Thursday, 18 October 2012

A WEEKEND IN TARIFA (at last!) 12th – 14th October 2012

OK, it's not in Murcia, but I have to get out every so often!
When I was asked if I wanted to go down to Tarifa for the weekend last weekend, I didn’t think twice about it, Tarifa being one of my favourite places in Spain for birdwatching. Also, the 12th October being a national holiday meant we had a 3 day weekend.  So we set off Thursday afternoon on the 6 hour trip down there, and things augured well when passing by Granada airport on the A-92, I spotted a Black Shouldered Kite hovering.  Hopefully a good sign.

I had checked what had been seen in the area recently – the main passage of raptors seemed to be over, but there were still a few around, and on the ‘Playa de los Lances’ beach next to Tarifa, there had been an American Golden Plover and Lesser Crested Tern seen in the last few days.  Arriving at 10:30pm, we (Francisco Javier Palacios ‘Javi’ and I) checked into our hostel and made our plans for the next day over supper.

Day 1 – Playa de los Lances; Cazalla and Algarroba lookouts; La Janda
Up at 7am, after a quick breakfast in a local bar, at 7:45 Javi and I were walking from the town along the beach to reach the hide - about a 3km walk.  Although it was pretty dark still when we set out, the sun soon came up over the mountains and we could see a few groups of waders, mainly Sanderling but with a few Ringed Plovers and a single Kentish.  There were a group of gulls on the beach, mainly Yellow-legged but also a couple of Lesser Black-backed’s and around 15 adult Audouin’s Gulls. There were also a couple of Sandwich Terns, and more kept coming in off the sea until there was a total of over 50.  We checked them all for Lesser Crested’s but no luck.  One of them WAS colour-ringed and I was able to read the ring.
One of the reasons why this beach is so good for birds is that there are a couple of fresh water streams that empty into it forming pools in the sand, and these appear to be full of fish, so the birds can both wash, drink and eat here – however, you need to get there early due to the disturbance later on by walkers, joggers, dogs, beach-buggies etc.  There was a continual movement of birds (mainly gulls), and when the large group of terns had gathered, we also had 4 Mediterranean Gulls (3 2nd winters and an adult) although we didn’t see them arrive.

Out to sea, there was also a movement of Cory’s Shearwaters and Gannets (mainly juveniles), and we saw a small group of 3 ducks drop onto the sea never to be found again, and un-identified.

We crossed the streams and I went on to the hide from which I could see a Grey Plover and a couple of Dunlin.  Talking to another birder in the hide, it seemed that the American Golden Plover was normally in the company of the Grey Plover, but had not been seen the previous morning and was probably gone.  Other birds seen from the hide were several Grey Herons and Little Egrets, a Greenshank, and a group of 7 Cormorants flew over.

Walking back along the boardwalk to the town, we had various Stonechats, a couple of Northern Wheatears, Fan-tailed Warblers, a lot of Goldfinch, Serins, Crested Larks, Swallows and looking over to the mountains slightly more inland, a group of 44 Griffon Vultures circling around.

We left the beach area at around 11:15 and went up to the ‘Cazalla’ lookout which overlooks the town.  However as by now there was quite a westerly breeze blowing and no birders or birds (apart from 80+ distant Griffon Vultures), we decided that the other lookout ‘Algarroba’ would be a better bet, so we made our way there, calling in briefly at the ‘Mirador del Estrecho’ en route, where we saw a Short-toed Eagle sat on a telegraph pole.

We eventually got to the ‘Algarroba’ lookout around 12:30, having driven past the entrance several times (it is a very narrow concrete track off a main road which if you’re not concentrating you could easily miss, and we did!).  We met up with the third member of our team, Isidro Bartolomé who had come down from Murcia that morning.  Although there was virtually ‘nothing’ about, we did see around 150 Griffon Vultures, at least 2 more Short-toed Eagles, 3 Booted Eagles, a Hobby, Sparrowhawk, Robin and Willow/Chiff and also heard a Blackcap ’tak-tak’ing away.

We left at around 2pm to have lunch in the nearby seaside town of Bolonia and then went off to look for Bald Ibis.  This is a species of which there is still a few pairs in the wild in Morocco, but which have been subject to a breeding and releasing program in the Sierra de Retín in Cadiz province, and we had been told that a pair was nesting near Vejer de la Frontera.  As this was not far off our route to La Janda, we decided to have a look, but although we think we saw the nest, there were no sign of any birds which are probably fledged and long gone by now.  We did see there a large group of several hundred Jackdaws mobbing a light phase Booted Eagle.

