2pm we set off back eastward passing Ipilou Monastery which was still in the clouds, oalong the way we found another Red-footed Falcon on the wires. Just beyond the Eresos cross-roads we stopped to look for Rock Sparrow. The scenery there was magnificent we overlooked a rock strewn valley which stretched for miles. All the typical mountainous species were seen. Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Cinereous Bunting, Cretszchmar's Bunting, Raven, we also found a few migrant species such as Golden Oriole and a male Semi-Collared Flycatcher. We eventually found a pair of Rock Sparrows, they showed very well before flying over a ridge.

Back in the Kalloni area we popped into the Potamia Valley to look for shrikes, we found the common Woodchat variety and then discovered our first Masked Shrike, what a little Beauty he was!

MASKED SHRIKE




A brief visit to the pool at Metochi produced nothing new but we did see Water Rail again and lots of Little Crakes. Finally we visited the salt pans and made brief stops at the mouths of Tsiknias and Christou rivers where we found many species but nothing new for our tour list.

We returned to hotel at 6:30pm, it had been a long day but it dried up and became quite pleasant in the end and with all the birds to see it was a very enjoyable day out!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

LESVOS 2011 - DAY 5 - APRIL 27TH

ACHLADERI - POLICHNITOS SALT PANS - VATERA - AGHIOS FOKAS - KALLONI PANS


I called my wife tonight and told her it had been raining for most of the day.............she just burst into laughter? What is that all about?



Yes its true not everyday is terrific with wall to wall sunshine! We had rain from 10am until, well, its still raining now at 9:30pm as I write this.


We left the hotel at 8:15 after an early breakfast and set off for the pine woods at Achladeri, it was dull overcast and cold. At the woods we spent a while looking for Kruper's Nuthatch at a traditional nest site but no birds were seen, we then walked up the track deeper into the woods and discovered a pair of Short-toed Treecreepers feeding young, very nice. We then searched the woods for an hour or so before discovering a pair of Kruper's Nuthatches tapping out a hole for a new nest, a great find we saw them very well.




Some of the group walking through the pines in the rain

Next we drove along the southern shore of the Gulf of Kalloni to the Polinichtos Salt Pans where we found several waders, flamingo's and egrets. It was raining by then so we didn't venture out of the bus very much.


A poor picture of the Treecreeper at the nest - you can just make out the chick with its mouth agape.


At Vatera we drove along the west river looking from the bus, we found Common and Wood Sandpipers and not much else. The headland at Aghios Fokas provides an excellent outpost from where you can sea-watch. We saw over 1000 Yelkouan Shearwaters sitting out in the bay along with sevral Scopoli's Shearwater and a Shag. On the land we found lots of Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Tree Pipit, Sardinian Warbler and Whinchats.



The weather in the afternoon gradually got worse, we drove back to the Kalloni area stopping at a beach site where we found Great crested Grebes out in the bay and a Curlew on the beach. At Kalloni Salt Pans all the usual sightings were there and a nice influx of White-winged Terns was good to see. We got back at the hotel, wet, tired and hungry at 6pm.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

LESVOS 2011 - DAY 4 - APRIL 26TH

METOCHI POOL - PARLIKA CHAPEL - ERESOS TO SIGRI COAST ROAD - SIGRI FIELDS - FANEROMENI UPPER & LOWER FORDS

This may sound boring but we had another terrific day, with hazy sunshine, nice temperatures and virtually no wind. The bird watching was superb we clocked over 90 species and added some good species to our running tally.


WOODCHAT SHRIKE (NOTICE THE PINKISH/ORANGE FLANKS OF THIS EASTERN RACE


At 6am we set off to the small pool called Metochi where we saw Little Crake (8), Water Rail, Night Heron and lots of Reed, Sedge and Great Reed Warblers. Along the track on the way back to the hotel we added Common Starling (a pair were feeding young - this is a very good breeding record for Lesvos) we also saw Black-headed Bunting (2).

WRYNECK - WE HAD PROLONGED VIEWS OF THIS BIRD OUT IN THE OPEN FIELD


Our journey out to the west of the island took us through Parakila where we stopped at the chapel and found some interesting species. The symbolic Cinereous Bunting showed very well as did Cirl Bunting, Cretzchmar's Bunting, Western Rock Nuthatch and Black-eared Wheatear.

The coast road from Eresos to Sigri takes you through some stunning scenery and into the Meladia valley. Along this route we had some great sightings. There were a huge number of Flycatchers, Collared, Spotted and Pied, we also saw several Hoopoe, Common Cuckoo (4), lots of Common and Lesser Whitethroats.

HOOPOE - ONE OF FIVE SEEN THIS AFTERNOON


At the chapel beyond the ford we stopped for lunch and saw Common Redstart, Ortolan Bunting (2), they were so close we didn't need optics to watch them! A group of Gull-billed Terns hawked the grass fields and a couple of Short-toed Eagles drifted over.


A SMALL SAMPLE OF THE TERRIFIC WILD FLOWERS ON DISPLAY THIS YEAR


In and around Sigri we visited the two fords at Faneromeni and the surrounding fields where we found Hoopoe (5), Golden Oriole (10+), Little Bittern, Green Sandpiper, Little Crake, Orphean and Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff and lots of Flycathcers again.

