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Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

SPAIN - ANDALUCIA - 6-DAY TOUR - DAY 5 - SEPT 29TH

RIO GENAL - RIO GUADIARO VALLEY - SAN ENRIQUE WOODS - SOTO GRANDE BREAKWATER - LAGUNA TORREGUADIARO - RIO MANILVA


WEATHER:  A very strong LEVANTE blew all day with gusts up to 40km/hr, not good for birding.
As usual the first couple of hours of the day provided the best birding and because the Rio Genal valley was relatively sheltered we found it to be the best area to bird.


Pied Flycatcher

We parked not far from the bridge at the bottom of the hill from Gaucin and walked up river. The river itself was barely flowing leaving a series of festering pools turning green with algal growth. We saw Grey Wagtail and Green Sandpiper on the rocks in the river bed and heard a Cetti's Warbler several times.

A nice surprise was the finding of 3 Common Crossbills sitting in the top of the tallest White Poplar trees we also found a number of birds feeding on blackberries across a meadow. There was Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, a Whinchat and several White Wagtails. Both Willow Warbler and Common Chiffchaff fed along the near fence line giving excellent close views, it was great to see them side by side like that.


Short-toed Eagle - this one hovered above us for about ten minutes

Above us in a cloudy sky we found Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Booted  & Short-toed Eagles and Griffon Vultures. Reluctantly we left the valley to drive over the Rio Guadiaro where it was really blowing a gale. We managed to find shelter behind thick scrub to watch birds on the river. We found Little-ringed Plover, Grey Heron, Green Sandpiper, Crested Larks and both Goldfinch and Linnet were coming down to drink.

We tried to each lunch there but abandoned the idea and drove to the San Enrique woods to try there. Well, on arrival we were amazed to see a host of Booted Eagles, they were everywhere, dozens of them. We found shelter in woods and finished our lunch whilst watching good numbers of Monarch Butterflies. On the river we saw Common Kingfisher, Little Egret and we heard Cetti's Warbler yet again.


Booted Eagles over the San Enrique Woods
From the woods we made a brief visit to Soto Grande Marina to watch the sea breaking over the huge breakwater, it was spectacular! We also tried to sea-watch noting only Northern Gannets and Yellow-legged Gulls.


Monarch Butterfly

The pool at Torreguadiaro didn't provide shelter from the relentless wind, we saw only Little Grebe (14) a few Common Coots and a single Common Moorhen. We stopped for our second coffee break in Torreguadiaro where we noted Monk Parakeets and as we left a Lesser Black-backed Gull flew along the beach.

Finally we stopped at the Rio Manilva just off the coastal main road, it wasn't as sheltered as one might expect so we didn't stay long. A number of birds were coming to the river to drink, we found Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit and a Grey wagtail.


The strange mineral-rich colour of the Rio Manilva

We called it a day at that point, we drove back up to Gaucin arriving at 4:30pm, an early finish to a blustery day. Dawn served up a delicious Moroccan Chicken Tajine for dinner, followed by pears poached in red-wine. yummy!
 

SPAIN - ANDALUCIA - 5-DAY TOUR - DAY 4 - SEPT 28TH 2016

MORNING WALK ALONG THE MARCHENILLA TRACK ONTO THE RIVER HOZGARGANTE - AFTERNOON WALK ALONG THE RIO GUADIARO AT ESTACION CORTES

WEATHER: bright sunshine all day but the persistent easterly wind (Levante) was annoying at times.

Our rarity finding continued as we found a Ruppell's Vulture in the Guadiaro Valley, it was that man Patrick that did it again.

Today was our pre-arranged mid-tour slow-down - half of the group wanted the day off from birding and decided instead to go walking around the village and onto a local woodland walk. Dawn took then woodland-walking whilst I took the two remaining birders out locally.

Over driving down to San Pablo we turned onto a dirt track that led us to Marchenilla. The farmland along the Marchenilla track is looking very dry and barren at this time of the year but it is full of finches and sparrows and plenty of raptors fly over it. We quickly listed Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, House Sparrow, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola and both Starling species - Common & Spotless.


part of the very dry Marchenilla track

Not long after we​ found Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel and a superb GOSHAWK, it was a juvenile showing its markings very well. Next came a BLACK-WINGED KITE, this scarce breeding species is the third one I've seen recently at this site. Further along the track we found Common Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Eurasian Hoopoe, Northern Wheatear, Crested Lark. Corn Bunting and we counted over 50 Griffon Vultures. Red-rumped and Barn Swallows passed over in a steady stream and distant Short-toed Eagles drifted on higher thermals.


our only Hoopoe of the trip so far

The Rio Hozgargante was virtually dry, just a few small pools remained. However, after watching one pool we soon realised that several species were coming down to drink. We saw Common Kingfisher, Pied Flycatcher, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, European Robin, Reed Warbler, Serin, Willow Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Goldfinch and Blackbird.

