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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

THURSDAY 29TH AUGUST 2014 - DAY TOUR

GAUCIN CHESTNUT WOODS  - RIO GUADIARO (ESTACION CORTES) - LLNOS DE LIBAR - ENCINAS BORRACHAS TRACK.

This was the second outing with Ian and Sue who are staying with us for a couple of weeks. We left Gaucin at 7:30am and headed towards Ronda from the village, after 3 km, we stopped at the chestnut woods for a quick sortie down the track. Our first bird was a PIED FLYCATCHER  my first for the autumn, this was followed by Spotted Flycatcher, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Blue, Great & Long-tailed Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch and Jay. Overhead 3 early Black Kites circled in the wind and a single Honey Buzzard soon followed them.

one of the many Spotted Flycatchers seen today


At the river things were quiet to start with but we listed a good number of Spotted Flycatchers, lots of White Wagtails, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Cetti's Warbler (heard), Blackcap, Common Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Common Sandpiper, Rock Sparrow, Girffon Vulture (40+), Short-toed Eagle (4), Booted Eagle (2), Bee-eater (70+), Woodchat Shrike and many Goldfinches.

We arrived at Llnos de Libar at 11am it had warmed up but became increasingly cloudy as the day wore on.
Some good sightings were had in this beautiful valley: Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting, Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Spotless Starling and lots of Goldfinches.
Rock Bunting in the Hawthorne along the Llnos de Libar track


Raptors seen over the mountains were: Honey Buzzard (2), Griffon Vulture (20+), Short-toed Eagle (4), Booted Eagle (2), Eurasian Sparrowhawk (1) and Common Kestrel (1).

One of the superb vistas along the Libar valley


We ate our lunch at the base of the valley and hoped for the appearance of a Bonelli's Eagle which did not happen so we set off for the Enicas Borrachas track. After a brief stop at the Montejaque dam and a coffee stop in Montejaque we arrive at the track at 3pm. The cloud had thickened and it began to thunder, we could see heavy rain over Ronda. Over the next hour we kept a constant eye on the weather as well as finding some good birds. A Southern grey Shrike appeared on a bush, showing well and then a Black-eared Wheatear was found on a thistle stem, (this appeared to be the only one left at this site now), we also found Little Owl, Corn Bunting, Rock Sparrow, Goldfinch, Blue Rock Thrush, Common Kestrel, Short-toed Eagle and many Stonechats.
Sue and Ian on the track at Llnos de libar


We left early as the rain clouds and thunder came nearer and nearer, a couple of stops along the road towards Gaucin produced a Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Common Swift, barn Swallow and more Short-toed Eagles.We had listed 55 species which was a good effort for a day out in the mountains in August.

WEDNESDAY 28TH AUGUST - RIO GUADIARO

dawn and I spent a few hours down at the river from 3pm to 6pm today. It was a little cloudy but nice and warm.

New migrants at the river included:  4 Green Sandpipers, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Common Whitethroat, 6 Common Chiffchaff, 2 Iberian Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcaps. We also added Wren to the river list and we also saw: Common Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Rock Sparrow, Pallid Swift, Short-toed Eagle, Bee-eater (50+) and Woodchat Shrike.


Monday, August 26, 2013

MONDAY 26TH AUGUST 2014 - DAY TOUR

RIO GENAL - RIO GUADIARO VALLEY TO SECADERA - SAN ENRIQUE WOODS - SOTO GRANDE - PINAR DEL REY - SAN PABLO TRACK TO MARCHANILLA

Ian and Susan are staying with us for two weeks and have booked 4 days birding with me. Today was our first day, we set off from the village at 7:30am and headed down the valley towards the coast. Low cloud and mist hung in the valley and offered good protection from the searing sun beating down on the higher ground.

Sue & Ian in the cork woods at Pinar del Rey


Our first venue was the Rio Genal which was reached within 20 minutes, we parked near the road bridge and began birding at the riverside. Our first birds were Goldfinch, Grey Wagtail and Chaffinch, we then added Blackcap, Cirl Bunting, Wood Pigeon and White Wagtail as e walked upriver along the track. We then spent 30 minutes having a great time watching our target species the Golden Oriole, first a couple of juvenile birds turned up and an adult flew into view, they all posed well for us. We eventually saw 8 birds as they flew down from the trees to feed in a fig tree across a meadow, what a great show, at one stage 3 adult males sat out on bare twigs for several minutes.

one of the 3 male Golden Orioles sitting out and posing for our cameras
Ian got really excited when he thought he saw a juvenile Common cuckoo flying down the river, no-one else saw it so we can only speculate! Other birds seen were great Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher, Serin, Common Kingfisher and a Griffon Vulture, a flock of 53 Bee-eaters circled above us, gaining height before flying off down towards the coast.

