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Birdwatching in Straits of Gibraltar & La Janda

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Old Thursday 5th September 2013, 13:05   #1
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Birdwatching in Straits of Gibraltar & La Janda

Yesterday I decided to head to the spanish-side of the Straits of Gibraltar to observe bird of prey migration. The winds were blowing quite strong from the east, (approximately force 6 on the beaufort scale). As a result, birds of prey were being forced to accumulate in large numbers relatively close by and offering an incredible spectacle of circling raptors desperately trying to find a way to cross the straits. They couldn't. Birds of all species an ages, composed primarily of Egyptian Vultures (100+), Booted Eagles (200+), Black Kites (150+) Honey Buzzard (50+) with smilers numbers of Griffon Vultures, Montagu’s Harrier, Lesser Kestrel. There was a constant flow of Hirundines, Barn Swallows and San Martins being the main species. Scenes like these provide an ideal scenario for less experienced raptor-watchers to polish their ID skills, particularly, dark morph Booted Eagles and aberrant young Honey Buzzard, flying by at eye-level at some distance. With time and practice it is possible to identify most birds.

I then decided to head to a known Bald Ibis place near Barbate. On the way there via the N340, we spotted large numbers of migrating raptors, primarily black kites, Booted Eagles & Egyptian Vultures. We did however manage to spot an osprey fly low over our vehicle as did 2 young Montagu’s Harriers. Upon arrival at the Bald Ibis location, we were meet by large numbers of Jackdaw resting and calling from the nearby cliffs, but unfortunately, we were not able to locate the Ibis’. We then turned our attention to the Barbate marshes which held large numbers of Yellow-legged Gull and smaller numbers of lesser-black backed Gulls & Black-headed Gulls. We did have however great views on a Stone-Curlew as well as the usual waders, mainly Dunlin, Sanderling, Greenshank, Kentish Plover & Black-winged Stilt. a small group of Short-toed Lark were flying around and at least one individual showing extremely well on our Kowa TSN-883 scope. A distant Collard Pratincole was observed as were Griffon Vultures and Black Kites. On route back to La Janda, a group of 7 Bald Ibis circled by to my delight!

We then turned our attention to La Janda which is an ancient desiccated lake, formerly the home and former breeding ground of Demoiselle Cranes & African Marsh Owls. The last remaining, and most southerly breeding populations of Common Crane dissapeared in the mid 1950′s when La Janda was finally drained. The surrounding area is a breeding ground for rare and endangered Osprey, several species of heron, ibis, crakes and rail, as well as Mallard, deer and other wildlife. La Janda is still under threat from that spices called Homo Sapiens better known as ‘man’. Habitat loss is the main factor affecting La Janda, which is currently being used for extensive agricultre, particularly rice, which thankfully has some sort of positive effect on the bird life as it means large portions of otherwise dry farmland now remains wet for the most part of the year, attracting large numbers of water birds. During the winter months, and depending on the amount of rainfall, it becomes a naturally flooded plain which has through the years, become less conspicuous. I remember in my younger days, after heavy sustained rainfall, the area was transformed into a vast lake several kilometres in length, most of it approximately 6m below sea level. These wonderful sights are now a thing of the past, as improvement in drainage has meant that although the area does temporarily flood up to a certain extent, its nowhere as impressive as it used to be. neverthess, the birdlife is still rich and varied even in the driest and warmest of seasons. Between Benalup and Alcala de Los Gazules a huge dam exists, called the Presa de Barbate. Its purpose was to prevent the fluctuating waters that connected the Marismas de Barbate to La Janda in winter overflowing and flooding La Janda. This presa (reservoir) serves to irrigate the rice fields in summer. The rice is planted in May and harvested from September to November.

