20 - 27 September 2003

John Muddeman

Trip Report

Saturday 20th September

After a slight delay at Seville airport we got away in blazing sun and oppressive heat. Little was visible en route except a Common Buzzard or two, but after settling into our hotels (Phil and I seeing a couple of Alpine Swifts in the process) and giving a little break, we took a short drive to the Palacio del Acebrón area.

Despite a stiff hot breeze, a few small birds were noted in scrub, including our first Stonechats and brief Common Whitethroat and Dartford Warbler. Crested Larks were also heard, but dropped out of sight. A distant dark phase Booted Eagle circled around at length in a swirling flock of House Martins over the woodland.

We took a short walk, starting in pine and cork oak dominated woodland, though not before noting an Alpine Swift passing over at height, where Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and a Garden Warbler were all eventually seen. Short-toed Treecreepers called and sang but remained invisible like a few Long-tailed Tits. Given the hot conditions, the presence of Scaly-footed Lizard and Large Psammodromus along the path was no surprise, through the few butterflies also present were remarkably elusive. A calling Booted Eagle appeared intermittently through the broken tree canopy.

The dense, usually damp woodland was rather quiet as we crossed on a boardwalk, though a Migrant Hawker flew in only to hang up in the shade for all to admire and a large pile a droppings showed where the local Genets marked their territory.

Cetti's Warblers shouted from the depths of cover, and after passing again through more dry woodland, above which large numbers of House Martins hawked, we emerged on the edge of a deep pool enclosed in a green shroud of shrubs and tree. A Water Rail piped from deep cover, and the only visible animals were a couple of terrapins hauled out on some stems in the afternoon sunshine. While one was a rather dull Stripe-necked Terrapin, the other was a more brightly coloured Red-necked Slider, an introduced alien from N America.

We passed the Palacio del Acebrón, then rounded off with a wait in open pines, where a pair of Short-toed Treecreepers finally showed themselves off at length and three Hawfinch passed over at speed.

Even as we left, a Hoopoe delayed our exit, a couple of White Storks also been seen as a result!

Sunday 21st September

A cool misty start to the day, though a couple of Willow Warblers and a Common Whitethroat were visible from the breakfast room!

As we drove out towards the marshes, on the edge of the Pinar del Rey, several Tree Sparrows perched on the wires, further along which a large flock of Turtle Doves were also gathered and a Short-toed Eagle also used a rather more distant pylon as a look-out post. A small flock of Corn Buntings were our first, this being notably scarce throughout the week when normally abundant.

Though the pine woods seemed dry and dead, a couple of Woodlarks were present along the road and a fly-by a number of Iberian Azure-winged Magpies brightened up proceedings.

The N edge of the National Park was still a long way away, but given the sheer abundance of birds we stopped several times by scruffy arable fields, where we found Whinchats, Northern Wheatears, plenty of flighty Serins and a Southern Grey Shrike, plus a real bonus in the form of a very confiding Melodious Warbler which worked the thistles and scrawny umbellifers long the roadside.

As we reached the N edge of the grazed fields, a number of Corn Buntings and three Tawny Pipits graced a dry field, with a large flock of Barn Swallows and a couple of Sand Martins nearby. The livestock fences here with their twisted posts acted as favoured resting sites for migrant passerines, Stone- and Whinchats, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and Northern Wheatears being seen along the trackside, with a couple of Common Buzzards and Eurasian Kestrels on pylons and posts.

It was a rough drive out on the dry, dusty and rutted tracks, but suddenly masses of birds were noted around the wet rice paddies. A juvenile Montagu's Harrier was the first delight, followed by a fly-by Squacco Heron, multiple Night Herons arising from a deep trackside ditch, a perched Osprey on a pylon, numbers of quartering Marsh Harriers, a large flock of White Storks with two Black Storks mixed in, various Spoonbills in small mobile group and plenty of Grey Herons and at least three fine Purple Herons, two of which came out of a ditch to stand in full view for us to admire.

This was in sharp contrast with the dry arable land a short distance ahead, but there was also considerable interest here in the form of feeding Lesser Short-toed Larks, while when most of us finally got onto one in the ploughed field, a Greater Short-toed Lark popped up almost alongside for a superb comparison!

It was starting to get rather hot and sunny though, and despite a total lack of rain since mid-May, various ditches still held water and supported Little and Great Crested Grebes, plus a surprise single Black-necked Grebe, then the first of several Kingfishers.

A larger channel held a flock of Pied Avocets and various Black-winged Stilts, though we finally made it to the José Antonio Valverde Interpretation centre for lunch. While sitting outside, a couple of Lang's Short-tailed Blues and Iberian Blue-tailed Damselflies were noted almost around our feet, though fly-over Alpine Swifts and Short-toed Eagle meant we had to keep our eyes on the skies too! Remarkably, the pool behind the centre still held water, and a couple of Purple Swamp-hens, several Greater Flamingos, a small flock of Common Teal and 17 Spotted Redshanks were notable, while a prowling Red Kite spooked them periodically.

A return to the main channel nearby revealed roosting Greenshank, a mobile flock of Ringed Plover which also contained a couple of Little Stint and a Dunlin, but these were suddenly all flushed by a huge adult female Peregrine, which powered past!

