Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Andalucia - Autumn Migration

6th - 13th Sept 2006

6th September :- Due to an unfortunate late cancellation the group consisted of one couple (Colin Lewis and Trish Taylor) and myself setting off south along the east coast motorway towards Granada. Our first stop for a bite to eat at Baza de Sierra produced our first Griffon Vultures over the adjacent hillside. We continued through to the Sierra Nevada finding our accommodation for that night and checking in, before heading higher up to the ski station of 'Sol y Nieve'. On the way up we found a couple of Rock Buntings, an Alpine Swift, Blackbird, Mistle Thrushes, Jay, Great & Blue Tits, then around the ruined parador we then found 2 (1st winter) Rock Thrushes, plus 30+ Red billed Chough, more Rock Buntings, Northern Wheatears, Black Redstarts, Stonechat, Linnets, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. As the afternoon drew on we returned to an area of Pines slightly lower down the mountain, which produced a Western Bonelli's Warbler, Willow Warblers, Coal & Long tailed Tits, Woodpigeons, Common Swifts, House Martins, Swallows and a flock of migrating Bee-eaters. Fairly tired we returned to the hotel for an excellent evening meal and to watch Northern Ireland beat Spain at football, much to Trish's amusement. Finally as we made our way to the rooms we heard both Scop's & Tawny Owl calling from the nearby trees but not even gentle persuasion could bring them out into the open. Still an excellent first day.

7th September :- Before breakfast we had convened and went for a stroll around the grounds of the accommodation and almost immediately flushed a pair of very vocal Booted Eagles from some trees. Then as the sun started to rise passerines started moving and we found 2 Garden Warblers, Sardinian Warbler, Whinchat, Stonechats, Chaffinches and Blue Tits before returning for breakfast. We packed the vehicle and again drove up to the top of the mountain seeing many of the previous afternoon's species. However some overnight rain had produced a few migrants and a small stand of Fir Trees produced a Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart and lots of Willow Warblers, although the highlight was actually finding an Iberian Ibex high up on the rocks. During the morning we met Rafael a free-lance photographer of prototype cars and wildlife of the Sierra Nevada. He was there trying to get pictures of two hatchbacks that were completely encased in a special sheet as the rarified air of the Sierra Nevadas is very good for monitoring emissions from these vehicles. We left Granada and continued south, stopping for lunch on the main road, whilst eating I heard a familiar call and a quick investigation revealed a male Crossbill sat on top of a Tamarisk tree to my amazement. We reached Algeciras by late afternoon so we called into the Algarobbo Raptor Watchpoint before going to our hotel for the next five nights. At the watchpoint birds were moving through in decent numbers and during our 90 minute stay we logged 300+ Black Kites, 200+ Booted Eagles, 10 Short toed Eagles, 5 Sparrowhawks, Peregrine Falcon, Griffon Vultures and lots of Pallid Swifts. We duly retired to our hotel for a well-earned beer and discussion about the forth-coming days.

8th September :- As normal I had given an open invitation to Colin & Trish to a pre-breakfast walk at the back of the complex were there was an easy track through some scattered trees (mainly Cork Oak) and scrub. However they declined on this morning so I ventured out for an hour with some excellent results seeing 6 Short toed Eagles, 3 Black Kites, 4 Sparrowhawks, 10+ Griffons, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Short toed Treecreepers, Firecrests, Wren, Blackcap, Sardinian & Cetti's Warbler, Robin, Jay, Chaffinch, and Blackbird. I met the others and after breakfast drove the short distance to the Algarrobo watchpoint until lunchtime seeing a very good passage of mainly raptors that included - an Osprey, 500+ Honey Buzzards, Red Kite, 6 Egyptian Vultures, Griffon Vultures, 75 Short toed Eagles, 300+ Booted Eagles, 3 Montagu's Harriers, Common Buzzard, 20+ Sparrowhawks, 2 Kestrels, Peregrine Falcon, 200+ Bee-eaters, Woodpigeons, Pallid Swifts, Swallows, House & Sand Martins. We had our lunch in Tarifa before going on to Los Lances Beach reserve were a walk along the beach and through the salt marsh produced Cattle Egrets, a Black Stork flying through, a Greater Flamingo, Colin flushed a Quail, Ringed & Kentish Plovers, 2 Whimbrel, Turnstone, Dunlin, 10+ Audouin's, Lesser Black backed, Yellow legged & Black headed Gulls, 20+ Sandwich Terns, Hoopoe, 20+ Short toed & Crested Larks, Willow Warbler, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, a juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Greenfinches, Linnets, and Corn Buntings. A fantastic first day on the Costa de la Luz.

