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Jan 2nd - 5th - Somerset Levels

Jan 7th - 20th. - Sri Lanka. £1850

Feb 16th - March 3rd Costa Rica - full

Mar 20th - 30th Morocco - 10 nights. - full

April 2nd - 9th - Andalucia migration tour. - full

April 10th - 18th - Coto Donana & Extremadura - £950 - 2 places

April 19th - 27th - Coto Donana & Extremadura - £950 - full

April 28th - 5th May. - Lesvos - full

May 6th - 13th - Portugal - £950 - 4 places

May 15th - 22nd - Northern Greece - full

May 23rd - 30th Bulgaria - £850 - 4 places

May 23rd - 30th - Andalucia birds and butterflies - £850

May 31st - June 7th. - Extremadura and Sierra de Gredos - £950

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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Monday, September 30, 2013

MONDAY 30TH SEPT - 7 DAY TOUR - DAY 4

LAGUNA DE MEDINA - SALINAS DE SANTA MARIA - SALINAS DE BONANZA - MARISMAS DE TREBUJENA

An action packed, full day out, but we had dull overcast conditions with bout of light rain. A brisk westerly wind followed us all day too, but we got on with the birding regardless.

Our drive to laguna de Medina was uneventful and mainly in the dark. We listed White Stork, Jackdaw, Cattle Egret, Common Buzzard and Crested Lark along the way. The laguna itself was almost deserted, very few birds we on the water, just 20-30 Mallards, 10+ Shoveler, good numbers of Great crested Grebe and not much else. The track and scrub along the way didn't hold much either, Cetti's Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Zitting Cisticola, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and a few Stonechats. The open fields next to the track held Red-legged Partridge, Crested Lark and a large mixed flock of Sand Martin, House Martin, Barn Swallow and Red-rumped Swallows.

We then visited the salt pans of Santa Maria, it was raining the whole time we were there! But we found a lot of waders which consisted mainly of Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Grey Plover, Redshanks and a few Dunlin.

Along the approach track we found a flock of about 200 Spanish Sparrows, several Northern Wheatears and a number of Marsh Harriers, White Storks and Little Egrets. As we left the area a Black Kite flew very low over the car and headed for a local rubbish dump.

After a coffee stop we drove through more rain to arrive at Bonanza Salt Pans where we spent a great couple of hours watching  a large number of birds, the whole area was just superb. We had close views of  Black-tailed Godwit, Pied Avocet, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Greater Flamingo, Sanderling and Ruff. We sat and ate our lunch looking over another pool where even more birds were present. Open mud flats held at least a 1,000 birds it was fantastic. We saw Black Stork, Great White Egret, Eurasian Spoonbill, Slender-billed Gull, Caspian Tern (my first for the autumn), Knot, Red Kite, Osprey, Black Tern and Little Tern.

From there we drove round to Laguna Tarelo where the algal bloom continued to discolour the water, it is now a bright red! Consequently there are now no diving ducks found there, just a few Common Coots, mallards, Shoveler and Little Grebes. There were a lot of Night Herons, Little Egrets and we found a single Squacco Heron. But the best find was a pair of Marbled Duck, they didn't show well, they just sat on an island with their heads tucked over their backs, but good birds nevertheless.

Trebujena marsh didn't produce anything new, we searched for Red-knobbed Coot without success. On the way home we stopped near Sierra Crestellina to look at our first Blue-rock Thrush of the trip, that bird was our final sighting of a long and bird filled day.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

SUNDAY 29TH SEPT - 7 DAY TOUR - DAY 3

RIO GENAL - GUADIARO VALLEY CASARES TO SECADERO - SAN ENRIQUE WOODS - PINAR DEL REY - SOTO GRANDE - MANILVA CAOSTAL HEATHLAND - SAN ENRIQUE WOODS - SECADERO TO CASARES

It was a mixed bag of sightings to day as we had to change our plans because of the bad weather. We intended to visit the mountains towards Ronda but thick cloud and rain changed our minds, so we went down to the coast instead.

We left the village at 8:15am and drove down to the river, it was dull with light rain so it wasn't very pleasant and consequently we never saw too much. But as we approached the Guadiaro Valley the weather improved somewhat. We stopped to watch Corn Buntings, Serin, Goldfinches, Crested lark and a couple of Little Owls. On a pylon we found two large birds of Prey which after getting them in the scope we saw that they were in fact Bonelli's Eagles.

Further down the valley we stopped at the riverside to look at Little Egrets, Mallards, Common Coots and we also saw a couple of Common Buzzards,3 Booted Eagles and a Common Kestrel. A little further on we saw a Eurasian Sparrowhawk being chased by a Common Kestrel.
a distant record shot of one of the Bonelli's Eagles. The picture i took today

At San Enrique Woods we were very disappointed to find nothing at all in the woods!! There weren't any Tree Sparrows at their usual spot either. Looking at the river from the woods we saw Common Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper and a Grey Heron. Back on the track outside of the wood we saw an Osprey, 7 Honey Buzzards, 2 Booted Eagles and another Common Buzzards. Lots of Cattle Egrets sat on or around a flock of sheep. Near a small sewerage works we saw both Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and a Great Tit which was the first of the trip.

At lunchtime we drove round to the pine woods at Pinar del Rey where we sat at a picnic table and ate our sandwiches. A short walk produced, Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Common Chaffinch and not much else.

We then drove into Soto Grande to visit the local nature reserve, the sky had now cleared and the sun came out. We found our target bird the Purple Swamphen and also lots of Little Grebes, Common Coots and a few Moorhens. Out at sea we picked out lots of Northern Gannets, a few Sandwich Terns and several Cory's Shearwaters.

A brief walk on the heath at Manilva produced a great surprise when 13 Black Storks flew over us, wonderful. On the heath it was very windy but a clear sky developed, however not many birds showed. We saw Common Kestrel, Sardinian Warbler and Stonechat.

After a second visit to San Enrique which failed to produce anything new we drove up through the Guadiaro Valley for a second time. Good weather helped to produce a lot of raptors: 9 Short-toed Eagles, 8 Booted Eagles, 6 Honey Buzzards and a couple of Common Buzzards flew over, we also saw our first Griffon Vultures of the day and our first Woodchat Shrike of the trip. More Serins a couple of Whinchats and the odd Zitting cisticola finished off our birding for the day. Let's hope that tomorrow will produce better weather and more species.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

SATURDAY 28TH SEPT - 7 DAY TOUR - DAY 2

PALMONES SALT MARSH - LOS LANCES BEACH (TARIFA) - LA JANDA - BARBATE MARSH

After a lot of overnight rain we awoke to light drizzle and thick low cloud. So we changed our plans and decided not to go into the mountains and headed off to the coast.