A quick stop at Sierra Crestellina didn't produce very much as the mountain was obscured by cloud and in the roadside meadows  we only saw a couple of Common Stonechats and a flock of Spotless Starlings..

Over the next couple of hours we drove down into the Guadiaro valley along the track towards Secadera, we stopped near the top to look at a Woodchat Shrike and a couple of Cirl Buntings. A little further on we saw a Hoopoe fly across the road and a couple of Crested Larks were seen on the roadside verges.

a view of the Rio Guadiaro looking up river towards Gaucin

At the river we notched some superb species the first of which was a Purple Heron that flew along the river a couple of times. That sighting was followed by 8 Little Egrets, 4 Green Sandpipers, 2 Little Ringed Plovers Grey Heron and more White Wagtails. Then the air warmed and raptors started to appear it was a magnificent show with over 50 Honey Buzzards coming up out of the hillside woods with a few Booted Eagles and a perched Short-toed Eagle. We found many Turtle Doves on the power lines and then found our best sighting of the morning in the shape of an adult BONELLI'S EAGLE. It too was perched on a pylon but it flew off and circled many times before drifting off.

Two more stops along the river produced more of the same with Cetti's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Common Kestrel added to the list.

We ate lunch in the woods at San Enrique but we couldn't sit still for long as we found Short-toed Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher, Bonellis' Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Jay.

Just as Ian said "do you ever see Osprey here" one flew passed carrying a fish, it worked like clockwork and couldn't have been timed any better, spooky!!!

At Pinar del Rey we spent some time tracking down Crested Tit, eventually getting good views of two of them. We also saw more of the above. All the time we were there at at San Enrique more birds of prey circled on the thermals, the vast majority were Honey Buzzards, but we also saw Booted and Short-toed Eagles and a single Black Kite.

After a quick stop for coffee near San Roque, where we watched the antics of the White Storks on their nests, we stopped  at San Pablo for our last birding walk. It was now very hot but a nice breeze kept us from boiling. We added Melodious Warbler, Corn Bunting, Common Buzzard and Zitting Cisticola to our list and had more raptor passage with good numbers of Griffon Vultures and a single Egyptian Vulture adding to the numbers.

We arrived back at the village at 6pm and we completed our check list on the terrace with a cold beer. Even then we saw more Honey Buzzards with 22 circling above us with 6 Griffon vultures and a couple of Booted Eagles. Phew what a great day, we logged 66 species without breaking into a sweat, not too much anyway!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

SUNDAY 25TH AUGUST 2014 - DAY TRIP TO TARIFA

This was not an official birding trip but we couldn't help noticing hundreds of birds of prey in the sky all the way down to the coast and along to Tarifa.

Dawn and I set out at 9am for a day at the beach, it was a clear day over Gaucin with very little wind, we could see down at the coast a large cloud base and it was quite misty out at sea.

It wasn't long before we saw our first groups of Black Kites, many were rising out of cork woods and eucalyptus copse, they formed small kettles of 20-30 birds. Soon we also logged several Honey Buzzards, one party of 22 birds was seen near to Jimena de la Frontera. We also saw several perched on pylons and at coast near San Roque an Osprey was perched on a pylon.

As we approached Tarifa we saw more and more Booted Eagles with a few Short-toed Eagles and lots more Black Kites forming flocks of 50+.  We parked in Stone Pine woods along the Northern section of the Los Lances beach and spent a few hours relaxing. In the pines there were several Chiffchaff species and a couple of Bonelli's Warblers. A few Sandwich Terns flew along the shoreline from time to time.

The return journey was similar to this morning with lots of birds in the sky, we added Egyptian Vulture to the day list and an impressive flock of some 50-60 Bee-eaters.