9th September :- An early start was required by us all as we were driving through to Bolonia for sunrise and one of our main target species. We got to Bolonia for dawn and soon found Corn Buntings, Crested Larks, Audouin's & Yellow legged Gulls along the beach then Colin said " I have got a swift?", which I immediately got on to and soon recognised as White rumped Swift, an extremely rare breeding bird in Europe. We watched it as it hawked insects over the beach and river and was then joined by two more and 4 Red rumped Swallows. While we were there two car loads of English birders (Chris Batty et al) turned up with a male Sardinian Warbler that had flown in through one of their windows while travelling along. We all spent the next hour watching these fantastic birds and extremely close quarters as well as finding Cory's Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas, and Sandwich Terns offshore, plus a Grey Wagtail and Willow Warbler along the riverbank. After breakfast in Bolonia we drove along the coast to Barbate lagoons and estuary where we found lots of waders on the exposed mud including an Oystercatcher, Grey Plovers, Ringed & Kentish Plovers, 4 Whimbrel, several Curlews, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstones, Sanderling, Little Stints, Dunlin, a Little Tern, one Alpine & Common Swifts. After a light lunch in Barbate we next made our way to the excellent La Janda wetland with it's mosaic of paddy & cereal fields, canals, trees and scrub. We slowly drove around the whole area stopping at various intervals to scan the area, and although viewing wasn't easy due to the hot high winds we still managed to find Grey Heron, Little & Cattle Egrets, 50+ Glossy Ibis, 1000+ White Storks, an Osprey, 10 Honey Buzzards, 4 Black shouldered Kites, 20+ Black Kites, lots of Griffons, Short toed Eagle, 15 Montagu's Harriers (including a melanistic form), Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk, 2 Lesser Kestrels, Eurasian Kestrels, Red legged Partridge, Pheasant, Quail (heard), Black winged Stilts, Lapwings, a Green Sandpiper, Turtle Doves, Yellow & White Wagtails, Cetti's Warbler, Stonechats, and Northern Wheatears. Finally after a coffee stop we made our way  back to the watchpoint but the high winds made passage slow and all we managed to see was another Osprey, Honey Buzzard, 10+ Black Kites, 2 Egyptian Vultures, a few Booted & Short toed Eagles, a Common Buzzard, Alpine & Pallid Swifts, yet still another excellent day in the field.

10th September :- An early stroll behind the hotel with Colin produced the usual woodland species including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Short toed Treecreeper, Blackcap, Garden & Sardinian Warblers, Jay, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Blackbird, Wren and Chaffinches. After breakfast and managing to find out the football results for Trisha & Colin we again went to Algarrobo watchpoint to join the small group of volunteer that count the raptors, along with several other birdwatchers from all over Europe. This morning was again excellent with good numbers of Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Sparrowhawks, Short toed & Booted Eagles, with 2 (1st winter) Bonelli's Eagles, a few Montagu's Harriers, 4 Egyptian Vultures, 2 Common Buzzards, 200+ White & 6 Black Storks, a Common Redstart and lots of Bee-eaters. However the highlight of the morning was finally finding a young Ruppell's Vulture, these rare African vultures occur annually in this area in very small numbers and always makes for an identification challenge whilst searching through the resident Griffons. As the passage slowed down we left and had our lunch at the hotel before driving through to La Janda since we had been told of a rare wader which had been found that morning. At La Janda we carefully checked the partially flooded rice fields before Colin found a wader that we confirmed as our target a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, my first in Spain (bizarrely I found one on my local patch a week later). While we were there we also saw Grey Herons, Little & Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibis, White Storks, a Honey Buzzard, 15+ Marsh Harriers, 14 Montagu's Harriers, Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Kestrels, Black winged Stilts, Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers, Black headed Gulls, an Alpine Swift, Hoopoes, Crested Larks, Yellow Wagtails, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticolas, Stonechats, Northern Wheatears, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Corn Buntings. In one field we were able to observe interaction between 2 Black shouldered Kites and Lesser Kestrels, as the latter birds kept mobbing the kites as they perched on a nearby irrigation system. This continued until the kites moved away from where the Lesser Kestrels were hunting for insects. Finally a nice surprise for me today was being treated to a fine evening meal with plenty of wine by Colin & Trish on my birthday, thank you very much.

11th September :- Our last full day in the Tarifa area was started again with walk behind the hotel with all three of us, with Trish particularly wanting to see a Firecrest. Our luck was in and we all got fantastic views of two of these little gems as they worked their way through the bushes, plus most of the other woodland birds seen previously. The morning at Algarrobo was our best yet with not only plenty of birds but also an excellent variety of species. We had excellent views of another Ruppell's Vulture that flew right in front of where we were standing, as well as 3 Bonelli's Eagles and an Osprey. However the biggest surprise was picking up 7 Spoonbills coming in from the straits and flying overhead, which caused much excitement from the gathered Spanish birdwatchers and Migres volunteers. Counts for the rest of morning included 12 Black Storks, 500+ Honey Buzzards, 200+ Black Kites, 20 Egyptian & Griffon Vultures, 60+ Short toed Eagles, 5 Marsh Harriers, 3 Montagu's Harriers, 20+ Sparrowhawks, Common Buzzard, 300+ Booted Eagles, 2 Lesser & 3 Eurasian Kestrels. After a relaxed lunch along Tarifa beach we again made our way to the Los Lances Beach reserve where our walk produced Cattle Egrets, Whimbrel, Sanderling, 30+ Audouin's, Western Yellow legged & Lesser Black backed Gulls, Sandwich Terns, Hoopoe, 20+ Short toed & Crested Larks, 12 Tawny Pipits, Zitting Cisticolas, Stonechats, Northern Wheatears, juvenile Woodchat Shrike, Linnets, Goldfinches and Corn Buntings. For one last time we returned to the raptor watchpoint but the afternoon passage was quite slow with just a few Booted & Short toed Eagles, as well as 150+ European Bee-eaters and again good numbers of Pallid Swifts, so we soon returned to the hotel.

