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Monday 28 September 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light SE wind, 26C

One interesting sighting from Tim today, a Common Quail on the west slope of El Hacho early this morning. Coincidently, late afternoon Tim and I were both birding along the Los Monteros track that runs behind the petrol station in Gaucin and we both saw very little; other than the usual Great Tit,  Blue Tit, European Robin, Blackbird and a few Chaffinch there was just a Eurasian Nuthatch and a Common Crossbill (heard) for me and a Spotted Flycatcher for Tim.
Gaucin castle from Los Monteros

Saturday 26 September 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light SE wind, 26C

No real birding today, but during a morning walk around the base of El Hacho mountain a nice surprise was the sighting of a Southern Grey Shrike - presumably one of the two (pair?) that overwintered last year. Also seen were Griffon Vulture (great views as they flew up from their overnight roost in the trees), Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Short-toed Eagle, Stonechat, Common Crossbill (in a pine tree behind the Guardia Civil building) and Cirl Bunting. Fauna included a couple of Spanish Ibex and a European Hare.

Back in the village during the afternoon there was a small volume of migration with 8 Black Stork, several single Short-toed and Booted Eagle moving through as well as a handful of Barn Swallow; high up were a dozen or so Common/Pallid Swift and the local pair of Booted Eagle (one dark morph, one pale morph) were displaying happily, as usual.

Tim's sightings:
Very quiet today bird-wise - one female Common Redstart at Jimena and a few Phylloscs from Gaucin bridge.

Common Crossbill - by Tim

juv Blue Rock Thrush - by Tim

Wednesday 23 September 2015, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light W wind, 32C

Another very warm day so Tim and I made an early start as we headed to Montejaque and the Llanos de Libar to catch up with some mountain-dwelling species. En-route we spotted an unfortunate Rock Marten that had presumably been killed in a road collision - pretty unlucky on a road as quiet as the Benaojan-Montejaque 'highway'.
Soon after parking the car we saw a confiding family party of Spanish Ibex - lovely to see these beautiful animals so close. A female Black Redstart and was closely followed by several Black Wheatear and a couple of fly-by Alpine Swift. As we walked up the track further into the mountains we logged many Blue Rock Thrush, plus Rock Bunting, Thekla/Crested Lark, Rock Sparrow, more Black Wheatear, female Common Redstart, several more Black Redstart, Meadow Pipit, Blackcap and a flock of 50+ Goldfinch; a Wryneck was heard calling several times but wasn't seen. Raptors were in short supply with just a few Griffon Vulture gliding around.

Sunrise above El Castillo del Aguila - Gaucin
Adult and juvenile Spanish Ibex
Spanish Ibex
Spanish Ibex
Mountains above Montejaque

Tuesday 22 September 2015, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light NW wind, 31C

This morning Moira, Charlie and I walked the tracks and paths just to the north of Gaucin, through mixed cork and pine woods. before we met up I heard a Common Crossbill calling as it flew around overhead but couldn't locate it. A female Stonechat, 3 Sardinian Warbler, a pair of Collared Dove and a Eurasian Jay started our sightings as we passed by the open fields behind the petrol station. Further along the track we glimpsed a couple of Bonelli's Warbler, a female/1st summer Pied Flycatcher and a female Common Redstart. Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Garden Warbler and Blackcap were all logged before we caught up with a couple of specialities of the woods, Crested Tit and Firecrest. As it began to warm up 20+ Griffon Vulture took to the air, along with a Short-toed Eagle, a pair of Common Buzzard and a few House Martin and Common/Pallid Swift. On the final section of the walk a party of 5 Long-tailed Tit and a wonderful male Common Redstart popped up to top off a great morning's birding.

Name that bird.....juvenile Northern Goshawk.....or Short-toed Eagle? A Goshawk was heard calling shortly after it, inconveniently, slunk off through the trees but I favour Short-toed Eagle.

Monday 21 September 2015, Gaucin, sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 29C

Yesterday morning saw one of my biggest local counts of Griffon Vulture, with 150+ above the hills to the north of the Rio Guadiaro near Estación de Gaucín. 

Today saw the start of a mini-early autumn heatwave as Michael, Mike, Kate and I headed up towards Ronda to do some birding at Encinas Borrachas.
A quick stop at the cork oak forest just outside Gaucin wasn't very productive with Eurasian Nuthatch and Sardinian Warbler the highlights! Another stop below the limestone cliffs above Algatocin produced the first Griffon Vulture of the day, a couple of distant Blue Rock Thrush and a few assorted common passerines. Once at Encinas Borrachas things began to look up as we immediately located Southern Grey Shrike, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and a male Black-eared Wheatear - what a start! Here we also saw Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle (a 2yr bird that was a target species for our visit!), Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 25+ Red-billed Chough, Red-legged Partridge, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, Thekla Lark, Woodlark, House Martin, Barn Swallow and Sardinian Warbler. Flying over at great height was a group of 11 heron sp. that, despite only seeing them in distant silhouette, were most probably Purple Heron. We also heard Red Deer bellowing out their rutting calls but they remained steadfastly well-camouflaged amongst the rocks and trees.

