Monday, 11 April 2016

Two Days in the Tarifa Area

Collared Pratincole Canastera Comun Glariola pratincola

April field meeting of the Andalucia Bird Society

With the ABS holding its April meeting down at Tarifa today, it seemed most appropriate to travel down yesterday, meet up with friends Derek and Barbara Etherton and enjoy a full day's birding at La Janda and Barbara followed by an overnight stay at the latter before meting up with 30+ members this morning.  Before joining the main group below the cliff slightly east of Tarifa to checkout incoming raptors and small migrants, a very small group of us drive down to the nearby car park to both see and hear the lovely song of the resident Common Bulbul which were accompanied by feeding Common and Pallid Swifts overhead along with both Common and Lesser Kestrels, not to mention the usual Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows, Collared and Rock Doves.

Friday 8 April

White Storks both driving through San Roque and then as I entered La Janda.  Driving down the track was like travelling through an avenue of Corn Buntings and Stonechats, many of the latter already with fully grown youngsters.  Also recorded on this initial stretch of track down to the canal were Crested Lark, Zitting Cisticola and Sardinian Warbler.  A stop to check out a small field pool on the right produced a Little Ringed Plover and a pair of Red-legged Partridges making their way, it appeared, towards the pool.  I could hear but not see small numbers of Bee-eaters passing overhead but on reaching the canal and parking up more came across and this time with a few feet of the ploughed field to the left.

Lots of Corn Buntings Triguero Emberiza calandra to be seen
On and near the canal were a couple of Moorhen and a small number of Mallards but, perhaps, the best sight was that of a single Squacco Heron.  A Grey Heron flew over and there were numerous Cattle and Little Egrets to be seen.  Common Swifts and Barn Swallows above and then the first Purple Swamphen to the right and a Pheasant a long way from its usual territory on the opposite bank.

Male Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus with food for youngsters

Now joined by Barbara and Derek we soon added a first, for me, Purple Heron of the year and a Booted Eagle was seen above.  Next up the first Marsh Harrier of the day and, on the track itself, numerous Goldfinches, the occasional Serin and more Crested Larks.  In the distance we could see the main pools to the left and a number of Spoonbill, White Storks and many Little Egrets and Black-winged Stilts.  Also present up to a score of Glossy Ibis.  Jackdaws began to appear on the pylons along with Common Kestrels and the first of very many Woodchat Shrikes.

First Purple Heron Garza Imperial Ardea purpurea of the year
The rive down the avenue after turning right to cross the water produced many Cattle Egrets at their nest sites along with good-sized charms of Goldfinches along with a couple of over-passing Wood Pigeons.  More Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges as we made our way up to and past the "smelly farm" along with its accompanying Jackdaw and Rock Dove residents.

Rat Rata Parda Rattus norvegicus up a tree and, presumably, predating the Cattle Egret nests

But it is he area immediately beyond the farm that always seems to produce the goods, especially in terms of raptors.  The pair of Little Owls were resting on their "usual" rock and then good numbers of Black Kites along with both Common and Lesser Kestrels, a Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle and a few Griffon Vultures.  A most handsome male Montagu's Harrier might have been the top choice had we not found the soaring Spanish Imperial Eagle high above us as it gradually drifted away westwards.  To add to the selection a lone Raven also moved across the field.

Male Montagu's Harrier  Aguilucho Cenizo Circus pygargus

Distant view of the Spanish Imperial Eagle Aguila Imperial Iberica Aquila adalberti
Soon time to make our way over to Barbate to check in at our hotel before exploring the marismas but not before also adding Blue-headed Wagatil and a Whitethroat along with the many Corn Buntings that adorned the wires on the exit track.  Then it was an obvious stop at Barca to checkout the small Bald Ibis colony and, my word, even in the breeding plumage finery these are still ugly birds!  But, as I keep repeating, their mothers love them.

The now established Bald Ibis Ibis Ererita Geronticus eremita

Arriving at the Barbate marismas we immediately had more Corn Buntings, Crested Larks and Blue-headed Wagtails along with the first on many Linnets.  A handful of Collared Pratincoles landed close by and even a single Kentish Plover decided that the side of the track would be a good place to take an early evening stroll.

