TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
30th September - 7th October 2000
Saturday 30th September: Arrival, Seville & El Rocío
Del, Loretta and I met up at Seville airport about 7:15 p.m. and we chatted and I sorted out the vehicle while we waited for the flight from Heathrow. As usual, this arrived a little late, but Chris and Pat were soon found and we got away as soon as possible, despite me jamming the exit card into the wrong machine and having to call for assistance! After a brief 'tour' through the northern part of Seville, we arrived at El Rocío in time to start a very late dinner (by UK standards!) at c. 10:30 p.m., but this was so good that we were still there at midnight! Anyhow, everyone had been 'primed' by last year's trip report, there was no rush, and we went off to bed happy in the knowledge that we only had to be up and ready for 8 a.m.
Sunday 1st October: El Rocío, José Antonio Valverde Centre
We met downstairs for our first pre-breakfast walk at 8 a.m., and first light was already just showing. Although cool (well relatively, for me at least!), it was a fine morning and we made the short walk down to the SEO (Spanish Ornithological Society) centre overlooking the largely dry marshes, and stood on the raised platform at the back of the building. The first sounds filtered through, including the ubiquitous Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows, and as the sun came up we began to see a good selection of the local species. A 'pink, pink' call alerted me to what would be one of the most widespread birds on the trip, and an obliging migrant Pied Flycatcher came out and sat on a fence for us to study. The small olive trees here though provided too much cover, and a few Willow Warblers remained in deep cover. As if to set the scene, the Travelling Naturalist logo, a Eurasian Hobby shot past in front, though unfortunately it was still too dark to see well.
As the light improved, so our attention turned to the open seasonally flooded area in front, and a white smear in the distant turned into a large flock of Greater Flamingos on a shallow pool on the far side, where a large group of increasingly active Cattle Egrets had also roosted. A few dark shapes materialised into Greylag Geese, while a number of Mallard were also present. However, it was relatively quiet, and apart from a few Goldfinches coming down to drink by a cattle trough, and where remarkably, a Common Snipe fed calmly not far from us, there were few birds. However, after noting the presence of both Red and Fallow Deer, an hour had gone by and breakfast beckoned. I had in fact just suggested this, which seemed to be the cue for two large shapes to emerge from the distant trees and quarter over the marsh - the Flamingos suddenly turned pink in the sun as a pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles gave us a superb fly-round for about 10 minutes! Breakfast was delayed!
We had breakfast shortly afterwards, a harsh introduction to Andalusian customs, being just a cup or two of tea or coffee and toast plus butter and jam, though also a glass of orange juice this year (!), but enough to get the body going.
After breakfast we changed our itinerary from the previous year to try and avoid a Sunday at the park's main visitors' centres, instead taking a complicated (I didn't tell you I went wrong!) route out into the middle of the (now dry) marshes to the José Antonio Valverde Interpretation Centre (= Cerrado Garrido). The first stop overlooked a couple of seemingly uninteresting fields, but where large numbers of small birds were present, including flocks of Linnets, House Sparrows and Serins, and Stonechats on the fences. A short distance ahead and a largely dry stream-bed held a surprising concentration of migrants, including several fine Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Common Redstart, and three Hoopoes. A Eurasian Tree Sparrow 'chipped' at us from overhead wires, while several Crested Larks whistled their calls around us. A further couple of stops in the pine woods en route produced a singing Woodlark and a Southern Grey Shrike on the power lines, while the first 'rat-a-tat-tat' of a Sardinian Warbler was heard. A fine red dragonfly turned into a Red-veined Darter, which turned out to be common throughout the week.
Working our way down towards the marshes, a hesitation at a junction led to the discovery of a large flock of Azure-winged Magpies, which flew either side of us into the pine wood, the dappled sunlight flashing off their wings and tail, much to our enjoyment. However, time was pressing, so we carried on down to the first truly flat fields. Apart from a few Northern Wheatears, Pied Flycatchers and Stonechats, little else was visible, though a small bird dropping into a field revealed an all-too-brief Greater Short-toed Lark. The long, slow, rattly drive out across the tracks seemed to last for ages until at last we found a few channels with water, and our first Little Egret, plus a few Little Grebe, and even a single Great crested Grebe. However, it was when we got to near the first rice fields that things suddenly changed, with lots of Grey Herons and the first of several Marsh Harriers and Green Sandpipers, with two Greenshank, while a large bird came up, materialising into a fine Black Stork. More birds then flushed up onto the opposite bank and track, including several Little and Cattle Egrets, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron and best of all, an immature Squacco Heron! As if this weren't enough, shortly ahead another group produced a juvenile Purple Heron, which obligingly sat out in an open field for us to admire, while the last group of resting white birds, but with their bodies held horizontally, caused me to brake sharply, but they were what I'd hoped, and we had excellent views of Eurasian Spoonbill on both the ground (including feeding in the channel) and in flight.
Not surprisingly, lunch was late, in fact very late (after 2:30 p.m.) by the time we reached the visitor's centre, but with a nice cup of tea/coffee, so many birds to think about, and outside as we ate our picnics, sun and warmth plus Common Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Crested Larks, who was in a hurry!
Now rather late and in hot and windy conditions we started back, though in and around the tamarisk bushes and fences just by the entrance we found a few Spotted Flycatchers and flushed another Black-crowned Night Heron, while a Eurasian Curlew wandering around eating snails in a dry field a little ahead was a strange sight! We stopped at a bend in the track to look over the marshes, and look for one of the specialities, though due to the wind and sun, although plenty of Lesser Short-toed Larks were flying around calling, none revealed themselves on the ground. At least a good fly-by Calandra Lark tried to make amends, several Corn Buntings finally showed themselves, while a small group of Eurasian Spoonbills feeding in a channel were an interesting spectacle. Everything needs checking in this area, and a small wader dropping in to some mud gave us our first Little Ringed Plover.
A trackside fence in the lee of the vehicle provided an excellent vantage-point for a fine Zitting Cisticola (= Fan-tailed Warbler), even allowing Del plenty of time to photograph it, and more prolonged views than others we'd seen before. Eventually the strong wind got the better of it, and it dived down into cover. Back near the rice fields, a distant White Stork struggled into the wind, while a flying raptor ahead caught my eye, and we stopped for a fine Red Kite. A pool here had more Greater Flamingos, herons and egrets, and a range of wetland birds, though a remark by Chris produced four birds very briefly in flight before they dropped down into inaccessible fields - Ruddy Shelduck! Although possibly escapes, Doñana used to be a regular wintering area for the species (of the NW African breeding population) and there have been a number of recent reports, even though it is now a national rarity.