One particular ploughed field produced an incredible 15 species!!

The whole field was covered with birds, Yellow Wagtail (100+), Yellow-legged Gull
(24), Whiskered Tern (2), Whinchat (10) Northern Wheatear (2), Black-eared Wheatear (3), Tawny Pipit (2), Short-toed lark (4), Red-throated Pipit (2), Wryneck (1), Common Nightingale (1), Corn Bunting (2), Crested lark (1), House Sparrow (5), Woodchat Shrike (2).

What a great sight so many species in one place - only on Lesvos could you find such a rich diversity of Species.

We also saw a flock of 25+ Black-headed Buntings and in an adjacent olive grove we saw Rufous Bush Robin and Great Reed Warbler.

SQUACCO SEEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A GRASS MEADOW - NO WATER IN SIGHT!


The only downside to our near perfect day was that our bus broke down on the way home!! We got back to the hotel very late, it spoilt the evening but not the superb day!

Monday, April 25, 2011

LESVOS 2011 - DAY 3 - APRIL 25TH

KALLONI POOL - KALLONI VILLAGE - PETRA ROAD RAPTOR WATCH POINT - PETRA RESERVOIR - EFTALOU NORTH COAST ROAD - KALLONI SALT PANS - MESA MARSHES -ACHLADERI PINE WOODS


Another glorious day, the chillY north wind kept us cool and also kept the migrants at bay, however, despite the day seeming to be quite we notched 96 species!

THE GROUP AT THE TSIKNIAS RIVER TRACK


An earlier start than yesterday saw us leaving the hotel at 6am for the short walk to Kalloni Pool to try and see the Savi's Warbler. We failed again even though the bird was 'reeling' just a few feet into the reeds! We then drove to the Tsiknias River and took the track along its east bank. We walked along the shore area for an hour and found Whimbrel, Curlew, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Stone Curlew, Red-throated Pipit, Lesser Whitethroat and Short-toed Lark.




RED FOX - A RARE SIGHT ON LESVOS
After breakfast we drove through Kalloni and stopped at the 'mini-soccer pitch' to look for Scop's Owl at it's traditional roost site. There were two birds showing really well, see photo below:





SCOP'S OWL






The raptor watch point along the road to Petra is a favourite of mine and never fails to produce good birds. The hillsides surrounding the view point held Cretzchmar's, Cirl and Ortolan Buntings, Black-eared Wheatear, Woodlark and Western Rock Nuthatch. The rapotors were slow to get started but once up there they were great, Honey Buzzard displaying, several short-toed Eagles, long-legged Buzzard and Hobby all put in an appearance.


At Petra we spent some time watching a pair of Rupell's Warblers feeding their young, we also saw Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin and Linnets.


Petra Reservoir held a good number of birds, the highlight was the Audouin's Gull but we also saw Common and Wood Sandpiper, Alpine Swift and lots fo yellow-legged Gulls.




WADERS IN THE ROADSIDE POOL = BLACK-TAILED GODWIT AND RUFF

The north coast road produced very little, on the ground we found Subalpine Warbler and little else, in the air we had Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Long-legged Buzzard.


We decided to drive back to kalloni to look for more waders and at the first pool along the track from the Tsiknias River to the pans we found Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Greater Flamingo and Wood Sanpiper. We saw many of the waders that we saw yesterday but we added Marsh Sandpiper.

ROAD SIDE POOL WHERE WE FOUND MANY WADERS AND CITRINE WAGTAIL


A brief stop at the marshes at Mesa prduced a small flock of Sanderling and our visit to the pine woods at Achladeri gave us Serin and Woodchat Shrike. That ended the day, we drove back to the otel in time to wash and change for dinner.

LESVOS 2011 - DAY 2 - APRIL 24TH

KALLONI POOL - CHRISTOU SALT MARSH - TSIKNIAS RIVER - KALLONI SALT PANS - METOCHI POOL

What a great today was, we saw 90 species and had wall to wall sunshine all day! Wew began at 6:30pm with a walk down to the Pool at Kalloni where a Savi's Warbler was performing, we heard it but didn;t get satisfactory views. Thousand of hirundines were scattered by the appearance of an Eleanora's Falcon and on the marsh we saw Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Common Nightingale.

The salt marsh adjacent to the river Christou produced a good selection of waders, egrets, herons and storks. Great White Egret, Black Stork and Pueple heron being well appreciated.
Common and Whiskered Terns danced over the river and mnay Little Egret fed in it. Round by the bridge we found several Whinchats, Stone Curlew and Kentish Plover.

We returned to the hotel for breakfast and then set off for a day at the Tsiknias River and Saltpans. The best sightings along the river were of Collared and Semi-collared Flycatcher, a fantastic find.

The saltpans had the usual array of hundreds of birds, mainly waders, flamingos and egrets. Over 70 Glossy Ibis, 9 Collared Pratincoles, 2 Black Necked Grebes, Red-throated Pipit, Ruddy Shelduck were our highlights.

