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Tuesday 31 December 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 17C

Down at the Rio Genal at 0830hrs it was just light and a chilly 4C.....I logged the following:

7x Great Cormorant (flying upstream), Grey Heron, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, 3x Raven, 2x Green Sandpiper, 3x Wood Pigeon, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Common Kingfisher, Spotless Starling, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, European Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush (just three or four, nothing like the large numbers of a couple of weeks ago), Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff sp., 14x Hawfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Cirl Bunting.

At 1630hrs there were 70+ Griffon Vulture over Sierra Crestellina.

This morning's sunrise over Gaucin

Monday 30 December 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light E wind, 14C

During a mid-morning walk from the Rio Hozgarganta to Castellar de la Frontera the following were logged:
Griffon Vulture (more than 50 milling around E-SE of the castle at Castellar), Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel (strange to be at the castle in the absence of the summer noise of the Lesser Kestrel colony), 2x Raven, 3x Common Buzzard, Green Sandpiper, Song Thrush, Crag Martin, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, lots of Black Redstart up near the village, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff sp., Cirl Bunting and Corn Bunting (including a flock of 20+ in a stubble cotton field where there were also a few Chaffinch, but no Brambling).

Sunday 29 December 2013, Gaucin, sunny, light N-NW wind, 16C

This morning I took a walk along my nearest 'local patch' the Camino de Gibraltar; when I set out at 0830hrs it was a chilly 3C and I was thankful that the northerly wind was blowing only lightly. Bird life was thin on the ground and, with nothing remarkable to note, sightings included:

Griffon Vulture, Spotless Starling, Great-spotted Woodpecker, 20+ Song Thrush, Thekla Lark, White Wagtail, Chiffchaff sp., Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Serin and Cirl Bunting. Towards lunchtime there were 35+ Griffon Vulture over the southern end of Sierra Crestellina.

Sadly, whilst along the camino I met a couple of kids with a gun who sheepishly allowed me to see their sole 'trophy', a ragged-looking male Cirl Bunting.

Early morning view over 'El Nobo' to Gibraltar, Ceuta and Morocco

Saturday 28 December 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light NW wind, 13C

Very little to report birdwise over the Christmas period. The predominant W-NW winds brought the tail-end of the weather systems that hit the UK over the southern Iberian peninsular; overnight on the 24th there were gale-force 9 winds and 54L/m2 rain fell; last night another front passed over and deposited 13L/m2. Yesterday morning there were 4 Spanish Ibex along the Ronda-Algeciras road, just by the spring beyond the 'Brenaverde/Mirador' restaurant; two youngsters were on the far side of the road but an adult male and an adult female waited until I was no more than 10m from them before casually crossing the road to join the others. A short afternoon walk through the woods behind the petrol station produced Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Eurasian Nuthatch; Green Woodpecker and Chiffchaff sp. were heard.

Saturday 21 December 2013, Gaucin, sunny, light S-SE wind, 15C

Although it turned out to be a lovely warm winter's day it was a chilly 3C as I headed down to the Rio Genal at 0830hrs. It was fairly quiet, perhaps due to the nearby gunfire of the local hunters, the highlights being 15 Hawfinch and a single Redwing; also seen were Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Great Cormorant, Green Sandpiper, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 10+ Song Thrush, Spotless Starling, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Firecrest, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch. Chiffchaff sp., was heard.

Thursday 19 December 2013, Gaucin, cloudy, rain pm, light-strong breeze, W-NW wind, 11C

Following a couple of cloudy days with occasional light rain showers this afternoon saw the first significant rainfall since 23 October. This morning I had a look at the west slope of El Hacho just before the rain started; it was pretty quiet but there were a dozen or so Griffon Vulture, a Common Kestrel, quite a few Black Redstart, several Song Thrush and Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler and Cirl Bunting. The best sighting was the 'return' of the Southern Grey Shrike that I hadn't seen on the last couple of visits; great to hear its plaintive but far-carrying song again.

Yesterday there was a Cattle Egret in the valley just south of the Gaucin (a village 'tick' for me, I think) and a Blue Rock Thrush was tucking into the decaying Persimmon fruits in the Calle Convento/Calle del Pino gardens.

Clouds below Gaucin

Sunday 15 December 2013, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light S-SW wind, 15C

During a short stroll along the Rio Guadiaro at Estacion de Cortes this morning I logged the following:

20+ Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, 2 Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Crag Martin, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Jay, Black Redstart, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Thekla/Crested Lark, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler (heard), flock of 30+ Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Cirl Bunting.

Back in Gaucin during the afternoon there were 2 Common Raven over the castle and Green Woodpecker calling and drumming in the Las Pallas valley.

Rio Guadiaro, Estacion de Cortes

Persimmon tree favoured by the Mistle Thrush

Saturday 14 December 2013, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light E-SE wind, 18C

Currently house, dog, cat and chicken-sitting just on the edge of Gaucin. This morning whilst feeding the four remaining hens (we 'lost' two to an unknown daytime predator, most likely an Egyptian Mongoose) I had good views of a Short-toed Treecreeper as it flitted around an almond tree. During the afternoon I scanned the Sierra Crestellina peaks on and off for a couple of hours looking for last week's Golden Eagle but only 30+ Griffon Vulture and a pair of Common Raven to report.

