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WEDNESDAY 29TH DECEMBER - CAMPILLOS, MONTEJAQUE

59 LITTLE BUSTARDS!

We picked a lovely day to make our last outing for the year, after a misty start the sun broke through and warmed us up for the rest of the day.

Myself and Tony (a local birder also from Gaucin) left the village at 8am and headed northward to towards Ronda. We stopped just passed Atajate to look for Ring Ouzel but only found Black Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush and Common Kestrel.

After making a short stop between Ronda and Campillos we finally arrived at Laguna Dulce which was covered with birds. The light was now very good so we drove to the far side of the laguna to scope the open flat fields, what a good decision it turned out to be. First we found 9 Common Cranes, then a fantastic count of 59 Little Bustards appeared in the distance. many of them were males and were practicing their display jumping which looked quite commical. In the large flat fields we also found 100+lapwings, Golden Plover 7, Calandra Lark, Meadow Pipit, Corn Buntings 50+ and a Marsh Harrier.

At the waters edge we found Black Winged stilts, Greater Flamingo, Common Teal and many black headed Gulls. We then drove around to the hide at the south side of the laguna and from there we had a good hour watching many species. Common Coot numbered over 200 whilst Black necked Grebe 15, Northern Shoveler, White headed Duck 3, Common Pochard, Red crested Pochard 1 fem; Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall and Mallard.

A nice surprise was a Purple Swamphen which flew from a distant patch of reed to a tiny clump right in front of the hide! The bird looked splendid in the afternoon sunshine (shown below).




From Campillos we drove to Canete de Real where a vulture feeding station is supposed to be situated, however, there were many Griffon Vultures and Ravens loafing about but nothing was on offer for them. I thought about staking Tony out - but he was driving!

Our last stop was the lovely limestone mountains just above Montejaque, one of my favourite places. There was a surprising amount of water behind the "dam that doesn't work" at Tabniza with many Mallards sitting on the temporary laguna. In the bushes on the slopes of mountains we found Black Redstarts, Blackcap, Blackbirds, Stonechats, Black Wheatears, Rock Bunting, Chaffinch, goldfinch and Robins.

As the light began to fade we realised that it was 4:30pm so we set off back to Gaucin well satisfied with the birds we had seen.
Saturday 18 December: Been busy this week so not much chance to do any serious birding...there are a few Crag martin around the village, small flocks of Spotless starling and a few mixed finch flocks in the cork woods. The Southern grey shrike was still showing well around the small pool by the entrance to Las Encinas Borrachas just off the road between Atajate and Ronda. It's forecast to rain heavily this weekend, and has started already, so I'll have to wait a bit to get out again!
Sunday 12 December, gardens between Calle Convento and Calle de Pino, 1500hrs, mostly cloudy: Armchair birdwatching...great views of a Hawfinch in the top branches of a walnut tree. It was virtually in full summer plumage, too, wonderful sight!
Saturday 11 December, a couple of quick stops near the Encinas borrachas on the way back from Ronda produced a Southern grey shrike, Thekla lark and Black wheatear.
Friday 10 December, track opposite the school in Algatocin, 0830-1000hrs, mostly cloudy, fresh E/SE wind: I don't know if it was the earlier start or the change in weather but today there was only a fraction of the birdlife that was around yesterday morning, even the Crag martins had disappeared! 'Highlights' were 3x Raven, a Siskin, a large flock of Goldfinch, several Griffon vulture, Kestrel, Black redstart, Meadow pipit, Song thrush and Chiffchaff. I'll give it another chance in the next few days!
Thursday 09 December, track behind Venta Solera between Benarraba and Algatocin, 1030-1130hrs, mostly sunny: went for a nice walk on a wonderful warm day, reaching 21C; saw plenty of Griffon vultures, Black redstart, Stonechat, Crag martin, Goldfinch but the best sighting was a Rock sparrow. Hope to go again early tomorrow morning as it's a great birding location, easily accessible and with a good variety of habitats.
Wednesday 08 December, La Umbria and Camino de Avedin, Gaucin, 1600-1730hrs, partly cloudy: After two more days of rain, including a monumental electrical storm last night, I managed to get out for a quick look around...nothing very exciting showed itself but had great views of Short-toed treecreeper, also saw Nuthatch, Chiffchaff, Great-spotted woodpecker, Song thrush and the usual array of Blackcaps.


Saturday 04 December, Camino de Gibraltar, 1530-1700hrs, mostly sunny, light SE wind: Usual array of Black redstart, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, also singing Serin, Sparrowhawk, Jay and a couple of Griffon vulture. The Common buzzard was still there in the valley and flew off in the direction of El Hacho to be joined by a second from the woods below the old convent. I've attached a couple of digiscoped photos of the Common buzzard but unfortunately I can't get closer than about 150m!

Saturday 04 December, slopes of El Hacho above Gaucin, 1030-1130hrs, mostly sunny: Small mixed flocks of Siskin, Linnet (see photo) and Chaffinch, also Cirl bunting, Common buzzard, Black redstart. A flock of about 25 Griffon vulture flew South from the direction of Cortes de la Frontera and later a flock of 80+ were seen behind finca El Peso.
Thursday 02 December, Camino de Gibraltar, 1030-1230hrs, partly cloudy: After two more days of persistent rain, finally got out of the house! The Common buzzard was still around in the valley, generally perched in one of the three large Almond trees, also several Serin in full song, Cirl bunting, Siskin, Chaffinch, small flocks of Goldfinch, Meadow pipit, Kestrel, Chiffchaff, Sardinian warbler, Pied wagtail, lots of Black redstart (mostly female), Blackcap, Song thrush.