It was a long hot drive back, though a brief stop where a new hide was being erected revealed a fine Swallowtail which livened up proceedings.

My 19:30 call-over was in error (as it should have been an hour later), but it turned out to be in our favour, as when I went outside to recover something from the vehicle for Rosemary, an adult Spanish Imperial Eagle circled over the square in front and meant that it was seen by all, despite a lack of optics to hand, and we stayed outside for the call-over, just in case!!! What a finale!

Monday 22nd September

We got away at 9:00 in mild breezy conditions and made the short drive to the seashore. Little was moving off Matalascañas apart from Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls and a few distant Atlantic Gannets, though several Sanderling on the beach were very confiding.

Back returned via the pine and scrub at the El Acebuche reserve centre, here seeing Iberian Azure-winged Magpies for the first time properly, then went out to hides, with a pair of Crested Tits en route coming in to my feeble imitation of their call. Small birds in a flock just outside on the hides included Garden, Subalpine and Sardinian Warblers, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Blackcap and Willow Warbler, once we'd stood quietly for a while! The views from the hide were dead however apart from a Southern Grey Shrike, so we traced our route back to another, but three Dartford Warblers were scolding en route to delay us! A pair of Thekla Larks at very close range were a delight, while a group of Red-legged Partridges scuttled across a track, a Clouded Yellow and Lang's Short-tailed Blue were watched at close range as they nectared on the only yellow flowers in whole area. A couple of Spiny-footed Lizards also moved around in the hot conditions. A cool breeze under the burning sun was welcome.

We headed back only to find that the La Rocina area closed due to a National Park guide strike, so after lunch with a hungry entourage of Iberian Azure-winged and Common Magpies, we headed W to Huelva and the P.N. Marismas del Odiel. Though things were quiet except for several Great Cormorants topping a line of poles in the Río Tinto estuary as we passed, our main stop was by a small pool on the roadside simply brimming with species, including no less than three Red-knobbed Coots (two with neck collars), several Curlew Sandpipers and Kentish Plovers, a mixture of limosa and islandica Black-tailed Godwits, the juveniles of the latter still sporting their smart orange-and-black mantle feathers rather than the already moulted grey-backed birds of the former subspecies, a couple of Turnstones and a few Little Stints of most note. Just watching and listening to this gaggle of birds in superb light conditions was a treat.

We tore ourselves away eventually, and drove out past a huge area of largely active salinas where fine adult Greater Flamingos and flocks of Black-tailed Godwits fed in the shallow waters, with a pause first for an Osprey which was rising up having just caught a fish and then again for a superb tri-coloured male Marsh Harrier which was hunting over a scrubby area, with two Whinchats on the fence in front for variety. As we continued out along the narrow isthmus, Common Redshanks and a Curlew rose up out of the salt marsh, with other keeping down in the stiff wind.

Our return leg was punctuated by dropping into a couple of small lakes in the area. The first, the Laguna del Palo being a hive of avian activity, with a perched Osprey, a couple of brilliantly coloured Purple Swamp-hens mooching around in the swampy vegetation at the back, plenty of duck including small groups of Pochard and Gadwall, an eclipse Garganey trying to hide among a few Common Teal and three or four juvenile Black Terns which swooped and dipped over the floating mats of vegetation. A short drive then found us on a raised bank between two close pits where plenty of Shoveler were unfortunately spooked by our appearance, but a Reed Warbler slipped quietly through a tamarisk tangle below us. We also paused briefly to look over the L. de las Madres, where a small group of Great Crested Grebes were the only birds of note.

The day had not quite finished though, and as we returned along the coast road marvelling at the enormous areas of stabilised dune vegetation on both sides, some judicious watching turned up a stunning male Black-eared Wheatear on a roadside fence, almost exactly where it had been on our way out hours earlier (though I'd only seen it was sped by!), although difficult viewing conditions meant just brief views were had by most.

Tuesday 23rd September

A cooler and stiller start to the morning, so we took a walk along a sandy track between the Natural and National Parks near El Rocío. Few birds were visible or even audible and we contented ourselves at first by trying to decipher some of the enormous number of tracks in the cool sand. Virtually nothing was noted until we reached a wooden bridge over an apparently dry stream. Amazingly, a Kingfisher shot out from underneath revealing a small pool full of Mosquito Fish, but the main interest was an astonishing stream of small passerines coming to drink and bathe just feet away, almost completely unconcerned with our presence, despite us all being lined up with binoculars and talking quietly. It was simply fantastic to see a succession of Willow Warblers, Iberian Chiffchaffs, Pied Flycatchers, a Reed Warbler, a male and female Sardinian Warbler, and above all, a singing Cetti's Warbler at a distance where individual feathers could be admired!

Stan stayed to watch while the rest of us continued a little further, tempted on by the news of a sighting of Iberian Lynx in the area the previous two evenings, but despite walking up to an area of mature trees with more open views, not surprisingly, we had no luck, despite watching a Hoopoe and Spotted Flycatcher and simply absorbing the profound tranquility of the area on a cool calm morning. Stan also managed to watch a Green Woodpecker moving between the trees and a bathing Garden Warbler.

