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Friday 26 December 2014, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light W-SW wind, 18C

Super conditions down on the Rio Genal this morning but sadly, few birds! A handful of Griffon Vulture drifted over and there was a single Grey Heron, Great-spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Common Chiffchaff, several Blackcap and Black Redstart.

Back in the village at 1500hrs a scan of the Genal valley towards Sierra Crestellina produced 20+ Griffon Vulture and 2 adult Bonelli's Eagle; over the next hour there were a couple of Common Raven and the Griffon numbers built up to a total of 200+, with at least 120 directly over the village and another 80+ between here and Sierra Crestellina. This was the largest number I've seen here in over 10 years, really quite impressive.

Some shots of the 200+ Griffon Vulture:

Tuesday 23 December 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light S-SE wind, 16C

Walking along the Camino de Casares and the Camino Las Piedras below Gaucin this morning produced 50+ Griffon Vulture (more or less split evenly between two groups), a single, very high Black Stork, Blue Rock Thrush, Song Thrush, Black Redstart, lots of Blackcap; also Sardinian Warbler and Serin. Fantastic to see lots of delicate Paperwhite Narcissus around, too.

El Hacho from Camino de Casares

Paperwhite Narcissus narcissus papyraceue

Click on the link to read about some good news regarding Black Vultures in Mallorca......

Black Vulture success

GPS trackers are providing more evidence that some Booted Eagles remain in Spain rather than making the autumn crossing to Africa.....interesting that one flew from the Montes de Malaga to just south of Valencia. It reads better in the original Spanish version than the  translation!

Booted Eagles over-wintering in Southern Spain

Sunday 21 December 2014, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light E-SE wind, 15C

A warm day in the sun but chilly in the shade when facing the easterly wind. Whilst walking from Puerto de Espino to Algatocin at 1200hrs we were treated to the sight of two Common Raven mobbing a pair of adult Bonelli's Eagle; the ravens didn't give up until they had forced the eagles a good kilometre away! Also along the route were Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit and Rock Bunting. Several butterflies were on the wing enjoying the relatively warm weather, including Clouded Yellow.

Friday 19 December 2014, Gaucin, sunny, calm air, 19C

Stunning winter days at the moment with the temperature reaching 20C yesterday and today a degree or so cooler. Despite the balmy weather conditions, the west slope of El Hacho was surprisingly quiet from 1600-1730hrs but I did see 3 Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, 3 Red-legged Partridge, one Southern Grey Shrike (quite mobile at the moment and usually picked up by call or song), 2 Song Thrush, 10+ Black Redstart, 20+ Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit and Sardinian Warbler.

Distant Griffon Vulture on the ridge of El Hacho

Wednesday 17 December 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light-fresh N-NW wind, 17C

After two cool days, 11C Tuesday and just 8C on Monday, today was much warmer. Whilst walking on the northern side of El Hacho yesterday morning there were 80-100 Griffon Vulture and a Green Woodpecker; driving to the coast at 1600hrs there was a Harrier sp., most likely Hen Harrier, just east of Sierra Crestellina.

Today there were 3 Common Crossbill in a pine tree alongside Cafe/Bar El Hacho at 1200hrs - hearing these birds flying over or seeing them in the pines near the petrol station is almost a daily occurance at the moment. In the Calle Convento/Calle del Pino Gardens there are at least 2 Common Chiffchaff and 2 Black Redstart, including one very smart male, plus several Blackcap.

Saturday 13 December 2014, Gaucin, cloudy, light rain, heavy late pm, light SW wind, 12C

Despite the rain there were 45+ Griffon Vulture over the Genal valley at 1600hrs; also Firecrest, Crested Tit and Eurasian Nuthatch along the Camino de Avedin at 0900hrs.

Some good news concerning the use of Diclofenac for veterinary purposes as the European Medicines Agency lodges its concerns over the potential threat to European vultures. Click on the link for more information:

Hope for vultures

A couple of photos from last Tuesday when there were very clear skies.....snow was visible in several areas of the Rif mountains in Morocco.

