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 Kite, Red-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.
|(very pale) Short-toed Eagle|