We transferred towards the Strait, pausing for a drink where off to one side several large flocks spiralled up and well over 1000 White Storks were still stood around a large rubbish tip, one of the reasons the species has a higher over-winter survival than in the past and why large numbers now winter in Spain (though as the tips are being closed, so this may change again).

Our main stop was at the Laguna de Medina, where the water surface of the entire lake was simply peppered with birds. Amazingly, almost the entire Andalusian population of Coots seemed to be present, with dozens of Gadwall too and at least 30 fine White-headed Ducks one of the commonest remaining species. Stan's luck was in too, with four flying Ruddy Shelduck noted briefly by him as the rest of us were looking too far away!

Lunch was taken here under the only shade available, with a couple of dragonflies and a few high-flying Griffon Vultures of most note.

After reaching our new hotel in Zahara de los Atunes, the late afternoon was enlivened by a trip to Cabo de Trafalgar in slightly cooler conditions. Despite very sunny, clear and fairly calm conditions, a few birds put in an appearance, with Gannets being the most obvious, but after waiting patiently, a few Cory's Shearwaters, apparently of both the Atlantic and Mediterranean breeding populations were well seen, two single Audouin's Gulls flew past, an Arctic Skua powered past out to sea and a few Balearic Shearwaters with their rapid stiff wing-beats pelted past at high speed in contrast to the almost lazy and slow-flapping action of the Cory's.

We rounded off with a meal looking out onto a flat calm ocean as the sun set in a blaze of colour.

Wednesday 24th September

A quick half hour on the beach pre-breakfast was enjoyed by an intrepid few, though given a stiff E breeze, nothing was offshore. However, a couple of Kentish Plover and several Audouin's Gulls more than merited the effort.

We left after breakfast to a fly-over of mixed swift and hirundine flock, including Alpine and Pallid Swifts and a few Red-rumped Swallows. A good herald to the day, but when a juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle passed in front of the vehicle just 10 minutes later, allowing us time to get out and admire its smart plumage, we knew it was going to be really good!

We headed S towards the Strait, being buffeted by the stiff wind, and as we approached Tarifa it was abundantly clear that the dense low cloud streaming over just inland meant our plans to go beyond Algeciras needed revising.

We stopped first at the rather unattractive Mirador del Estrecho. Despite the buffeting, a few raptors began to put in a show, including a superb Griffon Vulture which passed slowly overhead, while a few Short-toed Eagles hung over the coastal hillsides in search of their reptilian prey. The site is too popular with coaches however, and when the first few arrived, we moved on to quieter sites.

The dense woodland around the Huerta Grande interpretation centre provided a sharp contrast, the wind only slightly affecting the site, though it was blanketed in thick cloud. We walked a short circuit through the woodland, noting a large number of peeping Firecrests as we went, with a ticking Robin and a chinking Chaffinch also of note. A Short-toed Treecreeper out in a brief appearance, but a dead Iberian Mole and a very large nasty-looking centipede in a largely dry swimming pool were of note. As we sat having refreshments while a little rain came down (the first many of us had seen in months!), a couple of Sparrowhawks, a Honey Buzzard and Grey Wagtail were seen.

We headed back towards Tarifa, making a stop at the Cazalla viewpoint, where a number of Booted Eagles and a fine adult and more confusing immature Egyptian Vulture were well watched. The stiff wind meant that almost nothing was crossing to Africa however, so few birds were reaching the viewpoint, and we moved to the Valle del Santuario, finding little here of note, however, so headed a little further to the La Peña viewpoint, over which a few birds seemed to be flying.

We took lunch down to the viewpoint, but even before we started had more Griffons, Booted and Short-toed Eagles passing over! A little stream of Kestrels included at least one Lesser and a high male Marsh Harrier passed over in the melee of birds overhead. Some Black Storks spiralled up high, the first seventeen of a total of 58 during the afternoon!

We sat or stood and craned our necks upwards to watch the spectacle of mass migration unfolding in front of our eyes, with several hundred raptors passing over the course of the next couple of hours, often in concentrated bursts, adding a melanistic male Montagu's Harrier to the list.

Thinking that the show was dying down, we headed back to Cazalla for another look, but the absence of the raptor-counting volunteers was a poor omen and apart from a Honey Buzzard as we were leaving and a Booted Eagle just yards from the roadside, nothing else was noted.

We popped back to the Vale del Santuario given a 'tip-off', and although didn't find the bird we were looking for, instead found a group of six Lesser Kestrels mobbing a Peregrine, which responded with some impressive 'fun-runs' of its own. Birding on a surprisingly busy dusty track is not the best though, and as time was pressing on, we headed back for a refreshment stop, where by just sitting outside we were rewarded with more Griffons, Booted and Short-toed Eagles!

We finished of with a watch from the Puerto de Bolonia viewpoint, where a juvenile Kestrel perched long enough to admire its short wings and head pattern, though a group of nine Black Storks flew past in line, then spiralled up before heading high inland into the sierra. A terrific end, or so we thought...

Call-over finished at 8, but as we walked out to the restaurant, so we became aware that the wind had dropped and a large flock of Alpine Swifts were feeding over and a round the hotel, continuing almost until it was dark, even around the dining room!

