20 - 27 March 2004

John Muddeman

An inaugural trip to an area we know well from a little later in the spring on a combined tour, and especially in autumn watching the migration going the opposite way. Consequently, something of an unknown quantity but possibly even more fun as a result!

The weather accompanied us almost throughout, despite strong winds on the penultimate full day and the threat of heavy rain on the last. The temperatures were very high at the beginning, up to 27ºC on our first full day, cooling off towards the end, being just c. 12ºC as we returned to Seville. This though produced changes in migration, especially concentrating birds for our last full day in the Strait, which was simply amazing.

The highlights were numerous and varied, ranging from the stunning red dawn in crystal clear conditions at El Rocío, to the excitement of the whole group on finding and watching at leisure a fine Orphean Warbler, to terrific views of the male Blue Rock Thrush despite very windy conditions. What will stick in my mind is the sheer thrill of watching hundreds of birds of prey and storks pouring across the Strait of Gibraltar from the Moroccan coast opposite, spiralling up, then heading purposefully north towards their breeding grounds tangible migration, something often so difficult to physically see.

I would also like to add that given the remarkably varied origins and interests of the group -including two non-birdwatchers, who did almost stoically well at times when we stopped 'yet again' for something of interest- it was a fascinating trip. My thanks to you all for making it so interesting and fun.

Saturday 20th March

We arrived to bright, sunny and very warm conditions - a pleasant change for most!

The transfer to El Rocío went without a hitch and after decanting ourselves into our respective rooms we took the very short walk from the hotel down to look over the flooded marsh in front.

A flock of Flamingos fed peacefully at the back, a smattering of ducks, including a few Red-crested Pochard graced the water and numbers of waders fed in flocks along the water's edge. A few Whiskered Terns 'creaked' as they floated around, with a high-flying flock of Collared Pratincoles heralding the presence of a raptor. A group of Griffon Vultures loafed around on the grass in the distance, but a Black Kite, a dark phase Booted Eagle and later, a fine Short-toed Eagle made their debuts, the latter even perching on a distant tree and making a Common Magpie look the size of a sparrow!

The roof of the old SEO information centre made a fine raised vantage point, allowing us to appreciate the finer details of the range of birds in front in superb light. Little Egrets with their aigrettes, metallic reflections from two Glossy Ibis, smart pied Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, mottled Black-tailed Godwits, noisy Common and a Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Common Snipe all gave good views, while running around on the mud, moderate numbers of Little Ringed Plovers were easier to spot than the few roosting Kentish Plovers.

Tom spotted a few pipits grovelling around in the flotsam left by recent flooding, two of which were Meadow Pipits and the third a winter-plumaged Water Pipit, testing our identification skills. A Little Owl called from an adjacent Eucalyptus. The whole thing was topped-off by the arrival of a large female Peregrine which in the middle of the chaos which ensued snatched an Avocet almost off the water then proceeded to pluck and eat it on the grass over 20 minutes or so!

A fine start. Ron arrived in time to join the group for dinner and hear the briefing for Sunday...

Sunday 21st March

A very inauspicious start for the leader, with my alarm failing to sound and me not waking until 15 minutes before we were due to leave! Still, we only left 20 minutes late in the end, allowing a few more minutes down by the water's edge. Tom and Kim had been out early by the hotel too, seeing a number of 'goodies' including three stints among other things!

Our first stop was at the bridge over one of the feeder streams for the El Rocío marshes. A superb pair of Red-rumped Swallows floated past in front, spending time visiting a nest under the bridge and collected mud from the middle of the river below.

A couple of sparrows chipping from the wires were the hoped-for Tree Sparrows, sounds of 'crushing glass' heralded the first of numerous Corn Buntings singing nearby, with Zitting Cisticolas also putting in an early appearance. A Woodchat Shrike peered out from the unlikely perch of the metal support of an electricity pylon. The numerous sandbanks in the stream held a few waders, including our first Green Sandpipers and Greenshank.

The next habitat was in marked contrast, with mature Umbrella Pine woodland and scrub. The surprisingly heavy traffic rushing past was highly disturbing though, and a Crested Tit which was perched high in a tree opposite as we arrived rapidly moved off. A few other birds were singing though, including a Serin and Sardinian Warblers 'rattled' in the scrub. A flock of Iberian Azure-winged Magpies only put in a rather distant appearance once we'd all got back in the vehicle however, so we left them for later, despite minor protests!!

We turned off through a rough area of arable fields and orange orchards where a fine Booted Eagle wheeled overhead and a male Serin sang incessantly from a nearby orange tree. The road ahead revealed a pair of Ravens on posts and a Southern Grey Shrike, which as predicted, disappeared the moment we got out try and see it! A 'blipping' Quail a short distance ahead was heard well however.

Despite poor roads, we were able to admire our first roadside Cattle Egrets and then paused to look at our first close White Stork's nest, complete with adult, with more in an adjacent field. "Shreeping" sparrows in the trees were mostly House, but Tom managed brief views of a Spanish Sparrow male, scarce here in spring.

We now started the long and somewhat bumpy route across the marshes on the tracks, first through dry fields, then arable, then rice fields and finally to grazed salt-marsh, the 'marisma' of Doñana.

The wonderfully rustic fences make excellent viewpoints for migrant and resident species alike, and we stopped and started on innumerable occasions to look especially at more Corn Buntings and Woodchat Shrikes, with a flock of Bee-eaters passing rapidly through only unfortunately being visible to a few. The occasional Zitting Cisticola 'zitted' past in display flight.

More Little Egrets appeared as we got closer to the marshes, with a remarkable sight being a mixed flock of Cattle and Little Egrets and two Squacco Herons on top of a palm-leaf covered shelter!

Time (as ever here) was really marching on, with still some way to go, but more and more birds just kept coming. Various Marsh Harriers gave us some practice with more raptors, with singing and calling Lesser Short-toed Larks in the same spot being our first. A fine male Redstart gave all too brief views, but some Short-toed Larks on the track in front were more confiding, as was a super male Spectacled Warbler on a fence, with three more seen ahead in short shrubs! Birds on the track were three Short-toed Larks, just to add confusion!

We pulled over to look at a section of flooded riverbed and emergent vegetation, several Purple Swamp-hens putting in a show, though little did we realise we'd see 60+ by the end of the day, including over 30 from one point! Hard to believe it was an endangered species in the 1980s, though still rather local. A large egret flying towards us was a hoped-for Great White, an increasingly regular species in Spain, with a Red-crested Pochard pair providing a colourful sideline! A gorgeous Purple Heron then appeared, giving us a full lazy fly-by before landing, just to show off.