Sunrise over Sierra Bermeja

Tuesday 10 December 2013' Gaucin, partly cloudy, fresh E-NE wind, 15C

Down at the Rio Genal from 0930-1100hrs were the following:
20+ Griffon Vulture, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Little Egret, 2 Great Cormorant, Common Kestrel, 2 Green Sandpiper, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Common Kingfisher, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Song Thrush (fewer than last visit), Spotless Starling, Black Redstart, Blackcap, Chiffchaff sp., Greenfinch, Chaffinch, 4 Hawfinch, Serin - several in mixed flocks with Goldfinch - and Cirl Bunting.

Unexpected sighting in the river....

Monday 09 December 2013, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light-fresh E-SE wind, 12C

A much cooler day today but the continuing, mainly easterly, winds mean there's still no rain. Over the Camino de Avedin today there were Peregrine, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Common Kestrel.

Friday 06 December 2013, Gaucin, sunny, light E-SE wind, 18C

This morning I visited the Rio Genal alongside the Casares-Secadero track from 0845-1045. Although the day turned out to be wonderfully warm it was a chilly 4C when I arrived and there was a light mist rising off the river; unfortunately the cold hadn't put off the hunters so there was a lot of gunfire nearby which no doubt spooked many birds. As I arrived a flock of 60+ Great Cormorant were heading upstream, presumably the same birds that I saw near Gaucin on Wednesday. Despite the shooting I did manage to see 3x Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, 3x Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Northern Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Common Kingfisher, Song Thrush, Black Redstart, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Cirl Bunting and Corn Bunting. I thought I might see the Black-winged Kite that overwintered last year but they didn't show; hopefully they are around or will be back later.

On the drive back to Gaucin I stopped off to have a quick look at the southern end of Sierra Crestellina thinking I might catch an Egyptian Vulture. I didn't see the Egyptian but there were 40+ Griffon Vulture and it was better than that; as soon as I put my bins up I spotted a first winter Golden Eagle! Given the scarcity of this bird in the area I would imagine that this is the same bird that I saw in Gaucin nine days ago heading off towards the Genal/Sierra Bermeja area. I wonder if the adult was with it again.

Back in Gaucin village in the afternoon there was a Common Kestrel hovering close to the houses in Calle Convento; not a common sight these days.

Northern Lapwing

Rio Genal looking back towards Sierra El Hacho

A distant Gaucin from the Casares-Secadero track

Thursday 05 December 2013, Gaucin, sunny, light E-SE wind, 16C

Good record of a Hawfinch flying towards the centre of the village over Calle del Pino/Calle Convento at 1700hrs. Small numbers of Crag Martin, less than 10, are now daily visitors. In the gardens, just a Chiffchaff sp., (probable Iberian due to prominent yellow supercilium) of note.

Wednesday 04 December 2013, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light-fresh E-SE wind, 12C

Finally managed to shake off the 'man flu' and get out into the field! I visited the Rio Genal from 0815-0945hrs and logged the following:

20+ Griffon Vulture, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2x Grey Heron, 5x Little Egret, 2x Green Sandpiper, Eurasian Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker (heard), 20+ Crag Martin, at least 35 Song Thrush (the shingle bank was alive with them, drinking and bathing), Blackbird, Black Redstart, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, House Sparrow, 20+ Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and 3x Hawfinch. Birds of the day were a single Redwing, amongst the many Song Thrush, and a flock of 40+ Great Cormorant, heading upstream, the most I've seen in the area by far.

Yesterday there was a Eurasian Sparrowhawk just south of Calle del Pino that was being mobbed by a group of about 15 Spotless Starling; as the Sparrowhawk lost altitude the Starlings were joined by about 8 Feral Pigeon that not only helped with the mobbing but tracked the Starling 'murmurations' seamlessly for at least two changes of direction- a strange sight indeed!

Saturday 30 November 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light-fresh SE wind, 16C

Since the excitement of the Golden Eagles on Tuesday there's been nothing much to report as I've been largely out of action with 'man flu'! Thursday was a cold 8C with a bitter E wind with 2L/m2 drizzly rain falling; a first winter Sparrowhawk came hunting right over the gardens between Calle Convento and Calle del Pino.  The temperature picked up dramatically on Friday when it reached 18C and today it was a pleasant 16C. There have been a few Crag Martin around the village and occasional groups of Griffon Vulture drifting high between the Sierras of Crestellina and El Hacho. A couple each of Black Redstart, Blackcap and Chiffchaff sp.' mess around in the garden walnut tree which still has most of its leaves. We've had some lovely sunsets, photos of last night's here........

Gaucin - east

Sierra Crestellina

View south to Gibraltar, Djebel Musa and Morrocco

Tuesday 26 November 2013, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 16C

This morning at 0320hrs I woke to hear the unmistakeable song of a male Eagle Owl somewhere below Calle Convento/Calle del Pino. I had a quick look through the window but it didn't show. It was singing again at about 0600hrs.

A visit to the west slope of El Hacho from 1015-1130hrs produced a good sighting in the form of at least one, possibly two, Dartford Warbler. Also seen were Blue Rock Thrush, 8 Song Thrush, a minimum of 20 Black Redstart, Meadow Pipit, Thekla Lark, Stonechat, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Rock Bunting but there was no sign of the wintering Southern Grey Shrike.