We drove down to Jimena and onto San Roque noting a Little Owl, Spotless Starling, Common Buzzard and Goldfinches along the way. At San Roque we stopped to watch many White Storks on their nests before driving onto Palmones. The tide was high at Palomones so the sand bar at the mouth of the River Palmones was covered in birds. Many species of waders sat on the sand or fed in the water: Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank and Ringed Plover.
the boys at La Janda

Gulls and terns consisted of Black-headed, Mediterranean and Yellow-legged Gulls and Sandwich Terns. Great Cormorant, Grey hero, Little Egret and an Osprey made up the rest of the list.

From the car park to the hide at Los Lances we watched several species, a large flock of  starlings held both species, Common and Spotless. We also found large flocks of Corn Buntings and Calandra larks with smaller numbers of Zitting Cisticola, Crested Lark and Yellow Wagtails.

The tidal waters had flooded the beach at Los Lances which drove a lot of birds very close to the hide so Grey Plover, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Dunlin were seen very well. A little further afield we saw a juvenile Greater Flamingo, a couple of Oystercatchers, a flock of Audouin's Gulls and hundreds of Yellow-legged Gulls and fewer Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Audouin's Gull


On the way back to the car we saw a Peregrine Falcon and a Common Kestrel. We then drove to La Janda but it was raining quite hard so we drove on passed and went to the golf complex at Montenmedio and after some searching we found a couple of Bald Ibis with lots of Jackdaws. We also passed a pool with hundreds of Cattle Egrets and Glossy Ibis.

Then we drove back to La janda here we spent two hours or so driving the tracks and searching the rice fields for new species. IT WAS FANTASTIC!  There were thousands of birds in the area, everywhere you looked there were raptors in the sky and large flocks of birds. Over 1000 Glossy Ibis fed in the rice fields, the same number of Cattle Egret were presents. Starlings were in similar numbers but there were also large numbers of Little Egrets, White Storks and Shoveler. A good number of waders were also on show with Common Snipe, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilts and Northern Lapwings. Huge numbers of Goldfinches fed in the cropped sunflower fields with over 500 Wood Pigeons.

Northern Wheatear

We drove over to the back of the fields to watch raptors and we certainly saw some. A falcon flew across the front of bus, I called Hobby but as it flew over to a pylon and landed, we scoped it and found it to be a male Peregrine, oops! Then we had a superb half an hour as, first, a Spanish Imperial Eagle drifted over and soon after we found a Bonelli's Eagle. After watching Red-legged partridge, Common Pheasant, Yellow Wagtails (50+), Whinchat and Northern Wheatear we then had Booted Eagle and several Common Kestrels fly passed.
Tawny Pipit

The fun wasn't over because after a coffee stop in Vejer we stopped at Barbate marshes where we enjoyed our last couple of hours watching lots of species. We added Tawny Pipit to our list and saw many waders, including many Kentish Plover which had been missing from our list, we also saw lots of gulls and terns. This concluded a lovely day out, the weather wasn't perfect but the birds were.

On the way back home we stopped at the Mirador de Elstrecho to look at Morocco and whilst doing this we did find a Hobby! Lastly we stopped to photograph the White Storks at San Roque and found 3 more Booted Eagles. Our last birds of the day were a number of Griffon vultures over Jimena and a flock of a dozen or so of Common Ravens near San Pablo.

Friday, September 27, 2013

FRIDAY 27TH SEPT - 7 DAY TOUR - DAY 1

MALAGA AIRPORT - GUADALMAR - SIERRA CRESTELLINA - RIO GENAL - GAUCIN

Our 7 day tour started in bright sunshine as we emerged from the terminal building at Malaga, I had met Nigel, Nathan and Stephen on time in the arrivals hall.

We drove the short distance to the Guadalmar beach area and parked on some wasteland a little way out of the village. Our first birds were a flock of Spotless Starlings as we got out of the car. After a very short while we had listed quite a few species including our target bird the Eurasian Hoopoe, we found five of them on the golf course. Lots of Monk Parakeets whizzed about and they were accompanied by a Budgerigar, I thought we were in a park zoo avary for a moment.
look at my yellow foot - Little Egret

We had good views of Zitting Cisticola, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Crested Lark, Greenfinch and a Whimbrel flew passed a couple of times.

Out at sea there were many Yellow-legged Gulls, a few Northern Gannet, Balearic Shearwaters and a Common Tern perched on a buoy.

We stopped to but lunch before setting off for Gaucin via Casares where we stopped just before the village and watched pour first Griffon Vultures.

At Sierra Crestellina we watched more Griffon Vultures with up to 20 in the sky and as we were scanning for more we found small groups of Short-toed Eagles drifting over towards the coast, we counted 12 in all. We also found Stonechat, Crag Martin, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk and a Common Kestrel on a pylon.
Monk Parakeet

Our last birding of the day was done along the Rio Genal near the bridge on the way up to Gaucin. It was fairly quiet but good views of Common Kingfisher was nice. We also saw all three species of Wagtail in a short space of time. Grey Wagtail along the river and both White Wagtail and Yellow Wagtails were feeding alongside a herd of cows. The Yellow Wagtails all looked of the Spanish race iberiae. Other sightings included another Short-toed Eagle, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Wood Pigeon and another Grey heron.

We made a brief stop at the mirador just before the village to take pictures of the distant Rock of Gibraltar and of the village. More Griffon Vultures drifted over and yet another Short-toed Eagle appeared.

Monday, September 23, 2013

MONDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER 2013 - DAY TOUR

LLANOS DE LIBAR - GRAZALEMA (PUERTO DE PALOMAS) - RIO GUADIARO AT BENAOJAN

Today i collected Alison, Alan, John and Fiona from their holiday cottage in Montejaque at 8:30am and drove straight to the Llanos de Libar some 53 minutes away! The weather was gorgeous as usual, clear blue sky a nice cool breeze, top temp. for the was 28C but it felt much cooler with the breeze.

My four clients were not accomplished birders, very much beginners so every bird required a description and an identification.

Fiona, Alan, Alison & John in the Llanos de Libar


The beautiful valley of the Llanos de Libar was full of activity, we started with a large group of Griffon Vultures, 25 were in the sky at one time, they were joined by a Short-toed Eagle and later a Sparrowhawk circled near them.

view across the valley Llanos de Libar


On the rocky cliffs and stoney crags we found Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear (5), Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting, Spotless Starlings and a few Common Stonechats. In the scrub we tracked down a few Sardinian Warblers and a nice Spectacled Warbler, the track side was frequented by large flocks of Goldfinches and Linnets which were joined by Cirl Bunting and Chaffinch.

watching vultures at the Mirador Puerto de Palomas

A few Crag Martins dashed over the valley and we spent some time watching the antics of a number of Black Redstarts as they flitted amongst the rocks, we then found a Common Redstart in the Bushes, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Chiffchaff sp. completed our sightings there.

We ate our lunch in a cork oak wood just passed the Puerto de Tabizna (where the dam that doesn't work is found) - no birds were seen during lunch. A short coffee stop at the next venta produced a Booted Eagle which was seen circling with the vultures as we sat in the shade sipping our coffee.

