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THE PROGRAMME FOR SPRING 2017 IS NOW ON MY

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Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

Feb 12th -27th - Costa Rica - full

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

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

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

April 29th - 6th May. - Lesvos - £875

May 8th - 15th - Portugal - full


May 13th - 21st Bulgaria - £850

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

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

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


FLIGHTS NOT INCLUDED IN THESE PRICES



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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

APRIL 30TH - LESVOS DAY 4 OF 7 -DAY TOUR

ACHLADERI (EARLY MORNING) - PETRA ROAD RAPTOR WATCH POINT - KAVAKI - PETRA RESERVOIR - EFTALOU - SKALA SIKAMINIAS - PETRA RESERVOIR

We made an early visit to the Pine Woods at Achlasderi to look for the Kruper's Nuthatch for the second time. So we set off at 6am, just as it was just getting light, for the 20 minute drive. We spent an hour watching the nesting area of the Nuthatch and had good sightings of it, the second sighting was much better and everyone got a good view, several other species were seen in and around the wood, mainly finches but we also saw Masked Shrike and we heard a Common Cuckoo. The drive back produced some nice sightings of Black Stork (3), Purple Heron, Great White Egret and lots of Little Egrets.



Kruper's nuthatch taken by John Sutherland




After breakfast we set off on the north road through Kalloni and headed for Petra on the north coast, we stopped for an hour at the raptor watch point just north of Kalloni. This hillside setting is a very beautiful spot, it over looks an extensive wooded ridge and is excellent for raptors both in passage and in residence. It was a little hazy and not the best conditions for sky-watching but we had a relaively successful watch. Several Long-legged Buzzards, circled over the ridge as did Short-toed Eagle and a Goshawk displayed a couple of times. A single Black Sotrk appeared a few times and we had a fleeting view of an Eleanora's Falcon which interacted with a Goshawk at one point.

some of the group relaxing at the 'Bandstand' raptor watch point


A few passerines were seen in the scrub around the watch point, these included: Cirl Bunting, Cretzschmar's Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear and Red-backed Shrike.

Next we visited an area on the coast just above Petra, we parked at the side of the road and watched some scrub on the top of the cliffs. Within minutes our target bird the Ruppell's Warbler was seen distantly sitting on top of a bush, but then the bird flew up towards us and it kept on coming! Eventually it sat on a wire just above our heads, amazing, this "hard to see and skulking bird" was sitting out in the open just above the heads of some 15 people.It sang for ages and hopped onto the nearest telegraph pole, that's what I call easy-birding. We also saw Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin and Red-rumped Swallow.

two shots of the the very obliging Ruppell's Warbler



At Perta Reservoir we found a couple of really nice Subalpine Warblers, as well as Black-eared Wheatear, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes, but our target species the Great Spotted Cuckoo eluded us.



The track from Molivos to Skala Sikaminias is quite bumpy but offer fantastic views of the beautiful northern coastline, it is stunning in places. So after eating our picnic lunch on Eftalou beach we drove the 10km long track. A couple of stops produced, Subalpine Warbler, Black-headed Bunting, Corn Bunting and Red-backed Shrike. After a short stop in the most picturesque of fishing villages, Skala Sikaminias, we drove back on the main coast road to Petra Reservoir.

the view from Eftalou beach across to Turkey

Our second visit of the day to scan the scrub around Petra Reservoir proved that patience pays off. After an hour we finally got views of first one Great Spotted Cuckoo and then a second one was inadvertently flushed, it gave even better views as it flew around us.


Our journey back to the hotel was interrupted by a tyre puncture, this curtailed any further birding for the day.

Monday, April 29, 2013

APRIL 29TH - LESVOS DAY 3 OF 7 -DAY TOUR

LARDIA VALLEY- ERESSOS JUNCTION - PETRIFIED FOREST - SIGRI - FANEROMENI FORDS UPPER AND LOWER - PETRIFIED FOREST

A MEGA BIRD FOR OUR LESVOS LIST   - WHITE THROATED ROBIN  (see below)

We took an early breakfast at 7am and was on the road by 8am. It was another superb day of unbroken sunshine and warm temperatures. We set off through the centre of the island and then turned west towards Sigri. We stopped first at the telecoms tower just above Filia where our target bird was the Eastern bonelli's Warbler which we saw almost straight away, in fact at least 3 birds were singing, very nice. We also saw a Whichat, Cirl Bunting, Woodlark, Subalpine Warbler and a few common species.