We drove to Gaucin via the Marchenilla track noting Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Redstart and more Griffon Vultures along the way.

After a long lunch just four of us set off for a short birding spell at the Rio Guadiaro Valley near Estacion Cortes. The wind was gusting badly at times but it did calm down for longer spells. We quickly found a number of species as we watched the river from a footbridge, a male Cirl Bunting was drinking not too far away whilst Pied Flycatcher, Blackcap, and Sardinian Warbler all fed on blackberries.


the Rio Guadiaro seen from the footbridge

We walked a kilometer down-river noting a few more species including Common Kingfisher, Spotted Flycatcher, both Grey and White Wagtails and a number of raptors overhead. Towards the end of our outward walk we made two exciting finds, the first was of a RUPPELL'S VULTURE, this was the third sighting of this species I have made this year in this area, unusual because it is 40km away from the coast where it is normally encountered! Nevertheless the sighting was a good one.

Just after that we found a TWO-TAILED PASHA Butterfly. This extraordinary African species is the most colourful and the largest butterfly beast that you are likely to encounter in Europe, it was feeding on rotting figs as they lay on the ground.


the magnificent Two-tailed Pasha

Other sightings made during this last walk of the day included: Red-rumped and Barn Swallows, House and Crag Martins​, Griffon Vulture, Booted & Short-toed Eagles, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Jay, Grey Heron, Cetti's Warbler (heard), Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Common Stonechat and lots of Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Linnets.

That concluded our birding for the day, for dinner we ate in the village, it was still windy and a little chilly but we all enjoyed a lovely meal and plenty of local wine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

SPAIN - ANDALUCIA - 5-DAY TOUR - DAY 3 - SEPT 27TH 2016

GIBRALTAR - JEW'S GATE BIRD-RINGING STATION & EUROPA POINT - ALGARROBO RAPTOR WATCH - LA JANDA


Our 'rarity' finding week continued today as we found the HOODED CROW on GIBRALTAR and a PECTORAL SANDPIPER at La Janda, what another great day in sunny Spain!

WEATHER: cloudy over Gibraltar with a brisk easterly wind that increased during the day. Sunny later but the wind made birding very difficult at La Janda.

An early breakfast and an early start saw us arriving at Gibraltar at 8:45am, the traffic on Gib was particularly bad so we went straight to Jew's Gate, arriving just after 9am. Our two hours spent there were most enjoyable, Ray Marsh, the lead Ringer, was very informative and the ringing demonstration was excellent. The group all saw a number of species being processed; Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Common Redstart, Sardinian & Subalpine Warblers, Common Chiffchaff, Blackbird amd Greenfinch.


My group at Europa Point, Gibraltar with the cloudy 'Rock' behind them

At 11am we thanked Ray and his helpers and made our way down to Europa Point where had a quick coffee-stop and a short sea-watch. Dozens of Cory's Shearwaters sat on the water or followed the pods of feeding Common Dolphins, we also saw Northern Gannet and Yellow-legged Gull. Overhead we noticed a steady stream of Booted Eagles and one or two Sparrowhawks. The local celebrity, a HOODED CROW, put in appearance too!

We left Gibraltar at 12:30 and drove up through Algeciras heading towards Tarifa, many raptors could be seen in the cloudy sky as we started the climb out of Algeciras, so we decided to stop at Algarrobo raptor watch point. What a great decision that was! The sky was full of migrating birds! Dozens of Booted Eagles & Short-toed Eagles came from all easterly angles heading westward towards Tarifa often climbing out of sight into the clouds.


Short-toed Eagle over Algarrobo

A huge flock of White Storks 'roamed' back and forth across the sky, they couldn't get enough lift to rise over the hills so they stayed around Algeciras Bay. We ate our picnic lunch enjoying this superb migration spectacle. Apart from the two common eagle species we also saw many Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Black Stork (3), Honey Buzzard (3), Black Kite (7), Common Raven (3), Common Buzzard (3), Griffon Vulture (dozens) and Egyptian Vulture (6). Hundreds of Barns Swallows passed by in swarms joined by Red-rumped Swallows, Sand & House Martins.