Thursday 25th September

A few Audouin's Gulls and a couple of Cory's Shearwaters brightened early morning proceedings on the beach for a lucky few. These and the rest however scoped a perched Short-toed Eagle on a pylon in front of the hotel and a Honey Buzzard passing over immediately afterwards!

We went the short distance to La Janda, pausing to scan the area in a preliminary search for raptors, with several Marsh Harriers and a group of White Storks of most note. Continuing down a track we moved away from the road and stopped to admire a large flock of Goldfinches and Linnets in a thistly field. We got out to watch, and rapidly found the first of four Black Kites allowing prolonged views of the identification features before the whole flock later moved off west, with a few low Short-toed and Booted Eagles to remind us of the common species! A couple of fly-by Kestrels revealed at least one Lesser, with various Marsh Harriers constantly on the move.

Another stop on a raised track revealed the White Storks, most of which now moved to a small marshy area leaving one or two apparently exhausted birds behind flopped on the ground between some cattle, and as a Red Kite passed over, so a large group of Snipe and a couple of other waders got up briefly. A juvenile Montagu's Harrier was hunting over the marshy area and finally passed closer, while further movements of the commoner eagles and Griffons kept us more than occupied!

We drove on adjacent to unharvested rice fields, though the thick cover meant very little activity of water birds (in contrast to those paddies at Doñana), though shortly, another search ahead revealed our next 'quarry', a beautiful Black-shouldered Kite, which even flew for a short distance as a farmer's car passed, revealing its delightfully graceful flight before perching again on the cable of a huge irrigation pipe. Looking beyond this, we suddenly became aware of a large number of kites and Lesser Kestrels over one of the harvested cotton fields behind, though the distance and heat haze prevented better views.

Apart from thousands of sparrows hiding in reedbeds and hundreds of Goldfinches in bushes, the stiff wind kept all but the largest birds out of sight.

We arrived at the Embalse del Celemín just in time to find a superb juvenile Golden Eagle drifting towards the reservoir with other raptors. Apart from the usual Booted and Short-toed Eagles, a few Lesser Kestrels played over the trees near the dam, from which we observed a Stripe-necked Terrapin sunbathing, but the wind was too much to stand there in, so we popped back to the vans behind a sheltering wall. Views were possible from here and yet more passing raptors kept us occupied, though while a largely black Honey Buzzard was being watched, a superb White-rumped Swift passed just in front and then flashed past to race back-and-forth at close range for about a minute close in front for all to appreciate its narrow wings and long, narrow tail! Wow! As if this were not enough, another adult also dashed past even closer, just minutes later, bringing to a sudden end the movement of birds over our heads.

Our route back via Barbate was carefully timed to see the birds in the estuary, but oddly it was already fullÍ However, a juvenile Common Tern was hiding on the edge of a group of roosting gulls including a good number of mostly adult Audouin's Gulls, with behind, a feeding flock of Gannets and Cory's Shearwaters just a little way offshore. Rasping calls also alerted us to the presence of few roosting Sandwich Terns in the salinas on the other side of the road.

It was hot, but we still stopped on the edge of Zahara on our return for a short siesta, and after a short search were rewarded with a distant Blue Rock Thrush on the crags opposite, with Kentish Plover and Common Sandpipers on the edge of the brackish channel in front.

We finally arrived for our siesta, but couldn't get into the hotel straight away given a passing Osprey high overhead!

We rounded off the afternoon with a trip to Baelo Claudia. Although the conditions were very windy, a few Stonechats and Thekla Larks livened up the visit to the ruins of this fascinating Roman town which existed for about 900 years before being abandoned after a couple of severe earthquakes.

Friday 26th September

Another windy night and the wind turbines kept spinning on the ridge behind, still being in motion in the morning.

We headed S again and went straight out onto the middle of Los Lances beach, where at last there were no surfers for the first time since we'd been in the area! Birds were relatively few, but a nice variety of commoner raptors overhead, plus Northern Wheatears, Tawny Pipits and later a small group of Short-toed Larks which landed at fairly close range in the dunes. A huge flock of Calandra Larks which suddenly flew up from nearby fields when disturbed by a passing raptor were impressive, but only a few gulls were present on the strangely largely still flooded beach. However, a bit of scooping revealed roosting gulls towards Tarifa, so we moved down to a rather smelly viewpoint nearer Tarifa where there were plenty of resting gulls and terns, including Audouin's Gulls and Sandwich Terns, plus two Bar-tailed Godwit feeding on the beach.

Despite the strong wind, we headed E in slightly clearer conditions than two days before and passing lots of milling raptors went to the Algarrobo viewpoint. Here raptors streamed over in their hundreds in the racing cloud during the next 90 minutes or more, and eventually we simply couldn't watch any more, out neck muscles giving up in the process! Again the main species were Booted and Short-toed Eagles and Griffon Vultures, plus good numbers of Sparrowhawks, and highlights in the form of two adult Egyptian Vultures, two Honey Buzzards, various swifts and views to a cloud-shrouded Gibraltar, looking for all the world like a volcano in eruption!!