On the way home I had a look in the cork oak woodland at Salto de Cura, just outside the village on the Ronda road, where I heard both Firecrest and Crested Tit and saw 20+ Griffon Vulture, Chiffchaff sp., and Eurasian Nuthatch. As I was scanning the treetops in the direction of Benarraba I picked up a large bird of prey heading towards me and as it got nearer the diagnostic white underwing patches and terminal tail band of a first-winter Golden Eagle were seen clearly. I watched this powerful, majestic bird for a good 5 minutes as it wheeled away above me, before things got even better and it was joined by a second individual, this time an adult! Both birds circled for a minute or so before picking up speed and heading SE towards the Genal valley. Fantastic birding!

View from El Hacho towards the Alcornocales
One of the many Black Redstart

I've been spotted!

Monday 25 November 2013, Gaucin, sunny, light SE wind, 16C

Friday saw the first rain since 27 October, with some steady drizzle adding up to a daily total of 2Lm2, with the same amount falling on Saturday. Little to report other than a Grey Heron in the valley just south of the village on Saturday - the first time I've seen one there.

Yesterday morning whilst on the bus to Sevilla I saw a couple of Red Kite as we passed near El Coronil and returning home today there were 100+ Griffon Vulture in a couple of groups between Algodonales and Ronda, also Common Buzzard and several Common Kestrel. Between Ronda and Atajate there were two Black Wheatear on the stone wall beside the road.

Wednesday 20 November 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light N-NW wind, 15C

Yesterday morning there was a Eurasian Sparrowhawk being mobbed by a small flock of Spotless Starling over Calle del Pino and in the afternoon a Common Raven in the same area.

This morning I was walking near San Martin de Tesorillo where it was quite quiet birdwise other than a flock of 25 Griffon Vulture, a Common Kestrel, several Song Thrush, Corn Bunting, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler (heard) and flocks of 20+ Goldfinch. I was surprised that, after nearly 8hrs walking in the area over the past couple of days, there were no sightings of either Booted Eagle or Short-toed Eagle as you might expect some to be overwintering in the area given its relative proximity to the coast.

Monday 18 November 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 15C

All rather quiet here at the moment. The wonderful run of dry, warm weather seems to have finally come to an end; this morning at 0800hrs it was just 6C and this evening it was cold enough for us to light our first fire of the winter.

Whilst in Jerez over the weekend there was a nice surprise when 60+ White Stork flew over the city centre on Sunday; also in the centre were a Common Kestrel, Spotless Starling and in the many Jacaranda trees, one or two Chiffchaff sp. but interestingly, no Black Redstart.

A Short-toed Eagle was reported from Sabinillas yesterday, flying up from the Rio Manilva near the Sunday market.

Tuesday 12 November 2013, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 24C

Excitement here on Saturday night/Sunday morning as we were woken by a 3.5 magnitude earthquake; centred on Casares, some 20km to the south, it was enough to shake the house but didn't appear to cause any damage.

Sightings from the past couple of days....Plenty of Griffon Vulture around; a Common Raven over the Manilva road below Sierra Crestellina; Crested Tit, Firecrest, Song Thrush and Black Redstart along La Umbria; two very showy Firecrest and a couple of Iberian Chiffchaff along Camino de Avedin, also tawny Owl calling here again in the early hours of Monday. Lots of butterflies on the wing, particularly the migrant Painted Lady whose numbers have surged in the last few days and that seem to be attracted to Rosemary plants.

Painted Lady

Poor photos but they wouldn't keep still!

Yesterday on the coast at Sabinillas there were 10 Sanderling on the beach along with 20 or so Yellow-legged Gull, a single Black-headed Gull and two Black Redstart; out to sea, amidst plenty more Yellow-legged Gull, were a couple of Great Cormorant and two or three Northern Gannet.

Saturday 09 November 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 21C

Down at the Rio Genal from 1000-1100hrs I logged the following:
15+ Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, Grey Heron, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, at least 10 Meadow Pipit in the field alongside the river, Black Redstart, Common Kingfisher, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler (heard), Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet and Greenfinch. In the afternoon there was a Crested Tit half-way along the Camino de Avedin and in the same area there were two Tawny Owl calling during the early hours.

Tonight's sunset over Sierra Crestellina and Gaucin castle

Friday 08 November 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, fresh N-NW wind, 20C

A quick morning visit to the west slope of El Hacho produced very little, mainly due to the gusting northerly wind that made telescope use pretty much impossible! Despite the conditions, though, there was a count of 75+ Griffon Vulture arriving from a southerly direction, presumably from Sierra Crestellina. Also seen were Southern Grey Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush, several Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Stonechat, European Robin, Sardinian Warbler and Rock Bunting. Up towards the summit were 3 adult Spanish Ibex.

Thursday 07 November 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 24C

After yesterday's unseasonal high of 26C today was a shade cooler, but no less wonderful, at 24C. As if to underline the summery feeling there was a pale morph Booted Eagle just south-west of the village at 1200hrs and presumably the same individual high up but visible from Calle Convento at 1415hrs. This bird, coupled with the intermediate morph seen at the Rio Genal a few days ago, means that it's possible that there are at least two individuals over-wintering in the area.