Lunch was beckoning so we pushed on past ever more Squacco and Purple Herons and Purple Swamp-hens. What a sight!

Lunch outside the visitors' centre produced a couple of Short-toed Eagles and a squealing Water Rail, while a huge Purple Heron colony and a roosting Black-crowned Night Heron were seen from inside.

It was now seriously hot, so we returned a short distance to look for one of our target birds, which we only found at distance and against the sun. A few summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebes graced the water among a wide range of species.

We finished off with a long drive back across the marshes, and after finally finding no less than three Red-knobbed Coots in one area, this time properly, so that we could fully appreciate the red knobs, we came back through the various habitats bordering the National and Natural Parks. We got back late, but very satisfied after a superb day.

Monday 22nd March

An early morning walk by the marsh at El Rocío was a treat, with Greater Flamingos, Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Redshanks, Ruff, three Little Stints and various Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers as the closer highlights, but the whole atmosphere of a beautiful cool red dawn and crystal clear and still conditions were simply unbeatable.

The main part of the day started in the El Acebuche Interpretation Centre, where our first 'proper' Iberian Azure-winged Magpies were being improper by lining up along the edges of a rubbish bin! We still enjoyed terrific view however! The White Storks nesting on the roof bill-clattered loudly in their courtship display and Booted Eagles and Black Kites were almost continually overhead.

Walking out over the wooden board walks which protect the fragile sandy soils, things were remarkably quiet, but a warbler dropping discretely into a bramble bush turned out to be a fine Orphean Warbler, complete with pale iris, which was confiding enough to come out on various occasions and enabled us to study its subtle plumage pattern. The various hides overlooking a large pool had little to offer too, except for more Red-crested Pochards, Pochards and Little Grebes on the open water, with a few Purple Swamp-hens hiding in the emergent bulrushes. A few lizards and scores of the dainty nodding white bells of Three-leaved Snowflake provided a fine diversion. The last hide produced nothing more than a brief Willow Warbler for Tom, though en route back, single male Black-eared Wheatear and Woodchat Shrike had suddenly appeared in the scrub.

We returned towards another visitors' centre at La Rocina and searched for Dartford and Sardinian Warblers in the low scrub. The former was rather more obliging, fluttering up in its seemingly uncoordinated display flight before dropping down to vanish deep into the scrub. Persistence paid off and we had fine views, especially considering just one bird seemed to be present in the area!

We parked up to be met with difficult conditions to see birds in the woodlands it was hot, sunny, midday, and to cap it all with lots of noisy kids (though it's good that they were there, learning about the countryside). A few tits, warblers and Short-toed Treecreeper were seen briefly and usually by a few, with Cetti's Warblers and a Cuckoo calling rather more straightforward. A Wryneck briefly called on a couple of occasions, but went very quiet before we'd even got close. After an hour, we'd had relatively little success, but on our return to the vehicle we bumped into an Iberian Chiffchaff with nesting material in its beak.

Lunch was taken here with dozens of Pallid Swifts feeding over the woods.

Given the now also breezy conditions we took an afternoon drive west to Huelva and the Marismas del Odiel. However, as we made good time, we continued past for a quick stop at Portil, to look at the lagoon. This was a very good move, as despite a stiff breeze making viewing a little awkward, a few fine Black-necked Grebes were present and a male White-headed Duck, complete with bright blue beak sailed out from its hiding place and paddled right across before disappearing again. A quick search of the bushes nearby also produced a dark and cryptically coloured Moorish Gecko.

The salinas by the Odiel were full of birds including Avocets, stilts and Redshanks, a Sanderling made a debut, two Greenshank perched up for us to admire, and masses more waders were present but sadly beyond range. A male Marsh Harrier came in and took a Redshank right in front. The pool just behind us, normally alive with birds was virtually empty, but among the few birds present was a neck-collared Red-knobbed Coot, one of the many birds from the reintroduction program based on the edge of Doñana. To cap things off, Tom found a superb adult Slender-billed Gull which took off almost immediately we got our scopes on it, but fortunately returned to land at reasonable distance on the nearest salt pan pool.

We rounded off with a drive along the long road which passes through old salinas by the river, noting various waders en route. Distant Sandwich Terns were fishing in the river and more harriers floated over the marshes. We finally reached the end of the salt-marsh where Grey Plovers and Dunlin formed the bulk of a roosting wader flock, but various Turnstones and Common Curlew provided variety. A Common Sandpiper and three Whimbrel were briefly seen as we returned, with an even briefer female Hen Harrier hunting near the bridge just as we left.

We got back with an hour before the call-over after another fruitful day out.

Tuesday 23rd March

This was our transfer day to the Strait of Gibraltar area, but we started with a long pre-breakfast outing for most of group. Given the lack of woodland birds the day before, we returned to the Palacio del Acebrón via a detour which yielded a very distant pair of Black-winged Kites. The drive to the Palacio was punctuated by various stops for Woodchat Shrikes, two all-too-brief Thekla Larks and a pair of Common Ravens. Not surprisingly we arrived to more bird song than the previous day, including several Iberian Chiffchaffs and a singing Nightingale by car park.

A friend of mine emerged from the woods and after a quick snatch of song from a recording he carried, the adjacent but elusive Iberian Chiffchaff pair came out close for us to observe. Despite the apparent lack of success the day before here, we'd actually proven breeding of the species for the first time ever in Doñana!

We quickly left them in peace and strolled towards the old palace. A Crested Tit finally showed itself in a pine, but from then on it was difficult to see much more than Chaffinches! As we walked on however, Tom noted two Hawfinches flying off and found a female Cirl Bunting too, but which only perched briefly before vanishing. The return walk saw a little more activity though, with Tree Sparrows, and Serins also present.

Time was not on our side again, but our drive back was further held up, this time by a stunning group of Bee-eaters on nearby wires, lining up before sallying out after passing insects. However, the first bird we found in the scopes was a smart Woodlark on the fence!

The transfer went smoothly, with Crested Larks at our 'coffee and diesel' stop, then a short walk before lunch at the remarkable Laguna de Medina. Despite being famous for its waterfowl and waders (with just a few more Black-necked Grebes of note on rather barren lake), the surroundings were alive with small birds, especially given a pair of Stonechats feeding three fledglings right in front! An early Great Reed Warbler grunted and 'chuntered' from the reeds, a female Woodchat Shrike upset both Cetti's and Subalpine Warblers sufficiently for them to come out and scold it, allowing us repeated views, with Sardinian and Willow Warblers, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat all seen in the adjacent scrub and thistles. A superb male Montagu's Harrier drifted in low over the fields, spiralled up over the lake before dropping away as it continued N a superb sight.

