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Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Friday, September 30, 2011

september 30th - DAY TOUR

SAN PABLO - SAN ENRIQUE - LAGUNA CAMELIAS, SOTO GRANDE - PALMONES







JILL & NOEL - DOING WHAT THEY DO BEST WHEN OUT BIRDING!!!!!!!



I took Jill and Noel out on my standard 'coast-run' on another lovely day out here in sunny Spain. It was a another lovely morning with a light breeze as we left Gaucin at 8am.



Our first stop was the track at San Pablo, which had produced a great variety of species all year. Today however was a diappointment and probably marks the end of my visits for this year. A few Chiffchaffs fed in the fennel along the side of the track and we saw flocks of Corn Bunting, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows. in the sky we saw half a dozen Lesser Kestrels, Short-toed Eagle and acouple of Ravens. A Common Buzzard sat on a post and ate a rabbit but there was not a lot more to see, so we departed for the woods at San Enrique.



By the time we reached the woods the wind had picked up remarkably, we got brief views of garden Warblers in a fig tree and the Tree Sparrow flock that is normally present we sheltering shomewhere out of sight. In the woods we tracked down Short-toed Treecreeper, Jay and Blue Tit and at the river we got views of both Grey and White Wagtails, Kingfisher, Grey heron and Little Egret.





The beautiful Booted Eagle stole the show - there wasa constant stream of them drifting over, the flocks got bigger as the thermals developed, at one stage there were a hundred birds in the sky above the woods, fantastic. We even found several of them perched on a sand bank, they were after a dead fish in a nearby pool, see photos below.





BOOTED EAGLE - CAN YOU SEE THE BOOTS???




After the eagle spectacle we drove round to the Pine Woods at Pinar del Rey where we sat and ate our picnic lunch. A short walk produced a number of birds including: Short-toed Treecreeper, Crested Tit, Chaffinch, Pied Flycatcher and Jay.




For the last birding of the day we drove to Palmones and sat on a bench in the afternoon sunshine to watch the waders, gulls and terns on the sandbank at the river mouth.




Birds of note were: Sandwich Tern (35), caspian Tern (1), Med Gull (5), Sanderling, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Redshank, White Stork and Spoonbill (2).


There was no sign of the either of the two Ospreys that have been frequenting the marshes of late, nor of any Marsh Harriers.




We drove home and finshed the day alittle earlier than usual so that Jill and Noel could relax on our upper terrace and watch the world go by.

SEPTEMBER 29TH 2011 - 1/2 DAY TOUR

GIBRALTAR

I had to take Barbara to Gibraltar for an afternoon flight and so I took Gill and Noel with me to show them a few birds on Gibraltar afterwards.

We ran into trouble trying to get on to Gibraltar as the local council workers on the Spanish side of the border were staging a protest march which included a blockade of the border.



PART OF THE BLOCKADE AT THE ENTRANCE TO GIBRALTAR
At one stage we though poor Barbara was going to have to walk across their picket-line and cross by herself with all her luggage but the marcher/strikers relented and let us pass in the car.


On Gib we did the tourist tour of the top of the rock and during our time there we watched a constant stream of Booted Eagles heading off to Africa. We also had a great aerial display by 3 Peregrines. Others birds of note were Short-toed Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush and mnay Yellow-legged Gulls. A single Wren, a couple of Blackcaps and a Garden Warbler were noted in the scrub and plenty of Sardinian Warblers were located by call.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

SEPTEMBER 28TH - 7 - DAY TOUR DAY - 7

LAGUNAMEDINA - SALINAS DE PUERTO MARIA - SALINAS BONANZA - LAGUNA TARELO - ALGAIDA PINE WOODS - TREBUJENA MARSHES

Our final day and we went out with a bang, this was a long day but we really enjoyed our day and recorded our highest day-tally of the tour.

We set off at 8am and drove straight to Laguna Medina, it was a lovely morning, hazy sunshine and a very light breeze. Cetti's Warblers were in good singing form and lots of Flycatchers dashed in and out of the thick bushes along the track to the hide. We also heard Penduline Tit (not seen), but we logged Garden Warbler, Blackcap and an Osprey, a large 'covey' of Red-legged Partridges flew over us. From the hide we spent a good hour scanning the water and the reedbeds below us. A Little Bittern was found feeding directly below us, it caught a frog whilst we watched. A Reed Warbler flitted by as did a Cetti's Warbler, on the water we found White-headed Duck, Common Pochard, Shoveler, all 3 Grebe Species, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier and lots of Sand Martin.





SLENDER BILLED GULL

On the way back to the car park we had great views of a Red Kite what a beautiful bird, also several Booted Eagles flew over. On a distant tree we found a Black-winged Kite, finally, as we got into the car a Pied Flycatcher showed well in the car park bushes.

At the Salinas de Puerto de Maria we spent a short time looking for Stone Curlews without success but we did find: Woodchat Shrike (juv), thousands of gulls, which were mainly Lesser Black-backed and yellow Legged. We did also see Black-winged stilt, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and White Storks.

After a quick stop for coffee we drove to the next leg of our trip, Sanlucar de Barrameda where we visited the Salinas de Bonanza. What a treat that visit was, the salt pans are an excellent site to gain good close views of many species of waders. Using the car as our hide we approached flocks of waders feeding next to the track, we saw Black-winged Stilt, Whimbrel, Dunlin, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Avocet, Ringed and Kentish Plover all very close. As we moved through the pans we added:Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover (my first for the autumn), Knot, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and many Little Egrets, Greater Flamingos and White Storks. Up to 5 Red Kites were drifting over the pans and one of them swooped down and took a wader- I have never seen that before.


A couple Ravens and an Osprey joined the Kites and both Booted and Short-toed Eagles sailed over. We had superb views of Slender-billed Gulls and we logged 14 Caspain Terns (again, my first for the autumn).





JUVENILE REDSHANK SHOWING YELLOW LEGS - IT GOT ME OUT OF THE CAR QUICKLY HOPING FOR IT TO BE AN AMERICAN SPECIES!

Our visit ended as we searched for an American Golden Plover that had been seen earlier, but we failed to see it.

Just around the corner we stopped at laguna Tarelo where we found one of our target species, the Marbled Duck, three of them were present along with White-headed Duck, Shoveler, Common Pochard, Black-necked Grebe, Night Heron and many Coots and Moorhens.

Just as we were leaving we saw a Squacco Heron, our only one of the week!



GREY PLOVER STILL IN SUMMER PLUM.

