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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.