Time was now really pushing on, so we headed back towards El Rocío. As I slowed to check one last bird on roadside wires ahead, it flew off to the right, before turning and hovering in full sunlight - Black-shouldered Kite! Though still rare around Doñana, they are increasing, and to watch it hunting for several minutes before it finally disappeared was a real bonus. A fine end to an excellent days' birding.
We rounded-off what had been a superb day with (for most of us) another fine fish meal in the restaurant (again, being Andalucía, 9 p.m. being the earliest they opened!).
Monday 2nd October: Matalascañas beach, El Acebrón & El Acebuche
In total contrast to the dry fields and pinewoods the day before, we took an 'early' morning ride down to the beach at Matalascañas. This is almost the only part of Doñana National Park which can be entered on foot (though as it's 16 miles long is a considerable walk from end-to-end!), and though often quiet (as we found out!), gave us a few species different to the day before, and a beautifully peaceful start to the day.
The beach was dotted with small groups of gulls, all of which turned out to be Lesser Black-backed (mostly of the notably darker, European intermedius race, rather then the paler, British graellsii birds), though a solitary fly-by Yellow-legged Gull also finally put in an appearance. A small group of Sanderling picked through the tide-line flotsam, with a few more along the water's edge though the only other wader was a distant Bar-tailed Godwit in front of the hotels. Out to sea, only a couple of very distant Gannet were notable. The drive back provided views of a number of Black-billed Magpies, near Matalascañas, very local this far S in Spain.
Back at El Rocío we had the same breakfast, and picked up our (again) enormous packed lunches before heading down to the El Acebuche centre of the Doñana Natural Park. This contains one of the only large areas of permanent water, and is consequently very attractive to birds at this dry time of year. We started by first wandering around the sandy, short pine woodland and scrubby areas by the carpark, where after some searching we saw Crested and Great Tits, a small group of Azure-winged Magpies and a brief view of a European Robin. Despite just glimpsing Sardinian Warbler here, after passing the bar and interpretation centre and walking down the excellent set of boardwalks, we had superb views of a male Dartford Warbler feeding on the ground in front, and finally, good views as well of a male Sardinian Warbler.
The scrub and white poplars bordering the lakes provided fine feeding habitat for several Willow Warblers, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and several Eurasian Blackbirds were also seen, though calling European Robins and Blackcaps remained more difficult to see. The first hide overlooking the lake didn't seem too busy, but there were lots of Little Grebes, and we had our first views of Gadwall and fly-by Kingfishers. A comment by Del that there was an Otter present caused immediate reaction, though just brief views were possible before it disappeared into a bulrush bed. After following the movements of two shapes through the bulrush bed for some time, we moved down to the next hide, resulting in repeated views of at least two Otters fishing out in the lake. Though regularly disappearing into cover, one eventually came out on the surface and whistled several times to try and make contact with the other, before realising that it were in the hide and disappeared quickly. More birds visible from here included Northern Shoveler, Cattle and Little Egret and a very elusive Purple Swamp-hen alarm-calling in response to the presence of the otters! A pair of Common Ravens flew past behind the lake, while a calling Green Woodpecker failed to show itself. Time passed by quickly, and apart from a medium-sized Ocellated Lizard sunning itself in an olive tree on the way back, a quick break in the visitors' centre for refreshments was called-for. This is always a pleasure here, though the realisation when we reached the minibus that I'd left my binoculars hanging on the back of the chair (for the second year running) was not so good! They were still there though, thankfully...
We then drove back towards El Rocío, turning off down to the Palacio de El Acebrón. Although late, we walked into the grounds and had our picnic lunch in whatever shade we could, the flies this year thankfully being rather fewer in number. This area has a fine mix of wooded habitats, and singing Cetti's Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper and Chaffinch were soon noted, though as usual, it wasn't until we'd got our fingers nice and messy from the food, that a group of Long-tailed Tits filtered through the pines overhead. Although awkwardly high, we eventually got good views, including seeing how these birds have a different head pattern and back colour from the 'usual' European birds.
Lunch over and we went for a walk through the woods, first stopping for Common Chaffinch and Short-toed Treecreeper, then down to a small, quiet pool, where there were plenty of dragonflies but little else. With moderate heat and few birds moving, we also had a look at some of the other flora and fauna in the area, with a pile of Genet droppings (marking a territory) on a board-walk, Cork Oak, Lang's Short-tailed Blue butterflies and a few dragonflies of particular note. Although things were relatively quiet-seeming, as we walked down a path through a pine wood, several Pied Flycatchers provided movement, and two male Blue Tits in a major territorial dispute held our attention for some time. A 'chirrup' overhead made me look up to search for Red-rumped Swallow, a number of which were passing over and eventually gave good views, while a different dot overhead caught my eye, and a Eurasian Griffon Vulture drifted over. This lead to the discovery of a pale phase Booted Eagle drifting over, and suddenly several raptors were present - Red and Black Kite together, a Common Buzzard, then another pale phase Booted Eagle with other single Black and Red Kites also being seen.
We finished-off the day in fine style in the hotel in El Rocío, where after another fine meal (or was it this one where the 'sea bass', wasn't?!) the waiter brought out the surprise dessert - flamenco rosado ('pink flamingo')! A lovely touch, and a lovely dessert...
Tuesday 3rd October: El Acebuche, transfer to Zahara de los Atunes via Laguna Salada, and Barbate
Despite the excesses of the sweet the evening before, we made a pre-breakfast run back to El Acebuche ostensibly to try and see the Purple Swamp-hens well, which were soon found, perched in the same bulrush bed, with an adult feeding a well-grown juvenile. However, as if not to be outdone, a Kingfisher flew around below us and then perched briefly before disappearing off in a streak of blue. The ducks also turned-up a surprise in the form of two Common Pochard keeping a very low profile.
The fine, still conditions allowed us time to watch Willow Warblers and a male Blackcap quietly gleaning insects off white poplar leaves, while as we left, a small group of smart Red-legged Partridges scratched around in the sand close-by, and a couple of us had a Eurasian Sparrowhawk go over the carpark.
We bid our farewells to the hotel and started the journey to the opposite side of the Quadalquivir and its quite different countryside. Having passed Sevilla and had the obligatory tea / coffee break, we detoured from last years' route, and instead of heading straight down to the hotel, drove down a dirt track to have our picnics by Laguna Salada outside Puerto de Santa María. Despite seeing a nice male Common Redstart and a Common Whitethroat on the wires before we even reached the site, as was our luck, just as I'd parked in the shade of the only trees for miles, a local guard came up in his jeep and asked me to move! Rules are rules and this is Spain... However, We spent some of the time in the sun, and some in the shade and ate our picnic in peace.