To make things more pleasant, we came across country, detouring over the very dry and rather dull La Janda, but with a stop by a muddy paddy for a few waders and a pair of hunting Short-toed Eagles and for a little longer by a small reservoir where passing Booted Eagle and Griffons kept us busy and a Green Woodpecker yaffled from the trees. A few pairs of Red-legged Partridge finally put in an appearance, thankfully at close range as they ran across the road and onto a ploughed field. We won't dwell too long on the gun-touting guard on a motorbike who tried to stop Terry taking a photo, and failed (actually a friendly affair), or the rather dodgy state of the track across La Janda! The dozy Pheasants by the road at one point here were unusual.

We arrived to fine conditions and a stiff NW breeze, with time for Tom and Kim to find a few birds off shore and on the beach, respectively, including Balearic Shearwater, Great Skua and Audouin's Gull of most note! After dark there was a remarkable passage of Striped Hawk-moths, up to a dozen being present at one light behind the restaurant!

Wednesday 24th March

The day dawned bright and clear again, but cold and without the stiff NW breeze of the day before. Those up early took a look along the shore, seeing a few Sanderling, a flock of Black-winged Stilts on passage, a few Audouin's Gulls, a Balearic Shearwater and a probable Little Gull between them.

We took a quick look over La Janda, egged-on by a female Montagu's Harrier passing over the minibus just before we arrived, and though this couldn't be relocated we watched and listened to an extraordinary display by dozens of Calandra Larks over the ploughed field immediately in front.

The mountains loomed to the E and S and we wound our way down towards the Strait, seeing the coast of Morocco as we went. Turning off onto a small track we negotiated a couple of temporary road blocks and parked to give us a short walk out onto dunes behind the Playa de los Lances.

A Little Owl on the cornice of a small building was a fine herald to our arrival and set the scene. Corn Buntings kept up an almost continuous appearance, and while a male Common Redstart was very brief on one side, a small flock on the fence on the other included a male Spanish and House Sparrows plus several hybrids of various forms! The grass of the dunes was rich in birds too, playing host to a fine Tawny Pipit, small groups of Linnets and Goldfinches, three Short-toed and several Crested Larks, Meadow Pipits and a few Skylarks. The wires were perching sites for Woodchat Shrikes and Stonechats. Pallid Swifts kept up an almost constant overhead presence, but despite keeping our eyes regularly turned upwards, nothing else was present.

A movement in the grass revealed a small flock of Grey Plover, resting behind the beach which was regularly disturbed by joggers and walkers, and closer scrutiny also revealed a Turnstone with them. A male Black-eared Wheatear was rather elusive, but a Northern Wheatear slightly bolder.

Two small rivers drain out across the wide beach and form a permanent partial flood, attractive to waders and gulls. Sanderlings and Dunlins formed the bulk, with a Redshank and also a Little Egret for variety, while roosting birds included a moderate number of Audouin's Gulls and Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed for comparison. A number of Kentish Plovers were also present here and on the dunes. Though conditions were rather 'murky', the views out to sea finally laid our doubts to rest over a large flock of duck which had been batting back and forth some way out. A small flock settled closer and we marvelled at the presence of some 400 or more Garganey resting offshore on migration!

Our walk back finally coincided with a few raptors, and a few Booted Eagles (oddly all dark phase birds) came in off the sea and headed inland. A small warbler popped up and we were all able to enjoy a female Subalpine Warbler hunting for prey along the fences in front.

It was warm, so we headed for a drink in Tarifa. Having finally parked we got out only to find a stream of Black Kites coming in low over the town from the sea. This was followed by another group as we sipped our drinks and followed-up by half a dozen Lesser Kestrels drifted around over the old part of the town, one of which obligingly perched in the top of a Monkey Puzzle tree a bizarre combination!

The Mirador del Estrecho was highly rewarding, with a large flock of Black Kites and about six Egyptian Vultures spiralling up in the distance as we arrived, and plenty more Black Kites passing as we watched, including an also all-too-brief and distant Osprey, with small numbers of Short-toed and especially Booted Eagles almost continuously passing through.

All good things come to an end though, and things rapidly went quiet, so we took lunch in the grounds of Huerta Grande. This was far from straightforward though, given a pair of Crested Tits just feet overhead and a singing Firecrest in the same conifers as we stepped out! A Robin en route to the cafe tables was our first, but fortunately lunch was relatively uninterrupted except for the odd raptor passing over. A walk through the grounds showed a fine Stripeless Tree Frog seemingly protecting an egg-mass bizarrely out of water then the first of at least seven Firecrests in the next hour or so! Things were otherwise fairly quiet, with just a few birds in song, until we found a group of Siskins feeding in a fruiting elm. Hawfinches are also fond of these seeds and Kim soon picked one out in full view, there being three in total allowing excellent prolonged views of this elusive species.

Our return was punctuated first with a look for a few minutes from the Cazalla viewpoint, with just a few Booted Eagles passing and we finished with another few minutes at the 'estuary' at Valdevaquero. Numerous Sanderling, a Little Egret, a Common Sandpiper and a Northern Wheatear were small pickings, but a fine number of Kentish and a Little Ringed Plover, plus two more Northern Wheatears on a drier area of mud were a fine sight and a fine end to the day.

Thursday 25th March

We made an early pre-breakfast excursion to Cabo de Trafalgar, despite a stiff offshore (i.e.) E wind. Very little was visible moving, but eventually Sandwich Terns, Gannets, a few Cory's Shearwaters and a very distant Great Skua were seen by most. Various gulls and small waders in a sand-blasted shallow pool below the lighthouse hill included some more Audouin's.

The small fishing port of Barbate lies only a short distance away, and after another failed (though albeit brief) visit to look for Blue Rock Thrush near Zahara, we headed to the estuary and marismas of Barbate. Despite the at times severe wind, the birds had come to roost on the exposed mud and a range of species of note were seen. Up to five Caspian Terns at a time beat into the wind by the bridge with others resting among the large numbers of Sandwich Terns and gulls. Four Mediterranean Gulls kept a slight distance from the roosting Sandwich Terns, but were very distant, though another 5 in an old salt pan close to the road as we returned were much more visible and displayed almost all the plumages possible except for full adult. A female Montagu's Harrier struggled in over the beach, battling against the gusting wind and was swept away northwards.

