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31st August 2012 - Gaucin

After last night's horrendous fires stretching from just north of Malaga to the outskirts of Marbella, Gaucin was enshrouded in thick clouds of smoke early this morning. We could smell the fire throughout the night, the full moon was a blood red and a covering of ash covered our cars and houses.

We drove from Gaucin at 7am for a shopping trip to Gibraltar and Soto Grande. On the way back we saw 75 Honey Buzzards in various size flocks.

Throughout the afternoon over Gaucin we saw a trickle of Honey Buzzards, a couple of Common Buzzards, Booted Eagles and at 6pm a Bonelli's Eagle joined a flock of 8 Honey Buzzards over the house.
Wednesday 29 August, Gaucin, sunny, light W-NW wind, 35C: Nothing much to report....no migrating raptors.
1100hrs: a Bonelli's Warbler put in an appearance in an oak tree whilst I was having a coffee at the Bodeguita Chaparro.
1230hrs: a Hoopoe flying along just above the Camino de Avedin.
Tuesday 28 August, Gaucin, light E-SE wind, sunny, 35C: A good start to the day with a Hawfinch visiting the gardens between Calle Convento and Calle del Pino. There was very little raptor migration to be seen with just 37 Honey Buzzard far away over the wind turbines at 1120hrs and 8 more over the village at 1400hrs. Local Common Buzzard and Short-toed Eagle were showing well below the village to the south during the afternoon and 20 or so European Bee-eater were wheeling around very close to the houses in Calle Convento. A short walk along Camino de Gibraltar from 2000-2100hrs produced a good bird list including 2 Pied Flycatcher, 4 Spotted Flycatcher, Firecrest, Great-spotted Woodpecker, European Nuthatch, a family group of 4 Cirl Bunting, a group of 6 Sardinian Warbler feeding on the track and a Chiffchaff sp. (probably Iberian given the prominent yellow supercilium). No bird photos as I'm trying out a wide-angle lens on the 'scope and having enough trouble getting on the birds let alone taking photos! Here's one of Sierra Crestellina at dusk from the camera.....


On this day last year we saw the most impressive numbers of Honey Buzzard passing over Gaucin; so far this year I haven't seen anywhere near that rate of passage. The question is, have the birds gone through further afield, have they been missed, or are they yet to come.....?
Monday 27 August, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light-fresh SE wind, 32C: Despite the change in wind direction the raptor migration followed a similar pattern to yesterday suggesting, as perhaps you might expect, that the wind conditions at the point of origin have a more significant effect on the route than our local conditions. Observations as follows:

0900hrs: 1 Honey Buzzard N-S over centre of village
1055hrs: 27 Honey Buzzard, 4 Black Kite N-S over centre ofvillage
1110hrs:  22 Honey Buzzard N-S over centre of village
1150hrs: 23 Honey Buzzard, 1 Booted Eagle N-S over centre of village
1545hrs: 220 birds (mostly Honey Buzzard but also a small number <10 -="-" a="a" accurate="accurate" algeciras.="algeciras." along="along" and="and" before="before" bit="bit" black="black" carrying="carrying" constant="constant" counts="counts" crestellina="crestellina" de="de" distance="distance" est="est" genal="genal" kettling="kettling" kite="kite" made="made" martin="martin" on="on" over="over" p="p" passing="passing" right="right" rio="rio" san="san" sharp="sharp" sierra="sierra" species="species" tesorillo="tesorillo" the="the" then="then" towards="towards" tricky="tricky" turbines="turbines" turning="turning" wind="wind">1600hrs: 30 Common Swift N-S
1930hrs: 115 birds (again mostly Honey Buzzard) direction as above.

Throughout the afternoon and early evening there were occasional singles/twos of Honey Buzzard following the direct N-S route over Gaucin.
Sunday 26 August, sunny, light W-NW wind, 35C: Lots of raptor movement early evening as follows:
2015hrs: 89 Honey Buzzard and 11 Black Kite in thermal 'kettle' over the Rio Genal to the East of Gaucin passing in front of Sierra Crestellina
2030hrs: 115 Honey Buzzard (kettling, as above); also 2 Alpine Swift over the centre of village
2040hrs: 155 Honey Buzzard and 6 Black Kite heading N-S over the centre of the village.
2105: Despite being quite gloomy by now, 22 Honey Buzzard and 3 Black Kite heading NE-SW over centre of village.