Back at the village a flock of 25 Black Kites circled over the house as we got out of the car, it was now 6pm!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TUESDAY 20TH AUGUST 2013 - DAY TOUR

RIO GUADIARO (ESTACION CORTES) - LLNOS DE LIBAR  - ENaCINAS BORRACHES

Today I collected Nick and his son James from their holiday finca near San Pablo, they had both been out with me before on a trip to the coast, so I decided that a trip into the Serrania de Ronda mountains was a good idea.

James and Nick in the Llnos de Libar

Low cloud and thick mist filled the Guadiaro valley near San Pablo but as we climbed higher the mist cleared and we had unbroken sunshine all day. The temperature rose to 36C during the middle of the afternoon and only a light breeze gave us a little respite from the heat. We set off at 7:30am and arrived at the Rio Guadiaro near Estacion Cortes some 30 minutes later.

We began logging birds along the river with Chaffinch, Grey Wagtail, WEhite Wagtail and serin quickly on the list. Next we found a large flock of some 50+ Rock Sparrows, they were a little distant but they did come a little nearer later on. Stonechats were common as were Goldfinches, House martins and Pallid Swifts.
Juvenile Black Redstart - you can seen the yellow gape on the bill and the tail movement that is typical of the species



A Short-toed Eagle drifted over and few Griffon Vultures circled on the thermals over the distant hillside. Back at the river a Kingfisher flashed by, a Cetti's Warbler called and we had good views of Willow Warbler and a couple of what were most probably Iberian Chiffchaffs. Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Robin and Blackcap were all coming down to drink. A small flock of European Bee-eaters hawked insects over the scrub on the hillside.

Our next stop was at the beautiful valley behind the town of Montejaque, we parked in the shade and took a slow gentle walk up the valley hoping for more good sightings. It was now getting very warm so we spent a lot of time in the shade of the mountainside or olive trees! Black Redstarts were quite common with a family party milling around the track and it wasn't too long before we logged Spectacled Warblers, also in a family party. Our first Black Wheatear was found by James perched high up to our left (the Wheatear not James). . Then over the next hour or so we watched several more Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Linnet, lots of Stonechats and Goldfinches. A Melodious Warbler was a nice find and above us a constant stream of Griffon Vultures drifted through the valley. We found another Short-toed Eagle perched high up on the rocks, an adult Woodchat Shrike and a couple of Common Kestrels dashed about the cliff face.
juvenile Black-eared Wheatear - they will all be gone in a couple of weeks time!


Back at the car we sat in the shade and ate our lunch, the lunch was somewhat soggy as my bottle of water had leaked all over the sandwiches, how nice!  During our lunch break (which turned out to be a siesta with the two adults drifting in and out of sleep) James found a couple of Alpine Swifts they cut through the sky like a scythe through hay as they sped about above us, they were joined by a few Crag Martins.

At about 3pm we drove round to the other side of the Libar valley and joined the Ronda road to visit the Encinas Borraches track. It was still very hot but a nice breeze kept us cool. Not many birds were on show we really had to work to find any! Eventually we found a single juvenile Woodchat, two juvenile Black-eared Wheatears and lots of Goldfinches.

We called it a day at pm and drove back down the valley to San Pablo, after enjoying a nice cold beer with Nick, Jo, James and Imogen on their shady teerace, a couple of Booted Eagles circled over the finca just before I left.  I set off for home at 5:30pm and after my arrival I promptly fell asleep on the couch.



Sunday, August 18, 2013

SUNDAY 18TH AUGUST 2013 - RIO GUADIARO AT ESTACION DE CORTES

Dawn and I spent a wonderful balmy afternoon sitting under our favourite tree by the side of the river Guadiaro. It was 30C with a lovely cooling breeze. The usual birds were coming to drink and bathe on the opposite side of the river with the added bonus of a pair of Kingfishers flitting about. We also had the fortune of seeing a flock of Bee-eaters coming down to bathe, they just dunk themselves in the middle of the river and fly of to preen.

Bee-eater - looking shaggy after a dip in the river


One piece of excitement occurred when a Booted Eagle flew down and swooped under the branches of the tree we were sitting under, the bird made a sharp change of direction to avoid colliding with my telescope!!