We drove through the pine woods of Algaida looking for Azure-winged Magpie, dipped again, but we did find Pied Flycatcher, Tree Sparrow and Short-toed Treecreeper. On the marshes at Trebujena we saw many waders and a few Spoonbills, but we also saw Northern Wheatear, Skylark and Marsh Harriers. These last few species took our daily tally to 88, quite a remarkable score and some good sightings too!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SEPTEMBER 27th 7-DAY TOUR DAY - 6

RONDA AREA - LAGUNA DULCE CAMPILLOS - LAGUNA FUENTE DE PIEDRA

I love this day trip up to the lakes near Campillos it always provides me with a good selection of species and usually one or two goodies and today was no exception.

Our star bird of the day was DOTTEREL! We found a small 'trip' (just two juvenile birds) in the ploughed fields at the back of Laguna Dulce this morning. Several photos are shown below and a small film can found on the Wingspanner Youtube site.










These birds were so confiding that they allowed me to approah to within 5 meters - this one even went to sleep whilst I stood next to it, how chilled is that?


Acouple of stops in the mountain region around Ronda produced the usual array of mountain species: Rock Bunting Rock Sparrow, Black Wheatear, Ropck Sparrow Blue Rock Thrush, Thekla Lark and a couple of Northern Wheatears.


Other birds present in the fields behind Laguna Ducle as well as the Dotterel were: Southern Grey Shrike, Yellows Wagtail (50+), Corn Bunting, Marsh harrier, Northern Wheatear, Skylark and lots of Stonechats. On or in the water we saw many birds withhundreds of wildfowl. White-headed Duck, Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Greater Flamingo, Little Egret, Great Crested, Little and Black Necked Grebes.


We then drove round to Fuente de PiedrasLaguna where hundreds of Greater Flamingos were viewed from the visitor's centre. The pools close to the centre held lots of species: Common Shelduck, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Lapwing, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Sanderling, Kentish Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Ruff, Yellow Wagtail, Ringed Plover and many Common Coots and Moorhens.


On the return journey we saw Hoopoe and near Teba Gorge we stopped to watch the rock faces and ridges hoping for a Bonelli's Eagle without success.








Monday, September 26, 2011

SEPTEMBER 25TH 7-DAY TOUR DAY - 5

TARIFA - WHALE WATCHING PELAGIC

We took a break today from out and out bird watching to take to the seas and do some whale watching. But before we set off for Tarifa to catch the boat we drove down to El Colmenar to look for a few species still missing from our list. We set at 7:30am in the dark and drove the 12 kilometers to El Colmenar where we parked near the electricity sub-station so that we could watch my favourite dead tree.

We didn't have to wait for long before a Hawfinch landed at the top most branch, this was quickly followed a Great Spotted Woodpecker and several more Hawfinches. Over the next hour we found several other species which included: Spotted Flycatcher, Wren, Spotless Starling, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Blue Tit and Great Tit. A Grey Heron and a Little Egret flew over the tree before we left and headed home for Breakfast.

The weather was just right for a boat ride, a gentle easterly breeze and bright sunshine, the sea looked relatively calm. The trip was taken from Tarifa and covered a large area into the Strait of Gibraltar.

As we left the harbour walls behind us we found our first Cory's Shearwaters fairly close to the boat. Soon we had logged several more Cory's and a couple of Balearic Shearwaters. Over the next 2 hours we watched lots of Striped Dolphins, a few Sunfish, Flying Fish and a couple of Gannets. Other birds of note were Short-toed Eagle, an Osprey that looked as though it was coming from Morocco?? A few Honey Buzzards seen very high up and 6 Black Storks. An Arctic Skua dashed close to the and a Cory's Sheatwaters flew by almost within touching distance.

The views of the Spanish coastlaine were amazing and all in all it was a wonderful trip with plenty to see even if we didn't catch sight of a whlae, perhaps next time!

SEPTEMBER 26TH 7-DAY TOUR DAY - 6

GAUCIN TO MALAGA AIRPORT - GUADALHORCE - SAN PABLO TRACK

A shortened birding day today as we had to drive to Malaga to collect another couple, Noel and Gill who are joining for the rest of the week.

We all spent an hour at the mouth of the rio Guadalhorce, the western arm at Guadalmar. We had a bright sunshine with a nice cooling breeze, temperture was around 25 centigrade.

Several species were near the mouth of the river despite a lot of disturbance from fishermen and sun-bathers. A mixed flock of Black-heded and Mediterranean Gulls was sitting on the sand bar and were close enough for good diagnostic purposes. We also saw Kingfisher, Whimbrel, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling and aLittle Egret all were feeding on the river banks. A flock of some 15 Monk Parakeets flew around us as did Spotless starling, House martin, Goldfinch and Serin. In the scrub on the grassy banks we found Sardinian Warbler and Zitting Cisticola, in the distance wwe found two Booted Eagles soaring on the thermals and out to sea several Gannets joined Balearic Shearwaters and hundreds of Yellow-legged Gulls as they followed a fishing boat.

Later in the afternoon we made a short trip to San pablo, arriving around 3pm, it was very hot and there wasn't much birding activity. We manage to find Crested Lark, Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, lots of Stonechats, Spotted Flycatcher but not much else.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

SEPTEMBER 24TH 7-DAY TOUR DAY - 4

LAS MESAS DE CHULLERAS - LAGUNA CAMELIAS AT TORREGUADIARO - SAN ENRIQUE WOODS - PALMONES SALT MARSH

Another lovely day, the good weather has returned. We had light south westerly winds and unbroken sunshine for most of the day. Our first stop was on the coast at Manilva, we drove inland from the coast road onto a large expanse of heathland which is made up of cistus scrub and very few trees.



The whole area is inhabited by a high concentration of Sardinian Warblers, during our 2 hour visit we must have counted over 50 of them! But our target bird was the Dartford Warbler and we got good, but distant views of several of these as well. We also watched Corn Buntings, Linnets, lots of Stoenchats and a single Common Redstart. A good sighting was of a Black-eared Wheatear and an even better sighting was of Honey Buzzards, one of them nearly took the roof off the car as is drifted over us. Plenty of Black Kites, Booted and Short-toed Eagles came up onto the thermals as the moring wore on.

A short stop at the laguna Camelias produced the expected Purple Swamphen, we also found Little Grebe, Common Coot, Moorhen and Mallard.

At San Enrique woods we spent a good deal of time watching the sky as hundreds of eagles, harriers, kites, storks and honey buzzards gathered on the thermals. One truly great sight was of 6 Red Kites, where the hell they came from I don't know! In and around the woods we found Tree Sparrow, Garden Warbler, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Blackcap, Short-toed Treecreeper, Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Grey heron, Cattle and Little Egret and some nice dragonflies.