Next we stopped in the steep sided Lardia valley where rocky outcrops tower above a deep, wooded ravine. We quickly located a few Crag Martins, then a Blue Rock Thrush sang from its high perched and performed its parachute display flight. Then a Black-eared Wheatear did the same. We watched a pair of Masked Shrikes building a nest, then we saw a Short-toed Eagle perched high up followed by a Long-legged Buzzard which circled over the ridge.


Our stop at the Eressos junction was quite brief, it is a well known spot for Isabelline Wheatear which showed very well as soon as we arrived. At the same time we had great views of a Hobby which was perched on a telegraph pole.

Our drive to the entrance to the Petrified Forest was punctuated by stops to look at a number of birds whcih included: Chukar, Ortolan Bunting, Little Owl and a good number of Cretzschmar's Buntings. At the Petrified Forest we spent an hour seasrching for a White-throated Robin which failed to show, this bird is a very rare breeder on Lesvos and therfore a very desirable tick! We vowed to return.

Collared Flycatcher

At Sigri we stopped at the sea front where we found two to three Eurpoean Shags and a very large flock of Jackdaws. We ate lunch a little further along the beach and soon we were on our way. For the next two or three hours we visited the Faneromeni Upper and Lower Fords and a couple of walks along quiet tracks. We saw many flycatchers, mainly Collared Flycatchers but also Pied and Spotted varieties. Little Bittern, Night Heron, Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and a few Moorhens.

WHITE THROATED ROBIN digiscoped from about 100 meter range
 


Other places visited enhanced the list with sightings of Red-backed, Woodchat and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Honey Buzzards and another Short-toed Eagle.

Lastly we re-visited the entrance to the Petrified forest and finally caught up with the WHITE THROATED ROBIN, what a great bird in super breeding plumage. This is a very rare breeding species with very few past records (only 4 records up to 1995 - and only 4 accepted records since then - ref:  Greek rarity records), this species has a sparse distribution in Southern and Eastern Turkey and is still classes as a 'vagrant' and sporadic breeder in Greece.




Sunday, April 28, 2013

APRIL 28TH - LESVOS DAY 2 OF 7 -DAY TOUR

METOCHI LAKE -  KALLONI SALT PANS - MESA MARSH - ACHLADERI PINE WOODS - TSIKNIAS RIVER

Our first full day and we certainly filled it! The weather was just dandy, bright sunshine all day with a cooling breeze in the afternoon.

We assembled in the car park at 6:30am and drove the short distance to Metochi Lake, it was a little on the cool side so a fleece was necessary. The water level of the pool was high and so was the vegetation so it was hard to find reasonable viewing points to see the reed beds. The surface of the water was like a mirror and a mist sat just above the surface we half expected a an arm to break the water from below and thrust a sword skyward!

Metochi Lake



The air was full of bird song and we quickly located the sources, Cetti's Warbler sat out nicely as did Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler but it took awhile for the Great Reed Warbler to show. Common Nightingale joined the chorus, a distance Hoopoe and a couple of Golden Orioles added a diversion.


Little Crake

Several moorhens and a Little Grebe added their calls but the most conspicuous birds were the Little Bitterns, they chased one another around, we saw at least 8! There were also a group of roosting Night herons (9) and a single Purple Heron flew over. It took us a little time but eventually all of the group saw Little Crake, we located two females and a male, we all got good scope views of this individual;.

After breakfast was set off for the local salt pans via the Tsiknias River, we  made a couple of stops to look
at waders on the river and on shingle banks, the ubiquitous Wood Sandpiper was everywhere as usual, but we did find a Redshank.Several Black-headed Buntings sat in the hedgerows and sang to us as we passed by. At the pans one of our first birds was a Spur-winged Plover, in fact there were two of them, a great species to see on Lesvos and a very uncommon passing migrant. Along the same causeway we found a Green Sandpiper and lots of Black-winged Stilts. A flock of Common Terns fed over the channel and huge flocks of Avocets and Greater Flamingos sat in the nearby pans. A Long-legged Buzzard was seen circling over the distant hillside.
Spur-winged Plover


We drove round to the Alykes sheep fields and found small pools with more species feeding there: Great White Egret, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis and many Wood sandpipers. A Coomon Snipe was nice find. We walked for an hour in the main water meadows which were virtually dried out but we did find a few species: Kentish Plover, Ruddy Shelduck, Red-throated Pipit (3), Short-toed Lark, Whinchat and a Lesser grey Shrike were the best finds.Along the beach we saw Eurasian Curlew, Great Cormorant and not much else.