12th September :- Got an early start from our hotel driving east towards Malaga where we encountered a severe storm with lots of rain, thunder & lightning before arriving into Almeria. Our first stop was just west of Almeria city at an unattractive lagoon on the edge of the equally unattractive town of Los Norias, but the birdwatching can be excellent. Here we found good numbers of White headed Ducks, Black necked, Little & Great Crested Grebes, Coot, Shoveler, Pochard and Black Terns, with a nice surprise being a single Stone Curlew, plus a Night Heron, Purple Gallinule, 4 Collared Pratincoles, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, and a Grey Wagtail. A little further towards the coast around Las Marinas we checked out several salt pans where we saw lots of Audouin's, Yellow legged, Lesser Black backed & Black headed Gulls, Grey Herons, Little & Cattle Egrets, Greater Flamingos, a Grey Plover, Green & Common Sandpipers, Turnstones, Little Stints, Sanderlings and more Black Terns. However the star bird was a juvenile Black shouldered Kite that was found sat on wires and gave extremely good views, a bird not normally associated with this area. We left here and slowly made our way around the coast on to the Cabo de Gata headland seeing a couple of Red rumped Swallows enroute. Before we reached Cabo de Gata town we stopped off at the desert visitor centre to look round their excellent facilities and information area. A short walk around here produced plenty of Thekla Larks, 120+ Bee-eaters, Sardinian Warblers, Southern Grey Shrikes, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Pallid Swifts. Finally we continued on to Cabo de Gata  stopping at the salinas birdwatching hide for an hour before checking into the very local hotel. On the salinas there were plenty of waders including Grey, Ringed & Kentish Plovers, Black tailed Godwits, Black winged Stilts, Avocets, Curlews, Spotted & Common Redshanks, a Greenshank, Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Ruff and Little Stints, with also Crested Larks, Eurasian Reed & Sardinian Warblers. We checked into the hotel, freshened up and went for a walk around this coastal town stopping for a well-earned beer at one of the local bars.

13th September :- The unlucky 13th(?) started with a pre-breakfast walk across the scrubland adjacent to the salinas in search of any migrants that might have been around. A quick look on the salinas produced much the same species as the previous evening such as Grey Herons, Little & Cattle Egrets, a Gadwall, Mallards, Greater Flamingos, Grey Plovers, Ringed & Kentish Plovers, Black tailed Godwits, Curlews, Spotted Redshanks, Little Stints, gulls, and Sandwich Terns. In the tamarisk we found Hoopoes, Southern Grey Shrike, Eurasian Reed, 4 Willow, and a (hoped for) Spectacled Warbler that showed very well much to our delight. The low  bushes produced Crested Larks, a Tawny Pipit overhead, 2 Whinchats, Northern and a Black eared Wheatear found by Colin, a Woodchat Shrike, and Trish flushed a Common Quail. which was great since she had missed the Los Lances bird. All in all an excellent hour in the morning sunshine. After breakfast we drove down the coast to the lighthouse watchpoint seeing a Black Wheatear en-route and from the viewing point we added lots of Cory's & Balearic Shearwaters that were moving north at a rate of about 2000/hr. On the rocks we found several Audouin's Gulls, and a Black Kite and 2 Eurasian Buzzards passed overhead with 2 Garden Warblers and another Black Wheatear seen in a nearby dry canyon. Since it was generally quiet (apart from the shearwaters) we decided to change location and return to the area of desert around the visitor centre. A walk from the car park was very productive when I managed to find 8 Black bellied Sandgrouse on the floor and get them in the telescope for us to see. We also saw 3 Spectacled Warblers, Thekla Larks, Kestrel, Southern Grey & Woodchat Shrikes, Bee-eaters and Common Swifts. It was now time to make our final journey north as I had to take Colin & Trish back to Valencia airport. En-route we found a White Stork near Alicante and as we were in good time for the plane we stopped off at Alcoy in the hope of finding a Crested Tit for Trish. Unfortunately the walk up the hill on produced one calling but couldn't be located, however we did see 20+ Griffon Vultures, Kestrel, Woodpigeons, 2 Ravens, Dartford Warbler, Coal Tits and a Rock Bunting. We got to the airport and sadly said our goodbyes, it had been a fantastic trip with superb company, and thank you Colin & Trish for all your help and support.

 

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