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Thursday 30 April 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 24C

From 0930-1030hrs a walk along the ridge of Sierra Espartina (the Smugglers' route), on a beautiful late Spring morning, was more productive than usual. Honey Buzzard were streaming through with several groups, totalling at least 100, heading SW-NE searching for thermals. Other species of note were 30+ Griffon Vulture, at least 4 Short-toed Eagle (may have been 'local', though 4 together is unusual), 3 Booted Eagle, lots of Common Swift that appeared to be migrating but could have just been a feeding flock, Crested Tit, 2 singing Bonelli's Warbler and 2 Common Crossbill.
There were still a few orchids around including Mirror Ophrys, Dull Ophrys and Man Orchid.
Back in the village there were 3 Honey Buzzard over Calle Convento at 1500hrs.

Possibly some good news for the Alcornocales Natural Park as a public enquiry into extending the protected areas has begun, this includes land near Castellar (La Almoraima estate) and San Roque (Pinar del Rey), see link below:
Possible extension of the Alcornocales Natural Park
Man Orchid Orchis anthropophora
Man Orchid close-up (and closed-up!)

Honey Buzzard
Spanish Festoon

Wednesday 29 April 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light NW wind, 22C

Another morning visit to the Rio Genal, 0915-1045hrs. From 1015hrs the sky was full of Honey Buzzard with at least 150 moving through in about 20 minutes; most appeared from behind the hills in the direction of Jimena de la Frontera, three main groups of 25, 40 and 70+ with many smaller groups between. Other species seen included: Griffon Vulture, 2 Short-toed Eagle, 3 Booted Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 5 Turtle Dove, 2 Little-ringed Plover (glad to see they were still there after not seeing them on my last visit), 30+ European Bee-eater, at least 4 Golden Oriole, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 2 Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, Common Swift, House Martin, Common Nightingale, Blackcap and Cirl Bunting; Cetti's Warbler and a singing male Ortolan Bunting were heard - this could have been the same individual that was seen last Friday, though it was at least 100m away from the first sighting; great to be getting this species locally.
Back in the village around 1200hrs a group of 2 Honey Buzzard and 4 Black Kite moved through.
The 'bridge' is back in place!

Tuesday 28 April 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light S-SE wind, 20C

After some light rain on Monday, today was clearer and drier and Honey Buzzard migration began in earnest with 6 over Gaucin at 0900hrs then two groups of 50 and 35 at 1700hrs, followed by a single at 1800hrs.

Sunday 26 April 2015, Gaucin, rain am, partly cloudy pm, W-SW then W-NW wind, 14C

A cold, wet day (25mm rain fell between 0800-1600hrs) with the temperature struggling to reach 12C for most of that time. There was some light raptor passsage after the rain, as follows:
1845hrs: 4 Black Kite, 3 Honey Buzzard
1900hrs: 1 Honey Buzzard
1915hrs: 5 Black Kite

During this period there were 3 Booted Eagle (2 pale morph, one dark morph) to the south of Gaucin with at least one regularly displaying by diving from height with closed wings before rising up on open wings. Also in the air an adult Bonelli's Eagle (over towards Sierra Crestellina), a dark morph Booted Eagle, back and forth over the village, and a Peregrine.
Yesterday, a group of 16 Black Kite moved through mid-afternoon.

Friday 24 April 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-SW wind, 21C

Another morning visit to the Rio Genal, this time to try and see the Wryneck that was singing yesterday. I had no luck with the, now silent, Wryneck but did get a good sighting of a first year male Ortolan Bunting, the first I've seen at this site. Other than that, species much as yesterday apart from 2 Garden Warbler having a sing-off in the mixed woods alongside the river.
Back in the village there was a bit of raptor passage as follows:
1200hrs: 2 Honey Buzzard, 5 Black Kite
1600hrs: 4 Honey Buzzard, 1 juv/transitional male Marsh Harrier, 2 Booted Eagle
1800hrs: 20 Honey Buzzard
Common Nightingale

Typical Gaucin scene...road closed due to loose horse (and dog?)!

Thursday 23 April 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light-fresh SE wind, 20C

Down on the Rio Genal from 0930-1030hrs the highlights were as follows:
At least one male and one female-type Golden Oriole, the first of the year - great to hear their beautiful song again; also, 2 Booted Eagle, 2 Little-ringed Plover, 3 Turtle Dove, 60+ European Bee-eater and 2 Red-rumped Swallow. There were at least 5 Common Nightingale singing and a Wryneck was also heard.
One of the many European Bee-eater

Sierra del Hacho from the Rio Genal

Wild Peony Paeonia mascula - taken by Janys on the north side of El Hacho today

Wednesday 22 April 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, calm air-light SW, later SE wind, 19C

At about 1700hrs three or four raptors caught my eye whilst I was gazing out of the patio windows....they were high up and looked good for Honey Buzzard but had disappeared by the time I grabbed my binoculars. Fortunately, at 1800hrs a group of 8 Honey Buzzard passed through just to the east of Sierra del Hacho, taking long enough to get a good look with binoculars! This is the earliest date, by four days, that I've recorded them here.

Tuesday 21 April 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, fresh-moderate, gusting strong, SE wind,19C

A visit to the SW slope of El Hacho from 0930-1030hrs was spoilt by the strong SE wind that kept most birds tucked out of the way! Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Peregrine, Blue Rock Thrush, Thekla Lark, Sardinian Warbler, Linnet and Cirl Bunting were seen; Common Cuckoo was heard calling from the valley to the west.