At a road side pool near the salt pans we found a superb male Citrine Wagtail, also Temminck's Stint, lots of Wood Sanpipers and yellow Wagtails.

We decided to finish the day at the small pool at metochi but we stopped along the way to admire a Western rock Nuthatch at it's nest site, we also found cretzchmar's bunting there too.

At the pool we quickly located half a dozen Little Crakes, along with Great Reed Warbler, Squacco Heron, Night Heron, lots more Whinchats and a Woodchat Shrike.

Back at the hotel we were treated to great views of a Long-eared Owl sitting high up in a eucalyptus in the garden!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

LESVOS 2011 - DAY 1 - APRIL 23RD

MALAGA - LONDON - ATHENS - LESVOS

my journey took me to several airports and over 22 hours travelling just to travel 2000 miles. I met up with dave and Andy at gatwick at 6am, we met Pat and Mike at Athens at 3pm (local time) and then we all met Tony at the hotel in Skala kalloni, lesvos at 6:30pm.

Pat, Mike, Tony, Andy & Dave -The smallest group I have had on Lesvos for many years - they will have to work hard to find all specialties of the island.


Our first birds on Lesvos were recorded during the jouurney from the airport to the hotel and then at 7pm we watched a section of the garden from a balcony at the back of the hotel. We quickly recorded a couple of good birds for the trip: Collared Flycatcher, Tree Pipit and Night Heron set us off. We also saw Spainsh Sparrow and Pied Flycatcher.

After dinner we returned to the balcony to listen for Long-eared Owl and before long we heard one. Then Tony spotted one alighting on top of a eucalyptus tree and we all had good views of it - a very goog bird to find.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TARIFA & COTO DOÑANA 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 7 APRIL 21st

COTO DONANA – TARIFA VIA SEVILLA – RONDA – MOTEJAQUE - GAUCIN

It was dull overcast, windy and raining as we left the hotel heading north through Donana to Sevilla. The sky cleared as we passed through Sevilla and remained very bright and sunny until we got to mountains near Ronda when it started to rain again.

We went for a walk in a Cork Oak woodland and spent a couple of hours enjoying some woodland species not seen previously on the trip. These included Eurasian Nuthatch, Mistle Thrush, Bonelli’s Warbler and Blue Tit,. We also found Great Tit,
Dartford Warbler and lots of Chaffinches. The rain was making it hard to find birds so we quit and headed for the limestone gorges nearby.


The rain stopped for a while so we had a nice hour scanning the high peaks, the deep gorges and the hillside for new species. Within minutes we located Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Red-billed Chough and Rock Dove. A hawfinch was a lovely surprise, it landed close by and it was a beautiful male. A pair of Alpine Swifts put in an appearance and many Griffon Vultures could be seen both perched and flying.

The next stop, just around the corner, was along a track found just above the village of Montejaque. It was there that we found Rock Bunting, Black Wheatear and a very obliging Rock Sparrow. We bought some things for lunch in the village and drove down to a popular tourist site near a large cave and as we ate our picnic we saw more Alpine Swifts and a few Crag Martins.

The rain set in for good and increased in intensity as the afternoon wore on, we drove through thick cloud mist as we passed through Ronda and the Genal Valley to Gaucin.
A brief stop at Gaucin to drop things off at my house was made before we drove through torrential rain back towards the coast at San Roque. One stop just passed Castellar produced Lesser kestrel (7), Common Nightingale, Greenfinch, Blackcap and Serin.

We reached our hotel at 5pm and decided to call it a day! Dinner was enjoyed by all, washed down with a nice glass of wine.

TARIFA & COTO DOÑANA 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 6 APRIL 20th

Corredor de Verde – Dehesa de Pilas – Dehesa de Abajo – Jose Valverde Visitor’s Centre

96 SPECIES RECORDED TODAY

The weather stared off bad with wind and rain over the hotel but as we drove northward through El Rocio and across to Villamonrique it improved and continued to improve throughout most of the day. At last! Some sunshine and not a lot of wind, this made bird watching so much more enjoyable.




Along the Corredor de Verde we stopped many times to watch Woodchat Shrikes, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Serin, Sardinian Warbler and Nightingale. Our first walk produced a pair of distant Black-winged Kites and we witnessed for the first time a food pass, remarkable, none of us had ever seen this before.

We drove further along the track to view a laguna that was practically birdless and then we found another Black-winged Kite that WAS perched on a pylon very much closer to us, excellent views were enjoyed by all.

Dehesa de Pilas, a square shape wood of eucalyptus produced thousands of Spanish Sparrows, tens of Bee-eaters, lots of black kites, white storks, a whinchat, a hoopoe and a couple of booted eagles. We also noted a few Collared Pratincoles along the way.

At dehesa de Abajo the birds on the large laguna were distant as usual but some were alittel closer. A great reed Warbler sand loudly from the tamarisk, a kingfisher flashed by and a Little egret sat on a fence extremely close to us. On the water we saw Gadwall, Common and Red-crested Pochard, all three grebes, Greater Flamingo, Spoonbill and common coot. Alonga track on the opposite side of the road we searched for reeling Savi’s Warbler, a couple showed very briefly, as did Reed Warbler but it was too breezy for them to sit on top of the reeds.