The Lesser Emperor - a close up

The rest of the afternoon was spent as Palmones, first we visited the village side where walked along the promenade then we drove around to the raised hide on the Algeciras side and finally we returned to Palmones village. Lots of birds were present, their numbers seem to be climbing everytime I visit, new additions included Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Osprey (3), Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel and over 20 Sandwich Terns. Also present were Common Sandpiper, Cormorant, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Little -Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Redshank, Green shank, Sanderling, Med Gull, Audouin's Gull and during our finally watch we found a Little Gull (my first of the autumn).

Not a high count of species today but we had a lovely relaxing day out, after all some of us are on holiday, arn't we??

Saturday, September 24, 2011

SEPTEMBER 23rd - 7-DAY TOUR DAY - 3

RIO GUADIARO - MONTEJAQUE - ENCINAS BORRACHAS

We had a much slower day today after the frantic raptor sightings of Tarifa and La Janda yesterday. It was a dull overcast day with a chilly wind which didn't let up all day. We wore our fleeces as we left the car at 8:30am at the Rio Gudauiaro at Estacion de Cortes.

The river valley was as beautiful as ever and very peaceful. There were both Grey and White Wagtails feeding by the river and a Cetti's Warbler gave us a good showing whilst it sat out singing. We walked for a while and found both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and glimpsed a Common Redstart. But the lack of sunshine kept the birds at bay, butterflies and dragonflies were not on the wing. We spent an hour watching and area around the dam and logged Southern Grey Shrike, Golden Oriole, Spotless Starling, Cirl Bunting, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Iberian Chiffchaff, lots of Sardinian Warblers and some distant Jays.

At Montejaque the story was the same, not many species were on show. Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, a few Griffon Vultures and our best sighting was of Spanish Ibex.

At the 'dam' we added Black Redstart, Crag Martin, Great Tit and Linnet. Then we stopped near a large gate which led into a cork oak woodland. It was a rewarding stop, as we had our best birdwatching of the day when a series of woodland species showed very well. First a Nuthatch called just above us and then landed on a wall in full view, this was followed by at least 3 Firecrests showing down to a few meters. A Great Spotted Woodpecker allowed brief views as did a Short-toed Treecreeper, Blue Tit and Great Tit flitted passed us and a single Spotted Flycatcher was last to show.

After a coffee stop in a local Venta we headed for the Encinas Borraches track where we found several more species. The overcast conditions got worse and a few drops of rain were felt in the air but we persisited with our walk. At a pool we saw Corn Bunting, Linnet, Goldfinch and nearby we found Stonechat, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Thekla Lark, Little Owl and another Southern Grey Shrike. As we were leaving we watched an Osprey soaring over the mountainside, it was an odd site seeing this species out of context.

Further down the valley towards Gaucin we stopped to look for Rock Bunting and found two distant birds. Overhead a bit of a migrant raptor passage was in evidence as. first we saw a couple of Marsh Harriers and then a flock of 40 Black Storks, that was impressive. A little further on we watched a swirling mass of Black kites and then a small group of Honey Buzzards, all of them rose above the mountainside and disappeared into the clouds.

We returned early to our apartments and we felt satisfied and less exhausted than yesterday and even though we didn't seem to see many species we logged over 60.

Friday, September 23, 2011

SEPTEMBER 22nd - 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 2

Aldea Beach, Manilva - Tarifa, Bujeo park, Cazalla Raptor Watch Point, Los Lances Beach, Ojen valley - La Janda


Our first full day and what a day!!! The winds were very low and sunshine prevailed throughout the day. We set off for Tarifa at 7:30am (in the dark) and made our first stop at the beach near Manilva. The sea was like a mill pond, we could see a good distance where many birds were flying. Good number of Yellow-legged Gulls were heading towards Estapona and not far out we saw both Northern Gannet and Cory's Shearwater fishing in their respective methods. We heard a Cetti's Warbler found a Grey Wagtail near the beach before we set off.


Passing through Algeciras we quickly made our way over the hills towards tarifa, near the summit we stopped at Bujeo Park just above Pelayo. From the park we watched several early risers in the form of Short-toed and Booted Eagles, we also saw Honey Buzzard, Griffon Vulture and Sparrowhawk. But the best sighting was of a pair of Bonelli's Eagles that drifted right over us from west to east, wow what a start!


As we arrived at Cazalla, the raptor watch-point situated in the hills above Tarifa we were greeted by a large flock of storks circling on the thermals. They turned out to be 32 Black Storks and another 46 were further in the distance. it was amazing there were birds everywhere in the sky, in pairs, small groups or larger 'Kettles'. We sw over 200 Short-toed Eagles, 100+ Booted Eagles, 15 Sparrowhawks, 20+ Egyptain Vultures, 30+ Griffon Vultures and a single Ruppell's Vulture that circled above us for 10 minutes or so. Kevin got some pictures of most of them. We also logged Black kite, Honey buzzard, Common Buzzard, Marsh and Montagu's Harriers.





We ended up with crooked-necks!!! So we set off for the Ojen Valley to eat our lunch. We found a lovely spot by a brook where lots more eagles passed over as we ate our picnic. A short venture along a track produced a Kingfisher, Pied Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow and at least 80 Alpine Swifts. The hedgerow was covered in milkweed and a small colony of Monarch Butterflies were feeding on it.








Los Lances beach was very calm, not like many occassions when the wind was so strong that we couldn't get out of the car! We found the usual array of waders and gulls, the best of which was:




Greater Flamingo (a juvenile bird), Sandwich Terns, Audouin's Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Sanderling (both summer and winter plumaged birds), Curlew Sandpiper, Kentish Plover and Ringed Plover.







A breeze had picked up but it did not deter us from spending our last two hours of the day at La Janda, which was very dry except for the main drain and the rice fields. We saw a thousand or so of White Storks, 500+ Glossy Ibis, 200+ Wood Pigeon, many Grey Herons, Little and Cattle Egrets. there were also some large flocks of Spanish Sparrows, Goldfinches and Linnets.






On the Benalup track we added Common Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge and more Black Kites to our day list. We then spent an hour or so scanning the sky for eagles and came up with large 'kettles' of storks, Short-toed and Booted Eagles. Then towards the end of our visit we found first, an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle, then a sub-adult bird, two great sightings for our tally.





On the way back we saw a distant Black-winged Kite, Purple Heron and over 50 Lesser Kestrels.



We nevere amassed a hugh count of species but we saw thousands of birds altogether and enjoyed a superb day out.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

SEPTEMBER 21ST 2011 - 7-DAY TOUR DAY 1

A great start to our 7 - day based here in Gaucin.

The airport runs took up most the day but we did manage to see Griffon Vulture, Crested Lark, Stonechat and a few other common species.

