Sunday, 21 September 2014

Two days in Tarifa

Friday & Saturday 19  & 20 September


With the September field meeting of the Andaluica Bird Society scheduled for Saturday to check out the autumn raptor migration at Tarifa, I drove down on the Friday and arranged to meet a member being from Belfast travelling over using public transport for an extra day's birding.  Although an hour late arriving in Algeciras as a result of low cloud and mist in the mountains between Ronda and San Roque she eventually arrived and we proceeded on to the Algarroba raptor watch point where raptors were both high and few and far between.  Mainly Booted Eagles and Honey Buzzards but we also picked up Griffon Vulture, Black Kite and Short-toed Eagle.  In the nearby trees at he car park we also managed to find Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Goldfinch.   However, one new bird for the year when a couple of Black Storks drifted over to make up for missing them  back in the spring.  Other birds seen included both Barn Swallow and Common Swift but in very small numbers.

A majestic Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
Next it was on to the central viewing point where the highlight was another first for the year.  Watching what we though were going to be a pair of Griffon Vultures coming towards us, as they neared we could make out, and had confirmed to us, that they were the same pair of Ruppell's Vultures that had been seen about an hour ago and had been in the area most of the week.  A young Stonechat posed on the distant fence.
Grey Heron Garza Real Ardea cinerea

Our final stop was at the Cazorla site at the Tarifa end of this mountain range.  Lots of birders present but, again, very few birds.  Another Honey Buzzard, more Griffon Vultures and both Short-toed and Booted Eagles.

A change of plan after booking in at our hotel for the evening when we joined by another couple of members and set off to find the Bald Ibis at the Barbate Golf Course.  Duly found in the car park where we had a "baker's dozen" sat on the roof of the building including, eventually, one that posed on the other end of the weather vane.  On leaving the course, others had come down on the fairway and greens at the back.  Meanwhile, we also watched another Short-toed Eagle and a low-flying Booted Eagle along with Pallid Swifts, Sand Martins, Barn Swallows and House Martins.  There were also lots of Jackdaws to be seen and we were to see more later.

The Bald Ibis Ibis Erenita Geronticus eremita tribe and their antics:

This is me strutting my stuff
Some of the gang
"Got my hair cut this morning"
Fred playing around with Metal micky
"Where'd it go?"
Enough of this, time to peck around the fairways
Leaving the Bald Ibis behind we set off for La Janda and, for the first time, travelled in the opposite way to my usual course.  Hundreds of White Storks to be seen and, eventually, we found about ten Glossy Ibis resting alongside one of the flocks.  Our first Marsh Harrier drifted across and seemed to be quartering the whole area as she was with us for the next thirty minutes.  These early fields also produced numerous Little Egrets but we had to wait until almost the end of the circuit before finding our one and only Grey Heron.  Perhaps it had something to do with the lateness of the afternoon.

A lovely golden Marsh Harrier Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus
What we did have, however, were hundred and hundreds of Cattle Egrets.  At one point, where a tractor was turning over a large field, there must have been somewhere in the region of a thousand individuals with the field looking like a giant white carpet.  A drive towards the smelly farm then produced another start bird with one resting Black-shouldered Kite and a second in the sky above.  In addition, this area also produced scores of Wood Pigeons.  A air of Turtle Doves midway along the canal track was a very pleasant and welcome sighting.  Near the bend and small bridge we found, amongst the House Sparrows and Goldfinches, a single Zitting Cisticola.  Driving backup to the road there were more Stonechats and Goldfinches but also Greenfinch and a single male Chaffinch.  Back to the hotel and a swim in the salt-water pool when I looked up recognising the calling bird.  A single Bee-eater overhead and later part of a small flock of ten.  Now that brought the other members of the group staying in the hotel out into the garden are to take a closer look (at the birds!).

Turtle Dove  Tortola Europea  Streptopelia turtur
A small selection of the White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia of La Janda


After breakfast straight off for a morning tour of La Janda with friends Steve and Elena Powell.  What, in many ways, a disappointment this turned out to be in terms of both quantity and quality of what might have been expected.  House Sparrows at the hotel and then straight into more plus Stonechats, Crested Larks and Goldfinches as we drove down towards the canal.  It was, though, the number of Chaffinches that really caught our attention.  What were they doing here in the wrong sort of habitat unless part of a migrating group?  Before reaching the water we also added Serin and the first of many Little Egrets.

Stonechat  Tarabilla Comun  Saxicola torquatus

Not so many White Storks as yesterday abut a few more Glossy Ibis and many Grey herons.  Similarly, a regular, isolated appearance of Barn Swallows.  There were Goldfinches and House Sparrows everywhere albeit we did eventually find a good-sized flock of Spanish SparrowsZitting Cisticolas seemed to be in abundance and we also managed to record a Cetti's Warbler.  Again, no shortage of Cattle Egrets and, as before, a number of Jackdaws making use of the pylons plus a pair of Raven to give a little variety.  A lone Hoopoe was an added bonus.

Hoopoe  Abubilla  Upupa epops

The first  of a number of  Marsh Harrier was recorded followed by Common Kestrel and then a few Lesser Kestrels.  The only Montagu's Harrier was a resting female but she remained long enough to get some photographs.  Much searching of the irrigation structures also, finally, produced a Black-shouldered Kite.  Only a very small number of Wood Pigeons seen but we did have another pair of Turtle Doves to follow on from yesterday.  A couple of additions on this main track alongside the canal gave a Green Sandpiper and Hoopoe along with a very "fawny looking" juvenile Moorhen.

Female Montagu's Harrier Aguilucho Cenizo Circus pygargus at rest

The large puddle that produced many Goldfinches beyond the main bridge towards the smelly farm where the track leaves the afternoon was still producing the goods with Goldfinches, House Sparrows and Linnets.  Also in the same area we added both Greenfinch and Serin.  The area just beyond here where we recorded the Black-shouldered Kite also saw the start of the Pheasant area where many were recorded and then a couple of Red-legged Partridge.   very little beyond the farm but we did see a Little Owl resting on a lower wire of the roadside fence and a Cirl Bunting on the way back.  There also seemed to be far more Greenfinches today.

Distant record shot of Black-shouldered Kite Elanio Comun Elanus caeruleus

Back to the hotel to collect my car and then on to the Los Lances beach to see some water birds.  Another Little Egret plus a number of Ringed Plover and a few Black-tailed Godwits along with many Sanderling.  A number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls present along with a few Black-headed Gulls but the better sight was the fifteen or so Sandwich Terns.  From here I called in at the two main raptor points but only seemed to add both House Martin and Barn Swallow so mad an early start for home and good sleep.

In summary, a very pleasant couple of days in good company but somewhat disappointing in birding terms with barely 60 species recorded.  Perhaps the Donana will make up for it if I am able to get down for a couple of days in late October whilst Jenny is away in Morocco with her Spanish class.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis, Bald Ibis, Black Stork, White Stork, Griffon Vuture, Ruppell's Vulture, Honey Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull,  Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin,  Black Redstart, Stonechat, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.   

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