Friday 12 December 2014, Gaucin, sunny, light SW wind, 15C

It's hard to believe that there's rain forecast for the weekend after such a beautiful winter's day today. Stuck in Estepona, where the temperature was pushing 20C, sorting out the car, I checked out the gull flock on the beach. It was tricky with just binoculars and regular rampaging dogs putting the birds up, but there was just a mix of Yellow-legged and Black-headed with a handful of Lesser-black backed. Along the shoreline there was a group of 10 Sanderling. At the port in the afternoon there were more Yellow-legged Gull and in the small garden area near the lighthouse 2 Meadow Pipit, 2 Common Chiffchaff and a Black Restart.

Wednesday 10 December 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 15C

The west slope of El Hacho from 0930-1030hrs was pretty quiet but there was a suprise when I spotted not one but 2 Southern Grey Shrike; assuming they are male and female it could be interesting if they pair up and hang on into spring. Also seen were 6 Griffon Vulture, 2 Song Thrush, 10+ Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Cirl Bunting and Corn Bunting; Common Raven, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Red-legged Partridge were heard.

Southern Grey Shrike

The same bird

Monday 08 December 2014, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light W-SW wind, 17C

Not a great deal to report.....the warm days belie cold starts; this morning it was just 4C at 0900hrs.  There were a couple of Common Crossbill in the pines opposite the petrol station at 1200hrs today, including a male in full song. There were a fair number of both Common Buzzard and Corn Bunting around near San Martin/Castellar last week as well as several Common Chiffchaff, but little else of note.

Tuesday 02 December 2014, Gaucin, sunny, light-fresh NW wind, 17C

Although reaching a pleasant 17C, out of the sun and in the northerly wind it felt a bit cooler. A walk up the east slope of El Hacho from 0930-1100hrs started well with 3 Common Crossbill in pine trees opposite the petrol station; also seen were 45+ Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, Common Raven, Eurasian Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Song Thrush, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff; Green Woodpecker and Eurasian Nuthatch were heard.

Gaucin and Sierra Bermeja from El Hacho

Saturday 29 November 2014, Gaucin, cloudy, rain showers, light NW wind, 12C

Heavy rain and electrical storms on Thursday and Friday with over 100mm rain falling. Today was more showery with just 11mm of rain. During a dry spell there were 3 Blackcap, 2 Black Redstart and a Common Chiffchaff in the Calle Convento/Calle del Pino gardens; the Chiffchaff even broke into song!

Casares wind turbines emerging from the clouds - taken from Gaucin

Wednesday 26 November 2014, Gaucin, partly cloudy, rain late pm, light W-SW wind, 17C

A look at the west slope of El Hacho from 0900-1030 was pretty uneventful, not even a single Griffon Vulture, but good to see the Southern Grey Shrike hanging in there. Also, 10+ Black Redstart, 2 Rock Bunting and Cirl Bunting.

9mm rain fell between 2000-2200hrs.
Rock Bunting - as often seen, in a tree!

Tuesday 25 November 2014, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light W-NW wind, 18C

Highlights of a walk along the Camino de Gibraltar from 0900-1030 were:
20 Griffon Vulture, male and fem Common Kestrel, 5 Meadow Pipit, 6+ Black Redstart, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest, Sardinian Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, 2 fem/imm Common Crossbill and 1 Hawfinch.

11mm of rain fell during Monday 24 November.

Misty cloud over Sierra del Hacho

Sunday 23 November 2014, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light rain pm, light SE wind, 21C

After a couple of dry, warm days with fresh easterly winds, today was very warm, 21C; though, as I write this, the rain has arrived and it feels a lot cooler!

On Friday there was a Dartford Warbler in the scrub below the track that follows on from Camino de Avedin and a Common Raven over the camino.