On the way to Achladeri pine woods we stopped at the marshes at Mesa where we spent sometime viewing from and old bridge. Six Black Storks circled over the hill as we walked down the track to view some distant waders. A flock of Yellow Wagtails fed near a flock of sheep watched by a flock of bird-watchers, there were Black-headed, Grey-headed, Blue-headed and variants of the three. The waders seen were Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and a Greenshank.

Along the road to Achladeri we stopped to look at a couple of Woodchat Shrikes and a Black-eared Wheatear, very nice. The first thing we did in the woods was to sit in the shade and eat our picnic lunch. A walk produced very little: Chaffinches, Serin and a pair of beautiful Masked Shrikes. Our search for the Kruper's Nuthatch proved fruitless, it was late in the afternoon and the wrong time to be looking.

Masked Shrike


We drove back to pans for quick look before heading back to the hotel, we found a couple of new species for the tour list, Stone Curlew (3) were seen from the raised hide and a couple of Little Owls sat out in the afternoon sunshine. A few of the group decided to go for a swim in the hotel's pool whilst the rest rest went back out birding for an hour or so. We visited the local sight for Scop's Owl and saw Long-eared Owl too, a chick was found sitting on a nest high up in a eucalyptus tree.


Scop's Owl


Long-eared Owl (chick)

Finally we visited the Tsiknias river for our evening patrol, we didn't find any new species but we had great views of several interesting and colourful ones such as: Little Bittern Little Crake, Black headed Bunting, Glossy Ibis and Yellow Wagtails.

Glossy Ibis


Dinner was at eight and our log call followed that, we had seen just under 90 species for the day.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

APRIL 27TH - DAY 1 - LESVOS 7 - DAY TOUR

MYTILINE AIRPORT TO SKALA KALLONI - CHRISTOS AND TSIKNIAS RIVERS

Well everything went well today, everyone turned up! the plane was on time, the weather was just dandy and we saw some good birds during our late afternoon walk.

The group of 8 stepped off the plane ahead of schedule at 1:45pm, it took a while for the luggage to come through but we were on the rood at 2:45pm.

Our afternoon walk began at 4:30pm after we had checked into the hotel and unpacked our optics, we had already noted several species during the journey from the airport including Blue Rock thrush, black-winged Stilt and Hooded Crow.
THE GROUP'S FIRST OUTING IN THE SUNSHINE

Our first walk was near the bridge over the Christos River, we saw Crested Lark, Common Tern, Yellow-legged gull and Yellow Wagtail. On the salt marsh near the mouth of the river we added Sanderling, Wood Sandpiper and Kentish Plover to our list.

BLACK-HEADED BUNTING

RIVER TSIKNIAS

At the Tsiknias river we had a lovely time watching many species in excellent light, Breeding plumage Mediterranean gulls looked superb as did a small number of Squacco herons that sat out in the open. We also saw: Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Black Stork, White Stork, Little and Common Terns.

SQUACCO HERON


Further up the river we found our first few Black-headed Buntings, wow what a colourful little beauty. We also saw Yellow Wagtail (male feldegg variety), Common Nightingale, Sedge Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler and four superb Glossy Ibis. Plenty of other birds were about and with superb afternoon light we had a great first sortie on this fantastic island venue.



APRIL 26TH - DAY 8 - ANDALUCIA 7 DAY TOUR

RIO GENAL EARLY AM   - PUNTA UMBRIA CORK WOODS

This was the last morning of the tour, it was dull and overcast, with a low cloud base but now wind. We drove down to the river Genal before breakfast, it was a little chilly but a pleasant morning. Our walk produced Golden Oriole which was our prime target species, we heard at least 4 males calling and had great in the scope views of one of them. We also added a fly-over Marsh Harrier to our tour total. Not much else appeared to show well, we did get brief views of  Grey Wagtail, Nightingale and saw two Great Spotted Woodpeckers playing 'piggy-back'.

After breakfast we spent a lovely time walking through the woods at Punta Umbria, we found several of our target woodland species including: Short-toed Treecreeper, Bonelli's Warbler (3-4 singing), Iberian Chiffchaff, also singing. But it was the raptor passage that grabbed our attention, We noticed a couple of Black kites flying over and a single Honey Buzzard, but later we saw over 30 more Honey Buzzards and 3 Common Buzzards, a couple of Booted Eagles and a few Griffon Vultures. The lovely Firecrest put in an appearance and showed well for us as did a Pied Flycatcher and a Garden Warbler.