The birds here were also impressive, and given that the Laguna de Medina was completely dry, our only hope for a few specialities. We were not disappointed however, and two star birds were found quickly - White-headed Ducks in all their glory, and the not-so-exciting-looking Red-knobbed Coot. Although the former is now doing well (after being down to c. 22 in Spain the late 1970s there are now 1500+), the coot is now all but extinct in Europe, with a mere handful of wild birds left. That this one was unringed was a good sign that it was probably wild, and not one of the numerous reintroduced individuals. A large number of birds were also present however, and Common Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Ringed Plover, a Little Stint, and a mixed group of Dunlin and Curlew Sandpipers all entertained.
However, it was hot, so we continued on down to Zahara de los Atunes to install ourselves there in a fine hotel (what a posh-looking place!) and a bit of relax, before taking a short drive in the evening up to the edge of Barbate. Although the larger birds in the estuary were not at all impressive, a total of five Eurasian Oystercatchers, lots of Ringed and one Little Ringed Plover, a Common Redshank and a couple of Common Sandpipers added variety, while a short walk out into a scrubby area of the old salinas was simply amazing. Here, plenty of small passerines were present, many on a small fence, and provided ideal views in the still afternoon conditions - Whinchat, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear and Willow Warbler were all watched at length, while at first one, then a second Melodious Warbler perched repeatedly alongside the Willow Warbler to give outstanding views. These were remarkably late individuals. I was feeling lucky, so we walked a few yards further and into the short scrub, and to my amazement, out popped a small warbler with rich orange upperparts - Spectacled Warbler! Perfect habitat, and we saw it briefly two or three more times before it finally disappeared.
Back to the hotel, where dinner in the 'old' part was excellent, with fish for most of us...
4th October: Playa de los Lances, Tarifa & Bolonia viewpoints, Baelo Claudio
Our first full day in the mountainous area by the Strait of Gibraltar, and luckily, the N coast of Morocco got clearer and clearer as the day went on (it is usually obscured by haze). The primary aim was to visit the different raptor-watching viewpoints in the area near Tarifa, such as Cazalla, Tráfico and La Peña, which, with an easterly (Levante) wind are where most of the migrant raptors concentrate.
Typically however, the migrant raptors don't usually start to move until mid-morning onwards, so when I saw a large gull roost on the Playa de los Lances, we pulled in there and took the short walk down to the dunes overlooking the beach (yes, a different entrance than last year!). Apart from noting good numbers of small birds around, including Northern Wheatear, Stonechat, Spotted Flycatcher and a brief Song Thrush, we concentrated on the birds on the beach. Here, a large mixed gull flock contained Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed, a few Black-headed and 40+ Audouin's Gulls, and a promisingly large number of Sandwich Terns. However, nothing unusual, so we switched to check the waders along the edge of the river which spills out over the beach. Greater Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Sanderling, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and a Common Redshank provided a fine selection of species. After checking and rechecking the terns for something different, we took a brief detour over the dunes, and quickly found a group of three migrant Dotterel resting quietly in the sparse cover, which soon began to feed, giving us superb views. As we walked back delighted, we also took the opportunity to watch Yellow Wagtails foraging around a small group of horses, a small group of Calandra Larks which flew up from an adjacent field, several Tawny Pipits which flew in calling, and gave us good views, and a fine Whinchat on a fence. Birds were not the only things of interest though, and a scarab beetle rolling its ball of dung was a fascinating sight. As we got near the vehicle though, the sight of a bank of prickly pear cactus was too much, and after taking off and carefully peeling a mature-looking fruit, we tried this local speciality - higo chumbo in Castillian. The brilliant purplish-red juice stained my fingers horribly, but the flavour was very acceptable.
Time was getting on, so we took the short drive to the first viewpoint at Cazalla. Unfortunately, the previous day with very light and variable winds (a rare occurrence here!) had seen a huge movement of birds which had all passed over to Africa, taking advantage of the ideal conditions. We were left with hot and sunny conditions and a stiff E breeze from mid-morning, with almost nothing in sight! Not to be defeated however, we persisted and were soon rewarded with a lone Black Stork which spiralled low down in front of Tarifa town and then a couple of fine Booted Eagles which eventually passed close by. We were just at the point of leaving when another call went out and a large dark raptor, also very low down in front of Tarifa turned into a juvenile Egyptian Vulture. Perhaps things were not so bad after all! A few rather distant Short-toed Eagles were also around, so we headed down towards the Trafico viewpoint to see if there was anything there. Nothing, though after scrambling through a barbed-wire fence (!) to get to the official viewpoint, we hung around long enough to see our first Common Swift buzz by, and a Sparrowhawk heading south. Hunger soon got the better of us though, so back to the vehicle, and in the shade of a few bushes had a leisurely lunch to the delight of a large group of local cats, two kittens of which got overly friendly. However, in order not to waste huge amounts of excess cheese, we rounded off by feeding them, also in the hope that it would reduce their hunger and perhaps hunting instincts÷
We started back towards the hotel, but turned off to take a quick view at some raptors passing close by - Short-toed Eagles, and as we stood and watched, a group came over, some close, with in the end at least 26 visible in the air at once! Further ahead at another viewpoint where a concrete structure provided relief from the sun, we sat back to watch for more raptors, and were soon rewarded with several Griffon Vultures and Common Buzzards, while a Honey Buzzard put in an appearance and the first of several Egyptian Vultures appeared over the ridge-top. Birds were not the only animals of interest here though, with a couple of large black pigs wandering around, and Pat nearly lost her hat when a couple of donkeys which wandered (almost silently) into the viewpoint took a fancy to the false sunflower on the brim! I hope the photos are good Del! More movement of birds was evident than earlier in the day, and we continued to watch, adding several Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, another Honey Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk to the tally. Del then reminded me that he still hadn't seen Sardinian Warbler well, so when one started calling, I pished it out with surprising success and it gave us excellent views. A leak in a small pipe near the vehicle had left a small puddle, and several Crested Larks and Linnets came in to drink, adding to the diversity.
As the power began to go out of the sun, so we moved on, this time towards the Bolonia viewpoint, though stopped on the roadside when a large flock of c. 100 Griffon Vultures put in a fine display, wheeling over the open woods, and a Black Kite rose up below them in the thermal. At the viewpoint there was little present, though a nice Peregrine flew over and several Griffon Vultures tried to hide in the shadow of tree on a large rock face, being surprisingly difficult to pick out.
