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Wednesday 30 December 2015, Gaucin, sunny am, cloudy pm, light NW wind, 17C

On Monday, a quick late afternoon trip to the Asalto de Cura to pick up some kindling for the fire produced not only some nice bits of sweet chestnut but also 10+ Hawfinch! On Tuesday the long-forecast rain eventually arrived, with a moderate 12mm falling early morning; the day cleared slowly from a classic Gaucin 'white-out' and the sun was shining again by late afternoon.

This morning's visit to the Rio Genal, where the water level has dropped significantly during December, was memorable for not one, not two, but 3 Booted Eagle their inclination to remain here reflecting just how mild it has been so far this winter. Also seen were 100+ Griffon Vulture, with 80+ of them above Sierra Crestellina, Common Buzzard being mobbed by a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Common Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Firecrest and an interesting mixed flock, feeding on the ground, that contained Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Common Chiffchaff, House Sparrow, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. A couple of European Terrapin were enjoying the winter sun.
Blue Rock Thrush in a 'white-out' - still identifiable via the huge bill!

Better weather at the Rio Genal
male Sardinian Warbler in the garden

pale morph Booted Eagle
European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis

Sunday 27 December 2015, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light-fresh E-SE wind, 14C

After the rather warm weather continued over the Christmas period, today felt a good deal cooler as fresher, more easterly winds blew in.
The highlights of a short morning walk along the Rio Genal were the first Green Sandpiper of the winter, also Grey Heron, Common Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail and Hawfinch.
This afternoon whilst gazing out of the patio window I picked up a Booted Eagle that was milling about between Gaucin and Sierra Crestellina.

Tuesday 22 December 2015, Gaucin, sunny, light SE wind, 18C

After a few days away in an unseasonably warm, but mostly overcast, UK nothing much has changed here with clear skies predominating and temperatures pushing 20C.

A visit to the west slope of El Hacho mountain from 1600-1730hrs produced a 'first' for the village for me, a Dunnock! Only occurring here as a scarce winter visitor, they are normally seen in more remote mountain areas found towards Ronda. Also seen were Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Southern Grey Shrike, Stonechat, 10+ Black Redstart, 5+ Song Thrush (one in full song), Blue Rock Thrush, Meadow Pipit, Sardinian Warbler, Dartford Warbler (one heard), Blackcap, Serin and Cirl Bunting.
Looking west from El Hacho

Tuesday 15 December 2015, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light E-SE wind, 20C

Another warm, dry day; we've had no rain, apart from a couple of drizzly showers, since 03 November.
This morning I took a short walk along the tracks to the north of the village where it was fairly quiet. A few small flocks of Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Blue Tit roamed around plus Great-spotted Woodpecker, Collared Dove, Eurasian Jay, Song Thrush, Black Redstart, Eurasian Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff.

Wild Clematis (Clematis cirrhosa, I think) is in flower

Eurasian Nuthatch

Saturday 12 December 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light-fresh SE wind, 15C

A check of the west slope of El Hacho from 08:15-10:00hrs produced few species but some good ones; Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, Southern Grey Shrike, 5+ Song Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Meadow Pipit, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, at least 2, possibly 3 Dartford Warbler, Corn Bunting, Cirl Bunting and Rock Bunting

An early afternoon trip to the coast at San Luis de Sabinillas gave me a chance to do some birding on the beach and in warm winter sun, very pleasant it was, too. The 'gull flock' consisted of just a single 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull, though there were more off-shore along with several Northern Gannet, a handful of Black-headed Gull and a couple of Great Cormorant. Along the shoreline there were 6 Sanderling and around the western breakwater there were between 4 and 6 Common Chiffchaff, a Common Kingfisher, a female Black Redstart, a White Wagtail and a Crested Lark. Where the small Arroyo de Peñuela stream enters the sea there was a pair of Moorhen, a couple more Common Chiffchaff and a Cetti's Warbler and flying around the promenade area the whole time were half-a-dozen noisy Monk Parakeet.

