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My best friend lives in Mijas Spain, about a 30-minute drive from Malaga airport. The views from his stunning villa at around 1000ft up looking across towards the Meditteranean are breathtaking! Needless to say, I visit often and can find myself simply spending hours skywatching from the terrace.

View from the terrace at sunset looking down towards Fuengirola (Africa & Morocco showing in the distance)
A stunning Booted Eagle ~ Regularly seen over the Villa terrace
Short-toed Eagles ~ Another stunning bird observed from the villa terrace
While staying I regularly visit a number of birding sites that can easily be reached from Malaga and have listed below some of my favourites, along with a habitat description and list of speciality birds I've observed at each site.

GUADALHORCE

Habitat: The estuary is colonised by aquatic plants, reedbeds and glasswort. On the riverbanks are poplars, willows and eucalyptus. There are also tamarisks and palm trees.

Speciality Birds Noted: White-headed Duck, Black-necked Grebe, Little Bittern, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Booted Eagle, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Spotted Crake, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Slender-billed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Little Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Turtle Dove, Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-Eater, Monk Parakeet, Crested Lark, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Common Waxbill, Bluethroat.

White-headed Ducks are one of the star attractions at Guadalhorce and breed here.
(Paraje Natural Desembocadura del Guadalhorce) is situated on a naturally formed island just where the Guadalhorce river flows into the Mediterranean. The river branches off into two sections just before joining the Mediterranean, creating a swathe of land that is one of the most ecologically varied in Andalucia. Gravel and sand extraction created huge pits and craters and subsequent flooding created several large artificial ponds and scrubland. It's hard to believe you are near one of Europe’s busiest airports and a mere stone’s throw away from the centre of Malaga. The estuary is an authentic green oasis. The natural area is easily accessible and has numerous well-marked paths and tracks crisscrossing it. There are several large lakes, smaller ponds, two stretches of river and five observation points. I would suggest parking HERE next to the church at Guadalmar.

Slender-billed Gulls can be found occasionally feeding in the shallows at the Laguna Grande Observation Point
Kentish Plover also breeds at Guadalhorce and are protected by a fenced area along the beach.
Black-winged Stilt ~ Another regular breeding bird at Guadalhorce

ZAPATA

Habitat: This extraordinary habitat runs alongside the Rio Guadalhorce to the north-west fringes of Malaga Airport (basically the opposite side to the reserve at Guadalhorce) it consists of scrubland, scrape, small pines and bushes along with large reedbeds and a ford. Normally you can off road but with the tracks occasionally flooded or washed away I choose to park up in the village and walk, in fact, you probably see more that way!

Speciality Birds Noted: Black Redstart, Stonechat, Bluethroat, Common Waxbill, Penduline Tit (W), Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Wryneck, Hoopoe, Serin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Crested Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Stone Curlew, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Little Egret, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Booted Eagle, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Red-necked Nightjar, Kingfisher, Woodchat Shrike.


The ford at Zapata after recent floods but still drivable, if you know how!
Zapata was a real find for me a few years back and a great place for seeking out Red-necked Nightjars in the spring and summer. They can be found before dawn roosting on the lighting gantries of the airport flarepath lights or if driving the tracks on the ground as your headlights show their distinctive red eyes.

Likely a 1st winter bird Bluethroats are a star attraction for me at Zapata

Colonising from Africa Common Waxbill reside at Zapata

Black Redstarts are abundant during Autumn & Winter

CANTEROS LOS ARENALES

Habitat: Rocky outcrops, stunning views for raptors, woodland were repopulated pines predominate, although these are mixed with Holm oaks and other typically Mediterranean shrubs in the areas closer to the summit.

Speciality Birds Noted: Black Wheatear, Rock Bunting, Dartford WarblerCrossbill, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Pied Flycatcher, Short-toed Treecreeper, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin. During spring/autumn migration this is a great place to just sit and observe with Black Kite, Honey Buzzard and Bonelli's Eagle observed during my visits.





Canteros Los Arenales is an old quarry to the back of Mijas Pueblo. From the car park at Sendero Cerro de la Medialuna, you make an initial steep climb which leads on through the woods where there are lots of tracks to explore producing some absolutely stunning views across the Hoya de Malaga from Puerto de la Graja

Black Wheaters are a speciality of Canteros and can be found all year round from the car park.
Rock Buntings can also be found, particularly on the track leading from the car park.
Elusive Crested Tits do make the odd appearance with patience.
Spanish Festoon can be found on the warm sunny slopes.

 Laguna de Fuente de Piedra

Habitat: The presence of halophytic plants (those adapted to a saltwater habitat) is in abundance. Amongst many others, there are saltwort, Mediterranean brushwood and African tamarisks, the latter an important area for many species of birds during the breeding season. Beyond the lake shores are holm oaks and wild olive trees, along with Mediterranean scrub.

Speciality Birds Noted: Greater Flamingo, Gull-billed Tern, Black Tern, Montagu's Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Red-crested pochard, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Common Crane (W), Lesser Kestrel, Stone Curlew, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Owl, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher, Iberian Yellow Wagtail

The iconic Greater Flamingo at Fuente de Piedra

Iberian Grey Shrike


Common Crane ~ Large numbers winter at the Laguna
The Laguna de Fuente de Piedra, a vast saline lake almost 7 Kms in length and 2.5 Kms in width is only about an hour or so's drive from Malaga. The lake, together with the areas of marsh and scrub host 1000's of Greater Flamingo! The best places to see the lake include the viewpoint by the visitors' centre, the Mirador de Cerro del Palo, and anywhere along the footpath Sendero de la VicarΓ­a.

For further information on the above sites or other areas I visit such as Straits of Gibraltar during Autumn Migration then please email me at boatbirder@gmail.com