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Sunday 31 January 2016, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light NW wind, 18C

It's been very quiet the past few days with little news on the bird front. An impressive electrical storm on Friday evening brought some welcome rain, though only 12mm.
There have been a couple of Booted Eagle sightings, presumably one or more of the pale morph birds that have been around lately. A walk to the top of Sierra Crestellina yesterday morning produced 40+ Griffon Vulture, Common Raven, Crag Martin and a Blue Rock Thrush, but very little else.
Today in Gaucin there were 2 Common Raven displaying over the south of the village and an afternoon stroll in the sunshine along the top section of Camino de Gibratlar was uneventful, with 30+ Griffon Vulture, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, 2 Song Thrush, Black Redstart, Common Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Serin and Cirl Bunting.

Almond blossom

Tuesday 26 January 2016, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light-fresh W-NW wind, 16C

On Monday, a quick mid-morning look at the west slope of El Hacho produced nothing exceptional, a few Griffon Vulture, Common Kestrel, 6 Red-legged Partridge, 4 Song Thrush, Black Redstart, 5+ Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, 6 Corn Bunting and Rock Bunting. No sign of the Southern Grey Shrike and, so far this winter, no Ring Ouzel. Maybe the birds were keeping their heads down after the 6.3 magnitude earthquake centred in the Alboran sea east of Gibraltar early this morning!

This morning a stroll along the Camino de Gibraltar was rewarded with the wonderful sight of a pale morph Booted Eagle tangling with a Common Buzzard whilst a Peregrine looked on - all three birds in one 'frame' of the binoculars! Add to them 30+ Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Common Kestrel to give six raptors within 30min - not bad going. Also seen were Common Raven, Spotless Starling, Song Thrush, Meadow Pipit, 10+ Black Redstart, Stonechat, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Common Chiffchaff (2 singing), Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler (heard), Linnet, Chaffinch, Hawfinch and Serin. This afternoon a male Common Crossbill flew over Calle del Pino/Calle Convento; House Martin numbers in this area now in excess of 20.

Black Kite have been spotted crossing the straits at Gibraltar so we should expect to see some here in the not too distant future.....
Booted Eagle

Sunday 24 January 2016, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light SE wind, 18C

A morning visit to the Rio Genal produced no surprises but it was nice to see a Green Sandpiper there plus a good count of 20+ Hawfinch. There were also at least 6 Common Chiffchaff, ranging from the 'normal' quite bright olive-green colouration though to a very brown individual with just a tinge of yellow showing under the tail.
Back in the Gaucin there was a Peregrine patrolling high over the southern edge of the village during the warm afternoon and a Common Chiffchaff singing below Calle del Pino. Birdsong, of Blackcaps in particular, is changing noticeably from the quieter, shorter subsong to the more vocal full song.

Grey Wagtail on the Rio Genal

Friday 22 January 2016, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light E-SE wind, 16C

Highlights of a morning walk through the mixed cork oak and pine woods to the south-east of Gaucin were Griffon Vulture, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Crag Martin, House Martin, Eurasian Nuthatch, Crested Tit and Firecrest. Around 17:00hrs a Eurasian Sparrowhawk patrolling over Calle del Pino spooked the recently-returned House Martin contingent; 10 of them grouped together quickly for 'safety in numbers'.
Quite a few Wall Brown Lasiommata megera butterflies around at the moment

Sierra Crestellina from Coto Jaraqueque

Gaucin castle and Sierra El Hacho from La Corchuela

Shaggy Parasol mushroom Chlorophyllum rhacodes
Valle de Genal from La Corchuela

Thursday 21 January 2016, Gaucin, cloudy, light W-NW wind, 14C

Yesterday Gaucin saw a little much-needed rain, some 15mm falling overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, but we are still way short of expected levels for January. Today was cloudy but dry with a mix of Winter and Spring species around. Spring was represented by 6 House Martin over the southern edge of the village and a Serin in full song during the morning and by 2 displaying Booted Eagle during the afternoon. Winter was holding on with Common Buzzard, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff all seen in the pueblo.

Some good news for Bearded Vulture, or Lammergeier, in Andalucia as a new pair from the reintroduction programme of this wonderful species are showing pre-breeding behaviour. Click below for more details.

Good news for Lammergeier in Andalucia!


Sunday 17 January 2016, Gaucin, mostly sunny, calm air-light SE wind, 12C

Yesterday produced another (the same?) House Martin and, whilst enjoying lunch in the sun at the Bodeguita Chaparro, a pale morph Booted Eagle and a Firecrest!
Today was a little cooler, just 5C at 09:00hrs, but still nice and sunny, just right for the wonderful walk from Estacion de Cortes to the 'Puente de los Alemanes'. Situated at one end of the 'Buitreras' gorge near El Colmenar the 'bridge' was actually an aqueduct, built in 1918 to carry water for the hydroelectric station, and it sits a spectacular 60m above the Rio Guadiaro.
In the trackside trees and bushes there were many small birds around, mostly Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Linnet and House Sparrow but also a few Cirl Bunting and the occasional Song Thrush and Black Redstart. As we walked further into the hills there was a group of 50+ Griffon Vulture, a Common Kestrel, Green Woodpecker (heard), at least 10 Woodlark, Meadow Pipit and a Dartford Warbler.