San Luis de Sabinillas beach scenes......
Northern Gannet

Today's gull flock! Just one Yellow-legged Gull

Sanderling

Sanderling

Black-headed Gull
Black Redstart
Common Chiffchaff
Common Chiffchaff

Tuesday 08 December 2015, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, calm air-light SE wind, 17C

A change in the weather since Sunday has seen the return of a few clouds and the temperature dropping a couple of degrees but no sign of any rain; some nice sunrises, too:
Sunrise over Sierras Bermeja and Crestellina
A morning walk along the 'Las Pilas' track above Benarraba and Algatocin produced 15 Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Song Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, European Robin, Short-toed Treecreeper, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Hawfinch, and some interesting small mixed flocks that held Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Siskin, Cirl Bunting and Rock Bunting.
View from above Benarraba

Blue Rock Thrush - diagnostic bill visible even at 50m in the gloom!

Siskin - what a lovely species!
Another view of the dainty Siskin

Sunday 06 December 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light E-SE wind, 19C

Feeling cooler than 19C in the easterly wind, a walk along the Camino de Avedin into the Coto de Jarraqueque produced 25+ Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Raven, Eurasian Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Song Thrush, Eurasian Nuthatch, 6+ Firecrest, Crested Tit, Sardinian Warbler, male Dartford Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Cirl Bunting.
The Tawny Owl has been calling the last couple of nights around the Camino de Avedin area.
Gaucin castle and ermita from Coto Jarraqueque
Some heather species are in flower......

...............as is the Gorse..............
............and this almond tree is flowering at least one month earlier than normal

Saturday 05 December 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light SE wind, 19C

A morning visit to the Rio Genal was relatively uneventful, until we got back to the car and Janys realised that she'd lost her phone (a metallic grey one, amongst the thousands of similarly coloured river stones); the ensuing search did, however, prolong the visit enough for a Black Stork to turn up, high to the SW. We found the phone, too, which was a bonus!
Also seen were 60+ Griffon Vulture, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Little Egret (my first here this winter), Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Eurasian Jay, 70+ Crag Martin, 5+ Song Thrush, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Short-toed Treecreeper, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Common Chiffchaff and small mixed flocks (<10 and="" br="" chaffinch.="" goldfinch="" of="">

Friday 04 December 2015, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 20C

A week has passed but nothing much has changed, at least weather-wise and bird-wise. The continuing presence of the 'Azores High' means that the clear, calm and warm days are still with us.
There was a singing Common Crossbill at the top of a Cypress tree opposite the petrol station on Monday morning and there have been several 'fly-over' sightings in the village during the week. There was a Hawfinch flying over Camino de Avedin on Wednesday afternoon and Common Chiffchaff can be found in many suitable trees in and around the village. A pair of Common Raven have been patrolling the outskirts of the village and there was a Tawny Owl calling above Camino de Avedin late yesterday evening.

The Sweet Chestnut trees are finally losing their leaves, but the autumnal feel is offset by the very early appearance of white blossom on some of the Almond trees in the area.

The Sweet Chestnut trees finally looking autumnal


Friday 27 November 2015, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light S-SE wind, 20C

After the 'cold spell' at the beginning of the week, the northerly winds contributing to night-time temperatures of 3C on Tuesday/Wednesday and day-time temperatures of 13C, the last couple of days have been rather warm again.

Down on the Rio Genal on Thursday morning there was a Redwing (first of the winter) amongst a small group of Song Thrush but sadly little else due to the close proximity of hunters; late afternoon there was a Firecrest in the small oak trees opposite Bodeguita Chaparro. There are quite a few Paperwhite Narcissus around which look wonderful in the winter sun.
Paperwhite Narcissus

female Black Redstart
This afternoon at 15:30hrs there were at least 150 Griffon Vulture below the Brenaverde restaurant on the Gaucin-Algeciras road. I went down to have a look but the only carrion I could see was a small snake so not sure what the attraction was! They were flying in from all directions, forming several large swirling kettles, so an accurate count was difficult but 150 would be a conservative estimate; it was quite a spectacle.