Tuesday 05 November 2013, Gaucin, cloudy am, sunny pm, light-fresh N wind, 23C

On Saturday afternoon 45 Griffon Vulture flew in single file from Sierra Crestellina towards Sierra del Hacho. Black Redstart numbers are building up in the village and their squabbling calls can be heard frequently. Sunday mid-morning there were 2x Willow Warbler near Cortes de la Frontera and on Sunday afternoon there was a small flock of Crag Martin over Calle del Pino in Gaucin. At 0830hrs on Monday a male Eurasian Sparrowhawk was hunting over the gardens in Calle Convento.

Saturday 02 November 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light SE wind, 22C

Down on the Rio Genal from 0900-1030hrs were the following:
A late-leaving or possibly over-wintering intermediate morph Booted Eagle, Grey Heron, Green Sandpiper, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Spotless Starling, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff sp., Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Serin, 8x Hawfinch and Cirl Bunting.

Sunrise over Sierra Crestellina


Rio Genal

Thursday 31 October 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light E-SE wind, 18C

A mid-morning visit to the west slope of El Hacho produced the following:
10x Griffon Vulture, Southern Grey Shrike, 2x male Blue Rock Thrush, a minimum of 20 Black Redstart (there were 5 in one small dead tree and at least another 10 in a rocky area of no more than 5m2; they were everywhere), 10+ Meadow Pipit, Northern Wheatear, European Robin, Sardinian Warbler, a flock of 10 Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Rock Bunting. Red-legged Partridge was heard.

Wednesday 30 October 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light S-SE wind, 22C

I visited the Rio Genal below Gaucin from 0930-1030hrs and logged the following:
Griffon Vulture, 2x Grey Heron, 2x Green Sandpiper, Song Thrush, Black Redstart,  a flock of 30+ Chaffinch, 10+ White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail and Blackcap. Cirl Bunting, Cetti's Warbler and Chiffchaff sp. were heard.

Tuesday 29 October 2013, Gaucin, sunny, light-fresh N-NW wind, 22C

After the warm 24C of yesterday, today's 22C felt appreciably cooler in the northerly wind. I've been out two or three times in the past few days looking for, or rather, listening for, possible Yellow-browed Warbler; as in the UK, there has been an, albeit smaller, influx of this Asiatic visitor in Spain, too, including at least 3 in the Montes de Malaga. Needless to say, all I've managed to find so far is a whole load of Chiffchaff sp! I'll keep looking for a bit but their time here is likely to be short-lived.....

Sunday 27 October 2013, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light S-SE wind, 22C

A wonderful, warm autumn day. Early afternoon there were 35 House Martin just to the SE of the village and a group of 35 Griffon Vulture over the northern peak of Sierra Crestellina. At least two Chiffchaff sp., in the Walnut tree in the garden.

Friday 25 October 2013, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, occasional light rain pm, calm air-light W-SW wind, 20C

Whilst checking out new walking routes near Castellar I passed through a cattle farm where there were 150+ Griffon Vulture feasting on a couple of dead cows; an amazing spectacle. As the corpses were some distance from the live cattle they may have been left out deliberately as carrion for the vultures.

Other than the vultures, there were 3 Common Buzzard, small flocks of Meadow Pipit, large flocks of mixed finches, several Crested Lark, Woodlark, Stonechat and Sardinian Warbler. There were a lot of Chiffchaff sp. around including one singing Common Chiffchaff.

In nearby Jimena de la Frontera at the same time last year there were still Booted Eagle and Barn Swallow around, but none seen today.

Mandrake Mandragora officinarum

Thursday 24 October 2013, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light S-SW wind, 20C

After a couple of mostly cloudy days with frequent, occasionally heavy, rain showers, today was an improvement. 18L/m2 of rain fell between 1000hrs Tuesday and 1000hrs Wednesday.
At 1000hrs this morning I took a short walk along the Sierra Espartina during which the sun came out and it felt quite warm again. There were few birds to be seen but I did log Griffon Vulture, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Woodlark, Crested Tit, Robin, Sardinian Warbler and Common Crossbill.

Yesterday morning there was a Green Woodpecker along the Camino Gaucin-Cortes just past Muebles Las Palas and there were a fair few Chiffchaff sp. calling from the cork oaks.

Monday 21 October 2013, Gaucin, partly cloudy, calm air-light SE wind, 24C

Heard several Chiffchaff sp. whilst walking around La Umbria this morning, including one Common Chiffchaff singing. Blackcap and Robin numbers are building up and the Calle Convento House Sparrow flock is up to an impressive 45+ which is probably why there was a Eurasian Sparrowhawk right up amongst the houses yesterday evening!

Sunday 20 October 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light W-SW wind, 28C

On a morning walk to the summit of El Hacho mountain in perfect weather I logged Griffon Vulture, Peregrine, Common Kestrel, Raven, Northern Wheatear, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, Wren, several Chiffchaff sp., Sardinian Warbler, Meadow Pipit and Cirl Bunting. A couple of butterflies, Swallowtail and Spotted Fritillary, flitted past as we rested at the top before the steep descent back to Gaucin.

