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Wednesday 27 April, 0930-1330, Encinas Borrachas, clear skies, warm, still: Conor and I set off for another morning's birding this time heading for the rocky terrain of Encinas Borrachas. Spotted a couple of Rock Bunting on the wall beside the road as we drove towards Ronda. Unlike my last visit here it didn't take long to find the Southern Grey Shrike and it posed quite happily, see photo The air rang with the sounds of singing Corn Bunting and Stonechat with the occasional burst from Crested Lark - Thekla Lark was heard in the distance but we couldn't pin them down. A surprise spot was a pair of Little Owl sitting on the rocks just a few metres from the track, see photo. Further up the track we had a fleeting view of a male Spectacled Warbler and then brief views of a male Orphean Warbler that delivered it's wonderful song from deep within an oak tree and steadfastly refused to show well enough for a photo! We did get superb views of Subalpine Warbler, see photo, Later on we had some much better views of Spectacled Warbler but we didn't manage to find any Dartford Warbler for Conor's album! Other birds seen included a flock of 40+ Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Cuckoo, Woodlark, Bonelli's Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff and Black-eared Wheatear, see photo
Tuesday 26 April, Rio Genal, Sierra Crestellina, track down to Rio Genal off A-377 just south of Casares, 0900-1330hrs: After the rain and thunderstorms of the last few days it was great that Conor and I set off on a relatively warm, clear and still morning. At the river we saw Cetti's Warbler (Conor finally got his photo!), Nightingale, two male Golden Oriole, Bee-eater, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and a pair of distant Bonelli's Eagle. A quick look at Sierra Crestellina yielded a Common Kestrel, Crested Lark, several Griffon Vulture and a Short-toed Eagle but no sign of Saturday's Egyptian Vulture. Turning off onto the track back down to the Rio Genal we soon spotted what transpired to be a Melodious Warbler (see photo by Conor Finch). An alternative photo showed clearly the short primary projection distinguishing it from Icterine Warbler, despite the rather confusing leg colour!
Also seen were Stonechat, Woodchat Shrike, Tawny Pipit, Whitethroat, Red-rumped Swallow, Sardinian Warbler, Corn Bunting, Crested Lark, lots of Bee-eater, Common Kestrel, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Griffon Vulture and Little Owl (see photo)
Monday 25 April: Reports of a pair of Egyptian Vulture and a Bonelli's Eagle over the Casares end of Sierra Crestellina on Saturday afternoon (per Tim Birkhead). Flock of 35-40 Bee-eaters low over the centre of Gaucin this morning and a single ragged Black Kite passing over at 1500hrs. Some very ominous black clouds around and the occasional rumble of thunder!
Saturday 23 April: Woke up to blue sky after several days of rain - perhaps things are looking up. Yesterday the temperature at 1500hrs was a miserly 8C. No wonder the migrants are few and far between.