On the west slope of El Hacho the highlights were a pale morph Booted Eagle, Peregrine, a covey of 8 Red-legged Partridge, Blue Rock Thrush, 10+ Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, 10+ Stonechat, Black Redstart, 2 male Dartford Warbler and Cirl Bunting.

Some of the many Griffon Vulture seen this afternoon:
 
 

Saturday 21 November 2015, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, occasional light drizzle, light-fresh W-NW wind, 13C

Today saw a big change from yesterday when it was 21C and people were sunbathing on Estepona beach! Friday's trip to the coast was rewarded with a sighting of a female Hen Harrier, above the Utrera gorge near Casares. The gull flock on the beach was quite small (around 180 individuals), in part due to the number of sunbathers and dog walkers, and included Lesser black-backed, Yellow-legged, Black-headed and Mediterranean gulls; a single Sandwich Tern flew by, there were a few Great Cormorant and Northern Gannet out to sea, and three or four Sanderling along the shore.

Although this morning started sunny and warm it soon morphed into a more typical November day and we were lucky to get a short walk in before the cloud base fell. Checking out the limestone cliffs, bushes and fields along the 'Siete Pilas' track above Algatocin from 10:30hrs produced Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2 Red-billed Chough, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Blue Rock Thrush, a flock of 20+ Song Thrush, Crag Martin, Crested/Thekla Lark, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Common Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, a wonderful male Brambling, Serin, Cirl Bunting and Rock Bunting. A quick look along the track opposite Venta Socorro at 17:00hrs produced Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Song Thrush, plenty of Chaffinch, a couple of Black Redstart and a Siskin.

Mediterranean Gulls and a Lesser black-backed Gull

Sanderling

Mixed gull flock - Estepona beach

Random photo of the Moon
Gibraltar and Djebel Musa from Gaucin - Fri 20 Nov

A nice sunset - Fri 20 Nov

male Brambling

male Brambling

Rock Bunting









Thursday 19 November 2015, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light S-SE wind, 20C

A morning walk along the mist-shrouded tracks to the north of the village produced the usual array of species, the highlights being Firecrest, Crested Tit, Common Crossbill and, amongst the burgeoning numbers of Chaffinch, a Siskin. In addition to the increase in Chaffinch numbers, there are now more Serin, European Robin, Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff around. With cold weather predicted for the weekend, these populations may swell even more.




Saturday 14 November 2015, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light E-SE wind, 15C

No sooner had I said that there were no winter species around, than an afternoon stroll along the tracks just north of Gaucin produced both Brambling (a single femail) and Siskin! There were small roaming mixed flocks of Chaffinch, Brambling, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Crested Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Firecrest, Siskin and Serin, Also seen were Griffon Vulture, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Black Redstart, European Robin, 5 Common Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Sardinian Warbler.
Long-tailed Tit enjoying the olive harvest!

Friday 13 November 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light S-SE wind, 19C

A visit to the west slope of El Hacho from 09:30-11:30hrs proved relatively quiet, though a pale morph Booted Eagle was a good 'winter' record. The continuing mild weather belies the fact that we are almost half-way through November and is likely keeping some of the true winter visitors away though Black Redstart numbers have built up to 15+. Other species seen today were 40+ Griffon Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush, 3 Song Thrush, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff and Cirl Bunting. Red-legged Partridge and Dartford Warbler were heard.

Reports of a couple of Short-toed Eagle around in the past week or so with one near the Rio Genal below Gaucin and another in the Alcornocales National Park. There were 3 Common Buzzard (two adults and a wonderfully-plumaged juvenile) over the village on Tuesday.

At the Rio Genal yesterday morning there were at least 6 Hawfinch, also a Common Kingfisher (but no sign of the otters, other than prints and spraint).




Some good news concerning Black Vultures in Andalucia, with the latest survey showing a population in excess of 350 pairs, see the link below for more details:

Good news for Black Vulture in Andalucia