White Storks


Well the day so far had been fantastic, we had had some superb bird-watching experiences, could it get better? Well yes it could!


A Preying Mantis devouring a Blue-winged Grasshopper! A number of ants attacked the Mantis and stole the grasshopper, it was amazing to watch!

the Mantis walking off disconsolately, bereft of its lunch

We drove to La Janda arriving at 3pm, it was very windy so much of our birding was done from the bus. We noted several species along the central track, Zitting Cisticola, Common Stonechat, Corn Bunting and huge flocks of Goldfinches, Linnets and Sparrows.

An area of open water in the rice fields held the usual high numbers of Little Egrets and Glossy Ibis. They were joined by over 50 Common Snipe, Northern Lapwing (6 - the first arrivals this autumn), there was also a couple of Common Redshanks, Green Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers and Yellow Wagtails.

We then found our bird of the week!! A single PECTORAL SANDPIPER, smaller than than the Wood Sandpiper that it appeared to be associating with, showed very well about 30 meters from us. Patrick called it first and a quick check proved he was correct. Amazingly we were the only birders in sight no-one else around to share our find! Despite the close porximty of the bird it was extremely hard to photograph, the windy conditions and the position of the sun were all bad.




Pectoral  Sandpiper

All around us many marsh Harriers struggled across the rice fields fighting the windy conditions, hundreds of Cattle Egrets followed a tractor, huge flocks of Wood Pigeons, Jackdaws and Finches dashed about whilst White Storks were all over the area in high numbers.

We dragged ourselves away from the Sandpiper and contiued along the central track turning off towards Benalup. We searched for roosting Red-necked Nightjars without success but added  Red-legged Partridge, Common Kestrel, Common Pheasant and a superb BLACK-WINGED KITE to our list.


Cattle Egrets and the plough

We retraced our steps passing along the central track, a quick second look at the PECTORAL SANDPIPER was made and a stop to look at 7-8 Lesser Kestrels feeding over the recently cropped fields was our last birding of the day.

It was now 5pm and we were 1 1/2 hours from home, but that didn't stop us taking another refreshment -break before setting off. We arrived back in Gaucin at 7:15pm. A superb fish dinner was served up by Dawn at 8, delicious! 

Monday, September 26, 2016

SPAIN - ANDALUCIA - 5-DAY TOUR - DAY 1 & 2 - SEPT 25TH & 26TH 2016

GAUNCIN WOODS - ENCINAS BORRACHAS TRACK - SIERRA DE LAS NIEVES - RONDA

Day 1: I collected my group of 6 from Malaga Airport late in the evening, they landed just as it was getting dark so we drove back to Gaucin without seeing a single bird. Day 2: we had a full day in the mountains with lots of great sightings but the best by far was a 1cy PALLID HARRIER, what a great bird to find in Spain!
WEATHER: Hazy sunshine for most of the day, max temp 29C. light easterly wind.
We had breakfast at 7:30am and set off for our first birding excursion at 8:15am we drove the short distance to a track just 3km from Gaucin on the Ronda road which led into the cork and chestnut woods. We found a Great-spotted Woodpecker as we left the bus and a Nuthatch called as we entered the wood. Then 3 Common Crossbills landed just above us in some dead twigs, hmmm, not a bad start at all.
Over the next 30 minutes we enjoyed superb views of Firecrest, we also saw Sardinian Warbler, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle and  Montagu's Harrier. A Mistle Thrush flew over us as we walked deeper into the woods but we couldn't locate a Crested Tit. However, a juvenile Hawfinch sat out in the open for a while which more than compensated for the lack of a Cresty.

Whinchat
We watched a Common Kestrel fight off a Sparrowhawk before we left the woods to drive to our next destination which was the Encinas Borrachas track near Ronda. It developed into a beautiful morning, a light breeze and plenty of sunshine with about 20C. The birds seemed to like it too because they sat out to greet us in the warm sunshine.
Several distant birds were 'scoped' on the high peaks from our position on the track. We found 3 or 4 Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush, Short-toed Eagle and a Peregrine Falcon. Closer to the track we notched up Common Stonechat, Whinchat, Thekla Lark, Iberian Shrike, Goldfinches and a couple of Serins.
Raptors kept on appearing, with Sparrowhawk, Booted Eagle and lots of Griffon Vultures, we also found a pair of Spanish Ibex sitting high up on a ledge.