After dinner we all went down to for an Owl prowl to Casares where we had great prolonged views of a pair of Eagle Owls. They both called and gave their 'exicted' laughter call as well.

We also heard the local Tawny Owl but it failed to show. Not abad start to the week!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

SEPT 19TH - DAY TOUR

San Pablo Track - San Enrique Woods - Pinar del Rey - Palmones Salt Marsh

Birds, birds, birds!! What a great day!


Pauline and Hugh are staying in San Pablo for the week and I collected them from their rental finca at 8am. It was a beautiful morning, clear sky and no wind, perfect for birding.


We drove the short distance to my favourite track and quickly realised that this was a special birding day. The first pylon we looked at held a group of 5 Black kites and 2 Ravens.


Four of the five Black Kites - it is a digi-scoped photo taken from a distance of 1/2 mile


Within the next 10 minutes we had seen several other raptors: a Montagu's Harrier sitting on a fence post (unusual?), another quartering the field, 2 Western Marsh Harriers doing the same. Over a distant wood we found 2 Black Storks circling on the thermals. Thermals at 9am???


The sky was alive with birds, many House Martins, Red-rumped Swallows, Barn Swallows, Honey Buzzards in small groups, Booted Eagles, Common Kestrels, Lesser Kestrel (10+), Eurasian Sparrowhawks (3) and Common Buzzards.


Warblers in the hedgerows kept us on our toes, Willow Warbler, Iberian and Eurasian Chiffchaffs, Zitting Cisticola, a Reed Warbler, many Sardinian Warblers, a Spotted Flycatcher and lots of Corn Buntings, house Sparrows, Gren finches, Goldfinches with a few Crested Larks.


Then it got better, we followed the track to the brow of a hill and found an Egyptian Vulture (1st year) sitting in a tree, but it flew off before we could get close enough to photograph it. It joined an adult on the thermals together with 2 Booted Eagles. We then started to see a lot of Short-toed Eagles, they were everywhere, on pylons, in trees and in the sky. A group of 4 of them appeared to our right, we found that one of them was in fact a Bonelli's Eagles (juv), wow, great find!




SHORT-TOED EAGLE

We also found Southern Grey Shrike, Cirl Bunting, Tawny Pipit, Reed Warbler, a melanistic Montagu's Harrier, more Honey Buzzards, more eagles, kites, buzzards and harriers...........

It was a great start to the day and a very enjoyable couple of hours.




Voilet Dropwing


As we departed the track thick clouds began to appear and a fairly strong wind picked up and such was the case as we entered the woods at San Enrique. It was fairly quiet but we found Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Cetti's Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Blue Tits. On the river we saw Kingfisher, Little Egret, Common Sandpiper, Grey Heron, Night Heron (3 juvs) and a few draonflies.


Back at the car we spent some time watching a fig tree where Blackcaps, Spanish Sparrow and Garden Warbler were devouring the the ripe fruit. We also had glimpses of Tree Sparrow.


We ate our lunch at the picnic site in Pinar del Rey pine woods where we enjoyed watching Crested Tit, Firecrest, Wood Warbler, Spotted Fycatcher, Jay, Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs and we had good close views of a Booted Eagle.


We finished the afternoon at Palmones Salt Marsh where, as we arrived we watched an Osprey diving for fish and many species of waders gulls and terns. We logged Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Turnstone, Whimbrel and Kentish Plover. Gulls included Yellow-legged, Black-headed, Mediterranean and Lesser Black-backed. Sandwich Terns were in good numbers as were Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Grey Herons and White Storks.


We totaled 78 species for the day and had a great time doing so! I like this bird watching malarky, I think I'll do it again tomorrow!


Friday, September 16, 2011

SEPT 15TH - DAY TOUR

RIO GUADIARO - MONTEJAQUE - CORK OAK WOODS - ENCINAS BORRACHES TRACK

This was the second birding - day for Pat & Kev who are staying with us for two weeks. The weather was bright and sunny all day with an increasingly stronger easterly wind developing as the day went on.

We set off in semi-darkness at 7:30am and headed in the opposite direction to yesterday, which was northward to the mountains. Our first stop was at the River Guadiaro at Estacion de Cortes. It was nice and cool to start with and a gentle breeze rustled the hedgerows. Our first sightings were of White and Grey Wagtails on the river and a Cetti's Warbler sang from the undergrowth, we found Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and a small party of Rock Sparrows joined Goldfinches and Linnets feeding in the fields.


SPANISH (SOUTHERN BROWN)ARGUS Aricia agestis cramera

A kingfisher dashed by a couple of times and a male Golden Oriole flushed from an oak tree. We also found Red-rumped Swallows, Woodchat Shrike, Willow Warbler, Sardinain Warbler lots of Stonechats and many Griffon Vultures drifted over. On the way back to the car we watched a couple of Common Redstarts, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcaps and a Garden Warbler.


Further up the Guadiaro valley we stopped on a track near Montejaque where we enjoyed a hour or so watching the mountainside and a lush valley below us. One particular bush, which was awash with berries, attracted a good number of birds and we logged Common Redstart (5), Orphean Warbler (1), Common Whitethroat (1), Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Spotless Starling and Pied Flycatcher. We watched a Sardinian Warbler eating Blackberries and enjoyed the antics of the Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear, both species were still having territorial disputes even this late in the season.

Many vultures circled above us and we also saw Common Raven, Common Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Short-toed Eagle. A little further up the valley we stopped at a viewing point which overlooked a steep limestone gorge where we found 'true' Rock Doves, Crag Martins, Rock Bunting and more Black Wheatears.

We ate our picnic lunch in the shade of the cork oak trees before venturing into the woods for another sortie. Not many birds were seen but the walk was lovely and shaded. One target species was the Dartford Warbler, which was seen well, we also found Nuthatch (heard only), Chaffinch, Wood Pigeon, Coot, Mallard and Little Grebe were seen on the lake.

SPOTTED FLYCATCHER - one of many seen today

After driving around Ronda we headed back towards Gaucin on the Algercias road, we stopped in the wide valley where the Encinas Borrachas track is found. It was very windy by then but we did manage a fairly good list of sightings. Unfortunately the Black-eared Wheatear seems to have left its breeding grounds and gone south but we did see Thekla Lark, Little Owl, Spectacled Warbler, Corn Bunting and many finches and Linnets. Migrants that were present included a couple of good finds in the shape of Whinchat and Ortolan Bunting as well as Northern Wheatear. Another showy bird was the Rock Bunting which was coming down to bathe in the small pool nearby. As we walked further into the valley we added Red-legged Partridge and Tawny Pipit to our list and we heard up to 3 stag Red Deer delivering their fog-horn mating calls but we couldn't see them.