Friday 24 August, sunny, light W-NW wind, 35C: The change of wind direction in the past couple of days has cleared the haze from the sky but there's no let up in the temperatures with the unfiltered sun feeling hotter than ever. The westerly wind seems to have pushed most of the raptor migration eastward and as such there has been very little visible from Gaucin; today there were a couple of small groups of Honey Buzzard high over the northern end of Sierra Crestellina (just about visible in the 'scope!) with 22 at 1850hrs and 13 at 1910hrs.
Wednesday 22 August, Gaucin, hazy sunshine, light SE wind, later SW, 36C: If you could brave the heat there was quite a bit of raptor passage to be seen today.
1110hrs: 3 Honey Buzzard, 3 Booted Eagle (2ad 1juv)
1215hrs: 6 Honey Buzzard
1530hrs: At least 200 Swift, including some Pallid
1545hrs: 60 Black Kite
1630hrs: 1 female Montagu's Harrier - quite low over the village then moving NE-SW across the Rosa Alta ridge
2010hrs: 65 Honey Buzzard in a thermal 'kettle' over the East of the village (wind direction had changed to SW by this time)

As well as the passgae birds there were also a dozen or so Bee-eater on the wires below the village, 3 Common Buzzard over Rosa Alta at 1930hrs, a couple of sightings of Common Kestrel, the local Short-toed Eagles (x3) and Booted Eagles (x2), and an Alpine Swift amongst the remaining late afternoon Swift flock.
Tuesday 21 August, hazy sunshine, very humid, calm (no wind), 34C: A few Honey Buzzard passing over the village at 1900hrs but despite watching from 1915-2030hrs there were no more to be seen; two groups of Bee-eater, totalling 50 birds, flew S-N presumably to roost and there were several Swift including a Pallid and an Alpine.
Sunday 19 August, Gaucin: A late posting of a sighting of a party of 6 HONEY BUZZARDS - they drifted south over the swimming pool area at the west end of the village at 3pm. I was dozing on a sun-lounger at the time!
Monday 20 August, mostly sunny, light E-SE wind, 34C: Not much to report after another couple of days with the temperatures in the mid-30s and above. Whilst having breakfast a very tame male Sardinian Warbler flew onto our grapevine, just 1m from the table, and started munching the grapes. This morning I saw both parents taking food into the Red-rumped Swallow nest at Loma de Avedin so it's looking good. A quick stop on the way back from Ronda logged a Southern Grey Shrike and a juvenile Black-eared Wheatear and further on towards Algatocin, a Black Wheatear flew across the road. Plenty of Bee-eater about and a scattering of Common Swift and House Martin. 10 Honey Buzzard N-S over the village at 2030hrs.
Friday 17 August, mostly sunny, light SE wind, 36C: Despite the SE wind there was still some Black Kite passage over Gaucin with small numbers seen late afternoon and 20+ moving over as late as 2030hrs. Good news on the Red-rumped Swallow nest on the Loma de Avedin; although I haven't seen any activity around the nest for a while, and thought it had probably been abandoned, this morning there were definitey chicks calling from inside.
Thursday 16 August, hazy sunshine, light E-SE wind, 35C: A change of wind direction and, despite several watches, there was no raptor migration over Gaucin. Local adult Short-toed Eagle and pale morph Booted Eagle were seen as well as a group of 60+ Bee-eater, a handful of Common Swift and House Martin and a couple of Barn Swallow.
Wednesday 15 August, sunny, light W-NW wind, 34C: More raptor migration over Gaucin today as follows -
1100hrs: 8 Honey Buzzard
1300hrs: 7 Honey Buzzard
1310hrs: 70 Black Kite
1350hrs: 89 Black Kite
1530hrs: 157 Black Kite, 34 Common Swift

Interestingly the Honey Buzzard were passing further to the west, just in front, or behind, El Hacho whilst the Black Kite were mainly directly over the village.

Late afternoon went down to the Rio Guadiaro at Secadero for a picnic; despite there being other people around there were still a few birds to be seen including Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, White Stork, Little Egret, Little-ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, lots of Bee-eater on wires, several Turtle Dove, Common Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Sardinian Warbler, Corn Bunting and Crested Lark. As we drove home just after dusk we were lucky to see a Red-necked Nightjar sitting right in the middle of the road and also a Tawny Owl on a fencepost just at the side of the road.
Tuesday 14 August, sunny, light W-NW wind, 34C: More raptor migration over Gaucin late this afternoon as follows -
1800hrs: 85 Black Kite
1930hrs: 9 Black Kite, 2 juvenile Short-toed Eagle
1945hrs: 20 Black Kite
2000hrs: 95 Black Kite, 2 Honey Buzzard

Most of these birds were very high up, barely, or in some cases not, visible to the naked eye.
Monday 13 August, mostly sunny, light NW wind, 34C: After a couple of very hot days the cooler air from the NW was a welcome relief. Today saw significant numbers of returning Black Kite with a total of 480 passing N-S over Gaucin between 1500 and 1600hrs. Despite watching several more times during the afternoon and evening I only picked up a solitary Black Kite and the 'local' Griffon Vultures, Booted and Short-toed Eagles.
Saturday 11 August, partly cloudy am, hazy sunshine pm, light W-SW wind, 41C: Officially the hottest day of the summer (so far) reaching a shade temperature of 41.4C at 1500hrs. My first returning Honey Buzzard this morning with 4 flying around the Loma de Avedin area at 1000hrs; interestingly they were quite vocal which, according to 'Collins Guide', is unusual outside of the breeding season. Also seen were a female Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel and Short-toed Eagle. There was also a Red-rumped Swallow around but it didn't seem to have any interest in the 'abandoned' nest. Despite several forays onto the heat of the terrace during the afternoon all I saw were a few Griffon Vulture, a 'local' Short-toed Eagle, House Martin and Barn Swallow.
Saturday 10 August, sunny, light E-SE wind, 35C: A morning visit to the west slope of El Hacho, 0830-1000hrs, where it was very quiet, perhaps due to the fact that it was already 30C. Nice to see the Southern Grey Shrike is still around (see photos), also juvenile Woodchat Shrike and juvenile Blue Rock Thrush, a few Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Common Swift and House Martin. Late afternoon 11 Black Kite passed over Gaucin at 1845hrs; there could well be more passing over during the day but it's just been too hot to stand on the terrace and look for them!
 