Next we visited the mirador Puerto de Palomas which is situated a couple of km above Grazalema. The view of the surrounding area was magnificent from our perch some 1300 meters above sea level. We looked down over a number of Griffon Vultures and high over the top of us we saw a couple of Honey Buzzards, Booted Eagle and another Short-toed Eagle. A single Black Redstart was the total of our passerine sightings.

The Rio Guadiaro at Benaojan

For our last birding walk we drove back to Benaojan and walked along the river Guadiaro which didn't produce much, but it was very warm. A family of Grey Wagtails, a Blackcap and a Cetti's Warbler burst into song and a Grey Heron flew over. Not much else showed up and it was now 4:30pm so we called it day and drove back to Montejaque.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

FRIDAY 20TH SEPTEMBER 2013 - DAY TOUR

EL CHORRO - LAGUNA DULCE

Today I collected Susan and Brian Anderson from their holiday finca in Valle de Abdalajis near El Chorro in Andalucia. What a truly beautiful place it was too! Stunning mountainous landscapes and steep river valleys.

Susan and Brian with Valle de Abdalajis in the background
Susan and Brian are Americans so any bird sighting was a bonus for them and they even enjoyed looking at Corn Buntings, ha!

It was a lovely day with wall to wall sunshine and a nice breeze. We started birding just out of town on the road to Alora and we started listing with Corn Buntings, Stonechats, Greenfinches and Red-rumped Swallows. After driving through a busy Alora we stopped on bridge near the dam just below El Chorro where we found Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Little Egret and Brian and I saw a Common Kingfisher.

The fantastic sight of the steep ravine at El Chorro is made even more interesting by the Camino del Rey which is by far the world's most scariest footpath - have a look at this YouTube video:


Whilst we there a film crew from Malta were walking the path!!

The camino del Rey with a group of people shown as tiny dots

The group at half zoom on the telescope  *30

The group at 60 times zoom


The bird life around the gorge was fantastic too with hundreds of Alpine Swifts dashing and screaming about.
Another stop along the gorge produced Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler and Coal Tit.

By the time we reaches the laguna Dulce it was almost lunchtime but we scanned the lake for an hour before we ate. The water was covered in birds, we listed about 30 species on or over the water it was was wonderful. About a dozen Ferruginous Ducks were seen quite close to the hide along with about 100 White-headed Ducks. All three local grebes were there with Common Coot (over 1,000), Common Moorhen, Purple Swamphen and after a long time searching we found a Red-knobbed Coot. this bird was wearing a white collar (no it wasn't priest) with the number 26H written on it. Red-knobbed Coots have been reared and released into the wild with white collars, the collars are for protection, the theory is that hunters have been asked not to shoot the coot with the collar!! A Squacco Heron was a nice suprise but the shear number of bird was truly impressive.

Anyway, after lunch we drove into the fields behind the laguna and spent a couple of hours enjoying even more bird life. Several Whinchats were listed with lots of small flocks of Yellow Wagtails and the odd Northern Wheatear. At least 6 Western Marsh Harriers were out on the wing and at a smaller laguna we saw Northern Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover and many of the birds seen on the main laguna.

On our back towards El Chorro we stopped at the raptor observatory at Teba where we spent a nice time in the afternoon sunshine watching Griffon Vultures a variety of raptors passing very high overhead. We saw a single Honey Buzzard, 4-5 Lesser Kestrels, a single Montagu's Harrier and a couple of Booted Eagles.

Susan was overjoyed with her sightings (she was the birder of the two) we saw over 70 species and most of them were lifers for her.

THURSDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER 2013 - DAY TOUR

LAGUNA MEDINA - SALINAS DE SANTA MARIA - SALINAS DE BONANZA - LAGUNA TARELO - TREBUJENA SALT MARSH


Today I joined Paul from the village on a day tour to the lagoons and saltpans near Jerez/Cadiz. We left Gaucin at 0715hrs collecting visitors Jane and Dave on the way.


A great day's birding with a grand total of 97 species including some quality individuals!





PAUL WROTE THE FOLLOWING TRIP REPORT



Laguna Medina
We arrived at Laguna Medina just after 0900hrs. The water level was higher than it has been in the past and there were few birds on the lagoon but we did see:
Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Purple Swamp Hen, Cattle Egret, Great-crested Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Shoveler, Common Snipe, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Flycatcher, Penduline Tit, Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Willow Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Serin.






Black-winged Stilt taken by Jane Wise


Santa Maria and Bonanza Saltpans:
It always seems slightly surreal birding amidst the strange salt pan landscape but it's worth the effort to see;
Osprey, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Slender-billed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, White Stork, Black Stork, Greater Flamingo, Great White Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Eurasian Spoonbill, Pied Avocet, Stone Curlew, Whimbrel, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Little Stint, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Northern Wheatear, Red-rumped Swallow and Common Whitethroat.
Greater Flamingo at Salinas de Bonanza taken by Jane Wise


Laguna Tarelo:
Despite the water here having turned red, presumably due to an algal bloom, a brief stop led to some good sightings including Purple Heron, several Black-crowned Night Heron and a female Red-crested Pochard.

Laguna Tarelo now bright red with algal growth


En-route to the Trebujena marshes we saw a single European Bee-eater, Spotted Flycatcher and Chiffchaff sp.

Trebujena Marshes:
Squacco Heron, eclipse male Garganey, Red-knobbed Coot, Whinchat and Short-toed Lark.

Other species seen at, or whilst travelling between, sites were:
Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Raven, Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Common Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Spotless Starling, Blackbird, White Wagtail, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, House Sparrow, Crested Lark, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet and Corn Bunting.

Friday, September 13, 2013

FRIDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER - SPAIN, MIGRATION TOUR - DAY 7

ENCINAS BORRACHAS - SIERRA DE LAS NIEVES - RONDA TO TEBA ROAD - TEBA BIRD OBS - LAGUNA DULCE (CAMPILLOS).

This was our last full day and probably our last birding of the tour as we have to leave early in the morning for the airport. But what a great day out, we saw some super birds and one fantastic sighting, a first for me in Andalucia!

Our breakfast was taken at the usual time of 7am we were in the bus by 7:50am heading to the edge of the village to collect Jane who was coming out with us for the day.

We drove straight to the Encias Borrachas track in the hope of finding a Black-eared Wheatear but our short walk did not produce one, they have now, for sure, all left the breeding area and headed off to Africa.
We did find both Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Corn Bunting, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Goldfinch and our first Peregrine Falcon of the trip.

Sierra de las Nieves is always a little cooler than anywhere else nearby but today it was very chilly with lots of fast moving cloud over the mountains. We parked in the first car park and birded the immediate surroundings, it was very quiet but we had great views of Common Redstart.

Common Redstart




Our visit through this expansive natural park consisted of driving to open areas surrounded by mountains, fir forests and cork woods. Along the track we saw Eurasian Jay, European Robin, Blue Tit and a couple of Spotted Flycatchers. The first time we stopped we found, within seconds of stepping out of the bus, a Golden Eagle, the bird flew over the nearest ridge and away from us before disappearing into the clouds. Next we found both Dartford Warbler and Spectacled Warbler on the heath and a few more Stonechats.


