Southern Spain May 2012

A trip to stunning Spain for my 28th birthday leaving from Manchester to Malaga from the 12//05/2012 returning on the 21/05/2012 with Dawn, Alex and Garry all non birders!

We stayed in a private villa in Mira Flores near Mijas just out side of Fuengirola, this turned out to be a cracking place as I was really lucky to have had the apartment back up on to my very own private Spanish nature reserve. Well not really I guess it was just some unused scrub land with a few un walked paths and overgrown walkways crisscrossing up through the hills.

From The Appartment and Scrubland

House Martin: As I was eating my breakfast on the apartment’s gorgeous balcony I was called down to the pool by Garry who was claiming there was bird in the pool. I thought he was playing some sort of joke until he opened his hand and there was a half drowned House Martin, it apparently flew in to the swimming pool and he fished it out before it died.

I took it up stairs and put it in a safe place on our balcony away from the resident hungry looking cats, it stayed there for at least four hours drying out until we returned and opened the doors to the great sight of the House Martin taking to the wing and flying over the railings and joining the hundreds of other House Martins, Swifts and Swallows racing around the apartments.
Sardinian Warbler: (female) These superb active birds are EVERYWHERE in Spain, literally every other tree, bush or shrub had one in. I often saw these from the apartment’s balcony or from the edge of the pool. I caught this female Sardinian Warbler as it darted from a bush to a fence deep in the scrub at the back of the apartment. I found it hard to get a photograph of them as they were not only very active but like to keep themselves hidden within the thick of the Scrub.  

This scrub land was literally awesome, for example on my first ever trip down to explore the Mediterranean hills and scrub land directly out the back door of the apartment I came across, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Lark, Cetti's Warblers and Nightingales, all giving good views. Spotless Starlings, Stone Chat and House Sparrows where and further down deeper in the scrub I came across Woodchat Shrike and Great Grey Shrike

Sardinian Warbler: (male)
Swallowtail Butterfly: Other animals I saw included the very scares and utterly beautiful Swallowtail Butterfly, a large array of Frogs and Toads.

Reptiles which I spotted consisted of a few lizards in the undergroth and I found one Horseshoe Headed Whip Snake trapped down an open man hole. After getting some photographs I managed to find a branch and rescue it.

Stone Chat: I could hear these from the kitchen window and they were numerous in the scrub.
On the of 17th of May I saw Red Rumped Swallow Whizzing past the scrub following the hords of flies.

Serin: These here also very common all over southern Spain, they are very striking and don't mind stopping to pose from time to time for a photograph.

Two Ravens where nesting on a pylon next to the appartments and where regularly seen flying over the scrub land and at times getting mobbed by  Lesser Kestrals.

 Pied Flycatcher: (female) Another life tick for me this little gem was only seen one day and there was no male around.


On the 15th of May we took a trip to Gib, on the motorway we saw a single low flying Red Kite, I was hoping to do some serious birding here and walk up or halfway up the Rock, but after arriving the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in, this put a holt on the cable car as they cancelled all trips

Barbary Macaques: I ended getting a mini bus tour of the Rock, and with hind-sight this was definitley the best way to go around the Rock although it limits the birding as the bus only visits a few sheduled stops for a few minutes.

The stars of the Rock are the monkeys, these smelly agressive animals rome free up in the clouds and were great to see.

One tip though, dont bend down to sort your camera bag out in front of a mini bus with a monkey on top, as you will find one jumping all over your back! GROSS!
Rio Gaudalhorce Nature Reserve

The nature reserve is on the western edge of Malaga, near the airport, and encompasses the river estuary. There's a path system through it and some bird watching hides. It is a must if you ever find yourself in this part of southern Spain, it has mixed habitats of scrub, tree edges mainly Palm and Eucalyptus and large wet lands from ponds to salt marsh and river canals lined with rushes and reed beds.

Flamingos: There was only two flamingos on the main large lake they were very inactive for the first half hour of my arrival, until I finished my crisp sandwich and they started parallel walking and neck stretching.
Spoonbill: Soon after arriving at the main lake three Spoonbill arrived and started feeding around the legs of the Flamingo.
European Bee Eaters: The first hide I arrived at had Black Winged Stilt many with young, White Headed Duck, Coot, Little Egret and Mallards.

I also spotted one Cattle Egret and Lesser Kestrel flying over head. Then I was treated to two STUNNING Bee Eaters hunting just meters away, catching and eating insects

Black Winged Stilts: They are lovely looking and very active. You can often spot them first in flight while calling very loudly.

They where everywhere, in every pond, stream or lake, and many where sitting on nests or with very young chicks in toe!