Booted Eagle being mobbed by a Jackdaw

We got to La Janda around 6pm.  What a star place this is.  Apparently bigger than Doñana, it has a bit of every habitat – rice-fields, canals, ‘dehesas’ (open grazing hill fields with a few interspersed trees), pine trees, cotton and wheat fields, mountains behind.  And some star birds!  We saw around 800 White Storks, 50 Grey Herons, 500 Cattle Egrets (many in the rice fields with the Storks, but the majority were entering into a roost just before dark), Little Egrets, around a dozen Marsh Harriers, at least 2 Hen Harriers (females or immatures), at least 6 Black-shouldered Kites, 50+ Corn Buntings, Stonechats, Greenfinches and Goldfinches everywhere, a couple of Booted Eagles, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, several Kestrels, 12+ Griffon Vultures, and the star bird, a Pallid Harrier! (a second calendar year male I think, and a lifer for all of us).  First seen being harassed by a Kestrel, it hung around long enough for us to be able to take a few photos of it, and although we were not 100% positive of the I.D., the following day showing the photos to some of the raptor specialists at the Algarroba lookout, they confirmed it.

 One of literally hundreds of White Storks

 My record shots of the Pallid Harrier

 Clearer shots of the Pallid Harrier taken by and copyright of Isidro Bartolomé

 And a shot of its upperside taken by and copyright of Francisco Javier Palacios

And at the end of the day, Cattle Egrets going to roost

Day 2 – Playa de los Lances; Algarroba lookout; La Janda
After a quick breakfast, we went straight to the hide at the ‘los Lances’ beach, getting there at 8a.m., principally to look again for the American Golden Plover, but again without success.  Birds seen were pretty much the same as yesterday, and I managed to read colour rings on an adult Audouin’s Gull and 3 Yellow-legged Gulls.

Leaving there at 10:30, as there was again a fair breeze blowing from the west, we went straight up to the ‘Algarroba’ lookout arriving about 11 a.m., and remained there for a couple of hours.  Birds seen here were more than 100 Griffon Vulture, at least 2 Short-toed Eagles, 2 Booted Eagles, 15 Kestrels, 4 Common Buzzards, a Peregrine, 3 Black Storks, 3 Alpine Swifts, 4 Red-rumped Swallows, 20+ House Martins, a Pied Flycatcher, Blackcap, Robin, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and a Willow Warbler.

We decided after this to go to La Janda via the ‘marismas (marshes) de Barbate’, picking up some take-away sandwiches en route for lunch.  We had heard that there had been a Lesser Yellowlegs around here the week before, but the place seemed to be deserted – the only birds we saw were a few Black-headed Gulls and a Common Redshank.  However, driving from Barbate to Zahara de las Atunes along the A2231, we saw some large black birds flying at the side of the road.  Javi got a couple of photos, and they turned out to be a flock of 25-30 Bald Ibis!  Typically, we couldn’t stop on the road for long (just long enough for a few more photos) and so had to drive on and then turn round to find somewhere to park, and by the time we had done this, the birds were no-where to be seen.  We hung around for about half an hour but they wouldn’t show themselves, so in the end we carried on to La Janda.

Record shot of the Bald Ibis
Arriving at La Janda about 14:30 we took a leisurely drive around, leaving via Facinas at about 19:00.  Birds seen were much as yesterday except we didn’t see the Pallid Harrier, but a Montagus’s instead, and we also saw a couple of Spanish Imperial Eagles together, an adult with the typical white leading edge to the wing, otherwise appearing almost black, and the other an immature, generally brown bird.  Coming out through Facinas we tried to find an inland route back to Tarifa for a change of scenery.  We didn’t manage to find a route, but in our driving around, did find a roost of around 80 Griffon Vultures roosting in trees – something I’ve never seen before.

 Marsh Harrier over the cottonfields

Ringtail Hen Harrier

 The same bird
 And again, flying over two perched Black Shouldered Kites
 Common Buzzard being buzzed by a Kestrel

 Record shots of a 'ringtail' Montagu's Harrier

Day 3 – Playa de los Lances; La Janda; Rio Palmones estuary
Our last day!  We’d found out that a Lesser Crested Tern had been seen on the beach yesterday at around 12 midday (i.e. an hour and a half after we left), so we decided to try the beach hide again just in case.  Birds seen were much as yesterday with the addition of Balearic Shearwaters out to sea (and no Lesser Crested Tern or American Golden Plover).  There WAS however quite a passage of hirundines over the sands until a Sparrowhawk came through and scared them off – around 400 Swallows, 30+ House Martins, 3 Sand Martins, a couple of Crag Martins and also a late Pallid Swift.