WHINCHAT
It was now late afternoon so we decided to return to Gaucin so that we could sit on the terrace with a nice cold beer and watch the world go by!

SEPT 14TH - DAY TOUR

SAN PABLO TRACK - SAN ENRIQUE - PINAR DEL REY - PALMONES - TORREGUADIARO



Pat and kevin are staying with us for two weeks, their second visit this year! They have booked 3 day-tours with me and today was their first.

We set off at 7:30am it was still quite dark but the bright moon and millions of stars cast a lovley morning light over the village.

The San Pablo track was our first destination and it proved yet again what agreat place it is for birds. Hundreds of Sparrows, corn Buntings, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Serins, House Martins and both Red-rumped and Barn Swallows greeted us as we ventured along the first 100 meters of the track.



But soon it was the raptors that grabbed our full attention, Short-toed Eagles sat on most of the pylons and one or two Montagu's Harriers quartered the open fields of the hillsides. All in all we saw 12 species of raptor which is an amazing variety considering the small area we were watching over: Both Lesser (15) and Eurasian Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Common (3) and Honey (8) Buzzards, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture (2) and Black Kite were added during the visit.

YOU CAN TELL THAT THIS IS A COMMON KESTREL AND NOT A LESSER KESTREL BY THE COLOUR OF ITS TOE NAILS !! (CHECK YOUR BIRD GUIDE FOR CONFIRMATION)


Passerines were also present in good numbers, we saw Southern Grey Shrike, Zitting Cisticola, Melodious Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, Tawny Pipit, Bee-eater, Serin, Linnet, Yellow Wagtail, Sardinian Warbler and several others already mentioned
above.

A brief visit to the river Hozgargante produced a brief glimpse of a Kingfisher and a calling Cetti's Warbler. At the woods in San Enrique we found Jay, Tree Sparrow, Great spotted Woodpecker, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Blue and Great Tits, 3 more Kingfishers, Grey Heron, Little and Cattle Egret, Common Sandpiper, Cormorant and some very nice dragonflies.


VOILET DROPWING

Our lunch was taken back at the car where we watched Blackcaps and Garden Warblers feeding on ripe figs and several Booted Eagles drifted over whilst we ate. The woods at Pinar del Rey were fairly quiet but we managed to see Short-toed Treecreeper, lots of Jays, Firecrest, more Willow/Chiffs, lots of Flycatchers and lots more Booted Eagles came over the woods.


We visited the west side of the Palmones Marshes and spent a nice hour watching lots more species. A perched Osprey was joined by a second one which dropped into the water and caught a fish right in front of the hide! We also saw Marsh Harrier, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Greater Flamingo, Sandwich Tern and Mediterranean Gull. Nearly 200 White Storks loafed in the marshes as did over 50 Grey Herons and in the sky a constant trickle of Eagles, Vultures and Kites drifted west to east along the shoreline.


The Laguna at Torreguadiaro has been a reliable place for Purple Swamphen of late and today was no exception, we saw two of them along with Little Grebe, Coot and Moorhen.


PURPLE SWAMPHEN
We had racked up over 80 species which proved to be one of the best day-tour totals of the year.

Monday, September 12, 2011

SEPT 10TH - 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 8

Our last day was the same as the first, a hot summer's day with wall to wall sunshine. Unfortunately 3 of the group were not going to see it as they had to be at Malaga Airport by 8:30am so we had to travel in the dark just as we did on arrival day. So Chris, Colin & Shirley left us at the airport and Steve, Roz and myself set off for a visit to the Guadalhorce Nature Reserve just 5km away on the coast.

This reserve has a fantastic record of species, nowhere else in Spain has a better tally! We parked by the beach and took the elevated track which led to the mouth of the Western arm of the Rio Guadalhorce. As it was still early in the morning many birds were still found on and near the beach, a huge flock of Monk Parakeets fed on seed heads just below us, there must have been 50 birds, very noisy birds. This number was only exceeded by the gulls of which there were 75, mostly Black-headed but also Mediterranean and Yellow-legged.

We also had great views of a Kingfsher which sat on a rock and made several unsuccessful attempts to catch a fish before flying off. Nearby on the muddy banks we found Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Kentish and Little Ringed Plover. In the grassy banks we found a mixed flock of Goldfinches and Serins whilst some local residents flitted about us, namely Crested lark and Zitting Cisticola. A flock of Spotless Starling delivered their mimicry of assorted bird calls from the TV aerials as they sat sunning themselves in the warm morning light.

Out at sea we were excited to find a large pod of Dolphins, too far out to identify without a telescope but quite distinctive in their behaviour, in fact they had attracted quite a following of gulls and Gannets. We also spotted a Great Skua out there looking for a meal to steal!

Our last 30minutes was spent in local venta drinking coffee and eating toastada we then went back to the airport where Steve and Roz departed for sunny Birmingham.

Overall we had a splendid week with some great sightings. for me the Goshawk, Ferruginous Duck, Black-winged Kite and Penduline Tits were the best sightings, but for the group the masses of migrating raptors seen on several occasions were voted the best.

We saw just over 160 species despite having a couple of very windy days to contend with.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SEPT 9TH - 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 7

LAGUNA MEDINA - SALINAS DE PUERTA DE MARIA - RIO GUADALQUIVER AT SANLUCAR - SALINAS DE BONANZA - LAGUNA TARELO - ALGAIDA PINE WOODS

we had a busy day and tried to cram in as many sites as possible as this was our last day. We collected Jack and Marg our friends from the USA who joined us for their second outing.

We drove directly to Laguna Medina arriving around 10am in bright, hot sunshine. The water level in the laguna was still very high despite having a very dry summer and this greatly reduced the number of birds present on the water. Instead of 2 - 3 thousand ducks and coots there were only perhaps 30 - 50. Nevertheless,the reeds and riparian scrub were alive with warblers and the sky held many swifts and hirundines, including Alpine Swifts and Red-rumped Swallows.

Our best sightings along the track were of an Osprey, Melodious Warbler, Cetti's Warbler (at last a good showing by this noisy little beast), Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers. Over the brow of a hill side we saw a pair of Black-winged Kites hunting, this was a good find as we had missed this species up till now.

At the hide we had great views of Reed Warbler and a family party of Penduline Tits, the water birds were few and far between but we did see 3 Grebe species, Great-crested, Little and Black-necked. A few Shoveler, Common Pochard, Mallard and a pair of Gadwall made up the rest of the ducks. A Spoonbill flew across the front of the hide just before we left and a single Gull-billed Tern quartered the laguna throughout our stay.

