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Sunday 26 January 2014, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light N-NW wind, 20C

At 0520hrs there was a male Eagle Owl singing just below Calle del Pino; I had a quick look but couldn't pick it up in the poor light; good to know it's still around, though.

Another stunning, warm winter's day saw the first returning 'summer' migrants with a couple of House Martin in amongst the 15+ Crag Martin flying just south of the old convent building in Calle Convento at 1230hrs. I imagine such early arrivals are likely to have been wintering on the coast. The date ties in well with previous House Martin 'first arrivals' of 26 and 28 January.

A short stroll along the Rio Genal at 1630hrs produced a pale morph Booted Eagle circling up above the river (maybe yesterday's possible sighting in the village was real after all!). My previous 'first arrivals' for this species have all been after 12 March which suggests that this individual could well have over-wintered (and could be the one seen back in November not far from this site).

Continuing to scan the skies for raptors I was rewarded with a pair of Northern Goshawk high over the wooded ridge that runs roughly northwards away from the bridge.

Saturday 25 January 2014, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light W-NW wind, 20C

This morning at 0830hrs there were 5 Hawfinch in the top of a Poplar tree approx 100m from the top section of the Camino de Gibraltar. Around lunchtime whilst having a coffee in cafe/bar El Hacho I was pretty sure I saw a Booted Eagle flying eastward across the south of the village but the view was brief so I can't be certain.

At 1600hrs there was a Peregrine, a pair of Common Raven and 20+ very low-flying Griffon Vulture around the southern peak of El Hacho mountain.

Friday 24 January 2014, Gaucin, sunny, light N-NW wind, 16C

Today I had to visit the coast again so hoped to catch up with the large gull flock at Estepona port....cue a beautiful, warm sunny day with half of Andalucia and their dogs milling around the beaches and a resulting dearth of gulls! Instead I went up onto the heathland at Las Mesas de Chullera behind Sabinillas/Duquesa; as I've found before, it was strangely quiet birdwise other than a few Crag Martin, Sardinian Warbler and the occasional Common Kestrel and Stonechat. It's a lovely site for a nice walk in the sun, though!

On the drive back to Gaucin a male Hen Harrier flew over the road just before the turn to Casares; not a common sight up here but the second for me in a week (same bird?).

Gibraltar from the heath

Looking east towards Sierra Bermeja

Wednesday 22 January 2014, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light-fresh N-NW wind, 11C

Some quite heavy rain overnight with 15L/m2 falling in ~7hrs. This afternoon at 1300hrs I made a quick visit to the west slope of El Hacho; no sign of the Southern Grey Shrike (a mechanical digger over near the old quarry would probably have spooked it even if it was around) but as I drove up I caught sight of a male Hen Harrier that obliged by continuing to quarter the field below the mountain and affording some superb close views. Also seen were Griffon Vulture, 2x Common Raven, 10+ Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat and Rock Bunting.

It's been nice to hear Serin, Blackcap, Song Thrush and Blackbird in full song in the village over the past couple of days.

Monday 20 January 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light N-NW wind, 13C

After a relatively wet weekend, with over 50L/m2 rain falling over Sat/Sun, today was dry and, after a 2C start, quite warm. Early yesterday morning it was very wet and there were Force 7 N winds, gusting to Force 8 but it cleared up in the afternoon when I managed to see another Hawfinch in the tall trees 50m from the Camino de Gibraltar; there was also a Grey Wagtail on the pavement along Calle Convento (it had been a stream earlier in the day!).

Eurasian Nuthatch prospecting in an oak tree

Friday 17 January 2014, Gaucin, rain, fresh S-SW wind, 7C

Gaucin remained in the clouds pretty much all day as the moderate rain came and went in waves. As we had some admin to do on the coast today seemed as good a day as any to venture down there. It was a little warmer in Estepona, 13C, but the rain was still around! A quick check of the town beach produced two small groups, totalling about 400, of mainly Yellow-legged Gull with a handful of Lesser black-backed Gull and Black-headed Gull plus at least 20 Sanderling playing 'chicken' with the waves; just offshore were two or three Northern Gannet and there was a Black Redstart on the beach.

At around 1600hrs I went to the port to check out a flock of gulls that I had seen in the distanc from the town beach. This flock numbered in excess of 1000 individuals, probably nearer 1500; without my scope I couldn't scan through for any surprises but most were again Yellow-legged with a good number of Lesser-black backed and Black-headed. Just below the lighthouse a small planted 'garden' has been created with low and medium-sized shrubs; in this area, of probably no more than 10m x 5m, there were at least 8 Chiffchaff sp., 2 Stonechat and a Black Redstart. I imagine this quite undisturbed area would be a great spot for tired migrating birds to hold up before, or after,  crossing the Straits of Gibraltar.