Swallowtail Butterfly - taken by Les
Just before we reached the heathland section of the walk we found our two target heathland-species, first a spextacled Warbler showed well then a Dartford Warbler appeared, two fantastic little gems. On the heath we had a lot better view of Dartford Warbler and we noticed good numbers of Barn Swallows flying over with a few Sand Martins.
It was on the return journey that we found our bird of the day and probably the week! At first we thought it was a Montagu's Harrier as it drifted towards us just a couple meters off the ground, then as it got closer we could see it was a well marked first year PALLID HARRIER, the light ring around the neck stood out a mile, what a beauty!
The atmosphere on the bus was electric as we set off to our lunch picnic site in Sierra de las Nieves nature reserve. We sat at a large picnic table in lovely early afternoon sunshine, a Common Redstart was our only good sighting during lunch.

Spanish Chalkhill Blue - another picture taken by Les
Next we sat near a water trough where a few species were coming to drink, we added Grey Wagtail, Jay, Blue & Great Tits and a Common Chiffchaff. A drive deeper into the reserve found us watching butterflies, feeding on Juniper flowers, more than watching birds. We listed about a dozen species of butterflies but we also saw Black Wheatear, Common Whitethroat and a Rock Bunting.

ADONIS BLUE - by LES
We left the park at 3pm and drove to a restaurant where we enjoyed coffee in the sunshine, from there we drove into Ronda. Our tourist hour or so produced a couple of new birds for the list. About 20 Red-billed Chough flew around the famous Ronda Bridge where we also found Crag Martins and Grey Wagtails.
At 5:30pm we headed back to Gaucin where we all enjoyed a cold beer sitting on the top terrace watching Booted Eagles and Blue Rock Thrush. We tucked into one of Dawn's superb dinners at 7:30pm, what a way to end a fantastic day!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

DAY TOUR - GIBRALTAR - SEPT 22ND 2016

A morning visit to the Ringing Station and Europa Point produced a number of nice sightings...........

I collected Pete Saunders from the Manilva Beach area at 7:30am and drove to Gibraltar. We arrived at Europa Point an hour later, there was a brisk westerly wind and the sea was a little choppy. We watched a good number of Cory's Shearwaters out in the Med and a large pod of Common Dolphins made their way westward into Algeciras Bay.


A couple of European Shags flew passed the point, these are the Mediterranean variety,​Desmarestii, a good tick for Peter.

We made our way up the Jew's Gate entrance to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve where the Bird Ringing Station is situated. Unfortunately due to the windy conditions not many birds were being caught in the nets. We stayed for a couple of hours and saw Blackcap, Garden Warbler, European Robin, Willow Warbler and Blackbird being 'ringed'.



The biggest cruise ship in the world arrives at Gibraltar - "INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS"
Birds of prey started to trickle over the 'Rock', we saw Honey Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and a couple of local Peregrine Falcons.


                   A Death's Head Hawk Moth - caught in the bird nets on 3 consecutive nights

A second visit to Europa Point produced a very close Honey Buzzard and three Marsh Harriers, all of these birds seemed to be struggling against the strong westerly wind. The shearwaters were much further out in a choppy sea, we gave up trying to scope them.

We left the Rock at 1:30pm and I got back home at 2:30pm after dropping Pete back at his holiday apartment on the coast.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

DAY TOUR - AUTUMN MIGRATION - SEPT 18TH 2016

SAN ENRIQUE WOODS – EL GARROBO WATCH-POINT – CAZALLA WATCH POINT – LA JANDA

Weather: bright, sunny, hot, light easterly wind top temp 34C.

Another cracking day down at the coast, we listed 14 species of raptors as well as numerous other birds, the light was superb a great experience and a thrill to be out there!

I left Gauncin at 8:15am and collected Jane, a regular day-tour client, at the coast at 9am. We drove to San Enrique Woods to start our search for migrating birds. On the football pitch we saw lots of Yellow Wagtails, a couple of White Wagtails, some Linnets and small flocks of both Common and Spotless Starlings and a few Collared Doves.

On the fence along the perimeter of San Enrique Woods we found several Pied Flycatchers, Spotted Flycatcher and a flock of Serins. A few Monarch butterflies elegantly drifted by and a single Hobby flew over us just as we got there. In the woods we never added much else but the river produced, Green Sandpiper, Night Heron, Cetti’s Warbler, Mallard and a flock of Long-tailed Tits.