 Seen pretty much everywhere - Stonechat

A Little Egret that seemed to be having a problem with swallowing breakfast

We couldn’t leave without one last look at La Janda, so went over there arriving at around 12:30, and leaving at 15:00.  We took a slightly different route today which involved passing some roadside pools, where we saw Green and Wood Sandpiper, Black Winged Stilts and a Little Ringed Plover.  Prior to this, in the same area where we had seen Spanish Imperial Eagle yesterday, we came across a Bonelli’s Eagle presumably hunting rabbits but also seeing off a Common Buzzard.  Other birds of note today were 8+ Black Shouldered Kites, Hen Harriers and 400+ White Storks, and Javi, while photographing some of the Griffon Vultures that were high up, managed to photograph an immature Egyptian Vulture although none of us actually noticed it!  What we did see very close was a ringed juvenile Woodchat Shrike that appeared to have a deformed bill.

 Grey Heron inquisitively looking at me!

 A typical sight in La Janda - White Storks and Cattle Egrets

 Black Shouldered Kite

 Probably the commonest raptor, Marsh Harrier

 ...and the second commonest, five Black Shouldered Kites perched

 Immature Bonelli's Eagle

White Storks having a rest from all that soaring

Leaving La Janda at 3p.m., we stopped off at bar for a quick sandwich and beer, and saying goodbye to Isidro who was going on to Huelva, Javi and I set off back home.  I had mentioned to Javi and Isidro earlier that I knew of a good place for waterbirds on the other side of Algeciras, and coming out of Algeciras I recognized the place.  Javi suggested we had a look, so we called in.  The place is called Palmones, and it’s a marsh area where the river Palmones meets the sea.  No sooner had we stopped the car, looking over the marshes I saw what I had hoped for – an Osprey sat on the marsh (along with about 50 White Storks).  It was too far to photograph and in the sun, but luckily another flew over which we could photograph, and then a Black Stork came over very low!  Other birds seen there were a group of 9 Spoonbills, a couple of Curlew, Greenshanks and Redshanks, 3 Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard.  A very good finish to a great weekend!

 And to end the day, a very close Black Stork....

 ...a flock of White Storks dropping in...

 ... and one of two Ospreys seen

Locations visited with their co-ordinates (to see the actual places, cut and paste the co-ordinates into the ‘Fly To’ search function of Google Earth, and it’ll take you there).

Playa de los Lances (bird hide): 36.034212, -5.624645
Cazalla mirador (lookout): 36.033314, -5.574012
Algarroba mirador (lookout): 36.090260, -5.574012
La Janda (entrance): 36.212110, -5.790519
Palmones (marsh): 36.176491, -5.442062

Birds seen over the weekend: 92 species

Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea); Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus); Gannet (Morus bassanus); Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo); Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis); Little Egret (Egretta garzetta); Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea); White Stork (Ciconia ciconia); Black Stork (Ciconia nigra); Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremite); Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia); Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos); Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus); Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus); Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus); Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus); Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus); Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus); Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus); Sparrowhawk (Accipitor nisus); Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo); Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus); Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus); Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti); Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus); Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus); Osprey (Pandion haliaetus); Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus); Hobby (Falco subbuteo); Peregrine (Falco peregrinus); Pheasant (Phasainus colchicus); Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa); Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus); Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus); Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus); Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius); Ringed Plover (Chadrius hiaticula); Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus); Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola); Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus); Sanderling (Calidris alba); Little Stint (Calidris minuta); Dunlin (Correlimos alpina); Curlew (Numenius arquata); Redshank (Tringa totanus); Greenshank (Tringa nebularia); Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus); Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola); Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos); Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus); Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus); Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii); Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis); Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus); Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis); Rock/Domestic Dove (Columba livia); Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus); Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto); Alpine Swift (Apus melba); Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus); Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis); Crested Lark (Galerida cristata); Swallow (Hirundo rustica); Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica); House Martin (Delichon urbicum); Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris); Sand Marin (Riparia riparia); Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis); White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba); Robin (Erithacus rubecula); Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus); Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe); Blackbird (Turdus merula); Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cettia); Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis); Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala); Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla); Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita); Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus); Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca); Great Tit (Parus major); Woodchat Shike (Lanius senator); Jackdaw (Corvus monedula); Common Starling (Sternus vulgaris); Spotless Starling (Sternus unicolor); House Sparrow (Passer domesticus); Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs); Serin (Serinus serinus); Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris); Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis); Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes); Corn Bunting (Miliaria calandra).

1 comment:

  1. ¡Buena "caza" y alguna citas interesantes como la del lagunero pálido!
    Un saludete.