With the fierce wind forecast for the whole day, the only option was to search for somewhere on the leeward side of the hills. Back at the Mirador we took another look, but little could move through and so after a quick drink we took a good track which wound it's way inland through the sierras. This proved to be an excellent choice, and despite few birds being visible given the gusting conditions, we heard numerous and saw a few Sardinian Warblers and Stonechats in the shorter scrub. A pause in a fine patch of Cork Oak woodland revealed little until Tom spotted a Western Bonelli's Warbler out of the vehicle window! Despite searching for it, however the strong gusts moved the tree-top foliage so much that we gave up, noting a couple of Great Tits and a Blackbird instead.

The views as we went were terrific though, and we crossed the first of a few little streams tumbling down the hillsides and creating their own tiny and humid microclimate as they passed. A few more birds, including Chaffinches, Linnets and Goldfinches began to appear, Tom spotted a Hawfinch flashing across just in front. Another patch of cork oaks also held an elusive Mistle Thrush, but which moved rapidly off as we arrived.

Lunch was calling, and after watching a large flock of Bee-eaters from the bus which were wheeling around in the wind, so we found somewhere sheltered with fine views to the W. This proved to be an inspired choice, with the Bee-eaters suddenly reappearing low overhead minutes later and we watched them battling to regain some sort of direction as they tried to continue their migration. Also, despite the rather dry looking soil, various plants were in flower, including the blue flowers of milkwort and Scrambling Gromwell, a few pink flowers of Spanish Heath and a few buttercups and look-alikes.

Raptors were all but absent though, not surprising given the lack of migrants able to come across from the African coast nearby, but as we rounded a corner, a couple of Crag Martin were racing back and forth along a rocky outcrop. Even before we'd stopped, so we were also able to appreciate the blue colour of a perched male Blue Rock Thrush on top of the same crag. This flew back and forth on various occasions, perching out and even occasionally singing several times, and a delightful sight. The Crag Martins also continued for some time, 'filling in' the moments when the rock thrush took a break from us!

We finally came out onto a back road, only to have a smart male Ring Ouzel fly across in front before disappearing into deep scrub. The stop however also revealed a colony of the huge endemic squill, Scilla peruviana in flower on the verge right beside us, a new species for all.

The route to our last stop was enlivened by Tom's fine find of a large Egyptian Mongoose running through a field very close to the road, though it crossed rapidly behind us and disappeared into dense scrub.

The area also holds considerable historic interest and to vary things we finished off at the ruins of the Roman town of Baelo Claudia (2 B.C. to 7 A.D.). Though only partially excavated and having been destroyed by two huge earthquakes, a remarkable amount of the basic structure still exists and provides a fine example of a whole town at an accessible scale. The trip round was also interspersed with good looks at Crested and Thekla Larks, Stonechats and Sardinian Warbler, plus flight views of Zitting Cisticolas.

Even as we left, a group of gulls on the beach nearby looked interesting and indeed, was almost completely made up of Audouin's Gulls! A few adults in the group yelled throatily, revealing the bright red insides of their mouths, while others bathed in a pool and others (including one which did an extraordinary loop-the-loop!) came in almost continuously. Almost 50 were finally perched there when we finally dragged ourselves away. A fitting end to see such a concentration of this rare and attractive species.

Friday 26th March

The weather had been forecast almost the same as the day before, but with rain... A local however, told me that rain and the levante (easterly) winds did not go together, and thankfully he was right. The day dawned almost still and mild, with rain threatening in the dense clouds, which meant nocturnal migrants had been grounded. Tom and Kim on the pre-breakfast walk by the hotel found a number of Subalpine Warblers, a Nightingale and a Robin as a result.

Though conditions looked doubtful, with rain showers scudding past out to sea and a slight onshore breeze forming, our fears were allayed when a large flock of birds were found soaring over the road near the Playa de los Lances. Pulling over we found a stream of Black Kites coming in off the Atlantic and spiralling up on the first thermal they could find. Another flock was just a few hundred metres further along the same rocky ridge extending inland, but both rapidly broke up and headed off inland as soon as they had gained enough height.

We also took the opportunity to gain some height and moved to the nearby Santuario viewpoint. Here we stood and watched the amazing spectacle of hundreds of birds coming in off the sea, with Morocco behind in the distance, driven by the need to head to their breeding grounds, with flock after flock passing. The great majority were Black Kites, but a few Booted Eagles and Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard also joined in the process. A superb Thekla Lark moved around the grassy area where we stood vigil, singing regularly and perching up on the large boulders in full view, allowing us time to appreciate all its plumage details. A huge flock of noisy Goldfinches also milled about in the bushes and gardens a short way away.

Things eventually calmed a little, so we headed S and round to look at Punta del Carnero, looking across Algeciras Bay to Gibraltar. The conditions were very still here, but cloudier and threatening rain, with a notably complete absence of passing seabirds or raptors. Our persistence in walking a short way up the road was met with lots of Sardinian Warblers, a singing Wren and a female Black-eared Wheatear, plus lots of bright roadside flowers including the amazingly red French Honeysuckle and the pale purple-flowered Phlomis purpurea. Views out onto some rocks further ahead revealed small flocks of Audouin's Gulls passing, a few Turnstones and large gulls on the rock pools and on a larger islet, a large dark perched bird was an adult Shag, a now rare species in the area.

Any of the little estuaries in the area can be good for birds, and where the Rio Palmones comes out in the bay is no exception. Very few birds seemed to be present a first, with heavy rain also boding, but again, persistence paid off, with various Dunlin, Ringed Plover and a fine Whimbrel feeding on the mud, and a large group of Spoonbills spiralling actively up and trying to move on, but finally coming down again as the skies darkened.

Lunch was approaching, so we returned to the viewpoint overlooking Tarifa and the W coast, just in time to find the skies clearing from the W and large number of birds arriving over the coast and moving off NW. Black Kites came by the score, a succession of flocks building temporarily in the thermals before drifting rapidly on, Booted and a few Short-toed Eagles joining the fray.

Good views of a few expected birds had still eluded us however, and the best was kept until last. An adult Egyptian Vulture, the first for most, beat past at height, allowing good scope views, delaying lunch just a little further. After lunch was a little quieter, though with a continuous movement of birds, keeping us on our toes. Another kite flock also held three much larger birds and we were finally rewarded with three adult Black Storks, wheeling up over Tarifa before drifting rapidly north.

