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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

Tuesday 14 October 2014, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light W-NW wind, 19C

Yesterday was pretty grim, cloudy with frequent heavy showers, 10mm of rain and just 15C but it was great to hear a Black Redstart delivering its haunting song from the roofs along Calle Convento during the early morning. There was some House Martin passage during a dry afternoon spell with 150+ moving through from 1515-1530hrs.

Today was a little brighter, after 13mm of rain fell overnight. A walk through the mixed woods 'behind the petrol station' from 0900-1000hrs was pretty quiet but there were some good species including Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler and Chiffchaff sp.

Sunday 12 October 2014, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, frequent rain showers, 10mm rain, light W-SW wind, 16C

During a brief afternoon lull in the showers I was scanning the 30+ Griffon Vultures that were milling around above Sierra Crestellina when I picked up a Northern Goshawk that was patrolling over the wooded areas above the Rio Genal; also a few House Martin in the area.

Saturday 11 October 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 25C

After a stormy day yesterday, during which 12mm of rain fell and many houses suffered from a violent lightning strike, today was much calmer. (Tip: during an electrical storm, don't have a shower then stand holding a metal shower head whilst standing on the floor with wet feet - unless you want a bit of ECT and a numb arm for a couple of hours!).

This morning Julie, Pete and I walked the circular route around El Hacho mountain and recorded some good birds. In the cork oaks we had good views of Crested Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Chiffchaff sp., and Bonelli's Warbler; in one Hawthorn tree there were at least 6 Firecrest and, later, one individual with a superb red crest. Also seen in this area were Eurasian Jay, Song Thrush (my first of the autumn), House Martin, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, European Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Cirl Bunting; Great-spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch and Eurasian Wren were heard.
Around the west slope, above the road to Estacion de Gaucin, we saw Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart (first of the winter), Stonechat, Serin and Linnet; Red-legged Partridge was heard. An unusual call had us all scanning the trees for the 'culprit' and Julie promptly picked out a Southern Grey Shrike; I was especially pleased to see it as I hadn't seen it here for some weeks and thought it had probably left for another location. After getting good views of a perching Common Kestrel we were also treated to a pair of Spanish Ibex up on the limestone rocks above the Gaucin-Algeciras road.

Back at home during the afternoon a Blue Rock Thrush perched on a nearby roof in the late afternoon sun and there were several House Martin still in the vicinity. There was a possible Booted Eagle high above the village but by the time I grabbed my 'scope it had melted into the high white cloud!

Common Kestrel
Female and Male Spanish Ibex

Female Spanish Ibex

Blue Rock Thrush

Wednesday 08 October 2014, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light W-SW wind, 28C

All pretty quiet here as the warm autumn continues. Yesterday at 1930hrs there were 4 Booted Eagle moving through over the Rio Genal below Gaucin; also there were Grey Heron, Common Kingfisher, 50+ House Martin, at least 2 Barn Swallow, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Blackcap and Serin, Cetti's Warbler was heard.

It's been pointed out to me that the Dippers that bred near to Benajoan were, of course, on the Rio Guadiaro, whereas the recent sighting was on the Rio Genal; so it's unlikely that they are the same birds!

Gaucin castle from the Rio Genal

Common Kingfisher

Sunday 05 October 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light W wind, 27C

This morning there were 4 Blackcap (3 male, 1 female) and a superb Firecrest in the walnut tree in the Calle Convento/Calle del Pino gardens.
A very warm afternoon walking down near Sierra Crestellina where the temperature reached a steamy 30C. Above the ridge of the sierra there were many raptors with 20+ Griffon Vulture, a Short-toed Eagle, Peregrine, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Lesser Kestrel.

View towards El Hacho and Gaucin from the base of Sierra Crestellina

Back in Gaucin village in late afternoon there were far fewer House Martin than the last couple of days with only about 20 around.

Friday 03 October 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light S-SE wind, 27C

Between 1730-1830hrs on a beautiful, warm and still autumn afternoon, there were 50+ Griffon Vulture scattered about just south of Gaucin village, also 100+ House Martin, at least 2 pale morph Booted Eagle, 2 Short-toed Eagle and a Peregrine. Over Calle del Pino there was a mixed group of hirundines with 20+ House Martin, several Crag Martin and at least 4 Red-rumped Swallow.

Thursday 02 October 2014, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light-fresh SE wind, 26C

After a bit of a cloudy start, today turned into a lovely, warm autumn day. At 1800hrs there was a group of 15 Common Raven over the south of the village. A visit to the west slope of El Hacho from 1830-1930hrs produced Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle ('local'?), Common Kestrel, 3 Common Raven, Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, a flock of 20+ Goldfinch, and Cirl Bunting.

Once again, the Southern Grey Shrike was absent; it was last seen on 31 July. It occurred to me that maybe it was out-competed by the Common Kestrels that have been in the area since late summer. Although the two species target similar prey, it would seem that they don't compete due to prey size differences, as discussed in the following paper,

Padilla D. P., Nogales M., Marrero P. 2007. Prey size selection of insular lizards by two sympatric predatory bird species. Acta Ornithol. 42: 167–172.

So maybe the shrike was just disturbed by the presence of the kestrels?

Wednesday 01 October 2014, Gaucin, cloudy, showers pm, light-fresh SE wind, 21C

Whilst in the UK from 23-30 September the weather in Gaucin was quite autumnal with temperatures in the low 20s and occasional thundery showers; 15mm of rain fell during the week. Today continued in much the same vein with 3mm of rain falling late afternoon. This morning I was greeted by two 'dueling' Blue Rock Thrush, at least one of which was singing, on the rooftops in Calle Convento.
First-winter male Blue Rock Thrush

At 1015hrs there was a probable Golden Eagle just east of El Hacho; I picked it up high in the sky but, with only a short view and relatively poor visibility, couldn't be certain of the ID. An hour or so later I gave directions to a couple who are on holiday in the village and they said, un-prompted, that they had seen a Golden Eagle in front of El Hacho earlier in the morning......
At 1900hrs there were 60+ Griffon Vulture over Sierra Crestellina and at 2000hrs 50+ House Martin still around over Calle Convento.

I have been forwarded some interesting sightings from Peter, who stayed down near the Rio Genal towards the end of September:
5 Honey Buzzard on 20 Sep, 25 Black Kite on 23 Sep, Northern Goshawk on 22 Sep, Common Cuckoo (female), White-throated Dipper, Firecrest, Pied Flycatcher, 100+ Swift sp. on 23 Sep, numerous Bonelli's Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Zitting Cisticola. The Dipper is a great record; I wonder if this is one of the birds that has dispersed from the pair that bred upstream on the Rio Genal below the Cueva del Gato near Benaojan?