In the smaller lagunas we found a couple of good ‘Donana’ species in the shape of Marbled duck and Red-knobbed Coot, both showed very well as did a couple of night herons. We had lunch at a small Venta before heading off to the valverde Centre found deep in the marshes of the National Park. The drive was littered with many stops as we found many species. Some of the most notable were Calandra lark, Short-toed lark, whinchat, yellow wagtail, northern wheatear, short-toed eagle, booted eagle and griffon vulture.



MARBLED DUCK



RED-KNOBBED COOT

There was a large amount of water lying in the flat meadows and marshes these areas held black-winged stilts, purple herons, cattle, little and great white egrets, grey heron, glossy ibis and white stork. We had great views of Collared Pratincole, lapwing, dunlin, ringed plover, curlew sandpiper, whiskered terns and gull-billed terns. At the centre itself the tamarisk bushes were covered in nesting cattle egrets, night herons, squacco herons and reeds held large numbers glossy ibis, purple heron and great reed warblers. The air was alive with moving birds and sound was terrific.

We spent an hour or so in the centre before driving back along the track to watch over the reed-beds in search of little bittern, which was seen by only me! We heard a purple Swamphen calling, and the noise from a dozen great reed warblers was deafening! In the distant sky we could see a good number of griffon vultures rising from the ground, several black kites drifted over and lesser kestrels seemed to be on many posts.



The drive back through the marshes produced very little in the way of new birds, a common whitethroat, more whinchats, lots of yellow wagtails and a good number of short-toed larks were found along the track and fenceline.

We stopped to look at a regular breeding area for Spanish imperial eagle and after a short while a pair of these magnificent birds appeared and chased off a couple of black kites, the birds were distant but the light was good.

The rest of the journey back was made in good time, we passed through a rain shower but it was clear at the coast and the wind had dropped. We met for dinner at the usual time and decided to try for nightjars afterwards.

At 9pm we found ourselves on the heath along the track to the Palace de Acebron. As it got dark we heard and saw a little owl, a cuckoo and a couple of red-necked nightjars. The nightjars called for a short while, then two them took to the air not far from us, they interacted, possibly mating and then flew off. One drifted across the road a second time, silhouetted in the evening sky, gliding with its wings held high and that was it!

TARIFA & COTO DOÑANA 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 5 APRIL 19TH

Matalascanas Cliffs – El Acebuche – La Rocina – El Rocio – Fruit Farms

Another day of wind and rain, when is it going to stop? We started off the day okay with a visit to the cliffs just west of Matalascanas where we were able to shelter from the wind behind a building. We spent an hour sea-watching and came up with some good new sightings for the tour list: Caspain Tern, Audouin’s Gull, Great Skua, Northern Gannet, Sandwich Tern, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Sanderling were our best sightings.

At Acebuche visitor’s centre we walked to several of the hides and produced very little: Common andf Red Crested Pochard, Savi’s Warbler (reeling only), Glossy Ibis and lots of Black Kites. In the White popular Trees we heard Golden Oriole and looked for them in the wind swept foliage without success.

La Rocina was the same, the lagunas that are overlooked from the hides held a lot of water and very few birds.



We bought and ate our lunch in El Rocio, from the new visitor’s centre at the south of the laguna we saw Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pied Avocet, Ringed and Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Litler Stint and Black-winged Stilt.


We then drove along to the south of the town and walked a sandy track and didn’t see a single bird! Lastly we drove through the fruit farms south of La Rocina and scanned the open fields, there we had some success. Lots of Bee-eaters were sitting on the road, we had great views of Calandra Lark and we saw our one and only Curlew of the trip. A large flock of Cattle Egrets was an impressive sight and many brightly coloured Yellow Wagtails we nice to see.

We finished off a little earlier than usual and spent some time relaxing in the hotel before dinner at 7:30pm.

TARIFA & COTO DOÑANA 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 4 APRIL 18TH

TARIFA – LAGUNA MEDINA – BONANZA SALT PANS – ALGAIDA PINE WOODS – TREBUJENA MARSHES – EL ROCIO

This was our transfer day from the Tarifa area to Coto Donana, I was looking forward to getting away from the windy conditions. Alas the wind followed us most of the day and only died down once we reached El Rocio.

It took an hour to reach Laguna Medina and boy was it windy there! We found some shelter along the track and in the hide but it was still uncomfortable. We found all 3 grebe species, great-crested, little and black-necked, there was also Shoveler, gadwall, Pochard, red-crested Pochard and mallard. In the reeds and scrub many birds were singing but they were keeping very low because of the wind. We did see however, great reed warbler from the hide, Sardinian warbler and a few finches.



