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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Spain - El Chorro - 4 Eagle species

September 6th

Luis picked me up at 6.00am and en route to the mountains we stopped at Fuengerola to pick up another chap, Matthias who was relatively new to birding.

After another very enjoyable Spanish breakfast we arrived in the mountains of El Chorro around 7.30am, the 1st bird heard was Thekla Lark calling, in front of us was a massive mountain and on here was one of the species I wanted to see – Bonelli’s Eagle.

On the road up towards the mountain through the pines, Crossbills seemed to be everywhere.

We scanned the mountain picking out roosting Griffon Vultures, but it took around 20 minutes before Luis eventually picked out a roosting Bonelli’s Eagle.
Good views through the scope, hard to tell male or female but it was quite obviously a big Eagle, this became more apparent when a Spanish Ibex and its kid appeared on the top just above the Eagle.

Roosting Bonelli's with Spanish Ibex just above

By now everything was coming alive as the morning arrived and the heat of the day started to make itself known, pretty soon other birds around made themselves known.

Around 40 Alpine Swifts soon appeared over our heads as we made our way up the track towards a distant summit.

Red Rumped Swallow, Woodchat Shrike, Bee Eater, Sardinian Warbler, Crag Martin, Stonechat and Hoopoe, all were seen as we made our way up.
Half way up we came across more little gems in the shape of Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush along with a Common Redstart, Northern Wheatear and a number of Dartford Warblers.

When you get all these species, relatively easy to see on a stroll up a mountain, it does spoil you and make you realise just how special birding abroad is.

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Blue Rock Thrush

Black Wheatear

As we neared the top of the track, a pylon came into view and on top, scanning around and most definitely in hunting mode was a Short Tailed Eagle.

We all approached the top expecting the bird to flush but it not only stayed, it continued to hunt also giving great views.

After 15 minutes it went into a shallow dive at something on the ground, missed and then left for another pylon.

Without doubt the best views I have had off one, certainly closer than the one I saw in the UK a few years back.

Short Toed Eagle

Now with 2 Eagles under our belt we scanned around, Honey Buzzard, Marsh Harrier were all seen along with around 20 distant Griffon Vultures.

Presently though 2 other large raptors came up over the crest of the mountains, no less than a pair of Golden Eagles, even at distance looking through the scope stunning birds.

Watched one land and got better views so now 3 Eagles up.
On the way back down we came across 4 Black Wheatears together with what looks good for a Melodious Warbler on the fenceline. They were all a little agitated and looking down so presumably a predator/threat at ground level,possibly a Snake.

4 Black Wheatears

Agitated - Melodious Warbler on left

We also came across 2 Blue Rock Thrush which gave good views, one squabbling with a Black Wheatear.

As we arrived back at the car, we had been gone around 3 to 4 hours the Bonelli’s Eagle decided it was time to move, it came out overhead and was immediately joined by another, a pair.
Size was quite apparent with the female noticeably bigger than the male, in common with most birds of prey.
Decent views were had overhead before they eventually drifted off to hunt, we then headed to our next venue, another watch point.

Honey Buzzard

Male Bonelli' Eagle

Female Bonelli's Eagle

On arrival with the heat of the day now really kicking in, at least 25+ Griffon Vultures were aloft along with Black Kite, Kestrel and a couple of Sparrowhawks.

Before long though we picked up our 4th Eagle species in the shapes of dark and light phase Booted Eagles, these rounded it off very nicely.

Booted Eagle

A cracking mornings birding with Luis and Matthias, a big thanks to Luis, El Chorro is another stunning place and no doubt like Tarifa ,I can see myself visiting again next year.

Full Bird List

Alpine Swift – 40+

Blue Rock Thrush – 4

Red Rumped Swallow – numerous

House Martin – numerous

Crag Martin – 3 seen

Crossbill – numerous on the drive up through the pines

Sardinian Warbler – 3

Bee Eater – flocks of 25 and 40

Black Wheatear – 4

Northern Wheatear – 1

Hoopoe – 2

Woodchat Shrike – 1

Dartford Warbler – at least 4

Melodious Warbler – 1

Common Redstart – 1

Wren – 1

Spotted Flycatcher – 1

Thekla Lark – 3

Stonechat – 2

Common Whitethroat - 1


Griffon Vulture – around 45

Sparrowhawk – 4

Kestrel – 1

Black Kite – 1

Honey Buzzard – 1

Marsh Harrier – 2

Booted Eagle – 2

Bonelli’s Eagle – 2

Golden Eagle – 2

Short Toed Eagle - 1

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Spain - Costa Mijas Coastline

September 5th

Following on from the Tarifa posting, I headed down to the Coast in glorious weather it has to be said, I had in mind Audouin’s’ Gulls, having seen them in previous visits to this coast line.

Being later in the day there was plenty of beach activity but eventually after perhaps ½ mile, I found what I was looking for, a flock of no less than 32 Audouin’s Gulls on a stretch of rocks.