Gaucin from the summit of El Hacho

Autumn Crocus Colchicum autumnale

Friday 18 October 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light SE wind, 24C

Back home after a week in the UK where I did very little birding but it was good to catch up with the numerous Red Kite that frequent the Thames Valley. On Tuesday 15 October I spent an hour at Port Meadow, Oxford; a great circular walk from the town centre, along the River Thames towpath and back via the Oxford Canal towpath. The meadow wasn't flooded but there was still a motley selection of geese including 2 White-fronted Goose and 4 Bar-headed Goose as well as a flock of 250+ Golden Plover and a handful of Northern Lapwing. Along the canal there were a couple of Common Chiffchaff, one still singing a few notes.

A walk around the Southern edge of Gaucin this morning produced little of note other than a Peregrine, Blue Rock Thrush and Crested Tit but it definitely feels more autumnal with the likes of Common Redstart and Pied Flycatcher giving way to Black Redstart and wintering Robin; there was, however, a reminder of summer with a flock of 100+ House Martin above the castle. Several butterflies on the wing including Tree Grayling.

Tuesday 08 October 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light-fresh E-SE wind, 26C

At 0815hrs there were 45 Griffon Vulture and a Peregrine above Sierra Crestellina and at 1000hrs a Short-toed Eagle and a Peregrine over the Rio Manilva at the Utrera Gorge. Walking down to the gorge there were several Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler and a couple of Crested Lark.

There was a Short-toed Eagle just to the South of Gaucin village at 1845hrs.

Monday 07 October 2013, Gaucin, cloudy am, sunny pm, light-fresh SE wind, 27C

Whilst walking near San Martin de Tesorillo this morning there was a Booted Eagle around. In Gaucin early evening there were 2 Swift sp. and 20+ House Martin high over Calle Convento.

Sunday 06 October 2013, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light SE wind, 25C

Not much to report today, just an interesting sighting of 10 Raven circling above the village at 1415hrs and a handful of House Martin hanging on. I went to the West side of El Hacho at 1900hrs but forgot about the first rule of Sunday birding; don't go anywhere where there might be hunters! Other than the usual Stonechats and Sardinian Warblers, a pair of Thekla Lark, a pair of Peregrine and an heroic Red-legged Partridge atop the summit, there was very little braving the gunshots.

Saturday 05 October 2013, Gaucin, sunny, light W-NW wind, 27C

A visit to the coast gave me a chance to check out the heathland at Mesas de Chullera, just inland West of Duquesa. It's a great spot, totally quiet with lovely views, but there were very few birds around, unless you were looking for Sardinian Warbler or Stonechat! I did see Booted Eagle, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Jay, 6 Barn Swallow, House Martin, Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Linnet, Goldfinch and Serin. The highlight was in a small recently-ploughed field just alongside the heath where there were no fewer than 9 Northern Wheatear.

View to the North

Gibraltar through a pine wood

East towards Sierra Bermeja

Friday 04 October 2013, Gaucin, mostly cloudy am, mostly sunny pm, calm air-light W wind, 27C

This morning Janys and I checked out the superb drive along the recently resurfaced Jimena de la Frontera-Alcala de los Gazules road through the stunning Alcornocales National Park. We drove the 10km to the peak at Garganta Honda which, despite being lower than Gaucin at approximately 620m, has superb 360 degree views. It wasn't a birding trip but I did manage to see many Griffon Vulture, dark morph Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, great views of a female Hen Harrier, Kestrel sp., Raven, Blue Rock Thrush, a lovely autumn plumaged Northern Wheatear and Dartford Warbler. It's definitely a location that needs to be afforded some dedicated birding time!

Thursday 03 October 2013, Gaucin, partly cloudy, calm air-light W-SW wind, 26C

After 2.5Lm2 of rain overnight, accompanied by a bit of thunder and lightning, today was mostly clear and bright. On the way to the coast at 1000hrs there were 3 Black Kite heading West over the A-7P toll road between Manilva and Estepona. Back in the village at 1700hrs there was a Common Crossbill singing at the top of a Cypress tree in Calle Convento and at 1800hrs there were 250+ House Martin, the majority being juveniles, in 2-3 groups between Calle Convento and Calle del Pino with many landing in turn on both a Palm tree and the ledge of an unoccupied building, see photo and video.

House Martins heading for the building ledge

The following sightings were made by Tim Birkhead whilst staying in Gaucin during September - thanks Tim:

16 Sep: 150 House Martins over Gaucin; 50 Bee-eaters; 1 Mistle Thrush; Blue Rock Thrush singing in village; several swifts (including Pallid) visiting nest sites; Booted Eagle over Gaucin; Great-spotted Woodpecker over village; Common Buzzard and Peregrine at Buciete; several Booted Eagles (very vocal) at Jimena, and Short-toed Eagle.

17 Sep:  About 50 Alpine Swifts on road to Estacion de Gaucin. Kingfisher at Estacion de Gaucin; and Short-toed Eagle and Common Redstart (female/juv) on road to Estacion de Gaucin. Swifts still going under tiles at convent.

18 Sep: Red Kite near Manilva; two Eurasian Sparrowhawks on Manilva-Gaucin road; two Booted Eagles. Two Grey Herons over the sea at Torreguadiaro. 