Deeper into the reserve we stopped at the edge of a pine wood where we had a frustrating time trying to see Firecrest, Coal Tit and Crested Tit as they fed high up in the canopy. It was a little windy and the light wasn't good but some of us managed to see all three. On the way back down the track we stopped for a second time in the open valley and what a great choice. The sky had cleared somewhat so we spent more time looking for eagles. We saw Short-toed Eagle, Common Kestrel, Red-billed Chough and a few Griffon Vultures. Then another large raptor appeared and headed straight over us, to my great amazement the bird was a LAMMERGEIER  UNBELIEVEABLE11 This was the first one I had ever seen in Andalucia and I presumed that it was one of the re-introduced birds from the Sierra de Morena.

After that excitement we drove to a venta for a quick cup of coffee before making our way to Laguna Dulce. We made two stops along the way, both of which didn't produce many new species but we did see: Honey Buzzard (8), Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Crag Martin and several Griffon Vultures.


The rest of the afternoon was spent visit the hide at laguna Dulce and first the fields around the back of the laguna. It was quite quiet but we found over 50 Yellow Wagtails, a single Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Marsh Harrier and in a smaller laguna we saw Night Heron, White headed Duck, Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt and lots of Cattle Egrets.
Red-knobbed Coot

White-headed Duck


The main laguna was covered in birds, thousands of them, mostly Common Coots, mallards and Shoveler but also over 100 White-headed Ducks, many grebes of 3 species and few very good species. First we found a Red-knobbed Coot, then a Ferruginous Duck and several Red-crested Pochard. Over 30 species were recorded on and around the water, fantastic.

On the way back home we stopped to search for Rock Bunting but only found Black Wheatear, Black Redstart and Red-legged Partridge. We arrived home at 6pm to conclude the tour.

We had seen 171 species and heard another two, quite a superb list of birds for this time of year in southern Spain.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

THURSDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER - SPAIN, MIGRATION TOUR - DAY 6

GAUCIN (RIO GENAL AND CHESTNUT WOODS)  - RIO GUADIARO AT ESTACION CORTES - LLANOS DE LIBAR (MONTEJAQUE) - RONDA - DOLMENES DE ENCINAS BORRACHAS TRACK

Another superb birding day in the beautiful surroundings of the Serrania de Ronda, the weather was fantastic too, bright sunshine all day with a lovely cooling breeze.

We set off from the village at 8am and drove down the valley towards Casares, we then turned onto a track next to the river Genal and parked up. Our first glimpse of the river produced both Grey and White Wagtails, Chiffchaff sp. Blackcap and we heard Long-tailed Tits calling in the distance.

Cirl Bunting at Rio Genal


Along the track we had a short glimpse of a male Golden Oriole as it flew from a fig tree into an oak tree, but the bird disappeared and we never saw another one. Other birds in the fig tree were Blackcap and Garden Warbler. A Cetti's Warbler called frequently but it never showed itself but we did get good views of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Cirl Bunting (4), Serin, Great Tit and Spotted Flycatcher. A couple of Griffon Vultures flew over and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk dashed across our field of view.

Our next venue took us back up through the village and down into the Guadiaro valley where we parked at the riverside for an hour or so. We had some excellent species for the list and spent a relaxing time sitting by the bus waiting for birds to come to us. Common Sandpiper, Grey Heron, Grey and White Wagtails, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff sp, Sardinian Warbler and a nice flock of Rock Sparrows all performed well. A sizable flock of House Martins held Barn Swallows too and over the hillside we saw Booted Eagle and the ubiquitous Griffon Vulture.

the group at Gaucin woods

At Llanos de Libar we got to grips with a number of truly mountainous species as we watched Black Wheatear (5 males), Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Southern Grey Shrike, Rock Sparrow and our first Woodchat Shrike of the tour. A single Short-toed Eagle sat high on the ridge and a number of Honey Buzzards circled very high up in the sky, way above the Griffon Vultures.

Llanos de Libar


After a short stop in the centre of Ronda (where Raven was added to the day list) and a short coffee stop we arrived at our last destination the Encinas Borrachas track. Our last couple of hours of the day were spent walking through this wonderful rocky terrain watching a number of key species. We found Southern grey Shrike, Spectacled Warbler (a family party of 4), Dartford Warbler, Thekla Lark, lots of Goldfinches and Corn Buntings. High on the rocky ridges we saw Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush and a single Short-toed Eagle.

Black Redstart

Black Wheatear

Southern Grey Shrike
Spectacled Warbler
 The light was superb even at this late hour of 6pm it was hard to drag ourselves away from the wonderful scenery but we had to return home for a lovely home cooked dinner. Our list today was quite small but we saw some quality birds in quite outstanding surroundings

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WEDNESDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER - SPAIN, MIGRATION TOUR - DAY 4

PLAYA DE LOS LANCES - PALMONES SALT MARSH - PINAR DEL REY - SAN ENRIQUE WOODS - RIO GUADIARO VALLEY (SECADERA TO CASARES)

This was our last day at the coast so we spent the morning in the coastal area and the afternoon working our way up into the mountains to begin a 3 day period watching montane species.

Breakfast was at the usual time of 7am and by 8:30am we were walking on the boardwalk to the beach area of Los Lances. A brisk easterly breeze cleared a cloudy sky within the hour. We spent a lot of time looking at the fields behind the beach where we found a single Tawny Pipit, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting and quite a few Black Kites in the air. We also logged our first Sand Martins of the trip.

On the beach we were very lucky to see both Audouin's Gull and Slender Billed Gull together (3 of each), it would have made a great photo but I was a little late and the S B gulls flew off before my shutter operated. We also listed Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Sandwich Tern and the usual gulls.

Next we drove over to Palmones, passing through Algeciras along the way. The tide was just turning on its way out and a lot of birds sat on the sand bar. Greenshanks (4) were very noisy before they flew off high to the west, but Redshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Sanderling and Curlew Sand Piper remained in view. A small flock of Black-headed Gulls positioned themselves away from a similar number of Mediterranean Gulls. In between them were Sandwich Terns and Yellow-legged Gulls. 

After a quick mid-morning coffee stop we drove to Pinar del Rey, it was lovely and peaceful there but a bit quiet on the bird scene. We spent an hour or so searching for Crested Tit without luck but we did find: Bonelli's Warbler, Blue Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Chaffinches, Jays and several Booted Eagles drifted over the wood. We ate our picnic lunch at one of the benches provided before setting off for San Enrique.

A similar list of species turned up in San Enrique Woods except that we added: Blackcap, Tree Sparrow, and White Wagtail to the trip list and we had good sightings of Common Kingfisher, Little-ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper and a huge flock of Bee-eaters. A hoopoe put in a very short appearance.