A Common cuckoo sang it monotonous rant, a Great-spotted Woodpecker drummed and a Green Woodpecker yaffled in the distance. Soon it was time to quit and walk back into the village to get ready for our early evening departure to the airport.

Thus ended another birding tour, we had managed to list over 150 species during the trip, Lesvos is next, so watch this space.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

APRIL 25th - DAY 6 - ANDALUCIA 7- DAY. TOUR

LAGUNA MEDINA (JEREZ) -  SALINAS SANTA MARIA - SALINAS BONANZA - LAGUNA TARELO - TREBUJENA SALT MARSH

A tremendous last full day of this week's tour, we amassed a great list of species totally just under 100. The weather was superb once again, it started off with clear blue sky and not an iota of wind, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure all this is real, I am living a birder's dream!  However, back to reality, it got breezy in the afternoon with some cloud and the wife called to me say that the electrician hadn't turned up! C'est la vie!


We set off at 8am and headed straight for Laguna Medina, arriving around 9:20am. From the car park the bird song was almost deafening! Birds were singing everywhere, the loudest were Common Nightingale, Great Reed Warbler and Cetti's Warbler. But we also heard Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Corn Bunting and Stonechat. It was really incredible, we had great views of all of the above after only 50 meters of our walk.

The laguna was quite devoid of birds, it was bursting its banks, too much water in fact. We did see Red-crested Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe but not much else. We had a Purple Heron fly-over and a Little Bittern skulked in the reeds, we also saw several Black Kites an Osprey and a few Jackdaws in the sky over the laguna. Hundreds of Common Swifts were joined by a few Pallid Swifts, Red-rumped and Barn Swallows.

FLOWERS ALONG THE BOARD-WALK AT LA MEDINA
 Other birds seen in the scrub and fields were: Northern Wheatear, Red-legged Partridge, Zitting Cisticola, Crested Lark and Corn Bunting.
RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE


At the Salt Pans of Santa Maria we were again disappointed with the high water levels but we managed to see Glossy Ibis and we had great Views of Collared Pratincoles. We also found a single Stone Curlew, Kentish Plover, Pied Avocet, Greater Flamingo, Grey Plover, Little Tern and many hundreds of Yellow-legged Gulls.


Before venturing onto the salt pans at Bonanza we stopped on the outskirts of Sanlucar to look at the River Guadalquiver. On the muddy shoreline there were many Curlew Sandpipers in breeding plumage with Dunlin, Sanderling and Common Ringed Plover.

GULL-BILLED TERNS AT BONANZA SALT PANS


At the Bonanza pans we spent some time searching before we even found a single bird, but it did get much better. All in all there must have been a couple of thousand waders, mainly Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlin, Little Stints and Sanderling, but also Black-winged Stilts, Pied Avocet, Grey Plover and a few Whimbrel. It took a while to catch up with Slender-billed Gulls but it was worth the wait, in the meantime we logged Little and Gull-billed Terns, Common Shelduck, hundreds of Greater Flamingos and many more Glossy Ibis.



Laguna Tarelo was also full to overflowing and consequently held far fewer ducks than usual. We found Common and Red-crested Pochard, White-headed Duck and a few Mallards, but it was the herons and egrets that provided the best entertainment. A 'rookery' was situated on an island and consisted of many Night Herons, Eurasian Spoonbills, Little and Cattle Egrets and a few pairs of Squacco Herons.

LAGUNA TARELO WITH  ITS CROWDED HERONRY

EURASIAN SPOONBILLS ON THE NEST


Lastly we spent some time on the salt marshes of Trebujena where we there were an incredible numbers of birds. At least 200 Whiskered Terns quartered the marsh and a single Black Tern fed over a small drainage ditch. We found 50+  Common Redshank and a few Spotted Redshank with hundreds of pairs of Black-winged Stilts, Pied Avocets held ground where ever they could and many Yellow Wagtails flitted about in the samphire. Black Kites soared everywhere and a single Red Kite was spotted later on, we also watched a few more Pratincoles, Grey Herons, Whimbrels and Curlew Sandpipers.