However, I thought that a bit of 'culture' was called for, and as we were still missing a few 'expected' birds we moved down towards the beach to walk around the fine ruins of a Roman town - Baelo Claudio. Not only was this fascinating in itself, the basic plan of the town centre being in excellent condition with simple but informative boards (thanks for help with the translation!) allowing much of the detail to be seen, but also had a few birds. The site supports several pairs of Thekla Larks, which gave excellent views in their numerous territorial combats, with other species present including Booted Eagle, Yellow Wagtail, Corn Buntings and the ubiquitous Stonechats. We had just enough time to wander round before it closed - ideal!
5th October: Zahara de los Atunes, La Janda, Bolonia viewpoint
A short walk out of the back of the hotel to look at the coastal scrub and giant reed (Arundo donax) beds. Unfortunately, 8 a.m. was a fraction too early, and only by the time that most of us came back at 8:30 was it really light enough and were birds moving. Anyhow, the size of the House Sparrow and Spotless Starling roost in the reeds was evident, and on the watered grass behind the hotel several Willow Warblers and a Pied Flycatcher were active and a small dove disappearing off from the track in front was our first Turtle Dove. Del and Loretta wandered down to the shoreline, also noting a few Sanderling and Kentish Plover on the beach.
Most of the day was spent exploring the tracks and rough roads of the former Laguna de La Janda area, and as hoped, it didn't disappoint. As we pulled off the road, a Hoopoe flew up from just in front, and landed again in full view, displaying its crest to delight all. Raptors were soon in evidence, and some small falcons hunting from pylons turned into Common Kestrels, while a dark blob on a post turned into a fine Black Kite. A perched Red Kite was noted in the opposite direction by Chris and several Marsh Harriers quartered over rice fields. With all this activity, a Short-toed Eagle which drifted past almost went unnoticed, though the sudden appearance of three large birds circling up from low in front led to fine views of three Black Storks in flight. However, with moderate winds, small birds were difficult, and apart from the occasional Fan-tailed Warbler close-by, just brief views were possible of a Cetti's Warbler, and the numerous Calandra Larks and Corn Buntings in a nearby field proved difficult as they kept close to the ground.
Another short drive and a rather pied looking bird on a pylon turned into a fine Osprey eating a fish. In addition it bore a blue colour ring with a white '8' or 'S' on its left leg (well spotted by Chris), which I've passed on to one of the people working on the species, though I still haven't heard where it came from. On the opposite side of the track a fine melanistic (= black) male Montagu's Harrier was hunting along a rough strip between fields while c. 40 Lesser Kestrels hovered over the ploughed soil.
It was time to look for a couple of the local species of the area, and despite finding Greenfinches just where expected, frustratingly, the large flocks of Spanish Sparrows present never once came down in the open, or even perched visibly in the bushes present, despite us stopping regularly and trying as hard as we could to see them. However, as we searched from the far end of the track, where squirting cucumbers surprised even me with their violent seed release mechanism, a superb juvenile Bonelli's Eagle circled close overhead, the accompanying and mobbing Lesser Kestrels visibly much smaller in size.
We then went off for lunch near a small reservoir, noting a few White Storks in a rice field that was being harvested as we went. Opening up the picnic lunch revealed a vast quantity of sliced ham, which proved too much for us (even with the help of a plentiful number of wasps) and we were compelled to give the remainder to a local man who had informed me of where we could go and the things we might see! The small dam was also a breeding site for a flock of Jackdaws which duly performed, circling round over a pale phase Booted Eagle which was hunting in the same area.
We then went off for coffee in a genuine (!) Spanish bar, taking a drive into some rice fields on the return leg, where Iberian Pool Frogs, several species of dragonflies and Black-winged Stilts abounded. A large butterfly passing over the field caught my eye, and the dark upperside with an orange border revealed it as a Two-tailed Pasha, a speciality of the humid woodlands in the area where strawberry tree (its foodplant) grows. As we drove back past the fields we caught up with it again, clearly seeing the upperwing pattern.
We tried the track through the back of La Janda, but the hot, dry, windy conditions kept activity to a minimum, despite plenty of the commoner passerine species, though several Tawny Pipits were notable. When we stopped for a raptor which flew off down a channel and hid in trees, the bunched purple flowers of Mandrake plants proved far more interesting and stood out in stark contrast to the brown dust and dead grass all around and provided an unusual photographic opportunity.
We provisionally finished off by watching from the covered Bolonia viewpoint, though things were slow due to the heat and wind, despite several Griffon Vultures and small groups of hirundines, so we headed back to Zahara de los Atunes, noting thousands of dragonflies along the road en route. On reaching the village, we pulled into a side-road and scanned back over the road onto the rocks on the opposite side, though up to 5 Monarch butterflies, a Lang's Short-tailed Blue and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth feeding in a flowerbed were difficult to ignore! Eventually, a bird was picked out on the high skyline, and the notably long bill confirmed its identity as a Blue Rock Thrush. However, it was a grey one, and later, several others rather closer were found, though none really blue. Only the last, an adult male, showed dark blue plumage, and despite the bright light, did not look those in the book! However, the end of the ridge also appeared to be a favoured feeding sight for hirundines, with dozens of House Martins and Barn Swallows building up to several hundred later on. This also attracted at first a few, then later a large flock of Alpine Swifts, one of which even came down very low to look at the small bridge over the river, while one or two Common Swifts were also present. Other birds on the slopes included another fine male Sardinian Warbler, while the temporary disappearance of most coincided with a fly-by of a superb Peregrine over the river mouth in front.
Another fine end to a day.
6th October: Strait of Gibraltar, Barbate, Cabo de Trafalgar
Having now worked out that an early breakfast was possible (well done Del & Loretta!), most of us (Del stayed behind feeling unwell) left as soon as possible for Tarifa to have a look over the sea at its narrowest point in the Strait. A couple of Gannets wheeled past as we got out of the vehicle, though were less cooperative when we actually stood out on the stone wall of the harbour. However, since the light was good, picking out the largely white adults coming past at range was easier. The sun also highlighted the odd distant Cory's Shearwater, and allowed fine views of fly-by Sandwich Terns and a small group of Ruddy Turnstones, and good comparison of a Lesser Black-backed Gull perched in amongst Yellow-leggeds on port buildings. A lone Sand Martin coming in low off the sea was an odd sight, possibly having turned back from an attempt to cross the Strait.
As it was still fairly early, we passed the Cazalla viewpoint and headed for the southernmost point in the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales (Cork Oak Natural park) at Huerta Grande, a new interpretation centre and hostal on the slopes overlooking the Strait near Algeciras. Here the damper conditions favour the growth of scrub and cork oak woods, and a range of different species were evident. I now saved face by finding Chris a couple of hyperactive Firecrests in a tree overhead, which gave fantastic views, though Pat's comment that they were so plain had me baffled for a moment÷ Plainly visible that is!