The remarkably regular presence of some kestrels over an adjacent field caught our eye and indeed, a hatch of insects of some sort had attracted a small group of Lesser Kestrels, presumably from the breeding colony in Tarifa, which fed in front for the remainder of the time we were there. We were able to watch as they hovered in front repeatedly, and we were able to look down on them and so appreciate the grey upperwing bar of the adult males, and the plumage details of a second-year male, which looked EXACTLY like that in the field guide.

A lull in proceedings seemed to herald the end of the passage, but a single bird which suddenly appeared right in front was an Osprey, carrying its own lunch! It circled overhead, finally drifting away north, with another Osprey, this one without a fish appearing over Los Lances beach about 10 minutes later. What more could we want? Well, three more Black Storks appeared, and glided N directly overhead, then to cap it all, just after Terry had packed his camera away, a superb Short-toed Eagle drifted towards us, then hovered directly overhead at short range for a minute or so, giving stunning views! The spotted underside and yellow eyes were perfectly clear against the blue sky above.

We returned towards Zahara elated. It was now hot in the sun again and despite a lack of visible movement, we paused near Tahivilla to scan over La Janda. A large group of Griffon Vultures fed in a melee on a carcass a few hundred yards away, with birds continually arriving and leaving, but a group of White and Yellow Wagtails on a nearby plough also caught our eye. Suddenly, a swallow-like bird appeared in front, heralding the arrival of a group of a dozen Collared Pratincoles, which hawked overhead briefly before moving on again, reappearing again later and with one then perching next to its previously unseen mate on the ploughed field.

There was nothing left to do except to try for some seabirds at Cabo de Trafalgar again. We enjoyed beautiful views of this section of coast between Zahara and the Cape, the Atlantic, with its turquoise colour under a bright sun contrasting with the both the lush green of the coastal military area and deep green of the Stone Pine forest around Barbate. A scan of the gulls in the pool by the van revealed a superb adult summer plumaged Mediterranean Gull among the Yellow-leggeds, Lesser Black-backeds and Audouin's, and a male Ruff with a white head and neck.

By the lighthouse it was obvious that there was very little onshore wind and very little was visible offshore. However, with patience a few Gannets started to appear, Sandwich Terns were passing through and very distantly, a few other birds were seen. A small group of Balearic Shearwaters went S, two later singles went N, two Great Skuas chugged N as did an Arctic Skua later. Two auks on the move were rather small and grey looking though, and Tom had found a couple of Puffins also heading N, despite being very distant. We finished off with very distant views of a Cory's Shearwater on the sea, though this eventually flew.

Even walking back to the vehicle revealed a number of Subalpine Warblers in the dunes and good views of the waders and gulls which were still present in the pool by the vehicle, including two fine Turnstones, rounding things off nicely.

Saturday 27th March

Rain before breakfast but virtually no birds for the pre-breakfast strollers.

We departed and bade our goodbyes to Ron, making good time up the coast, despite 'iffy' weather, and took a drinks break at a roadside café. An adjacent pool held a Pochard, but nothing else of note, though an Osprey flew leisurely over the road and vehicle as we approached Dos Hermanas en route to Seville.

I said my goodbyes here before heading back into Seville.

I sincerely hope you had an excellent time and enjoyed both the varied habitats and birds offered by the two contrasting areas we visited. We were obviously extremely lucky with the weather (it's still sleeting outside as I write this, at 16:30), but that's the luck of the draw and if we had had some onshore wind one day in the Strait, then the seabirds could have been better. However, we might not have seen the raptor passage, so I'm not complaining! We were also very fortunate in seeing a fine chamaeleon, the peculiar and very scarce carnivorous plant Drosophyllum lusitanicum and another enormous stand of Scilla peruviana, the sites for which have all remained unmentioned for protection reasons.

Thanks to you all for making this such a pleasant and enjoyable trip. I look forward to seeing you again soon. John Muddeman

Species Lists


Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis): Plenty in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st, a few at several sites on 22nd and a few at Laguna de Medina on 23rd.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus): Several in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st, a several at various sites on 22nd and a few at Laguna de Medina on 23rd.

Black-necked (Eared) Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis): 12+ in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st, one at the Laguna del Portil on 22nd and c.20 at Laguna de Medina on 23rd.

Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea): A total of 14 off Cabo de Trafalgar and Zahara de los Atunes on 25th, and one off Cabo de Trafalgar on 26th.

Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus): One off Zahara de los Atunes on 23rd and 4 to S and 2 to N of Cabo de Trafalgar on 26th.

Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus): After 2+ of the Odiel Marshes on 22nd, seen daily in small to moderate (15 30+) number off Zahara de los Atunes and the Cabo de Trafalgar on 23rd - 26th.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo): Seen daily in small to moderate number at various sites, except on 23rd.

European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis): An adult off Punta del Carnero on 26th. Probably of the Mediterranean subspecies.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea): Seen in small to moderate number daily, including birds migrating over the sea; common in the Doñana area.

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea): 60+ in the Doñana marshes on 21st, one over the La Janda area on 23rd and one over the Zahara de los Atunes marsh on 24th.

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis): Common and seen daily; max. of several hundred on 24th and 25th.

Great (White) Egret (Ardea alba): One in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta): Widespread and seen daily; hundreds in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides): 15+ in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax): An adult in the Doñana marshes on 21st and 2 juveniles El Rocío on 22nd.

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber): Thousands in the El Rocío area on 20th 24th.

Black Stork (Ciconia nigra): Two flocks of three each moving N over the Tarifa area on 26th.

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia): Relatively common and seen daily; max. 100+ in the Doñana northern marshes area on 21st and 200+ on passage on 26th in the Tarifa area.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus): Seen daily in the El Rocío area 20th 23rd, plus 300+ in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia): 6+ El Rocío on 20th, c. 20 in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 20+ various sites on 22nd and 49 50 over the Palmones estuary on 26th.

White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala): A single male Laguna del Portil on 22nd.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser): 20+ El Rocío on 20th and 10+ there on 22nd, plus one Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna): Two four El Rocío on 20th - 24th.

Gadwall (Anas strepera): Eight+ at various sites on 21st, 2+ pairs Odiel Marshes on 22nd and two at Laguna de Medina on 23rd.

Common Teal (Anas crecca): 6+ in the El Rocío area daily from 20th to 23rd and a few Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): A few daily 20th 23rd, and on 25th and 26th on or near La Janda, including a "green-headed pheasant"

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta>): Two males El Rocío on 20th and 4 there on 21st

Garganey (Anas querquedula): 3 mm & 4 ff Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 1 male El Rocií on 22nd; heavy coastal passage near the Strait: c. 400 Playa de los Lances and c. 200 Zahara de los Atunes on 24 th, 35 Zahara de los Atunes and 20 Cabo de Trafalgar on 26th.

