Monday, 28 March 2016


It's difficult planning ahead on a long trip because having fixed dates is somewhat restrictive. If I find a good spot I may want to stay several days but if somewhere is not so good I'll be happy to move on. One of the places I definately wanted to visit was Gibraltar, I've never been before and for two species, the Barbary Macaque and Barbary Partridge, this is the only place in Europe that you can see them plus March can be great for raptor passage.
Gibraltar Bird Observatory at the Jews Gate
I therefore decided to book at the Gibraltar Bird Observatory for the nights of 26th and 27th March and as it turned out this was a great decision on all counts. The observatory is incredibly cheap at £10/night, is very clean and tidy and is in a fantastic position. I was welcomed on the 26th by Steve Norman, a visiting British ringer and birder. Steve is in his tenth year of completing a 3 month stay at the observatory from February to the end of March. Steve was a mine of information of what was currently happening but also of past migration on The Rock and was happy to share it.
My first wonder took me in the direction of the Upper Rock for the Barbary Macaques, there doesn't seem to be much love lost between to islanders and the Macaques but the tourists love them and so did I.

Barbary Macaque
It was a clear blue sky on my first day and it was great to watch the family parties. One did pick up my camera lens at one point so you need to keep an eye on them!
Whilst wandering round the island, I didn't drive at all whilst I was there but there are some tough up hills, I added Spanish Festoon to the butterfly list plus some beautiful Moroccan Orange-tips (some books seem to call these Provence Orange-tips as a split from the Moroccan but that's beyond me). 
Spanish Festoon
Moroccan Orange-tip

I saw the local Peregrines and several Sparrowhawk but that was about it for my first afternoon.
The following morning I went to Europa Point, the most southerly point on the island. This is where migrants first make landfall and looking for them around the kids play area and local gardens is like birdwatching on Hartlepool Headland. It was quiet for migrants but I came across a nice male Subalpine Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Blue-headed and White Wagtails plus several Chiffchaff and the resident Black Redstarts and Blue Rockthrush so wasn't complaining.
Subalpine Warbler - male
Woodchat Shrike

I particularly wanted to see Barbary Partridge and walked a long way looking for them, finally flushing two birds which shot in to the air and disappeared in seconds. 
Heading back to the Obs there was some raptor passage underway, in about 4 hours Steve and I had the following;
Kestrel 3
Hobby 1
Peregrine (local bird hunting finches as they crossed the straits)
Sparrowhawk 11
Osprey 1
Black Kite 18
Booted Eagle 13
Short-toed Eagle 2
Marsh Harrier 4
Montagu's Harrier 3
Plus at least 85 Bee-eater which were the first of the year and all from the door of the observatory! This was a fairly quiet day by Gibraltar standards but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. 
Montagu's Harrier - male

This morning, the 28th, I had another go for the Barbary Partridge and struck lucky with three birds at Europa Point, two males calling at first light I had to wait for sunrise before I could get any photos. 
Barbary Partridge
I stayed at the Point for the rest of the morning and met John Harwood a very helpful Gibraltarian birder (who posts some great photos on the bird-nerds blog site) Together we watched about 20 Booted and 2 Short-toed Eagles plus about 20 Sparrowhawks make the crossing from Africa to Europe, some of the birds flying directly overhead.. an amazing site.
Booted Eagle - pale form

I would thoroughly recommend a trip to Gibraltar there is a lot of information, including recent sightings on the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society web site.
At mid-afternoon I set off for Ronda.

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