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

THE PROGRAMME FOR SPRING 2017 IS NOW ON MY

WEBSITE BUT HERE IS A PREVIEW



Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

Feb 12th -27th - Costa Rica - full

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

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

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

April 29th - 6th May. - Lesvos - £875

May 8th - 15th - Portugal - full


May 13th - 21st Bulgaria - £850

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

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

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


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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

THURSDAY 18TH - THURSDAY 25TH JULY 2013 - Local walks

The weather in and around Gaucin over the last few days has been very hot with little wind, however the early mornings and evenings have been lovely, balmy and a great time for walking.

Over the last 6 days I have walked the circular route around Punta Umbria  3 times and on Sunday 21st I visited the Rio Guadiaro at Cortes for the whole of the afternoon.

RIO GUADIARO  - Sunday 21st  July 2013

At the river I sat under our (Dawn and I)  favourite tree and watched the world go by. Many birds were on show and lots of juveniles joined their parents by coming down to the pools of water to drink and to bathe. Blue, Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Serin, Blackcap, Rock Sparrow, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff sp. Sardinian Warbler and Woodchat Shrike were all seen there.

The view of the river Guadiaro from under my favourite tree


Along the river I saw a Grey Heron, Little Ringed Plover, Grey and White Wagtails, Common Kingfisher and many House martins, Barn Swallows and Pallid Swifts were coming down to drink. I kept my eye on the swift flock hoping for a White-rumped Swift but never saw one.

juvenile Woodchat Shrike


In the ash tree I was sitting beneath a few Bonelli's Warblers fed, often calling and a Short-toed Treecreeper gave me great views as it fed on the base of the main trunk.

PUNTA UMBRIA  -  Friday 19th, Monday 22nd & Thursday 25th July 2013.

This is one of my favourite walks in the vicinity of the village, the track climbs up through some pristine cork oaks woods and then takes you through pines, some very old holm oaks and finally into a sweet chestnut wood before climbing back up to the road. From the road you walk down a much narrower track which runs downhill parallel to the road back to the village. The track is sheltered from the sun by the trees and many flowering plants are still in bloom.

freshly harvested Cork Oak


On each of the walks you get varying amounts of sightings of all the regular woodland species but there a few still in full song:  Bonelli's Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff and Blackcap all sang today and I also heard Great-spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch, Crested Tit, European Robin and Eurasian Jay all called.

heavily laden Sweet Chestnut trees


There are a couple of places where water is still running down from the hilltop and lots of birds are coming to drink there. I often see Serin, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Greenfinch there. Also nearby there are often Sardinian Warblers and it is a good place for Bonelli's Warbler.

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)  above -  with a sprig of Throatwort (Trachelium caeruleum) also shown below


Today I noticed a few more Blackcaps and Chiffchaff species than usual, perhaps this is the beginning of their southward movement towards Africa and Southern Spain?

WEDNESDAY 17TH JULY - SAN PABLO (MARCHENILLA TRACK)

Today I joined Paul from the village for an early morning birding outing. We decided to visit the The Rufous Bush Robin site near San Pablo before heading over the hillside to visit our new Black Winged Kite breeding area.

We set off at 0730hrs and headed straight down the Algeciras coast road to the Marchenilla track hoping to see the Rufous Bush Robin we weren't disappointed! We drove a couple of hundred meters along the track and parked up, then we waited near an area where we both had some activity in recent visits.
 
After a short while two or three birds appeared including one very obliging male, it worked its way along the track catching insects and quite often displaying its fanned-out tail (although the tail was quite worn and the black and white markings were barely visible).

Some dipstick brought a camera with a dud battery and a the spare was also flat, so all the pictures belong to Paul.

The Rufous Bush Robin on the track





Many other species were seen as we watched this special bird. Several Griffon Vultures, Short-toed Eagle (3) one of these was very obliging and flew right over the top of us, quite low! We also saw pale morph Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel,Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Woodchat Shrike (several juveniles), European Bee-eater, Common Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Blackbird, Common Nightingale , Zitting Cisticola, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet and Corn Bunting. Turtle Dove was also heard. We also saw a couple of Little Owls, one sitting on telephone cables and the other on a fence-line.

next we checked out the Black-winged Kite site, but it was now late in the morning and the chances were slim. We also looked for European Roller that we had both seen at various times  throughout the spring, but neither  bird showed;disappointing really as we were hoping to prove breeding had occurred with the Roller, we already knew that the Kite had raised at least one chick.



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

TWO NEW SPECIES OF BIRDS BREED IN SPAIN

AFTER SEVERAL YEARS OF SPECULATION THE LESSER FLAMINGO HAS FINALLY BRED AT FUENTE DE PIEDRAS THIS YEAR, SEE REPORT RARE BIRDS SPAIN. AT MOMENT IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND THEM AS THERE ARE 22,000 GREATER FLAMINGOS THERE TOO!

Lesser Flamingo Phoenicopterus minor (1-3)
(1-3)
Málaga . Three individuals were at Fuentedepiedra lagoon, Málaga, on 12.7: two adults and a 25-day chick. Breeding confirmed (Manolo Rendón, José Miguel Ramírez).