We took a break by moving the short distance back to lunch at Huerta Grande, then moved on again to Cazalla, where surprisingly it was virtually dead in the clear conditions! So, it was down to the smelly beach again, noting three Black Storks from the bus en route, and where 50+ Sandwich and 100+ Audouin's Gulls were roosting together with Yellow-legged and a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Thinking that with the strong wind there might be some seabird passage, we went down to Tarifa port ostensibly for a seawatch. However, much to my disappointment and surprise, a previously fancy building site had now transformed into a fully functional ferry port providing access to Morocco and so no access onto the seawall!

We started back, detouring up the Valle del Santuario, where a few well-seen raptors of commoner species were noted along with another Black Stork. After climbing all the up and coming down to overlook the N end of the La Janda plain, a Honey Buzzard rounded things off, so we thought, but an adult Egyptian Vulture just over the main road was fantastic, and then to cap it all, several Griffons were coming down to a dead cow just yards from the road back to Zahara and gave amazing views at very short range from the vehicle.

In classic Spanish style we had a mixed paella to finish and were invited by the hotel to a bottle of cava, which was dutifully taken on the rear patio of the hotel to round the trip off in fine fashion.

Saturday 27th September

Our last day, basically with little more than time to get to the airport, but a wee bit of leeway.

In fact, we didn't even get out of Zahara before we stepped out to a small group of Crag Martins hawking and wheeling over the creek near the town bridge. These then seemed to disappear, leaving us time to find a distant Blue Rock Thrush on the crags opposite, and hear another singing there, while a large flock of Crag Martins suddenly peeled off a rock face where they'd been basking in the early morning sun.

We continued to Barbate, where at last, the tide had dropped sufficiently for mud to show. Not only were there lots of waders about, mostly Dunlin and Greater Ringed Plover, but Redshank, a couple of Greenshank, an Oystercatcher, several distant Curlew and some feeding Bar-tailed Godwit, rounding things off in fine fashion.

I sincerely hope you had a great trip and had no hitches with the flight back. Given the very dry conditions since mid-May (it broke in spectacular fashion the following week!), it was not surprising we didn't see as many species as the previous year, but the variety and views of those we did were still excellent, and migration over the Strait simply stunning. While I don't know what your personal highlights were, for me, the juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle and simply fantastic close-range views of White-rumped Swift (a very elusive, though quite widespread species in the Strait area) stood out for me. I look forward to seeing you again on another trip! Very best wishes, John Muddeman

Species lists

Given the large number of sites visited, I've shortened the names to acronyms: PA = Palacio del Acebrón, EAc = El Acebuche, DM = Doñana marshes, LP = Laguna de Palos, LMa = Laguna de las Madres, LMe = Laguna de Medina, CT = Cabo de Trafalgar, ZA = Zahara de los Atunes, PL = Playa de los Lances, B = Barbate, Ma = Matalascañas, BC = Baelo Claudia, LJ = La Janda area, VS = Valle del Santuario, EC = Embalse del Celemín, Ca = Cazalla, ElAl = El Algarrobo,

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis): Only noted in the DM on 21st, LP and LMa on 22nd and LMe en route on 23rd.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus): 11 in the DM on 21st, 8 LMa on 22nd and 6+ LMe en route on 23rd.

Black-necked (Eared) Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis): One in the DM on 21st and 4+ LMe en route on 23rd.

Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea): 20+ of the Mediterranean breeding ssp. diomedea and one Atlantic breeding ssp. borealis off CT on 23rd, 6 off ZA and 20+ close inshore off B on 25th and plenty off ZA and PL on 26th.

Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus): 15+ mostly heading S off CT on 23rd and 10+ off ZA on 26th.

Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus): 3+ off Ma on 22nd, 80+ of CT on 23rd and 3 off ZA and 15+ off Ba and 10 off BC on 25th.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo): 6+ Río Tinto and one LP on 22nd.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea): Seen daily in variable number, though with large numbers in the DM on 21st.

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea): 3+ in the DM rice fields on 21st.

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis): Common and seen daily in variable number at numerous sites.

Great (White) Egret (Ardea alba): One in flight over El Rocío early on 22nd.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta): Plenty in the Dm on 21st, a few on 22nd, 15+ LM and 2 CT on 23rd, with a few LJ on 25th.

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides): One briefly in flight over rice fields in the Dm on 21st.

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax): 20+ flushed from deep ditches in the Dm on 21st.

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber): 15 in the DM on 21st, 100+ PNMO on 22nd, c. 10 LMe on 23rd and c.30 in the Cádiz bay salinas en route on 27th.

Black Stork (Ciconia nigra): Two DM on 21st, a total of 58 in the Straits area on 24th, one LJ on 25th and 3 PL and 1 VS on 26th.

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia): Quite common and seen daily except on 26th; max. 1500+ around a rubbish tip en route on 23rd, plus 100+ DM on 21st and 100+ LJ on 25th.

Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia): c. 200 in the DM on 21st.

White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala): 30+ on LMe on 23rd.

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea): Four in flight at LMe seen by Stan on 23rd.

Gadwall (Anas strepera): Lots at LP and PNMO on 22nd and dozens on LMe on 23rd.

Common Teal (Anas crecca): 8+ DM on 21st and 3 LP on 22nd.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): A few daily at widely scattered sites on 21st - 23rd and c. 50 over EC on 25th.