The salinas de Maria are a short distance away and this is where we stopped next. It was quite windy in this wide open space which made viewing through the telescopes quite difficult. We found a good flock of Stone Curlew, also we saw Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Mediterrean Gulls, Greater Flamingos and a good number of Black Kites over the nearby rubbish dump. we ate our picnic lunch at the salinas before setting off for Sanlucar.

We arrived at the Rio Guadalquiver in Sanlucar during high tide so there wasn't any exposed mud and the few waders that were present all sat on boats, these were mainly Turnstones and Common Sandpipers.

With the tide being high we decided to spend more time in the Salt Pans at Bonanza so we quickly drove to them and we were not disappointed. Although the first few pans we devoid of bird-life we found more and more species the deeper we ventured into the pans.

From the bus we had good close-up views of Little Stint, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Redshank, but there was a great number of Avocets, Slender-billed Gulls, Greater Flamingos and Dunlin in the distant pans. We stopped near a pumping house and set up our scopes to view an area covered with birds, there must have been well over a thousand birds there. We added Spoonbill. Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Kentish Plover, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern and Common Tern, but there were hundreds of Avocet, Little Egret, Greater Flamingos, Plovers, Dunlin and Curlew sandpipers, it was really quite a spectacle and the afternoon light was just fantastic. We also saw hundreds of Yellow Wagtails in the marshes, a single Black stork and a couple of Marsh Harriers. as we left the pans we were treated to excellent views of a low-flying Red Kite, what a beauty, two Ravens nearby never got a look-in!

At the laguna Tarelo we haad a great time watching Black-crowned Night Heron (only juveniles were present), also Squacco Herons, singles of White-headed Duck, Red-crested Pochard and Marbled Duck (seen only by me). But the pool held many Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebes, Common Pochard and Shoveler to look at, it was also great fun picking out the very well disguised Night Herons.

We drove round to the pine woods to view the laguna from the other side hoping to gett another glimpse of the Marbled Duck (another bird-watching roup had seen 3 a couple of hours before we arrived), but we failed to locate them. The mosquitos we ferocious here and we didn't stay long. In the pines we had glimpses of Tree Sparrow and Spotted Flycatcher but not much else. It was now 4pm and we were a long way from home, so we decided to drive back and cut short our search of the pines for Azure-winged Magpies.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

SEPT 8TH - 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 6

PINAR DEL REY - TARIFA MIGRATION RAPTOR WATCH-POINT - LA JANDA

We collected Jane from Sabinallas who joined us for the day and before setting off to Tarifa we stopped at a couple of places for some early birding. Just outside Torreguadiaro there is a large Monk Parakeet colony by the side of the main A7 coast road. We watched the noisy birds for a while and noticed that a Scarlet Fronted Parakeet had been adopted by the colonists.


SCARLET-FRONTED PARAKEET


The pine woods at San Roque called Pinar del Rey were next on the list and we enjoyed a good couple of hours walking the shaded glades and open areas. We noted many Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, a small party of Cirl Buntings, a single Crested Tit and many jays (11), Chaffinches, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs Sp. As the heat increased so did the number of raptors cirling above the woods, we watched for about 30 minutes and logged over 200 Honey Buzzards, 50 Booted Eagles, a single Black Kite, several Short Toed Eagles, a Common Buzzard and a great find, a Goshawk which circled above us for few minutes.

It got better at Cazalla raptor watch point, the wind had picked up and had turned easterly which made it difficult for migrating birds to cross the Strait, many were held up in the valley below Cazalla. We had great views of many Egyptian Vultures, at least 50 were in view at any one time, it was hard to estimate how many there were altogether. Many Black kites. Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles and Griffon Vultures joined them. We also saw a single Red Kite, half a dozen Sparrowhawks and a couple of Black Storks.

At La Janda the windy conditions got worse (as usual), but it did spoil our views of Monatgu's Harriers, including a melanistic one. We also found a very large number of Black Kites and at least a 100 White Storks up on the thermals. Birds on the rice fields included Glossy Ibis, a single Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier,Green Sandpiper, big numbers of Yellow Wagtails, Gold Finches, cattle Egrets and Wood Pigeons.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

SEPT 7TH - 7 -DAY TOUR - DAY 5

SERRANIA DE RONDA, TEBA GORGE, CAMPILLOS - LAGUNA DULCE, LAGUNA FUENTE DE PIEDRA

The winds from yesterday had subsided, the sun shone brightly and the temperature rose accordingly - we recorded 36 degrees at Fuente de Piedra at 4pm!

We set off towards Ronda at 8:30am, 7 Honey Buzzards passed over the village as we got onto the bus. By 9am we were watching birds of the mountains near Ronda at a roadside pull-in. Common Redstarts were very common we saw 8 of them in one small area, we also watched a small flock of Rock Sparrows, Black Wheatear and Black-eared Wheatear. Distant views were had of Southern Grey Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush and a single Rock Bunting but the biggest surprise was a sighting of a Rock Thrush, it was a female and it was carrying food?

After that excitement we headed off to Campillos to visit the laguna there. We made a brief stop along the way to look for Bonelli's Eagle without success but we did see Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Short-toed Eagle, Common Kestrel, Honey Buzzard, Crag Martin, more Rock Sparrows and high numbers of both Goldfinch and Corn Bunting. Along the road we found a freshly killed Little Owl.

At Teba we stopped at the raptor watch point which is found below the massive cliff face at the northern end of the Teba ridge. From there we found our Bonelli's Eagle, an adult bird drifted along the cliff top and then landed whilst a juvenile was chased off by Lesser Kestrels. We also saw Honey buzzard (3), lots of Crag Martins, Blue Rock thrush and not much else.

The laguna Dulce at Campillos was packed with birds but we decided to scan the fields at the back of the laguna in search of Little Bustards first. There were hundreds of Yellow Wagtails in the newly ploughed fields and thousands of hirundines feeding over them. Sand Martins were in good numbers, we found our first Northern Wheatears of the trip and also Tawny Pipits, crested Larks and Skylarks.

In the picnic area next to the hide at the laguna, we ate our lunch, then we spent an hour watching the birds on and near the water. All 3 Grebe species were seen along with over 50 White Headed Ducks, there were also many Common Pochard, Mallard, a few Shoveler and Little Ringed Plovers. The bird of the day was found quite near the hide, a female Ferruginous Duck, it showed well, watch the video below. Other species present were Greater Flamingo, tawny Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Cattle and Little Egrets.

The short drive to Laguna Fuente took us through large tracts of olive groves all the trees were heavily laden with fruit. At the visitor's centre, which was closed, we found several new species for our tally. A few waders were feeding in the pools near the Centre and they included Little Stint, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed, little-ringed and Kentish Plovers. Lapwings numbered in the twenties and in the grassy area near the shore of a small pool we found a summer plummaged Water Pipit.

