Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Southern Spain Part II - Tarifa

We arrived at Tarifa late in the afternoon and checked in to the delightful Meson de Sancho hotel, as I locked up the van I noticed several Short-toed Eagles flying back inland from the nearby coast, presumably to roost overnight having decided not to make the crossing today. I ended up standing next to the van for over an hour and counted 50 Short-toed and 10 Booted Eagles,10 Black Kite, 6 Honey Buzzards, 4 Griffon and single Egyptian Vulture plus 6 Black Stork, 4 Alpine and 15 Pallid Swift all crossing the road above the hotel. A fantastic welcome to Tarifa!
Short-toed Eagle
I was up early the following morning, although it was almost 8:00 before it was properly light. I caught several Short-toed Eagles heading back towards the coast whilst Serin and Robins called from the hotel garden.
Plenty of decent habitat around the hotel pool
After breakfast we headed a few kilometres down the coast to the Cazalla raptor watchpoint. Between 09:45 and 13:00 we recorded the following;
Short-toed Eagle 106
Booted Eagle 104
Black Kite 10
Common Buzzard 1
Honey Buzzard 2
Spanish Imperial Eagle 1 immature
Lesser Spotted Eagle 1
Egyptian Vulture 12
Griffon Vulture 15
White Stork 100+
Black Stork 150
Raptor watching at Cazalla
Booted Eagle
Black Storks
Honey Buzzard - juvenile
Unfortunately the Spanish Imperial and Lesser Spot were distant but had some great views of everything else.
In the afternoon we took the boat trip into the Straits. The Bottle-nosed Dolphins came right up to the boat and included at least one calf, they looked to be enjoying themselves and several animals had a spell of breeching. 
Bottle-nosed Dolphin - adult with calf
Bottle-nosed Dolphin breeching
A pod of Pilot Whales appeared next and again we were treated to boat side views of these superb animals.
Pilot Whale
Birds were few and far between but we managed 4 or 5 Scopoli's Shearwaters and a small flock of terns which looked like Black but were rather distant.
The following morning we went down to the hide at Los Lances beach just West of Tarifa. We had great views of Knot, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit and a single Curlew Sandpiper in with the Dunlin. The Kentish Plovers were a little distant as was a group of around 20 Audouin's Gulls with  a similar number of Yellow-legged.
Across the road we had several Tawny Pipits along with the common Stonechats and Corn Bunting.
Returning to the hotel for lunch we added Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrest to the holiday list and I had nice views of a female Sardinian Warbler before heading to the flooded rice fields of La Janda. 
Sardinian Warbler
We made a slight, but unsuccessful, diversion to the cliffs behind Bolonia following a call from Mick Cunningham to alert us to a Ruppell's Vulture on the cliffs but it left before we got there.
There were large numbers of Glossy Ibis and White Storks in the paddy fields and we had 3 Black-winged Kites along the dirt track that dissects the area, one was reasonably close and peared down at us looking almost cat like, but the other 2 were rather distant and heat haze can be a problem with distant birds.
Black-winged Kite

Further on a small river passed under the track and we had several Red-rumped Swallows hawking overhead.
I got up early the following morning and went down to Tarifa beach with a view to photographing the Audouin's Gulls. They were not quite where they had been yesterday so I had a long walk up the beach but got some photos just after the sun rose.
Audouin's Gull - adult and 2cy
On the walk back I came across two Iberian Chiffchaff fly catching from some stunted pines close to the beach. I was surprised how yellow they looked and wondered if I had misidentified some earlier birds around Los Palacios as Willow Warbler at the start of the week.
Iberian Chiffchaff
We returned to Cabala after breakfast. Birds were a bit higher than our previous visit but we had several hundred Booted and Short-toed Eagles with Booted the commonest. Several parties of Alpine Swift appeared overhead and disappeared just as quickly. A few more Honey Buzzard and some close Griffon Vulture and a single Goshawk gave us some variety before heading back for lunch.
Griffon Vulture
In the afternoon we returned to La Janda and were quickly rewarded with a female Montagu's Harrier and, surprisingly, my first Squacco Heron of the trip. A large flock of Woodpigeon numbering several hundred had not been there two days ago. Further on we found a nice Purple Heron and superb juvenile Woodchat Shrike amongst a scattering of migrants including Whinchat, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher.
On our final morning Phil and I went down to Tarifa beach, a change in wind direction had brought Scopoli's Shearwaters much closer inshore but still distant for photos. 
Scopoli's Shearwater
All too soon we were heading for Malaga airport and our flight home. It was a fantastic trip and I won't forget the circling raptors over Cazalla or Little Swifts at Chipiona. Thanks to all the members of Cambridge U3A for making it such an enjoyable adventure.

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