Garganey (Anas querquedula): One eclipse bird at LP on 22nd.

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): One in the DM on 21st, lots at various sites on 22nd and a few LMe on 23rd.

Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina): One eclipse male at LMe on 23rd.

Common Pochard (Aythya ferina): One LP on 22nd and 6 LMe on 23rd.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus): One in the Dm on 21st, singles PNMO and LP on 22nd, one LMe on 23rd, singles over ZA on 25th and 26th.

European Honey-buzzard (Pernis apivorus): A juvenile HG and a single Ca on 24th, singles ZA and BC on 25th and c. 10 (inc. 5+ PL) at various sites on 26th.

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus): One little beauty LJ on 25th.

Black Kite (Milvus migrans): c. 10 LJ on 25th and 1 Ca on 26th.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus): 3+ in the DM on 21st, 2 LJ on 25th,ç and one PL on 26th.

Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus): One seen by Jackie and Megan at El Rocío on 20th, 8+ over LMe on 23rd, 50+ in the Straits area on 24th, 25+ LJ and area on 25th and lots in the Straits area again on 26th.

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus): An adult + a second calendar-year bird Ca on 24th and 2 adults and an adult over LJ en route back on 26th.

Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus): Two over the DM on 21st were completely overshadowed by an estimated 150 in the Straits area on 24th and 300+ there on 26th, with c.30 at various sites on 23rd.

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus): A juvenile hunting over rice fields on 21st, a melanistic male from the La Peña viewpoint on 24th and a juvenile LJ on 25th.

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus): One or two daily at various sites on 22nd - 24th and 26th, including some high-flying migrants, but max. 6+ over the DM on 21st and 15+ LJ on 25th.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus): One El Acebuche on 22nd, then 4+ various sites on 24th, 1 Ba on 25th and 8 various sites on 26th.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo): Noted daily in small number except on 25th, including one probable ssp. vulpinus very high over the La Peña viewpoint on 24th, and max. 10+ in the DM on 21st.

Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti): An adult over El Rocío on 21st and a superb juvenile on the ZA to LJ road on 24th.

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos): A juvenile over the EC on 25th was my first in the Straits area.

Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus): One - three daily at various sites from 20th - 23rd, then 200 in the Straits area on 24th, and 400+ there on 26th, with c. 50 at various sites on 25th.

Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni): One en route on 23rd, 6 in the VS on 24th, 50 at various sites but mostly over fields on LJ on 25th and c. 6 en route on 26th.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus): Seen widely though in small number daily, except on 18th

Peregrine (Falco peregrinus): A female stooping half-heartedly at waders over the DM on 21st and one 'playing' with Lesser Kestrels in the VS on 24th.

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa): Two PA on 20th, a total of 12 in DM on 21st and 20+ EAc on 22nd.

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus): Two males near Benalup on 25th.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus): One heard calling at PA on 20th.

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus): Two+ in DM on 21st, 6+ PNMO on 22nd and two ER on 23rd.

Purple Swamp-hen (Porphyrio porphyrio): Two in the DM on 21st and 6+ LP on 22nd.

Common Coot (Fulica atra): Two at DM on 22nd, lots in LP and a few LP on 23rd, an estimated 10 000 LMe on 24th and two EC on 25th.

Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata): Three PNMO and one LP on 22nd.

Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus): One Ba on 27th.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus): 30 DM on 21st, plenty PNMO and area on 22n, 4 LMe on 24th and 2+ LJ on 25th.

European Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta): 100+ in the DM on 21st.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus): 50+ in the DM on 21st and one LJ on 25th.

Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola): 3 PNMO on 22nd.

Greater Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula): 30 DM on 21st, 6+ PNMO on 22nd, 3+ CT on 23rd and 6 PL on 26th.

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius): Six DM on 21st, one heard PNMO on 22nd and also heard LJ on 25th.

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus): Seen daily in small number from 22ndto 25th, plus c. 20 PL on 26th.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa): 100+ DM on 21st and 100+ PNMO on 22nd.

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica): 5+ CT on 23rd and 2+ PL on 26th.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata): Two+ PNMO on 2nd.

Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus): 17+ DM on 21st and 2 PNMO on 22nd.

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus): Ten - 20 PNMO on 22nd.

Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia): Four in the DM on 21st and one+ heard PNMO on 22nd.

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus): Two DM on 21st and 2 LJ on 25th.

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos): Two ZA on 25th.

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres): Eight+ PNMO on 22nd and 2 Ba on 25th.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago): 50+ LJ on 25th.

Sanderling (Calidris alba): 15 MA and 2 PNMO on 22nd, 20+ CT on 23rd, one ZA and 15 Ba on 25th and c. 30 PL on 26th.

Little Stint (Calidris minuta): Two DM on 21st and c.10 PNMO on 22nd.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina): One DM on 21st, 3+ Ma on 22nd and 3 LJ on 25th.

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea): 10 in the PNMO on 22nd.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax): Two in the DM on 21st.

Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus): Two distant birds from CT on 23rd.

Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii): Noted daily from 23rd to 26th, with max. 100+ PL on 26th.