Other waders on the reserve included Little Ring Plover and Kentish Plover.
 Hoopoe: By far one of the best birds to see in Spain I caught two birds feeding on the open path just next to the main lake.

They then flew off in to a bush where they both fed on insects in the undergrowth.

The Hoopoe

Woodchat Shrike: Saw two of these while on the reserve and got pretty close. Woodchats are very common in the right areas is Spain, I often saw one on a regular basis within the scrubland but I could never get very close.

Gulls... I am awful at gull ID possibly Yellow Legs!?

White Headed Duck: (Female) Both males and female were seen in every pond within Gaudalhorce.

Monk Parakeet: On the edge of the reserve near one of the main entrances there was a huge parakeet nest high up in a line of trees between the road on the reserve.

They often can be seen flying past in small flocks across the reserve but if you go up to the nest you are sure to get some cracking views.


Ronda is stunning, by far one of the better days we had on the trip, it consists of a large gorge with sheer cliffs which is perfect habitat for Crag Martins, Lesser Kestrels, Ravens and Choughs. This is a must visit for anyone who finds themselves  in the south of Spain as the town, the gorge and the birdlife are excellent.

Chough: Seven could be seen at one time, maybe even more than that could be found around Ronda. They where very active and noisy, and at times came very close the the camera.

With their bright red bill and orange legs they stand out a mile.
Crag Martin: Along House Martins, Swifts, Swallows where all seen in good number. The Crag Martins can be seen from the viewing platform over hanging the gorge where the band stand is.

Blue Rock Thrush: (female) Seen right outside the cafe, I was amazed with how blue the male was although he never stayed around long.
Black Eared Wheatear: (female)
Black Eared Wheatear: (male)


Crested Lark:
Rock Bunting: (male)

Rock Bunting: (female)

Sardinian Warbler:

Turkis Gecko: This little star was found on the balcony of the apartment.

There was at least four seen throughout our stay, some where huge adults and some where very shy but this guy seemed fine just hanging around foe he night.

Horse Shoe Head Whip Snake: This was the snake I saved from the open man hole. It was the only snake I came across during the whole stay.

Species List

Name Locations and Notes

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) Seen at Gaudalhorce along canal path

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) Common in the Guadalhorce

Spoonbill (Platalea leudorodia) Seen at Paraje Guadalhorce, Malaga

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) Seen at Paraje Guadalhorce, Malaga
White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocophala) Paraje Guadalhorce

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) Seen on the motorway towards Gibraltar

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) Common hunting over Gualdahorce valley

Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) Seen at the Scrublands near appartment

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) Common on any wet area such as Rio Guadalhorce

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) Arrive in Spring at Rio Guadalhorce

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) Recorded on the Rio Guadalhorce and other rivers

Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon (Columba livia) 'Pure' looking individuals at Scrublands

Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) Widespread

Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) Colony in Guadalhorce valley, Paraje Guadalhorce
Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) One hared at the reserve near Ronda

Swift (Apus apus) Widespread

Hoopoe (Upupa epops) Seen at Gaudalhorce and Scrublands

Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) Widespread in Summer, Seen at Gaudalhorce and Scrublands

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) Common

Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris) Widespread at Ronda

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) Widespread

Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica) Seen briefly at Scrublands

House Martin (Delichon urbica) Common

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) Common by Rio Guadalhorce and other rivers

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) One seen at Scrubland

Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) Heard day and night from Scrublands. Widespread.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) Common in rocky areas

Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura) Reliably found at Gobantes, El Chorro, Teba Gorge etc.

Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) Often found at Teba Gorge

Blackbird (Turdus merula) Widespread

Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis) Common away from the towns

Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) Often heard and seen on Rio Guadalhorce

Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) Common and widespread, seen everywhere

Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) Migrant, recorded on Scrubland

Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) Not common, found on Rio Guadalhorce, at El Chorro and elsewhere

Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) One seen at Scrubland

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) Fairly common. Often seenat Scrubland and two seen at Gaudalhorse

Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) Seven seen at Ronda

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) Common at Teba Gorge and widespread elsewhere.

Raven (Corvus corax) Seen nesting at Scrubland
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor) Common everywhere

Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) One breifley seen at Scrublands

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Very common

Serin (Serinus serinus) Everywhere
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) Everywhere,

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) Everywhere
Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia) Encountered in El Chorro, Bobastro, Gobantes, Teba gorge


Useful Websites & Books

Birdwatching on Spain's Southern Coast: Costa Del Sol, Costa De La Luz, Almeria, Donana and Some Inland Sites. by J.R BUTLER