DUNLIN, CURLEW SANDPIPER AND LITTLE STINT


The strange looking MOLE CRICKET



Bonanza was fantastic some of the pans were completely covered in birds and as the tide was rising more came in from the river. The majority of the species were dunlin and curlew sandpiper both species looking great in their summer garb. They were joined by sanderling, little stint, ringed, little ringed and Kentish plover, all in good numbers. Smaller numbers of grey plover, redshank, greenshank and common sandpiper were also present whilst the bigger waders, avocets and black-winged stilts were everywhere. The highest number of slender-billed gulls that I have ever seen was also there, 300 was probably an underestimate! But greater flamingo numbers were very low with less than 50 seen.


We drove along the bumpy track through Algaida woods, nothing much was seen in the wood but above it there was many black kites, booted eagles and the occasional red kite, we did see a couple of nice things, a rufous common cuckoo, flashed across the track in front of the bus, we saw it land but couldn’t relocate it and a booted eagle was seen standing on top of a dead rabbit, the bird was reluctant to move and stayed quite a while whilst being mobbed by black kites that were after the booty!

The traditional place for marbled duck did not let us down as we found two of them very close to the road on Trebujena Marshes, they looked superb from close quarters. The laguna also held red-crested Pochard, common Pochard, gadwall and mallard. In the adjacent marsh we found Eurasian Spoonbill, grey heron, and lots more waders all of the same species as earlier. Huge numbers of hirundines were skimming the windy surface, barn swallows, house and sand martins were joined by the occasional common swift. On and above the fields of scrub we found many yellow wagtails, marsh harrier and more black kites.

The drive through Sevilla went by quickly as the roads were fairly quiet and within an hour we were approaching El Rocio. The ubiquitous Azure-winged Magpie dashed in front of us in small groups, we also saw common raven, common buzzard, jackdaw and many corn buntings.




EL ROCIO - TAKEN BY CONOR FINCH


The huge laguna at El Rocio was almost barren of birds, the quietest I have ever seen it. The odd greater flamingo, a single Eurasian spoonbill, a few mallards, gadwall, Shoveler and common pochard were dotted around and a good number of black-winged stilts and that was it. Flying over us we saw black and red kites, griffon vultures and booted eagles.



MARBLED DUCK - BY CONOR FINCH

We arrived at our hotel in Matalascanas at 5:30pm and were allocated 4th floor rooms with sea views, what a lovely place. The wind had finally died out and sea looked fairly calm. Half an hour of sea watching produced 3 Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Common Gannet, Balearic Shearwater, Sandwich Tern and lots of yellow-legged Gulls. Small parties of distant waders went unidentified.

Dinner was self service with a huge choice on offer and the bar provide a couple cold beers, that’s a fitting end to a long day’s birding!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

TARIFA & COTO DONANA 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 3 APRIL 17TH

PALMONES SALT MARSH – PINAR DEL REY – SIERRA CRESTELLINA – SAN ENRIQUE WOODS – SOTO GRANDE

Another very frustrating day of high winds and very little in migration watching! We decided to head eastward towards Algeciras in order to shelter from the wind, but we failed miserably. At the Torrejon municipal park which overlooks the marshes of Palmones we braved the wind and watched from the elevated hide. It was low tide and not much was on show: Black-winged Stilts, greenshank, ringed plover, common sandpiper, little egret and grey plover.




We found the pines of Pinar del Rey a little better, the leeward side of the woods wasn’t too bad with some shelter. A nice male Common Redstart started us off then over the next hour we had wonderful views of Crested Tit which was picking up nesting material from the floor, also Firecrest, a couple were found foraging in the canopy and Blackcap, Jay, Robin, Booted Eagle and several common species.

At 1pm we met up with John and Estelle who were joining us for the rest of the tour, at the meeting point we found Sardinian Warbler, lots of Monk Parakeets, a dead Woodchat Shrike and some greenfinches. Together with our new recruits we drove to Sierra Crestellina to look for eagles. After an hour we had logged griffon vulture, thekla lark, woodchat shrike, corn bunting, stonechat, blue rock thrush, red-billed chough and the stars of the show a pair of bonelli’s eagles. They put on a flying show chasing griffon vultures and alighting on their eyrie. A short-toed Eagle put in an appearance too.

We took the scenic route back to the coast by driving down the Genal valley to Secadura and on to San Enrique. Lots of woodchats, serins, corn buntings and other finches were seen. At San Enrique woods we found Tree Sparrow and Short-toed Tree Creeper.


Lastly we visited the lauguna at Torreguadiaro where the wind was still quite strong but we managed to see lesser kestrel, little owl, little egret, northern wheatear, and crested larks.

We had a little altercation with some car thieves whom we caught red-handed unloading our gear from the bus, we asked them for it back and told them not to do it again!!!

So ended another windy day, we got back to the hotel at 6pm with ample time to get ready for dinner.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

TARIFA & COTO DONANA - 7 DAY TOUR - DAY 2 APRIL 16TH

PLAYA DE LOS LANCES- LA JANDA - BENALUP - BARBATE MARSHES

We were blown away today - not by the birds but by the bloody windy!! It was almost gale force at times and it was useless to bird watch under those conditions.

We saw 56 species instead of 80-90 and no migration whatsoever!