A juvenile White Wagtail with European Goldfinch in the background


Birds seen are listed below:

1. Common Blackbird
2. European Robin
3. European Greenfinch
4. European Goldfinch
5. European Serin
6. Cetti's Warbler
7. Blackcap
8. Willow Warbler
9. Chiffchaff sp.
10. Bonelli's Warbler
11. Blue Tit
12. Great Tit
13. House Sparrow
14. bee-eater
15. White Wagtail
16. Grey Wagtail
17. European Stonechat
18. Grey Heron
19. Booted Eagle
20. Short-toed Eagle
21. Griffon Vulture
22. House Martin
23. Barn Swallow
24. Pallid Swift
25. Red-rumped Swallow
26. European Chaffinch
27. Spotted Flycatcher
28. Common Kingfisher
29. Turtle Dove
30. Collared Dove

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

TUESDAY 13TH AUGUST 2013 - DAY TRIP

PALMONES SALT MARSH

Today I took out John for a day's birding, it was a glorious morning in Gaucin but extremely cloudy down at the coast. Guess where we were headed?  A light SE wind was blowing the misty cloud away from the village.

We had hoped for a migration passage near the coast but the low cloud ended all our hopes of that. I met John at 7:30am and we drove down towards Algeciras. Our first stop was along the road to San Martin, we thought we might have a look for a Black-winged Kite which forgot to show up!  However we did see a couple of Booted Eagles perched nicely for us, we also found Common Kestrel, Griffon Vulture (4 on a pylon) and a couple of Bee-eaters. In the hedgerows we saw Sardinian Warbler, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Serin.

Along the road to San Roque we saw many White Storks on their nests and a group of Lesser Kestrels on some power lines. At San Roque crossroads we turned towards Los Barrios and stopped to view a dead tree full of Black Kites. There were 29 in the tree and another 25 soaring over a hill and in the distance we could see another group of about 50.

Our next stop was the huge land-fill site near Los Barrios, it was very smelly and it was covered in Black Kites, Yellow-legged Gulls, White Storks and a few Griffon Vultures.

We abandoned our plan to visit Tarifa because of the cloud and ended up at the salt marsh of Palmones, we viewed the area from the raised hide on the Algeciras side of the marsh. Our timing was perfect, the tide had just turned and was on its way out. As we approached the view point we saw Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Zitting Cisticola and John saw a Hoopoe in flight.

From the hide we had excellent views of the whole of the salt marsh and found a good number of birds present. As the tide receded and areas of mud become exposed many waders came down to feed.

We recorded 11 species:

1. Whimbrel
2. Black-winged Stilt
3. Common Sandpiper
4. Dunlin
5. Curlew Sandpiper
6. Redshank
7. Greenshank
8. Oystercatcher
9. Common Ringed Plover
10. Grey Plover
11. Green Sandpiper

many of these species were still in summer plumage especially Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlin and  Grey Plover.

Other species present were: Grey Heron, White Stork, yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern, Little Egret, Common Kingfisher and Zitting Cisticola. We spent a good 2 hours enjoying these birds feeding on the mudflats. We decided not to go across to the other side of the marsh because there was so much disturbance from holiday makers who were swimming and paddling on the reserve at the river mouth.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday aug 7th 2013 - Marchenilla Track near San Pablo

Today I collected Penny, Bernard, John and Ali from their holiday finca near San Pablo, they had booked a morning only birding trip.

John, Bernard, Ali  and Penny (l to r)


We met at 7:30am at the finca and quickly drove the short distance to the Marchanilla Track. It was quite a breezy morning, no cloud and a nice temperature. By the time we got to the track the sun was just rising over the hillside behind us. We noted a Common Buzzard sitting on a pylon behind us.

The hedgerows along the first part of the track were very busy with many Sparrows and finches and small flocks of Spotless Starling. A few Collared Doves sat on wires and many House Martins and Barn Swallows hawked overhead.

After a short while we watched a couple of Short-toed Eagles hovering over the far hillside, they were joined by a single Booted Eagle, another Common Buzzard and a Common Kestrel. More passerines appeared along the track fence-line, Common Stonechat, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting Eurasian Linnet, European Goldfinch & Greenfinch.
The view from the brow of the hill towards Marchanilla

As we moved into more open ground we found at least 3 family parties of Woodchat Shrikes and we had a couple of sightings of both Melodious Warbler & Sardinian Warbler. Then as we climbed up the hill a brief sighting was made of the Rufous Bush Robin, this bird remained elusive and only a couple of us got good views of it before it disappeared.