23 Sep: we had a juv Black Stork in the valley below Gaucin (Casares-Secadero track).

24 Sep: we had a stunning visit to Tarifa with hundreds of raptors (mainly Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, but also Black Kite, Sparrowhawks) and Black and White storks seen from the mountain viewing place including flocks of storks over the town.

25 Sep: a single Honey Buzzard over Gaucin.

27 Sep: Peregrine over the village as it was getting dark.

28 Sep: Less good today, but this afternoon we drove to the 'Barca Moreno-Marchenilla' track where there were big flocks (100s)  of finches etc: Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Serin, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting, House Sparrows and Crested Larks. Two groups of 20-40 Ravens. One Black Kite. Many Phylloscopus warblers, mainly Willow Warblers, along edge of the track.

29 Sep: we went back to Tarifa. It was still raining when we arrived at the migration watching place, but within 10 minutes the rain stopped, the sun came out and so did the migrants. Nothing we hadn't seen before and small numbers: raptors and Black Storks. We went off to La Janda, and saw Montagu's and Hen Harriers, lots of White Storks, Common Snipe, Greenshank, Lapwings (20) and a pair of Jackdaws.

30 Sep: we ducked under the cloud this afternoon into intermittent sunshine along the Barca Moreno-Marchenilla track and had great views of a mongoose along the road plus about 100 Corn Buntings with a similar number of Linnets. We then walked along the track from the Jimena metal bridge towards Los Lobos, and saw a Wryneck - fabulous views, we watched it for about ten minutes on the ground and on fence posts. On our way back we had 200-300 Alpine Swifts very high overhead - spectacular.

Wednesday 02 October 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light S-SE wind, 26C

Back to warmer temperatures after several cooler days. At 1500hrs there were 3 Booted Eagle high up over the South of the village and at 1845hrs a pair of 'local' Pallid Swift over Calle Convento.

A brief visit to the West slope of El Hacho from 1915-1945hrs produced a good sighting in the form of a 1cy Egyptian Vulture which was circling the summit for 30min with one short rest, see photos. Also seen from the roadside were Peregrine, Southern Grey Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush, Stonechat, Thekla Lark and Sardinian Warbler.

1cy Egyptian Vulture

1cy Egyptian Vulture

Tuesday 01 October 2013, Gaucin, cloudy am, mostly sunny pm, light W-NW wind, 23C

150+ House Martin around Calle del Pino/Calle Convento during the morning and at 1800hrs 20+ Barn Swallow were seen moving through.

Sunday 29 September 2013, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light rain, light W-SW wind, 20C

The weather has broken, with some steady rain over the past couple of days; 32Lm2 fell Friday night-Saturday morning, 12.5Lm2 Saturday night-Sunday morning and 10Lm2 Sunday night-Monday morning.

Today in the gardens between Calle del Pino and Calle Convento there was a male Blue Rock Thrush, Pied Flycatcher, a pair of Blackcap and a Chiffchaff sp. There are still quite a few House Martin in the village with many flying into and around a large Palm tree behind Calle Convento and at least a couple of Common Swift, too.

Friday 27 September 2013, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light-fresh SW wind, 26C

This morning I was joined by Tim for a visit to the mountain pass at the start of the Llanos de Libar, behind Montejaque. From 0930-1130hrs we logged the following:

30+ Griffon Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Southern Grey Shrike, 1 Alpine Swift, House Martin, Crag Martin, Spotless Starling, 8+ Blue Rock Thrush, male Common Rock Thrush, 6-8 Black Wheatear, Black Redstart, male Common Redstart, Stonechat, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, 20+ Rock Sparrow and Cirl Bunting. Red Deer and Ibex were seen, too.

On the drive back towards Ronda we saw Common Kestrel and a group of 60+ Griffon Vulture in and around a stubble field.

Black Redstart

Distant shot of  male Common Rock Thrush

From 1900-1930hrs there were two Peregrine flying around the west side of El Hacho, also 2 Honey Buzzard heading South and a female Common Redstart there.

Wednesday 25 September 2013, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light E-SE wind, 27C

A visit to the Rio Genal below Gaucin from 0915-1100hrs produced the following:
Griffon Vulture, 3 Grey Heron, 2 Green Sandpiper, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, 4 Great-spotted Woodpecker (together in a dead tree), European Bee-eater (one or two heard flying over), European Robin, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 1 superb male Common Redstart, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff sp., male and female Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, and 8 Hawfinch.

In addition, moving through the Genal valley between 1030 and 1100hrs were  20+ Short-toed Eagle, 15+ Booted Eagle, 1 Honey Buzzard and 2 Common Buzzard.

Tuesday 24 September 2013, Gaucin, sunny, light SE wind, 27C

Moving through over Gaucin at 1745hrs were 3 Short-toed Eagle, 4 Booted Eagle (3 dark morph) and a single Eurasian Sparrowhawk.

Monday 23 September 2013, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 27C

Watching the west slope of El Hacho from the road from 1815-1900hrs produced the following:
Griffon Vulture, 2 Short-toed Eagle, dark morph Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, adult Peregrine Falcon, Crag Martin, House Martin, Southern Grey Shrike, Common Redstart, Black Wheatear (my first at this site for a few years), Thekla Lark, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, Goldfinch and Corn Bunting.

