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Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

Feb 12th -27th - Costa Rica - full

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

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May 13th - 21st Bulgaria - £850

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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

AUGUST 29TH 2012 - Camino Gibraltar and Gaucin

An early morning walk at dawn (7:30am) brought a few sightings but not much. A Great spotted Woodpecker, several Chiffchaff sp. and a Spotted Flycatcher. Lots of Sardinain Warblers - they must be really struggling for food this year as the lentiscus bushes haven't produced many berries which is their main autumn food source. I expect there will be a lot more sightings of them in the village gardens this winter.

In the village today I saw two Blue Rock Thrushes a couple of Chiffchaff and my first Black Redstart of the Autumn. A flock of 10 Bee-eaters got me out of the house at 3:30pm and I saw 36 Black Kites and 6 Honey Buzzards circling extremely high above the village, they all drifted down the Genal Valley towards the coast.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

AUGUST 28TH 2012 - DAY TOUR

LA JANDA

the August hot weather continues, so today I set off really early to collect Chris and Nathalie from their finca track at 6:15am. The sky was clear it was 17C and the stars above were absolutely stunning, I even saw a 'shooting star', a good omen perhaps?


Chris and Nathalie joined me for their second day out and they wished to visit La Janda to see some raptors. We set off in the dark and drove towards Casares, as we passed Sierra crestellina the headlights of the car caught the reflection in the eyes of an animal, I slowed the car and as we passed by we all saw a GENET, what a fantastic start to the day. This rarely seen nocturnal mammal is a a member of the cat family and it was the first time I have ever had a good look at a 'live' GENET!!!  I was made up for the day before we had even left the car.



We arrived at La Janda at 8am, the weather was perfect, it is not often that La Janda is windless but today it was. We started with a couple of Common Buzzards perched on pylons and a Raven flew over, then we stopped to watch a flock of finches and a couple of Zitting Cisticola. We then found our first Black-winged Kite which was rather distant but it was perched on the electricity cables and we saw it well in the scope. A very close Monatgu's Harrier was next followed an hour of excellent birding when we saw hundreds of Glossy Ibis, White Stroks, cattle and Little Egrets.

La Janda central track - 8:30am this morning
A few species stood from the rest; a very obliging Collared Pratincole was nice, a Squacco Heron was also a good find and a couple of Purple Herons were fleeting glimpses in flight. Other species seen during this time were: Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Yellow Wagtail and small flocks of Linnets. A Cetti's Warbler sang from the reedy scrub along the main 'drain' and as we travelled the length of the rice paddies we added; Grey Heron, a second Squacco Heron, Marsh Harrier, Common Kestrel and hundreds and hundreds of Common and Pallid swifts. All the time there were large flocks of Glossy Ibis flying back and forward across la Janda.

Juvenile Collared Pratincole - its nice to see that they have bred here


As we approached the track to Benalup we found good numbers of Turtle Doves on the electricity cables and lots of Spanish Sparrows in the hedgerows. A couple of juvenile Woodchat Shrikes, lots of Stonechats, the odd Chiffchaff and huge numbers of Goldfinches were feeding in the Sunflower fields as the crop was being harvested. We also saw a couple of oddities, the first was a female Pintail which was associating with the local Mallards and then a flock of four Common Snipe were found. Both of these species are early winter visitors and shouldn't really be here now!

A sign of the times - the hunting season has just re-started


Further along the track we found more of the same but we added Red-legged Partridge, Common Pheasant, Eurasian Jackdaw and a couple of Black Kites to our day list. A few more Monty's and Marsh Harriers and another Black-winged Kite completed our visit to the Benalup track, we then returned to central track of La Janda and drove towards the Vejer exit. We only added Short-toed Eagle to our list on this part of the trip, in fact, raptor sightings were very disappointing considering the time of the year and where we were!