On the brow of the hill we had superb views of the countryside stretching across to Jimena de la Frontera and from there we found more Short-toed Eagles (3), Booted Eagle (10) and over 30 Griffon Vultures.

One interesting sighting was of a juvenile Montagu's Harrier which quartered the fields below us, this is the first 'reverse' migrating bird of this species I have seen this year.

On the way back down the hill towards the car we stopped to watch a good number of Bee-eaters along the power lines, we also found a single Turtle Dove and more Woodchat Shrikes.

Before we left the area we decided to have a quick look at the Rio Guadiaro from the bridge behind the Venta de Fuente. We spent a good hour there enjoying the birds coming to drink and those flying over us. It was surprising to see Red-rumped Swallows coming down to the river to collect mud for nest building? Or maybe for repairs!
viw of the Rio Guadiaro from the brdige

We found Grey Wagtail,. Serin, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Spotless Starling and Collared Doves coming to drink whilst the riverside vegetation held Spotted Flycatcher, Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler (heard only), Olivaceous Warbler, Chiffchaff sp, a Golden Oriole called a couple times and lots of House Sparrows milled about. Overhead a large swarm of Common Swifts held a single Alpine Swift.
juvenile Woodchat Shrike

A short walk passed the bridge led us to open farmland and orange groves we added our last bird of the morning, a Zitting Cisticola. We made short stop at some cultivated grassland hoping for some Yellow Wagtails on passage but the area was devoid of birds.

We returned to the finca near San Pablo where I said goodbye to my friends of the morning, they planned to sit by the pool, sipping cold drinks and taking time to digest all that they had seen this morning.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Thursday August 1st 2013 - Encinas Borraches track

I started the month off with an early morning walk along the Emcinas Borraches track with Paul from the village. The track is a few kilometers south of Ronda and about 500m above sea level more than Gaucin.

It was a bright clear morning but a chilly wind made it feel quite cool, the wind increased as the morning wore on. On the drive up to the track from Gaucin we saw 3-4 Short-toed Eagles, a dead (road-kill) Genet near the Benarraba turning, what a shame, this beautifully marked wild cat is such an elusive and hard to find species. We also saw a couple of Rock Sparrows on the roadside walls along the way.

We spent nearly 3 hours walking not far along the track in search of the Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush now called Common Rock Thrush,  we dipped completely but had a nice time anyway. many family groups of birds were on show, lots of them in full moult and looking very scruffy. In particular Black-eared Wheatears, Woodchat Shrikes, Spectacled Warblers, Stonechats, Thekla Larks, Linnets, Goldfinches, Southern grey Shrike and Rock Sparrows.
Black-eared Wheatear  - Juvenile (above) and scruffy adult male (below)




Up on the high rock face we found distant Blue Rock thrush, Black Wheatear, Common Kestrel and a small herd of Red Deer. In the sky over the valley we noted Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle and a pair of Common Kestrels.

We spent our few minutes at the pool hoping for some action there, a few Crag Martins came down to drink as did scruffy Black-eared Wheatears, a Rock Bunting (seen earlier at the pool), Goldfinches and Linnets.


3 pictures of  Spectacled Warblers



At 11:30am the strong rays of the  sun started to warm us up a little too much, even though a strong wind was blowing, so we decided to call it a day and we drove back to the village.

Friday 26th - Wednesday 31st July 2013

Gaucin walks

July fizzled & sizzled out with nothing spectacular to report in the Gaucin area. The days are now long and hot so any birding done has to be early morning or later evening. over the last 6 days I have walked The Punta Umbria woodlands 3 times and the Camino de Gibraltar twice.

The only bird still singing is the Bonelli's Warbler, even the Blackcaps have shut up shop for now. No migrant movements have been noted except the reduction in the number of local swifts and a more frequent Bee-eater flyovers.

Recent sightings include:  Eurasian Sparrowhawk (the first one for me this summer, seen just below the village on the camino Gibraltar. It is good to see lots of family parties of local breeding birds such as: Eurasian Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, Crested Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Cirl Bunting and martins and Swifts. Breeding Barn Swallow numbers seem to down this year and I haven't seen Red-rumped Swallow whilst on the Camino de Gibraltar.