Sunday 22 September 2013, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 28C

A walk along the top section of the Camino de Gibraltar (village to the water treatment station) from 1715-1830hrs produced the following:
Short-toed Eagle, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, 3 Pied Flycatcher, Stonechat female Black Redstart (first 'returning' one of the winter), Eurasian Nuthatch, Cetti's Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff sp., Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler and Serin.

Yesterday morning, 1100-1200hrs, on a track above Algatocin village there were Short-toed Eagle, Raven, Common Kestrel, European Bee-eater, Common Redstart, Long-tailed Tit and Cirl Bunting. Also several Common Swallowtail and Scarce Swallowtail butterflies.

Still a handful of Common Swift and 100+ House Martin around the village .

Thursday 19 September 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 28C

Today I joined Wingspanner on a day tour to the lagoons and saltpans near Jerez/Cadiz. We left Gaucin at 0715hrs collecting visitors Jane and Dave on the way.

Laguna Medina
We arrived at Laguna Medina just after 0900hrs. The water level was higher than it has been in the past and there were few birds on the lagoon but we did see:
Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Purple Swamp Hen, Cattle Egret, Great-crested Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Shoveler, Common Snipe, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Flycatcher, Penduline Tit, Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Willow Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Serin.

Santa Maria and Bonanza Saltpans:
It always seems slightly surreal birding amidst the strange salt pan landscape but it's worth the effort to see;
Osprey, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Slender-billed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, White Stork, Black Stork, Greater Flamingo, Great White Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Eurasian Spoonbill, Pied Avocet, Stone Curlew, Whimbrel, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Little Stint, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Northern Wheatear, Red-rumped Swallow and Common Whitethroat.

Laguna Tarelo:
Despite the water here having turned red, presumably due to an algal bloom, a brief stop led to some good sightings including Purple Heron, several Black-crowned Night Heron and a female Red-crested Pochard.

En-route to the Trebujena marshes we saw a single European Bee-eater, Spotted Flycatcher and Chiffchaff sp.

Trebujena Marshes:
Squacco Heron, eclipse male Garganey, Red-knobbed Coot, Whinchat and Short-toed Lark.

Other species seen at, or whilst travelling between, sites were:
Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Raven, Jackdaw, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Common Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Spotless Starling, Blackbird, White Wagtail, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, House Sparrow, Crested Lark, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet and Corn Bunting.

A great day's birding with a grand total of 97 species including some quality individuals!

Greater Flamingo

Wednesday 18 September 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light W-SW wind, 28C

A visit to the Rio Genal from 0830-1000hrs produced the following;
Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Grey Heron, Green Sandpiper, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff sp., and Hawfinch.

Pied Flycatcher

Tuesday 17 September 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 30C

At 0830hrs there were approximately 250 House Martin in two groups around the South of the village. There were 20 or so Swift feeding high up for much of the afternoon and they were joined occasionally by 3 Alpine Swift. From 1645-1600hrs there were three pale morph and one dark morph Booted Eagle, one Short-toed Eagle and a couple of European Bee-eater around, too.

Monday 16 September 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 32C

A very warm and humid day today. Not much opportunity to watch the skies but did record my first Black Stork of the summer, heading NE-SW over the village:

1745hrs: 4 Black Stork
1815hrs: 2 Short-toed Eagle
1900hrs: Barn Swallow

A pair of local Short-toed Eagle and at least two pale morph Booted Eagle were around for much of the day.

Sunday 15 September 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light SW wind am veering E-EW pm, 27C

A much quieter day than yesterday despite apparent good migration conditions. Just the following to note over the village:
1430hrs: 25 European Bee-eater
1630hrs: 2 Short-toed eagle
1645hrs: 1 Short-toed Eagle, 1 adult male Montagu's Harrier

The 'local' Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and Common Buzzard were around most of the day along with a good number of House Martin and a few Common Swift.

Saturday 14 September 2013, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light E-SE wind, 27C

There was a steady passage of raptors this afternoon that was, at times, frustrating; many individuals were moving extremely quickly and were very high against dark clouds and as such, difficult to ID. This is what I recorded:

1515hrs: 4 Short-toed Eagle
1545hrs: 10 Short-toed Eagle + 10 unidentified raptors (most likely also STE)

1700hrs: 5 Short-toed Eagle, 1 juvenile Marsh Harrier
1715hrs: 1 Short-toed Eagle, 1 adult male Marsh Harrier
1730hrs: 1 Honey Buzzard, 2 Common Buzzard, 10 unidentified raptors (again, most likely STE)
1800hrs: 16 Honey Buzzard
1900hrs: 5 Honey Buzzard, 5 Short-toed Eagle

Friday 13 September 2013, Gaucin, partly cloudy am, cloudy with some rain late afternoon, 2Lm2, fresh E-SE wind, 25C

Watching for an hour just before the rain produced the following:

1545hrs: 4 Booted Eagle
1600hrs: 10 Honey Buzzard
1615hrs: 3 Honey Buzzard
1645hrs: 6 Booted Eagle, 6 Short-toed Eagle

Gaucin Castle yesterday evening....

Thursday 12 September 2013, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light-fresh E-SE wind, 26C

A mid-morning visit to one of my favourite sites, the track between Barca Moreno and Marchenilla, was curtailed due to the fact that the track was being resurfaced! I drove on a couple of km towards Marchenilla and had a look there instead with some good sightings, despite quite a strong wind, including the following:

Griffon Vulture (flock of at least 25), Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, juvenile Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Little Owl, Common Swift, House Martin, Whinchat, Stonechat, Tawny Pipit, Crested Lark and Corn Bunting (small winter flocks now forming).

