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Friday 28 June, Gaucin, sunny, light-fresh E-SE wind, 25C: Booted and Short-toed Eagles around during the day, Blackcap singing away in the gardens and an Alpine Swift amongst the Common/Pallid at 2000hrs.
Wednesday 26 June, Gaucin, sunny, light-fresh E wind, 23C: Another evening trip to the Rio Genal but with more time for birding...from 1930-2100hrs our sightings included Griffon Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle (a juvenile, presumably the recently-fledged bird from the Sierra Crestellina nest), Booted Eagle, Little-ringed Plover, Turtle Dove, Green Woodpecker, European Bee-eater, Golden Oriole, Common Swift, Alpine Swift, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Melodious Warbler and Hawfinch.

Some of the many European Bee-eater that were present at the river this evening:




Tuesday 25 June, Gaucin, sunny, light E wind, 26C: A trip down to the Rio Genal at 1900hrs to check out a blocked public path produced Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle (pale and dark morph), Turtle Dove, European Bee-eater, Golden Oriole and Melodiuos Warbler.

Sierra Crestellina from the Rio Genal

Sunday 23 June, Gaucin, sunny, light-fresh E-SE wind, 29C: A mid-morning walk from Jimena de la Frontera along the Rio Hozgarganta and back produced just a few birds but did include several close views of Griffon Vulture, also Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, Kestrel sp., Raven, European Bee-eater, Common Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Crag Martin and Spotted Flycatcher. In a small section of the pine woods above Jimena there were at least 8 Bonelli's Warbler singing. When we attempted this walk in December the river was in full flow and impassable; today it was a different story with the temperature reaching 32C and the river little more than a gentle stream amid the flowering Oleanders.

View N-W across the Alcornocales national park

View towards Jimena castle

Rio Hozgarganta

Friday 21 June, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light E-SE wind, 26C: A morning visit to the west slope of El Hacho/Sierra Espartina produced 10 Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle (2 pale morph and 1 dark morph) and a Peregrine but no sign of the Honey Buzzard seen on Monday. Passerines were in short supply other than Sardinian Warbler and Stonechat (of which there were several recently-fledged juveniles around) which seemed odd given the number of small flies plaguing the area! There were quite a few butterflies on the wing including Swallowtail, Cleopatra, Spanish Marbled White and Spanish Gatekeeper.

Cleopatra

Spanish Marbled White

Spanish Marbled White

Tuesday 18 June, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light-fresh W-NW wind, 17C: After a warm weekend, the wind swung through 180 degrees and Monday was much cooler as was today with the added constant threat of rain. Nothing major to report bird-wise but a Blackcap has turned up in the garden and is singing at full volume; yesterday there were at least 30 Griffon Vulture in a 'kettle' above Gaucin castle. A walk around El Hacho mountain this morning produced Griffon Vulture (there was a recently dead goat on the track near to El Peso farm but the vultures seemed uninterested in it), Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and Peregrine. Near the junction of the Gaucin-Algeciras/Gaucin-El Colmenar roads there was what appeared to be an adult female Honey Buzzard; I went back late afternoon but couldn't relocate it; it would be good if it is breeding on one of the wooded hills nearby.
Sunday 16 June, Gaucin, sunny, light E-SE wind, 29C:  Not many birds around today, what with the (very) noisy re-enactment of the French invasion of Gaucin and the subsequent liberation of the village by local guerrillas! Just an Alpine Swift to report, in amongst a flock of about 20 Common/Pallid above Calle Convento at 2015hrs.
Saturday 15 June, Gaucin, sunny, light S-SE wind, 30C: The Tawny Owl was back around the Calle del Pino/Calle Convento gardens again last night and early this morning there was a Blue Rock Thrush singing on a nearby roof. Over the past couple of days the Swifts around the South of the village have been having a feeding frenzy with the hatching of flies due to the warm weather.