The rest of the afternoon was spent working our way up the Rio Guadiaro valley towards Casraes from Secadera, we stopped many times but only added a few new species to our tally. We had some great views of brightly coloured Yellow Wagtails (ibericus), also European Serin and a single Eurasian Linnet. Large flocks of European Goldfinches fed in the Sunflower fields and small groups of Red-rumped Swallows fed above us. After a short spell at Sierra Crestellina where we watched Griffon Vultures we drove up the hill to Gaucin, arriving, as planned at 5pm.

We called the bird log on the top terrace which was interrupted by the appearance of small flocks of Honey Buzzards (8, 22, 5) as they circled above the village, ah, it was nice to be home!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TUESDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER - SPAIN, MIGRATION TOUR - DAY 3.

TARIFA BEACH - CAZALLA RAPTOR OBSERVATORY - OJEN VALLEY - BOLONIA (SIERRA DE LA PLATA) - LA JANDA (LATE AFTERNOON AND EVENING VISIT FOR NIGHTJARS).

A mixed bag of results today with a great start, flat middle and a great evening finish. The wind was a North-Easterly with a clear blue sky and temps up to 28C.

We started at 7am as usual in the restaurant and then we set off to Tarifa town centre and took a walk to Tarifa Island. I couldn't believe that several Honey Buzzards were already on the wing heading out to Morocco, they came over extremely high and were joined by a Short-toed Eagle, a Black Kite and we saw two Eurasian Sparrowhawks.

Monarch butterfly outside the hotel feeding on Lantana


On the beach below the causeway to Tarifa Island we saw Sanderling and Ringed Plover and on a rock a Whimbrel stood preening. Our best sightings were when we looked out to sea. Looking eastward into the rising sun we found many Balearic Shearwaters and a few gulls but looking westward into the Atlantic Ocean we could see very clearly about 20-30 Cory's Sheartwaers feeding offshore, A couple of Northern Gannets went by too.

We then drove up into the hills behind Tarifa to visit the raptor watch point where we spent an hour or two scanning the skyline to the north. It was slow going, not many birds were coming over. We saw about 20 Short-toed Eagles, 5 Booted Eagles, 30 Black Kites and a dozen or so Honey Buzzards. A couple of Eurasian Sparrowhawks flew over quite low and many Griffon Vultures drifted over the distant hills.
looking back to Tarifa from the causeway to Tarifa Island


From the hills we drove back down to the coast road and turned into the Ojen valley. The valley is quite open and flat to start with, we saw both Spotless and Common Starlings on a telegraph post after a kilometer and several flocks of Corn Buntings in the fields with the obligatory Stonechats on the fence-lines. We stopped after about 2km and took a short walk, it was very warm now as we were out of the cooling breeze. We noted several birds of prey above us, all the ones mentioned above plus a good flock of Bee-eaters, some Pallid Swifts, Red-rumped Swallows and a Montagu's Harrier.

Our lunch stop was taken in a small wild olive grove where we spent an hour or so looking at flycatchers and our first Common Redstart of the tour, we also watched a party of Short-toed Treecreepers. A quick visit to the Amoldova lake didn't produce anything except a fleeting glimpse of our first Woodchat Shrike.

So we headed back to the coast and paid a visit to Bolonia, well to the mountains west of the village. We had a nice watching raptors fly over and a huge flock of some 500 White Storks circled on the thermals for an hour or so. Many Honey Buzzards, Black kites and Booted Eagles drifted over together with both Marsh and Montagu's Harriers.

On the rock face we found Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and Sardinian Warbler, there were a few Griffon Vultures sitting on the ledges and gave us some good photographic opportunities. We then drove down to the village for a coffee break, whilst sitting on a terrace we watched good numbers of Black Kites Drift over at an incredible height we also found our first Egyptian Vulture up there.

We decided to take an hour long break back at the hotel  because we planned to eat out and then go looking for nightjars. So after our break we set off at 5:30pm for La Janda, the wind had dropped a little and it felt just nice as we got out of the bus to watch birds at La Janda.

A large group of waders were seen in a recently ploughed field which was now being flooded. At least 20 Green Sandpipers were there with two Common Snipe, 2 Ruff and 2 Yellow Wagtails. The usual Grey Herons, White Storks, Little & Cattle Egrets were everywhere as were Zitting Cisticolas and Stonechats. At the far end of the central track we stopped to watch a large flock of Spanish Sparrows and then many more waders in the open pools. To our great surprise there were 3 Garganey in with a small number of Teal, Mallards and Shoveler. A single Collared Pratincole sat very close to the track and hundreds of Glossy Ibis fed with the stilts and egrets. A couple of Purple Herons flew around in the middle distance.

It was now approaching 7pm so we left the rice fields and drove to Vejer where we sat in a restaurant for dinner. At 8:30pm we were back at La Janda, it was quite different now, it looked amazing in the weakening eye of day, the colours of the setting sun were quite superb.


Hundreds of birds were leaving to seek out their roost sites, a flock of several hundred Glossy Ibis flew right over us, a magnificent sight. As we drove over the tracks towards our 'nightjar' site we stopped to watch Black-winged Kite and in one filed alone there were 50 Common Pheasants with a few Red-legged Partridges.

We made our nightjar run and soon found one sitting on the tarmac as expected, it didn't stay long and the 'photographers' were not ready, so we made a second run and found a second bird. This time the bird stayed put for us, we enjoyed 10 minutes as we took many pictures before we drove off and left in peace.

A Red-necked Nightjar sitting on the road in front of the bus at La Janda

We got back to the hotel at 10:30pm but it had been worth it, a long day but some great sightings in the end.

Monday, September 9, 2013

MONDAY 9TH SEPTEMBER - SPAIN, MIGRATION TOUR - DAY 3.

MONTENMEDIO GOLF COMPLEX - LAGUNA MEDINA - SALINAS DE SANTA MARIA - SANLUCAR (RIO GUADALQUIVER) - SALINAS DE BONANZA - MARISMAS DE TREBUJENA - MONTENMEDIO GOLF COMPLEX

Weather:  very hot and dry all day, not a breath of wind until late afternoon, top temp reached 32C!

A very busy day today we spent a lot of time traveling but still manged to see nearly 100 species of birds. 

We left the hotel at 8am and drove towards Vejer, we pulled in at the Montenmedio Golf Complex for a quick look at the Eagle Owl site, the owl was otherwise occupied but we did get to see the Green Woodpeckers in their usual place, nice one.
Purple Swamphen


It took about 30 minute to then drive to Laguna Medina, we clocked several species along the route: Corn Bunting, Turtle Dove, Common Buzzard, Montagu's Harrier, Jackdaw, Short-toed Eagle and lots of Stonechats.

At the laguna I was surprised to see so much warbler activity as my last visit was only 5 days ago and not a warbler was seen (it was very windy though). Still we had a great time and spent a couple of hours longer than I expected. From the car park we walked down towards the first boardwalk and stopped to watch Bonelli's Warbler (2), they showed extremely well and were low down in a bush. It was a good omen because from then on we found 7 other warblers in quick succession: Willow Warbler, Eurasian Chiffchaff, Melodious Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Cetti's Warbler, they all gave themselves up to us and our cameras.