The views of the Montagu's Harrier were superb with the bird coming within 5m of me; after recent long-distant views of migrating individuals it was fantastic to get one at such close quarters.

During the afternoon just a small passage of migrant raptors over the village with 3 Short-toed Eagle, 1 Honey Buzzard and 1 female Montagu's Harrier moving through at 1600hrs.

Red-rumped Swallows: There are at least three birds visiting the nest at Loma de Avedin; they could be a pair plus one young, or, more likely, three young. Thanks to Gregory for the update.

Also thanks to Julie who reported three juvenile Golden Oriole at the Cortes de la Frontera side of La Umbria last week.

Little Owl

Classic Andaluz fence post - with snails!

Wednesday 11 September 2013, Gaucin, sunny, light E-SE wind, 28C

A walk along Camino de Avedin from 0930-1030hrs produced Green Woodpecker (heard), Great-spotted Woodpecker, 3 or 4 Firecrest, Chiffchaff sp., but no Pied Flycatcher. Blackcap and Wren were both in song, though not the full version.

Watching the skies above the village from 1715hrs produced good numbers of Honey Buzzard, generally split into two routes, one NE-SW, just West of La Umbria and the other slightly further East. Small numbers of Bee-eater are still around, also a flock of 20+ Common Swift.

1715hrs: 34 Honey Buzzard, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk
1745hrs: 39 Honey Buzzard, 2 Short-toed Eagle, 1 Booted Eagle, 1 female Montagu's Harrier
1815hrs: 49 Honey Buzzard
1830hrs: 91 Honey Buzzard and 3 'local' Red-billed Chough
1845hrs: 38 Honey Buzzard followed by a second group of 79 Honey Buzzard

Walking along the Camino de Avedin (with dog) I managed to log:
 1900hrs: 34 Honey Buzzard, 1 Black Kite
1915hrs: 49 Honey Buzzard
1930hrs: 39 Honey Buzzard, Red-rumped Swallow

1945-2000hrs: several small groups of Honey Buzzard totalling approx. 25 individuals

The Red-rumped Swallow is presumably one of the pair that is nesting on the Loma de Avedin that, coincidently, I was told about this morning. They bred there last year, raising 3 young that were first seen on 08 September; so far this year no young have been seen.

Tuesday 10 September 2013, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light E-SE wind, 27C

After the rain yesterday afternoon there was, despite the humidity, a wonderful fresh feeling about today; the start of another chapter in the weather story.

0900hrs: A couple of early Honey Buzzard over Camino de Avedin
Watching the skies above the village from 1600-1730hrs I logged the following:
1615hrs: 3 Honey Buzzard
1630hrs: 3 Booted Eagle (2 pale morph, 1 dark morph - could have been 'local' but their height and direction of flight suggested migrants), 1 sub-adult Egyptian Vulture
1730hrs: 3 Honey Buzzard

Also above the Camino de Avedin during this period were 3 Booted Eagle, a Short-toed Eagle with a small snake in its tallons, a Common Buzzard, 20+ Common Swift, 2 Alpine Swift and several House Martin.

2015hrs: There was a Blue Rock Thush calling whilst sitting on the 'arch' that tops the old convent in Calle Convento (or Calle Luis de Arminan for those that prefer the 'old' nomenclature).

Monday 09 September 2013, Gaucin, sunny am, cloudy showers pm, calm air-light S-SE wind, 10L/m2 rainfall, 26C

A walk through the mixed woodland north of the Loma de Avedin from 1030-1130hrs produced the following:
Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, a handfull of passing European Bee-eater, Pied Flycatcher, Chiffchaff sp., Firecrest and lots of European Nuthatch a species that seems to have done very well in the area this summer. There were quite a few butterflies around including many Wall Brown as well as Common Swallowtail  and Scarce Swallowtail.

At 1600hrs we had the first rain of the Autumn with 8.5L/m2 falling in a 30min downpour from very black skies. Afterwards there was some migration as follows:
1645hrs: 5 Honey Buzzard
1700hrs: 3 Honey Buzzard
1715hrs: 19 Honey Buzzard
1745hrs: 3 Honey Buzzard. Also three 'local' Booted Eagle, a dark morph and two displaying pale morphs and a pair of local Common Buzzard.

Sunday 08 September 2013, Gaucin, partly cloudy, calm air-light E-SE wind, 26C

After a cloudy Saturday, during which I managed to see just a single Honey Buzzard, today was a lot brighter on the weather front and with 2 Osprey passing over the village at 1645hrs, better on the bird front, too.  Walking around La Umbria mid-morning I logged two or three Chiffchaff  including an Iberian still attempting to sing, also Booted and Short-toed Eagle, Great-spotted Wookpecker and Firecrest.  Above Camino de Avedin during late afternoon there was a local Common Buzzard and at 1945hrs there was a male Eurasian Sparrowhawk that was being mobbed by at least 100 House Martin, amongst which was an Alpine Swift.

cumulus congestus (I think) above Gaucin castle late afternoon