Barbate Marshes was our next venue, they were covered in birds. Hundreds more Glossy Ibis were seen and a host of Black-winged Stilts joined them in the quagmire, in fact so did I as I slipped and landed with both feet in the mire! We found several more Green Sandpipers, another Common Snipe and four Wood Sandpipers. It was now getting up to 30C and a little too hot for birding so we set off for the coast for a relaxing lunch.
One of the pools at barbate Marshes - covered in Black-winged Stilts and Ibis


Our first two stops for lunch proved a little fuitless as both Zahara and Bolonia were jam packed with tourists, so we headed back to Tarifa and stopped at a beach-side Hotel where we ate lunch on their terrace overlooking the sea, perfect.

Chris and Nathalie at the Mirador de Estrecho with Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar behind them



After lunch we made a brief stop at the Mirador de Estrecho which overlooks the Strait of Gibraltar, the sky was crystal clear and we could see Africa in fine detail, a few Griffon Vultures drifted over and headed towards Morocco.

We arrived back at Gaucin at 4:30pm after 8 hours in the field, all of us were a little hot and well pleased with day's outing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

AUGUST 22ND - DAY TOUR

RIO GUADIARO - LLANOS DE LIBAR - CUEVA DE GATO

Today I took out Chris and Nathalie who are staying near Gaucin, in a  finca, taking a well earned holiday. We met at  7:30am at the edge of the village and we drove straight to the river Guadiaro at Cortes de la Frontera.
Chris & Nathalie in Llanos de Libar

A Grey Heron flew up as we got out of the car and by the time I had set up the scope we had seen Grey and White Wagtails and heard a Cetti's Warbler. The first part of our walk produced a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycathcer (3) and a couple of Sardinian Warblers. Many House Martins flew over us as we walked along the river bank and we came across two Hoopoes sitting on a fence and not far away a single Woodchat Shrike posed nicely for us.

Woodchat Shrike

Further along the river we found Stonechat, Goldfinch, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting and several more White Wagtails. We stood and watched several species from the shelter of an ash tree and we were delighted to see: Blue Tit, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Great Tit and a superb Firecrest, all of which came down to bathe. In the sky we listed Common Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, a flock of Spotless Srtarlings but not a single raptor!

Blue Tit, Chaffinches and a Bonelli's Warbler taking a bath


We then drove to Monejaque and enter the beautiful valley behind the village, Los Llanos de Libar. It was now very hot so we walked slowly and sheltered when we could. From the raised track we found a little area busy with birds, there was: Sardinian Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Stonechat, Black Redstart and a family party of Spectacled Warblers all in the same bush!! A little higher up the valley we found both of our traget species: Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear. Many Bee-eaters fed in the fields and high above us we found several Griffon Vultures perched on the cliff face and many more in the sky - but still no eagles!

A short stop at the dam above Montejaque we saw Crag Martins, a Common Kestrel and some Rock Doves, it was now 38C so we retired for lunch.

After a lovely tapas lunch in Montejaque we drove the short distance to the Cueva de Gato (the cave of the Cat), it was much cooler there and we had much better views of Crag martin and on the way back to the car we saw a couple of male Cetti's Warblers having afight in full view, thanks for that little birdies.

It was now too hot to continue so we headed back to Gaucin arriving at 3:30pm. Chris and Nathalie set off back to their finca for a dip in the pool, how nice!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

AUGUST 20TH - PICNIC AT THE LAKE

ZAHARA DE LA SIERRA

We took a morning drive to Ronda where Dawn and her daughter, Sophie went shopping whilst I went for a walk along the upper reaches of the Rio Guadiaro. before we got to Ronda we watched a  GOLDEN EAGLE (3rd or 4th year bird) come up from a valley very close to the road and very low - how cool was that?

After dropping the girls off in Ronda I drove to the river. I parked at the car park next to the Cueva de Gato (Cave of the Cat - don't ask!). I then walked down river to Benaojan about 2 km. It was hot and there were not many birds to be seen: Bee - eaters, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Booted Eagle and not much else.

We met up again around 2pm and after buying some picnic lunches we drove to Zahara where we met up with Jim and Alice, our friends from the village. The beautiful lake is the colour of topaz and it provided the perfect swimming pool and an afternoon of chilling, eating and snoozing.