Night Heron at Laguna Tarelo

Along the track to the hide we found Penduline Tit, Zitting Cisticola, Red-legged Partridge, Pied Flycatcher and lots of Greenfinches. From the hide we spent some time searching for a single White-headed Duck which finally showed well. Just below us in the reeds we had stunning views of Purple Swamphen, and Reed Warbler and out on the water we saw 3 grebe species: Little, Great-crested and Black-necked, also Shoveler, Gadwall, Common and Red-crested Pochard and many Cattle and Little Egrets. On the way back to the car park a Black-winged Kite flew across our field of view before gliding over a rise, not a bad sighting for our last species at this site.

From Laguna Medina we made the short trip to the salinas at Santa Maria where we searched for Stone Curlew and found 9 of them. In a channel alongside the salt pans we found Purple Heron, Green and Common Sandpiper, Green and Redshanks, Common Ringed Plover and Mediterranean Gulls.

It took us 45 minutes to drive to Sanlucar where we stopped to buy lunch in a local supermarket before heading out to the river Guadalquiver. The tide was coming in and many waders moved closer to us along the muddy shoreline: we found Curlew Sandpipers with Dunlin, Sanderling, Kentish Plover, Whimbrel and a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwits.

The tallest wader and shortest wader in Europe - Black-winged Stilt and Little Stint


Next we drove onto the Salinas at Bonanza, it wasn't as busy as usual with many of the 'pans' devoid of birds. However the more we looked the more we saw: hundreds of Black-winged Stilts, Pied Avocets, Greater Flamingos had a supporting cast of Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Redshank and a few Eurasian Curlew.

But it was round by the pumping station that most of the birds were feeding; a large flock of Little Terns held 1 Black Tern and 1 Common Tern and out in the large expanse of water were hundreds of Little Egrets, 9 Great White Egrets, 8 Black Storks, hundreds of White Storks and Greater Flamingos.

a nice reflection shot of the stilts


Huge wader flocks held Red Knot, Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Ringed Plover a single Bar-tailed Godwit. We also found Osprey, Black Kite, Booted Eagle and as we drove from the pans we stopped to watched Grey Plover (in Flight). 

Laguna Tarelo is found near the Algaida Woods and it was still looking very sick! A huge pinky/red algal bloom discoloured the water but there were still a few birds on it. Common Coot, Mallard, Shoveler and lots of herons and egret, in particular: Squacco Heron (5) and Black-crowned Night Heron (15). A couple of FERRUGINOUS DUCKS sat on an island and both Common and Green Sandpipers fed along its shoreline. A qucik scan of the salt pans looking back to the pumping station revealed a nice surpise in the shape of 4 Northern Pintails, they were with a single Shoveler and 3 Eurasian Teal.

lastly we visited the huge expanse of the Trebujena salt marsh, the marsh was completely dry but the large lagunas alongside the river we full of birds. there we added Black-tailed Godwit to our wader list but not much else. A Red Kite was the last addition to the day list.


After a quick coffee-stop in the village of Trebujena we set off for the hour long journey back to Vejer where we paid another visit to the Eagle Owl site. Alas the owl was still out, but we saw, again, the Green Woodpecker.

After a lovely dinner taken on the terrace of the hotel we suddenly saw a bird flying around the car and near the large street light, it was, of course, a Nightjar, which species we couldn't tell, but most probably a Red-necked variety.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

SUNDAY 8TH SEPTEMBER - SPAIN, MIGRATION TOUR - DAY 2.

LOS LANCES BEACH - MONTEMEDIO RECREATION CENTRE - LA JANDA - BARBATE MARSHES

Our second day of this week long migration tour started at 7am as we met for breakfast, it was pitch black outside but by the time we set off in the bus it was light. Our first destination was Los Lances beach which was literally a stone's throw from the hotel - but we still took the bus to save time . Our initial sightings included a nice flock of Corn Buntings, a couple of Stonechats and a superb Hobby which swooped across the fields scattering the buntings, unfortunately it missed all of them! ( Corn Buntings are not my favourite bird).

Yours truly with the group - Martin (forefront and Louise in Green joined us for the morning)




At the beach we scanned the open fields and the pools next to the hide and found many species, it was early in the morning and not many people were about to disturb the resting birds. We found a dozen or so of Audouin's Gulls, all adults and about 20 Sandwich Terns. The terns sat on fence posts and a Common Kingfisher joined them. A few species of waders were feeding along the shoreline and around the pools: Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Oystercatcher (3), Whimbrel (1) and a small flock of Yellow Wagtails flitted about.

On the grass meadows behind the beach we found Northern Wheatear, Short-toed Lark, Skylark, Crested Lark and a few more Stonechats. In the sky a few Griffon Vultures drifted by and small numbers of Black Kites circled on the hillside.

The Short-toed lark seen at Los Lances and Barbate today


On the way back to the car we stopped to watch Zitting Cisticolas and a large flock of Corn Buntings (100+) and whilst looking into the fields we found a flock of about 50 Calandra Larks, very nice and our fourth larks of the morning.

We hopped onto the bus and drove towards Vejer, just before this iconic town we turned off to the recreational area around the Montemedio Golf Course. On the way in we stopped to photograph a Little Owl which posed on a fence post for us. A short walk produced many Wood pigeons and a two more owls as well as lots of Cattle Egrets, a flock of Glossy Ibis flew over us.

A known site for Eagle Owl was explored next, we walked up to a disused quarry and searched the usual roosts but alas the bird was not there today, we did find lots of Jackdaws. Then one of the group shouted out 'Bustard' , I thought she was talking to me for not finding the owl but she pointed into a distant field. Sure enough a Great Bustard strutted across a field about 3/4 mile away. [ Coincidentally  I had seen a Great Bustard three days ago flying towards this area and a bird had been reported in La Janda yesterday - so I think it is the same individual and it is the first seen in this area since 2006]. As we walked back down to the car we found our first Pied Flycatcher of the trip.

The Bald at Montemedio - I tried to make it look beautiful with photoshop - but failed miserably

After that superb sighting we drove further into the wooded area and down to the golf course where we found a couple of the local Bald Ibis population - these birds have been recently reintroduced to Spain and have bred locally for the ;last two years, all the birds are tagged and wear leg rings. A Glossy Ibis fed alongside one of the Bald Ibis it was nice to see the two species together.

We spent the rest of the morning and lunchtime at La Janda where we scanned the flooded rice fields and came up with a good variety of species. The most notable wAS White Stork - at least 1000 were seen in various group sizes - most of them were resting on the banks of the rice fields but many were also forming 'kettles' high above us.

