Tuesday 22 September 2015

Two days in Tarifa: Day 1

Always good to see a Black-shouldered Kite Elanio Comun Elanus caeruleus
Day 1:  Friday 18 September

With the Andalucia Bird Society monthly filed meeting scheduled for 9.30 on Saturday 19th., Jenny and I travelled down the previous day to make the most of the long journey and, hopefully, cover some of the areas that we might not be attending on the visit day.  the idea was to catch up on La Janda and Barbate to concentrate on the raptors the following day.  But who could resist driving straight pat the raptor sites of El Algarrobo and Cazalla above Tarifa, especially when on the correct side of the road and seeing other birders already present?  The sun was shining in clear blue skies, calm weather so at 10.30 we were at the former.

Many White Storks Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia overhead and on the ground
It may have been clear and sunny but the raptors were very high and few and far between so we only remained about thirty minutes before trying to locate our overnight accommodation in Petayo and then on to Cazalla.  However, we did record small numbers of Honey Buzzards along with a regular passage of Griffon Vultures plus a few Black Storks and three Egyptian Vultures including a juvenile.  Also seen were a small number of Black Kites and a Sparrowhawk.  Cazalla was well-supported by birders and difficult to even find a parking space in the large car parking area.  Again, no shortage of Griffon Vultures along with Short-toed Eagle, Black Kites, a single red Kite and by way of variety both Barn Swallow and Stonechat.

Then it was on to the settling ponds at the back of Barbate where we met up with Barbara and Derek Etherton along with Linda Roberts and enjoyed some great birding, a late drink and tapa before a quick(ish) tour of La Janda in the reverse direction to that normally taken but excluding the detour up past the "smelly farm."

Distant record shot of one of many Stone Curlew Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedicnemus
No sooner had we arrived, passing Crested Lark, Spotless Starling and Collared Dove, than we were looking at a good-sized resting flock of Audouin's Gulls with a bout a dozen Sandwich Terns at the rear.  The nearer length of water contained a good number of Flamingos and, near the rear, a couple of Great White Egrets.  Certainly there was no shortage of Little Egrets, albeit not as many as the numerous Cattle Egrets that we passed whilst driving through "windmill city," along with a small number of Grey Herons.  Close by a Ruff was feeding alongside a Sanderling and a Black-winged Stilt strutted his stuff.  Looking around we could also identify Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls.  Our last recording was of a trio of Bald Ibis flying in to their usual feeding place near the local cattle far.  (A later meeting with a fellow birder informed me that they had seen at last twenty-five at about this time.)

The delicate Northern Whatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe
As a Common Kestrel drifted over we moved off round to the back of the area and then the call from Derek to say he had found a Whinchat.  having waited all year to see my first Whinchat, just like the number 9 bus, along came another, then another followed by another!  Also in this area we found a single Corn Bunting on a fence, a Northern Wheatear on the ground and a mystery warbler that turned out to be a Whitethroat on closer inspection.  No sooner had the first of a trio of Hoopoes crossed the track than we stopped near the former information sign to check out the nearby island where, true to form, we found the residing Stone Curlews.  Looking up an Osprey flew over giving good views.  It was also whilst here that we found a handful of (UK) Yellow Wagtails  M.flava flavisima feeding at the side of the track.

Then a visit from a wandering Osprey Aguila Pescadora Pandion haliaetrus
Finally on to the end of the track at the last water and a small stand of Tamerisk.  In the water along with the gulls, Flamngos and Little Egrets seven Spoonbill.  In the end tree a Common Redstart rested and was joined by a trio of Melodious Warblers, all looking quite stunning as they fed heartedly to put on the necessary fat for their upcoming crossing to Africa.  Returning towards the main road a final stop to speak to some British visitors who reported that they had been watching a Marsh Sandpiper.  On searching the shoreline we found a Greenshank and a Redshank and then the said bird put in an appearance, looking just like a washed-out juvenile Black-winged Stilt.  A look to the nearby island also found a pair of resting Kingfishers to add to the day's tally.

Common Redstart Colirrojo Real Phoenicurus phoenicurus working its way south
Then it was on to the river mouth where we found a good variety of feeding small waders and a passing Whimbrel.  Lots of Kentish Plovers along with a few Ringed Plovers and Sanderling. Whilst a Little Tern swooped down for a fish a single Red Knot continued feeding and a pair of Redshanks wandered down the far bank.  Just a handful of Turnstones and further up a solitary Bar-tailed Godwit was found and our first of many Marsh Harriers for the day put in a close appearance.

No shortage of Little Egrets Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta at both sites
Time to leave Barbate, have our late lunch and make our way to La Janda where we were welcomed by hundreds of White Storks.  A Green Sandpiper was feeding in the muddy ditch to the right and thee was a constant presence of large charms of Goldfinches.  Accompanying these delightful small birds were a few Serin and the occasional small flock of Linnets.  A Zitting Cisticola "popped up" and the clouds of Sparrows seemed to be a good mix of both House and Spanish with the latter in the majority.

Green Sandpiper Andarrios Grande Tringa ochropus
Before reaching the main bend and the track off to the farm we had a close view of a couple of Booted Eagles and then, out of the nearby tress, flew our only sighting of a Black-shouldered Kite. Lovely! Meanwhile, we continued to watch the many Marsh Harriers quartering the rice fields and hundreds of Wood Pigeons seemed to be constantly on the move.  A pair of Lesser Kestrels were seen but very high.
One of many Marsh Harriers Aguilucho Lagunero Circus aeruginosus
At this point we took our leave so that we could actually find our hotel, get changed and meet our friends at their hotel for dinner.  Driving along the long straight we not only continued to record Barn SwallowsLittle Egrets, Grey Herons, White Storks and Marsh Harriers but also found a couple of Glossy Ibis and, almost at the far end, our first (female) Montagu's Harrier and a most handsome male Marsh Harrier, our first of the day.

Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus
Spoonbills Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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