At los lances beach we were blown into the hide and managed to see Sanderling, Kentish plover, Dunlin, Common Tern, Sandwhich Tern and Yellow-legged Gull. A single Black kite and a single Marsh Harrier were the only raptors.

At la Janda it was just as bad: Cattle and Little Egrets, White Stork, Pheasants and Partrdiges.

On the tracks around Benalup we saw Hoopoe and at barbate Marshes we added Little Owl, Black-winged Stilts, Wood Sandpiper, Zitting Cisticola and a Shoveler!

If the weather is as bad tomorrow I'm going home!!!!

TARIFA & COTO DOÑANA 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 1 APRIL 15TH

MALAGA & GIBRALTAR AIRPORTS - EL BUJEO RECREATION AREA

Our first day involved getting the group assembled; Conor & Ann were collected from Malaga Airport at 11:30am and then Peter, Alison & Gordon were collected from Gibraltar at 2:30pm it was the shortest visit to Gib that Conor and Ann were ever going to make. John and Estelle will be arrive on Sunday to join the group for the last 6 days. After the short drive to our hotel in the foothills above Algeciras we reconvened at 4pm to head off for a short birding session. We drove to El Bujeo, a small picnic area situated along the main N340 just above Pelayo, it consists of open grassy scrub and some mature eucalyptus trees. A pair of ravens flew over as we emerged from the bus, quickly followed by 4 griffon vultures and in the scrub we found a woodchat shrike, common redstart (a nice male), a couple siskin high in the trees and a few barn swallows flew by. As we walked through the shrubs we found several bonelli’s warblers (a couple were singing), blackcap, common whitethroats, Iberian chiffchaff (also singing), common nightingale (heard only), stonechat, cirl bunting, serin and a few common species. Not a bad start to our holiday, we returned to the hotel and got ready for our dinner which was served at 8pm.

ANDAULICA 7-DAY TOUR – DAY 7 14TH APRIL

LAGUNA DULCE & LAGUNA DE FUENTE DE PIEDRAS

This was our last day and what a great one it turned out to be! We decided to go to the lake district around Campillos to the north of Ronda. Along the way we saw a few Rock Sparrows and Red-rumped Swallows. We stopped at a known Bonelli’s Eagle site just north of Ronda and to our delight 2 birds were present giving good displays. We also saw Jackdaw, Rock Dove and Crag Martin.

Bonelli's Eagle

Laguna Dulce was our next venue, it sits on the roadside between Campillos and Antequera and it was full of birds. The 3 Grebes were present, great crested . Black-necked and Little, several duck species were found Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Common Pochard, Red-crested Pochard and White headed Duck. We also saw Greater Flamingo, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns, Black-winged Stilts, Lapwing, Stone Curlew, Common Coot, Moorhen and an Osprey circled above the water for a while. Wood Sandpiper

In the distance we noticed a few harriers quartering the fields so we drove there to take a closer look. We had good views of Montagu’s and Marsh Harrier, then we found ur bird of the day so far, a Little Bustard, wow what a find! It was a male performing its display by puffing out it neck feathers and issuing its call as it threw its back. Laguna Dulce

In the open meadows we also found Calandra lark, Corn Bunting, Yellow Wagtail and a couple of Collared Pratincoles. The rest of the day was spent at Laguna de Fuente de Piedras whixh is found some 15 kilometeres from Laguna Dulce. Along the way we stopped at a good site for Bee-eaters, a colony of some 30 pairs nest in a roadside sand bank , they gave us terrific views. The first stop at Laguna Fuente was a mirador which overlook the south side of this huge reservoir, we could see a few thousand Greater Flamingo’s and in the nearside pools we picked out Slender-billed Gull, Purple Heron, Purple Swamphen, Pied Avocet, Gull-billed Tern and many Coots and Grebes. Along the boardwalk near the visitor’s centre we found some good birds for our list which include: Marsh Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank, we also found more stilts and avocets, Redshank and Little ringed Plovers. In another pool we found good numbers of Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Flamingo’s, another Marsh Sandpiper, Redshank and a juvenile Glossy Ibis. All in all we amassed a great list for the day. We stopped off at the Teba Gorge on the way home to take photographs and whilst doing so we saw 2 more Bonelli’s Eagle, a Short-toed Eagle, Red-billed Chough and Crag Martins. To top it all a Quail flew across the raod and nearly crashed into the windscreen as we pulled away!! Our last day was over and so was the holiday there would be no time to bird-watch in the morning. We concluded the tour at dinner and after completing our checklist we totalled the final tally which turned out to be 145 species. Not a bad effort at all.

ANDALUCIA 7-DAY TOUR – DAY 6 – 13TH APRIL

GIBRALTAR

This was not really a birding day out, we were tourist for a while, however there was an element of avian adventure and some new birds were added to our list.

We drove down to Gib via Jimera de la Frontera and San Roque logging White Stork, Bee-eater, Spotless Starling, Lesser Kestrel (9) and Cattle Egret along the way.

Once on Gib we drove along the east road and stopped to scan the slopes for Barbary Partridge which did not appear, we only saw thousands of Yellow-legged gulls at their nests. We then drove through the recently opened tunnel to Europa Point, the tunnel had been closed for 9 years!!! Europa Point is a building site and well worth avoiding, we parked short of the point on the east side and scanned the sea and the cliffs for possible sightings.