It was now rather warm so we had a nice lunch and then a stop on the way home at the Mirador de Africa opposite the turning to Benarraba on the Ronda road. From this wonderful vantage point we saw Griffon Vulture, Common, Pallid and Alpine Swift plus Stonechat and a rather shy male Dartford Warbler. There was also a couple of lovely Common Swallowtail butterflies.

What a great day's birding!

Tim's sightings today:
6 crossbills here this morning. Two kingfishers on the river at Estacion de Gaucin, and one Alpine Swift over the village this evening.
And a male common redstart under El Hacho by the road as we drove back.
An obliging Short-toed Eagle by the river, see photos.

Autumn Crocus near Estación de Gaucín yesterday
Lovely Cork Oak near Estación de Gaucín yesterday
Northern Wheatear
Northern Wheatear
Short-toed Eagle - by Tim

Short-toed Eagle - by Tim

Sunday 20 September 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light SE wind, 26C

An hour or so scanning from our terrace from 18:00hrs:
6 Black Kite
5 Booted Eagle
4 Short-toed Eagle
A local Peregrine

Tim's observations from today:
This afternoon in the pine woods behind Jimena, a nice mixed flock of long-tailed tits, crested tits, blue tits, great tits, two short-toed tree creepers and two firecrests; also a group of 12 booted eagles and one short-toed eagle there. There were three noisy booted eagles over the village around 1500h.

Tim's observations from Friday 18 September:
100+ house martins over the village first thing, and one Pallid Swift.
Four common crossbill in the pines, including a fine red male.
Two sparrowhawks seen from Paco Pepes.
Along the El Peso track behind El Hacho: four blackcaps, lots of (singing) cirl buntings, two spotted flycatchers.
Spotted Flycatcher - by Tim
adult male Common Crossbill - by Tim
first summer male Common Crossbill (seen Friday in Cerro de la Joven)
A few clouds cascading over Sierra Crestellina on Friday afternoon

Thursday 17 September 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 24C

After the cool conditions of Wednesday, and 5mm of overnight rain (the first autumn rains falling on the same day as in 2014), today was back to feeling quite warm. Wandering along the footpaths to the north of the village during the morning threw up some interesting sightings including:

Griffon Vulture, at least 3 Booted Eagle (2 displaying for 30min), Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker (heard), Stonechat, female Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Crested Tit (heard), Common Chiffchaff, Bonelli's Warbler and Common Crossbill (usual tree alongside bar El Hacho).

Today's sightings from Tim:
Three Black Wheatear at El Hacho this morning (two males displaying nicely together) and a browner female, and one photogenic, recently moulted Sardinian Warbler there too.
50+ Griffon Vultures north of Gaucin (from El Puente) this morning and one Common Kingfisher at Estacion de Gaucin this afternoon.
Fennel in flower
St John's Wort

female Stonechat
male Sardinian Warbler - by Tim

Wednesday 16 September 2015, Gaucin, mostly cloudy, fresh NW wind, 18C

A big change in the weather with a day of frequent (very) light rain and the constant threat of something more substantial!

My only sighting of note was at 19:00hrs, a lovely male Common Crossbill on a cypress tree opposite the Guardia Civil building on Paseo de Ana Toval. Tim fared a lot better....:

Four very noisy Common Crossbill in pines first thing this morning. Just outside San Pablo de Buceite a muddy/dusty farm was full of birds: flocks of House Sparrow and Starlings, 2 Eurasian Hoopoe, 20+ European Bee-eater, Crested/Thekla Lark, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, 3+ Pied Flycatcher, 3+ Spotted Flycatcher, 4 White Wagtails, Corn Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Common Kestrel, Booted Eagle.

Further along the road a lot of Booted Eagles (15 at one time) moving south; plus a few Black Kites, and Short-toed Eagles (I presume all kept low by the weather).

We then watched a Eurasian Hobby zoom across the road and snatch a sparrow from a field. The Hobby then flew around with it in its talons for a few minutes: spectacular.

Tuesday 15 September 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 26C

A change in the wind direction to westerlies has slowed the raptor sightings and brought about a change in the feel of the weather; it's still very warm in the sun but now a little more autumnal with cooler mornings (13C today) and evenings.

