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Southern Spain - Pt 3 - June 2019

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Old Thursday 27th June 2019, 13:02   #26
Paul Longland
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Great report. Thoroughly enjoying it, especially as we may well be planning a trip to this region next year (although this will most likely be April/may).
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Old Thursday 27th June 2019, 14:45   #27
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Great report. Thoroughly enjoying it, especially as we may well be planning a trip to this region next year (although this will most likely be April/may).
April/May is certainly a great time to visit the area. Let me know if I can help you get the most out of your visit,
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Old Thursday 27th June 2019, 15:27   #28
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Thanks to Laurie, Mohammed, Ernest & Paul (I would echo John's comments about the area) for your input & comments.

The Choughs were so distant there was no hope of a specific ID but that is all they can have been - a large number wheeling around a high peak in a loose flock. Happy for them to be Red-billed on range and probability ( I have seen both species in Spain elsewhere).
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Old Thursday 27th June 2019, 16:41   #29
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Apologies for the hiatus - real life has come back in force with a series of odd work shifts!

Thursday 20th June:

So a different tack and area to try for a sighting of the Bush Robin today with a drive down to the Bolonia area. I went straight to the track up to the Sierra de la Plata and parked up near the bouldering area. No sign of any swift species overhead or around the cave but very good views of a Griffon coming into a nest to tend to its well grown youngster. A walk up and down the track produced, as well as the more common species, a small family group of Dartford Warbler in the stunted scrub at the base of the cliffs, a pair of Blue Rock Thrush sortieing across the road between the vegetation and the scree higher up and a brief Black-eared Wheatear perched up on a rock. All this plus impressive views out to Africa.

I then headed back down towards Bolonia but first took the unpaved track below the cattle grid that also leads in to the Sierra. John's notes rightly point out that this good track eventually degenerates into a muddy / rutted one so I stopped at this point in position to reverse into the drive to the last small farm. I saw more vultures flying onto the crag near-by so edged the car forward a bit and watched them for a while. It was at this point that I made the second bad decision of the trip. Once the vulture activity had waned I put the car in reverse and swung around into the farm drive but had completely forgotten I had previously moved forward a bit so with a bang and a jolt the back wheels of the car were left hanging over a drop of a couple of feet and the front ones with no grip on the gravel - the car firmly grounded on the sills just in front of the rear wheels on some very large rocks. This was also the moment when I found out that, despite being clearly told to keep it with the car, I had left the pack the hire company supplied with the emergency telephone numbers in my room at the accommodation! Luckily I had my lap-top with me so having found a spot with a signal managed to find a telephone number for the hire car HQ from whom I got the number to call for roadside assistance. I was relieved to find the call centre had an English language option as I do not speak any useful Spanish. Long story short I eventually managed to explain the situation between bouts of loosing signal, my mobile playing up, waiting on hold and being put through to different operators but the problem then was describing my location as the road has no name and obviously did not show up on their on-screen maps. With good timing the farmer returned at this point and even though he spoke no English the situation was apparent and once talking to an operator who knew the situation I handed him the phone so he could tell them where we were. Give the length of the conversation and the number of times he was also put on hold (the Spanish facial expression that accompanies this is the same as the British one, by the way) it seemed as though he was having the same difficulty describing how to find the location even though he lived there! Eventually, and after more confusing conversations (the farmer had left by then), mainly about me having a mobile that is not a Smartphone, and a now dying battery, I was relieved to see a vehicle rescue truck turn up. After some brief amusement and loads of photos taken, the driver winched the car back onto the track and declared it safe to drive. A total of almost 5 hours had passed but I was relieved at the lack of damage and to finally be on the move again!

I then drove the tracks around the Betis area but had no new species. Next port of call was Punta Carmarinal lighthouse, via Atlanterra for a brief bit of sea-watching - not really my bag and nothing of note seen. I then drove from Zahara to Barbate calling in at the estuary and scanning the paddocks in which I had previously seen Norther Bald Ibis - but all was quiet. Even a quick walk through the Barbate Pinewoods did not produce anything new.

