Monday 9 April 2018

Tarifa Area with the Andalucia Bird Society

Monday 9 April

Right on cue, I have just received a report from my Friend Derek Etherton outlining the events of the Andalucia Bird Society meet down in the Tarifa area to which I referred in Derek's Saturday email to me.  Nevermind the bad weather, look at the terrific birds seen by Derek and company.  

Tarifa Area: Saturday 7 April

Staying in Tarifa overnight on the Friday meant we had only a short journey on the Saturday morning to meet up with the ABS group.  Just as well we did because the rain steadily falling made it seem a good idea not to have to travel too far.  Grabbing breakfast at 08:00hrs left us time to visit the Tarifa car park, hopefully to note the resident Bulbul.  We parked up and walked to the birds known favourite area in the steady rain - dedication or what?  We noted Yellow-legged Gulls, Pallid Swift, House Sparrow as we searched the trees for the bird.  After 10 minutes it started singing its distinctive song, but was it?  Because we have learned from local birders that the Spotless Starlings now imitate the Bulbul!  Then some movement and the bird itself appeared right in front of us to start singing again - excellent.

Forget the rain.  Do I see a Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator hiding behind the Wryneck Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
We arrived at the meeting point spot on 09:00hrs to assemble and head off, still through rain, to Guadalmesi to search for passerines before, hopefully, raptors started to cross.  Stopping on top of the hill by the disused army camp we were aware of an increase in the wind, mainly a south westerly.  Whilst there we managed to find Chiffchaff, Common Kestrel and  Blackbird.  A couple of Black Kites were spied in the far distance, but the increasing wind made us move on pretty smartly.

Having driven down the road (?) to reach the coastal track we stopped to note Stonechats, Linnets, Green and Goldfinches.  Peering over the cliff to the Straits in front of us we noticed Turnstones and Sanderling on the rocks below.  Sandwich Terns fished and a couple of Cormorants flew past.  Woodchat Shrikes were on the bushes and several Crested Larks flew around.  Moving on further to the watch point several Nightingales were 'winding up' in the bushes at the side of the track.  A solitary Whimbrel was seen on the next range of rocks and by now, several Bee-eaters passed overhead.  House Martins and Barn Swallows darted around and a Red-legged Partridge scuttled by.  

We spent some time sheltering from the wind down by the watch point and patience rewarded us with Great Skuas, Gannets, both Common and Pallid Swifts, and some, we think, Common Scooters far out nearer to the Morocco shore than Spain.  As usual the Little Owls posed on the ruined buildings to be joined by a Hoopoe.

By 1130hrs the first quantity of Black Kites were seen crossing, then a lone Booted Eagle struggled over fighting hard against the strong wind - he made it OK!  2 Short-toed Eagles 'hung' in the skies further inland and at the same time Griffon Vultures were seen.

By 1230hrs it was decided to drive back and head for coffee, or something warmer, at Apolo X1.  But first we stopped  on top of the hill again to see many Black Kites pass low overhead.  Corn Buntings were singing and a solitary Willow Warbler was identified.

As we had spent all of Friday on La Janda we, and a couple of other cars and their occupants headed to Barbate.  By now the weather had deteriorated drastically and my phone app warned of heavy rain only 5km away.  The wind now seemed like hurricane force making car doors difficult to open.  Eventually we managed to see a couple of Collared Praticoles flying and then many more hunkered down seeking shelter.  However the wind didn't seem to stop the Skylarks singing, nor the Corn Buntings.  Waders were few and far between, Cattle Egret, Spoonbill, a couple of Black-winged Stilts and a few Stone Curlew were all that were visible.

Continuing up the track, in very poor condition after all the recent rain, we noticed and watched several Short-toed Larks on the edge of the track.  Movement in a bare bush at the side of us (only 2 cars in our convoy) and within 5 minutes we were fortunate to have a Wryneck show itself and fly the short distance to the barbed wire fence.  Sadly it disappeared before photos could record the bird but, unknown to us at this stage, better was to come later!

Wryneck Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Birds were generally  staying low and out of the wind and the impending rain, now visible  across the water so we turned round and headed back down the track.  Could we find the Wryneck again?  Even better, we found it, plus a Whitethroat and a first of the season Common Redstart.  By now the rain was hammering down and the birds had sought shelter in a Tamarisk tree, so we positioned the cars so all could see them.  Spanish Sparrows also sought shelter nearby, at least 30 of them.  We took some photos through the windscreen synchronising the taking with the wipers working - a bit like machine guns on the Spitfires!  It did stop raining after some 25 minutes and the birds moved out to the open and proceeded to preen giving further opportunities for viewing.

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

By now it was getting late so we continued driving back down the track and noted that the heavy rain had attracted several waders into the muddy area.  Ringed & Kentish Plovers, Sanderling and Dunlin were seen close by.

So it was back to the road, goodbyes to friends and head for the drive back home to AdlT after a very enjoyable couple of days with some excellent sightings, bringing our yearly total (for Southern Spain) to 204.

Wryneck Jynx torquilla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Despite the awful weather, the report reflects a great range of birds.  But my biggest surprise came with the very last word.  I was aware that Derek had seen species unseen by me to date this year, including his next door neighbour the local Tawny owl, and this report mentions a further three species that I am yet to see.  But, and here comes the big surprise, his latest total is just, a single species, ahead of me!  But well done Derek, Jerry and the two Barbaras.

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

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