This morning from 0930-1200hrs I checked out the track that runs from opposite Algatocin school up to 'Las Pilas'. Despite the presence of a couple of hunters I managed quite a good list:
20+ Griffon Vulture, adult Bonelli's Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, male Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Jay, Blue Rock Thrush, 2 Black Wheatear, 3 Song Thrush, Blackbird, 20+ Spotless Starling (one imitating a Golden Oriole), 45+ Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Thekla Lark, 6 (presumed from those that called) Common Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, male Dartford Warbler, Blue Tit, Serin, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet, House Sparrow and Cirl Bunting; Red-legged Partridge and 2 Woodlark were heard.

Los Castaños (chestnut trees) looking great despite the gloom!

There's a Bonelli's Eagle in this foto!

Bonelli's Eagle

Griffon Vulture

Thursday 20 November 2014, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light-fresh E wind, 17C

Highlight of a visit to the west slope of El Hacho from 0910-1030hrs was the reappearance of the Southern Grey Shrike; also seen were 10+ Griffon Vulture, Red-legged Partridge, Blue Rock Thrush, 3 Song Thrush, 10+ Black Redstart, 6 Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Chiffchaff sp., Sardinian Warbler, 6 Blackcap, 25+ Goldfinch, 3 Corn Bunting and 2 Cirl Bunting.

first winter male Blue Rock Thrush

Monday 17 November 2014, Gaucin, sunny, light NW wind, 19C

A cold start to the day, just 6C, but warming up quickly in the pleasant winter sunshine. A visit to the Rio Genal below Gaucin, from 0900-1030hrs, was pretty uneventful with just the usual suspects seen: 45+ Griffon Vulture above Sierra Espartina, Grey Heron, Green Sandpiper, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, 20+ Spotless Starling, 3 Song Thrush, 3 Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, 6 Chiffchaff sp., (those heard calling were Common Chiffchaff), 5+ Blackcap, 10+ Greenfinch, 20+ Goldfinch, Chaffinch and 5 Hawfinch; Great-spotted Woodpecker and Cetti's Warbler were heard.

male Black Redstart

Large Tortoiseshell

Sunday 16 November 2014, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light NW wind, 16C

Saturday and Sunday were dry after light rain on Thursday with heavy overnight rain into Friday (49mm). A new species for the 'garden' list when a Meadow Pipit stopped for a rest on our terrace railings; also in the gardens, several Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Black Redstart and a Blue Rock Thrush. Whilst driving between Atajate and Ronda yesterday morning there were 2 Black Wheatear on the roadside wall; on the return journey in the afternoon I stopped for a quick scan of the meadow and rock face at Encinas Borrachas and saw Southern Grey Shrike and no fewer than 5 Black Wheatear. This morning at Jimena de la Frontera there were 20+ Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and 10+ Crag Martin around the castle. Back in Gaucin this afternoon there were several Griffon Vulture, a Grey Heron, juvenile Peregrine, Black Redstart, Meadow Pipit and a couple of Common Chiffchaff along the track opposite Venta Socorro.

View over Jimena from the castillo
From Jimena castillo towards the Alcornocales National Park

Jimena castillo
Sierra de Libar and Cortes de la Frontera from Venta Socorro track

Wednesday 12 November 2014, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, rain showers, light W-NW wind, 15C

A succession of weather fronts from the NW over the past couple of days has brought cool, damp conditions to the area and birding opportunities have been few and far between. This afternoon from 1700-1800hrs a walk along the top section of the Camino de Gibraltar produced 15+ Griffon Vulture over Sierra Crestellina, Song Thrush (in song), 2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Black Redstart, Eurasian Robin, 6+ Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff sp., Sardinian Warbler and Serin.

