Friday, 13 January 2017

A couple of days in Barbate and La Janda

Wednesday 11 January

With Jenny off back to the UK for a week to visit her brother I took the opportunity to carry on after the after the airport with a drive down to Barbate and La Janda with an overnight stop in the former.  Planned in advance, it meant I could also take friends Bryan Stapley and Lisette with me so making for a very pleasant interlude with some excellent birding.  Even better, no sooner had we passed Fuengirola than the wind dropped and we had two perfectly clear, warm and sunny days; magic.

The first stop was Los Lances beach having already recorded Booted Eagle as we approached Algeciras, numerous White Storks on nests as we passed by the town and then a couple of Griffon Vulrures as we approached Tarifa.  Walking along the track to the beach we had House Sparrows, the first of many Stonechats, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Spotless Starlings, Collared Doves and, best of all, both a Meadow Pipit and Lesser Short-toed Lark.

Green Sandpiper Andarrios Grande Tringa ochropus
Unfortunately, the tide was well in but at least there were no wind surfers to spoil our birding.  Cattle Egrets behind us and on and near the water a small group of both Grey and Golden Plovers along with Sandlerlings, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Dunlin, a single Redshank and just the one Common Sandpiper.  Lots of Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls to be seen and nearer the hide resting on the poles at least a score or more of Sandwich Terns.  Searching nearby we also found a handful of Turnstone and a distant, single Heron.

Mid-afternoon by now so on to Barbate and a first stop at the lagoons before the long road bridge in the hope that there might be some Bald Ibis about; there were not but lots of other birds even if, at first, most seemed to be very distant other than the small LBJs drinking and washing in the puddles on the nearby track.  We had already recorded Cattle Egret and the first of so many Stonechats that it was quite a relief to see the "ordinary" in the form of House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Rock Dove and Spotless StarlingWhite Wagtail almost immediately seen along with Meadow Pipits and Crested Larks. A small flock of Serin and Goldfinch before noticing the larger flock of Calandra Larks moving up the grassy slope and disappearing from sight.

Chiffchaff Mosquitero Comun Phylloscopus collybita

Meanwhile, looking over the water, we soon picked up the large number of Cormorants and both a distant single Little Egret and Great White Egret.  Resting amongst the former were a number of Audouin's Gulls whilst on the shore line were Ringed, Kentish and Grey Plovers.  Next up a small flock of Sanderling along with a pair of Black-winged Stilts, a lone Greenshank, Turnstone and a sole Grey Heron.

As we made our way along the track not only many more Stonechats but both Corn Buntings and Chiffchaff.  Opposite the "special" island we duly found a good sighting of a Stone Curlew before a single Oystercatcher flew across the water.  before returning to the main road we had also added Linnet and a Short-toed Lark.  Finally, as we set off for the town and the Barbate marshes about 7km further ion, a rather large puddle/small pond in the immediate cattle paddock produced not only more Cattle and Little Egrets plus a couple of Black-winged Stilts but a pair of Glossy Ibis.  Not only a lovely sighting but completely unexpected as this is where we had hoped to find the Bald Ibis.  The very quick stop at the beach just before the bridge revealed a Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper and Redshank.

The marshes were basically green fields with a flowing stream next to the path surrounded by mixed vegetation including think rushes.  And what a sight beheld us as scores of Chiffchaffs were feeding all around us.  The neighbouring trees held a good supply of Blackcaps and we also recorded both Greenfinch and Zitting Cisticola as a Buzzard drifted leisurely across the sky at a low altitude.  On the swampy grass we had both Meadow and Water Pipit alongside the feeding White Wagtails.  Also seen in the area were a Robin, Chaffinch and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Buzzard Busardo Ratonero Buteo buteo

Our final stop of the day before returning to Barbate and our overnight hostal was the cliff face at La Barca de Vejer in the hope that the Bald Ibis might have taken up residence at their breeding site alongside the main road.  A Robin calling at the back of the car park but again, we were to be disappointed but then, as we made our way back to the car park, what should fly directly overhead but a flight of six Bald Ibis; our day was complete.

