Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Southern Spain, 21-24th April

A short trip to southern Spain with Ed, Matt, Wes and Robin made for a perfect break and my most enjoyable foreign excursion since Sri Lanka. We had a great crowd and I welcomed the relief from taking thorough notes to just simply enjoy the birds and sharpen judgement on distant raptors. Indeed, raptors were our primary target and we enjoyed a couple of days of spectacular movement, with 23rd seeing scores of Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Honey-buzzards and Griffon Vultures moving through, along with Marsh Harrier, a couple of Ospreys and a handful of Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed Eagles, Black Storks and Bee-eaters. On 24th, the majority of the movement we witnessed involved Black Kites, with a strong 4-figure total logged by the other guys.

Egyptian Vulture


Black Kite


Black Kite swarm - though this doesn't come close to doing the spectacle justice

two among a flock of Black Storks

dark morph Booted Eagle

We notched up 122 species on 22nd alone, when we visited some pools and saltpans around Donana and saw Slender-billed and Audouin's Gulls, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints. Some nice views of Purple Swamphen, Collared Pratincoles, Roller, Western Bonelli's  and Great Reed Warbler were had that day and I connected with my first White-headed and Marbled Ducks. A Black-eared Wheatear shared a fence line with a hepatic Cuckoo, a Woodchat Shrike and a Whinchat. Ed tracked down a displaying Little Bustard and in the evening, some rolling green hills produced nice views of a graceful Black-winged Kite as it hunted.

male Black-eared Wheatear

hepatic female Cuckoo

Gull-billed Tern

squadron of Greater Flamingos

male Kentish Plover

adult Night-heron

Slender-billed Gulls

pair of Red-crested Pochards

singing male Melodious Warbler

drake White-headed Duck

23rd saw us connect with one of my dream birds, Lesser Kestrel, something I've been long awaiting and which I'd not yet been able to track down. That day we also visited a reintroduced Bald Ibis colony and successfully found a couple of Iberian Woodpeckers in the hills, along with a Western Subalpine Warbler.

duff Bald Ibis

Birds such as Blue Rock Thrush, 'Spanish Wagtail', Woodchat Shrike, Melodious and Sardinian Warbler, Spanish Sparrow, Zitting Cisticola, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, Montagu's Harrier, White Stork, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Spotless Starling, Serin, Cirl Bunting, Chough and Hoopoe were features of the trip and we had encounters with both Short-toed and Calandra Lark. Turtle Doves, Corn Buntings and Nightingales were common. The final day was memorable for finding a Bonelli's Eagle nest below a flurry of Alpine Swifts and Crag Martins, and spotting a Black Wheatear in a suitably rocky field.

we saw a handful of Short-toed Larks

one of several Woodchat Shrikes

Bonelli's Eagle on the nest, a fitting end to the trip!

The dream team - from left: me, Ed, Matt, Robin and Wes

My 140-strong species list for the trip in a rather loose taxonomic follows (lifers in bold):

Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Marbled Duck, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, White-headed Duck, Quail, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Great CrestedGrebe, Cory's Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Gannet, Cormorant, Night-heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, White Stork, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Osprey, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Black Kite, Black-winged Kite, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Buzzard, Honey-buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Hobby,  Peregrine, Moorhen, Coot, Purple Swamphen, Little Bustard, Avocet, Stone-curlew, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Caspian Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Rock Dove (feral), Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Little Owl, Swift, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Iberian Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Crag Martin Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, ('Spanish')White Wagtail, Wren, Nightingale, Robin, Redstart, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush, Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Western Subalpine Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Willow Warbler, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Corn Bunting