The thousands of Greater Flamingo's were quite a spectacle even though most of them were miles away, but we stopped at the Mirador de Cattarran's and got good views of them with the sun behind us. the heat was quite oppressive and the heat haze a bit prohibitive but we had reasonable views of Purple Swamphen, Ruff, Lesser black backed Gulls and many more Flamingo's. We gave up at 5pm and headed back to Gaucin a little tired and hot but an ice cream soon cured that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

SEPT 6TH 2011 - 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 4

Casares - Torreguadiaro - tarifa (Los Lances beach) - La Janda

The winds had changed today, we were faced with blustery easterly winds which started very lightly and built up later to strong force.

We made a very early start leaving Gaucin in the dark at 7am, we were joined by an extra two people, Jayne and Geoff who were on holiday from Manchester. Our first stop was at Penny and John's finca near Casares. We visited them because Penny run's a moth trap and John nets and rings birds. We spent a lovely couple hours learning about Spanish moths and seeing many varieties. John only caught 2 birds in the nets (because it was very windy) but one of them was an Iberian Chiffchaff which made it very interesting.

At Torreguadiaro the wind kept many birds out of sight but we logged Spotted Flycatcher, Stonechat, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Teal, Moorhen and Coot.

We arrived at Los Lances beach in very strong winds but we managed to get to the hide in one piece. Surprisingly there was a good selection of birds on the beach near the hide: Audouin's Gull, Sandwich Terns, Common Terns, Sanderling, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Kentish Plover, Knot, Ringed Plover and a very unusual bird for the beach a Greater Flamingo.

On the grassy area behind the beach we found a Hoopoe, Tawny Pipit (2), Yellow Wagtail (5) and a couple of Crested larks. During our time there we also saw Black Kite, Griffon Vulture and Short-toed Eagle.

We ate our picnic lunch in the Ojen valley about 3 km inland where it was quite sheltered from the wind. Along the way we found Corn buntings and hundreds of Cattle Egrets. Just after lunch we started birding again in earnest and logged lots of raptors above us which included a couple of Egyptian Vultures and after we finshed eating we walked a short distance to a stream where we found a small group of Monarch Butterflies feeding on lantana plants.





Monarch Butterfly




La Janda was relatively quiet but we found hundreds of White Storks, Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibis, Little Egrets and Goldfnches. there were also huge flocks of Wood Pigeons. Other sightings included Alpine Swift, Common Pheasant, Purple Heron, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher (3), Turtle Dove (5) and lots of Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles and Griffon vultures.




We drove a complete circular route finishing off at Facinas, in the fields around this area we found several Lesser Kestrels, lots of Montagu's and Marsh Harriers, Woodchat Shrikes and another Hoopoe.




We then drove back to Gaucin arriving at 6:30pm having spent nearly 12 hours in the field. Our tally was disappointingly low but we can blame this on the windy conditions.

Monday, September 5, 2011

SEPT 5TH 2011 - ANDALUCIA 7-DAY TOUR

DAY 3 - RIO GUADIARO AT CORTES - MONTEJAQUE - RONDA - ENCINAS DE BORRACHAS


WHITE RUMPED SWIFT STEALS THE SHOW!

Another lovely clear morning with a light westerly breeze. We set off at 8:30am for the nearby Rio Guadiaro at Estacion de Cortes, arriving at 9am. The valley was perfectly still and only the river and braying donkeys broke the silence. Our walk took us a couple of kilometers down to the wier and dam, we saw quite a few species along the river and in the fields and cork oaks to our right. But the best sighting was a couple of White-rumped Swifts, the first was very distance flying high above the hillside and not all of the group got onto it, but the second bird flew right over us about 10 meters in height, it turned and came back for secomd showing before flying off. What a great sighting for our tour!

Added to the excitement we also saw Southern Grey Shrike, Bee-eater, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, White and Grey Wagtails and amongst the migrants we logged Garden Warbler, Common Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Chiffchaff. A Hoopoe, feeding in a field provided the entertainment on the way back to the car.

The drive up the beautiful Guadiaro valley to Montejaque was broken up by a couple of stops which produced Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, Griffon Vulture and Raven.

Along atrack above Montejaque we found many birds feeding on berries and insects in the scrub up on the rock faces. One bush held 7 Common Redstarts, a Black Redstart, an Orphean Warbler, Garden Warbler, Greenfinch and a flock of Common Starlings.

The high peks of the surrounding mountains gave us Peregrine Falcon, Bonelli's Eagle, Short Toed Eagle and lots of Griffon Vultures. We ate our picnic lunch under the shade of the minibus's boot as we watched Bee-eaters, Woodchat shrikes, Linnets, corn Buntings and more Crag Martins. We spent an hour at the gorge near the 'dam' but we didn't find many new species, however we find a small herd of Spanish Ibex much to the delight of the group.

The cork oak woods a little further along the road was our next destination. Again we had an enjoyable hour despite the heat. We found Red Deer, several Dragonflies, Eurasian Nuthatch, Great spotted Woodpecker and Dartford Warbler.

After a quick stop at a venta where we enjoyed a cold drink we drove into the centre of Ronda and spent 30 minutes on the famous bridge, whilst all the tourist around us were taking pictures of each other we watched a flock of Red-billed Chough and a couple of Lesser Kestrels.

lastly we stopped at the wide valley where the Dolmens de Encinas de Borrachas are found. This rock strewn valley is overlooked by towering limestone cliffs and imposing mountain tops. The valley bottom is covered in low lying scrub and stones where we found Southern Grey Shrike and surprisingly a family party of Black-eared Wheatears which I thought would have left the breeding grounds by now, a real bonus. We also found a family party of Spectacled Warblers as well as Thekla Larks, Corn Buntings, lots of Goldfinches and a Rock Bunting.

We clocked over 60 species which is not a bad tally for the mountains in September.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

SEPTEMBER 4TH – ANDALUCIA 7 – DAY TOUR

DAY 2 - SAN PABLO – SAN ENRIQUE – PALMONES SALT MARSH

This was our first full day birding as late arrival on day 1 prevented anytime out in the field.
The light south/westerly winds continued and all the cloud that had lingered over the past few days had cleared. It was a bright and breeze morning and we took full advantage of that.

We set off at 8:30am from Gaucin and arrived at San Pablo some 20 minutes later making only a couple of brief stops to look at Short-toed Eagles and a couple of Common Buzzards. The track at San Pablo provided some great sightings as usual with many Montagu’s Harriers stealing the show. A very obliging Booted Eagle sat on a wire and called continuously whilst up to 9 Lesser Kestrels hunted on the wing above the hillside.