We did see a few birds whilst we were there: Short-toed Eagle which in fact looked greenish/bluish as it flew over the lake - this was of course the reflection of the colourful water, we also saw Booted Eagle and a party of four Ravens. A few birds were coming down to drink, namely House Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler and  a Melodious Warbler.

We left at 6pm, it was still 28C when we got back to Gaucin at 7pm.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

AUGUST 17TH - THE LAKES

LAGUNA DULCE  - THE LAKES OF TEBA

this was a day out with our friends John and Mary who both now show a great interest in bird-watching. We decided to visit Laguna Dulce to watch birds in the morning and then spend the afternoon swimming and relaxing in the beautiful 'Lake District' around Ardales  and El Chorro.

We collected John and Mary at 9:30am and drove to Laguna Ducle, arriving by 11am, it was hot already but again there was a nice breeze. As we approached the laguna we noticed several birds of prey circling over the road and a quick inspection revealed their identity, Honey Buzzards. There were more above us as we got out of the car and walked to the hide, we counted 25 altogether, some were very low and showed off their distinct wing pattern and shape, and great variety of colour.

As usual the laguna was full of birds, the water level had dropped, but I think it will last out the summer, which is good news for birds and bird-watchers. Thousands of hirundines were feeding over the water, mostly House and Sand Martins but a few Barn Swallows joined them - we didn't see a single swift!

The Greater Flamingo numbers were down to about 150, but duck numbers were well up. Mallards, Shoveler, Gadwall, Common Pochard had all increased and the White-headed Duck numbers exceeded 50.

Many Little and Black Grebes joined the throngs on the water as did Common Coot, Little and Cattle Egret and Grey Heron. Along the shoreline a good selection of waders were present, I think that the muddy shallows are now more suitable for wading species: we saw Black-tailed Godwit, Black-winged Stilt, Green, Common and Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover and both White and Yellow Wagtails. A few Marsh Harriers drifted over the reedbeds, a Hoopoe flew across the front of the hide a couple of times and small flocks of Bee-eaters flew over noisily.

More raptors appeared in the shape of  Black Kites and Honey Buzzards, we did see a few distant Griffon Vultures. A couple of Tern species flew over the water, Gull-billed and Whiskered Tern were identified.

The afternoon was spent around El Chorro where the famous El Camino del Rey is found, often called the 'most dangerous walk in the walk'. See photos. It ws built over 100 years agao and has fallen into disrepair, it hangs on the edge of a cliff face with a 700 meter (2330 feet) drop below it, it is only 1 meter wide (3ft) and much of it has fallen away but people still walk along it!!  Not bird-watchers!! Not this bird-watcher anyway!

see this link for a scary walk.  Caminito del Rey

We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and relaxing in the Guadalteba embalses, we did see some Short-toed Eagles and a Yellow-legged Gull during that time.




Thursday, August 16, 2012

AUGUST 15TH - RIO GUADIARO

Another picnic down by the river - life's so hard isn't it? 

This time we went to the section of the river between Casares and Secadera, it was an evening excursion, Dawn and I were joined by Sophie (Dawn's daughter) and Paul and Janys from the village.

It was a lovely evening, the temperature stayed above 28C all the time, but a lovely cooling Westerly breeze was blowing upriver. Paul had his bins with him, of course, so we watched a few birdies: Common and Green Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers, White Wagtail and Corn Buntings were on the river. Lots of Turtle Doves flew back and forth across the river, a White Stork drifted over, we also saw Common Buzzard, Black Kite and Booted Eagle drifting by.  A couple of Little Egrets dashed about about after tiddlers and a few Mallards landed nearby.


Paul and I took a short walk as the light began to fade, many Common Swifts came down to drink and several Red-rumped Swallows joined House Martins and Barn Swallows in the air above us. A  large number of Bee-eaters covered the wires all along the valley on the way down to the river and now a few of them called above us as they took their last feed before roosting. On the walk we added Spotted Flycatcher to our eveining sightings.

