Sunday 8 April 2018

La Janda with Derek Etherton and Friends

Sunday 8 April

Just back from an initially disappointing visit to the Charca de Suarez (see my report entitled "Motril Area" and found the following report from friend Derek Etherton.  This was a two-day visit that I had also intended to attend but my the big sacrifice to take Jenny to our monthly supper dance, the moreso having opted out in February so that I could attend the Bonanza meet of the Andalucia Bird Society.  All very inconvenient this year as our dance group now has to hold its monthly dances a week later and they, therefore, clash with my bird meetings.  But at least the dances have now finished till October!  Just think what I missed, not only my "bogey" species, Spotted Redshank, but what would have been a first Spanish sighting of a Great Bittern.  Ah well, always a next time.

La Janda, Tarifa: Friday 6 April

We, Derek and Barbara Etherton, collected Jerry & Barbara Laycock from their abode in Fuengirola early Friday morning to travel to Tarifa for 2 days birding, just us on the Friday and with the ABS meet on the next day.  Pretty uneventful travel on the motorway with just the usual things like Common Kestrels and Buzzards, Blackbirds, Spotless Starlings, House Sparrows etc.  After breakfast in Tahavilla we decided to spend the whole day in La Janda as the weather was good, but the forecast for the next day, not so.  

Driving in from the Barbate crossroads we immediately encountered Corn Buntings, numerous Stonechats, Goldfinches, both House and Spanish Sparrows and Zitting Cisticolas.  At the bottom of the track as you turn left to track the canal we stopped to admire a Whitethroat in full song on top of a bush before it moved to the power cable and continued its song.  Little Egrets were numerous as were Purple Swamphens/Galinules/Bog Hens - call them what you like.  Both male and female Marsh Harriers floated over us, Common Kestrel was hunting, juvenile Bonelli's Eagle was spied and numerous White Storks spiralled high above.  

The flooding had receded but left several fields wetter than usual for this time of the year, one field in particular was still flooded and had attracted several waders.  The most numerous of them being Common Redshank but we were pleased to ID a solo Spotted Redshank amongst them.  Also there was a solo Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, numerous Spoonbill, Grey Heron and both Cattle and Little Egret.  We got talking to a young Spanish couple ( guides, Ecotono Birding,Tarifa) whilst wader watching and shared our sightings.  We said we were moving on to try and locate the Eurasian Bittern that had been seen and photographed in all its glory over the past 2 weeks.  

Being the great chap he is, Ricky had sent me a 'Google Pin' to show the location of the bird and we made our way there in the (vain?) hope of locating this rare bird.  We occasionally stopped to note Barn Swallows, Black Kites, Red-legged Partridge, Crested and Short-toed Larks, 100's of Mallards, Yellow Wagtails (Iberian), and hundreds of Bee-eaters passed over head.  Glossy Ibis were in good supply as were Moorhens, Serins, Gull-billed Terns, Woodchat Shrikes, Kentish Plovers and Jackdaws.  Arriving at the Bittern area we spent some time searching the main areas without much luck, plus under difficulties because of a succession of lorries thundering down the track, and we turned the car around. Jerry said, 'Let's just check that little track on the right, further up the road' - so we did.  My Barbara stayed by the car whilst the three of us walked to check a small stretch of water.  I looked one way, J & BL the other, then we swapped over with me looking left.  Would you believe I saw a faint movement barely a metre away from where I was standing?  One more step and I'd have stood on the Bittern!   Speechless, I managed to make the other 2 turn round before the bird 'excused' itself, took to its wings, nearly clattered (BE) on the head and flew right in front of the young Spanish couples van, they certainly arrived at the correct time.  What incredible views we all had of the bird and we found out later we 'giris' were mentioned on "The Straits " sightings blog as 'having flushed the bird'.  Not quite true - the bird though, certainly flushed us!

Well after that excitement we moved on up the track towards the farm, and dodging the heavy lorries, noting Pheasant, Great Tit, Raven, Booted Eagles, Wood PigeonsNightingales were singing, as only they can, and several more Larks (Crested and Short-toed) were spied in the fields.  Hoopoe added to the list as was a male Montagu's Harrier.  At the Benalup road we turned left to check the Spotted Eagle area - no luck - but several Common Snipe were seen, along with plenty more Mallard, Cormorant, Shoveler and Shelduck in the flooded fields.  Sardinian Warblers and Greenfinches dotted the hedgerows, but sadly no sign of the Black-wing Kites today.

By now our day had passed and not wishing to traverse the Benalup road again (as bad as I've ever seen it) we took the tarmac road back to Tarifa and our hotel.

A super days birding and a first in Spain for me - the Eurasian Bittern - and I realised it has been 12 years since my last sighting at Lee Valley - how time flies!

Well I'm going to watch the football now, followed by the F1 race.  I'll send you a report of Saturdays wet ABS meet tomorrow, but to whet your appetite - think Wryneck and Common Redstart together!  And I got photos through a windscreen in a rainstorm.

Derek Etherton

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

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