Unfortunately, the ringing activities were not in operation, but we wandered around the grounds, looking for different species and were soon rewarded with a view of two birds perched high in a bare tree-top, which in the 'scope turned into Crossbills! Finches were much in evidence here, with a number of Chaffinches around and a pair of typically elusive Hawfinches which gave us a short flight view before diving into cover. As we tracked down a rather mobile singing Cirl Bunting, a Serin landed nearby, finally (thankfully!) giving Pat acceptable views. A Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler and Common Whitethroat played hide-and-seek along a fence, though a calling Great Spotted Woodpecker led to the discovery of two Grey Wagtails which flew off calling. Back to the vehicle and a last glance up revealed a medium-sized raptor flying around. However, the colour pattern and orangey tail were odd, and views in the 'scope finally revealed a white base to the upperside of the tail - Long-legged Buzzard! A national rarity, though two had been present in the general area for some time. It dropped out of sight, so we drove to the entrance by the main road to take a look over the nearby hillsides to try and refind it, but only connected with a couple of Common Buzzards and the by-now standard Short-toed Eagle.
We headed back, passing by Cazalla, where almost nothing was moving due to the now strong E wind, so headed rapidly instead to the shelter near Trafico to have lunch. A fine Sparrowhawk low over the road in front as we enjoyed our sandwiches was about the only bird we saw, especially with so many cats about, though a Sardinian Warbler 'rat-a-tat-tatted' from adjacent scrub.
Not to be beaten, we went for the short walk out onto the back of Playa de los Lances. A large group of gulls and terns were again present, including 80+ Audouin's Gulls of almost all age groups, and various small waders (=shorebirds!) allowing a relaxed (and apparently successful!) teach-in session on how to identify these. As we walked back to the vehicle, a heavy passage of hirundines was evident, and counted from one spot, 200 birds passed in just 70 seconds! While most were Barn Swallows and House Martins, there were many Red-rumped Swallows mixed in, finally giving good views to those who persevered!
It was a fine evening, so we passed by the hotel to have a coffee and pick up Del, who was feeling better, and carried on up the coast to Barbate. A couple of brief stops here revealed large numbers of Greater Ringed and Kentish Plovers and a big gull roost including several Great Cormorants. Although time was pushing on, it was such a fine evening that we carried on through Barbate town, through another Natural Park area, this time of dry pine woodland, and down to the lighthouse at Cabo de Trafalgar. Fortunately, the road wasn't covered with sand, so we parked at the end and took the short walk up to the edge of the fossilised dune cliff. Despite bright sun and a light offshore wind, birds began to materialise over the waves, and soon, Gannets were noted in numbers, and at first distant shapes began to appear closer and closer, finally giving us acceptable views of small groups of Balearic, and good views of several Cory's Shearwaters.
This made a fine natural end to the tour: the glowing orb of the sun sinking to the west into the Atlantic, a warm breeze blowing, a beautiful stretch of coastline to contemplate, and the outline of Morocco in the distance÷
7th October: Transfer to Seville
Having completed the usual formalities and a slightly faster than usual breakfast we were on our way at 9 a.m., only to stall briefly at the edge of Zahara de los Atunes as two small birds played in the air currents round the last building in town - Crag Martins! Fortunately, Del, who was on the wrong side of the bus was so happy with his nearly 90 new species, that he was happy to pass it over, and we carried on, making good time with a quick rest and drink stop en route towards Seville. Just before we reached the outer ring road, a raptor flying over caught my eye, turning into a lovely Osprey low over the road!
We reached the airport with time to spare, I checked that the flights were OK and we said goodbye.
I sincerely hope that you had good flights to your respective destinations and that whatever you did afterwards went well - Del and Loretta on their 2-week tour of Spain, Pat on her forthcoming bridge weekend and Chris back to work and his ornithological studies! I had a great few days in Málaga, though someone tried to run me off the road before I even got there, and this report has been severely delayed by my computer breaking down while I was away. My sincere apologies, but with the motherboard having gone kaput, I've had to write half of this on a borrowed machine, and certain details have been forgotten during the period!!! E.g. for this reason I haven't noted what we had for dinner each night, though as you'll remember, fish was the standard for most, including fillets of sea bass, fresh tuna, swordfish and various delicious others!
Finalmente, y como respuesta a sus pedidas de que les escribe algo en castellano, quiero agradecerles mucho por su humor, amistad y flexibilidad durante todo el viaje. Me ha gustado muchísimo guiarles por la zona la cual es preciosa y muy variada con la consecuencia de que hayan muchas especies de aves y muchos individuos. Perdónenme si hay errores en algunos comentarios en el texto, pero por el retraso en encontrar un ordenador mencionado arriba, he olvidado algunos detalles del viaje.
Aunque no es la cosa más importante del viaje, hemos tenido la suerte de ver dos rarezas (en el contexto de España), siendo el tarro canelo (Ruddy Shelduck) y busardo moro (Long-legged Buzzard) aunque no voy a mandar las relevantes descripciones a la comité de rarezas de España (porque no las vi durante suficientemente tiempo para escribir descripciones adecuadas ni entonces ni ahora).
Les mando mis saludos más cordiales desde Madrid y espero que nos vemos de nuevo dentro de poco. Hasta entones, ¡que lo pasen MUY bien!.
Con mucho gusto, John Muddeman
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Seen on 3 days in the El Rocío area, with max. 10+ at El Acebuche on 2nd.
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Just one in winter plumage in the Doñana marshes briefly on 1st.
Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea Seen on 6th, with 10+ past Cabo de Trafalgar.
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus Also seen on 6th, with 30+ past Cabo de Trafalgar.
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 5+ off the beach at Matalascañas on 2nd, 3+ off Bolonia beach on 4th and 30+ off Tarifa and Cabo de Trafalgar on 6th.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo One at Tarifa and 3 at Barbate on 6th.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Seen daily, usually in large numbers, especially in the Doñana marshes.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea 2 juveniles seen in the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 2 juveniles seen in the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides One sub-adult seen in the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Cattle Egret Ardeola ibis Seen daily in varying numbers, including hundreds roosting at El Rocío on 1st.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta Seen on 5 days, with max. 30+ on 1st and several at Playa de los Lances on 4th and 6th.
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia Only seen on 1st, where 10+ including adults and juveniles.
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber Seen at El Rocío on 1st - 3rd, with 465+ there on 2nd, and 40+ in rice fields in the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra Two in the Doñana marshes on 1st, 1 over Tarifa on 4th, 3 at La Janda on 5th and 1 juvenile at Playa de los Lances on 7th.
White Stork Ciconia ciconia One in Doñana marshes on 1st, 1 on 3rd and 3 at La Janda on 5th.
