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Highlights from the last 10 days in Spain

Zafra 17-18 June: There were plenty of Lesser Kestrel around the Plaza Grande and several White Stork nests on strategic buildings, mainly churches, in this pretty pueblo Extremeño:
Juvenile White Stork
Adult White Stork
Salamanca 18-20 June: On the drive from Zafra there were a lot of Black Kite around, also the occasional Booted Eagle. In the town itself, which has a beautifully preserved historical centre, there were Lesser Kestrel and White Stork and around the Puente Romano there were Black Kite, Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, Common Kingfisher, Common Swift, Great Reed Warbler and Tree Sparrow.

Female Kestrel sp.
Potes, Picos de Europa 20-24 June: In Potes we met up with a group of friends who had ridden from the UK on their motorbikes to enjoy the switchback roads on offer. Here I had hoped to see some good species up in the mountains but was thwarted by the low cloud base on the day we were due to visit Fuente De; being the only birder in the group I was outvoted and the cable car ride to the possibility of Alpine Chough, Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentor and Snow Finch was cancelled! Still, we had a great time and the walk we took in lieu of the cable car ride was quite spectacular, too. On the walk we saw Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Common Kestrel, Common Raven, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Red-backed Shrike, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Treecreeper sp., Eurasian Nuthatch, Mistle Thrush, Stonechat, Corn Bunting and Cirl Bunting.

Picos de Europa from Potes

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike

Iberian Wall Lizard
A visit to the semi-derelict hamlet of Pembes to look for Black and Middle-spotted Woodpecker was unsuccessful on those counts, though we did hear a Middle-spotted Woodpecker calling, but did produce a lot of Common Buzzard plus an adult Egyptian Vulture and an immature Golden Eagle! On the way back via Mogrevejo we picked up many Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Common Raven, Common Kestrel and Black Redstart.
Picos peaks from Pembes - Golden Eagle was seen here
Back in Potes there was a showy and vocal male Common Redstart in the hotel gardens and a Tawny Owl was heard in the early hours:
Common Redstart

Common Redstart
On the river Deva that runs through Potes there were a few White Wagtail, Blackcap and a juvenile Dipper of the northern Cinclus cinclus race.
Rio Deva

White Wagtail


Dipper doing what Dippers do best....
Segovia 25-26 June: The highlight of Segovia was the biggest display of Common Swift I have ever seen with at least 2,000 around the Roman aqueduct in the centre of the town - an incredible sight.
Segovia - Roman aqueduct

Mérida 26-28 June: By the time we got to Mérida the temperature had increased significantly and it was 35C+ by mid-afternoon. On the journey from Segovia we saw many Black Kite and at least a couple each of Montagu's Harrier, Booted Eagle and Red Kite. Whilst wandering around the town centre, littered with impressive Roman ruins, in the searing heat Janys somehow managed to spot an 'odd-looking vulture'; I only had my camera with me but it was enough to confirm a Black Vulture (with an unexpected amount of white in the underwing). At the Puente Romano at dusk we saw a reasonable 'murmuration' of Spotless Starling as they came in to roost also Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Common Kingfisher, plus superb close-up views of many Alpine Swift. On our last morning we braved the heat to walk to the Roman aqueduct on which were many White Stork nests.
I'm sure I've missed off some of the mentionable species we saw on the trip - for example, we certainly saw European Bee-eater but I can't remember where !
Black Vulture

Spotless Starling on their way to their night-time roost
Roman aqueduct - Mérida
White Stork 'colony'

Saturday 27 June 2015, Gaucin, sunny, light SE wind, 32C

Back after a 10-day road trip to northern Spain having visited Zafra, Salamanca, the Picos de Europa, Segovia and Merida. It wasn't a birding holiday but I did manage to see some good birds but missed a few others! Pleasantly warm with clear blue skies for most of the trip, other than the day we planned to take the cable car to Fuente De in the Picos when it was cloudy and humid, a mini heatwave began as we drove home such that east of Sevilla, en-route to Ronda, the temperature reached a rather warm 42C:
Highlight of the drive from Merida to Gaucin was a flock of 50+ Red-billed Chough that took off from the rockface beside the road just before the Encinas Borrachas mountain pass.

Saturday 13 June 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light W wind, 21C

A succession of fronts moving across from the west has brought cooler, damper weather to Gaucin. Thursday was rather drizzly (1mm of rain) and Friday saw the first 'proper' rain (4mm) since 20 May, though today it was dry.

Dodging the showers yesterday a short visit to the Cueva del Gato near Benaoján produced some good sightings, including: Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Peregrine, Common Kestrel, Blue Rock Thrush, Golden Oriole (heard), Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Common Swift, Barn Swallow, Crag Martin, Common Nightingale (heard), Zitting Cisticola and Olivaceous Warbler; high on the cliffs above the cave were a couple of Spanish Ibex.

This evening I went searching for Eagle Owl on the outskirts of Gaucin, following a tip-off from a couple of local 13-year olds! I had begun to think that maybe they had moved on as I hadn't heard one around the village for over a year. Having had the location explained to me in full, pinpoint Andaluz detail, I set out at 21:15hrs for the site. I arrived a bit early as the clear skies meant that dusk didn't arrive until 21:55hrs but, just as I was about to give up and wander back home, I thought I heard a faint call. I decided to wait a little longer and, as I'd hoped, a much louder, unmistakably Eagle Owl, call boomed out from high on a rock face. Try as I might I couldn't locate the bird but after a few minutes I caught sight of it as it flew from a tree, where presumably it had been roosting, to a small rocky outcrop. It sat there calling for about 5 minutes before, at 22:15hrs, it launched itself off and headed west, almost directly overhead. What a great sight and many thanks to Paquito and Manuel! On the way home a Tawny Owl called, too.

Blue Rock Thrush - currently active around Calle del Pino

Sunday 07 June 2015, Chipiona, Cádiz, partly cloudy, light-fresh E-SE wind, 31C

A (non-birding) weekend in a rather warm and humid Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz province, afforded a couple of birding opportunities with a short visit to Bonanza salt pans late yesterday afternoon and a visit to Chipiona, to look for Little Swift, mid-morning today.
We only checked the first kilometre or so of Bonanza salt pans but still managed to see several Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Audouin's Gull, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, White Stork, a couple of Greater Flamingo, Grey Heron, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Crested Lark, Yellow Wagtail and Zitting Cisticola.

The Little Swift at Chipiona are not guaranteed to put in an appearance so my hopes weren't too high as we arrived in the main beach car park at around 1300hrs.  I was, however, pleasantly surprised when I got out of the car and found one of these little beauties with my first scan of the harbour/marina area! Heading over to the modern rectangular building at the edge of the water it became clear that the swifts were showing very well, with at least 10 swooping around the car park and giving great views along with a few House Martin and Common/Pallid Swift. A couple of hours later another was flying in and out of the castillo on the seafront, oblivious to the many holidaymakers walking nearby.
Some photos of the Little Swifts at Chipiona.......


Thursday 04 June 2015, Gaucin, sunny, light SE wind, 26C

Just a quick update....spent the last few days in the sw of the UK where it was nice to catch up with Yellowhammer again! The previous week was largely taken up with the Gaucin local elections....It's very much summer here now with birds busy feeding their young early in the morning and empty blue skies all afternoon before the swifts return for their raucous evening aerial ballet performance. Hoping to get some decent birding in before too long!