It was as we drove home in the semi-dark that the real excitement happened. We stopped to watch a Red-necked Nightjar as it sat in the middle of the track - why do they do that - it can't be for warmth? The air temperature was still 28C. Anyway we had great views of it and I got out of the car to photograph the bird, they will alow close approach as long as leave your headlights on!




After a few minutes the bird flew off, I must have got too close. As we pulled away Dawn shouted "Owl, owl" (I thought she had cramp or something ) I stopped the car and looked to where she was pointing and sure enough a large shape was sitting on a fence post to our right. There was enough light to see it well in the bins, it was a Tawny Owl, I tried to photograph it without flash but it turned out all blurry. this sighting completed my 'Owl' list for the year - I had now seen all the Owls you can  possibly see in Spain in this year - I could have kissed her - But I manged to control myself and patted her on the leg instead!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

AUGUST 13TH 2012 - GAUCIN Migration Watch

A call from Paul who lives at the other end of the village alerted me of a small passage of Black Kites.

I watched from my terrace from 3pm - 4:30pm  and sure enough I counted 338 Black Kites. They came over in smaller flocks of up 70 birds at a time, they then formed 'kettles' just south of the village and rose to a very great height before drifting off towards the coast.

It was all over by 4:30pm and all I saw after that was a solitary Griffon Vulture.

Monday, August 13, 2012

AUGUST 12TH - RIO GUADIARO - picnic

WHITE RUMPED SWIFTS - again at the Rio Guadiaro

Another very hot day found us down at the river for an afternoon picnic.

We sat under our favourite tree and watched many birds moving around the water:

A high number of species were coming to drink at the water's edge or skimming a drink off the top:

1. Chaffinch
2. Greenfinch
3. Goldfinch
4. House Sparrow
5. Rock Sparrow
6. Blackbird
7. Blue Tit
8. Great Tit
9. Serin
10. Cetti's Warbler
11. Sardinian Warbler
12. Blackcap
13. Grey Wagtail
14. White Wagtail
15. Cirl Bunting
16. Stonechat

all of the above species came to one small section of the river to drink. In addition there were House Martins, Barn Swallows, Red-rumped Swallows, Pallid Swifts and two WHITE RUMPED SWIFTS diving down to skim the water for a drink.

Other species seen were: Corn Bunting, Woodchat Shrike, Booted Eagle, Spotless Starling, Griffon vuilture and a White Stork flew up and down the river acouple of times, as did a Kingfisher a Little Ringed Plover and a flock of Wood Pigeons.

A lovely afternoon in 40C temeprature with a cooling breeze.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

DAY TOUR - AUGUST 9TH 2012

SAN PABLO TRACK & RIVER GUADIARO  NEAR SECADERA


IT WAS A 1/2 DAY TOUR IN ACTUAL FACT

Meg and family arrived at my house at just after 8am for a morning's bird-watching excursion. So we set off toward s the coast passing through San pablo before turning off towards San Martin. It was very misty as we dropped down from Gaucin but it cleared by the time we got out of the car at my favourite track.

The Sewell family
The track was fairly quiet but that suited me as I had four novices sharing my scope and bins. We had great  'in-the-scope' views of Bee-eaters on the wires and a couple of Collared Doves. On the nearest pylon we found two Common Buzzards and on a distant pylon there was a Short-toed Eagle perched nicely. Not a bad start for my group of beginners. Over the next hour the track produced both Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes, lots of Stonechats, Sardinian Warblers, Crested Larks, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Serins and hundreds of House Sparrows. A little further along the track we saw more Short-toed Eagles, a few Common Kestrels, Ravens and a distant Griffon Vulture. A flock of Spotless Starlings were located as we returned to the car.

Before we drove off to our next venue we walked down to the bridge which spans the Hozgargante River. From there we saw Grey Wagtail, Cetti's Warbler and a beautiful male Firecrest, which was very close to us. As we walked back to the car a Red-rumped Swallow joined the throngs of Barn Swallows and House Martins that were swarming over our heads. After a quick coffee stop in the nearby venta we drove to the Rio Guadiaro.

