Click on photos to enlarge, please do not copy photos without permission

Saturday 24 September 2022

La Janda - September 10th Day 3 - Morning


La Janda

September 10th Day 3 - Morning

This was another place for me that had been on the periscope for a number of years, as with Coto Donana you read about these places, but not sure what to expect.

Even though we didn’t get into the vast true Marsh of Donana the day before, the birding was still fantastic amidst a vast variety of habitats teeming with birds.

Consequently, I kept a bit of an open mind as we approached La Janda at first light, turning down a Farm track however and birds were absolutely everywhere.

From this it never stopped, greeting us as we moved down the track was a vast flock of Corn Buntings from roost, a couple of Crested Larks and a Zitting Ciscola.

A grounded Griffon Vulture was seen walking down a fence line, it appeared unharmed unless it had hit a turbine. I would presume that it was not capable of flight this time of morning.

As we moved down the track, we noted distant raptors sitting on some of the pylons, one of these on size and head shape was definitely a Short-Toed Eagle but the other was smaller. On checking with the scope, Pablo confirmed a Black Winged Kite, 2nd to a Peregrine for me and one of my favourite Raptors. Moving closer and further down the track we got great views, it was then joined by a 2nd bird, and I most definitely got the best views I have ever had of one, superb.

Other birds showed and we added in total 3 Short Toed Eagles, 2 Common Buzzards, a fly through Turtle Dove, 5 White Stork, 3 Hoopoe, 2 Marsh Harriers, Calandra and Thekla Lark all from this track.

Also caught up with Spanish Sparrow, a couple of Cattle Egrets, flyover calling Yellow Wagtails and Stonechat seemed to be numerous with 5 seen.

                                                                 Black Winged Kite

                                                                 Short Toed Eagle

                                                                     Grounded Griffon

I really enjoyed it down here, it was the sort of place that you never know what is round the corner, I would say we likely spent around 90 minutes here and was great birding.

From here we moved onto

The fields of Tahivilla

This was basically a straight road to start, with fields either side, this turned out to be another great place, we frequently stopped and exited the vehicle, and the birding was really good.

We had made the choice of picking a 9-seat vehicle which gave lots of space for the 4 of us, we needed it for all the camera gear etc. Pablo was great as there was constantly cries of “stop” as one of us spotted something, the 9-seater gave us so much room wielding 400 – 500m lenses around inside as well.

We stopped and went on walkabout down the road also, and I have to say, another fantastic area.

Pablo picked out an Eagle and bingo, this was our first Bonelli’s, with 2 supporting Short Toed Eagles and Lesser Kestrels you could have left me here all day, I loved it. The Eagles were initially mobbed by 3 Ravens that had split from a flock of around 40, just don’t see this is in the UK.

The Bonelli’s departed for pastures new but one of the Short Toed landed on one of the roadside pylons, from this we got some decent photos and images as it posed on the pylon.

I had come to realise that Short Toed Eagles liked pylons for resting/hunting, if a distant big raptor was on a pylon, it was likely a S T Eagle.

Scanning around and we picked up a flock of around 20 Alpine Swifts, these kept the cameras warm for a while and a bugger to stay with. We also picked up our first Lesser Kestrels and a single Woodchat Shrike on a fence bringing the trip list up to 116.

A flyover flock of 11 Yellow Wagtails + a Northern Wheatear on a fenceline,2 Cattle Egrets, 3 Stonechat completed the birds seen along the road.

                                                                     Bonelli's Eagle

                                                                     Short Toed Eagle

3 distant raptors eventually gave better views, and these were confirmed as Honey Buzzards.

Another excellent place.

Friday 23 September 2022

Donana - Sept 9th - Afternoon


Afternoon session

Initially we visited a track with the vast Marshes viewable beyond, but with Farmland on one side and a large pool on the other. The usual culprits were present, and we searched a treeline and crops for birds, good numbers of Willow Warblers were around. A very green chunky Warbler aloft may have been Melodious but didn’t get good enough views to clinch it.

The vast Marsh we couldn’t access, you could see it was teeming with birds and a couple of largish distant Raptors.

We moved on and headed to the Salt Pans, a vast massive area next to a very wide river, I would presume this was the Guadalquivir.

These Salt Pans were alive with birds of all shapes and sizes, Greater Flamingo and White Stork dominated the big boys but the whole area of pans was teeming with waders of all sorts.

We spent quite a bit of time here, the heat was pretty impressive, as we had now sussed, you get a lot of shimmering which didn’t make for sharp photos but just seeing them was good enough.

Big flocks of Dunlin, smaller numbers of Curlew Sandpiper, occasional Little Stint, Redshank/Avocet everywhere, Little Ringed/Kentish Plover and fantastic to see good numbers of Slender Billed Gulls.

