Sunday, 2 October 2016

Tarifa area

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Friday 30 September and Saturday 1 October

Friday 30 September

I think we all need (deserved?) a break so took Jenny along with middle son, John and his wife, Kim down to the Tarifa area for a couple of days with an overnight in Algeciras.  A leisurely drive don on the Friday saw us arrive at the Algarrobo raptor viewing spot in the early afternoon.  Very cloudy and windy and the birds, albeit many, were high.   Even with many reminders that we were not going to be birding from morn to night it was obvious that I was in no physical shape to so with the right eye still blurred and needing to wear sunglasses to keep the glare away as far a s possible.  So plenty of Short-toed Eagles with a few Booted Eagles and occasional Griffon Vulture along with the odd passing Sparrowhawk.  John and Kim thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing so many large birds overhead but I have to confess I found it very frustrating having to rely on every one around me just to simply tell me in which way to look.  But not all bad news as one of the ex-pat birders working with the Migres group informed me about a rare wader visitor at La Janda and I knew that all would be pleased to experience this site.  (Or at least, that was my excuse to travel on that far!)

We told to expect little at The Tarifa end but still called in at Cazalla where, to a certain extent, it proved correct.  On the other hand we not only picked up more of the same but also added a late Black Kite and then, as we departed for the short journey down to the flat and a call at Los lances beach, we had a flock of fifty plus Black Storks pass overhead.  Again, great excitement in the car at seeing so many low-lying large birds.  High tide at Los Lances and even with the lagoon empty of surfers there was still little to be seen; a departing Grey Heron, a distant Little Egret along with a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls and a fishing Sandwich Tern,  But we did have a passing Barn Swallow.

Some of the Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus at La Janda
So on to La Janda arriving well after mid-afternoon.  Driving down the access track lots of Stonchats and House Sparrow flocks but the latter also contained good numbers of Spanish Sparrow.  We could see White Storks in the distance but closer to hand had Common Kestrel and Crested Larks.  Just the one Corn Bunting observed and then a single Spotted Flycatcher before making our way between river  and rice fields to the large wet area (I hate to call it a pond).  Here we found a large number of Glossy Ibis to accompany them many Little and Cattle Egrets that we had seen plus a handful of Grey Herons.  There was a single Mallard on the water but it was the muddy edges that produced the goods with a few Dunlin, Ringed Plover, a small number of Black-tailed GodwitsYellow Wagtail and the "special" bird we had been told about whilst up at Algarroba.  Yes, a single Pectoral Sandpiper and looking exactly like the Collins description and illustration.  Very close to the track so not a problem even for me looking through the scope with the "wrong" eye.  Add on the local Goldfinch charms and a single Great White Egret and we were ready to take a trip over towards the "smelly farm".  This final section (turning round just after the farm as my eye by now was quite painful) duly produced Wood Pigeon, Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge and Jackdaw. Then it was drive back to Algeciras for the evening and a determination to revisit La Janda in the morning when the sun would be to the side rather than immediately in front of us.

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa throuth the car's windscreen

Saturday 1 October

Away by 10 o'clock and a short stop at Cazalla where there were now, unlike yesterday a large number of raptor watchers, the wind having changed direction and also clear blue skies.  Early so only the odd Griffin Vulture but lots of Short-toed Eagles.  Lovely to see the others enjoying the spectacle but, again, the sun/light was too bright for me and caused much pain whichever way I looked.  We added Booted Eagle before driving straight to La Janda.

Same as yesterday with numerous Stonechats as we drove down towards the canal.  In addition to both House and Spanish Sparrow we also added Zitting Cisticola, Crested Lark,Barn Swallow and a Northern Wheatear.  Driving along the track to the "pond" there were numerous Jackdaws and Spotless Starlings but closer inspection also revealed a number of Common Starlings.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
The pond now had the light off to the side giving me a more comfortable view but, unfortunately, many of yesterday afternoon's birds were no longer preset,  Still many Glossy Ibis but numbers down and instead of a range of waders I simply had a quintet of Snipe.  A short while later a pair of Lapwing flew in.  Fortunately, there was a range of birds to be seen as we drove along the track including many White Storks, both Cattle and Little Egrets and more Herons than yesterday. A quartet of juvenile Night Herons flew down stream and disappeared into thick bushes and both Green and Common Sandpipers put in an appearance.   We even had a Meadow Pipit.  Over the fields opposite we sat and enjoyed the spectacle of a pair of Ravens mobbing a Buzzard,  The drive to and beyond the smelly farm produced both Pheasant and many Red-legged partridges and on the fences beyond we had our first Blackcap.

Snipe Gallinago gallinago

Then it was on to Benalup for lunch when, in theory, we were finished birding for the day.  But the road home took us through Barbate where the tide was fully in, and this seemed too good an opportunity not to show John and Kim the ugliest bird in Europe.  Right on cue we stopped as we left the road to drive around the back of the lagoons and there were three Bald Ibis happily feeding on the grass in front.  Amazing to see the lagoon completely empty but we could see many birds at the far end.  Naturally, permission was given to drive to the far end to end our day and on the way out and back we saw numerous Northern Wheatears along with Subalpine and Melodious Warbler, Whinchat and both Crested and Sky Lark.

Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita
At the far end we stopped to admire the sheer number of Gulls and, as far as we could identify, most were Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged albeit there was a Black-headed Gull nearer to our shore.  A handful of Flamingos was also present and looking more closely we identified a single Spoonbill feeding.  On the return journey to the road we found a Stone Curlew well camouflaged on it's usual island and, in the distance,  a Cormorant took to the air.  At the very last wet patch we found a few waders including DunlinSanderling, Ringed Plover and a Greenshank.  Our final sighting was a good-sized flock of Calandra Lark near to top of the bank on the land side of the track.

Newly-arrived Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Approaching Zahara we stopped in the roadside car park to both admire the view and enable John to go swimming.  Whilst checking with the bins from the car I actually managed to see a Gannet working its way eastwards.  Then cam the long journey back home and, whilst disappointed that I felt so handicapped, at least we, as a family, had had a lovely couple of days holiday.


Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge. Pheasant, Gannet, Cormorant, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Bald Ibis, Great White Egret, Heron, White Stork, Black Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Stone Curlew, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Pectoral Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Sky Lark,  Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Melodious warbler,Subalpine Warbler, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Jackdaw, Raven, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.


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

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