Pied Flycatcher

Driving through Algerciras we noted Booted Eagle and as we approached El Garrobo watch-point we saw Griffon Vultures. We stayed at the watch point for a couple of hours and although the sky was barren at times there was plenty to watch. Booted Eagles numbered in their tens, whilst Short-toed Eagles were less and Eurasian Sparrowhawks came over singularly.

At Cazalla there were a lot more birds, we stayed longer and enjoyed a good range of species, some came pretty close whilst others were just dots. Again Booted Eagles dominated our sightings list, a hundred or more came over, but Short-toed Eagles, Black Kites, Marsh & Montagu’s Harriers were also passing. We had singles of Goshawk and Egyptian Vulture and plenty more Griffon Vultures. A flock of about 100 House Martins came over in a swirling mass and Barn Swallows trickled through in a constant stream.

By 2:30pm the migrant passage began to ease off so we set out for La Janda, it was 3pm by the time we reached there. I drove us straight to the open water about half-way along the central track where hundreds of Cattle Egret and Glossy Ibis were feeding. We found a single Squacco Heron, hundreds of White Storks, seven Eurasian Spoonbills and large numbers of Jackdaws.


Squacco Heron

Wader numbers were generally down on last week’s count but we saw Common Snipe, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Green Sandpiper and not much more. Further along the track we searched for Purple Heron without success but about a thousand White Storks was an impressive sight.


Ruff in the rice fields

In the distance we noticed huge flocks of Cattle Egrets and Wood Pigeons in the air because Marsh Harriers were drifting over them, however on closer inspection we also found SPANISH IMPERIAL EAGLE (2cy), Black-winged Kite and half a dozen Lesser Kestrels.




The spectacle of so many birds in the air was enthralling, the afternoon light added a magical touch to the scene. It was a terrific couple of hours’ birding and an experience I will never forget

Friday, September 16, 2016

AUTUMN MIGRATION WATCH 2 - 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 7 - SEPT 16TH 2016

LOS LANCES BEACH - OJEN VALLEY - LA JANDA

Weather:  another fantastic day of sunshine and superb light. Very light westerly wind and hot, max temp 30C

It was absolutely calm at Los Lances beach a very rare occurrance as Tarifa is supposed to be the 'wind' capital of Europe. The light was again fantastic, the sea was flat calm and hundreds of birds were feeding on the sand.

Our first sightings were of larks and buntings, we saw large flocks of Calandra Larks and Corn Buntings just after we left the bus, they were distant but scope-able even though we faced the rising sun.  A small group of Short-toed Larks flew over us and several Crested Larks fed on the track.



From the boardwalk we scanned the beach and shoreline making sightings of several wader species as well as Audouin's, Yellow-legged, Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The prized waders were a Red Knot (still in summer plummage), Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit and there was hundreds of Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and a few of Curlew Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Stint, a single Whimbrel and likewise Common Sandpiper.

We walked the entire length of the beach and finished in the car park, just before the car park we climbed up the sand dunes to view the beach where many waders were feeding. From our strategic vantage point we could see out to sea where Cory's and Balearic Shearwaters fed and Northern Gannets drifted by, we also logged Sandwich Terns. The beach held good numbers of Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover whilst singles of both Yellow & White Wagtails fed near a pool.

from there we drove to a supermarket to collect our picnic supplies before driving to the Ojen valley.



We noted several European Bee-eaters along the power lines as well as lots of Stonechats. Our first walk in the valley produced sightings of Spotted & Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Chaffinch and this magnificent Short-toed Eagle.



We drove further into the valley and parked near a large man-made reservoir where we ate our lunch. There were very few birds around during lunch, it was the hottest part of the day, we did see some very distant Griffon Vultures, a Common Buzzard and a single Alpine Swift.

After lunch we drove back to the hotel and took an hours break and by 3pm we were all assembled for our afternoon excursion.to La Janda.



We noted many Zitting Cisticolas along the central track as well as Common Kingfisher, Green Sandpiper, Goldfinches and Greenfinches. The sun-flower harvest continued to attract huge numbers of birds, thousands of them swarmed in the open fields. Cattle Egrets and Jackdaws each numbered into the thousands and a distant 'cloud' of Wood Pigeons was the biggest flock I had ever seen there!



