Sunday 4 March 2018

Tarifa Area

Friday 2 March

What a start to the day!  I had promised my Australian birding friend, Bob Ashford, that I would find him a Bald Ibis to see and photograph so we booked a night down in Tarifa to gives us a couple of days and, at the same time, attend the presentation of a large donation from the Andalucia Bird Society to the Montagu's Harrier Project at La Janda.  But that was before we noted the promised change in the weather.  Whilst we had expected to concentrate on water birds we, naturally, assumed that it would be birds on water not water on birds!  The drive down on Friday was horrendous with torrential rain and, near Fuengirola, what seemed like hurricane-force winds. But, and it was a big but, the rain stopped for our coffee break on the way down and once in Tarifa, again a break in the weather whilst we checked out the "Bulbul Car Park" (not seen on this occasion) and every time we stopped; calm in Zahara, a respite at Barbate and just the occasional spot as we drove the reverse way back through La Janda on to our overnight stay in Hotel la Torre.  "But" again as no sooner had we put belts on to leave La Janda than the heavens opened once again!

But look on the bright side, apart from the the amazing number of birds seen including, for me, four new species for the year, Jenny, T'other Bob and I enjoyed spectacular views of waterfalls and dramatic scenery both on the way down and at the Atlantic coast.

Barn Swallow Golondrina Comun Hirundo rustica
No Bulbul but we did record Sardinian Warbler, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow and House Martin at the car park before a Peregrine Falcon circled above us quickly followed by a Common Kestrel.  Then it was on to Zahara de los Atunes to look for the local Little Swift.  Again, no success but we stopped to watch the ocean crashing ashore before retracing our steps but this time through the tow itself.  However, on the drive up to the viewing point we came across a single Great Skua flying alongside the road.  Eventually the bird crossed and disappeared over the houses and back, presumably, to the sea.  I imagine that the bird had been pushed in shore by the very strong winds but it was our good fortune that we just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Exiting back onto the Barbate road the water levels were extremely high and we stopped to watch the feeding hirundines finding not only House and Crag Martin but also Red-rumped Swallow in good numbers in addition to the Barn Swallows.

Next it was on to Barbate recording both Cattle and Little Egrets a plenty and first a stop at the track leading to the back of the new fish ponds.  No sooner had we arrive than we had a sight of a lone Bald Ibis flying across the back of the field but the waters themselves were to prove very disappointing.  What looked like hundreds of Flamingos at the distant far end but no point in risking the car on the very muddy track.  Nearer to hand we had a quintet of Spoonbill, Cormorant, Sandwich Tern and the odd Little Egret or two plus a  handful of Audouin's Gulls.  The only small birds were Crested Lark and a White Wagtail.

Bald Ibis Ibis Eremita Geronticus eremita
Arriving at La Barca de Vejer we found scores of jackdaws at the local cliff along with five Bald Ibis so Bob a very happy chappy as he snapped away.

No point in arriving too early at the hotel so, having achieved our target for the day we decided we would make a casual drive back through La Janda if only to make sure that the track was drivable for the morning.  Approaching 4.30 and the light not good we were not expecting to see that many birds.  How wrong we were.  Not hundreds of White Storks and lots of Glossy Ibis - just two White Storks but a good range on of many the species.  However, the most spectacular sight was the site itself; I have never seen so much water here.  The river had burst its banks in many places and it was like looking at the Donana during harvest time.  The bridge over the river up towards the "smelly farm" had only about 20cm of clearance over the water (see tomorrow's report!) and the ditch on our right (main road side) was full to overflowing at this point.

Great White Egret Garceta Grande Egretta alba
No sooner had we seen our first Heron than we had a couple of Great White Egrets.  Lots of both Little and Cattle Egrets and the occasional White Wagtail on the track along with small numbers of Serin and Goldfinch.  Before the bend even a Chaffinch. A cloud of Spanish Sparrows took to the air and then the first of many Mallard to be seen, mainly in flight.  Only the one Lapwing but  regular sightings of both Purple Swamphen and Moorhen.

Not crossing the bridge we continued on up the much puddled track with regular sightings of Crested Lark along with Stonechat and more Serins, Goldfinches and White Wagtails before finding our pair of White Storks.  A couple of Woodpigeons put in an appearance and a Hoopoe flew up from almost underneath the car.  To the left a dam-looking Kestrel took to the air from its perch on the main water gate and then the most bedraggled Pheasant you can imagine wandered across in front of the car and wandered up the track in front of us looking like a "drowned rat" and too sodden to actually take to the air.  But, as stated at the beginning, once we reached the turn back up to the road and had fastened seat belts, etc the heavens absolutely opened once again.  But fortunate had we been to see so many birds (43) on a day when sensible people would have remained indoors!

Cattle Egret Garcilla Bueyera Bubulcus ibis

Birds seen:
Mallard, Pheasant, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Bald Ibis, Great White Egret, Heron, White Stork,Spoonbill, Flamingo, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Lapwing, Great Skua, Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch.

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

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