Wednesday 20 April, Encinas Borrachas nr Ronda, 0900-1300hrs, fresh SE wind, cool, brief sunny spells: Luckily David and Christine Evans and I managed to squeeze our morning's birding into a dry period, although it didn't look too promising as we left Gaucin and then encountered dense low cloud en route! As the sun came up the cloud mostly burned away and we were able to brave the cold wind and see a reasonable amount of birds including Black-eared Wheatear, Thekla Lark, Woodlark, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, Peregrine, Cuckoo, Bee-eater, Red-legged Partridge, 20+ Red-billed Chough, Woodchat Shrike, Stonechat, Dartford Warbler, Orphean Warbler (brief glimpse but a good bit of song!) and Bonelli's Warbler. Picked up Rock Bunting and Black Wheatear on the drive there/back. Also heard Spectacled Warbler and Subalpine Wabler but couldn't locate either! A small herd of Red Deer was a nice sight. Finally the low cloud returned and we had to leave but not before David spotted an elusive Southern Grey Shrike, see distant, mist-shrouded photos!
Monday 18 April: Cold and wet this morning, gradually clearing late afternoon. Nice migrating Short-toed Eagle passing over about 1700hrs....here's a close up of yesterday's Man Orchid - you can see how it got it's name!
Sunday 17 April, Smuggler's Route, Sierra de Espartina, Gaucin, 1100-1300hrs, mostly sunny: Not been much to report over the last few days as we have been stuck with E/SE winds that drive the visible migrants west towards Tarifa and beyond. Joined the Tourist Association walk today and had great views of an adult Short-toed Eagle, also Booted Eagle, Griffon Vulture and heard were Woodlark, Cuckoo, Sardinian Warbler and Great-spotted Woodpecker. Still some nice orchids around including Yellow Ophrys (no photo)
Dull Ophrys
Man Orchid
Violet Limodore
Tuesday 12 April, Encinas Borrachas (between Atajate and Ronda) 0930-1330 and Sierra de Las Nieves 1400-1530, fresh E-SE wind, partly cloudy: Thanks to Wingspanner for allowing me to join him on one of his tours with Rita, Ann, Ivan and Helen! Off to a good start with Southern Grey Shrike, Black-Eared Wheatear and Thekla Lark in the scrubby area just off the road, also here were Stonechat, Corn Bunting and Linnet. A little further on we saw Woodlark and both male and female Dartford Warbler (male in photo, below).
Helen then spotted a couple of Common Kestrel over the limestone ridge harrassing a large bird that turned out to be a Golden Eagle (1cy or 2cy) - what a great sight! Also in this area we saw Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Raven, Red-Billed Chough, Griffon Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, Bee-eater and a small group of Spanish Ibex including at least one kid, see photo below.
As we continued on the track into the edge of the oak wood there were Bonnelli's Warbler, Cuckoo, Jay, Subalpine Warbler, Woodchat Shrike and Orphean Warbler, in the photo below you can just see it's white throat.
As we walked back towards the car we were treated to great views of a Spectacled Warbler, see photo below - the 'scrub warbler' we might have expected to see but didn't was the most common, Sardinian Warber!

We then drove to the Sierra de las Nieves national park where birds were few and far between but we did manage to pick up Short-toed Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Common Redstart, a flock of 20 Bee-eater, and Rock Bunting. Also a Red-rumped Swallow near the new hospital in Ronda. All in all a great day's birding! Thanks again to Wingspanner!
Monday 11 April: Strange misty morning here in Gaucin but the sun has broken through this afternoon. Heard 5 nightingales singing along the Ronda-Algeciras road between Gaucin and the turning to El Colmenar (one more than last year) this morning at about 0800hrs. Wingspanner reported a Montague's Harrier in amongst the Black Kite yesterday afternoon - missed out on that one!
Sunday 10 April, Gaucin, clear skies, sunny and warm, fresh NE wind: Quite a few Black Kite passing very low over the village today, mostly groups of 10-15, a mixture of adults and juveniles and all struggling against the wind!

Sawfly Ophrys



Mirror Ophrys



Bumblebee Ophrys



Yellow Ophrys

Saturday 09 April: Some orchid photos from Salitre....all of them from the amazingly diverse Ophrys species. I didn't have my 'scope with me so no bird photos!
Wednesday 06 April: First Bonelli's Warbler of the year, singing in Salitre.

Friday 08 April: Two Short-toed Eagle over the Camino de Avedin in Gaucin; one was in adult plumage the other a juvenile, extremely pale, almost completely white underneath and with no dark on it's head at all.
Tuesday 05 April: Down in Salitre again....lovely to hear a male and female Cuckoo 'dueting', the liquid bubbling song of the female is fantastic! Also saw 3x Booted Eagle, 2x Woodchat Shrike, Woodlark, several Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting and a flock of 25 Griffon Vulture. More orchid photos to come....
Sunday 03 April: Light drizzle or rain most of the day but did see a Cuckoo and great close views of a rather scruffy Short-toed Eagle in Salitre!


Saturday 02 April, beneath the west slope of El Hacho, Gaucin, 0900-1000hrs, partly cloudy, little or no wind: Flock of 20 Bee-eater flew over, also seen were Sparrowhawk, Griffin Vulture, lots of Stonechat, 2x Woodchat Shrike, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Red-legged Partridge and the first Northern Wheatear of the year (female in photos). Heard Cuckoo and Iberian Chiffchaff. It was interesting to note that all of the Black Redstart appear to have moved on to their summer grounds.
Thursday 31 March: Not much to report other than a few small groups of Bee-eater passing over Gaucin. It was lovely to sit outside Venta Socorro with a coffee watching the Swallows and Martins swooping over the road and listening to the Nightingale that is proclaiming it's territory under the bridge!