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus (cachinnans) michahellis): Seen daily on and by the coast from 22nd, with max. 50+ Ba on 25th and 100+ PL on 26th.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus (fuscus) intermedius / graelsii): Seen daily from 21st, including inland, with lots PNMO on 22nd.

(Common) Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus): Small numbers 21st - 23rd and 25th and 26th.

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger): Four juveniles LP on 22nd.

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis): Noted daily on coast at various sites from 21st - 26th, max. 12 ZA and 55 PL on 26th.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo): One over the Río Odiel on 22nd, a juvenile Ba on 25th and an adult Tarifa harbour on 26th.

Rock Dove (Columba livia): Noted daily in variable number; all were feral pigeons.

Common Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus): Just two at PA on 20th.

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur): Excellent numbers: a total of 73 DM on 21st and 3 ER and 1 ZA on 23rd.

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto): A few noted daily at several sites from 21st.

Nightjar sp. (Caprimulgus sp.): One, probably a Red-necked Nightjar seen from El Rocío early on 23rd.

Alpine Swift (Apus melba): Large numbers: 3+1 PA on 20th, 17 DM on 21st, 10 Ma on 22nd, 6 ZA and 1+ LP on 24th, 30+ ZA on 25th and plenty ZA on 26th.

Common Swift (Apus apus): Three+ at various sites on 24th, one EC on 25th and 6+ at ElAl on 26th.

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus): c. 30 DM on 21st, 10+ ZA and 2+ at different sites on 24th, and plenty at PL and ElAl on 26th.

White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer): Two EC on 25th.

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis): Six+ DM on 21st and 1 ER on 23rd.

Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops): Singles PA on 20th, en route on 22nd, ER on 23rd and Puerto de Bolonia on 24th, and two DM on 21st.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major): Two+ PA on 20th, one DM on 21st and one HG on 24th.

European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis): One seen by Stan at ER on 23rd.

Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra): About 200 in fields behind PL on 24th and 26th, plus c. 200 LJ on 26th.

Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla): One in the DM on 21st and 6+ PL on 26th.

Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens): 6+ DM on 21st.

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata): Common and widespread in moderate number at numerous sites; seen daily except on 22nd.

Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae): Two EAc and 3 en route on 22nd, 2 LP on 24th and 2+ BC on 25th.

Wood Lark (Lullula arborea): Four in pinewoods en route on 21st.

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia): Two DM on 21st.

Eurasian Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris): 25+ ZA on 27th.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica): Common and widespread; seen daily except on 22nd, max. 100+ on 21st and 26th.

Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica): Fairly common and widespread; seen daily except on 22nd and 23rd, max. 20+ on 24th and 15+ on 26th.

Common House Martin (Delichon urbica): Common and widespread; seen daily. Max. numbers in the large colonies in ER.

Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava): Subspecies uncertain; one+ ER on 20th, 30+ Dm + ER on 21st, heard at ZA on 23rd and 12+ at various sites on 26th.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea): One over Ma beach on 22nd, one HG on 24th, heard at EC on 25th and two at HG on 26th.

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris): Two DM on 21st, one PNMO on 22nd, one ER on 23rd, 4 en route on 25th and 5 PL on 26th.

Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis): One PA on 20th, two en route on 21st and 3+ at various sites on 22nd.

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator): One juvenile seen in the DM on 21st.

Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius): A juvenile male at ZA on 25th and at least two there on 27th.

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula): One EAc on 22nd, several ER on 23rd, one HG on 24th and heard HG on 26th.

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula): Two at HG on 24th.

Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus): At least four males at EAc on 22nd.

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra): 30+ DM on 21st and 2 PNMO on 22nd.

Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquata rubicola): Widespread, fairly common and seen daily, max. numbers on 25th.

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe): 20+ DM on 21st, one ER on 23rd, one VS no 24th and 2 PL and one VS on 26th.

Western Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. hispanica): A superb male on a roadside fence near Ma on 22nd.

Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed W.) (Cisticola juncidis): Fairly common and widespread; seen and / or heard daily, max. 20+ DM on 21st.

Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti): Fairly common and widespread; heard PA, DM, ER, HG and en route on 25th, but two seen superbly at ER on 23rd.

European Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus): Three DM on 21st, one LM on 22nd, 4 ER on 23rd.

Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta): One en route north of the DM on 21st.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus): 15+ DM on 21st, 6+ EAc on 22nd and several ER on 23rd.

Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus): Four+ bathing at ER on 23rd (based on status and distribution).

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla): A male EAc on 22nd, heard HG on 24th and heard at ElAl on 26th.

Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin): One PA on 20th, one EAc on 22nd and 1 ER on 23rd.

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis): Singles PA on 20th and ER on 21st.

Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala): Fairly common and widespread; seen and / or heard daily except on 21st and 24th.

Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia c. cantillans): One briefly EAc on 22nd.

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata): One PA on 20th and 3+ EAc on 22nd.

Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus): 10+ at HG on 24th.

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata): Two+ PA on 20th, 2 DM on 21st, 4+ EAc on 22nd and 2 ER on 24th.

European Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca): Six+ PA on 20th, 4 DM on 21st, 10+ at various sites on 22nd and several ER on 24th.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus): Several at PA on 20th were the only ones!

Crested Tit (Parus cristatus): Two very close at EAc on 22nd.