Distant Black-winged Kite Elanio Comun Elanus caeruleus
Thursday 12 January

No rush to leave the hostal as we had planned to call in a the local Tourist Information Office and collect copies of their lovely bird guides for the area (available in Spanish, English and German - and maybe even French).  The day had been allocated to la Janda but we did make a very brief stop at both the beach and old lagoon round the back in case something different had turned up as the tide was now very low rather than the opposite of yesterday's visit. The former produced Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls along with Little Egret whilst the latter, in addition to both Rock and Collared Doves, also turned up Spotless Starlings, Crested Lark and a range of water birds including Cattle Egret, Ringed and Kentish Plover, Redshank and many Cormorants.  The track area still held White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and Corn Buntings along with flying Yellow-legged Gulls.

Corn Bunting Triguero Emberiza calandra
Arriving at La Janda from opposite the Zahara de los Atunes turning we stopped at the top to take in the scenery below as we looked over a mixture of flooded and harrowed fields.  Numerous Stonechats on the fences alongside the track along with Serin, Back Redstart and Greenfinch.  Both a Raven and the first Jackdaws flew over and landed in the field to our right and below then a flock of about sixty Lapwing.  A Buzzard rested on an electrict mast and we could hear, then make out in the distance a good-sized flock of Common Crane.  Whilst a Sky Lark sang from above the first of the White Storks put in an appearance.

White Stork Ciguena Blanca Ciconia ciconia
For the first time we turned right at the bottom of the track to follow the now very shallow river towards where we had seen the Cranes.  Nevermind a "good-sized flock" there must have been in excess of a thousand feeding on the fields with small numbers always in the air and strange to see them stretched out in what appeared to be almost a single line.  Back to the beginning and then onwards in the usual direction picking up many Little Egrets and, nearer the track, Linnets and Crested Larks plus regular sightings of both Stonechat and Jackdaw.  The occasional Green Sandpiper and Heron but then the first of a number of Marsh Harriers that were to be seen in the following hours.  However, it  was Lisette who saw and drew our attention to the lovely male Hen Harrier come up from the field and cross the track.  No sooner seen and she had also found a Kingfisher resting on reeds on the far bank of the river.

Female Hen Harrier Aguiluchopalido Circus cyaneus
Soon it was to be Common Kestrel, small flocks of House Sparrows plus a single Purple Swamphen before we found a trio of Mallards on a flooded field opposite the bridge up to the "smelly farm."  A stop just over the bridge on top of the rise to check out the distant pylons produced our Spanish Imperial Eagle as we drove down the avenue a party of five Moorhens and the first of numerous Wood Pigeons.  With only one distant view of a Red-legged Partridge we stopped on the hill up to the farm alongside the pipe-storage area.  here we not only found a few Red-legged partridges but also some very noisy, both vocal and flight, Pheasants.  Meanwhile, above us, a range of raptors and a pair of RavensBuzzard then Booted and Bonelli's and Short-toed Eagles plus a handful of Griffon Vultures.  Could it get any better?

Very distant Spanish Imperial Eagle Aguila Imperial Iberica Aquila adalberti
The Crag Martins and Zitting Cisticola were just a "warm up" for when we stopped at the far end of the far.  There, in the not too far distance to our left, first a pair of Black-winged Kites and a large buzzard-like raptor resting atop a pylon.  Was it a Buzzard or the Steppe Eagle that had been seen in the same area just two days ago?  I await the outcome from the photographs taken.  Probably the former but what if it was the latter?

Who are you Mr Eagle?
Continuing along the road, now in a very bad state of repair, more raptor sightings of both Buzzard and Hen Harrier.  The flooded fields at the bottom produced more lapwing and a pair of Snipe along with more Green Sandpipers, Little Egrets and White Storks.  Also here we found another pair of Glossy Ibis.  A Robin bobbed about at the side of the road and what we, at first , assumed was to be yet another Stonechat turned out to be a rather lovely Dartford Warbler.  The river produced a few more Little Egrets, Herons and White Storks.

Glossy Ibis Morito Comun Plegadis falcinellus

Finally, a stop in Benalup for a coffee before starting the long return journey and as we left the village, still on the edge of La Janda, we were rewarded with a Blackbird perched on a post and both Sardinian Warbler and Azure-winged Magie crossed the  road in front of the car.  A very slight deviation to take a final look at the Bald Ibis cliff site at la Barja de Vejar fund nothing but a drive down through the golf course whilst, again, not finding the ibis did produce a couple of Greylag Geese.  What a strange way to end the trip and with a final count of about 82 species.

Common Buzzard Busardo Raronero Buteo buteo

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Bald Ibis, Great White Egret, Heron, White Stork, Black-winged Kite, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Crane, Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Dunlin, Snipe, Whimbrel, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Calandra Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow, Pipit, Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Iberian Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

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