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala 30+ seen at Laguna Salobra and the adjacent Laguna Chica near Puerto de Sta. Maria on 3rd.
Greylag Goose Anser anser Only noted at El Rocío, where 15+ on 1st and c. 30 on 2nd.
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna One adult seen at Laguna Salobra, near Puerto de Sta. Maria on 3rd.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea Four briefly in flight over rice fields of the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina A flock of 12+ also briefly seen in flight over rice fields of the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Gadwall Anas strepera Seen on 3 days in the El Rocío area, with max. 6+ at El Acebuche on 2nd and 3rd.
Common Teal Anas crecca Just 2 seen at long range at El Rocío on 2nd.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Noted on 4 days, with max. 50+ at El Rocío and El Acebuche on 2nd.
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata Only seen at El Acebuche, where 3 on 2nd and 5+ on 3rd.
Common Pochard Aythya ferina Two in eclipse plumage at El Acebuche on 3rd.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus Two singles seen: a colour-ringed bird eating a fish at La Janda on 5th and one over the road just S of Seville on 7th.
(European) Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus Two singles over the 'La Peña' (= Donkey!) viewpoint on 4th.
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus A beautiful adult seen by the road N of the Doñana marshes on the evening of the 1st.
Black Kite Milvus migrans Two singles high over El Acebrón on 2nd, one with a large flock of Griffon Vultures near Bolonia on 4th and 2+ at La Janda on 5th.
Red Kite Milvus milvus Two over the Doñana rice fields on 1st, 2 distantly over the El Rocío marshes on 2nd, when also 2 high over El Acebrón, and one at La Janda on 5th.
(Eurasian) Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus A single high over El Acebrón on 2nd, an impressive flock of 100+ near Bolonia on 4th , 20+ 'behind' La Janda and at Bolonia on 5th, and 10+ at various sites in the Tarifa area on 6th.
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus Only seen on 2 days, with an adult high over the Doñana marshes on 1st and 1 juv. at Cazalla and 3(-5) (juvs + adults) at the La Peña viewpoint on 4th.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus Noted on 3 days, with 50+ at various sites near Tarifa on 4th (including 26+ at once N of Tarifa), 2+ on 5th at La Janda, and 10+ at various sites near Tarifa on 6th.
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus A juv. Seen over the Doñana rice fields on 1st.
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus A single melanistic male over cotton fields on La Janda on 5th.
(Eurasian) Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus Noted on 4 days, with 6+ in the Doñana marshes on 1st, 1 at El Acebuche on 2nd, 6+ over La Janda on 5th and 1 at Barbate on 6th.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Seen on 3 days, with 1 over the El Acebuche carpark on 3rd, 3 at various sites near Tarifa on 4th and 1 close-by during lunch at Trafico on 6th.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo Noted daily, often in moderate numbers on roadsides near El Rocío and around the Tarifa area.
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus A moulting adult, probably of the (small) N African cirtensis race seen high over Huerta Grande on 6th.
Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti A lovely pair first seen perched in trees, then hunting in the early morning sun over the marshes at El Rocío on 1st.
Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus A superb juvenile circling low overhead on La Janda on 5th.
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus Noted on 4 days, with 2 pale phase birds high over El Acebrón on 2nd, lots in the Tarifa area on 4th, 3+ over La Janda and area on 5th and several at various sites near Tarifa on 6th. Most bird were pale phase individuals, though a few dark phase were also seen well.
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni A fine group of 40+ hunting over fields on La Janda on 5th.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Seen daily in variable number, and especially notable in the Tarifa and La Janda areas on 4th - 6th.
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo Singles seen in front of the SEO building in El Rocío on 1st and hunting low over fields on La Janda on 5th.
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus Singles seen on 3 days, with a big female over the Doñana marshes on 1st, an adult over the Bolonia viewpoint on 4th, and a fine bird low past at Zahara de los Atunes on the evening of the 5th.
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa A fine group of 7+ close-by at the El Acebuche centre on 3rd and another group of 6 near Zahara de los Atunes on the morning of the 5th.
(Commo n) Pheasant Phasianus colchicus A female at Playa de los Lances (!) on 4th was the only one seen by the group.
Purple Swamp-hen (= Gallinule) Porphyrio porphyrio Two heard and seen briefly at El Acebuche on 2nd seen (an adult and a juv.) well on 3rd.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Just small numbers seen at various wetland sites on 4 days, especially at El Acebuche and La Janda.
Common Coot Fulica atra Only noted on the first 3 days in the El Rocío area, where max. 10+ at El Acebuche on 2nd, and at Laguna Salobra, near Puerto de Sta. María, where 25+ on 3rd.
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata One in winter plumage feeding on the shore of Laguna Salobra, near Puerto de Sta. María on 3rd; not exactly an exciting-looking bird, but now extremely rare in Europe.
(Eurasian) Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Five at Barbate on 3rd, and singles at Playa de los Lances on 4th and 6th.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Noted on 3 days, with 2 at El Rocío on 2nd, 3 at Laguna Salobra, near Puerto de Sta. María on 3rd, and at least 37 in rice fields of La Janda on 5th.
(Pied) Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 20+ at Laguna Salobra, near Puerto de Sta. María on 3rd, and one also that evening at Barbate.
(Northern) Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Only seen at El Rocío, where 7 on 1st and 15 on 2nd.
Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus An adult, probably female, and two juvs behind the beach at Playa de los Lances on 4th.
(Greater) Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula 10+ at both Laguna Salobra and Barbate on 3rd, 5+ at Playa de los Lances on 4th and 100+ at Barbate on 6th.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Singles at the Doñana marshes on 1st, Laguna Salada on 3rd and Barbate on 6th.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 1 at Playa de los Lances on 4th, 3 on the beach at Zahara de los Atunes on 5th and 30+ at Barbate on 6th.
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica Just one very distant bird on the Matalascañas beach on 2nd.
(Eurasian) Curlew Numenius arquata 1 in the dry marshes at Doñana on 1st.
Common Redshank Tringa totanus Singles at Barbate on 3rd and 6th and at Playa de los Lances on 4th.
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Two together in a ditch in the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 10+ in the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleuca 1 at Laguna Salobra and 2 at Barbate on 3rd, 1 at Zahara de los Atunes on 5th and 1 at Barbate on 6th.
(Ruddy) Turnstone Arenaria interpres 4+ in Tarifa harbour on 6th.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago A total of 4 at El Rocío and in the Doñana marshes on 1st and 4+ at El Acebuche on 2nd.
Sanderling Calidris alba 30+ on Matalascañas beach on 2nd, several at both Playa de los Lances and Barbate on 4th, 1+ at Zahara de los Atunes on 5th and 15+ at both Playa de los Lances and Cabo de Trafalgar on 6th.