Just as we were leaving to avoid another downpour Janys pointed out some birds on an apartment balcony that turned out to be Crag Martin; there were at least 200 starting to roost, see photos (taken with my phone, through binoculars!):

Thursday 16 January 2014, Gaucin, light rain am, cloudy pm, light W-NW wind, 10C

The last four days have been mostly cloudy and showery with 15L/m2 rain falling fairly evenly during the period. This afternoon I sneaked out during a dry hour and had a short walk along the top section of the Camino de Gibraltar during which I saw 25+ Griffon Vulture (over Sierra Crestellina), Spotless Starling, 3x Song Thrush, Black Redstart, Chiffchaff sp., Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Cirl Bunting, 2x Hawfinch (a good record for the village) and a mixed finch flock consisting of 90+ Goldfinch and two or three Greenfinch and Chaffinch.

Despite the cool, rainy weather, the first summer migrants will be arriving soon with Barn Swallow and House Martin, maybe even Black Kite, possible over the next week or so; it hardly seems possible that they can be back already.

Yesterday's view from Gaucin down to the coast

Monday 13 January 2014, Gaucin, light rain am, mostly cloudy pm, light W-NW wind, 9C

A return to 'wintry' weather today after a couple of days when it was warm enough to eat lunch outside! A visit to the Rio Genal from 0830-1000hrs produced the following:
20+ Griffon Vulture over Sierra Crestellina, Common Buzzard, 4x Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, 3x Green Sandpiper, Common Kingfisher, Eurasian Jay, Spotless Starling, Song Thrush, Redwing, Chiffchaff sp., Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler (prolonged good views for once!), White Wagtail, 7x Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and 27x Hawfinch; my record count for the site and they were all in one tree! Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker and Cirl Bunting were heard.

Thursday 09 January 2014, Gaucin, partly cloudy, calm air-light E wind, 16C

A short lunchtime visit to the oak woods just outside Gaucin produced 15 Griffon Vulture (flying over), Firecrest (at least 3), Crag Martin, Eurasian Nuthatch, Great Tit, Blue Tit (but no Crested Tit), Black Redstart, Chiffchaff sp., Blackcap, Serin, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. Common Raven and Great-spotted Woodpecker were heard.

Monday 06 January 2014, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light W wind, 20C

There was unusually good weather for the 'Three Kings' parade yesterday and it continued today with sunny skies and spring-like temperatures. The good Griffon Vulture numbers continued over Sierra Crestellina, with 60+ there yesterday mid-afternoon; also 5 Common Raven over Gaucin. This morning whilst on a walk from Algatocin to Benalauria there were Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Crested Tit, Firecrest, Eurasian Nuthatch and Black Redstart in the oak woods and 30+ Griffon Vulture plus a great sighting of 2 adult Bonelli's Eagle over Benalauria village.

Across the Genal valley to Jubrique and Genalguacil with the Sierra de las Nieves to the left

Saturday 04 January 2014, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, occasional light rain, fresh W wind, 13C

An hour's gap in the drizzly rain allowed me to have a quick look along the top section of the Camino de Gibraltar. It was all pretty quiet save for 25+ distant Griffon Vulture over Sierra Crestellina, Great-spotted Woodpecker, 4 Song Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush (feeding for a while on the small ruin at the foot of the valley), Black Redstart, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff sp., and a mixed flock of 70+ finches in the leafless Almond trees, mostly Goldfinch with a few Greenfinch and a couple of Chaffinch.

Joining the usual Spotless Starling that mimics Golden Oriole, there is now another, or the same one, making a pretty good effort at Bee-eater!

Friday 03 January 2014, Gaucin, cloudy, light rain showers, light N-NW wind, 13C

2014 has started with three days of mostly westerly winds bringing intermittent light rain with occasional heavier showers. This afternoon I went out to the cork woods just outside the village but within a short time the misty cloud had turned to rain and I headed home again! Before leaving I did manage to see Great-spotted Woodpecker, a group of 5 Song Thrush, Eurasian Nuthatch, European Robin, Firecrest, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff sp., and Chaffinch.

Since a couple of sightings in November I haven't seen a Booted Eagle, despite visiting the river several times, so whether those birds were really overwinteringis open to question....

Wintery-looking cork oaks!