Spain September 2014

Cala de Mijas

This one, small, fishing village has developed into a hive of tourism in recent years, but it has still managed to retain something of its Andalucian village-by-the-sea atmosphere. The long beaches are well cared for and clean, with soft golden sand and breath-taking views.

We stayed right up in the hills that back on to some scrub, this was my own private nature reserve and full of some great birds. On my first day walking over the scrub I spotted a Montys Harrier chasing a large flock of Bee Eaters.  

Redstart: This guy was hanging around the car park near a newly erected play area and was present for a couple of days.

Crested Lark: Regular all over Cala de Mijas.

Sardinian Warbler: Always hard get a half decent image of this stunning little bird, however I did manage some record shots while one was foraging through the scrub.

Zitting Zitacola: I didn't see many of these birds but I did hear a few, this one popped his little head up in some thicker scrub.

Serin: These were regular all over Cala de Mijas, however I would much rather see one in the UK - trip to Essex anyone??

Montagu's Harrier: I was taken back a little when I came across this bird, unlike other Monty's I have seen this bird seemed very dark, almost black.

This black harrier was present on this scrub throughout the whole week and I enjoyed watching it from the scrub and from our kitchen window!

Honey Buzzard: Apart from the Monty's, the only other bird of prey I saw regularly was a Common Kestrel, however there was one day when a single Honey buzzard drifted over our apartment.


Rio Guadalhorce Nature Reserve, Malaga

This place is hemmed in between the city, the motorway and the sea. It is what remains of the ancient wetlands at the River Guadalhorce estuary. It can be accessed from the beach, though I believe there may be another access point nearer the city.

I have visited this place many times before and it still remains one of my favourite places in Malaga and the bird life is surprising and varies according to season. You can regularly see stilts, spoonbills, bluethroats (in the winter) white headed duck and various other duck varieties (depending on season) and birds of prey, particularly during migration. 

I've been at different times of the year and there was always plenty of avian activity and always some birdwatchers. There are several hides with benches, but no other resting places or benches, which is a shame. Take water as there are no facilities and you dry out pretty quick. If you leave your car on the southern side of the reserve, leave no valuables as I know a person whose vehicle was "visited" while he was birding there.

Cattle Egret: plenty of these all over this whole region but here they were incredibly close.
Curlew Sandpiper: It was really nice to pick up a couple of these and at close quarters.

I spotted three near the main big hide overlooking the large main lake.
Spoonbill: Here too I spotted a couple of Spoons, some of which had been colour ringed.
Sandling: If you walk through the reserve you will come to a beach and shore line, it was here that I got some great views of Sandling that were scurrying along the tide line like wind up toys.

Stilt: They breed here and were spotted everywhere!

Always great to see.

Booted Eagle: There was one day when we bumped in to Robert Wright and some other guys from Andalucia Bird Society
Robert and I had been making plans for myself and Garry to be taken to see Great bustard and much more.

However the night before our trip with Robert, Garry ended up in hospital and we had to cancel the trip, so it was nice to actually bump in to Robert and say hello and thanks in person.
The Andalucia Bird Society people told us there was a nice Booted here and after a quick search we got lucky as it flew right over our heads.

These guys are very helpful -

Cattle egret: I returned to this site at least four times throughout the holiday. It was an ideal place to get dropped off while the girls did some shopping in the adjacent shopping complex.
Wryneck: On my final visit Garry and I stumbled upon this little beauty.

Audouin's Gull: Rio Guadalhorce Nature Reserve like I said is sandwiched between the coast and a river and therefore it had a good selection and number of gulls. 

However we spotted only one Audouin's roosting with the yellow legs and black back gulls.

Cattle Egret.

Booted Eagle.

Audouin's Gull.

Greater Flamingo: Although I have seen these birds here before on a previous holiday I had never had them come in this close.

Monk Parakeet: These bird nest here so you get them all over the place.



Bottlenoise Dolphin: In order to do a group activity we decided to go on a Dolphin watching trip at the nearby town of Benalmádena.

We were on the boat for about half an hour before Garry spotted the Dolphins and pointed the captain in the right direction.

Well done Garry mate!

They came right up to the boat so much so that my lens was too big at times.
Blowhole spray

This was the single most amazing experience I have had this year!

Shearwater of some description, I only saw it as the boat zoomed past and I was too late with my camera.

El Hondo Nature Reserve 

El Hondo Nature Reserve forms part of the lagoon area of Elche, which is created by the mouth of the River Vinalopó and which was almost entirely drained between the Middle Ages and the XIII century, in order to convert it into farm land.

It is a great little reserve in an urban area, but has a fantastic beauty to the place as it feels like a real green oasis. El Hondo is famous for red knobbed Coot and Swamp Hen both my main target species during this visit. 