So after a rather curtailed / condensed birding day it was time to head for John's recommended site for Red-necked Nightjar at the dirt-track crossroads north west of Cantarranas. It was still light when I arrived so I headed off down the track towards more open ground and on scoping the fields was surprised by the sight of 85 plus (some more may have been hidden beyond the slope) Griffons on the ground - a feeding site or just carcass disposal? Back at the crossroads a Tawny Owl called and a Pheasant strolled across the track. Then suddenly there were two Red-necked Nightjar over the groves and then along the tracks giving excellent views very close by and then another one started calling distantly. As the activity dropped I set off back to the road only for the headlights to pick one out sitting on the track. A great end to an embarrassing / frustrating day that in the end turned out very much better than it could have done.
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Last edited by foresttwitcher : Thursday 27th June 2019 at 19:18. Reason: Addition / correction.
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Old Thursday 27th June 2019, 16:55   #30
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Thursday 30th June:
So after a rather curtailed/condensed birding day it was time to head for John's recommended site for Red-necked Nightjar at the dirt-track crossroads north west of Cantarranas. It was still light when I arrived so I headed off down the track towards more open ground and on scoping the fields was surprised by the sight of 85 plus (some more may have been hidden beyond the slope) Griffons on the ground - a feeding site or just carcass disposal? Back at the crossroads a Tawny Owl called and a Pheasant strolled across the track. Then suddenly there were two Red-necked Nightjar over the groves and then along the tracks giving excellent views very close by and then another one started calling distantly. As the activity dropped I set off back to the road only for the headlights to pick one out sitting on the track. A great end to an embarrassing/frustrating day that in the end turned out very much better than it could have done.
I'm delighted to hear that after such a frustrating day my R-n Nightjar site at Cantarranas came up trumps. That's why I like helping my fellow birders explore this fantastic area.
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Old Thursday 27th June 2019, 17:08   #31
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Yes, John, many thanks are due for all your efforts in producing your notes.
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Old Thursday 27th June 2019, 17:30   #32
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Ouch! Nice to hear your cloud had a silver (or should that be red-necked?) lining though Pete!

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Old Thursday 27th June 2019, 17:58   #33
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Ouch! Nice to hear your cloud had a silver (or should that be red-necked?) lining though Pete!

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Old Thursday 27th June 2019, 18:35   #34
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Ah yes, I remember wasting a couple of hours up in Extremadura with a rear wheel hanging over a ditch. We couldn't move it but fortunately a) there was a Little Bittern to look at in the nearby river, and b) a local farmer hauled us back onto the road. No damage.
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Old Thursday 27th June 2019, 19:50   #35
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Friday 21st June:

Last day so took the opportunity for a first light last chance at the Bush Robin back at Laguna de Mejorada - but despite being on site even earlier there was no sight or sound in the groves. So I reversed the circuit of the reservoir with much the same species as previously present but added White Wagtail for the trip list and at one point had an educational sight of Little, Cattle and Great Egret and Spoonbill all in the same scope view. Back at the groves all was still quiet.

Decided to get some more walking in so went back to the Grazalema NP to look for some routes along the spectacular driving road from Zahara towards Grazalema. The first few I found required permission and given my pathetic language struggles on the phone yesterday I was not inclined to try to get it in case it was not as easy to do as hoped. But I did find a couple of forest / woodland walks to do that were nice enough but no new species seen. From one of the passes there were plenty more Griffons and great views and just below the car parking area a partly overgrown water trough that tempted in an odd mix of Coal Tit, Western Bonelli's Warbler and Rock Bunting. Plus an Iberian Ibex posing on top of a crag.

After another drive around admiring the scenery I headed back to base. I tried the river crossing that was so productive on the first day but it was quiet, in total contrast. So I did an evening walk along the Via Verde again adding a singing Corn Bunting on a barbed wire fence (I had expected to hear more of these) plus a fly-over Booted Eagle being mobbed by, given the alarm / agitation call it was making, a Lesser Kestrel.