We spent 30 minutes standing in one place watching all kinds of species coming down to drink or feeding long the shingle banks of the river. Little Ringed Plovers were in good numbers, a single Grey Heron perched almost motionless at the water's edge and a Green Sandpiper fed in its usually erratic style. Several birds were coming to drink, mainly Goldfinches but also some Serins and Greenfinches.

On the drive back to Gaucin we stopped to watch Stonechats and Bee-eaters perched on the fences and wires and a single Booted Eagle circled over the road near Casares.

We arrived back in the village at 12:40 after a very enjoyable morning's excursion.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

DAY TOUR - AUG 7TH 2012

RIO GUADIARO (CORTES)  -  LLANOS DE LIBAR  -  CUEVA DE GATO

Well, I left home at 7am in the dark, it was dark because a thick band of cloud was sitting over Gaucin, it threatened rain. However as the morning progressed it gradually brightened up and became quite hot.

Rob & Jan - I told them to look happy

I drove down to Estacion de Cortes and collected Rob and Jan at the station, they are over on holiday from Ireland to escape from the rain.

We then drove along to the river for our first walk. Many species were soon in the bag: Grey Wagtail, Cirl Bunting, Rock Sparrow, Grey heron  and White Stork were all seen fairly quickly.

Further along the river we added Little Ringed Plover (the two chicks are well grown by now), Kingfisher, Serin, Greenfinch, Stonechat, Goldfinch and a couple of juvenile Woodchat Shrikes.


As it warmed up we began to see raptors overhead, a Short-toed Eagle hung on the wind whilst a Sparrowhawk circled on the thermals. A Peregrine flew by carrying what looked like a House Martin and a few Griffon Vultures began to appear.

back in the scrub we saw Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and we had breif views of Sardinian Warblers. We sat and watched the river for a while as a party of Bee-eaters were coming to bathe and in a small pool we found Bonelli's Warbler bathing too. Other species near the water included Melodious Warbler, Serin, Blue Tit, Blackbird and a Cetti's Warbler. On the way back to car we watched a couple of Spotted Flycatchers and heard a Blackcap 'tacking' several White Wagtails appeared and a Booted Eagle gave great views over the near hillside.

Our next destination was Llanos de Libar, the beautiful valley hidden behind Montejaque. It was full of birds.
Three views of the valley are shown below, you can see how lovely it is and that the cloud had cleared by then, it was now 10am.




We were soon watching some of our target birds:  Black Wheatear was found fairly easily but we had to search for Blue Rock Thrush. We also saw Linnet, Black Redstart, Crag Martin and lots of Griffon Vultures,  it was whilst we were watching a large flock of Griffons that we found our only Egyptian Vulture of the day. A second Short-toed Eagle drifted down the valley and we located a family party of Griffons, the chick was just about to make its inaugural flight but failed whilst we were watching it.



Further up the valley we found a few Rock Buntings, a Southern Grey Shrike, more Woodchat Shrikes, lots of Bee-eaters and lots of Stonechats.

We made a brief stop for walk in some cork woods above Montejaque but only saw Jay, Chaffinch, Nuthatch and Blue Tit. A lake in the woods produced Common Coot, Little Grebe, Mallard and two Green Sandpipers. As we left the wood we had great views of Red Deer, it was female but we could hear a male grunting and barking not too far away. On the way out of the wood we saw a Red-rumped Swallow and several Barn Swallows.

A short coffee stop in Montejaque was followed by our last venue of the day - the Cueva de Gato near Benaojan. This huge cave and picturesque surroundings are idyllic. A beautiful waterfall cascades from the cave into a huge turquoise-blue pool. The cave entrance itself holds many breeding Crag Martins and Alpine Swifts. Unfortunately the only Alpine Swift we saw was a juvenile which had fallen from a nest, unable to fly the bird was scrambling up the rock face, we could not reach it or try to save it!

After spending a while watching the stranded swift crawl to relatively safety we concluded the day tour and drove back to Estacion Cortes. We had logged 58 species and seen some wonderful scenery in lovely Spanish weather!!