REED WARBLER PLAYING HIDE AND SEEK
 It was getting late in the afternoon so we decided to call it a day and set off for Gaucin, a drive of some 90 minutes. For dinner we ate out a local restaurant/bar and enjoyed a lovely selection of tapas meals washed down with some delicious local wine, a fitting end to another day in paradise.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

APRIL 24th - DAY 5 - ANDALUCIA 7- DAY. TOUR

EL COLMENAR - GAUCIN SHESTNUT WOODS - ESTACION DE CORTES TRACK - LLANOS DE LIBAR - MONTEJAQUE  CORK WOODS

Another day in paradise!  Lovely sunshine all day, colourful wild flowers, superb scenery and terrific birding.

We made a pre-breakfast trip to El Colmenar to look for Hawfinch and Golden Oriole. We parked in the usual place and got quite a shock when we noticed that my favourite dead tree was missing!!! It had been cut down, in fact several trees were missing, the whole habitat had been change much to the detriment of the local birds. What a disappointment. We did see Grey Wagtails taking food to their nest but not much else.


After breakfast we set off on the Ronda road and turned off at the chestnut woods, it was very quiet once again but we did see Eurasian Nuthatch, Jay and Chaffinch. At the track down by Estacion de Cortes we spent an hour walking. As soon as we got out of the bus we heard at least three Turtle Doves, a Robin, Chaffinch and Blackcap. Our walk produced sightings of Robin, Sardinain Warbler, Serin, Turtle Dove, Pied flycatcher and lots of common species.

track at Estacion de Cortes



By the time we got to the Llanos de Libar it was midday, the sun was high and hot but a cooling breeze came down the valley. This lovely valley has exquisite landscape and many birds thrive there, a Black Redstart was found as we got out of the bus and a Rock Bunting perched on the cliff just above us. We then watched a few Serin before our attention was diverted to the skyline above the cliffs across the valley. There we found a Bonelli's Eagle circling and after a short while it flew down and landed on a tree, what a great sighting.

Spanish Festoon


Our walk up the valley was slow and steady, we made many stops to look at Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Sparrows, Rock Bunting, Stonechat and Woodchat Shrikes. Many Melodious Warblers sang from the bushes and Griffon Vultures drifted into and out of the cliffs. At the top of the valley we found a GOLDEN EAGLE,  it was a 2cy bird and drifted out of sight within 30 seconds of seeing it, what another great find.
looking up the Llanos de libar valley



We ate our lunch at 3pm!!! whilst we sat and ate we noticed a Bonelli's Eagle drifting in front of the cliffs opposite us, the bird then flew down to a nest where we watched it for a while.

Blue Rock Thrush

Stonechat

Just above Montejaque is the picturesque limestone gorge where the 'dam that doesn't work' is situated, from there we found Red-billed Chough, Alpine swift and lots of Crag Martins. A little up the valley we found 3 species of orchid a pair of Mistle Thrushes, we also heard Common Cuckoo and Green Woodpecker.

Green Hairstreak



Our walk in the cork oak woods produced Green Woodpecker, Cirl Bunting, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and many Blue and Great Tits.



It was now approaching 5pm so we headed home, well pleased with our daily tally.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

APRIL 23RD - DAY 4 - ANDALUCIA 7- DAY. TOUR

ENCINAS BORRACHES TRACK - LAGUNA DULCE - LAGUNA FUENTE DE PIEDRAS - GAUCIN CHESTNUT WOODS

Quite a change in the weather today, it was quite cloudy with a cold north easterly wind which it feel very cold. We set off on the Ronda road stopping at the the Encina Borraches Track some 10km short of Ronda. We did see several rock Sparrows on the road side walls along the way.

it was cold along the Encinas Borraches track


It was very windy in the open valley of the Encinas track and there were not many birds to see. We did find Iberian Grey Shrike, Corn Bunting, Thekla Lark and lots of Rock Sparrows but not much else at first. Then as we moved into the more sheltered parts we heard Wood Lark singing and saw 3 of them in flight, next an Orphean Warbler was seen flitting about in the tamerisk, it gave short bursts of its tuneful song. A fleeting glimpse of a Spectacled Warbler was had before e set off back towards the bus.



After watching a few Griffon Vultures we saw a Common Kestrel and a Peregrine in flight, the falcon dropped like stone behind a ridge and suddenly a flock of some 60+ Red-billed Chough came into view. The flock circled around before landing some 300 meters ahead of us, we approached carefully and got some great views of them. As we neared the bus we found a superb male Black-eared Wheatear it showed down to 30 meters, what a gem.