ALSO,  IN GARDENS NEAR TARIFA A COUPLE OF COMMON BUBULS TURNED UP IN APRIL (I WENT TWICE TO LOOK FOR THEM BUT DIPPED BOTH TIMES) THEY HAVE BEEN SEEN FEEDING A FLEDGLING IN RECENT DAYS.



Garden Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus (1-3)
(1-3) Cádiz . Two adults were seen feeding a chick at Tarifa, Cádiz on 8.7 (Emilia Jiménez Vaquero). First mainland Spain & mainland Europe breeding record as far as we know. Record submitted to CR/SEO-BirdLife






Pycbar

Photo above:© Emilia Jiménez Vaquero, 8.7.2013

SATURDAY 13TH, SUNDAY 14TH & MONDAY 15TH JULY 2013 - PUNTA UMBRIA WALK

PUNTA UMBRIA

On Saturday I went for an afternoon walk around the wooded hillside of Punta Umbria just north of the village. Even though I was in the shade for a lot of the walk it was very hot.

Hardly a bird showed but the oak trees were covered in Purple Hairstreak butterflies, it must be a bumper year for this species.

For the last two days I have changed my walking from evening to the early morning because it is now getting too hot to walk, even at 8pm.

During both morning walks, (8am starts) the weather was superb, clear blue sky and no wind. I could see that the coast was shrouded in thick cloud and sea mist, glad I'm not down there.

I was pleasantly surprised to find several birds still singing at this time of the year but disappointed because of the lack of raptors - there should be many birds (especially Black Kites) returning to Africa at this time.

I heard several  Bonelli's Warblers singing and also Blackcaps, a European Robin and a Wood Pigeon. There were also Eurasian Jays, Common Blackbirds & Common Chaffinches. It was nice to see many family parties of Blue Tit, Great Tit, Sardinian Warblers, European Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Other sightings included: European Serin, Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest and I heard Crested Tit but failed to see it.

I didn't take my camera with me but will do next time.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

13th july 2013 - (nine minutes after midnight)

We became grand-parents today, hoorah!   Little Florrie was born just after midnight last night. She weighs 7lbs 12 oz. (whatever that means). Can't believe how hairy she is??

Dawn is over in Kent being the mother hen. Amy and baby are doing just fine, Chris the husband is knackered, he slept most of the time through 3 days of labour, its hard work being a dad!

Does this make me old now?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

ANDALUCIA - 5 DAY TOUR - DAY 5 JULY 2nd 2013...

GAUCIN TO THE LAGUNAS DE CAMPILLOS THEN TO MALAGA AIRPORT

The last day of Simon's short break was as good as the first with some lovely venues and great sightings. We maintained our good luck with a couple of super finds giving Simon some wonderful memories to cherish as he headed back to Littlehampton in the afternoon.

We set off at 7:30am on the road to Ronda stopping just once near the Encinas Borrrachas track in search of Rock Bunting which failed to show. We did see Black Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, Black-eared Wheatear, Red-legged Partridge and a small party of Red-billed Chough.

Our next venue was the Laguna Dulce at Campillos, we first drove around the fields at the back of the laguna in the faint hope of seeing a Little Bustard and a few other species. It was a Montagu's Harrier that we saw first as we approached the fields, a beautiful male flew over the road. Then a few Linnets, Corn Buntings and Crested larks showed up along the track.

The track then drew close to the laguna and we had good views of the water and reed beds, there must have been 2-3 thousands Common Coots spread out on the water and THE FIRST ONE I LOOKED AT WAS A RED-KNOBBED COOT!!  Can you believe it? It was incredible really, the gods must have been with us (or this guide has an excellent eye?). We also noted Northern Lapwing, Black-necked Grebe, Black-winged Stilts, Great Crested Grebe, Gull-billed Tern, Greater Flamingo, WHITE HEADED DUCk, Common & Red-crested Pochard, Green Sandpiper (2) and a Great Reed Warbler.

the Red-knobbed Coot at Laguna Dulce this morning




The track led us across a number of fields and ended beside a smaller laguna, we had closer views of several of the species mentioned above plus a Marsh Harrier that menaced the breeding birds. On the way back we found a small flock of Calandra Larks and 4 Lesser Kestrels. From the hide we sat and watched the White-headed Ducks at close range, there were 42 of them, a big increase in recent days. Then we found our bird of the day,  FERRUGINOUS DUCK, there were two splendid males sitting out there with the Common Pochard.



One of the male Ferruginous Ducks seen from the hide at Laguna Dulce


Our last stop was the small laguna just south of Campillos called Laguna Redonda. There we spent our last hour of bird watching, a good number of Greater Flamingos were very close to the hide and we also enjoyed Black-winged Stilts with their young, Little Ringed Plover, Gull Billed Terns and another couple of White headed Duck.


It was now 11:15am and we had to set off for Malaga, it took an hour to get there. Simon jumped out of the car and disappeared into the masses, safely on his way back home.

