Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Southern Spain 17th - 24th September - Part 1 Los Palacios to Ronda

I have just returned from a fantastic week in Spain with Bird Holidays and a group from Cambridge U3A. We flew to Malaga then drove across to our base for three nights at Los Palacios south of Seville. We stayed at the Manolo Mayo hotel in the town centre which was very nice and well located for the local birding sites.
On the 18th we visited the mixed habitat bordering the River Guadalquivir at Trebujena then drove down to the Bonanza salt pans ending the day on the coast at Chipiona. 
Along the river we had several Wild Boar with young digging around in the soft mud on the riverbank.
Common birds included Fantailed and Sardinian Warblers with a few Chiffchaff, we also had 4 or 5 Spectacled Warblers  in the Suaeda type habitat and several Lesser Short-toed Lark. An Osprey with a blue darvic ring was probably ringed in the UK! 
At the Bonanza salt pans we had our first party of Black Stork passing overhead and a handful of Griffon Vulture. There was a nice group of about 60 Slender-billed Gulls in one area.
There was a very confiding Bar-tailed Godwit which appeared healthy but fed unconcernedly whilst we took photos. 
Bar-tailed Godwit
Other waders were Greenshank, Dunlin and a few Little Stint plus a single Curlew Sandpiper. At least 2 Caspian Tern patrolled the salt pans and I should mention that there were at least 200 Greater Flamingo.
As we left the area we called in at the small pools in Bonanza which provided great views of White-headed Duck plus a single Marbled Teal which was unexpected.
White-headed Duck
Marbled Duck
Chipiona marina is famous for its small colony of Little Swifts and that was our next stop. The birds were still visiting the nests under a loading canopy and we didn't have long to wait until the first bird flew in, this bird and several others were carrying feathers in to the nest which seems odd in late September. A single Pallid Swift was also still visiting a nest and we saw several more of the town. Lance Degnan with another Bird Holidays group saw 20 Little Swifts the following day, so they are clearly well established here.

Little Swift & nest
The following morning we drove to the southern end of the Brazo del Este marshes which comprises of drainage channels, pools and reedbeds. The area is known for the adventive species that have become established here from Africa and we saw Yellow Bishop, Black-headed Weaver, Red Adavadat and Common Waxbill all in reasonable numbers. 

Yellow Bishop
The behaviour of the male Yellow Bishop was striking, he stood atop a tall reed then launched in to the air, appearing to inflate his body by fluffing his feathers then 'buzzed' around looking like a large bee!
The weavers were nest building along one of the drainage channels.
Black-headed Weaver

I have never seen so many Glossy Ibis, they were everywhere and there must have been several thousand. They shared the pools with Spoonbill whilst Cattle Egrets fed on the margins. 
Brazo del Este

A group of 30 Collared Pratincole landed on the muddy edge of one of the larger pools and hawked over head with several Whiskered Terns including a nice dark backed juvenile. A couple of Bluethroat were seen briefly by some members of the group but eluded me but one of several Penduline Tits paused briefly on top of the reeds posing nicely. 

Penduline Tit
Later we visited the northern part of the same marshes and I got some nice photos of the striking Crimson Speckled moth and Banded Groundling which has a very restricted range in Europe. Here rice paddies bordered the pools and drainage channels and there were many crayfish visible in the murky pools. 
Crimson Speckled

Banded Groundling
Butterflies were not common but in one area I came across several Swallow-tails.
That evening we visited an area of open grassland and Parasol Pines waiting until dusk when first one, then a second Red-necked Nightjar took to the wing and briefly calling. 
Red-necked Nightjar site
A largish owl flew by and was probably Long-eared but it was by then too dark to be certain.
The following morning we set off for Tarifa but went via Ronda and stopped nearby for some upland birds. In Ronda itself we encountered several Crossbill during a refuelling stop plus Red-billed Chough over the cliffs.
A few kilometres outside Ronda we stopped in a rocky valley and almost immediately saw a couple of Black Wheatear on top of a ridge. 
A distant Golden Eagle circled above shortly to be joined by a second bird and we were treated to some superb display with the eagle stooping and rolling high above the hillside. 
Golden Eagle
A closer scan of the immediate area produced a couple of Black-eared and single male Northern Wheatear and Blue Rockthrush with several Crag Martin overhead.
We departed for Tarifa - see above

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