The flooded rice fields continued to attract several waders but not in any great numbers, we saw Ruff, Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Little Stint, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilts and a few Yellow Wagtails.

The huge numbers of Glossy Ibis and White storks continued to increase and as we continued along the track we stopped to search for Purple Heron which duly showed.



During the last section of our journey we watched a Great Egret and our first Woodchat Shrike, we picked out a few Spanish Sparrows and enjoyed watching Marsh Harriers quartering the rice fields.

At 5:30pm we called time, this finished our birding for the entire trip as tomorrow we have to leave early to get to Malaga by 10am.

AUTUMN MIGRATION WATCH 2 - 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 6 -SEPT 15TH 2016

GIBRALTAR RINGING STATION & EUROPA POINT – LA JANDA
Weather:  dry, sunny and warm all day. Westerly wind increasing in strength late afternoon

Our planned visit to Gibraltar went like clockwork, everyone got up early, had breakfast and arrived at the bus on time. The trip across the border into Gibraltar went without a hitch and we arrived at Europa Point a little ahead of schedule.

Gib in the morning light
The morning light was exquisite, you couldn’t have painted a more colourful sunrise, the sea was flat calm and many birds and cetaceans were feeding out in the Strait. We scoped the ‘Rock’ and found both Blue Rock Thrush and Peregrine Falcon and three Black Kites flew over and out to sea across to Africa which seemed very close and crystal clear.
We watched the shearwaters and dolphins and noticed that Yellow-finned Tuna were feeding too it was quite a mêlée out there. Our time soon ran out so we made our way up one of the roads towards the top of the Rock and at one of the entrance gates. There is a small nature reserve and bird-ringing station near a Jewish Cemeteryand that’s where we went.
Ray Marsh works voluntarily ringing and recorded birds there every autumn, we watched him capture and process a number bird during the time we stayed. A good selection of species passed through his hands it was most informative and he was very skillful in his bird-handling. He ringed Blackbird, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler and Blue Tit whilst we were there, it was fascinating

PIED FLYCATCHER
For the next 3hours the group became tourists and took the cable car up to the top of the Rock, I left them to it and returned to Europa Point to sea-watch.
About 2-3 months ago a ‘first’ for Gibraltar was discovered in the shape of a ‘Hooded Crow’ it is a very sighting in southern Spain too. I thought it had gone a long time ago but it hasn’t because I saw it today. It was an ‘area’ tick for me too. I also saw Balearic Shearwater and Audouin’s Gull during my ‘free-time’.

Hoode Crow at Europa Point
At rpm we left Gibraltar and headed back to the hotel, most of the group called it a day at that point but four of us we out again at 4:15pm. We spent an hour or so in La Janda. The late afternoon light was a good as this morning’s, superb.

We watched Storks, Glossy Ibis, both Marsh and Montagu’s Harrier and lots of finches feeding on the sunflower heads. A couple of sunflower fields had been recently cropped and they were full of birds, a couple of thousand Cattle Egrets were joined by five hundred or more Jackdaws.
One the rice fields had some shallow open water where lots of waders were feeding, we saw Common Snipe, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and a few Yellow Wagtails. A couple of Stints were feeding fairly close to us and to our great delight we discovered that one of them was a TEMMINCK’S STINT. Another great find and an unusual sighting for Southern Spain.

A record shot of the Temminck's Stint
We were back by 6:30pm and told the others of our find! Dinner was very enjoyable with lots of laughs and beer, wine and sherry! The food was good too!


AUTUMN MIGRATION WATCH 2 - 7-DAY TOUR - DAY 5 - SEPT 14TH 2016

PALMONES SALT MARSH – SAN ENRIQUE WOODS – ENCINAS BORRACHAS TRACK – SIERRA DE LAS NIEVES NATURAL PARK.

Weather: a cold northerly wind dominated the weather today, it was mainly sunny with some cloud in the middle of the day. 25C felt like 10C at times!
We drove along the coast road towards Malaga stopping briefly at Palmones salt marsh where we watched two Ospreys, three Sandwich Terns and a dozen or so waders. The waders were all plovers! Grey, Kentish and Little Ringed, not a lot was happening so we moved on quickly.