On Sunday morning there were at least 2 Black Wheatear on the west slope of El Hacho (when I went back there to look for, and find, the camera lens cap that I dropped on Friday). Yesterday there was an interesting sighting of a Hawfinch flying over Calle del Pino at 19:00hrs. This morning there were 100+ Griffon Vulture in the El Peso area behing Sierra del Hacho. In the village early evening were Short-toed and Booted Eagle, a few Swift sp., including one Alpine Swift, high over the Genal valley, plus a trickle of Barn Swallow heading south and 40+ House Martin over Callejon del Pino.

Observations from Tim, on holiday in Gaucin: Estacion de Gaucin: one grey heron, 50+ Griffon Vulture, two Booted Eagle, one Black Kite and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk. Over the village in the late afternoon: two Short-toed Eagle, one dark morph Booted Eagle, one unidentified harrier, three House Martin, and several raptors far too high to identify.

Some good news from the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF):
The VCF and Gobex surveyed Egyptian vultures wintering in the NW of the Caceres province - Extremadura during 2014 and 2015. Little was know about this atypical wintering population – possibly the only one in continental Europe. It had been first described in 1990, with the first observation of 15 individuals, and during the period 2006-2014 from 7 to 48 individuals were observed wintering in that Spanish region. During the winter 2014-2015 we made an effort to locate all the roosting sites in the area and performed simultaneous census in the period from December to March.

Two Egyptian Vultures, an adult female and a second calendar year female, were cannon-netted and fitted with GPS/GSM/radio tags. We identified three different roosting sites in the area (on of them located thanks to the tagged juvenile bird) and estimate that the wintering population ranges from 90 to 100 individuals. The Egyptian Vulture breeding population in Extremadura is estimated at 170 breeding pairs.

Full article here:
Wintering Egyptian Vultures - Extremadura 

Friday 11 September 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light S-SE wind, 29C

Weather conditions today were more or less the same as yesterday, but with a little more light cloud around. Seen in the village yesterday were a Red-rumped Swallow over Calle del Pino, a Common Swift and local Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle and Eurasian Sparrowhawk. There are a couple of Blackcap in the garden but few other autumnal signs.

A visit to the west slope of El Hacho this morning from 09:30hrs-11:30hrs was worthwhile with some interesting migrants starting to appear. Highlights were a male Rock Thrush, 2 Black Wheatear and a male Black-eared Wheatear; also Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 4 Red-legged Partridge, at least 5 Blue Rock Thrush (the males still singing, their haunting song echoing around the old quarry workings), 12+ Stonechat, 2 Thekla Lark, Sardinian Warbler, 4 Willow Warbler, Serin and several Cirl Bunting. Non-avian sightings included a Weasel and a Spanish Ibex.

female/juv Spanish Ibex

Spanish Ibex - very relaxed!

Black-eared Wheatear

Black-eared Wheatear

Back in the village there was some quality raptor action between 17:00hrs and 18:00hrs as follows:

17:00hrs: female Montagu's Harrier, 14 Honey Buzzard, 2 Short-toed Eagle
17:30hrs: 7 Honey Buzzard, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Osprey
18:00hrs: 7 Honey Buzzard, 2 Common Buzzard, 3 Booted Eagle, 1 Osprey

Wednesday 09 September 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light S-SE wind, 28C

Just a few observations from late afternoon:

17:00hrs: 3 Honey Buzzard
19:00hrs: 4 Honey Buzzard, 1 Lesser Kestrel
19:45hrs: 10 Honey Buzzard
20:00hrs: 50+ House Martin around the Callejon del Pino area.

Tuesday 08 September 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light-fresh S-SE wind, 27C

The warm, humid and thundery weather continued today, though, unlike yesterday, the 'rain' wasn't even measurable this time.
Scanning the sky mid-afternoon, amidst the noise of church bells, chatting hordes of people and rockets from the continuing Santo Niño celebrations, the following were seen:

15:45hrs: 30+ European Bee-eater
16:00hrs: 9 Honey Buzzard, 1 Booted Eagle
16:30hrs: 70+ Honey Buzzard, 3 Stork sp. (too far away, and at this time the sky too dark, to determine white or black!)
16:40hrs: 10 Honey Buzzard
16:45hrs: 5 Booted Eagle, 1 ad Egyptian Vulture, 4 Lesser Kestrel
17:35hrs: 11 Lesser Kestrel

Local Short-toed and Booted Eagle were around for most of the afternoon, also a few Swift sp. and 30+ House Martin.