Tuesday 07 August: Update on the ringed Audouin's Gulls seen at Guadalhorce reserve, Malaga....all four birds were ringed as chicks. One was ringed at Laguna de Mata, Torrevieja, Alicante in 2007 (5yrs old), one at Delta de Ebro, Tarragona, Catalonia in 2001 (11yrs old) and two at Punta de Banya, Delta de Ebro, Tarragona, Catalonia in 2006 (6yrs old) and 2010 (2yrs old). Not hugely exciting histories but still interesting and it fits in with the known southwards dispersal of juveniles from the Ebro Delta colony which holds almost 70% of the global population (Oro, D. & Martinez, A. 1994. Migration and dispersal of Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii from the Ebro Delta colony. Ostrich 65:225-230).
Tuesday 07 August, partly cloudy, strong E breeze (Beaufort 6), 26C: Yesterday's change in wind direction from W (Poniente) to E (Levante) has brought the the temperatures down to a more bearable level but the strength of the E wind has probably put paid to the chances of seeing much raptor migration over Gaucin. This morning a visit to the, now totally dry, Rio Genal below Gaucin from 0800-0930hrs produced Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle (1 pale morph, 1 dark morph), a flock of 200+ Wood Pigeon flying NE, at least 3 Golden Oriole (2 male, 1 female/juv seen but heard like more), Great-spotted Woodpecker (female feeding juvenile; female in photos), Green Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher (including several juv), White Wagtail, Sardinian Warbler and Cetti's Warbler. Later on I checked on the Red-rumped Swallow nest on the Loma de Avedin but it looks unfortunately like it has been deserted - no activity the last three times I've been there.




Sunday 05 August, sunny, light W-SW wind, 31C: There have been reports of large numbers of Black Kite passing over towards Casares but here still just a few with 10 over the village at 1030hrs; I watched for three periods of about 30min each during the afternoon but nothing to be seen.
Saturday 04 August, sunny, calm-light W wind, 34C: Autumn raptor migration appears to be well underway with reports of both Black Kite and early Honey Buzzard movements from around Andalucia. I saw my first returning group of Black Kite today with about 20 passing N-S over Gaucin at 1530hrs and then a couple of singles later in the afternoon. There are still quite a few House Martin around but Swift numbers are down with only about 20 or so Common Swift over Calle Convento/Calle del Pino in the late evening - although they were joined by one Alpine Swift tonight; also 30 noisy Bee-eater heading south at 2100hrs.
Thursday 02 August, hazy sunshine, light W-NW wind, 36C: After the change in wind direction brought about yesterday's high of 37C (at least 39C down in the valley towards san Pablo) it was another very hot day today. An early morning, 0800-1000hrs, visit to the Rio Genal alongside the Casares-Secadero track produced some good sightings the best of which was a single White-rumped Swift that swooped down to drink from the river; other notable birds were Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, 4 Little Egret, 2 White Stork (one in photo), Grey Heron, 4 Common Sandpiper, 2 Green Sandpiper, 10+ Little-ringed Plover (numbers down a bit on the last couple of visits), Kingfisher, 10 Turtle Dove, Bee-eater (at least 60 together on a telephone wire), Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike, Red-rumped Swallow, Corn Bunting (still lots of well-marked juveniles coming down to the water to drink), Crested Lark, Zitting Cisticola and Melodious Warbler.
Tuesday 31 July, hazy sunshine, a few white clouds, light E-SE wind, 33C: When the phone rang at 0900hrs with news of a couple of Roller down near San Pablo de Buceite I quickly set off on my first Spanish 'twitch' (not really a twitch as only 15km away and an area that I watch anyway). As I drove along the road a Hoopoe passed in front of the car and then, sure enough, a couple of km on from the garden centre in San Pablo there was a Roller in a large tree about 200m away from the road. As I tried to get a little closer for a photo it flew off to be followed by a second bird that had been in a smaller tree just to the left. I didn't manage to get a photo but it was a very good sighting and the first for me in this area (thanks for the tip-off, Bob). A little further along the road I pulled off onto a track and logged Short-toed Eagle, female Montagu's Harrier, female Hen Harrier, Woodchat Shrike, Southern Grey Shrike (see photos), Bee-eater and Crested Lark. In the evenings there are now much fewer Swift around Gaucin village but last night at 2045hrs above Calle Convento there was an Alpine Swift; also a male Sparrowhawk being 'shepherded' by about 50 House Martin and a Great-spotted Woodpecker in the trees below Calle del Pino.