Thursday 13 June, Gaucin, sunny, light S-SE wind, 30C: Undeterred by the fly-fest of Tuesday, Trish, Mike and I headed off this morning to the Rio Guadiaro at Cañada del Real Tesoro (Estacion de Cortes); this time we had come prepared with high-strength insect deterrent so despite the presence of a fair few flies we avoided significant personal damage! The area was alive with birds and birdsong and we quickly picked up a Kingfisher perched on a dead branch and making occasional sorties into the river for small fish. There was a continual fly-past of both Common and Pallid Swift as flocks of 10-20 swooped down and skimmed invertebrates from the surface of the river. We checked as many swift as we could but couldn't find a White-rumped Swift although a couple of Alpine Swift did join in the fun. Along the river and the surrounding fields we also saw Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Kestrel, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Little-ringed Plover, Barn Swallow, House Martin, European Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Eurasian Jay, Woodchat Shrike, Blackbird, Spotless Starling, Tawny Pipit, White Wagtail, juvenile Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Blue Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Rock Sparrow, House Sparrow, Cirl Bunting, Serin, Linnet, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch; Turtle Dove, Golden Oriole, Common Nightingale, Olivaceous Warbler and Cetti's Warbler were heard.

After a re-hydration stop in Cortes de la Frontera we headed for Montejaque and the superb scenery of the Llanos de Libar mountain pass. It was now getting very warm so we stopped in the shade of one of the peaks and ate our lunch whilst getting superb views of a party of 6-8 Alpine Swift that for some time flew up and down in front of us at low levels. Further up the valley we picked up more Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle (including one very pale individual, see photo of the distant bird below), a 'kettle' of 15 Black KiteRed-billed Chough, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear and Rock Bunting. I was surprised to see the Black Kite as it's a little too early for them to be heading back South but a check of BWP confirmed that, during the breeding season but away from the nest, they can be seen in small feeding flocks.

Next we headed off to the Hundidero peak near the 'failed dam'. Here we saw many more Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, several Red-billed Chough and had a good views of a Short-toed Eagle. A Spectacled Warbler sang from the cover of the thick bushes but we just couldn't pick it up. It was mid-afternoon and the temperature had now reached 34C so we decided to head back to Gaucin, skirting Ronda and narrowly missing a large snake that was attempting to cross the road, and dropping into the relatively cooler site of Encinas Borrachas track on the way. Here we added Southern Grey Shrike, Crested Lark, Black-eared Wheatear, Dartford Warbler and, for me, the star bird of the day, a distant, but still stunning, male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (my first at this site); we heard another Spectacled Warbler but it, too, refused to show! At this point we called it a day, but not before adding Common Raven to our day list as one scurried off with some roadkill just as we approached Gaucin.

A tough day's birding in the heat but well worth it for some cracking species! Many thanks to Trish and Mike for their enjoyable company.


Black Redstart
(very pale) Short-toed Eagle

Tuesday 11 June, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-SW wind, 28C: After a weekend of cold NW winds, making 20C feel more like 10C, it all of a sudden felt summery. Trish, Mike and I spent a great day birding to the south-west of Gaucin. We began with a visit to the Barco Morena-Marchenilla track where, despite the close attention of swarms of tiny biting flies brought out by the warm weather, we all managed to get good views of both an adult Egyptian Vulture and a pair of Rufous Bush Robin. Along the track we also saw Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, European Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Tawny Pipit, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Zitting Cisticola, Common Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler and Melodious Warbler. A look at the nearby bridge over the Rio Guadiaro produced more good views of Booted Eagle, Common Nightingale, Spotted Flycatcher and a confiding Olivaceous Warbler.

Our next stop was San Enrique wood but not before we had seen a Short-toed Eagle perched on a pylon, then giving us great views as it flew past us. At the wood we saw Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Eurasian Jay, Woodchat Shrike, Tree Sparrow, Cirl Bunting, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Serin with Little-ringed Plover, Grey Heron, Barn Swallow, Common Swift and House Martin along the river; Turtle Dove, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Cetti's Warbler were heard.

Driving back towards San Martin de Tesorillo we had a quick stop at the bridge to look for Red-rumped Swallow but saw only a pair of Little-ringed Plover in the middle of the polo fields!

Beyond San Martin we stopped in an area where in Winter I had seen a Black-winged Kite and where a pair had been reported recently; we were not disappointed as both birds were showing well, if at a distance and through a fug of heat haze and thousands more of the dreaded flies (I have truly never experienced as many as there were there!). Here we also saw Common Buzzard. If the kites were a good, if distant, sighting then an even more distant European Roller was even better. Thanks to Wingspanner for the tip-off as I don't think I'd have seen it had I not known to look for it! At the nearby railway bridge we counted at least 10 Lesser Kestrel from the colony there.