The numerous Stonechats were joined by a good number of Bee-eaters, Zitting Cisticolas, Serins, Greenfinches, Willow Warbler and Woodchat Shrikes along the fence-lines and more raptors appeared in the sky. We saw several Common Ravens, 9 Giffon Vultures and an increasing number of Short-toed Eagles. We stayed until 11am but the heat of the day eventually drove us to seek shelter.

Before setting off to our next destination we diverted to a hillside not far away as we could see a large group of Griffon Vultures circling very low over the ground. This meant one thing, a dead animal! This was confirmed by a local farmer who told that a dead cow was being attended by 50 vultures just by the roadside, but by the time we arrived the vultures had left the carcass (a horse not a cow) and they were sitting 20 meters away in the grass. We couldn’t understand why they had left their meal but they never returned to it whilst we were there. We did find a couple more species for our list whilst we waited as a Red Kite and two Egyptian Vultures circled high above us with some Girrfon Vultures.

We arrived at San Enrique woods at 1pm so we parked in the shade of a eucalyptus tree and ate our picnic lunch, but we were soon on the search for more species. We added Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Sparrow, Jay, Grey Heron and Garden Warbler outside the wood and Short-toed Treecreeper, Pied Flycatcher and Blue Tit whilst we were in the woods. A brief watch over the river Guadiaro from the woods didn’t provide much except for Common Kingfisher. We did see a good number of Dragonflies which included Red Veined Darter, Lesser Emperor and Epaulette Skimmer.

The last part of the day was spent at Palmones where went spent a good couple of hours watching over the river and salt marsh from the lovely promenade. A good variety of waders were recorded along with Glossy Ibis, Mediterranean Gull, Little, Common and Sandwich Terns, over 100 White Storks and an Osprey.

We drove back to Gaucin via Jimena de la Frontera where we stopped to have another look at the vulture fest, but they were still off their food. back in Gaucin we enjoyed a lovely home cooked dinner, courtesy of Dawn, we completed our checklist over a nice cup of coffee.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

SEPTEMBER 1ST 2011 - DAY TOUR - 79 species

SAN PABLO - SAN ENRIQUE - PINAR DEL REY - PALMONES - TORREGUADIARO




Gaucin was covered in a thick cloud base first thing, this burnt off as the morning progressed, the wind was light westerly/south-westerly which built up to a strong wind at the coast late afternoon, that was follwed by rain at 5pm.



LESLEY AND DAVID




The morning was perfect for migrant birds of prey and that was exactly what David and Lesley wanted to see during this day tour. We set off at 8am and headed straight for San Pablo where we parked at the start of a track and walked into a lovely valley between gentle rolling hills.




CORK OAK IN PINAR DEL REY

On the wires above us there were about 500 House Martins, 50+ Barn Swallows and the odd Red-rumped Swallow, several Bee-eaters flew over and a Sardinian Warbler flitted about in the hedgerow next to the car.

We walked for a short while but didn't get far, it was soon apparent that there were many Honey Buzzards in the area, they were in the Eucalyptus trees, on many bushes, fence posts and one was even on a power line!! They were everywhere! A couple of Booted Eagles circled around and a Sparrowhawk flashed by. back in the hedges we found Zitting Cisticola, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, hundreds of House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Linnets, a couple of Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff.

SHORT TOED TREECREEPER






WRYNECK





As the sun rose the sky began to fill up with birds, 20 Honey Buzzards to our right, 50 to our left,

3 Montagu's Harriers patrolled the fields and a couple of Lesser Kestrels flew onto a pylon. A little further up the track more Honey Buzzards, a kettle of at least 100, included 2 Short-toed Eagles, several griffon vultures and an Egyptain Vulture. It got better!!!......


Within an hour we had counted over 300 Honey Buzzards!!! 9 Short-toed Eagles, 7 Montagu's Harriers, 10 Booted Eagles, 5 Ravens, 8 Lesser Kestrels, 2 Common Buzzards, 20+ Griffon Vultures, 3 Grey herons? and 2 Egyptian Vultures.........and all before 10 o'clock!


HONEY BUZZARD (Martin Murray)



Birds on the ground kept us occupied with Crested Lark, Tawny Pipit, lots of Woodchat Shrikes, a single Southern Grey Shrike and hundreds of Corn Buntings, Sparrows & finches.



David & Lesley are new to bird-watching and were quite blown away by this spectacle so we retreated to the car for a rest. At the car we found above us, just below a single white cloud, 9 Honey Buzzards, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Griffon vulture and an unidentified falcon which was extremely high and was probably a Hobby. We walked to the river but didn't add much there.




Dragging ourselves away we drove to San Enrique Woods where we spent an exciting hour starting with finding a Wryneck just as we got out of the car. We then added Tree Sparrow, Blackcap, Jay and Spotted Flycatcher to our list. In the woods we found a couple of Short-toed Treecreepers, Spotted Flycatchers and we heard a Cetti's Warbler. At the river a couple of Kingfishers flashed by, a Grey Heron flew upriver, acouple of Little egrets fed on the opposite bank and 3 juvenile Night herons flew from their roost in the trees. On the shingle bank a Common Sandpiper fed and a Little Ringed Plover joined it.



Back at the car we saw a great-spotted woodpecker, more Honey buzzards overhead and more Tree Sparrows in the hedge. We drove the short distance to Pinar del Rey where we ate our picnic lunch under the umbrella pines, acooling breeze had picked up. The woods were very quiet but we did see several blue Tits, lots of Chaffinches and a single Bonelli's Warbler.



Palmones was excellent. Over 100 White Storks were roosting on the marsh and when we got there many took off and circled on the thermals, a lovely sight. Above them were more Honey Buzzards heading off to Africa which was very visible a short distance to the south.



The tide was rising, it was a good time to be there as many birds gathered on a sand spit. We identified: Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Knot, bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Turnstone, Sanderling, Redshank and Oystercatcher.



The gulls included Yellow-legged, Black headed and Mediterranean, I had great fun showing the subtle differences in the latter two to David and Lesley, also 3 Tern species were noted: Sandwich, Little and Common.



Our last stop was at the Laguna Torreguadiaro where I intended to show my clients a Little Owl, but there wasn't one there! However, the laguna proved quite productive with: Purple Swamphen (3), Common Coot, Mallard, Teal, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Cattle Egret (24) and Little Egret. We also added Common Kestrel and Goldfinch to our daily tally. As we walked back to the car we noticed that large cloud masses had gathered and it grew darker, we also observed a group of raptors above us and guess what?????.........they were Honey buzzards (13).


We drove back to Gaucin through a rain shower, but hey, ho we had had a great days' birding and saw just under 80 species....not bad at all! Wryneck was voted bird of the day with Honey Buzzard a close second.