Monday 07 September 2015, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light-fresh SE wind, 27C

A day that threatened a lot of rain but, although Malaga and other areas suffered flooding, Gaucin received just 0.5mm. Despite the thundery conditions there was a reasonable amount of raptor passage over the village as follows:

11:00hrs: 10 Honey Buzzard, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Booted Eagle
11:20hrs: 2 juv Egyptian Vulture

16:15hrs: 1 Black Kite
16:30hrs: 1 Black Kite
17:00hrs: 6 Egyptian Vulture (5ad i juv), 2 Montagu's Harrier and 2 Marsh Harrier
17:20hrs: 2 Honey Buzzard
18:00hrs: 2 Honey Buzzard; also a Goshawk heading up the Rio Genal

Thundery skies late afternoon

Sunday 06 September 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light S-SE wind, 27C

Saturday was mostly cloudy and a warm 27C; a mid-afternoon visit to a very quiet (other than a nearby JCB and the occasional gunshot!) Rio Genal produced little other than a Booted Eagle, a single Turtle Dove hanging in there, a passing flock of 20+ European Bee-eater, a female Black Redstart, several Sardinian Warbler, a Willow Warbler and, in the pine trees, a Crested Tit.

Back in Gaucin the few Swift sp. were again joined by a single Alpine Swift

Oleander - some colour amongst the largely sun-bleached scene
Some Honey Buzzard passage over the east of the village this afternoon as follows:
18:30hrs: 53
18:45hrs: 15
19:10hrs: 180
19:30hrs: 12

Also around were 'local' Booted Eagle (a dark morph 'pair'), 20+ House Martin and a handful of Common Swift. The surprise package was a male and female/juv Golden Oriole that appeared low over Calle del Pino, landing in a cork oak tree just below the houses. Given that those from the river area have already departed, these were possibly dropping in to feed/roost before continuing their journey southwards.
Clouds spilling over Sierra Crestellina

Wednesday 02 September 2015, Gaucin, sunny, fresh-gusting strong W wind, 29C

A visit to the dried bed of the Rio Genal from 09:30-10:30hrs produced some early migration with 50+ Honey Buzzard and a couple of Booted Eagle passing through. Also seen were 100+ Griffon Vulture (split over 3-4 groups), Short-toed Eagle, European Bee-eater, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, female Pied Flycatcher (first of the autumn), Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Willow Warbler (including one stunning individual in fresh, clean autumn plumage with an incredibly bright lemon-yellow eye-stripe). 

Back in the village there was some major raptor passage this afternoon as follows:

16:15-17:00hrs: 450+ birds. Mostly (80%?) Honey Buzzard, plus Black Kite, a few Booted Eagle, one adult Egyptian Vulture and a Peregrine that joined in for fun! Also a few Barn Swallow and Common/Pallid Swift, and one Alpine Swift. These individuals were moving NE-SW but there were also 200+ to the east of the village moving along the Genal Valley.

17:30-18:00hrs: Another 400+ birds NE-SW, again mostly Honey Buzzard with a proportion (15%?) of Black Kite.

18:00-18:30hrs: 300+ As above, mostly Honey Buzzard with some Black Kite and a few Booted Eagle; also one adult Egyptian Vulture.

The majority of the birds were at some altitude, invisible to the naked eye, moving quickly and spread over quite a wide area; for these reasons they were difficult to count with any certainty, hence the estimated totals. There were almost certainly other species involved (Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Short-toed Eagle?) but the height and speed of passage made positive ID impossible (for me, anyway!).

Tuesday 01 September 2015, Gaucin, sunny, light W wind, 32C

September starts off like August ended, hot and sunny....just time today to have a scan late afternoon and saw the following over the village:

18:00hrs: 20 Honey Buzzard
18:30hrs: 24 Honey Buzzard
19:00hrs: 20 Honey Buzzard; 60+ Griffon Vulture around and about

Monday 31 August 2015, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light S-SE wind am, light-fresh W-SW wind pm, 30C

After Sunday's 'blocking' weather of low cloud and occasional bursts of (very) light rain, just a pair of Willow Warbler in the garden to report, today many birds took the opportunity to get on with their migration. Observations as follows:

08:15hrs: A Common Crossbill singing on top of a cypress tree just along from the hotel Caballo Andaluz.

11:30hrs: 30+ Honey Buzzard

14:00-14:30hrs: Lots of passage with 700+ raptors in mixed flocks including 1 adult Egyptian Vulture, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite and Booted Eagle; 100+ European Bee-eater

15:00-15:30hrs: 200+ mainly Honey Buzzard and Booted Eagle but also some Black Kite and Short-toed Eagle; 100+ European Bee-eater; 2 Red-rumped Swallow (probably not migrating), 20+ Swift sp.

17:15-17:45hrs: male Marsh Harrier, 2ad 1 juv Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle; 23 European Bee-eater

19:30hrs: 20 Black Kite; 100+ mixed Swift flock (Common, Pallid and at least 2 Alpine Swift); 45+ European Bee-eater