Sunday 19 April 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light W-NW wind, 22C

Not much to report, despite a couple of days of more westerly winds. Whilst driving to Ronda on Friday morning there were 16 Red-billed Chough over the rocky slopes just before Encinas Borrachas. In Ronda itself there was an 'unkindness' of 20 Common Raven over the gorge, plus many Griffon Vulture, Lesser Kestrel, a single Red-billed Chough, at least 2 Alpine Swift, a singing male Black Redstart, lots of Serin and, best of all, a pair of displaying Bonelli's Eagle in the distance towards Sierra Grazalema.
A quick stop at the Rio Genal this morning produced Booted Eagle, Little-ringed Plover, European Bee-eater, a singing Melodious Warbler and at least 3 singing Common Nightingale.
1st summer male Black Redstart


If you have to go shopping Ronda isn't a bad place! View towards Sierra Grazalema

Thursday 16 April 2015, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light W wind, 17C

This week has seen typically Spring-like weather with a lot of cloud and outbreaks of light rain/drizzle, plus the occasional dramatic electrical storm. Today down on the Rio Genal below Gaucin in dull, damp conditions, the first Turtle Dove of the year appeared, with 2 perched on power lines. Also seen were Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Grey Heron, Great Cormorant, Little-ringed Plover, 60+ European Bee-eater, 2 Common Kingfisher, (a belated-first) Woodchat Shrike, Common Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Common Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Cirl Bunting and a single Hawfinch; Cetti's Warbler was heard. The Bee-eaters were quite a spectacle, dashing from tree to tree like a horde of gaudily-clad, over-excited children let loose on a school trip - the noise was quite something!
Back in the village there were 4 Black Stork flying over at 1830hrs and yesterday, a single early afternoon.
This is purely anecdotal, but there seem to be more Barn Swallow around in the village this year - 2014 was a poor year but they are back in good numbers swooping along Calle Convento and chattering on the telephone cables first thing in the morning - a great sight!
Calle Convento - driving through the village is a bit tricky at the moment!
European Bee-eater- trying to look colourful in the dull light

European Bee-eater

Sunday 12 April 2015, Gaucin, cloudy, fresh E-SE wind, 14C

A morning walk from Venta Solera (at the turning to Cortes de la Frontera on the Gaucin-Ronda road) to Algatocin along the old drovers track produced a couple of good sightings though the continuing fresh easterly winds made it feel a lot chillier than the actual temperature of 14C!
The best bird was a singing male Ring Ouzel, though he only graced us with a few seconds of song, most likely a migrant heading north. Also seen were Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Peregrine, Blue Rock Thrush and Woodlark; Bonelli's Warbler was heard.
There were several tired-looking Yellow Ophrys Ophrys lutea and one rather nice Sawfly Ophrys Ophrys tenthredinifera.
Woodlark - just about visible in the gloom!

Sawfly Ophrys   

Some bad news for Europe's migrating birds as Malta narrowly votes in favour of continuing Spring hunting - the only European country that allows it......
Malta votes to continue bird slaughter

Saturday 11 April 2015, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light SE wind, 14C

Watching the skies to the south of the village on and off for 30min from 1600hrs produced the following:
Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, 19 Black Kite, Peregrine, Eurasian Goshawk and Eurasian Sparrowhawk. The Booted Eagle included a displaying pair above the Loma de Enmedio; one climbing high above the other before diving down at speed.
A mid-morning walk down from the village along the Camino de Casares produced no birds of note but there were a couple of good orchid finds, White Helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium and a lovely example of a Mirror Ophrys Ophrys ciliata, plus a few stems of wild asparagus Asparagus officinalis.

White Helleborine

White Helleborine
Mirror Ophrys

Wild asparagus

Friday 10 April 2015, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, light SE wind, 16C

A few observations from today:
1430hrs: 2 Common Raven above Calle Convento; one was producing the weird toy trumpet sound. Also 2 Short-toed Eagle and a pale morph Booted Eagle.
During the afternoon a couple of groups of 10 and 15 European Bee-eater moved through and there were at least 2 Common Nightingale singing  just south of the village. Swift numbers during early evening are now in excess of 150.
At 2030hrs a painfully slow 2cy male Marsh Harrier struggled north-eastwards against the wind low over Calle Convento.

Wednesday 08 April 2015, Gaucin, cloudy, frequent light rain, light-fresh E-SE wind, 9C

Very little to report over the last week as a combination of poor weather and other activities have kept me away from birding and a succession of easterly winds have blocked raptor movement over Gaucin! Since the weekend it's been back to winter temperatures but it was good to hear a Blue Rock Thrush in full song on the roof of the chemist in Calle Convento yesterday morning and there have been Short-toed and Booted Eagle, plus 4 Common Raven, around and about.

Low cloud over Salitre last Friday

Thursday 02 April 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, fresh SE wind, 20C

After five days with temperatures in the mid-20s, today was back to 'normal' with a cooling easterly breeze that continued to block any significant raptor migration over the village; since Monday there have been occasional Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle and Booted Eagle. Tuesday produced a Common Nightingale singing its heart out next to the bridge on the Gaucin-Ronda road; on Wednesday morning the Common Cuckoo was still singing below the Herriza hotel where there was also a very white Common Buzzard and a light passage of 15-20 Black Kite.
This morning Colin, who is visiting the village, and I set off for a visit to the Rio Genal below Gaucin, Sierra Crestellina, Casares-Secadero track and tracks to the south of San Pablo de Buceite. The fresh breeze kept bird numbers down, and it felt quite cool after the mini-heatwave, but we saw many interesting species including:
Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Little Owl, Yellow-legged Gull, Great Cormorant, White Stork, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Little-ringed Plover, European Bee-eater, Spotless Starling, Crested Lark, Stonechat, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff sp., Blackcap, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Corn Bunting and Cirl Bunting; Cetti's Warbler, Common Nightingale and Melodious Warbler were heard.
Mid-afternoon a Common Cuckoo was heard in the cork oak woods just off the road to Ronda on the edge of Gaucin.