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): Small numbers El Rocío 20th to 23rd, plus more Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 5 past Zahara de los Atunes on 25th.

Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina): Two mm + 1 f El Rocío on 20th, 150+ Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 10+ El Rocío area on 22nd and a few Laguna de Medina on 23rd.

Common Pochard (Aythya ferina): Moderate numbers in the El Rocío area from 20th 23rd and one en route on 27th.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus): Two - three from Cazalla on 26th and one en route on 27th.

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus): Three in the El Rocío area on 23rd.

Black Kite (Milvus migrans): Five ten daily from 20th 23rd, 200+ on 24th, 2000+ Strait area on 26th.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus): Two El Rocío on 20th and one El Acebuche on 22nd.

Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus): Seen daily in moderate to large number: 30 100 El Rocío area daily, 50+ daily Strait and / or La Janda areas 24th 26th.

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus): Six+ distant adults Mirador del Estrecho on 24th (Tom) and 2-3 adults above Tarifa on 26th.

Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus): Two El Rocío on 20th, 2 Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 2 behind La Janda on 23rd, 25+ Strait of Gibraltar on 24th, 4 various sites on 25th and 6+ various sites on 26th.

Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus): Two males Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 1 female Odiel Marshes on 22nd and 1 male La Janda on 23rd.

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus): A ringtail El Rocío on 22nd (Tom), an adult male Laguna de Medina on 23rd, a female La Janda and a male near Tarifa on 24th and a female Barbate on 25th.

Eurasian Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus): Seen daily in small moderate number, except on 25th, max. 10+ on 21st and 7+ Strait of Gibraltar on 26th.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus): A male in Doñana northern marshes on 21st, one El Rocío on 22nd, 3 Mirador del Estrecho and 1 Huerta Grande on 24th and singles Zahara de los Atunes and en route on 25th.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo): Relatively uncommon: 5+ various site on 21st, 1 Laguna de Medina on 23rd, a few at various sites on 24th, 1 en route on 25th and 1 Santuario on 26th.

Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus): Seen daily in small to moderate at numerous sites, though a total of 50+ in the Strait of Gibraltar area on 24th.

Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni): 6+ over Tarifa on 24th and from the Cazalla viewpoint on 26th.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus): Seen widely though in small number daily.

(Common) Merlin (Falco columbarius): A female hunting over the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Peregrine (Falco peregrinus): A large female El Rocío on 20th, a male ElA on 22nd and a presumed female over Zahara de los Atunes and a probable male distantly from the Cazalla viewpoint on 26th.

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa): One briefly in flight near El Rocío on 22nd (Roger), 7 La Janda on 23rd and 2 Tahivilla on 26th.

Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix): Just one heard in an orchard en route to the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus): One probably captive heard Doñana marshes on 21st and 3 mm + 1 f La Janda on 23rd.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus): One heard Doñana marshes on 21st.

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus): Seen daily in small to moderate number in the El Rocío area from 20th 22nd, La Janda on 23rd and Río Palmones on 26th (Tom).

Purple Swamp-hen (Porphyrio porphyrio): 60+ Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 6 El Acebuche on 22nd and heard Laguna de Medina on 23rd.

Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata): Four red-knobbed adults in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st and a neck-collared bird Odiel Marshes on 22nd.

Common Coot (Fulica atra): Noted daily in small - good number in the Doñana area from 20th 22nd and at Laguna de Medina on 23rd.

Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus): Just 5 very distant flying birds at Playa de los Lances on 24th.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus): Seen daily and widely in wetlands and salinas: max. 100+ El Rocío and Odiel Marshes areas on 22nd.

European Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta): Excellent numbers El Rocío from 20th 23rd, inc. 100+ on 20th, and also 100+ Odiel Marshes on 22nd.

Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola): 20 50+ daily at El Rocío from 20th 23rd, 15 Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 1 en route on 25th and 12+ Tahivilla on 26th.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus): Just two in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola): 20+ Odiel Marshes on 22nd, 25 Playa de los Lances on 24th and 2+ Barbate and 1 Baelo Claudia on 25th.

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula): Six+ El Rocío on 21st and 4+ there on 22nd, one Playa de los Lances on 24th, several at both Barbate and Baelo Claudia on 25th and at the Río Palmones and Cabo de Trafalgar on 26th.

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius): Seen daily in small moderate number at a range of wetland areas, max. 10+ El Rocío 20th 22nd.

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus): Seen daily (except on 21st) at mainly coastal wetlands in small moderate number, max. 30+ on 24th.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa): 100+ El Rocío on 20th 23rd, and several hundred Odiel Marshes on 22nd.

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus): Three briefly Odiel Marshes on 22nd but one at leisure on the Río Palmones on 26th.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata): One El Rocío on 20th and 4+ Odiel Marshes on 22nd.

Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus): One El Rocío on 20th, 3 Doñana northern marshes on 21st and 6+ Odiel Marshes on 22nd.

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus): Seen daily and widely at numerous wetland sites, max. 100+ Odiel Marshes on 22nd.

Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia): One El Rocío on 20th, 3 en route on 21st, 10+ Odiel Marshes on 22nd, one in flight Playa de los Lances on 24th and 1 Barbate on 25th.

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus): 25+ Doñana northern marshes on 21st and one Laguna de Medina and two La Janda area on 23rd.

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola): 7 Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos): One Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 1 Odiel Marshes on 22nd, 1 Valdevaquero on 24th, 2 Barbate on 25th and 2 the Río Palmones on 26th.

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres): 4+ Odiel Marshes on 22nd, 1 Playa de los Lances on 24th and 3 Punta del Carnero and 2 Cabo de Trafalgar on 26th.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago): 6 15 daily at El Rocío 20th 22nd and c. 15 behind La Janda on 26th.

Sanderling (Calidris alba): One Odiel Marshes on 22nd (Tom), 7+ Zahara de los Atunes on 23rd, 200+ daily on coastal sites 24th 26th.

Little Stint (Calidris minuta): Three El Rocío on 22nd (Tom) and again on 23rd.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina): 12+ El Rocío on 20th, lots Odiel Marshes on 22nd, 40 Playa de los Lances on 24th, 8+ Barbate on 25th and one Zahara de los Atunes and 15+ the Río Palmones on 26th.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax): Between 2 30+ El Rocío on 20th 22nd and one male Cabo de Trafalgar on 26th.