Black-eared Wheatear


We drove to the Laguna Dulce and spent a lovely couple of hours scanning the lake and shoreline in glorious sunshine and much less wind. White-headed Ducks sat just in front of the hide, the males looking splendid in the bright light, as did several Black-necked Grebes. More distant species included Greater Flamingo, Common and Red-crested Pochard, Red-knobbed Coot, Gull-billed and Whiskered Tern, Purple Swamphen and many other common ducks.

Black Necked Grebe



However it was the Great Crested Grebe that stole the show as a pair performed their courtship dance right next to the hide, it was incredible and a sight not seen before by most of the group.


stage one of the courtship - the male offers some weeds!





 

they both stand on the water paddling vigorously

After that spectacular display we went to the larger Fuente de Piedras laguna where we saw many other species. We stopped to view the lake from a high position on the approach track, it was a fantastic sight, thousand of Flamingos gathered in huge colonies around islands in the lake.

Laguna Fuente de Piedras - the white ares are flocks of Flamingos!
The wild flowers were outrageous all around the lake and along the track edges, it was an unbelievable sight.


At the main entrance to the visitor's centre we walked around the smaller lagunas where a good selection of waders were pre3sent, we had good close up views of: Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint, Redshank and Spotted Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Common Ringed & Little Ringed Plover, Avocet and lots of Black-winged Stilts. In other areas we found Black Tern in with the large flocks of Whiskered Terns, we also found Common Shelduck, Ruff, Dunlin and a Sanderling.

Avocet
After that thrilling visit we set off to Ronda. Sadly, Vern and Trish were leaving us, they had been a delight on the tours for the last 11 days, Vern in particular had been a great help in finding birds and helping others to see them well, I will miss them both. We dropped them at Ronda train station and continued down to Gaucin, stopping at the chestnut woods just north of the village. We didn't see much but added Chaffinch, European Robin and Wren to our list. That was the last of our birding for the day, dinner was taken at 7pm and it was a lot quieter without Vern and Trish.




Monday, April 22, 2013

APRIL 22ND - DAY 3 - ANDALUCIA 7- DAY. TOUR

TARIFA - LA JANDA - VEJER - BARBATE

Another lovely day with lots of sunshine and plenty of birds to see. We left Gaucin at 8:30AM and drove straight to the coast on the Algeciras road. We made one stop to watch the Lesser Kestrel colony near Jimena, the kestrels performed well for us and at least 22 birds were presents at the nest site. The nesting White Storks proved a crowd pleaser too, at least 70 nests are now occupied near Castellar.


Turtle Dove


It was quite cloudy near Algeciras and the hills above Tarifa were not visible so we knew that migration was going to be limited. A quick stop at the natural park at Bujeo (just above Pelayo) produced some migrant sightings: Pied Flycatcher, Common Nightingale (a female building a nest) and a few Blackcaps.

The raptor watch point called Cazella was deserted, the winds were all wrong for a passage but we did see a small group of Black Kites and the odd singleton. 

Flowers at la Janda


At Los Lances beach, Tarifa we had a nice time watching several good birds: Audouin's Gull, Kentish Plover, Collared Pratincole, Little Stint, lots of Sanderling and a few Sandwich Terns. On the grassy fields behind us we found Short-toed Larks, Northern Wheatear and a few Crested Larks.

Kentish plover


By the time we reached La Janda it was quite warm, heat haze affected our viewing somewhat but a nice breeze was welcomed. A flock of some 8 Collared Pratincoles, flew over us and plenty of Cattle and Little Egrets, joined White Storks and Grey Herons in the rice fields. One wet field held Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, a single Ruff, Grey Heron, Black-winged Stilts, Gull-billed Terns and Black-headed Gulls. Along the central track we found Black Crowned Night Herons, many Zitting Cisticolas, Corn Buntings and a couple of Reed Warblers.

not a good picture of Cal;andra Lark


The Cattle Egret colony is now bigger than ever, a conservative estimate would be 1000 pairs, it was a noisy, thriving mass of colour and movement. We then visited the BALD IBIS  nesting colony at Vejer, there are now 8-9 active nests, with all the nests occupied by sitting birds. It is really bizarre that this critically endangered bird chose to nest just above a very busy main road. Love them or hate them these strange looking birds are doing quite well.