At La Janda, large groups of White Stork & a Black Stork sat on the fields, awaiting better conditions in which to cross the straits. Glossy Ibis (50+) sudddenly arrived and joined the Stork group and was a wonderful sight. Flying by where the usual Marsh & Montagu’s Harriers, with several young males of the former seen. Further along, the flooded ricefields, help Black-winged Stilt, more Glossy Ibis, Green Sandpiper, the first few Common Snipe of the autumn (3), Yellow Wagtails and Grey Herons. A solitary Purple Heron made up the numbers. Several groups of Turtle Dove and Jackdaws flew past looking for feeding areas as did a several flocks of Sparrows, which upon inspection, contained at least a single Spanish Sparrow amongst the other House. A definite sign autumn is nigh.
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Old Wednesday 11th September 2013, 19:15   #2
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Birdman, I had an excellent couple of days at Cazalla/Algarrobo on 8/9, hundreds of Honey Buzzards and Black Kites moving in flocks, as well as lesser numbers of Booted and Short-toed Eagles. Spanish Imperial and Bonelli's Eagles also seen. Alpine Swifts and Red -rumped Swallows seen moving through with the Bee-Eater flocks, and Black Storks moving with larger numbers of White Storks.
I was amazed to see over 500 Glossy Ibis at La Janda, I visit this site every year - have they increased that much or moved in from Donana? Some of the fields there are wetter this year, so good numbers of Black-winged Stilts - the usual Marsh and Monty's Harriers seen here, also Purple Heron, and a couple of Black-shouldered Kites (regular here I think).
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Old Wednesday 11th September 2013, 19:27   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Birdman7 View Post
We then turned our attention to La Janda which is an ancient desiccated lake, formerly the home and former breeding ground of Demoiselle Cranes & African Marsh Owls. The last remaining, and most southerly breeding populations of Common Crane dissapeared in the mid 1950′s when La Janda was finally drained.
(from one birdman to another...ehehe)

Nice to hear the migration is "pumping" along the straits...I spent some years in the area, a good while ago and your sightings take me back.

Especially though I share your nostalgia (!) for La Janda - I was told a long time ago Lammegeiers, Wolves and even Brown Bears inhabited the area - it was another, but different Doñana.
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Old Wednesday 11th September 2013, 19:45   #4
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La janda

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Originally Posted by Simon Wates View Post
(from one birdman to another...ehehe)

Nice to hear the migration is "pumping" along the straits...I spent some years in the area, a good while ago and your sightings take me back.

Especially though I share your nostalgia (!) for La Janda - I was told a long time ago Lammegeiers, Wolves and even Brown Bears inhabited the area - it was another, but different Doñana.
Hi Simon,

Good to her from you!

indeed La Janda is one of my fav places to visit very easrly in the morning, magical place for birds.
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Old Wednesday 11th September 2013, 19:46   #5
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Originally Posted by cwpbirder View Post
Birdman, I had an excellent couple of days at Cazalla/Algarrobo on 8/9, hundreds of Honey Buzzards and Black Kites moving in flocks, as well as lesser numbers of Booted and Short-toed Eagles. Spanish Imperial and Bonelli's Eagles also seen. Alpine Swifts and Red -rumped Swallows seen moving through with the Bee-Eater flocks, and Black Storks moving with larger numbers of White Storks.
I was amazed to see over 500 Glossy Ibis at La Janda, I visit this site every year - have they increased that much or moved in from Donana? Some of the fields there are wetter this year, so good numbers of Black-winged Stilts - the usual Marsh and Monty's Harriers seen here, also Purple Heron, and a couple of Black-shouldered Kites (regular here I think).
Yeah I saw your post CWpbirder. Very nice list.

Will be popping by La Janda perhaps tomorrow, lets see what pops around
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Old Wednesday 11th September 2013, 20:37   #6
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Flying out to Spain tomorrow night for a week in Jimena, hope to visit La Janda etc during my stay!
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Old Wednesday 11th September 2013, 20:55   #7
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La Janda

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Flying out to Spain tomorrow night for a week in Jimena, hope to visit La Janda etc during my stay!
Hi John,

I rem your sightings from last time you were around here. Contact me if your planning to go and we hook up together.
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Old Thursday 12th September 2013, 03:22   #8
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Are you all aware that a male Great Bustard has been seen in the area,the first there since "Old George" was killed hitting a power line in 2006.I have not seen it myself and apparently it was last seen in the fields opposite Montemedio.Regards Eddy.
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Old Thursday 12th September 2013, 08:34   #9
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G.Bustard

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Are you all aware that a male Great Bustard has been seen in the area,the first there since "Old George" was killed hitting a power line in 2006.I have not seen it myself and apparently it was last seen in the fields opposite Montemedio.Regards Eddy.
I heard about it but wasnt sure of the exact location, thx Eddy.
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Old Friday 13th September 2013, 20:11   #10
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Not much around Jimena today, until late in the afternoon, when 3 Short-toed Eagles headed south followed by 10 Black Kites. Later went out around Marchenilla and Sambana, where I had great views of a juvenile Montagu's Harrier, over which I spent some time dreaming of a Pallid (doh) 3/4 Booted Eagles still around and also recorded both Kestrels, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk, along with the resident Griffons drifting here and there. Found Northern and Black-eared Wheatear and a juv Woodchat Shrike too. A generally slack day, but added Whitethroat to my garden list.
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Old Friday 13th September 2013, 21:47   #11
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Today's birding in the area

Cazalla area Plenty of raptor passage. Not counting one by one, but species recorded included, Honey Buzzard, Black kite, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Griffon & Egyptian vultures, Sparrowhawk, White & Black Stork.