Little Stint Calidris minuta Surprisingly, just 1 at the Laguna Salobra on 3rd.
Dunlin Calidris alpina 15+ at Laguna Salobra on 3rd, 5+ 5+ at Playa de los Lances on 4th and 6th and several at Barbate on 6th.
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea c. 20 at Laguna Salobra on 3rd, 2+ at Playa de los Lances on 4th and 1 at Barbate on 6th.
Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii Only seen at Playa de los Lances, but 40+ there on 4th and 80+ there on 6th.
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis Seen daily from the first at Matalascañas beach on 2nd, with 100+ at both Tarifa harbour and Playa de los Lances on 6th.
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Except for 5th, seen daily, with max. 30+ Matalascañas beach on 2nd, and 15+ at Barbate on 6th. Most were darker than typical UK birds, of the European intermedius type.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Noted on 4 days in small number, with most on the beach at Playa de los Lances on 4th and 6th.
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis At Barbate, 2 on 3rd and 6+ on 6th, at Tarifa harbour 3+ on 6th and at Playa de los Lances 47 on 4th and 20+ on 6th.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo A single juvenile flew close past at Cabo de Trafalgar on 6th.
Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia Small numbers seen on 5 days; all were feral pigeons.
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus One at El Rocío on 2nd and three at El Acebuche on 2nd were the only ones.
European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur One briefly at Zahara de los Atunes and another at La Janda on 5th.
(Eurasian) Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Small numbers seen at various locations on 4 days.
Alpine Swift Apus melba After much searching, 40+ in a cloud of hirundines low over slopes on the edge of Zahara de los Atunes on the evening of the 5th.
Common Swift Apus apus One at Trafico on 4th, 2+ at Zahara de los Atunes on the evening of the 5th and 4 there on the evening of the 6th.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis Two in the Doñana marshes on 1st, 3+ at El Acebuche on 2nd and 2 there on 3rd, finally giving good views!
(Eurasian) Hoopoe Upupa epops Three in a dry streambed near El Rocío on 1st and 1 in front of the vehicle on the track at La Janda on 5th.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major Just two singles heard: at El Acebrón on 2nd and at Huerta Grande on 6th.
Green Woodpecker Picus viridis One heard at El Acebuche on 2nd, heard and seen briefly in flight on 3rd.
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra 60+ in the Doñana marshes on 1st, 30+ behind Playa de los Lances on 4th and 15+ on La Janda on 5th.
(Greater) Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla Just one briefly in the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens Typically difficult, 20+ in flight in the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata Seen daily in varying number, though especially well at El Acebuche on 2nd and Playa de los Lances on 4th and 6th.
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae 6+ watched in the ruins of Baelo Claudio on 4th and 2+ the following day at the Bolonia viewpoint.
Wood Lark Lullula arborea Just one seen, singing well from roadside wires near El Rocío on 1st.
(Eurasian) Sky Lark Alauda arvensis c. 6 at Playa de los Lances on 4th were early migrants or winter visitors.
(European) Sand Martin Riparia riparia 3+ over vineyards by Laguna Salobra on 3rd, several migrants at sites near Tarifa on 4th and 1 low over the Tarifa harbour on 6th.
(Eurasian) Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris Just two seen from the bus as we were leaving Zahara de los Atunes on the morning of the 7th.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Seen daily in varying number, with huge numbers passing low over the beach and dunes at Playa de los Lances on 6th (c. 100 counted in 70 seconds!).
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Despite playing 'hide-and-seek' in the hirundine flocks, seen on 4 days, with good views at Playa de los Lances and the Bolonia and La Peña viewpoints from 4th - 6th.
(Common) House Martin Delichon urbica Seen daily in good numbers, and one of the commonest passerine migrants in the Strait of Gibraltar area.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Seen in varying number on 4 days, with several in the Doñana marshes on 1st, and moderate numbers in the Tarifa area, especially Playa de los Lances, on 4th - 6th. All those identifiable to race were of the Spanish iberiae subspecies.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea Very shy! One flew over Matalascañas beach on 2nd while 2 were seen in flight at Huerta Grande on 6th.
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris 3+ in the dunes behind Playa de los Lances on 4th gave good views, while 6+ in the fields at La Janda on 5th were typically more elusive.
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis Just one seen clearly on wires near El Rocío on 1st was a very poor showing.
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius At least 4 on rocks just outside Zahara de los Atunes on 5th, including one dark blue male÷
(Common) Blackbird Turdus merula Very small numbers at various sites, including El Acebuche and Huerta Grande on 4 days from 2nd - 6th.
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos An early migrant fly-by at Playa de los Lances on 4th.
(European) Robin Erithacus rubecula 3+ at El Acebuche and El Acebrón on 2nd, and 1 at the former site on 3rd, and 2+ at Huerta Grande on 6th.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 5+ in the Doñana marshes on 1st, several, including 2 near Laguna Salobra on 3rd, 3 at Playa de los Lances on 4th, 2+ including one very bright bird (probably of the Greenland-breeding ssp. leucorhoa) at La Janda on 5th, and finally 1 at Zahara de los Atunes on 6th.
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus 4 males at various sites near El Rocío and in the Doñana marshes on 1st, and a male at Laguna Salobra on 3rd.
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra One in the dry streambed near El Rocío on 1st, 4+ on the fence at Barbate on 3rd, 3 at various sites (inc. Playa de los Lances) on 4th , and at least three at various sites on 5th.
(Common) Stonechat Saxicola torquata One of the most widespread small passerines, and seen daily in good numbers.
Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola) Cisticola juncidis Also widespread in small numbers, especially in rough, grassy edges to ditches and roadsides, and seen on 5 days, though very well at the Doñana marshes on 1st.
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Remarkably, only heard singing at El Acebrón on 2nd and one seen briefly at La Janda on 5th.
(Eurasian) Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus Two in a bulrush bed at El Acebuche on the morning of the 3rd.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla A female at Matalascañas on 2nd, a male at El Acebuche on 3rd, and several calling at Huerta Grande on 6th.
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata A first-winter bird in scrub at the Marismas de Barbate on 3rd was a surprise find.
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis One in the Doñana marshes on 1st, and one at Laguna Salobra on 3rd.
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala Two males at the El Acebuche centre on 2nd, a fine male 'pished' into view at the La Peña viewpoint on 4th, 2 at Zahara d. l. A. on 5th and one there on the 6th plus singles at Trafico and Cabo de Trafalgar the same day.
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata Two males, one watched extremely well at close range on the ground at El Acebuche on 2nd.