Some other memorable sightings were:  Black-winged Kite, Glossy Ibis, Collared Pratincole, Ruff, Common Snipe, Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo and good numbers of Black-winged Stilts, Green Sandpipers and Little Egrets. Many Marsh and Montagu's Harriers performed well for us as we scoured the adjacent fields.
a record shot of the Great Bustard - digi-scoped from about a mile away

After driving right across La Janda we passed through Benalup and circled round to Vejer where we stopped for a quick coffee break. Then we drove round to Barbate Marshes which are found along the sea front between Barbate and Zahara. The water level was high and most of the birds were loafing in the distant, however we did find: Redshank, Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Eurasian Spoonbill and Greater Flamingo. Many hundreds of gulls were sitting on the reserve and a small flock of Red-legged Partridges were seen in the fields next to the wader scrapes. We also had great views of Northern Wheatear and Hoopoe.

this iconic Mediterranean species needs no introduction

A final visit to the east side of La Janda on the way back to Tarifa didn't produce any new species but we had great views of a juvenile Montagu's Harrier and many Zitting Cisticolas.

We arrive back at the hotel at 17:45 giving us a good rest before dinner at 8pm.



Saturday, September 7, 2013

SATURDAY 7TH SEPTEMBER - SPAIN, MIGRATION TOUR - DAY 1

MALAGA AIRPORT - GUADALMAR - TARIFA

Today I collected Rita and Ann from Malaga Airport and then drove to Guadalmar to collect Jette and Tony from their hotel before driving a short distance for some birding.

Rita and Ann were late because of a lost suitcase which was later found so we had a slow start. it was 2:30pm before we began birding but it was worth the wait.

Our first bird of the tour was a Red-rumped Swallow which was quickly followed by Monk Parakeet and then Turtle Dove, several of these latter two species were milling about a row of eucalyptus trees. As we neared the tress we added Jackdaw, European Goldfinch and then 3 Hoopoes flew across the fields towards the trees, a great start as all of the group were desperate to see this bird.

We neared a stream which still had pools of water and found a Grey Heron trying to eat a huge fish and a Little Egret looking on in envy! A Northern Wheatear flew onto a fence-line and a Whimbrel appeared on the grass of a nearby golf course. Several Zitting Cisticolas zipped and zittted about the scrub as did a couple of Sardinian Warblers. On the dry sandy car park 4 or 5 Crested Larks looked for insects and out to see huge numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls were joined by Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls.

Just before we left we found a Spotted Flycatcher on a fence-line and a Booted Eagle in the distance, Tony tried to photograph the Zitters without too much success.

We then drove down to Tarifa only stopping for food supplies, our journey sightings were few and far between until we reached the Tarifa area. As the road wound its way over the hills we saw a small group of Honey Buzzards and a couple of Short-toed Eagles perched on pylons. A Common Kestrel and lots of Cattle Egrets, were seen in the fields just passed Tarifa, as were neared our hotel. It was now 6pm so we concluded our birding and checked into the hotel with plenty of time to get ready for dinner.

Friday, September 6, 2013

THURSDAY 5TH SEPTEMBER 2013 - DAY TOUR

LAGUNA MEDINA - SALINAS SANTA MARIA - SANLUCAR (RIO GUADALQUIVER) - SALINAS DE BONANZA - LAGUNA TARELO - MARISMA DE TREBUJENA

WHAT A FANTASTIC DAY!  WE RECORDED 92 SPECIES AND HOW ABOUT THIS FOR A LIST OF GOODIES FOR OUR DAY OUT:-

GREAT BUSTARD!
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE
SPANISH IMPERIAL EAGLE
RED-KNOBBED COOT
MARBLED DUCK
  
ALSO

BLACK WINGED KITE

BLACK TERN
BLACK STORK
GREAT EGRET

This was my fourth and last day with Ian and Sue and we decided to go for a big list. We set off in the dark at 7:30am and arrived at Laguna Medina at 8:25am. Along the autovia from the coast we drove through the huge alcornocales national park where we saw hundreds of Honey Buzzards rising from the trees in preparation for their journey down to Africa. We also saw Short-toed Eagles perched on pylons, Black Kites and Booted Eagles also in good numbers. Over the open fields we added Montagu's Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Spotless Starling and Common Buzzard.

IAN AND SUE PICTURED AT THE OUTFLOW IN THE BONANZA SALT PANS


At Laguna Medina we watched a Juvenile Black-winged Kite hunting over the fields, it perched nicely for us and a little later a second bird appeared. A small flock of Red-legged Partridges were found in the sunflower fields. It was whilst we were scanning these fields that Ian asked "what is that huge bird flying over there?" A GREAT BUSTARD I shouted, wow a great find and the first I've seen in this area.

The water was quite barren, not many birds on it at all, this has been a growing trend this year, rumour has it that carp have invaded the water and are hoovering up all the food!

We did find: Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Common Coot, Yellow Legged Gull, Osprey and a couple of Purple Swamphens, one was seen very close, directly beneath the hide!

RECORD SHOT OF 3 OF THE MARBLED DUCKS AT LAGUNA TARELO


The scrub was very quiet, I expected a lot of warbler activity but very few birds were around. We did see large flocks of Greenfinches, House Sparrows and a few Zitting Cisticolas. We finally had sightings of Cetti's Warbler and we heard the contact call of Common Nightingale. Barn Swallows, House Martins and few Stonechats completed the list for the laguna visit.

We made the short trip across to the Salinas at Santa Maria where we searched for and found Stone Curlew, this is a regular wintering ground for this species with up to 200 birds arriving for the winter months, today we counted 28. Over 500 White Storks were loafing in the fields, flocks of Jackdaws flew about and many Black Kites drifted over the local rubbish tip with hundreds of Yellow-legged Gulls.

Next we made a brief stop at a small laguna near Santa Maria, unfortunately the water had gone, it was a pity because both Red-knobbed Coot and White headed Duck had bred there this year.

At Sanlucar we started our wader list, we parked just outside the town along the bank of the river Guadalquiver and quickly found Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Whimbrel, Dunlin and Bar-tailed Godwit. A few Mediterranean Gulls sat with the Black-headed variety on the shore.



Bonanza salt pans were excellent as usual, what a fantastic place!! Some of the pans we barren but others were brimming with birds and to top it off we found 3 RED NECKED PHALAROPES in one of them. This was really extraordinary as I had found 3 RED NECK PHALAROPES in the same piece of water earlier this year, the birds were now in their colourless winter plumage but in the spring they were truly beautiful.

Masses of Slender-billed Gulls, Greater Flamingos, Black-winged Stilts, Pied Avocets, Redshanks, Sanderling, Dunlin and fewer numbers of Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Greenshanks and a couple of Turnstone put in an appearance.

The sky always held raptors, Usually Black kites but also 2 Ospreys, Booted Eagle a single Griffon Vulture drifted over very high up.

Deeper into the pans we came to my favourite stretch of water, this 'balancing' lake is fed but a huge piped- inlet where many birds come to feed, there are always flocks of gulls and in the right time of year many terns too. Today there were about 50 Little Terns, one or two Whiskered Terns and a single Black Tern (in winter plumage). Further out in the shallow water was a flock of 350 Black-tailed Godwits, Spotted Redshank (almost swimming to feed), over 100 Little Egrets were joined by a single Great White Egret, also about 50 Redshanks were feeding in the shallows.