At La Janda:- Glossy Ibis, Grey & Purple Heron, White Stork, Osprey, Black Kite, Griffon & Egyptian Vultures, Sparrowhawk, Black-shouldered Kite, Marsh & Montagu's Harrier (15 also including dark morph), Common Kestrel, Squacco heron (2 - see photo below), Cattle & Little Egrets, Turtle Dove, Bee-eater, Sone Curlew, Littie Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Spanish Sparrow, Short-toed Lark, Northern Wheatear, Willow Warbler

Montenmedio A couple of Bonelli's Warblers busily feeding on Stone Pine trees.

Overall an enjoyable day :)
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Old Saturday 14th September 2013, 19:00   #12
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Hi guys birding holiday till 26th Sept in a hosta l just north of Tarifa, our first visit to this area. Been here since 10th passage of raptors and storks has been spectacular. Any info on what's about would be appreciated please feel free to pm me :-) :-) :-) or post updates on this thread.

Good birding all

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Old Saturday 14th September 2013, 20:16   #13
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After easterly winds all day, it all kicked off about 4p.m. again over Jimena today (except for the 30 or so Bee-eaters over at lunchtime) there was suddenly a small but significant raptor passage, with maybe 25 Short-toed Eagles, 40 Booted Eagles, a lone Black Kite, 20 or so Honey Buzzards and 2 Sparrowhawks with an attacking Peregrine making a nuisance of himself. Best was an adult Egyptian Vulture. Later in the country between Los Angeles and the Guadiaro river, several Buzzards, about 100 Bee-eaters in two groups, a juv Woodchat, couple of Whinchats, several groups of Swallows hurrying south, and an excellent view of an Osprey which had just missed a fish at the Guadiaro river. 12 BOP species today. 2 days in and haven't seen a Stork yet!!
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Old Saturday 14th September 2013, 20:30   #14
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Yo Jon no consolation methinks but small groups Of Black Storks from 09.00hrs Tafifa area
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Old Sunday 15th September 2013, 18:42   #15
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Well the heat seems to have driven all the birds somewhere else - didn't see anything much today. Evening drive showed lovely Tawny Pipit, but that was about it.
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Old Monday 16th September 2013, 19:44   #16
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Today went over to Tarifa where I dropped the other members of the team, and headed north. At Los Lances a juvenile Greater Flamingo was the first I've seen there, lots of winter plumage Sanderling, a lone Black-tailed Godwit, a good number of rather distant Audouin's Gulls loafing with the Gull flock. I was chatting with a birding couple when some other birders arrived, one of whom turned out to be John Muddeman, who revealed that yesterday's migration over Cazalla was truly spectacular! So that's where all the birds were! Several Cory's and Balearic Shearwaters were passing by close in to the beach. 4 Knot, and Yellow Wagtail and Short-toed Lark present. So off north where La Janda beckoned. Calandra Lark on arrival, and then several LARGE groups of grounded White Storks. Most interesting sighting was 3 Mongooses! But at the end of the embankment having already seen a couple of hundred, it was Glossy Ibis central - we reckoned about 2000. Presumably all heading south from the huge colony in Donana (cf 4000 pairs!). One of the birders present was fluent in both English and Spanish and when I asked who he was he revealed that he was (and is) Andy Patterson, who I hadn't seen for years - we exchanged info on various sightings (mostly him telling me!) but even he was astonished at the numbers of Ibis present. Didn't have time to look at Montenmedio, so headed home stopping at Palmones where an Avocet was a site tick. Evening drive around Jimena - Woodchat, but little else of note - 73 species recorded for the day.
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Old Monday 16th September 2013, 22:21   #17
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Hi Jon. I'm just back home today from three weeks over there and I must say I'm with you on yesterday's movements.

I started off at Trafico and the Guadalmesi roads yesterday morning, hoping for great things in the clear sky after the clouds of the two previous days, following on from the cessation of the storms that had been plaguing the north of the country including the Pyrenees. There were some birds evident, but very high. I moved on to Cabrito hoping the elevation would help and at first there was a good movement of honeys, short-toed eagles and booted eagles, with some rising on thermals and other birds passing in good numbers at altitude (over towards Cazalla), but things went quiet late morning and I went off to Algarrobo where nothing at all seemed to be happening.

I went back and tried Cazalla at about noon, but there were dozens of cars there, parked right down the track to the main road, so I did an about-turn and went back to Trafico for some peace and quiet away from the crowd before giving up under empty skies mid-afternoon (not long after two) and I went off to do something more useful. I eventually saw an adult pom skua passing west while I was trying to photograph shearwaters from Duquesa breakwater, a Spanish tick for me.