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Seen daily in small numbers, with max. 5+ at the Marismas de Barbate on 3rd, and 7+ in the gardens of the Hotel Antonio on the morning of the 5th.
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta A big surprise was the discovery of two, seen extremely well at the Marismas de Barbate on the 3rd. Most migrate in August, with very few even in September!
Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus 3+ seen very well at Huerta Grande on 6th.
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata Four in the Doñana marshes on 1st, 3+ at the El Acebuche and El Acebrón centres on 2nd, singles at Laguna Salobra and roadside café on 3rd, 1 at the Playa de los Lances on 4th and finally one at Huerta Grande on 6th.
(European) Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca Another very common and widespread small passerine which migrates through the area in large numbers and which we saw daily. Higher numbers in the Doñana area, with max. 20+ on 1st and 30+ on 2nd.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus Only seen in the woodlands at El Acebrón, though 10+ of the grey-backed irbii race seen well there on 2nd.
Crested Tit Parus cristatus 5+ seen in total in pines at the El Acebuche and El Acebrón centres on 2nd, and one calling at Huerta Grande on 6th.
Great Tit Parus major One singing at El Rocío on 1st, 5+ in total in woodlands at the El Acebuche and El Acebrón centres on 2nd, and several at Huerta Grande on 6th.
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus 4+ in the El Acebrón woodlands on 2nd, and several at Huerta Grande on 6th.
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla Two in the El Acebrón woodlands on 2nd, one singing at El Acebuche on 3rd, and 2 at Huerta Grande on 6th.
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 40+ in pines N of the Doñana marshes on 1st, 30+ in two groups at Matalascañas and El Acebuche centre on 2nd, and several at the latter site on 3rd.
(Common) Magpie Pica pica One at El Rocío on 1st, 10+ near Matalascañas and El Acebuche area on 2nd, and several near El Acebuche on 3rd.
(Eurasian) Jackdaw Corvus monedula 30+ at Vejer de la Frontera as we passed on 3rd, with 40+ near La Janda on 5th.
Common Raven Corvus corax Two in the Doñana marshes on 1st, 2 heard over El Acebuche on 2nd and 2 seen in flight there the following day.
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor Seen daily in good numbers, especially around towns and villages.
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus At least 2 at Huerta Grande on 6th, including a singing male.
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra Small numbers in the Doñana marshes on 1st, several close at Bolonia viewpoint on 4th and plenty at La Janda on 5th.
(Common) Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 10+ in the woodlands at El Acebrón on 2nd and 10+ at Huerta Grande on 6th.
European Serin Serinus serinus Various in the El Rocío area on 1st, including a large flock in fields there, and several at Huerta Grande on 6th.
(European) Greenfinch Carduelis chloris 3+ at La Janda on 5th.
(European) Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Seen daily in varying number, with small flocks at several localities.
(Common) Linnet Carduelis cannabina Seen daily in small number after the first 2 at Laguna Salobra on 3rd, including a large flock N of El Rocío on 1st.
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes Flight views of two at Huerta Grande on 6th.
Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra Two were a surprise find at Huerta Grande on 6th.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Seen daily in good numbers especially in towns and villages.
(Eurasian) Tree Sparrow Passer montanus Two N of El Rocío on 1st, 2 at El Acebuche on 2nd, where several on 3rd plus 1 on La Janda on 5th.
Fallow Deer Dama dama Seen in numbers at El Rocío, especially on 2nd when 100+ were seen filing out onto the marshes.
Red Deer Cervus elaphus Seen at El Rocío, with 3 on 1st and 2+ on 2nd, and heard at El Acebuche on 2nd and 3rd.
Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus Singles at El Acebuche on 3rd and at La Janda on 5th.
Otter Nutria nutria The fantastic sighting of 2-3 fishing and hunting in bulrush beds at El Acebrón on 2nd.
Wild Boar Sus scrofa A single crossing a fire-break at El Acebuche seen by a few on 3rd.
Iberian Pool Frog Rana perezi Several heard calling at Doñana marshes on 1st and seen in rice fields at La Janda on 5th.
Ocellated Lizard Lacerta lepida A single basking on a limb of an olive tree at the El Acebuche centre on 2nd.
Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauretanica Small numbers seen almost nightly on walls of the Hotel Toruño and Hotel Antonio.
Red-eared Slider Pseudemys scripta elegans Several in the permanent water at El Acebuche; a problematic introduced American species.
Ladder Snake Elaphe scalaris A young individual on the track at La Janda on 5th.
Swallowtail Papilio machaon One near Tarifa on 4th.
Large White Pieris brassicae Odd ones seen at a few locations.
Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra A fresh male on 2nd.
Lang's Short-tailed Blue Leptotes pirithous Several in the scrub at El Acebrón on 2nd and one at Zahara de los Atunes on 5th.
Two-tailed Pasha Charaxes jasius One flying over rice fields at La Janda on 5th was in unusual habitat!
Painted Lady Cynthia cardui One on 3rd, and a few at various locations on 4th and 5th.
Monarch Danaus plexippus One at Zahara de los Atunes on 3rd, where c. 5 there on 4th, and 6+ on 5th. The population here in the Strait has only apparently been settled and breeding for the last 4 years.
Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum One at Zahara de los Atunes on 5th.
Tiger Moth sp. Cymbalophora pudica Singles at the Hotel Antonio on 3rd and 5th.
Oak Eggar Lasiocampa quercus At least four around lights of the Hotel Antonio restaurant on 5th.
Egyptian Grasshopper Anacridium aegyptium One on 2nd at El Rocío.
Field Cricket Gryllus campestris Common around lights at night, especially at the Hotel Antonio where some of the guests weren't too keen on them÷!
'7-lined Dung-beetle' Sp. Unknown! Numerous along the coast at sandy sites on 3rd, 4th and 6th.
Scarab Beetle sp. Scarabaeus ?semipunctatus A few rolling dung balls on the dunes at the Playa de los Lances on 4th.
Chafer Beetle sp. Oryctes nasicornis The large deep chestnut-coloured beetle coming to lights at Zahara de los Atunes most nights; the male has a 'rhinoceros' horn.
'Red Darter' Trithemis annulata A fine, totally red male at La Janda on 5th.
Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombei A male N of El Rocío on 1st.
Darter spp. Sympetrum spp. In the Strait of Gibraltar area, thousands were moving on one or two days, with especially large numbers near Zahara de los Atunes on the evening of 4th, and large numbers were over the rice fields of La Janda on 5th. Most were probably S. fonscolombei, meridionale and/or sanguineum.
False Emperor Anax parthenope The large dragonfly over the dyke on La Janda on 5th.
Orb-web Spider sp. Argiope bruennichi The large black-and-yellow spider at El Acebrón on 2nd.