Saturday, August 4, 2012

AUGUST 3RD - DAY 6 - SHORT BREAK - BIRDS 'N' BUTTS

GAUCIN CHESTNUT WOODS - SIERRA DE LAS NIEVES NATURAL PARK  -  LAGUNA DULCE (CAMPILLOS).

Our final day of the tour found us north of Ronda on another very hot day, it reached 39C in the afternoon.

We set off from Gaucin at 8:30am and drove the short distance to the chestnut woodlands along the Ronda road. We spent an hour or so looking for woodland species but it was very quiet. We hit a small purple patch just before we left when a flock of Long-tailed Tits passed by then a Crested Tit flock was seen in a conifer along with a Eurasian Nuthatch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Next we spent a couple of hours at the Natural Park in the Sierras de las Nieves where we concentrated on looking for butterflies, despite the very dry conditions we found a good few on the wing.  Lavender was in flower and this seemed to attract the most species: Spanish Chalk Hill Blue, Sage Skipper, Adonis Blue, Brown Argus, Small Blue, Clouded Yellow and Small Copper were all feeding on it.  We also saw: Striped Grayling, Small White, Cleopatra, Tree Grayling, Dusky Heath, Small Heath and Southern Gatekeeper. We ate our picnic lunch in the shade of a pinsapo pine before moving on.

We passed through Ronda and on towards Campillos, a brief stop was made at a Bonelli's Eagle nest site but no birds were seen at all.

Laguna Dulce at Campillos was covered in birds, this was because all the other lagoons for miles around have dried up! There was around 300 Greater Flamingo's as well as good numbers of: Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Common Coot, Moorhen, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey heron, Purple Swamphen, Mallard, Gadwall, White Headed Duck and Common Pochard. On the shoreline we found quite a few waders: Black-winged Stilts, Avocets, Green and Common Sandpipers and from the hide we saw a single Hoopoe and a Crested Lark.

Flying above the water were about 1,000 Common Swifts with lesser numbers of Pallid Swifts , Alpine Swifts, Barn Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins. A couple of Black Headed Gulls, a family party of Gull Billed Terns and a single Whiskered Tern all joined Cormorant onto our day list.

We drove round to the back of the laguna and approached the water's edge on foot so that we could get better views of the waders, there we added Black-tailed Godwit, Little Stint, Ruff, Redshank and a Yellow Wagtail to our list. We also noticed a single Shoveler dabbling in the mud as we were watching it a ROLLER  flew down from abush and took a drink. Great sighting, another ROLLER for the trip list.

It was not 3pm so we set off towards to Malaga Airport so that Mike could catch a plane home, but first we stopped for a coffee in Ardales along the way. Whilst we sat outside in the shade we logged a couple Griffon Vultures drifting over and another couple of HONEY BUZZARDS!!!  This was further evidence that the autumn migration was underway.

I dropped Mike off at 5pm at the airport and rove home arriving at 7pm, tour over, a good list amassed in the hottest week of the year so far!! We recorded over 130 species of birds and over 25 species of butterfly.


Friday, August 3, 2012

AUGUST 2ND - DAY 5 - SHORT BREAK - BIRDS 'N' BUTTS

TARIFA - LOS LANCES BEACH - LA JANDA - BARBATE MARSH AND ESTUARY - OJEN VALLEY - SIERRA CRESTELLINA


HONEY BUZZARD PASSAGE - AT LEAST 4 WEEKS EARLY!!!


This was our best day so far and the hottest - we recorded 75 species of birds and 44C in mid-afternoon.


An early start saw us out on the road at 7am and by 8:20am we were on the beach at Tarfia. It was surprisingly quiet but there were lots of joggers, walkers sunbathers out already! We found some nice species which included: Audouin's Gull (12), Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Sandwich Tern and it was lovely to see a Kentish Plover chick running up to mother and climbing into her wing, just two little legs hanging out, marvelous! On the open fields behind we saw Cattle Egret, Crested Lark and a Hoopoe.

