Saturday 11 September
Still fully dark when collected by friend Steve Powell and company for a day's visit to Tarifa in the hope that we might still be in time to see some migrating Honey Buzzards plus anything else on offer. As the night disappeared and daylight greeted us west of Malaga along with the first Wood Pigeon, it would seem that the day would be bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and also quite calm. But would this necessarily ne a good omen for seeing the departing raptors? Passing Estepona, first the smell and then the sight of the ongoing fire that seems to have ravaged most of the mountainside north of of the ,motorway. Not just a blackened wasteland but flames still to be seen on the higher slopes and the possible only good news that rain expected within the next couple of days. But will it be sufficient to help completely douse the fire?
Arriving in the hills between Algeciras and Tarifa, we made a stop just after 9.30 at the observatory El Cabrito overlooking the Strait and right across to Africa. All very quiet and not a sign of a bird in the sky; perhaps too early for the raptors to be up and on their way. A Sardinian Warbler on the way up the track and a small number of Barn Swallows but little else. So on to the main observatory at Cazalla, overlooking Tarifa and coast, passing a large flock of Spotless Starlings on the wires as we approached the observatory.
Parking at the already almost full observatory car park it soon became obvious that there were more observers than birds! At one point the car park was overflowing and more than 100 birders on site - but where were the birds? Within minutes we managed to find a pair of Black Kite and a very high couple of Honey Buzzard but then all very quiet with regard to raptors. On the other hand, certainly no shortage of migrating Common Swift and even an Alpine Swift identified along with the occasional Barn Swallow.
|Honey Buzard Abejero Europeo Pernis apivorus high overhead|
However, during the following hour the Honey Buzzards started to appear, mainly in small handfuls but with the occasional flock of up to a score or more. Mainly high but able to follow using bins rather than scopes. A Sparrowhawk made a close pass up the valley below us and checking one of the distant metal pylons we managed to find a resting quartet of Raven.
|Honey Buzards Abejero Europeo Pernis apivorus|
With an ever increasing number of newly-arriving birders we decided to make our way down to the coast. So taking the small road from the bottom of the hill, having first made the loop round the new roundabout, we moved to the Punta de Oliveros watch point before entering the narrow, very uneven and stony, twisting Pista Calada del Camino de Alge along the cliff face and back up to the main road after about 5km. No sooner had we entered the track than we had a Zitting Cisticola and a continuous supply of Stonechat, both male and female. The occasional Sardinian Warbler but then a stop on a bend with a small bush on the right produced a rather splendid Sedge Warbler. Next up a Chiffchaff before stopping to admire a Whitethroat. A Melodious Warbler put in an appearance and then, over the coast, both Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Steve heard the small flock of Bee-eaters overhead and then was first to spit the distant pair of Booted Eagles, but time for others to also take a closer look. Finally, before heading back up to the main road, both a second Kestrel for the morning and a Blackbird.
By now well after midday so we joined the long queue of beach traffic heading west and beyond Tarifa until we stopped for refreshments at Apolo XI in Tahivilla, having noted both a Heron and a few Cattle Egret on the way. Not knowing what to expect we took a chance to drive through La Janda but without the extension to take in the northern area up to and past the "smelly farm." All seemed a mass of cotton and set-aside fields until we saw the White Storks off to our right as we drove down the entrance track. Rather then take the usual left turn at the bottom we headed right to take a closer look at the White Storks which seemed to have found a rice field. A Green Sandpiper up and off from the ditch to our right and then a handful of Short-toed Lark on the sandy track on the far side of the ditch. A couple of Little Egret were resting on the bridge as we turned round and then more Heron. The best was to follow as, having started back to the main track, a lovely Short-toed Eagle passed over the track in front of us.
|A few od the well-concealed White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia|
Making our way along the track other than a few White Storks in the air little was seen until we picked up the resident House Sparrows and a small number of quartering Marsh Harriers. Lots of both Cattle and Little Egret were seen, especially near in and near the fields being worked. However, close to the bridge on the right we stopped to see a departing Black-shouldered Kite and almost immediately had another resting in a small, bare tree to the right. However, as soon as we stopped for a closer look the raptor was up and away. The final bird seen before leaving the site was a very welcome lone Glossy Ibis that passed over the car.
|Little Egrets Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta above and Cattle Egrets Garcilla Bueyera Bubucus ibis below|
Our final stop of the day was at the marismas in Barbate. Entering past the farm just east of the long river bridge lots of House Sparrows with Collared and Rock Doves (Feral Pigeons) as we approached the small pond at the start of the track around the main water. Here we found Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and a single Sanderling. In the near distance at the edge of the main water, a number of Audouin's Gulls along with a few Black-headed Gulls and Black-winged Stilts. More Sanderlings off to the far left plus a large flock of Black-tailed Godwit and then a Blue-headed Iberian Yellow Wagtail wandered across the mud accompanied aby a couple of juveniles.
|Audouin's Gulls Gaviota de Audouin Larus audouinii|
Making our way round to the back of the water we got a much better view of the very many Flamingo, more Audouin's and even Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A close view of a Willow Warbler in the neighbouring tree and then a couple of Crested Lark. Out on the water more Heron and Little Egret and once parked at the far end we enjoyed watching the fishing display by an Osprey.
|Osprey Aguia Pescadora Pandion haliaetus|
In the water nearby a Redshank with Black-winged Stilt and four nearby Spoonbill, whilst moving around in the trees to our left a Spotted Flycatcher.
|Little Egret with Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia seen through the windscreen|
So ended a long, tiring but rewarding day with 49 species recorded but the almost three hour return car journey still to come, so very thanks to Steve for driving and the company.
|Very distant quartet of Raven Cuervo Corvus corax|
Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Osprey, Honey Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Sedge Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow.
|Over fifty Black-tailed Godwits Aguja Colinegra Limosa limosa on site|