Saturday 22nd June:

No real birding today but a leisurely journey to the airport to return the car and make sure they were aware of the incident. No issue from that and despite the long delay the roadside assistance worked well but Goldcar let themselves down by adding what I consider an excessive cleaning charge for the dust / gravel in the drivers foot-well and, even though I filled it up at a service station only 26km from the airport, levied a penalty fee plus charge for fuel for me not returning the tank full!

So, three out of four targets seen and the fourth heard, a successful trip with a small bit of outstanding business remaining.
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Old Friday 28th June 2019, 07:21   #36
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A good report. You seem to have been somewhat unlucky with Rufous Bushchat at Laguna de Mejorada as I know they're present there this year although as I well know they're extremely elusive at times. A pity too you didn't get in touch just before you went as I know of two sites where they performed well this June ...
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Old Friday 28th June 2019, 09:53   #37
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April/May is certainly a great time to visit the area. Let me know if I can help you get the most out of your visit,
Thanks John will certainly be touch. just doing some basic research into prices for flights, accommodation, best areas to base ourselves etc at present. was thinking we would fly to Malaga and then base ourselves somewhere around the Gaucin/Ronda area or possibly slightly further west. We tend to try and find self catering accommodation in slightly rural areas where we can do a spot of birding locally in the evenings etc. Still trying to decide which the best area in terms of access and realistic travel distances to cover the area and our targets species (it will be along list!)

I will of course be purchasing a copy of your excellent looking guide in the not too distant future!

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Old Friday 28th June 2019, 10:08   #38
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Ronda is a nice base and spectacular scenery. There is a nice walk down and around the valley from the town and when we were there (twice in Sept) upto 100 Choughs came down to roost in the caves that seperate the two parts of the town and indulged in spectacular stooping and soaring just metres away on the updraft - why? I assume because they can Most impressive...

Good Birding

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Old Friday 28th June 2019, 12:34   #39
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John, I persevered with Mejorada as I had heard one there and had checked e-bird as it showed as a hot-spot - there was a report from around the time of 6 present there. I can't comment on what the reporting person saw but I thought this was perhaps an unexpectedly large number.
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Old Friday 28th June 2019, 15:57   #40
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John, I persevered with Mejorada as I had heard one there and had checked e-bird as it showed as a hot-spot - there was a report from around the time of 6 present there. I can't comment on what the reporting person saw but I thought this was perhaps an unexpectedly large number.
I spent half a day at Mejorada in 2007. The list of birds was spectacular: Western Olivaceous Warbler, Little Bittern, Common Waxbill, Golden Oriole, Rufous Bushchat, Red-necked Nightjar, Short-toed Lark, Yellow Wagtail, Hoopoe, Little and Cattle Egret, Squacco and Night Heron, Collared Pratincole, Great Reed Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Lesser Kestrel. This was 25th May.
Not quite sure why I've never been back!
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Old Friday 28th June 2019, 21:15   #41
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Thanks John will certainly be touch. just doing some basic research into prices for flights, accommodation, best areas to base ourselves etc at present. was thinking we would fly to Malaga and then base ourselves somewhere around the Gaucin/Ronda area or possibly slightly further west. We tend to try and find self catering accommodation in slightly rural areas where we can do a spot of birding locally in the evenings etc. Still trying to decide which the best area in terms of access and realistic travel distances to cover the area and our targets species (it will be along list!)

I will of course be purchasing a copy of your excellent looking guide in the not too distant future!
Ronda is a good base for mountain birds & Grazalema and not too far from Osuna (bustards & Rollers). The downside is that you're a little far from the Straits and to a lesser extent Sanlucar/Bonanza. Gaucin is better for the Straits but worse for Osuna & Sanlucar. I'm biased but I think somewhere in central Cadiz province is a good compromise. I'm afraid you can't buy my birding guide - it's free although I welcome a charitable donation. Do get in touch so that I can assist you in any way,
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Old Saturday 29th June 2019, 07:15   #42
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So what are the targets? A two base hol sounds best.
Haven't been out to Spain this year (yet) our house is rented out, but I intend to get back soon, and usually manage a Spring and Autumn visit. Seeing the migration across the straits is well worth the effort.
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