Saturday, September 12, 2015

Autumn Migration - Spain

The first surprise Saturday morning was waking up to overcast skies and light rain, unsure as to how this might affect today's migration watch down at Tarifa. As it happens we need not have worried, as by the time we arrived at our first stop the El Algarrobo Bird Observatory around 09:45hrs the showers had dissipated and the cloud had begun to break. The short bumpy drive up to the observatory produced Whinchat, Stonechat and Spotted Flycatcher.

View from the mainland looking across to Morocco & the African continent beyond only 16 kilometers away!
After taking up position among many local birders, nice to see more Spanish people taking birding a lot more seriously these day, we settled down to enjoy the spectacle. The shear numbers of Honey Buzzard and Booted Eagle moving through was breathtaking, but even at this early stage it was obvious that most birds were moving through at high level and unfortunately in largely scattered formations! Little wind and clearing skies does not make for a good raptor passage. We remained until midday recording in addition to the above over (20) Sparrowhawk, always interesting to see just how many do in fact migrate, (15) Griffon Vulture, (1) Rüppell's Vulture, (1) Black Kite, (1) Montagu's Harrier and a possible Long-legged Buzzard.

Swallowtail - Nice distraction from the birding!
Next stop Cazalla Bird Observatory, which boasts a specially constructed shelter for birders and views which offer 360 degrees and cover the plains, beach and straits. More large numbers of Booted Eagle and Honey Buzzard here and this time (4) Short-toed Eagle, lacking at El Algarrobo, plus both Common and Lesser Kestrel. A gorgeous Swallowtail butterfly also made for a pleasant visit.

Many White Stork along the channels!
The remainder of the day was spent at La Janda and after leaving the main road the drive down to the canal, where we enjoyed a late lunch produced (2) Marsh Harrier, Stonechat, Corn Buntings on the fences and several Crested Lark along the dry channels. The usual White Storks were in good numbers but the highlight at this point was watching a ♂Montagu's Harrier on the path enjoying it's prey! A female was also recorded during our stay. The drive along the central track which runs parallel to the Río Almodóvar is worth checking with many Little Egret, Cattle Egret and the odd Green Sandpiper and Grey Heron. Zitting Cisticola, which annoy Dave immensely when calling, were evident and many House Sparrows near the sluices. Stopping at various points on route back to the main road produced Barn Swallow and Sand Martin, (3) Hen Harrier, Spotless Starlings, single Woodchat Shrike and a nice group of a half dozen Bee-eater! A chat with a British couple along the route was of interest, when they informed us of a distant Spanish Imperial Eagle they'd seen, they are recorded in this area and a Black-winged Kite which another birder had found on one of the pylons. Don't you just love it when they tell you that!!


Bee-eater at La Janda
Corn Bunting
Crested Larks along the dry channels at La Janda
Stonechat - Excellent habitat at La Janda
Short-toed Eagle - With most birds at high level this is one of very few flight images I managed!