Sanderling was also seen along with a very big flock mainly made up of Bar Tailed but also a few Black Tailed Godwit mixed in, we also added Whimbrel and Ruff.

Raptors present were Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and the best of all, an Osprey sitting on a post.

We also saw Crested /Calandra Lark, Red Rumped Swallow, Bee Eater, Hoopoe and Griffon Vulture.

After time spent here, we moved on to another area favoured by Rufous Bush Robin, not a common bird now in Spain, they were known to favour this area. Despite a thorough good look around, we couldn’t locate one, but we did connect with our only Cirl Bunting of the trip.

Whilst also watching a pair of Red Rumped Swallows, I looked up and there was a dot, obviously a big Raptor, initial thought was Black Vulture and Pablo confirmed, another superb bird and one we didn’t expect in this neck of the woods. Grabbed a couple of distant photos of it, enough to confirm the ‘white feet’ and darker underwing.

                                                                 Slender Billed Gull

                                                                Red Rumped Swallow

                                                                       Black Vulture

It was time to call it a day, we were all pretty tuckered out with the heat, Pablo our guide had pulled out all the stops, shown us some stunning birds and he was worth every penny, it had been a fantastic day.

We finished the day on 104 species so going well.

Our next day was again with Pablo, this was La Janda and Barbate Marshes……., hopefully for one of my favourite raptors Black Winged Kite!

Tuesday 20 September 2022

Coto Donana!


September 9th Day 2

Morning session


This was the first day of our guided tour and was one of the venues that personally, I had always wanted to visit and long been on the radar – Coto Donana.

Pablo our guide picked us up in darkness around 6.30a.m, the plan being to get on the road for the 2-hour drive to Donana, and more specifically arrive at the Little Swift colony around dawn.

The destination was the port of Chipiona and as we arrived, the Little Swifts were already active, a tick for most of us, we spent a good hour watching these little beauties.
Still breeding, as they approached the nest they trilled, fantastic little birds who put a smile on your face with their antics and vocals around the nest building.

A great start to the morning, we also added Pallid Swift, a couple of Turnstone, ever present Yellow Legged Gulls, House Martin and Red Rumped Swallow. Audouins Gull was also seen, however brekkie was calling so we headed off.

After breakfast it was down to Chipiona Beach, where we added a good number variety of waders to the list, this included the first Kentish Plover along with Little/Sandwich/Common and Caspian Tern and a single Mediterranean Gull.

Zitting Ciscola, Sardinian/Cetti’s Warbler also gave themselves up and I gained my 2nd tick here in the shape of a Waxbill.

A good start to the morning and thoroughly enjoyable for all of us, we were now up to 53 species seen so looking good. Our next destination was aptly named for obvious reasons -

Stinky Pools (Lagunas de Camino Colarado)

In fact, there were 3 of these nicknamed pools, not that big and they did pong, but boy did they hold some goodies, everywhere you looked, there were birds of note and we all enjoyed good views and got some decent photos.

Exiting the vehicle, we straight away encountered a couple of very approachable Pied Flycatchers, however there was so much going on the 1st pool, it was hard to know where to look and give your attention to.
At the water’s edge were a number Little Ringed Plover, Black Winged Stilt, Green Sandpiper, 2 Purple Swamphens, 4 Temmincks Stint, Glossy Ibis, Ringed Plover and Greater Flamingo as an appetiser, stunning.

We all had a good look round this Pool before moving up and across the road to the next pool, this was a little bigger.

Immediately on view were Spoonbill, Green Sandpiper, more Little Ringed Plover, a few Glossy Ibis,2 more Purple Swamphens, Common Teal,2 Greater Flamingo’s, Kingfisher, Marbled Duck, Little and a Cattle Egret. Looking up showed a pale phase Booted Eagle forever searching, pretty low so could see all the head movements. This was without doubt better views of a Raptor than El Algarroba – little did I know what was to come over the next few days!

Little Grebe were plentiful as was Mallard so after getting yet more photos, we headed round to the 3rd Pool.

We immediately got on a Red Knobbed Coot located by Pablo, and we then saw around 4 White Headed Duck, another Glossy Ibis, Shoveler but a goodie was a roosting Night Heron in trees. A bit distant but nonetheless a good bird to see.

As we were watching a Common Sandpiper, 6 waders arrived, circulating around before disappearing, on the limited views they looked good for Curlew Sandpiper.

Out of nowhere a Squacco Heron arrived, landed and gave pretty good viewing, it had a mouth full of Dragons and would suspect these were Lesser Emperors, they seemed to be just about everywhere. Along with the Night heron, 2 great birds that we rarely see.

Another bird new for me and the chaps was Black Headed Weaver, 2 of these flew across the Pools, although not sure of their status in Spain.

We then left the ‘stinky pools’, a very productive area, thoroughly enjoyable and it bought the trip list up to 78.

More from Day 2 from the afternoon of our guided tour on the next update……………….