We made a brief visit to the Barbate marshes at the Vejer Sewage Works, how nice? The water level is now very low and looks as though the whole marsh is being drained off. A few patches of water held Green and Common Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts, lots of Moorhens and a couple of Purple Swamphens.


Bald Ibis on the nest at vejer

Our last birding episode was at the 'new' reserve on the coast road near Barbate, the whole area consists of huge shallow lagoons which sit on reclaimed land, formerly a land fill site. it is now 3-4 years old and is developing into a terrific site for birding. On one lagoon alone there were over 1,000 small waders, mainly Common Ringed Plover and Dunlin but there were good numbers of Curlew Sandpiper, many in breeding plumage, Sanderling too and a few Little Stints also looking great in summer garb.



We also found White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Black-winged Stilts, Avocet (2), Greater Flamingo (1), Little Tern (8), Collared Pratincole and lots of Mallards. Along the track we watched several Greater Short-toed Larks and many Calandra Larks, a couple of Whinchats sat on the fenceline with Stonechats and Corn Buntings.

A large flock of Griffon Vultures sat on a grassy bank and as we drove nearer we saw a large carcass of a cow covered in Vultures and just after that we found a single Stone Curlew which was very pleasing for Vern and Trish as they particularly wanted to see one of those.

It was now quite late in the afternoon so we set off back to Gaucin arriving a little later than usual, dinner was at 8pm. A great day, we recorded 86 species.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

APRIL 21st - DAY 2 - ANDALUCIA 7- DAY. TOUR

GAUCIN - MARCHANILLA TRACK (SAN PABLO) - SAN ENRIQUE WOODS  - LAGUNA TORREGUADIARO - PALMONES SALT MARSH - SIERRA CRESTELLINA - EVENING NIGHTJAR SORTIE TO THE GUADIARO VALLEY

A full day packed with some lovely venues and some super sightings, it was a lovely sunny day with not much wind but a nice breeze developed in the afternoon.

We set off from Gaucin at 8:30am taking the road to Algeciras after 15km we turned off towards San Martin and stopped at track that leads over the hill to marchanilla. The air was alive with bird song as we got out of the bus and we soon located a Common Nightingale and then a Melodious Warblers , the latter showed very well.

Melodious Warbler



As we walked along the track we saw several Sardinian Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, many Greenfinches and Goldfinches, the track was buzzing with bird life. A few raptors appeared, we saw Common Buzzard, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, lots of Bee-eaters called as they passed over and hundreds of migrating Common Swifts passed over.

As we got into the open area of the valley we found Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Serin and Pied Flycatcher. We then hit a small purple patch with the raptors as we saw a perched Hobby, an Osprey and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk. More birds of prey began to appear over the ridges joining lots of Griffon vultures on the thermals. Our last new bird for the day was a Little Owl found on the way back down the valley.

climbing the track the open valley


We then made the short trip to San Enrique Woods where we found Tree Sparrows near the sewerage works along with White Wagtail and a flock of some 40 Bee-eaters. In the woods we watched Great Spotted Woodpeckers feeding young, a couple more Pied Flycatchers, Eurasian Chiffchaffs and some common species.

The Laguna at Torreguadiaro was almost devoid of life, we only saw Moorhen, mallard and a Little Grebe. We then drove to Palmones where we spent the rest of the afternoon, first we visited the east side and walked along the new promenade. From there we found: Common Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Common Sandpiper and Lots of Yellow-legged Gulls. A few Yellow Wagtails zipped by and a small flock of Eurasian Spoonbills sat on the marsh with the odd Little Egret and White Stork.

a snake sp.



Before driving over the the west side of the marsh we sat drinking coffee along the promenade, from there we saw a small group of Black Kites fly over and surprisingly a single Red Kite was with them.
Our visit to the western marshes produced some new species for our list, a Whimbrel fed in marshes catching small crabs, several Black-winged Stilts fed on the muddy banks as the tide receded, we also saw a with very red plumage especially around the head and neck, it was a male developing it's wonderful breeding plumage.

Whimbrel in the marsh


Lastly we stopped off at Sierra Crestellina and was rewarded by some excellent sighting of Bonelli's Eagle both at the nest and in flight. We also saw Raven, Woodchat Shrike and lots of Griffon Vultures.

Common Kestrel


After dinner we made an excursion down to the river Guadiaro to look for Nightjars and Owls, it was a perfect evening, bright moon, very still air and still quite warm. But alas we never heard a single nightjar and only saw two Little Owls!!