The best out to see was an Osprey struggling against the east wind, a Caspian Tern, likewise and a flock of some 100+ Black Kites. On the land we found a pair of Blue Rock Thrushes and a perched Peregrine. We decided to follow the Kites as they approached the ‘rock’ from Algeciras bay, they soon found a thermal and rose in a swirling mass up over the highest point, a great sight for us.

Next we visited the ringing station at ‘Jews Gate’ where the ringers were just packing up for the day! They patrolled the nets one more time and produced a solitary Willow Warbler, still a nice bird to see in the hand. Earlier they had caught many Pied Flycatchers, Bonelli’s Warblers, Common Redstarts and lots more.

We visited the Botanical gardens but only added Robin, Blackcap and Great tit to the list. The rest of the time was taken up with visits to the shops, lunch and walking around the sites.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ANDALUCIA - 7 DAY TOUR - DAY 5 - 12TH APRIL

ENCINAS BORRACHAS - SIERRAS DE LAS NIEVES

This is one of my favourite walks and even though the NE wind tried hard to ruin the day for me, it failed miserably. We were joined by Paul and Helen from the village and both of them contributed well to the list.



Spectacled Warbler


On arrival we quickly logged Southern Grey Shrike, Linnet, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Thekla lark and Black-eared Wheatear in the open valley.


Orphean Warbler - white eyering just visible


As we approached the heath we found Woodlark, Common Cuckoo and Helen pulled a great find out of the bag - a Golden Eagle!.The bird was being mobbed by two Common Kestrels, they looked tiny in comparison, they eventually drove it off but not before we all got good flight views of the sub-adult plummage. Super stuff. A flock of some 20+ Red-billed Chough filled the air and both Booted and Short-toed Eagles joined Griffon Vultures in the cloudy sky. On the heath itself we had good views of Dartford Warbler before moving into the cork oak woodland.


Portugese Dappled White


The woodland provided some great views of both Bonelli's and Orphean Warbler, we also saw Jay, Wood Pigeon, Subalpine Warbler and Robin.


During the return journey to the minbus we had very close views of Spectacled Warbler and better views of Black-eared Wheatear, Thekla Lark and Southern Grey Shrike.


Green hairstreak


The afternoon was spent in the huge natural park of Sierras de las Nieves which we found a bit too windy and birdless. After an hours walk we found a flock of Bee-eaters, Short-toed Eagle, a couple of interesting butterflies and not much else. We drove deeper into the park to find some shelter and logged Common Redstart, Great Tit and Rock Bunting in the process.


The group along the Encinas Borrachas trail


After a coffee stop we returned to Gaucin seeing another Rock Bunting, Red-rumped Swallow and Griffon Vultures along the way.

ANDALUCIA - 7 DAY TOUR - DAY 4 - 11th April

RIO GENAL - PINAR DEL REY - PALMONES

Another lovely sunny day but windy at times. The first stop at the Bridge below Gaucin failed to produce much. All the trees are now thick with foilage and birds are difficult to locate even though you can hear them well. Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler and the common finches were all we got.


We followed the river all the way to where it meets the Rio Guadiaro and then onto Secadura. Along the way we found Woodchat Shrike, Little Ringed Plover, Serin, Nightingale (many in song) and a Twany Pipit was new for the trip.


We ate our picnic lunch in the shelter of the pine trees at Pinar del Rey, during which time we found Bonelli's Warbler, Jay, Raven, Booted Eagle and many common species.


Palmones wasn't brilliant, we logged a few species of wader, Greenshank, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin and Turnstone. A Whiskered Tern was a nice find and the first of the year for me.


On the way back up to Guacin we stopped to view Sierra Crestellina and quickly located the Bonelli's Eagle nest where an adult bird was attending the nest, a great bird to finsh off the day with.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

ANDALUCIA - 7 DAY TOUR - DAY 3 - 10TH APRIL

ESTACION DE CORTES - RIO GUADIARO - MONTEJAQUE

A beautiful sunny day brought out the birds and the butterflies, the flowers were terrific and the scenery just fantastic.


We arrived at a track which runs above the river Guadiaro near Estacion Cortes and walked through some cork oak woodland. We found several new species for our list and many birds were in song. Cirl Bunting, Blackcap were the first and Chaffinch, Subalpine Warbler, Serin, Greenfinch quickly followed, lots of species were also heard but not seen. Common Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Wren, Robin and Nightingale were not seen but heard well.


At the river we found Little Ringed Plover, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail and we had great views of Nightingale. Many Cetti's Warblers sang unseen and both Booted Eagle and Short-toed Eagles showed well above us. A small flock of Rock Sparrows cheered us up as did a pair of Red-rumped Swallows.


The drive to Montejaque took us through some beautiful scenery with terrific limestone mountains and a deep river valley. Along a track above the village we ate our picnic lunch in lovely sunshine but our target birds did not appear, however, we did find a Spanish Ibex high up on the mountain with a newly born kid.


