Thursday, 3 September 2015

Tarifa and La Janda

Tuesday & Wednesday, 1 & 2 September


You will all have heard of that dreaded saying, "If only you had been here fifteen minutes ago/yesterday.." well, birding friend Bryan Stapley certainly got a double-dose when we arrived at the Algarroba observation station mid-morning on Tuesday1 September.  A couple of hours previously we had left warm, calm and sunny Mezquitilla for the drive down via the motorway to be greeted by a little cloud, still very warm but also with the wind blowing very strongly.  The result?  With the wind having shifted from easterlies to westerlies most of the large migrants were distant and very high.  But, as above, we were also greeted with the "if only" comment that a pair of young Ruppell's Vultures had been over less than fifteen minutes.  Matters were not helped when we were also informed that Sunday had been very bad with nothing moving but yesterday (Monday) the wind changed and everything took off including a total of 15,000 Honey Buzzards heading for Africa!

Entering the site we were greeted by both Stonechat and Barn Swallows but the next hours produced mainly Bee-eaters passing very low around us.  Indeed, this was the  most prolific migrant for both days.  Likewise, there was no shortage of Griffon Vultures.

A good number of Short-toed Eagles Culebrera Europea Circaelus galicus
Once we had adjusted to the slow progress and scattered sightings, mainly very high, we were able to record Alpine Swifts, Short-toed and Booted Eagles but mainly Black Kites.  A single Great Tit crossed the area and including our stay at Cazalla on the Tarifa end of this short range we also added Goldfinch and Collared Dove.  both Common and Lesser Kestrel were added at the latter along with a very close and magnificent Bonelli's Eagle.

White Stork Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia numbers building up at La Janda
With all remaining relatively quiet we upped sticks and headed off to La Janda for the rest of the afternoon.  The track down to the canal produced both Spanish Sparrow and Stonechat along with a small flock of Spotless Starling but the star of the introduction was the beautiful male Montagu's Harrier as we approached the entry track rather than the Zitting Cisticola.  From the bottom we had our first views of the numerous White Storks along with the first Glossy Ibis put up by a passing female Marsh Harrier.  Perhaps the strangest sight though was that, whilst observing the Zitting Cisticola a Green Woodpecker flew undulatingly through my vision.  Now what was that bird doing here?

Zitting Cisticola Buitron Cisticola juncidis

Driving along the canalside we had Mallard, Crested Lark along with small numbers of Goldfinches but also a single Green Sandpiper.  Only the one Grey Heron but no shortage of either Cattle or Little Egrets.  We managed to add a lone Hoopoe and then saw hundreds of Woodpigeons before finding a single Turtle Dove.  Both Pheasants and Jackdaws near the "smelly farm" and then the final drive along the track having re-crossed the bridge,back to the N340 main road produced a handful of Greenfinches, a juvenile Woodchat Shrike, a small feeding flock of Linnets and a single Spoonbill flew over the car and away.  Time to head back towards Algeciras and our over-night stop at Huerta Grand in Petayo but not before a little detour to the local golf club where we eventually found a pair of Bald Ibis and the local flock of Greylag Geese.

Turtle Dove Tortola Europea Streptopelia turtur at La Janda

Waking in the early hours of the morning to visit the bathroom, I then found it difficult to get back to sleep with the local Tawny Owl calling away somewhere close to our cabin.  Still, better than traffic noise!

After a welcome breakfast we were straight off to Algarabbo in the hope of better raptors as there appeared to be a drop in the very strong wind.  Unfortunately, this only seemed to last less than an hour so birds were still very high.   Many of the Griffon Vultures were still just rising from the neighbouring trees where, presumably they had spent the night.  Around us a steady stream of Barn Swallows but large groups of Bee-eaters passing very low.

Very high Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
A few Short-toed Eagle but at least a dozen or so Booted Eagles including a few dark morphs.  Again, regular sightings of Black Kites and then the first, very high, Honey Buzzards of the morning.  Not large numbers but, eventually, we managed to see a few at lower altitudes albeit still very high unlike previous visits.  A pair of Ravens passed along the wooded slopes and a Common Buzzard was also picked up. Pleasing to see a couple of Egyptian Vultures and, once again, there were a few Alpine Swifts to be recorded.

A couple of calls before once more reaching Cazalla where Goldfinches and House Sparrows were seen and along with most of the raptors seen on arrival we also managed to add a Montagu's Harrier.  Two Black Storks were an added bonus.

Black Stork Ciguena negra Ciconia nigra over Cazalla
Our lunch break was taken on the flats near Tarifa after first visiting Los Lances beach where the tide was well and truly out but did produce a single Grey Heron and a pair of juvenile Flamingos.  Lots of small waders, mainly Sanderling, Little Ringed Plover and a couple of Ringed Plovers along with a trio of Redshank and a handful of Dunlin.  We were also able to add a female Kingfisher as it perched on the fence that ran down to the pool at the right of the hide but no sign of any terns.  Lots of Yellow-legged Gulls  and a small number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and even a fair number of Black-headed Gulls.

Our final hour or so before starting on the long journey back to Mezquitilla was spent at the old wooden hide opposite the main gathering at Cazalla where we duly saw a number of Booted and Short-toed Eagles along with more Black Kites and Griffon Vultures.  But we did also record just the one Common Kestrel.

Birds seen/heard:
Greylag Goose, Mallard, Pheasant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Bald Ibis, Grey Heron, White Stork, Back Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Kestrel, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Tawny Owl, Alpine Swift, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven,  Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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

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