Kentish Plover Chorlitejo Patinegro Charadrius alexandrinus
With the tide full in very few waders were to be seen but we did pick up, apart from more Black-winged Stilts, Avocet, Redshank and Greenshank along with a Grey Plover and a small number of Sanderling.  A single Cormorant put in an appearance and on the water itself we found Yellow-legged Gulls, Flamingos and a few Spoonbill along with Little Egrets and Grey Herons.  Above us both House Martin and Red-rumped Swallow and a couple of Stone Curlews were found on their island.  Yesterday's Great White Egrets were still present but, again, somewhat distant.  The only other new bird for the day was a Calandra Lark further along the track which made a welcome change from all the Woodchat Shrikes and occasional Blue-headed Wagtails.

Cattle Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis

Saturday 9 April

I have already mentioned the Common Bulbul and accompanying birds in Tarifa itself and the coastal area was a little disappointing in terms of migrant raptors.  Indeed, just a couple of Short-toed Eagles.  We did have Stonechats and a couple of Northern Wheatears along with a Tawny Pipit before moving further along and recording Woodchat Shrike, Linnet, Sardinian Warbler and Goldfinch.  Moving to the observation point we picked up a Little Owl and a lone Flamingo through close to the cliff whilst a Gannet headed east further out to sea.  Crag Martins around the ruins and a single Whimbrel resting on a rocky islet alongside a pair of Yellow-legged Gulls.  Again, the song and sighting of Nightingales was very welcome.

Female Linnet Pardillo Comun Carduelis cannabina above with male below

Time to go.  Hey, wait for me!

After a very short break for a drink and tapa at the Apolo XI bar it was on to a return visit to La Janda.  As expected we picked most of the birds seen yesterday including Spoonbill, masses of Little Egret and Grey Heron.  The early stages also saw the Stonechats and Corn Buntings and very early sightings of both Moorhen and Purple Swamphen including at least a handful of the latter.

Yellow (Blue-headed) Wagtail Lavandera Boyera Motacilla flava iberiae of the Iberian race

The track alongside he canal produced a couple of Short-toed Eagles and a Marsh Harrier with both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows overhead.  Whilst watching a spiralling flock of White Storks we also recorded a pair of very high Peregrine Falcons.  Good numbers of both Glossy Ibis and Black-winged Stilts on the flooded field on the left along with the odd Mallard.

A few of the many Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus to be seen
More sightings of the nesting Cattle Egrets as we drive down the avenue and then, at the stream, first a distant Montagu's Harrier and then a large circling raptor.  Following the bird down to the tree tops we than found a large, resting raptor ion a distant pylon and closer inspection with telescopes revealed a Spanish Imperial Eagle for all to see.  Close by we all got the sight, at last, of both Red-legged Partridge and Pheasant.

The mighty Griffon Vulture Buitre Leonado Gyps fulvus
Again, it was dehesa land beyond the smelly farm that produced the goods.  More Common and Lesser Kestrels along with regular sightings of both Black Kites and Montagu's Harrier along with Griffon Vulture.  A Buzzard wandered into sight and there were jackdaws, not to mention the resident pair of Little Owls to be seen.  A Booted Eagle was spotted and then all dashed to the side of the road as a male Cuckoo flew across and beyond the road to our left.  The final icing on the proverbial cake as I started on the return journey was to locate both the Subalpine  and Melodious Warblers found by Derek and Barbara.

Finally a sighting of the Bee-eaters Abejaruco Europeo Merops apiaster
Leaving the area to hurry home, I was already running thirty minutes late, I made the occasional stop to check out the trees and picked up Spanish Sparrow along with a small flock of Bee-eaters on the wires but no Black-winged Kite this week-end.   And the final tally for the week-end a most pleasing 80+ species.

The ever-present Woodchat Shrike Alcaudon Comun Lanius senator

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Gannet, Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Bald Ibis, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Purple heron, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Water Rail, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Redshank, Greenshank, Yellow-legged Gull, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House martin, Tawny Pipit, Blue-headed wagtail, Nightingale, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Cetti's warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Whitethroat, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

And so goodbye to the Cattle Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis for another year

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

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