HERE IS AN E-MAIL RECEIVED TONIGHT FROM SIMON:

Hi Bob,

Just to say very many thanks for a wonderful stay at your lovely home in Gaucin
You both were fantastic hosts and Dawn's meals were fantastic,the whole experience
was memorable.
The birding exceeded my wildest dreams to see over 40 new species and get superb 
views was very special. The Griffin vultures on the hill side,the rock thrush ,
the ducks as you say to see the three rare species was more than could have been 
expected.Also the chance to see some old favorites,as always Bee-eaters ,
little bittern and black winged stilt to name a few.
Each day was memorable for lots of reasons and they will all stay in my memory for
 a long time.I will look forward to catching up with the blog when I get home and 
will finish today's log with the locations.
These few days have really made me realize I need to spend more time on birds
so here's hoping our paths may cross again soon
 
Once again many thanks to you both.
Kind regards
Simon
 

Monday, July 1, 2013

ANDALUCIA - 5 DAY TOUR - DAY 4 JULY 1ST 2013...

SAN MARTIN ROAD - LAGUNA MEDINA (JEREZ) - lAGUNA SALADA (PUERTO MARIA) - BONANZA SALT PANS - TREBUJENA SALT MARSHES

What a fantastic day!! I have never recorded so many rarities in single day before, the list is superb and littered with great sightings. the weather was delightful too, the recent levante wind had subsided and the sun shone all day. This was the last full day with Simon from Littlehampton and we had a wish list of 40 new species for his list, a tall order but all possible.

We left the house at 7am (wifey Dawn was nowhere to be seen at breakfast!) and we headed for the coast on the road to Algerciras. We turned off towards San Martin hoping for glimpse of the elusive and rare breeding BLACK WINGED KITE.  We didn't find one, instead we found three, yes three! A pair with one young bird and positive proof that the birds, as suspected, have bred in the vicinity, great sighting and a great start to our day.

a record shot of a Black-winged Kite taken distantly by Simon


We then drove to laguna Medina on the outskirts of Jerez, we arrived at 9am, it was a little breezy but that kept the temperature down to a nice 25C. It was reasonably quiet too, our ears were not blasted by bird song as usual. However, within 15 minutes we had seen Common Nightingale, Cetti's Warbler, Reed and Great Reed Warblers and many Zitting Cisticolas. A Marsh harrier was seen distantly and many Common and Pallid Swifts hawked above us. From the hide we noted with disappointment that not many birds were visible but after a while we amassed several good ticks. Lots of Great Crested Grebes were feeding young or carrying them on their backs, a few Little Grebes were seen in the distance as were Mallards, Common Pochard, Gadwall and Common Coot. Then we had a flurry of activity as a Little Bittern flew into the reeds just below us and showed very well at times. Then a Purple heron flew over and landed in the distant reeds where we could see 3 young birds sitting on a nest. A Great Reed Warbler sat out for us and a trio of Shoveler flew passed us.

yes darling you will grow up and look as beautiful as me (I hope so
                                                                          you ugly little bugger)

Travelling from Laguna medina to Laguna Salada near Puerto Maria we saw Red-legged Partridge and Eurasian Magpie. At this smaller laguna we had a great time and we recorded our second rare breeder of the day when we found a RED KNOBBED COOT. Another great find was a couple of male WHITE HEADED DUCKS. We also saw Greater Flamingo, Red-crested Pochard, Collared Pratincole, Montagu's Harrier, Black-winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis and lots of Cattle Egrets.
you just about see the 'knobs' on this one

Moving on to Sanlucar we stopped at thew Rio Guadalquiver near the salt pans at Bonanza. many Black Kites were drifting over but on the shore we only added Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Black-headed Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls to our day list.

The Salt Pans were a different kettle of fish, birds were everywhere: hundreds of Greater Flamingos were joined by hundreds of Pied Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Black-tailed Godwits (300+) and lots of Kentish Plover. We also saw a good number of Little Terns, Redshank (3) and more Black Kites.


Avocet - Simon

Next we visited the small laguna called Tarelo found next to the pine woods of Algaida. There were a good number of birds still at the heronry on the island, many Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets and smaller numbers of Squacco Heron and Eurasian Spoonbill. Around the edge of the laguana sitting on the reeds and tamarisk bushed we saw a good number of Black-crowned Night Herons and more Squacco Herons. On the water were very few species, Common Coot, Red-crested Pochard and mallard. We did see a single Common Waxbill fly from the reeds.

Suacoo heron by Simon

Our drive through the pine woods of Algaida produced lots of flies and mosquitoes so we didn't stop! But at the open salt marsh of Trebujena there was a nice breeze and even though it was now 32C it was still comforatble to stand out in the sun. At the main laguna we stopped to look at the a large number of Coots on the water and discovered a MARBLED DUCK, HOW GOOD WAS THAT. I have never recorded Red-knobbed Coot, marbled Duck and White-headed duck in the same morning in Spain before!

Marbled Duck - the star of the day!


We also found a LESSER SHORT TOED LARK and a Red Kite as well as lots more of the water species seen earlier.  It was late in the afternoon now and we had 'cleaned-up'; all of our target birds were in the bag! After a short coffee stop we headed off home, well pleased with our day's work. We recorded 40 new species for the trip list, exactly what we had hoped for!