At the 'dam' we spent a good hour watching Blue Rock Thrush, Alpine Swifts, Crag Martins, Red-billed Chough, Black Wheatear and Rock Doves. We also found good numbers of Yellow Orchids (Ophrys lutea) and several nice butterflies.


Our last walk was through a lovely cork oak woodland where despite the time of day plenty of birds were calling and feeding in the trees. Firecrest, Chaffinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Serin and Great tit were listed. We also saw Green Hairstreak, Moroccan Orange Tip, Scarce Swallowtail, Small Heath, Copper brown and several other butterflies.


We drove home earlier than usual as the wanted to relax in the sunshine on our terraces before getting ready for dinner.

ANDALUCIA 7 - DAY TOUR - DAY 2 - 9TH APRIL

SOTO GRANDE - SAN ENRIQUE - TARIFA LOS LANCES BEACH - LA JANDA

Today we were joined by George and Vivienne for the day, we collected them from the shopping centre at Sabinillas on the coast road. Our first stop was a few kilometers west at Torreguadiaro Laguna. Lesser Kestrels and Little Owls performed well for us in their usual place on the the tower. A few migrants we found in the beach scrub, which included several Northern Wheatears and Woodchat Shrikes, we also saw a Squacco Heron and some Red-rumped Swallows and bee-eaters in flight. The laguna itself held very little but the farmland across the road held more shrikes, Nightingale, Reed Warbler and Cattle Egrets.




At San Enrique we saw the resident Tree Sparrows, Serins and a good passage of Black kites, booted Eagles, marsh Harriers and a single Montagu's Harrier. We drove through Algeciras and up to Tarifa and we soon realised that we had made a mistake, it was dull overcast and very misty. You couldn't see Africa and the wind from the west was quite strong. Our picnic was consumed on the promenade near tarifa Island but the birds recorded only included gulls.



At Los Lances beach hide we found Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-winged Stilt and Kentish Plover. The gull roost included a single Sandwich Tern and a few Audouin's Gull. On the grass turf behind the beach we found a flock of Short-toed Larks and acouplr of Crested Larks.



The rest of the day was spent at la janda where we found Purple Swamphen, White Stork, Grey herons, Little Egrets, Zitting Cisticola and not alot else. Driving the tracks behind La Janda back to Facinas we found many Black Kites, Harriers, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagles and Griffin Vultures. Various other species were added which included: Calandra Lark, Bee-eaters, Yellow Wagtails, Corn Buntings, Common Snipe and Lesser Kestrel.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

ANDALUCIA - 7 DAY TOUR - DAY 1 - 8TH APRIL

MALAGA AIRPORT - GUADALHORCE NATURE RESERVE - GAUCIN

Rita, Ann and Ivan joined myself and Dawn at our house for the beginning of their 7 day break, I collected Ivan from Malaga Airport at 11am whilst Ann and Rita arrived a day earlier.


From the airport we arrived at Guadalhorce in bright and breezy weather with plenty of sunshine, we sat on a bench to eat our picnic lunch whilst watching many species of birds and butterflies.


Our afternoon was spent touring the whole of the reserve, we visited all of the hides,we watched over all of the lagunas and we walked along the beach to finish off. Some of our best sightings included: Ruddy Shelduck - a very good record for this part of Spain, we also saw Kentish Plover, Collared Pratincole, Monk Parakeet, White-headed Duck, Serin, Crested Lark, Yellow Wagtail, Red-rumped Swallow, Woodchat Shrike, Common Redstart, Zitting Cisticola and lots of the more common species.


Our drive to Gaucin took just over an hour, we arrived with time to relax before we ate our home cooked dinner of ratatouille with chicken served with a chilled white rioja.

Friday, April 8, 2011

DAY TOUR - 7TH APRIL - TARIFA - LA JANDA

Kevin and Pat came out with me for their second outing, we decided to head for the coast to look for migrating raptors. Big Mistake! Whilst it was a lovely bright, calm morning in Gaucin it was blowing a gale in Tarifa!!! We stopped at Jimena to look over the meadows and hills to look for migrants but only found Griffon Vultures.


At Palmones the river mouth was very quiet despite a low tide. We found only a few Redshank,Greenshank, Whimbrel, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, GreyPlover, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Sanderling and Kentish Plover. At Tarifa we visited Los Lances beach and nearly got blown away! We only saw 3 Sanderling and 2 Kentish Plover on the beach and a single Northern Wheatear on the grass. A few Black Kites braved the crossing but nothing else.


At La Janda the wind was just as bad with very few species on show. White Stork, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier,Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle and the odd Short-toed Eagle flew over.We also found Collared Pratincole (5)and a Long Legged Buzzard was a great find and a first for Spain for me! A distant juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle cheered us up and large groups of Bee-eaters flew over several times during our visit. We drove back towards Facinas on a wide track where we found Lesser Kestrels, Corn Buntings, Calandra Larks, Hoopoe, more Bee-eaters and as soon as we returned to Algeciras the wind abated. We returned to Gaucin blown away from the coast by the weather!