Spotted Flycatcher
At San Enrique woods we fared much better, both White and Grey Wagtails fed on the watered-football pitch along the approach track, together with Cattle Egret and Blackbird. Near the sewer works was notched a few flycatchers, about 10 Pied and half a dozen Spotted ‘hunted’ from fence wires, a few Common Redstarts joined them.
A field grazed by a flock of sheep held more Cattle Egrets and a dozen or so Yellow Wagtails, both Common and Spotless Starlings sat on the power wires above them with a bunch of Collared Doves.

Whinchat
A few raptors flew over, we saw another Osprey, Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Common Buzzard and a Common Kestrel. Migrant Wood Pigeons dashed about in small flocks as did both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows. Monarch butterflies battled with the wind to find flowering Tropical Milkweed, we left them to it and drove on towards Gaucin.
A couple of stops were made to look at first Little Owls, then warblers appeared in a hedge, Willow Warbler and Sardinian Warbler were noted. After a coffee stop in Gaucin we drove towards Ronda pulling over at the Encinas Borrachas track.

on the Encinas Borrachas track
Boy was it windy and quite cold! Intermittent gusts of cold wind were punctuated by nice warm, calm, sunny spells. We found birding tough going. Most of our sightings were of distant birds, Blue Rock Thrush, Southern Grey Shrike, Black Wheatear and Thekla Lark. We also saw Red Deer and Spanish Ibex, Sage Skipper and Rock Grayling Butterflies.

nice cloud formation ahead of a 'front' which arrived an hour later - but it never rained!
A few Griffon Vultures flew over us as we neared the heathland section of the track and it was there that we found Spectacled Warblers that sometimes showed well and a Dartford Warbler that hardly showed at all. On the return walk we added 3 Whinchats to the list and more Golfinches appeared.
We drove to the Ronda-San Pedro road and had lunch (outside!) at a venta near the entrance to Sierra de las Nieves natural park. Lunch was an extended affair as the service was very slow. At 3pm we entered the park! The cloud cover cleared, the wind dropped a little but birding was still hard.
We had sightings of more Common Redstarts, a Jay and a beautiful Firecrest in the trees at the picnic site near the entrance. Further into the park we had much views of Black Wheatear whilst Crag Martins were hawking insects in a rocky valley. A brief view of a Black Redstart and a distant Spotted Flycatcher made up the rest of a poor bird-list.
We dropped into Ronda to visit the famous gorge (no Red-billed Chough) and left around 4:45pm.

Our last walk of the day in Sierra de las Nieves park
It was a long trip back to Tarifa which took nearly 2hrs! Dinner was taken on the terrace everyone was in a joyous mood and all enjoyed a lovely evening but the main dish of Squid wasn’t to everyone’s taste!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

AUTUMN MIGRATION WATCH 2 - 7-DAY TOUR DAY 4 - SEPT 13TH 2016

LOS LANCES PINE WOODS – ALGARROBO RAPTOR WATCH-POINT – PINAR DEL REY
Weather:  a cloudy start to the day which cleared until late afternoon when heavy rain set in. Max temp 27C. Wind direction had crucially switch to the west!

We took a later breakfast today and went for a walk straight afterwards into the strip of pine trees behind the western end of los lances beach. Despite good weather conditions not many birds were flitting in the pines, we only saw Spotted Flycatcher, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling and Collared Dove. In the field adjacent to our hotel we found Zitting Cisticola, Common Stonechat, Willow Warbler and a Melodious Warbler.

After our walk we drove directly to the raptor watch point, which is located on the eastern side of the hills above Tarifa and overlooks Algeciras Bay and Gibraltar.

We had scattered clouds no wind and a lovely temperature, it was quite crowded with people and we soon found out why. There was a spectacular passage just starting, the sky became absolutely full of eagles, vultures, kites, buzzards and occasionally storks.


BLACK STORKS with a single Griffon Vulture

It was truly a great spectacle to behold, I have never seen so many Booted and Short-toed Eagles! They were joined by a constant stream of Egyptian Vultures, Black Kites with several flocks of Honey Buzzards, Black Storks, Griffon Vultures and Bee-eaters. Flocks of swallows, both Barn and Red-rumped were joined by Common and Pallid Swifts and the odd Alpine Swift.


more Black Storks

It was a neck-breaking morning but one of the best I’ve seen in the last few years, several thousand birds passed over us during the course of 3 hours! Our best sighting came in the form of Ruppell's Vulture, we had at least two sightings of one individual and a third sighting of another, older bird, this individual has caused quite a stir over the last few days and the jury is still out.


hard-core lunch after a heavy birding morning

After our raptor extravaganza the rest of the day was going to be an anti-climax, we ate lunch in a nearby village before driving down to San Roque and the Pinar del Rey woods.