One of the two Meadow Pipits

Sunday 09 November 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light N-NW wind, 17C

Some much-needed rain fell overnight on both Friday and Saturday (16mm in total), leaving the days clear and warm, though cool in the northerly wind. A visit to the Rio Genal from 1600-1730hrs produced 40+ Griffon Vulture over Sierra Crestellina, Peregrine, 2 Grey Heron, Green Sandpiper, 20+ Spotless Starling, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, at least 1 Barn Swallow, a flock of about 15 Crag Martin that included at least 2 House Martin, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Black Redstart, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, at least 6 Chiffchaff sp., several Greenfinch and Goldfinch, and a single Hawfinch. Unfortunately, there was once again hunting in the vicinity so most birds were keeping a low profile!

Oleander still flowering along the river
Double rainbow above the Rio Genal

Thursday 06 November 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light-fresh W-NW wind, 19C

A walk along the Camino de Gibraltar below Gaucin from 0900-1030hrs produced the following:

80+ Griffon Vulture (streaming over from the direction of Sierra Crestellina towards El Hacho), Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Black Stork, Eurasian Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker, 10+ Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaff sp., (including one very grey individual), 20+ Goldfinch and 1 Hawfinch; Green Woodpecker was heard.

The Black Stork was initially 'accompanying' the Griffon Vultures but veered off towards the SW as they approached Sierra del Hacho; this was the first Black Stork I've seen in the Gaucin area in November with the previous latest being 06 October 2012 at Encinas Borrachas near Ronda.

Wednesday 05 November 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light-fresh W-NW wind, 18C

A dry day today after 32mm of rain fell during Monday night/Tuesday morning and Tuesday's temperature struggled to reach 14C. This morning at 0830hrs it was just 6C and in the stiff breeze felt colder than the high of 18C.
This evening from 1730-1830hrs I checked out the west slope of El Hacho (I was lucky as there was no one hunting today, but combinations of Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Rock Dove, Common Starling, thrushes and ducks can be shot on any day between 02 Nov and 15 Feb); it was rather quiet, presumably not helped by recent hunting activity, but I did see 20+ Griffon Vulture, 2 Common Kestrel, at least 10 Black Redstart, 3 Song Thrush, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Common Chiffchaff (1 seen, 2 heard), Cirl Bunting and Rock Bunting.

A couple of sunset photos from Monday evening, a prelude to the overnight rain...

Griffon Vulture having a good look around
 More photos of Griffon Vultures just before sunset this evening.....

Saturday 01 November 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light-fresh E-SE wind, 25C

After a very warm and mostly sunny October, November started in much the same vein. Whilst walking near Castellar de la Frontera yesterday at least 120+ Griffon Vulture passed by the castle and one of our group spotted a Short-toed Eagle; on the drive down at 0730hrs a Tawny Owl drifted across in front of us between Gaucin and San Pablo de Buceite. There have been a couple of male/first winter Blue Rock Thrush entertaining us around Calle Convento the past couple of days, see photos below. Wood Pigeons are on the move with 70+ flying W-E across the valley below Gaucin early this morning.

This afternoon I visited the Utrera Gorge near Manilva; it was very windy up near the turbines and not much better down in the valley but there were a lot of birds around including:
25 Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Common Kestrel, Black Whetear, 200+ Common Staling, at least 8 Black Redstart, 200+ White Wagtail, 50+ Meadow Pipit, several Corn Bunting, 50+ House Sparrow, 2 Rock Sparrow, 50+ Goldfinch and Crested Lark  in a recently-ploughed field, 6 Chiffchaff sp., Sardinian Warbler and Stonechat; Cetti's Warbler was heard.

Blue Rock Thrush

Blue Rock Thrush - large bill is diagnostic at some distance!

Utrera Gorge

One of the impressive linestone karst formations

Black Wheatear

Black Redstart

Mandrake - there are loads about this autumn

Common Starling - pre-roost gathering

Thursday 30 October 2014, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 26C

Just time for an hour's visit to the west slope of El Hacho at 1730hrs but it was spoilt, for the second time in succession, by the presence of a hunter. Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, Blue Rock Thrush, several Song Thrush, 30+ Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, a flock of 50+ Goldfinch and Cirl Bunting were seen; Red-legged Partridge was heard. The hunter was shooting at Song Thrushes and each time he fired many took to the air in panic, including at least 6 from one small tree......