View towards Sierra de Libar and Serrania de Ronda
Puente de los Alemanes
A more modern bridge over the Rio Guadiaro
Friar's Cowl Arisarun vulgare

Thursday 14 January 2016, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light W-NW wind, 18C

At this time of year a scan of a large expanse of clear blue sky often results in a frustrating blank but there can, however, be rewards; yesterday turned up a House Martin and a Short-toed Eagle but a quick look just before 15:00hrs today trumped them both as a splendid juvenile Golden Eagle graced my view. Judging by the amount of white remaining in the wings it was probably a first-winter individual. Picked up just east of El Hacho mountain, it was heading roughly north-west so most likely came from the direction of Sierra Crestellina.

Wednesday 13 January 2016, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light SE wind, 16C

Two interesting sightings today....
Firstly a House Martin in amongst a group of up to 10 Crag Martin that were roving around the southern edge of the village from about 13:00hrs. My first thought was that this was an overwintering individual that has hooked up with the Crags but literature suggests that some returning Iberian House Martin from the south may well arrive mid-winter, so this could be a 'first of the Spring' record. Interestingly, last year the 'first' House Martin was seen over the Rio Genal on 28 January, also with a group of Crag Martin, so it's quite possibly the same bird; if so, this would suggest over-wintering rather than an early arrival.

The second sighting was a very vocal Short-toed Eagle, also just on the southern limits of the village at 14:30hrs - this bird was almost certainly an overwintering individual with the first true Spring arrivals usually appearing mid-to-late February.

Tuesday 12 January 2016, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light N-NE wind, 15C

Yesterday was a classic Gaucin wet winter's day; at just 11C it felt cold and damp and there was persistent light rain and drizzle. Today felt warm by comparison, despite the northerly wind.
A morning check of the west slope of El Hacho was fairly routine but a male Dartford Warbler brightened things up. Also seen were 20+ Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Blue Rock Thrush, 2 Song Thrush, Thekla Lark, 10+ Black Redstart (at least 4 in a single shrub), 10+ Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, 6+ Corn Bunting, and Cirl Bunting; Red-legged Partridge was heard.
female Black Redstart

Sunday 10 January 2016, Gaucin, partly cloudy, fresh W-SW wind, 14C

It's starting to feel more like winter now with damp, cooler days predominating. Today started with some light drizzle then cleared before returning rain-threatening cloud again late afternoon. Birding highlights have been few and far between as the cold winds continue to keep most birds out of sight. The west slope of El Hacho on Thursday morning was very quiet with the usual winter numbers of Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Blackcap and Chaffinch. Along the Camino de Gibraltar this morning there was a Great-spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Song Thrush, Black Redstart, Grey Wagtail, lots of Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler (heard), Chaffinch and Serin. A group of 20+ Griffon Vulture gaining height over the castle were joined by a Common Buzzard and a Common Kestrel.
Common Crossbill have been heard passing over the village on a couple of occasions during the last few days and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk has been seen several times around Calle del Pino/Convento. Wherever there are suitable trees there are small flocks of roving finches, mainly Chaffinch, with Blackcap and the occasional Common Chiffchaff joining them as they look for food.
The peaks of El Hacho shrouded in mist

Wednesday 06 January 2016, Gaucin, mostly sunny, light-fresh N-NW wind, 13C

After three days of rain (18mm yesterday) today was dry, if rather cold in the fresh northerly winds. A morning walk to the top of El Hacho produced nothing, apart from the great views, but a handful of Griffon Vulture. On an afternoon walk along the top section of the Camino de Gibraltar (down as far as 'El Nobo') there were 2 Common Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Sardinian Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, lots of Blackcap (at least 10 just near the water purification plant), Stonechat, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Serin and 3 Hawfinch.

An eerie mist enveloped Gaucin castle on Saturday evening
Gaucin from the summit of El Hacho
View NE towards Sierra de las Nieves
male Stonechat
male Stonechat

Saturday 02 January 2016, Gaucin, partly cloudy, light NW wind, 17C

Some 5mm of light rain overnight has freshened things up a bit but it still felt quite warm today when the sun was out.  Birding has been a little slow over the New Year period with nothing special to report; 60+ Griffon Vulture low and looking to catch a thermal over the Maravillas hill above Estacion de Gaucin, plus Common Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Crag Martin, Stonechat, Black Redstart and an unexpected Crested Tit. A couple of short walks along the Camino de Avedin produced Eurasian Sparrowhawk, plenty of Blackcap, at least 4 Common Chiffchaff and a Firecrest.
New Year's Eve - Sierra Crestellina and Gaucin castle

The first cistus flowers of the year are beginning to appear
Estacion de Gaucin and Sierra de Libar