Great Tit (Parus major): Seen daily in small number from 20th to 24th.

Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus): Only seen in small number on 20th, 21st, 23rd, 24th and 26th.

Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla): Two seen and 6+ heard PA on 20th, heard at EAc on 22nd and 1+ at HG on 24th.

Iberian Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cooki): Six+ PA on 20th, 3+ en route on 21st and 60+ at various sites on 22nd.

Common Magpie (Pica pica): 10+ en route on 20th, 6+ at various sites on 21st and 2+ ER on 23rd.

Western Jackdaw (Corvus monedula): Lots under Vejer de la Frontera en route on 23rd and 25+ by the EC on 25th.

Common Raven (Corvus corax): Six in the DM on 21st and 2 en route on 22nd.

Eurasian Starling (Sturnus vulgaris): Two+ in a Spotless Starling flock by PL on 26th.

Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor): Common and widespread; seen daily and widely.

Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra): Very few! Three+ DM on 21st, c. 10 various sites on 24th, a few at various sites on 25th and one VS on 26th.

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs): Heard at PA on 20th, and six+ HG on 24th.

European Serin (Serinus serinus): Just 10+ en route on 21st and heard on 22nd!

European Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris): One PA on 20th, 2+ en route on 21st and one PL on 26th.

European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis): Common and widespread; seen daily 21st - 26th, with especially large numbers at LJ on 25th.

Common Linnet (Carduelis cannabina): Uncommon; only noted in small number at LJ on 25th.

Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes): Three PA on 20th.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus): Abundant and widespread; seen daily.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus): 20+ en route to DM on 21st and heard EAc on 22nd.


Iberian Mole (Talpa occidentalis): A dead animal in the old swimming pool at HG on 24th.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes): A dead animal on the road behind PL on 24th.

Common (Small-spotted) Genet (Genetta genetta): Scats found at PA on 20th.

Wild Boar (Feral pig) (Sus scrofa): Rootlings by these animals at PA on 20th.

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus): 30+ ER on 23rd and a stag at EC on 25th.

Fallow Deer (Dama dama): 30+ ER on 21st and "loads, a whole bunch" there on 23rd.

Iberian Hare (Lepus granatensis): Droppings EAc on 22nd.

European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus): Three tiddlers on LJ on 25th!

Bat sp./spp. (Chiroptera): At ER, 3+ on 21st, 4 on 22nd and several on 23rd.


Iberian Pool Frog (Rana perezi): Heard at LJ on 25th.

Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauretanica): 30+ noted by Phil near ER on 20th, and 2 ER on 21st, plus 2+ ZA on 23rd - 25th.

Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus): One PA on 20th.

Spiny-footed Lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus): One PA on 20th and several EAc on 22nd.

Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis hispanica): One ER on 23rd, singles EC and BC on 25th and one HG on 26th.

Stripe-necked Terrapin (Mauremys caspica): One PA on 20th and one EC on 25th.

Red-eared Slider (Pseudemys scripta): One PA on 20th.


Swallowtail (Papilio machaon): Singles on 21st and 24th.

Small White (Artogeia rapae): Singles on 23rd and 25th.

Western Bath White (Pontia daplidice): One LMe on 23rd.

Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus): Recorded in small numbers on 22nd and 23rd.

Lang's Short-tailed Blue (Leptotes pirithous): Seen on 21st and 22nd.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta): Only seen at PA on 20th.

Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui): The commonest species, seen daily in small to moderate number except on 24th.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina): Singles on 24th and 25th, and several on 26th.


Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus): A male at ZA on 25th.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum): Singles at ER on 21st, ZA on 24th - 26th and two at HG on 26th.

Crimson Speckled (Utethesia pulchella): Two at ER and two en route on 21st, 1 EAc on 22nd and 1 ER on 23rd.


Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator): two males LMe on 23rd.

Lesser Emperor Dragonfly (Anax parthenope): Common and seen daily from 21st - 26th, with lots in DM on 21st.

Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea): A huge female at HG on 26th.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta): A female PA on 20th, 3+ EAc on 22nd and one at HG on 26th.

Scarlet Dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea): Noted on both 21st and 25th.

Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombei): The commonest small dragonfly, seen daily from 21st, except on 24th, with lots in DM on 21st.

Southern Darter (Sympetrum meridionalis): Single females identified on 21st and 25th.

Iberian Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura graellsii): A few on both 21st and 25th.


Field Cricket (Gryllus campestris): Common and widespread, especially obvious around the lights at ZA.

Egyptian Grasshopper (Anacridium aegyptium): At ZA, four on 25th and one on 26th.

Red-winged Grasshopper Sp. unknown One at LP on 24th.

Green-eyed band-winged Horsefly Tabanidae Hundreds in the DM on 21st and one PNMO on 22nd.

Hornet (Vespa crabro): One HG on 26th.

Violet Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sp.): One at ZA on 26th.

Scarab Beetle (Scarabaeus sp.): One ER on 23rd.


Fiddler Crab (Uca tangeri): Dozens, maybe hundreds in the mud of the estuary at Ba on 27th.

'large nasty-looking' centipede (Scolopendra cingulatus): One in the almost empty swimming pool at HG on 24th.

© The Travelling Naturalist 2003