The woods were very quiet as you would expect during a sunny mid-afternoon in September. We managed to track down a few of the local resident species such as Eurasian Jay, Firecrest, Crested Tit and Short-toed Treecreeper but not much else.


Autumn colours in Pinar del Rey

We called time at 4:30pm finishing a superb day a little early, our arrival back the hotel 30 minutes later was greeted by heavy rain which never stopped until it got dark!

Monday, September 12, 2016

AUTUMN MIGRATION WATCH 2 - 7-DAY TOUR DAY 3 - SEPT 12TH 2016

LAGUNA MEDINA – SANLUCAR ‘PONDS’ – SALINAS DE BONANZA – LAGUNA TARELO - ALGAIDA WOODS - CHIPIONA BEACH
Weather: cloudless sunny day, hot but windy at times. Top temp. 32C
Another superb day in Southern Spain, we saw some terrific species in glorious weather, it doesn’t get much better than this!
After an early breakfast we set off for Laguna Medina which is a large body of water just outside of Jerez. We found a Pied Flycatcher in the car park after an hour’s drive, noting Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Cattle Egret, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling and Crested Lark along the way.

Watching a Pied Flycatcher in the car park at Laguna Medina
Our walk took us along the main track to the only hide at this site, we stopped to scan the huge number of ducks on the lake, they consisted of mainly Mallard, but we also logged Common Pochard, Common Teal, Gadwall and singles of White-headed Duck and Garganey.
The bushes along the track held Cetti’s Warbler, Common Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler and Zitting Cisticola. We noted a good number of Red-legged Partridges in the surrounding fields along with crested Lark and Common Stonechat.
From the hide we added a few more species but most of them were distant sightings, two Ospreys, Great-crested Grebe, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and a Reed Warbler. A Hoopoe flew over the hide and across the lake whilst Common Kingfisher dashed across our line of vision a couple of times.
We left Medina and drove across to Sanlucar where we visited the small pools dotted around the north side of town. A nice selection of species was present including MARBLED DUCK, we found two of these rare beasts. Other species included White-headed Duck, Purple Swamphen, Common Pochard, Little Grebe, Green Sandpiper and several others.

Marbled Duck
One interesting sighting was of a Mallard, it seemed to be struggling in the water with its head below the surface, on closer inspection we could see that it was being drowned by Terrapins!! A bizarre and ghastly scene as we watched 3 or 4 Terrapins hold the duck down to kill it, I assume to eat it!
A second pool produced sights of Squacco Heron (2) and Night Heron (3) as we as more Swamphens and common ducks.

standing on the bank of the mighty Rio Guadalquiver - a ship makes its way to Sevilla some 80km upriver!
Bonanza pans were terrific as usual we spent a lovely time there, a drive through the area found us watching a good selection of waders and the number of Greater Flamingos was impressive. Slender-billed Gulls didn’t impress the group but Black Terns along the river did as well as Little Terns and another three Ospreys.

a huge number of waders and flamingos at Bonanza
We logged many Redshanks, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Ruff, Dunlin, Plovers and a single Eurasian Spoonbill. We ate our picnic lunch at the pump house where hundreds of birds were feeding. Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit and Greenshank all joined the wader list.

Up to four Caspian Terns quartered the nearest pool, diving to catch fish whilst at least a thousand Greater Flamingos fed all around us. The wader numbers exceeded 500 too!

Caspian Tern
A quick visit to Laguna Tarelo was nice, another 9 MARBLED DUCK were present with a local celebrity the RUDDY SHELDUCK and about 25 WHITE-HEADED DUCK. Many other birds rested on islands including, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Common Teal, Common Pochard and a number of common waders.
We popped into Algaida Woods to look for migrant passerines, but found the biting flies a bit too much to handle. We found Tree Sparrows, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotted Flycatcher and a single Olivaceous Warbler.
Lastly we dropped into the town of Chipiona on the way back to the hotel. It was very windy there but we managed to see several of our target species, LITTLE SWIFT! These little beauties are nesting near the beach and performed well, we also logged Ruddy Turnstone and a few gulls.
Finally we set off for the hotel at 4:30pm arriving just over an hour later, a cold beer went down well. We had seen 87 species including some excellent sightings of rare European birds