Dawn and I didn't have long here and I was a little disappointed, we had driven a fair distance and arrived around midday, we walked straight in not knowing that it is a private reserve and that it closes throughout the day and opens at five o'clock! Absolutely ridiculous.  

After walking in we spent about half an hour walking around before someone said we had to leave. I tried to explain that we had travelled far to get there and only needed a couple of hours but they refused to listen and escorted us out.   

Spotted Flycatcher: Within the short time we had I spotted plenty of flycatcher.
Always a pleasure to see.
Cormorant: One of their biggest lakes there where several Cormorant showed nicely.

Purple Sawn Hen: We got lucky as we pinned down this cracker within seconds of settling down in one of the hides.

It emerged from the reeds for only a few minutes before disappearing again out of sight.

Although we only had a short amount of time here it was still a lovely place to visit.

Red-knobbed Coot: 
 El Chorro Gorge

This place had some spectacular scenery of lakes/reservoirs and imposing vertical cliffs. Also an impressive old rail bridge and viaduct. It's a great place for walking although at present some of the more challenging and exposed cliffside paths are closed for maintenance and rebuilding. 

For the younger and more active crowd there seems to be plenty of things to do. We saw canoers on the lake and rock climbers on the cliffs. The gorge is a bit off the tourist trail and quite a circuitous route on narrow roads from the coast which meant that on the afternoon we visited it was very quiet and we saw only a dozen or so people. There is a hotel and restaurant near the little rail station where we ate and was very nice indeed, well recommended. 

Griffon Vulture: This was one of the best trips we took on this holiday.

Simply seeing my first griffons was awesome, they are MASSIVE!
We walked up past the old train station and down toward the big lake where we got lucky and a single bird drifted right over our heads.
There was a small woodland coppice here that held good numbers of Crested tit, Serin and Hoopoe.

We also had a couple of Blue Rock Thrush around the rocky cliff tops.

Ibex: Once we filled our bellies with some excellent food from the restaurant overlooking the gorge we moved on and drove over to the other side.

Here we encountered an Ibex!

Fuente de Piedra

Fuente de Piedra has had some criticisms especially the distance of the walkways from the flamingo's themselves. However you should bear in mind that the flamingo's are wild birds who feed where the food is not necessarily the best places to entertain passing tourists, although binoculars are available from the visitor centre. Also the lack of translation of the information around the walls of the centre and lack of facilities such as food and drink etc. But the walks, the hides, the wild flowers, the wildlife all make it worthwhile to visit.

Fuente de Piedra is a wetland of high environmental value, it is home to the second largest colony of pink flamingos in Europe and to other migratory birds. The nature reserve is the ideal place for hiking and bird watching. And there is a visitor centre providing comprehensive information on the lake.

Black-winged Stilt: 
Wryneck: Dawn and I walked past the visitor centre and towards the olive groves where we picked up a Wryneck and a couple of Stone Curlew.
Alpine Swift: These excellent birds were everywhere but seemed to concentrate above the visitor centre.
Black Stork: As we were leaving we spotted a big flock of Black Storks drifting over on a thermal.

There must of been at least 20 birds gliding over our heads.

I had only ever seen White Storks before so this spectacle of black Stork was pretty awesome.

Honey Buzzard: Riding the thermals with the Stork were two Honey Buzzard

Tarifa - Trafico

The Strait of Gibraltar is one of the busiest migration points in Western Europe during the autumn, and millions of birds gather every year in the southern part of Spain to rest and forage before continuing their journey southwards to their African wintering grounds. 

The raptors constitute one of the most remarkable groups on the move during this period, and almost all the Spanish raptors can be encountered, along with several other specialities of the area. Garry and I went to Trafico, there are several great vantage points to witness some good visible migration and we read that Trafico was one of the best for close up images. 

Red Kite: This was the first bird we saw almost as soon as we stepped out of the car.

We were told by two other UK birders who where there that we had just missed several Black Kites and this Red Kite was the only one of the day so far.
Short-toed Eagle: As the day went on the sun got higher the thermals seemed to have picked up and brought in several ST Eagles.
Honey Buzzard: We saw a couple of Honey Buzzard, a single Goshawk and a single Common Buzzard.
The thermals brought in good numbers of Booted and ST eagles - this image makes a good comparison to size, I was really surprised how broad winged the ST Eagle actually was.
Booted Eagle: Garry and I moved back up the hill to a higher vantage point that overlooks the straights and behind us the rolling hills. Here the eagles seemed to come in a lot closer.

Honey Buzzard: From here we had some close views on Honey Buzzard too.
Short-toes Eagle:

And plenty of STE.
Honey Buzzard: For more information about Trafico or more information at Tarifa and its wonderful migration hot spots see this link.
Booted Eagle:
Honey Buzzard:

Short-toes Eagle:

Bee Eaters: Not only did we have good numbers of raptors but we also had a huge flock of Bee Eaters floating past us and towards Africa.