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Saturday, 19 September 2015

Spain - Guadalhorce Nature Reserve

September 15th

Having decided to have half a day’s birding with my wife Christine, I had arranged for a guide, Luis Alberto Rodriguez from Birdaytrips, ( to pick us up from my sister’s apartment in Miraflores, Mijas Costa.

Luis collected us from our apartment at 6.45am in darkness and we headed to Malaga where the Reserve is located, fairly close to Malaga Airport but a coastal site adjoining the Mediterranean.
This was a Reserve I had not been to in previous visits, so I was a little in the dark as to what we were going to see being fairly urbanized on its perimeter.

Luis had outlined some of the birds, Spanish specialities like Audouin’s Gull and White Headed Duck, at the end of the morning we saw far more than I expected.
Luis was a terrific guide who speaks great English and is a very nice chap along with it, at the end of the morning we couldn’t praise him enough.

We also connected with some Raptor passage, it’s no secret that is where I get my kicks, so couldn’t have been happier.

Arriving at dawn we searched for the resident Barn Owl but unfortunately drew a blank but another nocturnal bird made an appearance, a Red Necked Nightjar no less. A great start to the morning and if I remember correctly, only the 2nd one I have seen.

By now many species were leaving there roosts in the reed beds, Grey Herons everywhere, the sky was also full of calling Yellow Wagtails and many Hirundines species including good numbers of Red Rumped Swallows.

Moving on we then picked up a Hoopoe and no less than 3 roosting Booted Eagles in some trees, Luis confirmed that some have even been wintering here rather than make the crossing to Africa.

After this many species gave themselves up, Black Winged Stilts, a cracking Little Bittern, White Headed Ducks, 2 lowish Black Kites, 2 Kingfishers, Wood Sandpiper, another 2 Booted Eagles, Little Tern and Zitting Cisticola being the highlights.
Pallid Swift was also regular amongst the Commons and as we arrived near the Sea and saw good numbers of waders, these included Kentish Plover, Ruff, Sanderling, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Little and Ringed Plover and of course the Stilts which seemed to be everywhere.

White Headed Duck

These were everywhere - Monk Parakeets

Kentish Plover

Chris and Luis Alberto in one of the hides

Luis also found a Crested Lark, then Slender Billed and Audouin’s Gull so 2 really good birds that I was pleased to see, we also nailed a Peregrine on one of the distant chimneys.(Always seem to see one wherever I go)

Audouin's Gull

It was about this time when Raptor passage started, I was in my element.

Honey Buzzards first showed in flocks of 20-50, we then started to see smaller sized flocks of Black Kites.
In a 45 minute period I would estimate we saw up to 400 Honey Buzzards, 80 Black Kites and 2 Booted Eagles.
Luis said that they usually pass slightly inland over the mountain chain heading down to Gibraltar/Tarifa to cross to Africa, this morning the wind was pushing them over us thankfully.

It was quite a spectacle in this short period, something which we don’t experience in England on this scale unfortunately. Some of the flocks were dots so I wonder how many we missed/or passed over during the course of the day?

Black Kite

Honey Buzzard

Black Kite

Honey Buzzard

Pale Phase Booted Eagle

After this we retraced our steps back to another section of the Reserve, awaiting us were 2 adult and 6 sub adult Greater Flamingo’s, more White Headed Ducks, also the heat of the day was really building as we approached mid day.

Sanderling - this was taken at our local beach the following day

The beach at Guadalhorce

To round the morning off a Purple Heron dropped into the Reserve and landed in some trees, a bit distant but good views were had through the scope.

A fine end to a great morning with 70 species seen, a great guide in Luis Alberto, we will no doubt be visiting again, I wouldn’t mind a crack at photographing those wintering Booted Eagles.

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