In deeper water many White Storks stood motionless perhaps hoping for food to jump into their mouths! A beautiful Black Stork was with them and also many Grey Herons and a few Cattle Egrets sat on the shore. On our way back out of the pans we stopped to view the river where a small flock of Whimbrel flew off and a couple of Greenshank showed well, we also found our only Ruff of the day as we scanned a channel for sandpipers 3 Ruff appeared, they mingled with another huge flock of Little Egrets, there were over 100 in the vicinity, incredible numbers.

We drove round to Laguna Tarelo and at first it looked deserted, the water colour was a very muddy light brown and it didn't smell very nice either. However after scanning for a while we found some interesting birds included 6 MARBLED DUCK, super duper! The reeds and bushes held Night Herons, :Little and Cattle Egrets and also a few Squacco Herons. On the main island we saw both Green and Common Sandpiper and further to our left at the far end a flock of ducks sat quietly. In the duck flock we sifted out Mallard, Shoveler and 5 eclipsed Red-crested Pochard, 2 Common Pochard and several Common Coot. Moorhen was also added to the day list and a Raven perched in a dead tree.

Our drive through the pine woods of Algaida was brief because we couldn't stop, the masses of flies were a complete no no. We did find Spotted Flycatcher and a Great Tit but nothing else. Above the woods many Booted Eagles and Black Kites drifted in and out of sight.

Finally we arrived at the huge expanse of the Marismas de Trebujena, these extensive very flat marshes were completely dry (as usual for September), so we concentrated our efforts on the large bodies of water that lie adjacent to the Rio Guadalquiver. We found two more excellent birds whilst we were there! First I found a RED KNOBBED COOT, not too far from the shore, its knobs were a little deflated but you could still see them, i tried to point out the blue tip of the bill to Sue but she couldn't see it.

Ian then pulled off his second great sighting of the day, he found a very high flying eagle as it drifted over the river from Coto Donana, it was a juvenile, SPANISH IMPERIAL EAGLE, we watched it for five minutes before it was lost to sight. Just after the eagle left a Griffon Vulture drifted over, it was great to compare the sizes and shapes of the two birds. We found our only Curlew of the trip and another large flock of Black-tailed Godwits, a few Bar-tails were also present. This laguna was full of birds of many species, Glossy Ibis, White Stork, Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbills, Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Black-winged Stilts, Pied Avocets and many of the waders mentioned earlier.

As we continued our drive along the river bank we found a Red Kite which alighted from a fence post, another Osprey appeared and a second Griffon Vulture. A small flock of Yellow Wagtails flew off a reedy bank and a large flock of Shoveler dropped in.

Well it was now getting late in the afternoon, we had along drive ahead of us, so we set off back for home, we made one short stop on the way back, that was for coffee not birding!!

Ian and Sue were staying at our apt on the coast, so we sat on the terrace in the evening sunshine, sipping ice cold drinks whilst we completed our checklist, ha! A Blue Rock Thrush burst into song and then landed on a chimney near us, it was determined to get onto our list and so it did....number 92 for the day.

So that was the end of our little 4 day tour, Ian and Sue had recorded 152 species with some very good sightings included on their list, a very good tally indeed, well done.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

MONDAY 2ND SEPT 2014 - DAY TOUR

PALMONES SALT MARSH - TARIFA MIGRATION WATCH POINT - PLAYA LOS LANCES - LA JANDA - BARBATE MARSHES

An excellent birding day and my third day out with Ian & Sue who are staying with us for two weeks. Despite strong winds ll day we saw 82 species!!

We had decided to go to Tarifa to watch the spectacular raptor migration. It was very windy a harsh easterly was blowing and it got worse as we approached Tarifa later in the morning.

Our first stop was at the mouth of the river Palmones, the tide was receding fast and a good number of birds were on the sand-bar. We quickly noted Sandwich Tern (32), Yellow-legged Gull, Black headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull (8) and a nice selection of waders.  At first we only saw Ringed Plover and Kentish Plover but gradually a lot more species of wader appeared: Grey Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Dunlin, Sanderling and a few Little Egrets. Deeper in the salt marsh we found White Stork, Grey Heron and a few Cattle Egrets.

Ringed Plover


We moved nearer to Tarifa passing through Algeciras and as soon as we started to climb the hills surrounding Tarifa we noticed many raptors in the sky but the strong easterly wind prevented any serious attempt of a passage across to Morocco. At first there were small flocks of Black Kites, a few Honey Buzzards and the odd Griffon Vulture. We stopped at the raptor watch-point at Calzalla, the wind was so strong that we had to shelter behind the buildings there. Although the wind was now really strong a large number of birds were in the sky. The wind forced the birds to fly very low over the hills, Honey Buzzards were coming over the nearest ridge at a very low level giving some fantastic views. There were many Egyptian Vultures, a flock of 8 Black Storks and hundreds of Black Kites. 

one of the 30+ Black kites on the beach


The hide at los lances beach offered some shelter from the wind and we enjoyed some nice sightings of gulls, terns and waders, all the time we were there huge numbers of Black Kites were fighting against the wind as they made their way along the beach over the sea and high above us. At one point we counted over 500 birds in the sky at one time, many were also resting on the on beach and others were struggling to get ashore.

Next we visited La Janda where the wind was a little less of a problem, we could watch from the car as we drove along the main central track which is raised above the surrounding rice fields. Many Glossy Ibis were dotted about and about 500 White Storks were loafing along the banks, Cattle Egrets were present also in high numbers. We found several pools of open water where we watched Black-winged Stilts, Green, Common and Wood Sandpipers, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Little Egret and a few Collared Pratincoles. 

we saw 4 Oystercatchers 2 at Los Lances and 2 at Palmones


Every few hundred meters we encountered a harrier quartering the fields, over 20 Marsh Harriers and fewer Montagu's were seen. A steady flow of Honey Buzzards drifted overhead and one huge flock of White Storks held at least 1200 birds!!

one of the feeder streams on La Janda


Following the tracks around to Benalup we added a few more birds to the day list before we got back onto the main road and headed for Vejer where we made a quick coffee stop. 

Barbate Marshes have been developed and now have a series of open lagoons, scrapes, islands and scrub. It is a perfect place for waders, gulls and terns to feed up or take a rest when the tide is high. The whole area was covered in birds, at least a 1000 waders sat out in one scrape. The flock was made up of mainly Ringed and Kentish Plovers with a few Dunlin, Little Stints, Sanderling and Redshanks thrown into the mix.



We searched the area for Stone Curlew and Collared Pratincole but neither were found, it may have been because of the strong wind. 

It was now 4pm so we set off for home taking a nice leisurely drive with stops in Tarifa to look for Common Bubul (a pair had bred this year) and one stop for a well earned ice cream.