At La Janda it was glorious, the temperature was in the lower twenties with a nice breeze. Hundreds of birds were present: large flocks of Glossy Ibis, White Storks and Cattle Egrets were joined by Collared Pratincole, Little Egret and Black-winged Stilts. We found a single Black-tailed Godwit in the rice fields and to our great delight we saw at least two Black-winged Kites, they were very flighty so we didn't get any pictures.

Along the track to Benalup the thriving Cattle Egret breeding colony was very active, hundreds of newly fledged youngsters with their 'punk' hair-do's ' were all over the place. Several adult males were still in pristine breeding plumage. There were also many Turtle Doves on show and 'turring'.

Raptors overhead included several Montagu's Harriers, Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards, Black Kites, Booted Eagles and plenty of Griffon Vultures.

At Barbate Marshes (sewer works)  again there were hundreds of birds, mainly: Glossy Ibis, Mallard, Black Winged Stilts and Moorhens but we did record Purple Swamphen, Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper and two more Black-tailed Godwits.

In Barbate we stopped at the bridge near the river mouth and a good selection of waders were present: Oystercatcher, Ruff, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Curlew and Whimbrel. A few Black-headed Gulls were outnumbered by at least 50 Sandwich Terns.

We stopped off at a dry stream in the Ojen valley to look for some butterflies, I knew that a small colony of Monarchs were there, and indeed we found them, but we also saw, Holly Blue, Southern Gatekeeper, Copper Brown and Small White.

Finally we stopped at Crestellina, it was now 4pm and 44C, as we stood looking up at the mountain a breeze blew from behind us, I am not kidding when I say it was like someone holding a hair drier right behind me switched on full heat mode!

Anyway we saw the usual Griffon Vultures and again we saw an adult Egyptian Vulture but to our great surprise a flock of 15 HONEY BUZZARDS circled above the mountain and joined the vultures, this is amazing really, a full month early and indicative of the unusual weather patterns we have seen in northern Europe this year. many species have had an abysmal breeding season and are traveling back south very early.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AUGUST 1ST - DAY 4 SHORT BREAK - BIRDS 'N' BUTTS

GIBRALTAR - PINAR DEL REY - RIVER GUADARRANQUE  NEAR OLD CASTELLAR

A very early breakfast was taken at 6:30am!! We set off for Gibraltar at 7am and arrived at 8am. We drove immediately round to the east side to scan the slopes for Barbary Partridge, no luck! Round at Europa Point we stood on the new promenade and scanned the Strait for shearwaters. It was amazing, the sea was like a mill pond, it was a little misty but we could see for miles.

A huge pod of Dolphins (white sided and bottle nosed) was feeding just off the point. There must have been well over 100 animals it was incredible to watch. Many of the dolphins were circling and closing in on shoals of fish and just as many shearwaters were following them. We had great views of Cory's and Balearic Shearwaters, Northern Gannet and lots of Yellow-legged Gulls. It was hard to drag ourselves away - but we did.
Monarch taken by Mike today

The next 3 hours was spent on the Upper Rock - we were true tourists as we visited the Caves, the Tunnels and all the souvenir shops. We did see Sardinian Warbler, Pallid Swift, Peregrine Falcon and a Two-tailed Pasha.

We left the Rock at 1pm and headed to some pine woods just beyond San Roque and under an umbrella pine we ate our lunch. A short walk produced: Chaffinch, Short-toed Treecreeper and Blue Tit. Butterflies seen were; Southern Brown Argus and Small Copper. At a small reservoir nearby we found Kingfisher, cattle Egret and Mallard.

Lastly we stopped at a bridge near Castellar where I have seen Monarch Butterflies in the past, we were not disappointed as a couple of individuals were found within minutes of arriving. We also watched numerous birds coming to drink in the stream, Blue Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Garden Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Jay and a superb Crested Tit were all listed.

The temperature reached a staggering 42C today and it took its toll on us, we set off for home at 4pm and hour or so earlier than usual to crash out in the shade at home.