One of yesterday morning's Cabrito shots, below, taken at 10am.
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2013, 12:47   #18
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I had a good spell mid afternoon on the 11th along the Santuario road at km 9.

I was driving from the Tarifa end and noticed a group of griffons circling over the south/west side of the road. As I rounded a corner one flew across the road from the north at tree-top level, followed by another. I found a place to park off the road and we set ourselves on the flightpath. The circling griffons were drifting across and dropping into a field just north of the road and we could hear the characteristic squabbling coming from what must have been a carcase that was hidden from view by the trees. A stream of low birds whipped across the road with a brisk wind under their tails after they'd fed, giving good head-on views.

The first photo below is full frame - that's how close they were.

Then when we'd been there for 20 minutes I noticed the bird in the second photo was darker than its companions in a group of three or four.

Jackpot. Second Ruppell of the trip. The first was a speck in the sky at Algarrobo on the 9th.

I went back twice on the day after, morning and again in the afternoon at about the same time as we'd seen tham the day before, but they'd obviously had their pickings and there wasn't a vulture to be seen.
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2013, 18:25   #19
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Fabulous photo of Rüppell's - give them a month and there should be a few here too
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2013, 19:18   #20
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Didn't go far today. Up in the cork-oak forest, lots of Pied Flycatchers and good numbers of Spotted too. Everything else was hiding!

A few Short-toed Eagles over late afternoon again and just 3/4 Booted too. Vultures notable by their absence - maybe they were lost in the deep blue sky!!

Oh, forgot, had a garden tick today - a spectacular Two-tailed Pasha!
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2013, 19:53   #21
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Fabulous photo of Rüppell's - give them a month and there should be a few here too
Thanks Simon.

I've been rather lucky with close encounters with them the past few years.

One here from 2010, two from 2011 and a rather higher one from 2012.
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Old Wednesday 18th September 2013, 18:26   #22
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Day started well 44 Bald Ibis at golf course, flew in and perched along ridge tiles of clubhouse, very surreal. Onto La Handa still 2 Collared Prats along with single Marbelled Duck then near the quarry 3 Bonellis Eagles and a fly over by an adult then an imm Spanish Imperial Eagle awesome stuff. Shame we then had a puncture and found spare to be completely bald (no pun intended) so had to return to Tarifa to have it repaired for a rather exorbitant 20 euros.
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Old Wednesday 18th September 2013, 20:25   #23
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Day started well 44 Bald Ibis at golf course, flew in and perched along ridge tiles of clubhouse, very surreal. Onto La Handa still 2 Collared Prats along with single Marbelled Duck then near the quarry 3 Bonellis Eagles and a fly over by an adult then an imm Spanish Imperial Eagle awesome stuff. Shame we then had a puncture and found spare to be completely bald (no pun intended) so had to return to Tarifa to have it repaired for a rather exorbitant 20 euros.
Hmmm clearly we were looking in the wrong direction the other day! Any of the Bald Ibis unringed? See any Glossy Ibis?

Went the other way today, up to Montejaque. Best migrant was Redstart, with several noted. All the usual suspects in the valley.

On my return home I was treated to yet another garden tick, this time an immaculate Swallowtail butterfly feeding on the lantana blossoms.
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Old Thursday 19th September 2013, 07:34   #24
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Hmmm clearly we were looking in the wrong direction the other day! Any of the Bald Ibis unringed? See any Glossy Ibis?

Went the other way today, up to Montejaque. Best migrant was Redstart, with several noted. All the usual suspects in the valley.

On my return home I was treated to yet another garden tick, this time an immaculate Swallowtail butterfly feeding on the lantana blossoms.
Well over 1000 Glossy Ibis at LA Handa Jon, see wind though light has gone Easterly this morning and forecast to stay so for a few days so could be good again for raptor migration. Off to Cazella now and intend giving Ojan valley a look after lunch.
:-)
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Old Thursday 19th September 2013, 12:55   #25
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Day started well 44 Bald Ibis at golf course, flew in and perched along ridge tiles of clubhouse, very surreal. Onto La Handa still 2 Collared Prats along with single Marbelled Duck then near the quarry 3 Bonellis Eagles and a fly over by an adult then an imm Spanish Imperial Eagle awesome stuff. Shame we then had a puncture and found spare to be completely bald (no pun intended) so had to return to Tarifa to have it repaired for a rather exorbitant 20 euros.
The eagles sound great. Where do you mean when you refer to 'the quarry' at La Janda?
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