The remainder of the afternoon we spent in and around Castillo de Castellar with sightings of Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, nesting Lesser Kestrel, some with chicks, more Bee-eater and a pair of Golden Oriole (sadly, me only); Bonelli's Warbler and Iberian Chiffchaff were heard.

As we drove back to Gaucin the temperature in San Pablo de Buceite registered 34C; there was no doubt that Summer had arrived.

Abysmal record shot of the Black-winged Kites!
male Lesser Kestrel
Castillo de Castellar from Guadarranque viewpoint


Guadarranque Reservoir


Friday 07 June, Gaucin, cloudy am, occasional light drizzle, mostly sunny pm, light W-SW wind, 19C: A surprise sighting of a Little Owl on a wire as I drove down between San Pablo and Jimena de la Frontera at 1200hrs. Most of the White Stork nests at Estacion San Roque were populated with many holding one or two youngsters. A short visit to the river at Palmones produced very little (tide in, windy and heat haze!) with just a handful of Audouin's Gull and a single Curlew of note. On the journey back to Gaucin there was a White Stork just to the west of Casares; probably a stray from Jimena/San Roque rather than a migrant.
Thursday 06 June, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-SW wind, 21C: A late afternoon visit to the cork oak/pine woods just outside Gaucin (primarily to collect pine cones for next winter's fires!) produced Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle (including one noticeably large individual that I had seen earlier in the afternoon above the village), Booted Eagle, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch, Blue Tit, European Robin, Blackbird, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff, Serin and Chaffinch. There were several Bonelli's Warbler and Iberian Chiffchaff singing but with the trees now in full leaf they were very difficult to locate. At 1850hrs, just as I was leaving, a single Honey Buzzard flew over very high, S-N.

The garden Tawny Owl made a brief appearance in the early hours of Thursday whilst at 0445hrs on Friday it was again singing loudly in the vicinity of the Walnut tree with a second bird singing in response down in the valley below Calle del Pino.
Wednesday 05 June, Gaucin, sunny, light-fresh W-SW wind, 24C: An evening trip down to the Casares-Secadero track failed to produce Red-necked Nightjar, though one was heard, but an Olivaceous Warbler did show before it got dark and there were several Little-ringed Plover on the shingle banks of the Rio Genal.
Tuesday 04 June, Gaucin, sunny, light E-SE wind, 24C: Another new tick for the garden Walnut tree early on Monday morning (0230hrs) as a Tawny Owl spent a good 10 minutes there singing at full volume to a (presumed) female that was calling from a short distance away. It was around again last night but for less time and not quite so close to the house. This morning Janys and I went for a short walk through the orange orchards in San Pablo de Buceite and saw Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle (light and dark morphs), Common Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Golden Oriole (1st summer male), Woodchat Shrike, Melodious Warbler, Zitting Cisticola,  Blackcap, Corn Bunting, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Serin; Cetti's Warbler, Common Nightingale and Cirl Bunting were heard. Non-bird sightings included European Terrapin in the dammed water below the hydroelectric plant and a rare (the first for me) inland appearance of a Monarch butterfly.

Male Stonechat near El Hacho the other day
Saturday 01 June, Gaucin, sunny, calm air, 23C: Last night around 0430hrs there were two Tawny Owl calling around the gardens between Calle Convento and Calle del Pino. A visit to the west slope of El Hacho this morning didn't produce any surprises, though two singing Melodious Warbler was a good record; also seen were Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, a pair of Peregrine, Common Kestrel, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Thekla Lark, Stonechat and Sardinian Warbler; Common Cuckoo and Bonelli's Warbler were heard.
Thursday 30 May, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 23C: Last night the Tawny Owl was right up amongst the houses between Calle Convento and Calle del Pino. Today a morning trip to the coast gave me a chance to visit the Mesa de Chullera heath behind Puerto de la Duquesa. It's a great place, and a rare habitat for the area, with some lovely views, see photo looking back towards Gibraltar. I didn't have long to spend there but did manage to see Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Kestrel, European Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Common Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Corn Bunting, Sardinian Warbler and Melodious Warbler. On the drive back to Gaucin I stopped at Sierra Crestellina to check out the Bonelli's Eagle nest - the adults weren't present but the chick was standing on the edge of the nest looking pretty much full size and in clear juvenile plumage.