Great Skua (Catharacta skua): Two five off Zahara de los Atunes on 23rd (Tom), 1 Cabo de Trafalgar on 25th and 2 there on 26th.

Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus): Just one distantly off Cabo de Trafalgar on 26th.

Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii): 6+ Zahara de los Atunes on 23rd and 24th, 4+ Playa de los Lances on 24th, 60+ mainly at Baelo Claudia on 25th and 20+ Punta del Carnero, 6+ Cabo de Trafalgar and 6+ Zahara de los Atunes on 26th.

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus (cachinnans) michahellis): Two en route on 21st, 2 El Rocío on 23rd, then common along coast daily from 23rd.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus (fuscus) intermedius / graellsii): Seen daily and widely in generally small number, both inland and on the coast.

Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephala): 11 Barbate on 25th and an adult summer Cabo de Trafalgar on 26th.

(Common) Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus): Small moderate numbers seen daily 20th 24th at various sites.

Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei): An adult in the Odiel Marshes on 22nd.

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus): Small numbers El Rocío daily 20th 23rd, inc. 30+ on 22nd and 4 Doñana northern marshes on 22nd.

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger): One Odiel Marshes on 22nd (Tom).

Gull-billed Tern (Sterna nilotica): Two Doñana northern marshes on 21st and 1 to S Cabo de Trafalgar on 25th.

Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia): Two Playa de los Lances and three past Zahara de los Atunes (Tom) on 24th, 8+ Barbate on 25th and 2 past Zahara de los Atunes on 26th (Tom).

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis): Noted daily on coast at various sites in moderate numbers from 22nd 26th.

Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica): Two to N off Cabo de Trafalgar on 26th.

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

(Common) Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus): Two+ en route on 21st and a few behind La Janda on 23rd.

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto): Noted almost daily in variable number at numerous sites.

Great Spotted Cuckoo (Clamator glandarius): One carrying a huge caterpillar seen briefly from the bus near Tahivilla on 25th.

Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus): Heard ElA on 22nd and 23rd, one Laguna de Medina on 23rd and one en route near Barbate on 27th (Tom).

Little Owl (Athene noctua): One calling El Rocío on 20th, single Playa de los Lances on 24th and en route on 25th.

Alpine Swift (Apus melba): Two behind La Janda on 23rd and one en route on 24th (Tom).

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus): Common and widespread, though often migrating very high, max. 100+ El Acebrón on 22nd.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster): 15 20 Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 6+ El Acebrón on 22nd, 6 El Acebrón and c. 40 Laguna de Medina on 23rd, 45+ en route on 25th and 25+ Tarifa on 26th.

Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops): Two en route on 21st, 1 Odiel Marshes on 22nd, 3+ various sites on 23rd, 1 Cabo de Trafalgar on 25th and 2 en route on 26th.

Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla): One heard briefly calling El Acebrón on 22nd.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major): Two El Acebrón on 23rd, heard Huerta Grande on 24th and 1 en route on 25th (Anita).

European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis): Heard behind La Janda on 23rd.

Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra): 10+ Doñana northern marshes on 21st, lots La Janda on 24th and several en route on 25th.

Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla): 3 Doñana northern marshes on 21st and one La Janda and 3+ Playa de los Lances on 24th.

Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens): 12+ Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata): Common and widespread in moderate number at numerous sites; seen daily from 21st.

Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae): Two+ El Acebrón on 23rd, 2 Baelo Claudia on 25th and 2 Santuario on 26th.

Wood Lark (Lullula arborea): Just one near El Acebrón on 23rd.

Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis): 4+ Playa de los Lances on 24th, 5 past Zahara de los Atunes on 26th (Tom).

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia): Two+ El Rocío on 20th, 6+ various sites on 21st, several El Rocío on 22nd, 6+ El Rocío on 23rd and one Baelo Claudia on 25th.

Eurasian Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris): Two en route on 25th.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica): Common and widespread; seen daily.

Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica): 4+ pairs in total on 21st, 2 El Acebrón on 23rd, one Zahara de los Atunes on 24th and 1 on 26th.

Common House Martin (Delichon urbica): Common and widespread; seen daily, but abundant in El Rocío.

Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae): 8+ El Rocío on 20th, 30+ Doñana northern marshes on 21st including one similar to "dombrowskii" but with a greenish crown and nape, 1 Zahara de los Atunes and 3 en route on 24th, 1 on 25th and a few, including one male ssp. flava Tahivilla on 26th.

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba): Two+ El Rocío daily 20th 22nd, 2+ Odiel Marshes on 22nd, 3 behind La Janda on 23rd and 4+ Tahivilla and 1 the Río Palmones on 26th.

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris): Just one Playa de los Lances on 24th.

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis): One heard calling in flight Cazalla on 26th.

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis): Seen daily in small to moderate number, but larger flocks passing over the Strait on 24th and 25th.

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta): One winter-plumaged bird El Rocío on 20th.

Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis): Just two briefly Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius s. senator): Quite common and widespread and send daily after 21st, clearly with migrants moving through, max. 15 20 on 21st.

Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes): One seen El Acebrón on 22nd and heard there on 23rd, heard Huerta Grande on 24th and heard Punta del Carnero on 26th.

Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius): Just one male en route on 25th.

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula): Heard El Rocío on 21st, heard El Acebrón on 22nd and several seen there on 23rd, then several daily 24th 26th.

Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus): A fine male, probably of the ssp. torquatus crossed the road en route on 25th.

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus): One briefly en route on 25th.

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula): Two+ at Huerta Grande on 24th, 2 en route on 25th and one Zahara de los Atunes on 26th (Tom).

Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos): One heard El Acebrón 22nd and 23rd, seen very briefly (Tom) on 22nd, heard Zahara de los Atunes (Tom) and Santuario on 26th.

Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros): A late female Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus): Single brief males Doñana northern marshes on 21st and Playa de los Lances on 24th.

Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquata rubicola): Widespread and fairly common; seen daily from 22nd, including fledged juveniles at Laguna de Medina on 23rd.

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe): Six+ Doñana northern marshes on 21st, singles Zahara de los Atunes and Playa de los Lances and 3 Valdevaquero on 24th and one the Río Palmones on 26th.

(Western) Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. hispanica): 3 mm + 1 f Doñana northern marshes on 21st, a male El Acebuche on 22nd, 1 m Playa de los Lances on 24th, 1 m en route on 25th and a female Punta del Carnero on 26th.

Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed W.) (Cisticola juncidis): c. 15 Doñana northern marshes on 21st, a few at various sites daily from 23rd 26th.

Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti): Notably scarce, and only heard at El Acebrón, Laguna de Medina, Huerta Grande and Punta del Carnero, with one seen well at Laguna de Medina on 23rd.

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus): ·3 in Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus): One singing well at Laguna de Medina on 23rd.

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus): Two five daily between various sites from 22nd 26th.

Eurasian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita): Two in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus): One heard and another, carrying nest material, seen at El Acebrón on 22nd, and at least 3 seen / heard there on 23rd; the first proven breeding in Doñana.

Western Bonelli's Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli): One seen briefly by Tom en route on 25th.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla): A male and a female at El Acebrón on 22nd, a few at various sites on 23rd and several at Huerta Grande on 24th.

(Western) Orphean Warbler (Sylvia (hortensis) hortensis): A fine male at El Acebrón on 22nd was a terrific find.

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis): One at Laguna de Medina on 23rd found by Kim and two Zahara de los Atunes on 26th (Tom).

Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala): Fairly common and widespread; seen and / or heard daily from 21st, with most in the Strait on 26th.

Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia c. cantillans): A male Laguna de Medina on 23rd, a female Playa de los Lances on 24th, then 12+ Zahara de los Atunes, 1 Cabo de Trafalgar and 4+ Cabo de Trafalgar on 26th.

Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata): Four in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata): Just one fine male displaying at El Acebrón on 22nd.

Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus): Seven+ at Huerta Grande on 24th.

Crested Tit (Parus cristatus): One briefly en route on 21st, 2 El Acebrón on 22nd and one there on 23rd and four Huerta Grande on 24th.

Great Tit (Parus major): A few daily from 22nd 25th.

Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus): A few El Acebrón on 22nd and singles Huerta Grande on 24th and en route on 25th.

Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla): Two El Acebrón on 22nd, one heard there on 23rd and 1 briefly Huerta Grande on 24th.

Iberian Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyana): c. 15 en route on 21st, 10+ El Acebuche on 22nd and a flock of 83 near La Rocina on 23rd!

Common Magpie (Pica pica): Several El Rocío on 20th and various at different sites on 22nd.

Western Jackdaw (Corvus monedula): Eight+ behind La Janda on 23rd and 15+ under Vejer de la Frontera en route on 27th.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone): One moving N past Zahara de los Atunes early on 26th (Tom) is about the 12th record for the Strait area!

Common Raven (Corvus corax): Five in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st, 3 El Acebrón on 22nd and 2 there on 23rd.

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

Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra): Common and widespread; seen daily and widely from 21st.

Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus): Just one brief female at El Acebrón on 23rd (Tom).

(Eurasian) Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus): Two females in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs): Seen daily in moderate number in wooded areas from 22nd 25th.

European Serin (Serinus serinus): Common and widespread; noted daily from 21st 25th.

European Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris): Ones and twos at various sites on 6 days.

European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis): Common and widespread; seen daily.

Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus): c. 15 feeding in a fruiting elm at Huerta Grande on 24th.

Common Linnet (Carduelis cannabina): Noted in small to moderate number on five days at various sites.

Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes): 2 El Acebrón on 23rd (Tom), 3+ Huerta Grande on 24th and 2 en route on 25th (Tom).

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

Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis): One male en route on 21st (Tom) and a male and several hybrid males Playa de los Lances on 24th.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus): Two+ en route on 21st and 2 El Acebrón on 23rd.

I make this an astonishing 178 species, well above the 'expected' figure.


Western Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus): One dead on the road near Barbate on 25th.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes): One at El Rocío on 23rd (Tom).

Egyptian Mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon): A large, probably male individual en route near Facinas on 25th.

Wild Boar (Sus scrofa): Signs of diggings at El Acebrón on 22nd.

Fallow Deer (Dama dama): 10 14 El Rocío on 20th, 22nd and 23rd.

Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus): One dead on road en route on 25th.

Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus): A few at various sites on 23rd and 1 en route on 24th.


Common Toad (Bufo bufo): One flattened on a track en route on 25th.

Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis): One apparently guarding an egg-mass at Huerta Grande on 24th.

Iberian Water Frog (Rana perezi): Several heard at El Rocío on 21st and 22nd.


Chamaeleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon): One you know where!

Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauretanica): One at the Laguna de Palos on 22nd and 2 Cazalla on 24th.

Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus): One El Acebuche on 22nd.

Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus): Two El Acebuche on 22nd and 1 en route on 25th.

Spiny-footed Lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus): One El Acebuche on 22nd.

Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis hispanica): Two Huerta Grande on 24th.

Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida): One Playa de los Lances on 24th (Tom) and one en route on 25th (Terry).

Three-toed Skink (Chalcides chalcides): One briefly at Valdevaquero on 24th (Tom).

Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa): One El Acebuche on 22nd.

Red-eared Slider (Pseudemys scripta): Two El Acebuche on 22nd.

Viperine Snake (Natrix maura): One Doñana northern marshes on 21st, but one also being carried off by a Grey Heron and another disappearing inside a Short-toed Eagle there on same day!


Swallowtail (Papilio machaon): A few en route on 23rd.

Large White (Pieris brassicae): Ones and twos on 21st and 22nd.

Small White (Artogeia rapae): Odd ones on 23rd and 24th.

Green-striped White (Euchloe belemia): One in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Western Dappled White (Euchloe simplonia): A few in the Doñana area on 21st and 22nd.

Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea): Odd males on 21st and 23rd.

Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra): a couple of males on 24th.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni): Small numbers from 22nd 24th.

Lang's Short-tailed Blue (Leptotes pirithous): A few on 22nd.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta): One two on 21st, 23rd and 24th.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui): Seen daily up to and including 24th.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria): A few on 24th.

Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera): A few on 24th.

Other insects:

Grass Eggar (Lasiocampa trifolii): Large, hairy caterpillars of this species in a couple of spots.

Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia): A female found dead in the gents loos at El Acebuche on 22nd!

Striped Hawk-moth (Hyles lineata): Large numbers on the coast at the Strait, with up to 12 at one light at the hotel on 23rd.

Lesser Emperor Dragonfly (Anax parthenope): Lots at El Rocío on 20th and abundant in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st.

Egyptian Grasshopper (Anacridium aegyptium): Singles between 22nd and 24th at a few sites.

Violet Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa violacea): A few at Huerta Grande on 24th.

Rhinoceros Beetle (Copris lunaris): A male at El Rocío on 20th.

Oil Beetle (Meloe sp.): One Valdevaquero on 24th.

Other invertebrates:

Red Signal Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii): One being carried off by a bird in the Doñana northern marshes on 21st!

© The Travelling Naturalist 2004