Tuesday 28 October 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 25C

A visit to the Rio Genal below Gaucin from 0915-1030hrs produced the following:

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Green Sandpiper, 30+ Wood Pigeon, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Jay, Spotless Starling, 4 Barn Swallow, Song Thrush, Black Redstart, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff sp., Blackcap, 4 Hawfinch and a group of 22 Greenfinch; Cirl Bunting and Cetti's Warbler were heard.

Three of the four Barn Swallow

Five of the Twenty-two Greenfinch

Sunday 26 October 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 27C

A short late afternoon walk through the olive/almond/pine trees along the track opposite Venta Socorro produced the following:
Short-toed Eagle (heading NE so not migrating!), Great-spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Jay, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, 3 Black Redstart, 5 Meadow Pipit, at least 8 Chiffchaff sp., (the three or four I heard calling were all Common), Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, several Chaffinch and Serin; Cirl Bunting was heard. There a few Black Redstart in the village now and they can be heard squabbling on the roofs at first light.

There are still a few good fungi around, despite the current lack of rain, these were seen along the Rio Genal below Benarraba....

Seta de Chopo Agrocybe aegerita (Chestnut mushroom)

Barbuda Coprinus comatus (Shaggy Ink Cap)

Thursday 23 October 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light SE wind, 27C

A little cooler than yesterday, but still very warm. Whilst walking around El Hacho this morning I noted 15 Griffon Vulture, Peregrine, Common Kestrel, at least 10 Black Redstart, a dozen or so Meadow Pipit, many Stonechat and 2 female/immature Spanish Ibex. A return visit to the west slope from 1800-1900hrs produced 6 Griffon Vulture, Peregrine, male and female Eurasian Sparrowhawk, several Black Redstart, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler and Corn Bunting; in the small stand of pine trees there were Common Chiffchaff, Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper and Rock Bunting; Red-legged Partridge and Dartford Warbler were heard. High up on a rocky ledge there was a single female/immature Spanish Ibex. No sign of the Southern Grey Shrike but there was a guy wandering around with a shotgun, occasionally firing at something, presumably Red-legged Partridge, so perhaps no surprise the flighty shrike wasn't around.

Spanish Ibex

Wednesday 22 October 2014, Gaucin, hazy sunshine, calm air-light N-NE wind, 32C

Tuesday and today were two very warm days with temperatures exceeding 30C.  In the village there a handful of House Martin hanging on, male Eurasian Sparrowhawk over Calle del Pino and a Common Chiffchaff still in the Convento/Pino gardens. This morning on the way back from the coast there were 100+ Griffon Vulture between the wind turbines and Casares village, including an impressive kettle of at least 80 birds.

Saturday 18 October 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 28C

After a misty, damp Wednesday, with the temperature reaching a miserly 16C, the past three days have been sunny and rather warm. There are still a handful of House Martin around the village and a Common Chiffchaff in the Calle Convento/Pino gardens but little else to report from Gaucin other than a female Eurasian Sparrowhawk low over the post office at 0930hrs this morning and a few Crag Martin and a Common Kestrel around the castle this afternoon.

Yesterday lunchtime at Estepona beach, despite sunbathers and dogs, there were 120+ Yellow-legged Gull, 12 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 20 Black-headed Gull and a single Sandwich Tern; offshore there were several Northern Gannet. This morning, walking from Gaucin to Benarraba through the cork oak woods, there were 12 distant Griffon Vulture and, just outside Benarraba, 5 Hawfinch. There were a few nice fungi around, too, including the sought-after Yema de Huevo Amanita caesarea or Caesar's mushroom.

Benarraba and Jubrique

Benarraba, Jubrique and Genalguacil

Yema de Huevo Amanita caesarea