Audouin's and Yellow Legged Gulls

I will confess to not having a great interest in Gulls but these are quite smart Gulls, like Med’s, additionally it’s a big rarity in the UK which makes it more interesting.

Present in various plumages, it was good also to see a juvenile, a newbie for me, also present were a number of Yellow Legged Gulls.

As you do I took a lot of shots of the various Gulls and then started to look round in earnest, it’s surprising what is in front of you on a busy beach albeit a rocky area.
Along with the 32 Audouin’s, there was also 6 Yellow Legged Gulls, 2 Common Sandpipers, 19 Sanderling and 8 Turnstone, a nice little mixture.

Overhead also produced a Booted Eagle, Red Rumped Swallow and a Pallid Swift.

I then decided to have a scan out to sea, blue sky and bright sunshine; I was not hoping for much (thinking of Canvey Point on a bright day) but was pleasantly surprised when an hour’s sea watching revealed the following.

Sandwich Tern – 5

Balearic Shearwater – 1

Cory’s Shearwater – 11

Little Tern – 1

All were moving right to left and some of the Cory’s were relatively close in, a fishing trawler was out there, he would have had incredible views as they were passing right next to him.
Not sure if Cory’s is locally common or usual to see them like this, but not a bird I see a lot off in the UK.
A couple of birds that I did have in mind as possibilities never materialized, these being Gull Billed Tern and Slender Billed Gull.

I suspect that not being tidal as we know it, early mornings at this time of year could well produce good movement on the Med coastline. Now plotting and planning for next year, also got to get out on a boat somehow to photograph those Cory’s Shearwater’s.

Cory's Shearwater's

All in all not a bad afternoon, the lure of some food on the walk back along the coast and a couple of San Miguel’s polished it off rather nicely. Adios

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Spain - Tarifa September 5th

El Algarrabo Watch point

Over the years Tarifa has always been high up on the list as a must visit place and recently, whilst staying with my Sister and Brother in law in their apartment at Costa Mijas near Malaga who kindly put me up, I finally had an opportunity to visit.

As you know I get my kicks from Raptors, having followed various websites and related news over the years, I knew it was a well known Bird of Prey passage way back into Africa, one of the best month’s being September.

I had arranged the trip with Luis from Birdaytrip having met him again at the Birdfair; the trip was planned for the Straits and La Janda.

He picked me up on the above date at 6.00am, by 7.40am we were in position at the watch point taking in a nice Spanish breakfast along the way.

The entrance track up is dodgy to say the least, solid rock and holes, unfortunately it proved to be our undoing, more on that later.
With my usual luck and timing it was rather grey, cloudy and hazy early on and remained so with a few brief sunny spells for the morning, however it didn’t stop them moving, there was also a good breeze.

Sun up - part of Gibraltar just starting to rear up on the left


Right from the start, just before 8.00am, flocks of Black Kites and Honey Buzzards were dropping out of the cloud layer over head in semi darkness, quite a surprise for me to see them moving this early. 

It meant to me that they must have roosted nearby in numbers ready to make the crossing, can’t see them being a nocturnal migrant?

Black Kites dropping out of the cloud layer early a.m

From 8.00am to 10.30am we watched a continuous passage overhead of various raptors and other birds despite not ideal weather, especially for photography. Bee Eaters were also arriving at first light announcing their presence by distant trilling, high up they were a bugger to pick up until they came lower.

My totals up to 10.30am were as follows-

Common Kestrel – 2

Bee Eater – 177

Griffon Vulture – 23

Honey Buzzard – 216

Short Toed Eagle – 3

Black Kite – 122

Raven – 3

Sparrowhawk – 11

Iberian Chiffchaff – 2 (picked out on call by Luis in scrub)

Egyptian Vulture – 10

Marsh Harrier – 2

Booted Eagle – 16

Black Stork – 4, very nice came in together

Pallid Swift – 4

Common Swift – 6

Not bad for a couple of hours, nothing really close but very enjoyable just the same, it was one of those places where you don’t know what you are going to see next, I loved it.


Booted Eagle

Big boy - Griffon Vulture

Honey Buzzard

Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian Vulture

Black Storks

Dark Morph Booted Eagle

With this in mind Luis said we should go to the next place where they will pass closer, additionally the weather was perking up for photography.

Unfortunately the track back down to the road attacked us, big bang, pulled up down the road with the engine light flashing, looked underneath and oil was pouring out, a hole in the sump.
An unfortunate end to the morning, especially for Luis and his car, but these things do happen, the motto of the story get a 4x4.

They came and towed the car away, impressive service, they were there in 25 minutes, we then got a cab back to Costa Mijas.

Window watching as you do from the Cab along the A7 produced no less than 31 White Storks, 4 Booted Eagles and 2 Short Toed Eagles hovering, quite a sight.

Arriving back early afternoon I then decided to head down on my little legs to the coast, more on that in the next post…..